Dad, always full of fascinating stories, remembered these details consistently every time he recounted them.
Surrounded by “Krauts”.
A tickle in his throat.
A sugar cube, passed down the silent line, to cut his cough.
Orders: “Infiltrate. Take nothing with you.”
Three days, in the snow.
Cpl. Anthony Scanzillo, part of the forward observing team.
Hodges, the commanding officer; General calling the play: George S. Patton.*
The rest, profoundly, history.
I am still not quite sure how to thank my father for all this. Thank him…..for enlisting in the US Army when, as a 20-something vagabond orphan, the military service might have been the only place he could go for three square meals and a bed?….Thank him…..for sticking it out once the war hit, promising his new wife he’d come back to her from Germany?…….Thank him…..for enduring abject fear, horrifyingly explosive sudden death all around him, the demand of primitive conditions and unending misery?…….Thank him…..for using all his internal resources to survive, to come home, to open his barber business, to marry mum twice so that I could be brought into the world.
Thank you, Dad. They tell me that what you did saved the world from an oppressive dictator whose mentality could have overtaken freedom itself. I hope they’re right.
I’m just glad you came home.
[ He bit his lip, and kept trudging. And followed orders, and kept breathing, and kept holding his breath, and never closed his eyes (I knew my father. He never closed his eyes, mark that.) and kept watching, and kept looking, and kept listening, and kept trudging, and stood stalk still, and liked to have died, and then the orders came down, and the German prisoners were lined up, and shot dead, and then more trudging, and straight ahead, and no thinking, and then suddenly the orders came down, and surprise attack, and blood, and heads being blown off right beside him, and ear splitting booms, and meemies, screaming, and carnage, and more shooting, and then the orders came down, and they all turned, and back they trudged, and trudged, and trudged, and then they were clear. And, the end. Of that. And, probably peeing and drinking, and eating, and smoking, and finally sleeping.
Dad came home with PTSD that never left him. He was 95, and it still haunted him. My one, retrospective relief is that he died dreaming, in feverish sepsis, turning his left wrist like he was still playing the bones.]
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 7/3/16 All rights those of the author, including the photographs, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.