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pipe & tabor

Veterans' Day post (slightly belated)

I've never served in the military. My father never served in the military (he got a series of draft deferments: newly married, new baby (me), in medical school, etc.), nor did either of his brothers. Their father never served in the military (although he attended Virginia Military Institute) nor (AFAIK) did his brother or his father. One of my grandfather's cousins (IIRC) was Admiral of the Pacific Fleet until a few months before Pearl Harbor, but I never met him.

My mother's side is different.

My maternal grandparents got married in the late 1930's, and (being poor as church-mice) promptly went to visit his family, who owned a chain of hotels. In Germany. When the war broke out, he was told, as a good native-born son of der Vaterland, that he was in the Army now. The fact that he had just married a Canadian, and they had both already become U.S. citizens, gave him an alternative: they could lock up him and his family for the duration as suspect foreigners. He didn't like that alternative, so he joined the Army of the Third Reich.

I'm sure there are lots of interesting stories about that period of his life, but I know only two:

1) at one point he was mistakenly piled into a mass grave with a bunch of other people who looked dead. One of the workers noticed his foot twitching and pulled him out.

2) at the time of V.E. day, he happened to be in command of several Allied P.O.W.'s, and since they were no longer at war, he released them. Not wishing to be re-drafted into the war against Japan, which was still going on, they disappeared, and he was accused of executing them -- a war crime. He was acquitted only when one of the ex-P.O.W.'s turned up alive and testified.

He came back from war, from all reports, a very changed man. My only memories of him (he died when I was five) are of a skinny guy lying on the couch and shouting angrily at everyone around.


Horrific image in memory#1.

You're the second person I've met who happens to have a grandparent from the other side of WWII... L's grandfather was one of the emigrants who helped create those quaint little Germanic settlements in South America. And incidentally L's politics & yours are remarkably similar. (He lives in the UK now so it's unlikely I can introduce you.)