Learning about history can be fascinating. Reading facts and stories in history books hardly keeps my attention but hearing the stories from my father-in-law was exciting. He had been in WWII in Europe and had first hand experience with the fighting and encounters with Germans. The times that I sat down and listened to him kept my attention and in 1986 I realized that if I didnít put the information down on paper I would not be able to remember a lot of what he told me. I used a recorder in a question and answer approach to discover his feelings and the affect the war had on him personally. We worked together for about two hours until he needed a break. Unfortunately, we never had time to finish because of an interruption.
Since I was born in 1947, I had no first hand knowledge of the war and the hardships the men faced. To give myself a better understanding of each of the areas where my father-in-law recounted his tour of duty, I have researched extensively to find data to show the tragic numbers of lives lost. I have mainly focused on the American and Germans troops but without the support of our Allies, we would have not been so successful. British, Canadian, French, USSR and Belgian forces joined in the effort in Europe. They lost thousands of men and experienced much of what is in these stories. I have included statistics on the German losses for comparison. At the very end of this article I have listed statistics which helps to better understand the lives which were given in this war.
Disclaimer: This article attempts to keep all military events in correct sequence. Many of the stories have been related by my father-in-law. I have tried to be as accurate as possible. In some areas I have tried to speculate as to how things may have occurred. Specifically at the battle of Aachen I have chosen a small town in the area that could have been the starting point. I know that the troops did pass through Eindhoven, Netherlands but Iím not sure if they were going towards Aachen or away from the city.
Obviously the story is from an American viewpoint but regardless of the country where each soldier hailed, the fighting and reality of the war was no different. Risking everything the men put their own life on the line to protect their rights and to stand firm in their own beliefs. Every country suffered causalities and many families grieved over the loss of young men that would be absent from their home.
It has been a wonderful journey and a chance to learn about one of the most devastating wars in the history of the world. Many soldiers of that era are already in their 80ís or nearing the end of their journey here on earth. To all the soldiers who fought so valiantly, your memory will last down through the ages.
Read more articles by Loretta Leonard or search for articles on the same topic or others.