Early in 1943 my mother wrote this in my baby book: "Her daddy leaves for the army on Feb. 25th one day before she's 3 mos. old." Nobody knew then that the times he would spend with us after that would be short, sporadic, and often sorrowful.
In my father's later years, after we both made an effort to get better acquainted, he would talk very little about the war. When he did speak of it, he cried. I knew that the war had profoundly affected the man my father had become, but I knew almost nothing of the adventurous 19-year-old boy who had left home to fight it.
These photos my Aunt Carol sent helped me to see that side of him.
My father, Paul, second from left. The notation on the back of the photo reads,
"This is one of our planes that had to make a crash landing near the front lines."
My father, at left front, smiling with his buddies.
My father, trying out the pilot's seat.
My father, left, obviously enjoying the experience.
My father, center, walking with his buddies
through the snow-covered streets of France.
My father, on the sled. Notation on the photo:
"These are French children."
It warmed my heart to see the above photos of my father, playful in the company of some of his "band of brothers." And then I came upon another photograph, one taken on a different day, and it chilled me to the bone.
Notation on back of photo identifies this group of people as "German prisoners."
Yes, I know they were our enemies, but they were boys, boys like my father and his buddies in the first six photos of this post, and I can imagine how frightened they must have been.
When my father talked about the war nearly fifty years after it ended, he talked specifically about a face-to-face encounter he had with a German soldier as he rounded a corner in a shelled-out building. They made eye contact, my father told me, and the young German shouted only one word, one my father didn't understand, before my father shot him. Tears streamed down my father's face as he told me about learning later that that German word meant "please."
I am so grateful to Aunt Carol for sending these photos and to Aunt Nina for keeping them all these years. Somehow, seeing evidence that my father had some good days in the midst of the hellishness that is war gives me peace.