My Grandfather fought in WWII in the Battle of the Bulge.
It was cold and miserable and he use to tell me that Americans had no idea how close we came to losing this battle. I was about 16 or 17 when he told me about it. Still in High School, I was writing a paper on WWII and Pop Pop was my source. My only source.
I got an 'A'.
He had been in WWII for a few years and during the Battle he captured a couple of Germans. I remember he told me that the only reason why he captured them was because he got his gun up before they got theirs up.
He had literally stumbled upon them in the woods while he was on patrol. He said they didn't give him any problems because they were starving and freezing to death in the cold winter air.
Basically my Grandfather said they were young and miserable and happy to surrender because the Americans made sure they had warm clothes and were fed. And Germans couldn't get supplies to their soldiers so they were starving and freezing to death.
My Grandfather brought home spoils of war - a German saber, a few rings, and one of those 3-D photograph things where you put the slide in front of the glasses to see the photo in 3-D. Too bad everything was lost over the years.
I actually think my history teacher kept the 3-D photo thing when I brought it in to show along with my paper. There were a ton of photos of Hitler - my Grandfather had "liberated" them from a German schoolhouse.
Anyway until the day he died he held a grudge against the Germans - nothing he ever owned came from Germany - or from Japan for that matter. I guess some things you never get over.
My Grandmother told me that one of his spoils of war was a big Swaskia flag.
Yep he brought one of those home with him from the war.
She told me he put it on the floor of his work shed so that he could walk on it everyday.
Every. Single. Day.
Until it disintegrated.
Into teeny tiny pieces.
She told me it took years for it to disintegrate.
The story / joke below reminded me of him when I read it. I'm not sure if it's true or a joke, to be quite honest French customs officers have never been this nasty to me. But it could be.
Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.
"You have been to France before, monsieur?" the customs officer asked sarcastically.
Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.
"Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.."
The American said, ''The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."
"Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France !"
The American gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, ''Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to."
You could have heard a pin drop.
I miss my Grandfather - and now that I'm older there are so many questions I'd ask him. But I am thankful that I was somewhat wise as a 16 year old because I use to sit and hang out with him at least 2 or 3 times a week.
I'll always treasure those memories.