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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great-Grandpa's War Service

A look at our family's connections with the history that we are studying:

Edwards Academy kids’ Great-Grandpa R. was born in 1918, just a month after the Armistice, to Slovenian immigrants to the United States. He grew up on the south side of Chicago in an Eastern European immigrant neighborhood. After he finished high school in the Thirties, he found a job working for Sears, Roebuck. He ran the duplicating machine in their advertising department, earning 40 cents an hour. He changed jobs later and worked on the manufacturing line of Western Electric. He still worked there, earning 90 cents an hour, when the Army drafted him in 1942.

Great-Grandma R. met Great-Grandpa through a magazine pen pal program. Great-Grandma lived in Missouri’s boot-heel. Her father ran a general store, but sold too much on credit in the 1930s and when his customers couldn’t pay, he lost everything and closed his store. Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa eventually arranged to meet and continued to correspond. When Great-Grandpa was drafted in 1942, he and Great-Grandma married.

Great-Grandpa was sent to basic training at Fort Warren, Wyoming and then was transferred to Fort Lewis, Washington and then Fort Knox, Kentucky. After this, his unit was loaded onto a Liberty boat and shipped off to England where he would prepare for the coming European invasion. Great-Grandpa remembers that the crossing took six to eight weeks, since the ship was forced to avoid German U-Boats, which patrolled the north Atlantic.

On D-Day plus three, Great-Grandpa landed at Normandy. His was in a medical detachment that was part of an ordnance battalion in the Third Army. Great-Grandpa stood on the Normandy beach and everywhere he looked he saw Allied soldiers, ships, tanks, trucks, planes, and firepower. The sea, land and sky were filled with Allied forces. Great-Grandpa moved steadily toward Germany in Patton’s army. He wasn’t a medic, but assisted in bringing wounded men to the tents for medical care. Great-Grandpa went all the way to Nuremburg, Germany with Patton’s army and was there on V-E Day. The victory celebration was tempered by news that his unit might be transferred to the Pacific theater. In the end, however, they weren’t needed and Great-Grandpa returned to the States and was re-united with his bride.

Great-Grandma spent the war years staying with family and working. She did move to Kentucky when Great-Grandpa was stationed at Fort Knox, but at other times she lived with her brother in Colorado and Tacoma, Washington. When she lived in Washington, Great-Grandma went to work in the shipyards near Tacoma, which were building Liberty ships.

Together again after the war, Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma tried a few different jobs in Missouri and Illinois, but by the 1950s they moved their family to the Chicago area, where they stayed for over twenty years, raising three daughters. This year Great-Grandpa R. will celebrate his ninetieth birthday on December 7, now known as Pearl Harbor day. Great-Grandma passed away about twenty years ago.


Jennifer said...

Isn't it great to be able to put real life into your history studies? I have spent countless hours doing genealogy - I just love family history! I was able to use our ancestors' civil war pension packets while we were studying the Civil War last year. It made it so much more interesting - and real :)

Sharon said...


It is wonderful that you know so much about your grandfather's life and war experiences. Have you asked him about them specifically or has he just talked about them over the years? Does he live near enough for your kids get to talk to him about this when they were studying WWII? This all sounds like if that was possible, it would make for a great conversation!

~ Sharon

Mrs. Edwards said...

About five years ago I went on a genealogy kick and wrote family histories and trees for my family and my husband's family. During the process I pressed my grandfather for more details about his war service. I learned some new information that my mother didn't know, either. He wasn't one to talk about it much.

Grandpa lives in another town and we don't get to see him very often. His health is rather poor right now and he's in a nursing home. :(

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