75 Years Ago Today

Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

In honor of that I watched Twelve O’Clock High again last night. The movie has always affected me because my father was a pilot in a bomber group. The movie was made in 1949 and is black and white, but you still get caught up in the story.

I’ve told this before, so excuse me for telling it again. When I was a teenager we lived overseas. My parents were great about wanting to experience lots of stuff. We went to the Costa Brava in Spain for our summers and Chiemsee, Bavaria, Germany for winter vacations. We stayed at a place Hitler had built and it was odd sitting in the dining room looking around at the 20 foot portraits of German working men and women knowing that Hitler had been there.

We drove everywhere we went which made it fun, fun, fun. Picture a huge honkin’ Pontiac Bonneville trying to make it through the narrow streets of some French villages. I learned lots of new words from my father.

On our first trip to Germany we were driving through the Black Forest. These trips were all marathon adventures. He refused to stop unless it was for gas, so if you had a weak bladder or a motion sickness problem you were SOL. On this trip, however, he shocked all of us by pulling off on the side of the highway in the middle of the Black Forest and getting out of the car.

My mother, brother, and I just looked at each other. Finally, I got out of the car and went to stand by my father. I didn’t say anything. I normally never originated a conversation with my father. It was a little like talking to the queen. One does not speak until she does.

He finally looked at me and said, “I’m having a hard time with this, Karen.” I didn’t say anything because I didn’t understand. Then he said, “I used to bomb this place. I flew over it I don’t know how many times and now I’m driving through it with my family.”

I still remember his words. Later, I put together a picture of the twenty-two year old pilot who’d been advanced up the ranks, who had a plane shot to pieces out from under him, and who still woke from nightmares. We were told, as little kids, never to wake our father. He would surface from sleep screaming and thrashing.

Seventy-five years ago a lot of young men performed deeds that would cause them nightmares. They were heroes who deserve to be remembered.

7 thoughts on “75 Years Ago Today”

  1. Your Father was a Hero and his experiences and position speaks a lot of the person that he was, even as a Dad. I know you weren’t close but I am positive that he loved you, he just wasn’t able to show it the way you deserved. He had PTSD but that wasn’t heard of back in his time. He just had to be tough.

    My great-uncle was a POW in a German camp. This is how close he came to death. They had taken he and a few other prisoners on the firing line getting ready to execute them when the war was declared over. He was able to escape and I knew him but I was just a little girl and he was an alcoholic. Of course that was many many years after that.

    He was really messed up when he came home from what I was told from my Grandmother.

    What do you think your Father and my Great-Uncle would think of the pansies now that want “safe-spaces” in college because of the horror our our last election? I’m not trying to start a political argument here but if I could put a GIF here it would be a slow head turn of General Patton (aka George C. Scott) and a glare that would kill.

  2. We had the Greatest Generation to save the world. Now, not so much. An uncle of mine was on a submarine which was sunk, and the next one he was on was also sunk. When I worked for FEMA in N Dakota, I met a man who was in the Battle of the Bulge. I had a friend who flew bombers over Europe.

    I have been in the presence of heroes. I was blessed.

    Karen, I imagine it was difficult for your father to admit his weakness to you.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  3. My Uncle was also in the D Day landing and experienced it on the ground. He was a medic and landed on Omaha Beach. He never talked about it either at least not to us kids but I have his paperwork from the miltary as he never had any kids. His paperwork says he gave first aid to the wounded and shot cases under fire and picked up dead bodies. My Mother always said he went away boy and came home a little old man. I’m sure he saw things that none of us ever want to see. We all now know how horrible it was and hope that it never happens again. RIP James Reed Chriswell you loved and missed.

  4. Never forget.

    One of the worst things to happen to those after battle is PTSD. I’m so sorry this happened to your family.

  5. My dad was a paratrooper who jumped into Normandy in the dark hours of this day 75 years ago. He never talked to us kids about what happened other than to tell us what campaigns he was in. Once he was older, he would get together with guys from his old company. They still thought of him as their company commander but they also opened up to us about some of the ‘things’ that happened. There were funny things and there were things that brought shadows over their eyes. They were all young and green. My dad was considered older and he was only 23 when they went into Europe. I now know how brutal and bloody that war really was. I know those men, including my dear father, most likely fought hand to hand and killed face to face. I think no less of any of them for they are the greatest heroes who ever lived. Seventy-five years later, we are still enjoying the freedom those brave lads fought for and we can never forget them.

  6. I am 79 years old. Old enough to remember the numerous young men who came back from the many wars who were damaged both mentally and physically. Do we have to continuously sacrifice our young to the horror of war? Please, we must find a better way.

  7. Yes 75 years ago we had brave men who were heroes, nowadays most young men are wimps who need a safe place and a puppy to cuddle. I can’t imagine the young men today jumping out of planes into the unknown.

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