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During their separation, first I will tell you about my father.
Then I’ll tell you about my mother.
The next picture of my father was taken in England, July 4, 1944.
My father was not part of D-Day. In this photo, my father is with 4 of his buddies.
They are wearing combat uniforms and holding their helmets.
They have almost no hair.
Behind them are the large Army tents and a bunch of Army vehicles.
On the back of the photo, my father wrote in ink:
1st Sgt. Gryder
Pfc. Eike [my father]
Apparently later, he wrote two more words in pencil.
Next to 1st Sgt. Gryder’s name, my father wrote "home."
Next to T/5 Kleinschmidt’s name, my father wrote "dead."
The only thing my father ever told me about fighting during World War II was, "I was a day behind Patton."
My father never told me that Patton’s 3rd Army,
that went through Europe from France to Czechoslovakia,
was called one of the most effective fighting forces in US history.
While Patton’s 3rd Army suffered almost 140,000 casualties
(which is military talk for dead, wounded and missing in action), it inflicted over half a million German casualties and captured almost one million German soldiers.
Crossing the Moselle River, on a pontoon bridge, into Germany
My father never told me that his battalion,
the 489th Anti-Aircraft Artillery,
shot down more German planes than any other battalion in World War II.
In one battle alone, the battalion’s job was, first,
to protect the men building a pontoon bridge,
one of almost 2,500 bridges Patton’s Corp of Engineers built; and, then, to protect the men and vehicles crossing that bridge. The Germans sent 80 planes to stop the Americans. My father’s battalion shot down 34 of those planes.
My father never told me what it was like going to the homeland of two of his grandparents, as the enemy. My father was half-German.
I was woken up, as a child, by my father’s nightmares.
It was always, "They’re after me! They’re after me!!!"
I always assumed the "they" were the German soldiers.
He did tell me about lots of palaces he visited in Germany and France: Mad King Ludwig’s palace in Bavaria and Versailles just outside of Paris. There are lots of photos of those palaces, which is just as well since this was my father’s only trip to Europe.
My father was never wounded during the war. He came home in December 1945.
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Copyright 2001 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.