I was recently on the phone with my cousin’s husband and he was asking all sorts of questions about my grandfather’s military service. The records were sitting in a box in my basement, since my grandfather had passed years ago. So we went about talking through stories he had heard. For the most part I knew nothing of the tales my grandfather used to regale the crowds with since I wasn’t very close to him. But I did know where he had been stationed and what sorts of citations he received during World War II.
My cousin’s husband started talking about how he was building a shadow box so that they could place any medals, awards or anything in general related to any military service. When I was in high school I had swiped his uniform to wear one Halloween, and still have it sitting in the closet in a spare bedroom. So as the story started to unfold –
At some unknown point in the war my grandfather had been stationed in Germany somewhere around Nuremberg. And he was driving supplies between one of the internment camps favored by the locals in their handling of the minority population [read into this prison camps where they held Jewish persons awaiting further punishment]. They were travelling down this road and were being shot at by German planes circling overhead. In tow was a 50 Caliber gun mounted on a trailer, so when they were pinned down, my grandfather hopped out of his truck and took to firing said weapon at the Luftwaffe until he shot one of them down.
I’m incredulous on the other end of the line, wondering at what point in the Parkinson’s induced dementia this wonder tale fell out. By this point I know this is all fantasy, since I knew of no awards, citations or hidden notes ever describing this feat of human craziness, or heroics depending on your point of view. But I was asked if this was true. My only reply was to ask who else was in the room to overhear this, my aunt who was shaking her head “oh, no. don’t think so”. And my other aunt who thought this was the greatest story ever told by man. Now I had to break the truth to my cousin’s well-meaning husband.
My grandfather drove trucks in an Engineering Corp following the war. If you had been told about what he had seen at Auschwitz, maybe there was an ounce of truth to it. Possibly stories about when he was further assigned to transport during the Trials held after the war. But when you don’t make it over to Germany until 1944, chances are you weren’t seeing much daily fighting.
I think I may have shattered someone’s views of my grandfather’s service to his country. But how many people want to talk about how they spent the time driving from one side of Europe to the other during a time “The Greatest Generation” was fighting for the freedoms of every man, woman and child globally! [maybe a little too flowery, but we are describing war not some card game.]
There are times when I wished I had heard these stories for myself. I might have been captivated enough by them to leave logic behind and listen with the attention of a 5 year old sitting on his lap.