Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The In T View: The Man I'm Named After

Update: Thanks to our sharp eagle-eyed readers for pointing it out, that it
was indeed the wrong photo for the story. After conferring with my father,
it seems that the picture was likely mislabled by my grandmother years ago,
and is a photo of another relative who served in WWII. And more information,
I just found out, the Man I'm Named After has a living brother, so that part of the post has been corrected too. My Apologies for the flaws, it just goes to show how hard it is to accurately portray events that took place more than Sixty years ago.

Who knows when that day will come, when we are called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Commander of a Sherman Tank...The Battle of the Bulge... My Father's Cousin... The Man I'm Named After.

I was named after my father's cousin, who died during the Battle of the Bulge, in World War II in the Ardennes region of Luxembourg.

The Man I'm Named After: His Parents are long gone, he left no children, his friends breathe no more...

Who could I turn to, to learn more about him? He existed and passed long before my time.

I was forced to cobble together rememberances of him, from the only source available to me, my elderly father, who has four more decades of existence beyond mine.

My father told me, "You're asking me about something that happened 62 years ago."

But ask I did, and thus the In T View begins...

MG: What was he doing before the war?

MG's Père: Before the war, he owned a gas station on Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford. (MG: New Bedford, Massachusetts , the famous Whaling City - Ishmael sailed from there in Melville's Moby Dick.)

MG: How old was he when he enlisted?

MG's Père: He was drafted. (He) must have been 18 or 19, maybe older, when he went in... I was 17 at the time.

MG: What rank did he hold in the service?

MG's Père: He was a Sergeant in the tank corps.

Sherman Tank photo - Courtesy Wikipedia

MG: What type of tank was he in?

MG's Père: He commanded a Sherman tank.

MG: What type of tank were the Germans using against the Americans?

MG's Père: Tigers.

MG: What Division was he attached to?

MG's Père: I think he was in the 3rd Armored Division.

MG: Was that Patton's Army?

MG's Père: He was there before Patton got there...It must have been the 7th
(Armored Division)...I can't remember everything back then. (MG says: May have been the 9th Armoured Division, since they were located in Luxembourg at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge.)

The Ardennes: The Day Before The Battle Of The Bulge

MG: What battle was he killed in?

MG's Père: The Battle of the Bulge. He was in Luxembourg.

MG: How did he die?

MG's Père: He was in his tank near a farmhouse in Luxembourg in the Ardennes. He was outgunned by the Germans in their Tiger tanks. They pretty much just chewed up the Shermans... their tank was shot to hell (hit by a shell). He came out of the tank and surrendered...he couldn't fight no more...his leg was pretty well mangled...He surrendered, but the Germans shot him. They didn't take no prisoners, I guess.

(MG Says: In the Battle of the Bulge which took place between December 16, 1944 and January 25, 1945, there were 80,987 American casualties including 10,276 killed.)

MG: And the other members of his tank crew?

MG's Père: Three were killed instantly in the tank, when the shell hit. Another guy got out with my cousin, don't know what happened to him, machine-gunned too, I guess.

MG: In the past, you talked about the actions of a farm girl in connection with your cousin's death - Can you tell us about her?

MG's Père: My cousin was killed near a farmhouse in Luxembourg, as I said before. The farmer and his young daughter came out to the battlefield afterwards, and took his body and buried him on their land. The girl had his wallet and other information, so she wrote a letter to my Aunt.

My Aunt and Uncle went over to Luxembourg, and they sort of adopted the girl. My Aunt brought the girl back to the United States to help with her education. She got married in the U.S. and lived in New Bedford. I use to know her name, but can't remember anymore.

MG: Where is his final resting place?

MG's Père: His mother had his body brought to the United States. He's buried in the New Bedford Catholic Cemetery.

Epilogue: There are times when I think, the man I'm named after was me in a former life. I seem to get emotional about a man I never knew, and have dreams of Germans, and saying I forgive you...

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