Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day and I was thinking about my Grandparents

As I mentioned in earlier posts Grandpa Lowe died last month and was interred at Fort Logan. As I Understand it, he served in the Navy in World War II and was stationed in Washington, D.C., that's where my Dad was born. My Grandpa Warner was an officer in the Army and stationed in Europe. I was always closest to Grandpa Warner, he was always my favorite guy, I like to think I am like him. We'd get up in the morning and he'd let me have about a tablespoon of coffee with my cup of milk. We'd often sit in the sun room of my grandparents house and our visits as I remember them were always peaceful and serene.

I always knew that he had been a prisoner of war in World War II, I don't know how, I'm sure I heard it when I was very young, but he never talked about it. For most of my life I have believed that he didn't talk about it because it was too painful. Maybe it was. But a couple of months ago, my mom told me that actually when the war was over and everyone came home, they were interrogated, debriefed and ordered not to discuss their experience during the war. I remember grandpa talking to dad a couple of times about it much later in life, and during the holidays he always said, "In December 1944, I was a guest of the Germans for Christmas and my meal was bread and tea," and then he'd chuckle. I know he saw some incredibly awful things, and may have been subjected to some while a "guest of the Germans", but he never said much other than discussing a death march they were scheduled to take, but knew the allies were coming and somehow were able to put it off and were liberated shortly after. My facts are sketchy and very possibly not entirely accurate. I do know he was captured at the Battle of the Bulge, he spent three months in a POW camp in Berlin, he came home after the war and was awarded a Purple Heart for a wound to his hand.

So I checked out the facts of the Battle of the Bulge and below is what I found:

The coldest, snowiest weather “in memory” in the Ardennes Forest on the German/Belgium border.
Over a million men, 500,000 Germans, 600,000 Americans (more than fought at Gettysburg) and 55,000 British.
3 German armies, 10 corps, the equivalent of 29 divisions.
3 American armies, 6 corps, the equivalent of 31 divisions.
The equivalent of 3 British divisions as well as contingents of Belgian, Canadian and French troops.
100,000 German casualties, killed, wounded or captured.
81,000 American casualties, including 23,554 captured and 19,000 killed.
1,400 British casualties.
800 tanks lost on each side, 1,000 German aircraft.
The Malmedy Massacre, where 86 American soldiers were murdered, was the worst atrocity committed against American troops during the course of the war in Europe.
My division, the 106th Infantry Division, average age of 22 years, suffered 564 killed in action, 1,246 wounded and 7,001 missing in action at the end of the offensive. Most of these casualties occurred within the first three days of battle, when two of the division’s three regiments was forced to surrender (John Kline).

Our American Soldiers were hailed as hero's after this war, Korea and Vietnam were very different stories, as is Iraq and Afghanistan. We did not start World War II, but we finished it with the help of our world allies. We likely shouldn't have gone to Korea or Vietnam, but we did. We didn't start the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, though many think otherwise. Sadly, I don't believe the war we are in now is giving our soldiers the credit they deserve as hero's. I don't believe they are hailed with the accolades that are much deserved. It is a shame. And I think that Americans don't want to be where we are now. I know I don't, but I am also clear that the terrorists will not stop coming. They are patient, cunning and methodical, and will wait for the right opportunity. It has been reported that 9/11 was seven years in the planning and execution. The sad fact is, had we approached World War II differently, we may not have been able to stop Hitler either. World War II was a popular war because we had been attacked on our soil and we stopped it from ever happening again, or so we thought. Our enemy now has more stealth, and they won't stop just because we may decide to leave them alone with our new administration.

I thank all of the Veterans, living and dead for the freedom I enjoy to live the life I live and am grateful there are hero's everywhere around me.

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