Do you have a relative who fought in the deadliest conflict in human history?
World War II raged for close to 6 years, with over 30 years of political turmoil in central and western Europe leading up to a massive war that destroyed so much history throughout the earth. The eastern front in Asia, led by Japan, and the western front in Europe, led by Nazi Germany, ravaged humankind to their very core.
Family members who fought in this difficult piece of history no doubt have seen far too much for one lifetime.
Redditors whose father, grandfather or great grandfather fought in WWII, what is their most interesting war story they've told you?
Here were some of those stories.
The Terrors Of The South PacificGiphy
What's more interesting is what they DIDN'T say.
On the 4th of July, we were never allowed to have fireworks at my cousin's farm. We'd hang out all day and we didn't go into town for anything - my cousins had never even been to a parade. This was in a place and time where EVERYONE had firecrackers.
Because my uncle, who had served in the South Pacific, couldn't be around fireworks. If he heard a bang, including a car backfiring, he hit the deck before he even knew he'd heard a noise.
It wasn't slow like a tree falling - it was more like he was instantly down flat, almost pressed down to get UNDER the dirt. He also came back with his hair pure white and an understanding of basic Japanese. My dad, all my uncles, everyone had served in WWII, but he was the one left with this reflex. I asked my mom about it.
Me, about age 9: Wow. I guess that's how he stayed alive.
My mom: Oh, no, he was never anywhere near combat. They teach them that in basic training.
Me: Um, how do you know he never was in combat?
My mom: He told us in his letters. He was never in danger.
She is now 90 and she still believes her brother was never in combat.
Well, not a typical war story, but here it is. My Dad was reported MIA in the Battle of the Bulge. My Grandfather had a "nervous breakdown" and went to Canada for a rest cure. Came back with a mistress, moved her into the family home, with my Grandmother & Aunt. My Dad was found relatively unharmed. The mistress stayed. NO ONE talked about it. She became an unofficial "aunt" while I was growing up. I didn't figure it out until I was much older. Good times, eh?
The Truest Terrors Of War
Context: The Netherlands (neighbor of Germany)
My grandmother worked as a nurse, during the war. She was engaged to a man who was drafted. At some point during the war, everyone lost contact with her fiance and presumed him dead. A year after the war, my grandma was engaged to another man, when her first fiance suddenly came knocking on her door. She decided to stay with her current fiance, who became my grandfather.
She never actually told me this, I had to hear it from aunts and uncles after she passed away. The war was very traumatising for her. She had to flee north with patients as the Germans invaded from the south.
Before that, her youngest brother was one of the first in the country to be sent in front of a shooting squad for rebellious acts (the youngest of the eighteen dead), after telling his father all would be fine because he was too young and to not cover for him. He knew he'd be murdered while writing that letter and my great grandfather never forgave himself for that. They stole fireworks from the Germans.
Her other brother died due to pneumonia, after being put in the halls of the hospital because there weren't enough rooms to hold all the patients.
My grandma lost a lot in the war.
A Reason To Fight
Maybe not war story, but happened in WWII regardless.
TLDR: Grandfather was deployed in Europe and met my grandmother. The two sent letters back and forth and the guys in the mail room edited them to look like they both liked each other. My grandfather proposed after a year into this. She said yes.
Long story: So my grandparents are both very old. They were young but of age at the time of WWII. My grandfather is an American man and could've been the poster child for the typical all-American. He joined the army in WWII and was deployed in Europe. My grandmother was born and raised in Southwestern Germany. Lived in a beaten up town from bombings but still had a house standing.
My grandfather was off on a motorcycle trip through the country side and stopped in my grandmother's town. He came to like her and continued to stop by. Later on, the war ended and he was sent back to America. My grandmother remained in Germany. The two mutually agreed to send letters back and forth. While my grandfather still remained in the army, all mail went through the mailroom. Well they sent love letters for a while and his buddies in the mailroom saw them. After a long time of this, my grandmother had enough of my grandfather and sent him the "go away" letter. The buddies in the mailroom started editing the letters between the two.
Once again, a long time passed and this continued to go on and my grandfather went back to Southwestern Germany to propose to my grandmother. He had a round trip ticket for himself and a one way to the US. Needless to say, my grandmother was very surprised when he showed up. Things slowly unfolded and she said yes. She packed up her belongings (which weren't much because of the war) and flew back to the US. The two married, had the buddies in the mailroom become groomsmen, and settled in a city. They have been married for over sixty years and still live in America today.
The Most Infamous Battle Of The WarGiphy
My step grandfather spent some time in North Africa and was in Normandy. He was part of a crew on a half track. They saw a lot of action. They used molotov cocktails against tanks because they didn't have much firepower to knock them out. They would throw the molotov cocktail on the tank and catch it on fire, then shoot the crew when they tried to escape.
They caught a bunch of Germans in a staff car and took them out. Another time a sniper was shooting from a brick building. Their bullets weren't having much effect and so they just rammed the building to eliminate him.
His tour came to an end when they were engaged by a 88 cannon in France during the breakout from Normandy. They had seen them in North Africa and knew that they were very accurate. They would first fire 2 shots. One to get the range, another to get the angle ( left/right ). The third shot would be dead on.
So they saw the first two shots and knew that they would not make cover before the 3rd. So they stopped the halftrack. 4 of the guys took cover under the halftrack, he dove into the ditch. The 4 guys under the halftrack died. He woke up a week later, naked, in a hospital in England.
Precursor To Pearl Harbor
My grandfather was in the Navy and was stationed on the U.S.S. Indianapolis. He was part of the group of soldiers that got off in Guam 2 days before the ship was sunk by the Japanese. He never really talked about it, as pretty much all of his friends in the Navy died on that day.
A Slice Of Life In The Darkness
He didn't fight, but my grandpa was a child in Germany at the time. One of my favorite stories from his is at the end of the war, US troops were heading past his family's farm. Some of the group broke off and came to the house. They didn't speak German, and none of his family spoke English. Eventually they figured out the troops wanted milk. They handed over a decent amount. And the troops took it back to the rest of the group.
They kind of stood around with it for a bit, and eventually brought whatever it was in back to the house, and started passing drinks out. They took the milk to make chocolate milk for all the kids on the farm.
Mismanaged Pain Medicine
Not a relative of mine, but I met a man who stormed Omaha Beach and was a main advisor to Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan. He got shot in the face and several other places on his body by an ambushing machine gun.
Interestingly, the little morphine shots they had irl were slightly less than a lethal dose, so two of them would kill you. In the film, when they give the medic a second shot of morphine, it's the morphine that kills him.
Begone Ye Pestilents
My grandfather was in the Eight Air Division in WWII. He flew close to 30 missions in B-17s. His most notable mission was in 1944 when he and his crew were shot down over north-eastern France. According to a current map it was somewhere between Metz, FR and Luxembourg City, LX.
He said they crash landed in a field and one of his crew members was killed by a German farmer with a pitch fork. They spent a few days avoiding capture by Nazi soldiers by hiding in the woods. At some point they came across a skirmish between Americans and Nazis. They hid in the forest and only came out in the morning after all the fighting had stopped for awhile.
He told me that they figured out who was fighting the night before by inspecting the bodies. There were numerous dead Nazis but no dead Americans. He told me that at this point in the war, Nazis were not diligent about taking home their dead, but the Americans were.
People from a nearby village apparently came out and found my grandpa with his crew in a field full of dead Nazis. They asked if they had killed all those Nazis by themselves and my grandpa said "of course we did".
I think it took them about a week after crashing to come across Allied soldiers and get rescued.
I wish I could remember more details but the last time he told me that story was over ten years ago, shortly before he died.
The Memory Does Live OnGiphy
My grandfather was an officer in the US 103rd Infantry Division - known at that time as the Timberwolves. They fought in Normandy, and went on to help liberate Belgium and the Netherlands.
Forty years later, in the 1980s, my grandfather was riding around the Netherlands with my uncle (who lived there at the time). At one point, south of Utrecht, my grandfather started giving my uncle directions on where to go:
Turn right here...
I think we take the third left, yes....
Keep on this road until we get to a village...
OK. Stop by the building on this corner.
They got out of the car, and my grandfather explained. "Nobody remembers this. My troops came in and retook this village under heavy fire from the Nazis. It was the worst combat we had seen since the invasion. I lost my First Officer to enemy fire. Nobody remembers this. Nobody cares anymore."
My uncle's girlfriend looked up, and pointed out the name of the street that they had stopped on: "Timberwolfstraacht." The sign even noted that it was dedicated to the battle, and noted the date of the liberation.