My father was ten years old when his father died, leaving his widowed mother to contend with her grief, eight young children, and the worst economic depression in history. Some believe (dad included) that adversity builds character. A poet once said that an oak tree, battered by the wind, puts down a stronger root on the windward side. Dad's character was strengthened by a constantly empty stomach and the bitter cold winters he endured through his thin shirt.
Because he experienced the worst life had to offer, problems did not daunt him. Rather than being embittered, he was grateful to be alive. Dad often quelled our fears with the belief that it is important to find the good in a situation.
He was involved in three major battles: The Battle of the Bulge, the Remagen Bridgehead Battle and the Ruhr Pocket. As a result of these battles, thousands were liberated. At the end of the war, French, Russian, Belgian, Polish, Dutch and Italian slave laborers lined the streets and cheered as the 99th swept into the German towns during the last days of their journey.
As an adult, dad half-believed that he and his young friends knew that war was their destiny. It certainly seemed as if Fate cast them into the role of "Freedom's Protectors." They played "war" on the river banks from dawn until dusk and became children-in-training for the most brutal and destructive war in history. Thousands of them would die. They were so young that the 99th Division christened them "Battle Babies." Those that survived found it difficult to talk about. Dad never spoke of the war until his later years and even then choked up at the memory. He was a kind man who was harshly treated by life yet lived it heroically. He has our undying love, admiration, and respect.
His story begins at the age of twenty, when assigned to hell on earth-- the 99th Infantry Division, 394th Regiment, 3rd Battalion, Company K.