In my journal about the NR cruise, I mention a passenger of ours who turned 85 while onboard. He has seen and done a lot in his life. For one thing, he survived the Battle of the Bulge — which so many fighters in that battle did not. I thought I’d share with you a letter from a reader:
. . . Felt compelled to respond after reading your column today, and reflecting on having my dad present for our Thanksgiving holiday.
My dad survived the Battle of the Bulge too. He was 19 years old and bookish. . . . Dad’s unit tried several times to fight their way down the hill and were repeatedly cut down. Finally, thousands of Americans surrendered. . . .
On to a prisoner-of-war camp, for the next few months. Down to 110 pounds. As you know, it’s late in the war. One morning, all Germans gone, and Russians arrive to take control of the camp. Smiles, but still all Brits and Americans are under guard, and the gates are locked and the barbed wire and searchlights stay.
Good news: Escape now possible. Russians somewhat lax, and small groups of guys are escaping at night. The idea is to walk west toward the American lines. Dad gets out with a few others, and walks along the roads headed west.
Unbeknownst to him, his older brother’s Army unit is in the area . . . All that’s known is that Dad is missing in action, and may be a prisoner . . . As they make their way west, Dad and his cohorts hide in the bushes while vehicles pass. Most of them are Russian army trucks (Dodge trucks with the red star on them). One vehicle, however, is a Jeep with a familiar-looking driver. Dad jumps out of the bushes, because the driver is his brother.
My uncle has described the excitement to me. But he didn’t want to embrace my dad because he was so frail. . . .
There are a million stories like this. Yet, somehow, the power of one is not diminished by the existence of the others.