We live in the stories of our family that came before us.

Unfortunately, social media and a constant stream of digital records did not exist in the time of either of the Great Wars.

Can you imagine a selfie taken from the trenches or from storming the beaches of Normandy?

Just because we can't see it, though, doesn't mean we haven't heard the tales, been swept away in the stories, the details, of one of the most horrific and heroic times in our collective history.

Because some of our family were there, and they told us about it.

Reddit user, AdInteresting3335, wanted to hear stories from the most harrowing time in history when they asked:

"Did anyone have stories from WW1 or WW2 passed down to them if so what’s the story?"

It's war, right?

Of course most of the stories are going to be tragic tales of loss and fear.

A True Hero

"One grandfather earned a Purple Heart during WWI because he went out out alone under heavy shelling to flag down an ambulance for his buddies. The physician who later treated him at the field hospital said his own leg was torn up so badly he shouldn't have been able to take 10 steps on it."

"Ultimately he didn't save any lives, though. And the ambulance got shelled too--killing the entire ambulance crew. He was the sole survivor."


"I can’t imagine being the sole survivor of all of my buddies, PLUS the dudes you were calling for help. Wow."


Too Young, Too Much To See

"My grandfather was in the US Navy in the Pacific during WW2. My mom would tell me about how when she was a kid he'd used to get really drunk and tell disturbing, graphically detailed stories about all the horrific sh-t he witnessed during the war. Stories about friends drowning or getting burned to death in raging fires, the terror caused by incoming kamikazes, etc."

"My mom was like, 8 or 9 years old at the time and being subjected to that understandably messed her up a bit. I never worked up the nerve to ask my grandfather about his experiences directly since it was obviously so traumatic for him. He eventually died due to complications from Parkinson's disease as well as being an alcoholic for decades."

"I sometimes wonder how different his life might have been if he hadn't enlisted as a fresh faced 17 year old. Given the timing, he might have been able to avoid getting drafted and stay out of the war entirely. Shoulda coulda woulda, I guess."


Stuff Stays With You Forever

"Completely different war, but my mom's father's father, so my great grandpa on my mother's side, was in WW1. Apparently, once a year or so he'd just sit in a rocking chair for several days on end falling apart and crying, wouldn't talk or move or eat, and my great-grandmother would just put a blanket on his lap and sigh and say he's thinking about the war and he'd be ok in a few days."

"This sh-t was so common ... Is still so common..... I'm glad it's less shameful and more people can get help these days."


Let's brighten things up past the typical doom and gloom.

What are some of the more outlandish stories from being in the war?

Out Before It Even Started

"My Grandpa's only WW2 story involves him arriving in France and proceeding to trip over a small hole in the ground and break his ankle on his first day there. It never healed right and he was sent back to the states. Walked with a cane for the rest of his life."


"Don't take this the wrong way but he's a lucky man"


That Magic Of The Chocolate

"I've posted this a few times before, but my grandpa was a child on a farm in Germany during WWII."

"On of my favorites was while a bunch of allies were traveling by. A group of Americans broke off and came up to the farmhouse. Through the language barrier his family figured out they were asking for milk. They get some and hand it over never expecting to see it again."

"The Americans take it and kind of stand around for a bit. After a while they bring it back up and manage to convince all the kids to come up. They split it out the drink they made to all the kids."

"Turns they made chocolate milk."

"I doubt this is the only reason my grandpa moved to the US, but I suspect its part of it."


Secret Families And Secret Chickens

"While I have have several family members who died in action, here are the more interesting stories. My great grandparents (with 7 children) were living in Russia under nazi occupation, hiding a Jewish woman in their cellar. Their neighbors knew about it but none of them snitched. The entire family would’ve been gunned down if they did."

"Also, a bomb once fell on their house but everyone survived although my great grandfather was severely injured. Great grandma secretly raised a chicken for him to eat for his injury, as they were starving because the Nazis were raiding the villages for food. On one such raid, she denied having any food but they heard the chicken clucking. That’s probably the nearest the family got to being shot."


You don't know what happens in the heat of war, in the midst of chaos and bloodshed, but you know that decisions have to be made, choices must be followed up on, and some people earn the title of "The Greatest Generation."

Wait For It...

"My grandfather was one of the soldiers that stormed the beaches of Normandy. I didn't hear about that particular portion of his story, but i do know that he was under fire and jumped into the trench only to land on a dead soldiers body. The corpse still smelled of a cologne called 'Evening in Paris' and when grandpa came home to the states he couldn't stand the smell of Evening in Paris - it caused severe ptsd flash backs for him."

"I wish i knew more of his story but he's been missing over 20 years now and is presumed dead."


You Kept Items From The Men On The Front Line?

"My great grandfather was in the trenches of WWI. His wife sewed him a coat because, well, trench warfare. The salvation army was running a program where they would get care packages from the states to soldiers in the war, so she handed the coat over to them to get to her husband."

"A month later she saw some admin from the salvation army walking around wearing the coat. He called her a liar when she said she made the coat for her husband, at least up until the policeman overseeing the argument was convinced to cut a seam to reveal the letter and hidden money she sewed into the lining."

"The salvation army also charged my great grandpa for hot coffee while the red cross gave it to the soldiers for free."

"Yeah, my family doesn't donate to the salvation army."


See? This Guy Gets It.

"Great Grandfather earned his commission during the Battle of Flers–Courcelette. He was company Sergeant Major 25th CEF. During the battle his Major and platoon commanders were either wounded or killed. He took charge of the company and after storming and taking the village he continued to lead his men until another hundred yards of German trenches were captured and held for two days and two nights. He fought at Ypres and The Somme and several other battles during WW1. (I have his uniform, medals, walking stick, battle field maps, field binoculars, photos etc)"


fake shoot a shark...

"My uncle was in the Navy and served in the Pacific theater. He always talked about how they'd see sharks and shoot them. He got kind of a giddy story telling face and ka pow, fake shoot a shark. He had an old school, shark with X eyes tattoo. He didn't really talk much about battles, which ship, or why he hated sharks. Bit as I'm older, I think it had to do with ships that sank and people he lost."


An Action Figure

"This is WW1. My Gran’s grandad (we’ll call him George) was performing an attack with the rest of his regiment over no man’s land. He was being shot at quite a lot, he was shot in the left part of his chest, the bullet did not go into his body, it landed in his cigarette tin and did not harm him. He saved that bullet and it has been passed down the family - my dad even used to play with it as a toy with his action figures."


The Ring Collector

"Grandpa was in WWII in Germany. Said war was atrocious and was very antiwar due to what he saw. It took years, but I was finally able to get a few stories. One of the worst was how allied forces would cut the fingers off German soldiers in order to collect/keep their rings. He said that alone made him question war and what it does to young people."


Run Away

"My grandfather jumped in an empty foxhole at the same time a Japanese soldier did and they startled each other so much they both immediately jumped out and ran away."


"My father had a similar experience with a russian soldier. The both walked around a corner from different sides and literally smacked into each other. Both ran off."



"Japanese pilots would fly very close to the ground and shoot civilians who would try to hide under trees. This sometimes resulted in the pilot crashing his own plane into the tree too. My great grandmother was a victim of that. She dodged the bullets and the pilot crashed into the tree and blew himself up for nothing."


The Rescue

"My maternal grandfather and his siblings stealthily rescued their dad, who was found hanging upside down, from the Japanese when they invaded the Philippines (he was only around 12)."


"I have family that was in Cebu during WWII, and I always wonder what it was like for them there. There is a large divide between my family that immigrated and stayed, and the family that moved back to the Philippines before the war. I also had family in Hawai, and my grandma watched the Japanese planes fly overhead before hearing the bombs."


The Criminal

"A patient admitted he was a Nazi war criminal a few days before he died. Took part in massacres of Jewish shtetles. 'I'm a murderer, it's all I am.' We had talked about being in the army ( I was too, of course not ww2) and he just let it all out. He knew he was dying, I feel like he never told anyone that but me. Seeing him with his wife and kids and grandkids at his bedside while he was slipping away was more surreal than most other times I've seen it."


Belfast Blitz

"My Grandad was a kid during the Belfast Blitz. Left their shelter after a particular heavy night of bombings to see the roads lined with bodies covered by sheets. Street after street with rows of corpses waiting to be collected. A sight that stayed with him his whole life."


Burned Out

"I remember being around 6 or 7 when my grandfather who was a tanker in the war describing to me and my cousins in great detail watching the special tanks with flamethrowers roll up to Nazi bunkers to burn the Nazis out. People might hold on as long as they can against shells or bullets but not fire."


It's been over a hundred years since the first World War meaning those stories are all now coming secondhand.

The farther we get, the fewer stories we'll hear firsthand from those who were there in WWII.

Listen, if you get the chance.

It's a gift.

Want to "know" more?

Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.

Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again.

Adults Explain Which Things Every Teenager Should Know
Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

We often look back on our teenage years with mixed emotions.

Our final years where we could enjoy our youth, and live largely without responsibility and just enjoy being a child and all that came with it.

Of course, we might also look back on things we did as teenagers which we are less than proud of today.

Or things we wish someone had told us, so that we may have avoided falling into those unhappy situations.

Keep reading...Show less

We all pretended to be sick at least once when we were children to get out of going to school to avoid a test, game, or assembly we'd been dreading.

Some people still might not have given up the habit of feigning illness, as a means of avoiding work or other occasions that they are less than eager to attend.

Sometimes, simply telling people that you're "sick" is all the information you need to share to get out of it.

Whether or not more concrete proof is needed, others might go a step further in faking their ailment, be it a cold or fever, and often pull off fairly convincing performances.

Sometimes even fooling a doctor.

Keep reading...Show less

Every kid has their own strengths and talents. However, in school, some of us are singled out as being ‘gifted.’

This could mean a variety of things, from getting exceptionally good grades to having a unique way of thinking or understanding topics that aren’t seen in other students.

Often, when a student is labeled “gifted,” it is assumed they will be successful in later life.

However, Reddit has proven that this is not always the case.

Sometimes gifted students are successful but to a normal degree. They have the same careers and achievements as students who weren't labeled gifted. Other times, these students are not successful at all and being labeled “gifted” ended up damaging.

Keep reading...Show less

Non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, are legally binding contracts that establish confidential relationships.

For most people, it’s not a big deal. NDAs are often signed at the start or end of an employment opportunity or during a sale of a product or technology you own. They mainly protect creative, business, or intellectual properties.

However, another function of NDAs is to guarantee silence on more high profile or nefarious events. For example, Stormy Daniels was asked to sign an NDA so that events that transpired between her and former president, Donald Trump, would be kept a secret. In most cases like these, the person who signs the NDA also gets a sum of money for their cooperation.

In these cases, the reason for the NDA is usually wild.

Keep reading...Show less