I think about this story on Veterans Day, about the first Americans Dad ever met - US servicemen. (This excerpt is from his memoirs, multi-year project he and I have labored through together.)
"Eventually, all bombardments and artillery stopped, and the rain of bombs and fire wasreplaced by hundreds of thousands of leaflets floating and fluttering peacefully from
allied planes. The leaflets advised residents to surrender and lay down all weapons and
receive the American occupation forces. Our neighborhood was covered with paper
and we scurried around to collect the excess as cheap firewood. All civilians were
also instructed to prominently hang out white sheets of surrender from their houses
and apartments. Each house in our neighborhood quickly sprouted a white bed sheets
tacked to one of the windows. For the sake of our lives, we did what we were told:
display a white flag of surrender or be prepared to die. Not all in our neighborhood were
supportive of the new occupation. There were more than a few die-hard Nazi supporters
in our neighborhood who hung their white flags under duress, with tears in their eyes.
However, the majority of us were more than glad to surrender with the symbolic white
flag if it meant that the bombing would stop and the war would be over. We just wanted
to start living life again, as normally as we could amid piles of destruction. Our dreams
were understandable, but how does a family, a community start living again when a
sizable part of the city lay in ruins, with no food, no jobs, no infra-structure,
no water, no electricity, no stores, no public transportation, and
few glimmers of hope?
A day or two after white flags bloomed from neighborhood windows, the first convoy
of trucks loaded with American infantry slowly moved into our neighborhood.
They stopped only fifty yards from our house at the end of the street where Bernie and I
happened be outside playing. We eyed them carefully and found that they looked very
friendly - not at all like the cruel enemy they were accused of being. There must have
been at least twenty of them on the first truck. With smiles on their faces, they waved
for us to come over. We cautiously approached the green-clad soldiers as they started to
unload the trucks. We were in fearful awe, as if toy soldiers and trucks from a strange
land had materialized in front of us. One of the soldiers jumped off the back of the
truck and grabbed my shoulder in a friendly way, as if I had helped him off the truck.
He smiled and said something to Bernie and I in English, which of course we did notunderstand. But the language barrier quickly evaporated as he handed my brother
and I a chocolate bar and a stick of Wrigley’s chewing gum. We were delighted by this exchange in the international language of candy! We quickly devoured the treats,
savoring every sweet calorie in our sustenance-deprived tummies. The soldiers laughedand smiled a lot, which, combined with their “peace offering” was just what we needed
to allay our fears that the Americans were a ruthless enemy. That short meeting at the
end of our street was a tentative but positive beginning to the American occupation of ourcity."
|Dad's school picture in E Germany|
|Dad, United States Army|