Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day: World War II vets

My grandma's brother Leo served in World War II, from April 1942 until January 1946. "Leo landed on Juno Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and was at Caen, France, when it was captured from the Germans. He was also at the battle of the Falaise Gap and was in Ghent, Belgium and fought into Holland."* My grandma's mother died on July 2, 1944, when my grandma was sixteen years old. Uncle Leo wrote this letter home to my grandma and her sister, Ila June, the following month, on August 31, 1944.
Dearest Sisters,
Hi kids. I'll write you a little private letter to-night. I wrote so much to our dear Dad that I can't think of much more. I'm sending you a few stamps Pearl, I couldn't find any of the ones I wanted to, they had old Hitler's face on them, and I have only seen a few of them over here.
Well I sure hope you are not working too hard altho [sic] I know you have lots to do. I hope it won't be long before I'm home and then if any one bothers you all you have to do is tell me and I'll stop them in a hurry. And I sure hope I'll be able to help you in every way possible. I sure hope that you can manage and go back to school this fall Pearl. Well I hope you are both well and happy. I'm well and safe as possible. I'll say cheerio for now. Keep smiling. 
With loads of love. Your loving brother, Leo.*

I never remember hearing my Uncle Leo mention anything about the war. I know he participated in veteran services in Canada and in Europe but he rarely ever talked about his experiences with the family. My mom told me that he had a hard time recovering after the war—his relationship with his wife was never the same after he got home. They had had their first baby a month before he left for war on 10 March 1942, Wayne Curtis Hancock. The baby died a month after he left, on 11 May 1942. Moralda, his wife, felt that he should have been discharged to support her after the death of their baby. She felt, perhaps, that he didn't try hard enough to come home.

I'm sure that's just one reason things were hard for him. I'm sure he was also suffering from post-traumatic stress, having seen so many horrible things. I know he questioned how a loving God could allow such dreadful things to happen. That said, Heavenly Father was certainly watching over him while he was serving overseas. "Uncle Leo was a mechanic ho helped keep the war machines running. One time he was in the middle of a welding job and, for no reason, felt to shut off he welder, drop his tools and run. Enemy planes flew over and blew up the tank he'd been working on. Uncle leo, unharmed, ran to the First Aid Station, and carried back a medical kit to treat his friends. Later he realized that the medical kit was so heavy he couldn't lift it by himself," but that he had been able to after the accident.*


Andrew's Grandpa Anderson** served in the United States military, though he never did end up going to war. He entered the MTC to serve his mission on December 6, 1941. On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbour was attacked. Fortunately, it was decided that all missionaries currently serving would be allowed to finish their missions before joining the service, so Grandpa Anderson was able to complete a two-year mission. When he got home, he signed up for the armed forces and was assigned to pilot school in Arizona. It was while he was training to be a pilot that he met his sweet wife, Delsa. Her father was the bishop of a ward filled with many beautiful young women.

Grandpa Anderson (George) and his fellow Mormon buddies would trade their cigarette rations for gas rations in order to be able to go into town to go to church. After church, Delsa's father would invite all the young servicemen over for a nice home-cooked meal.

To make a long story short, Delsa fell in love with George and they were married a few short months after the war ended. George never did finish his pilot training since the war ended before he got certified. In a way, it's nice that he never had to fight. But then again, as Karen said, how would their family's life had been different if he had become a pilot. As it was, he ended up as a school teacher.

* My Life: The Story of Pearl Hancock Conrad, compiled by my dear Auntie Colleen
** From a personal interview with Karen at lunchtime

1 comment:

  1. I had not put it all together and realized that Grandma Hancock died during the war, while there was a son overseas. And a son-in-law--Uncle George McGilvary was "over there" as well. What a hard time that must have been for the family!