Rushville Republican

Columns

June 24, 2014

Stories that need repeated and remembered

June 6, 1944 was a day everyone alive at the time will never forget. Hundreds of thousands of American, Canadian and English troops along with French, Polish and other European nations sent troops into Festung Europa, as Hitler called it. It was the beginning of the end of WWII in Europe and the biggest amphibian landing ever attempted before or since.

Casualties were high on both sides and thousands of Allied troops died or were wounded as well as a lot of Germans and French civilians. To me this was just one of those things that come about during a war. I was too young to fully understand the importance and need for such an event. The stories that came out of that landing then and after the whole front had calmed down some were difficult for an 8 year old to fathom.

Twelve years after the war ended in Europe I was stationed in Bavaria for three years. I was amazed at the German nation and how it had rebuilt so much to me so fast. I saw very little of the damage caused by our bombing and fighting toward the end of the war. I was fortunate to be able to talk with some of those on both sides who fought and many died in that conflict. I had the opportunity to talk with some who had managed to survive the Concentration Camps of Nazi Germany. Their tales would turn your stomach and make you cry at the same time. I found that few of the German veterans I met had fought the Americans only the Russians. Most of them were working for the US Army, so not too surprised there.

I saw remnants of Dachau and of other areas where people were tortured and killed seemingly for the fun of it. I spoke with Germans who saw, some helped, in the camps. Many were reluctant to talk about their time in the Abwehr but even so some did. In later years, I found a young man who was only a couple of years older than I and was a prisoner of war of the Japanese for 4 years. His father was from Columbus, Indiana; his mother Australia. His family happened to be in Manila when the Japanese came in and they immediately put them into the infamous Santo Thomas Prison. Santo Thomas was once a Catholic Church University the Japanese pressed into becoming a prison camp for American and other allied civilians as well as a few soldiers that had been captured.

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