Remembering Veterans Day

Watching Gurren Lagann invariably leaves me in a contemplative mood; so, I wasn’t surprised when my recent rewatch of it ended with me reflecting on the quiet heroism that my grandfather (on my mother’s side) displayed throughout his life, which includes fighting in World War II. I decided to be a bit selfish and write something for this blog about him so others can read how incredible he was. I chose today to this so I could also remind people to thank a vet for the sacrifices that they have made.

My grandfather was a man of little words and he didn’t like talking  about his experiences in WWII or his earlier life so I’ve only heard parts of the story of his life from other family members over many different times and have had to put them together. It goes something like this.

Like so many other immigrants living in the Mahoning valley, my grandfather’s father worked in the steel mills and in those days it was a dangerous job. So, it wasn’t all that surprising that his father was killed while working in a steel mill nor that my grandfather’s mother decided to remarry. (That there was no welfare state like there is today probably contributed this decision.) Several years later, my grandfather’s step-dad contracted a bacterial disease while working in a steel mill and, since this was a couple of decades before the invention of antibiotics, he ended up passing away too. This left my grandfather’s family in a bind. By now there were several younger siblings that needed to be fed as well as my grandfather’s mom; so, even though my grandfather was still elementary age (once I was told he was in fourth grade and another time in sixth grade), he dropped out of school and got a job in a steel mill to support his family. Which he was able to do.

He continued to work in a steel mill until WWII and eventually joined the Army Corp of Engineers. I’m not sure if he was drafted or volunteered to go but he ended up going to the European theater and seemed to primarily work on building bridges. Like I said he didn’t talk often his war experience but I do remember hearing that he went to France soon after D-Day. (I think D-Day+3 but I’m not too sure.) One thing he did say about his time in Europe was that he disliked the French because they were a rude people.

After the war he returned to Youngstown to settle down and raise a family; he rarely left the area again. One of his war buddies offered to set him up to be an apple farmer in Washington state but he declined (thankfully, or else I wouldn’t be here :) ). He continued to work at a steel mill, tinkered with machines, and single-handedly built an addition onto his house when the family got to large. He literally did everything from digging out a full basement to laying the roofing shingles. The backdoor steps that he poured where so massively overkill that when a drunk driver tried to drive his full-size SUV at a high rate of speed through my grandparent’s house about ten years ago, those steps were able to stop the SUV before it could hurt anyone in the house or even cause major structural damage to the house.

I wish he’d have lived a little longer then he did because I was just starting to get old enough that his curmudgeon-like nature no longer scared me and I could appreciate him. Looking back I love how he’d show up for a family doing for about 30 minutes – just long enough to eat and engage in a small amount of socializing – before going back home. I have a couple mementos of him including his telescope and the wooden box he built to hold it and the various accessories.

In keeping with remembering Veteran’s Day, here our some pictures and postcards that have been digitalized that come from his time in WWII.

Picture of my Grandpa and Grandma at Mill Creek Park
Picture my Grandma sent over for my Grandpa while in Europe :)
I believe this picture was taken while he was still in training.
The next three are pictures that my Grandpa wrote notes on the back of.

I don't know if this is one of the bridges he helped build or just one that interested him.
They look cool in this picture :)

edit: I was looking through some of the other pictures I got and was wondering what exactly this contraption was:

I love how my Grandpa writes "of" as just an extra loopy "f".

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9 thoughts on “Remembering Veterans Day”

  1. Always a pleasure to read your posts. Thank you for sharing with us this small glimpse into into your Grandfather’s life on Veterans Day. Some portion of my life and lifestyle I know I owe to men like him and am humbled.

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  2. Re: The last photo. It is a Mistel, which was an attempt by the Luftwaffe to produce a weapon aimed at destroying high value targets which were too well protected by air defense for a manned aircraft to get through and conduct a precision attack. The nose of the bomber was replaced by an explosive warhead, and the entire ‘aircraft’ was piloted from the fighter. Once the Mistel was aimed at the target, the fighter would separate from the bomber while the latter flew at the target, without having to worry about being deflected by anti-aircraft fire.

    The guided anti-ship missiles used by the Luftwaffe (Like the Fritz-X and Hs-293.) were the other way the Germans tried to do the same thing as the Mistel.

    C.T.

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  3. Like CT said, it’s a “Mistel.” To expand on his comment a tad, there was no set Mistel design. Any worn-out bomber could be used, and while the Me-109 was the most common fighter attached, that was primarily because that was the fighter the Germans had the most of. In the picture above, it’s a FW-190 mated to what I think is a JU-88.

    The Allies tried something in a similar vein with their “Weary Willies.” Instead of a parasitic fighter guiding the contraption, old B-17s were to be gotten airborne by a pair of pilots. The pilots would then bail out and guidance would be done remotely by another bomber. The Weary Willy had two TV cameras installed, one to give a view of the ground and another the cockpit controls, as well as r/c gear. In theory, the W.W., stuffed full of torpex, would be flown into hardened targets, like submarine pens. In practice, it didn’t work. Either the remote control device malfunctioned, the torpex exploded prematurely, or both. If you’re curious for more, do a search for “Operation Aphrodite.”

    Thanks for reading, by the way!

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  4. @Thunderchild: Your welcome and thank you for reading and commenting.

    @Steven Den Beste: That’s definitely possible :)

    @cxt217 and Wonderduck: Thanks for answering my question. It’s interesting to see what type of ideas get implemented when desperation has set in.

    Wow, I just checked Operation Aphrodite out on Wikipedia and was shocked to see that JFK’s elder brother, Joseph, died on one of the missions. If he wasn’t killed and had lived to become the politician of the family, I wonder how differently the second half of 20th century would have turned out.

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  5. I’m almost done with my 3rd run through ML Alternative. A lot of war themes, drama about life and death, and how individuals deal with such things.

    At one time, many individuals in the Valkryies started talking about what their personal reasons to fight were. This segued into a mention about a psychological study done by American concerning what WWII and other veterans believed they were fighting for at the time they were doing it. The ones that hadn’t been sent to the front lines would usually mention family or ideals or their nation as the reason. The ones that were on the front lines, primarily said they fought so hard to keep their comrades from dying.

    Modern history has tried to use this to spew out propaganda that says idealism or patriotism doesn’t exist on the front lines. That it goes poof and only selfish egocentrism remains. The real truth is that the original long term reasons people fought never really changed. They simply added in personal reasons because people who face death all the time, tend to burn out if they lack a motivation right in front of them. So if they don’t find that motivation, they are likely to burn out and lose the will to fight. If they do find, that doesn’t suddenly mean they will turn treasonous and are only fighting for themselves or the people around them. They still fight for their family and their nation. They just have found a way to harmonize all those goals into one, which is what makes them amazing, if they can do it. Those that cannot harmonize it, have issues during or after combat.

    Humans require motivation to get things done. And to fight, they need very strong motivations that are in their face all the time, supporting them. Their comrades are right there with them and provide that support. What front line soldiers respect is the hero: the person that usually can fight by themselves, without support, and take out entire chunks of the enemy army, even surviving afterwards. Historically, those individuals don’t consider themselves heroes because they fought for their comrades, who didn’t make it. But other front line soldiers take great inspiration from someone that can fight the enemy all by themselves, without any requirement for the moral support of others.

    In March to the Sea, there were a bunch of indigenous city dwellers that were trained by Imperial Marines in pike warfare. They were up against a horde of invading barbarians with a lot of individual combat experience, so the city militia pikemen were scared and nervous when facing the line of roaring barbarians. That is, until the leader of the Imperial Marines, on the large elephant mount, started charging at the enemy line by himself, rolled unto the ground, and one cut killed a tough looking barbarian chieftain. Then walked back to his lines. That greatly demoralized the barbarians, and greatly invigorated the morale of the pikemen, to the point where the pikemen started chanting his name.

    Humans, or even aliens, seem to be in awe of certain reckless and crazy behavior. The behavior of an Alexander, which often times turns into insanity and madness, because becoming too good at fighting alone means you become more and more anti-social.

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  6. I really hope they don’t mess up ML Alternative: Total Eclipse’s light novel transition to anime.

    The chances of it blowing up are relatively high, because I would never have even been able to imagine that a pacifist nation like Japan could create a war drama on life and death the likes of ML Alternative. Where they get such inspiration and accurate detail, just can’t be done with centralized controls and regulations. Anime companies, however, are rather centralized, and not douji esque background in operations. Some companies have been picking up the tricks of converting light novels, without losing the mood, atmosphere, and special worth of the style and quality of the novels, but such choices can easily backfire when they start cutting and morphing the plot.

    Then again, it should be equally confusing to me how Hollywood could create so much fake and propaganda boredom with their anti-war movies, out of a nation known by the world as a master of warfare.

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