I haven’t done a good job of keeping up on my blog. I’m going to attempt to remedy that this year. Can you make a resolution in June? I guess I just did.
June 6, 2019, the 75th anniversary of D-Day. I’ve always been a history buff, especially WWII. I grew up the only child of an only child. My grandfather on my Dad’s side was the second oldest of 6, and the oldest of 4 boys. Flossie, Harold (Bud), Ginny, Don, Wally, Howard. I spent my summers with my grandfather (Harold). Almost daily we would take a drive to see at least one of his siblings. When you come from a small family, you make more of an effort to stay in contact with extended family.
Not many people can say they know their great aunts and uncles…mine where like second grandparents to me. I grew up on stories of WWII from my great uncles.
During WWII my grandfather was a machinist in a factory that produced cranes. His job at home was deemed more important to the war effort than serving in the military (you can teach Rosie to rivet pretty quickly, training a machinist takes a long time). His 3 brothers (my great uncles) all served in the Army during the war.
The first to go to war was Wally. He served under Patton as a radio operator in a Sherman Tank. Wally took part in three invasions; North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Malaria literally saved his life. The story goes that while he was recovering in a hospital, his unit was wiped out. As a kid, the significance of that was lost on me.
The second Ruth boy to head to Europe was Don. He was a truck driver. He told of driving troops to the front and returning with casualties in the back of his truck, then doing it all over again. One story that sticks in my mind was driving the 101st Airborne to the front. A Sargent sat in the cab and put a 1911 handgun under the truck seat. After getting back to the rear, Don checked and the gun was still there. Funny what stories stick with you as a kid.
Finally, the war department realized that they needed to wrap things up in Europe. That’s when they sent Howard overseas (at least that was the way he always told it). Howard was an engineer in the Army. He had stories of he and another soldier getting separated from their unit and spending a sleepless night in a random barn until morning, when they could get caught up to their group. Another story involved running into some guys that wanted to go crack open a bank vault in a German town. Being an Engineer, Howard had access to explosives.
He said, “we gave those guys a quick lesson on how to set det cord, and wished them the best of luck…hope they didn’t blow themselves up.” He always told that story with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye.
Stories, such as the time Don was able to meet up with Wally in Italy when their units were a couple towns apart, filled my childhood. I should also mention that the key part of that story was that Wally was completely bald at the time...his hair had fallen out from fright. I heard the fewest stories from Wally, according to his brothers this was because he saw the most combat.
To my knowledge, none of them were involved in the Normandy invasion, but I can’t think of WWII without thinking of those 3 men and countless others like them. December 7, June 6...These days always make me think of those 3 men. Boys, younger than I am now, that left home, to go to towns that they couldn't find on a map, to do their part to stop evil.
I have intense pride in what that generation accomplished. Young men rising to the occasion. To all veterans out there, regardless of generation or branch of service…Thank you.
Phil Ruth - Insurance agent, husband, father, youth sports coach, boater, outdoorsman, Elgin High and Miami University Grad, Fan of Ohio sports, Usually found at a Ridgedale game rooting for his kids.