Memorial Day, most of what he did in the war was classified…

my father

I know my father served from almost the start of World War II until 1946 when it was all over. He was nineteen and studying pre-med when he enlisted. He told me that the carnage he witnessed during the war caused him to study something else, entirely, when he came home and completed University.

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I know he took this picture… I don’t know the location, but it appears to be in Germany. He was a reconnaissance photographer, and had something to do with sending code—which I’m sketchy on—because he told me most of what he did in the war was classified, and I never knew anything more.

That is, until I went to visit my brother the week of May 20th, 2018. We sorted through a box of old papers that included the honors our father had received during his service as a cryptographic officer, and his military records. As I said before, he never talked about his time in Europe and North Africa. In the box were a few notes he’d written to my mother, and piles of condolence letters from the year he died.

My dad was was part of a generation who fought for their ideals, and came home to uphold them.

This is part of one of those condolence letters:

What a terrible, terrible loss, not just for you and your family, but for so many people who will badly miss their contact with such a totally decent person, someone who had the sensitivity and intelligence to see what was going on, had the courage to say so, and the will to work for better things, even if that meant sacrifice for himself. And such a very pleasant and thoroughly civilized person to be with. There are so many colleagues and friends who will find his loss irreplaceable.

My father, were he alive, would turn 95 on June 16th.

my mother

My mother would have turned 94 on January 21st. They were college sweethearts, and married a month before he was sent to Europe. They were teenagers when they married, and 23 when they were re-united. A few years before my mother died she told me my father had a relationship with a Belgian woman during WWII who worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a military intelligence service that later became the CIA. I must have looked stunned when she said so, because she immediately went on to say, “He was 19—young—we were separated for four years. He told me about it. It was over. And he came home to me. Women loved your father. But he came home to me.”

In Memory of all those who didn’t come home: Memorial Day.

 

30 comments

  1. Handsome dad and beautiful mum, I love reading reminisces like this, my mum met my dad after he was sent home after being badly wounded in the war, she was engaged to someone else but she’s a flirty thing and fell for charmer dad, they got married, had a family and then surprise, she had me at 42 which was utterly shameful back then. I wish I had asked him more about the war when he was alive, I only saw his scars once ( he always wore a shirt on the beach) his torso was emblazoned with Jackson Pollock splattered keloids and he suffered ill health all of his life because of his wounds.

    To all who served.

    • Tabitha, It stops me in my tracks at times to think of what that generation did, and built, and conceived, all so young. It’s astonishing.
      Indeed, to all who served.
      (p.s. I’m very glad to see you here.)

  2. Oh I love your blog, the format is so original, I am so over flipping cliched pictures of Laduree macaroons, the obsession with French chic , et al!

    • I detect something in your accent that makes me think it’s about 8 hours later where you’re commenting from 😉 … am afraid I’m about the farthest thing from French chic at the moment, pajamas, coffee, a pile of unread newspapers by my side. xox, V

  3. Amen, and amen. To all of it. Your father was handsome, and your mother was lovely… you look SO much like her!!! I adore that cherub shirt she’s wearing in that picture, and I can just see her setting that table and deciding to use one of the place mats in the center of the table, to put the condiments on… (can you tell how much I adore vintage kitchens and accoutrements?). Thanks for the stellar photos, and the memorial on this very important day.

    • Ms. Marcheline, staring at that picture of my mom, at her mother’s table, I realize I have one (only one) of those plates left… I should put it at the center of the table for the condiments. xox, V

  4. George Kaplan

    Vickie, this post is so beautiful and moving, a fitting and lovely commemoration fit to lift a heavy Heart.

  5. What a wonderful tribute to your father. I am sure there is an interesting story behind his military service. If you are ever able to find his Report of Separation from the military, i.e. his discharge paper, you will likely find his Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) and other information regarding his service.

  6. BEAUTYCALYPSE

    I’m late here (was offline a few days). Thank you for sharing this – war stories I’ve heard from my family, first terribly torn apart during Stalin era; later then the horrors of WWII – but you’ve found such… tender words.

  7. George Kaplan

    Touching and fascinating, you must be proud of him (and of your mother, too), just as he would be justifiably proud of a daughter so caring, sensitive, whimsical, charming, and an all-round beautiful being

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