Byron Collins
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Inspired by this thread, http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/423422, I feel like I need to share a story as well. In a newsletter that I published over a year and a half ago, I published an interview that I conducted formally with my uncle, a WWII veteran Naval Officer. He helped plan and oversee the small boat portions of the D-Day Utah Beach invasion and accomplished the same planning for the Southern France invasions later (Dragoon) as part of Admiral Moon's staff. I want you guys to read the interview- and just the interview- don't read the stuff beyond it (previewing my game at the time)- it's not about my game. It became so much more than an interview for a newsletter...

After the interview, he thanked me for taking the 3-4 hours to write down everything he had to say about his WWII experience and he let me borrow all of his photographs, his original ID card, and original letters. I had him review the draft a week later for accuracy and he was very proud of the way it turned out- he said he wanted 10 copies for his family (my extended family) and I printed them myself. He had them all bound and gave them to his children and grandchildren. He then passed away just 3 months later. I didn't release another newsletter until more than a year after that. One reason for this was the personal impact his death had on me. His funeral had over 200 in attendance and the local VFW performed full military honors in the small town where I grew up. At the funeral, his family came up to me and thanked me for capturing his story, something they "always meant to do."

What I heard was "thank you for capturing history- rather than 'his story'" I thought about it and said "your welcome", very humbly.

We have a responsibility to do this- to interview our uncles, fathers, and grandfathers- else their stories are lost. I recommend that if you have a veteran friend, father, uncle, grandfather, brother, etc., that you request to interview them- get their story written down and don't delay. We as wargamers are in sort of a unique position- we know enough about where they were and what they had to do to ask some decent questions.

Had I delayed even a couple of months, the interview would have never happened and instead it would have been another case of "something I always meant to do".

Here's the interview, published just before Nelson Ridinger passed away:
http://frontlinegeneral.com/FG_News_Dec1_07.pdf

His story in his words is quite interesting and I recommend that you check it out.
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Bob
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Well said Byron! thumbsup

Thanks for the time and effort to preserve a moment in our history. Let's never forgot those who have served!!!

THANKS
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Steve Herron
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I just remember a few major points my father told me about being in Europe during WWII. He was in XXI corps HQ. My avatar is it's patch. He passed away in 1979.
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Steve H
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Great article.

I wanted to do the very same with my uncle James T Randolph, USN retired. Veteran of Vietnam, 2 tours as a drill instructor at Great Lakes, Navy Hall of Fame. He passed away last year.
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Kevin Roach
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MY story is not so glamorous, but I'm still proud of my dad. He was not in any wars, but was transport operations as a peace keeper in Cypress. He was Herbie in 3RCHA Canada based out of Shilo. No war combat, and lived to be 70, passed away last November. While asking about my forefathers in combat, I was told that dad had an uncle that was in WW2 and was killed in Europe somewhere. nobody knows for sure but rumors had it that he got into a fight over some booze with another soldier and he was killed. Not stuff that is usually passed on by military to next of kin that I know of. It was never proven or confirmed. As for me, I was in cadets for one day, and was told not to anticipate commands and get a haircut. I never went back.
 
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Wolfgang Kunz
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frontlinegeneral wrote:

We have a responsibility to do this- to interview our uncles, fathers, and grandfathers- else their stories are lost. I recommend that if you have a veteran friend, father, uncle, grandfather, brother, etc., that you request to interview them- get their story written down and don't delay. We as wargamers are in sort of a unique position- we know enough about where they were and what they had to do to ask some decent questions.


You are right on with this.

I also think that it is very important to have these first-hand-reports since - at least over here in Germany - the official reports are watered down.

What do I mean? Two points:

1) I recently saw an interesting documentation about D-Day and they had two soldiers - an American and a German - telling their story about this day. I really showed the horror of war when the American told about his feelings and his fears landing on this beach seeing fellow soldiers gunned down while he as running up the beach

then listening to the (then) very young German sitting in this MG-nest with the same fear and horror

and finally seeing these two men met for the first time on this beach, both crying, shaking hands, no hate...

I think we can't really imagine how it was, the horror, the fear and (especially) Hollywood can't bring us these.


2) Also recently I watched a British documentary about how Germany got into Nazi-ism. You think as a German you have seen it all - our TV has these documentaries often enough. But I was a bit surprised to see that they had different pictures and reports (which I had hoped for because that was the reason I bought it) - to see the war with their eyes - and seeing stuff I seldom to nil saw on German TV. Former German soldiers who told about their pride being in the Waffen-SS and fighting for their land.

Get me right here - these were not "stubborn" Nazis still denying reality. And I doubt that they would have wanted Hitler back. But this was their story and a part of their live. And these were not all bloodthirsty killers but normal people who became part of a system of unbelievable horrors. To hear their stories and hear about their feelings (beside the usual German: "we were all bad, we were all guilty" - documentaries) made the "why" more understandable and let you see what appeals such a system had.

An uncle was in some way related to the SS but it was unspoken law in their family not to talk about it. Sadly I didn't know and he passed away two year ago.


I fear when these stories are no longer told by those who really fought in a war this size it might be to easy to "sell us out" into a new war described as "clean" or "needed" by the media and the politicians.

These stories are not only stories but parts of a life. And these people were not asked if they like to go to war. They fought because they believed fighting for the right thing or (later in the war) because they were just drafted. We see unbelievable bravery by "normal" (whatever this means) people, unimaginable horror (I'm right now remembering a documentary about the fighting in Stalingrad where my grandpa died) and humanity happening in the worst places.

Yes, we should not forget these stories and these people - not those who died and not those who lived with experiences and pictures burnt deep into their soul.
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John Brock
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Thanks for posting this; it was an interesting read.
 
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Keith Mageau
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Byron is right, we must be willing to take the time and capture these oral histories, however informally, so that those memories and links to our past do not fade into obscurity forever.

I am a grad student working on my history degree so, as you can imagine I have an interest in this sort of thing. two seeks ago I was presented with the opportunity to interview an 83 year old man who served in the Kriegsmarine as both a submariner and deckhand on surface ships. While is story was not all that exciting as compared to others I have read about. His story is unqiue and just as important as the guy in foxhole. I got to learn about his experiences at the time of capture (end of the war) and his subsequent time in both British and American POW camps.

I spent almost 2 hours with a voice recorder, do a stream of conscienceness type interview. I asked very few questions, mostly to clarify points, but I just let him tel his story in own words. My point here is that these interviews can be very informal, but yet very important.
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Marshall Miller
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Malden
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I always wanted the full WWII story from my grandfather, but he just never wanted to talk about it (from other relatives, I gather that he saw some of the worst of it as a medic). After his somewhat recent death, myself and my mom are just now trying to piece together his story (I remember him telling me as a boy that he threw away almost everything from the war once he got back). Its surprisingly difficult. I always just assumed that the military kept records of who went where and when...
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