Friday, June 06, 2014

World War II Uncles

Today, the news is full of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and rich descriptions of beaches that are overlooked by bluffs covered with white crosses.  It's hard for us to imagine that kind of loss of life, but there are many men headed to France who lived through that day. I, of course, am fascinated by all things French, so I love hearing the stories from the anniversary commemoration.
Two of my uncles fought in World War II, but neither of them were at Normandy 70 years ago.
It seems just a few years ago that I sat on an uncomfortable picnic table videotaping my four uncles (on my mom's side) as they described their military service.
Uncle Junior (that's what we always called him, but his name is Luther) was drafted into the army. He was sent to Italy and was wounded three times. Each time, they sent him back into battle.
Here's a picture of my mom with Uncle Junior last year. 
I'm not a history buff, but as Uncle Junior mentioned each battle he was a part of, Earl's eyes would grow wide. He was wounded at one battle, the Battle of Anzio, but recovered enough to be sent to an even worse battle.
"Out of the frying pan, into the fire," he said.
I'll have to revisit those tapes so I can remember more specifically where Uncle Junior fought.
His stories were part of my inspiration to write the character Uncle Martin in my novel The Summer of France. The only thing they really shared though was fighting in Italy and growing up in Kentucky.
My real uncle came home after the war and married a wonderful American woman.
When Uncle Junior got in the war, he wrote home and warned his brothers to enlist rather than get drafted into the army. So Uncle Clarence, the next oldest brother, joined the Navy. As we talked about war experiences that day, he went to the car and pulled out an envelope that had a large laminated certificate that declared he had crossed the international dateline.
Uncle Clarence died a year and a half ago, but Uncle Junior was at the family reunion again this past Sunday. He's thin but cheerful and always loving.
I'm so thrilled that I've gotten to hear my uncle's stories and share in their lives. They gave a lot for the safety of our world and hopefully, they felt they lived the kind of life they wanted in repayment for their service.


Jeanie said...

I'm so very glad you recorded your uncles' memories. I wish I had done that with dad. I look at his photo albums (he was in India) and wish I had more context for his experiences.

Sally Tharpe Rowles said...

This is such a sweet post Paulita. I don't know if you have had the opportunity to go to the Normandy beaches but it is a very moving experience. Thank you for sharing your uncles' memories with us.

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