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Have you ever talk with a WWI Veteran?


Paul C
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My interest in military history started when I was 12 years old in the early 1970s. At the time there were many WWI vets alive. Although I never talked with one, I wish I had. When I joined the U.S. Marines in 1984 I could have joined the Marine Corps League and possibly found a WWI Marine to talk to but I did not. Regretable. That is why I make ever effort to talk with the WWII and Korean War vets.

Have you ever talk with a WWI Veteran? If so, what did they say about the war?

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Paul,

When was about 13, I met a German infantry man who had been mobilized at the beginning of the war. He walked with a noticeable limp and stated that he had "accidentally" shot himself in the foot on the train moving to the front. He supposedly never made it to the front as part of his foot was amputated.

He had nothing positive about his war experience to relate. His family later reinforced the fact he had been a pacifist for as long they could remember. Perhaps to be expected for a man who survived two wars.

Andy

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When I was a young child my father would often take me along with him to the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. This of course was against their official policy, but being a smaller town it was accepted. There was a couple of members who served in the Boer War as well as service men and women from both World Wars. I seldom missed a chance to strike up a conversation with the members, though most of the stories had little to do with being in the front lines. We also had a couple of neighbours who served in WWI with whom I spoke with on many occasions.

Some of my father’s friends had also served in the German Army and their stories also often had to do with time away from the front (most of which is not suitable to print here), which serves to show that soldiers are soldiers no matter where they are from.

Regards

Brian

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Since my father was born in 1900, many of his contemporaries when I was a child in the 1970s were of the right age, so I probably talked to a few veterans without knowing it. Other than my dad, I don't recall anyone talking about the war years specifically. My dad was still in training as a corpsman when the war ended, so he never made it to the front. Since the Marines don't have their own medics, had the war dragged into 1919, he could have ended up as a corpsman in a Marine battalion.

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Yeah. I spoke at length with a number of vets. My Grandfather was in the AEF and my Grandmother was in the ARC and had lots of stories, especially about the flu. She also had a Marine Corps friend who was wounded at Belleau Wood. The old man across the road was in the Suffolks at the age of 14 and took part in the Christmas Truce of 1914.

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Grandfather. Serjeant Royal Guernsey Light Infantry. Lewis Gunner. Wounded 1916, returned to unit. Never would talk about the war, said it upset him too much, and he felt that wasn't dignified for an old man upset himself....pity.

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My grand father served in the trenches, but never talked about it.And I spended most of my yought in Afrika, I only saw my family for two months every two year, so that didn't gave us much chance to talk about it......

The only thing I know is that he sufferd a gas attack. He was awarded a CDG with citation.

He died when I was like 12, if i remember correctly.

cheers

|<ris

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Interest how the WWI vets, at least in America, died quitely in the 1970s 80' and 90s while the WWII vets were lauded as the "Greatest Generation." I am not saying the title of Greatest Generation is not deserved.

It is my opinion that the fighting on the Western Front in WWI was more up close and personal then WWII for the American soldier. I think this may have led to the returning WWI vets to just want to never discuss it and try to forget it.

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Interest how the WWI vets, at least in America, died quitely in the 1970s 80' and 90s while the WWII vets were lauded as the "Greatest Generation." I am not saying the title of Greatest Generation is not deserved.

It is my opinion that the fighting on the Western Front in WWI was more up close and personal then WWII for the American soldier. I think this may have led to the returning WWI vets to just want to never discuss it and try to forget it.

I unfortunately have never met a WWI vet - at least that I knew. But I think you might be right here, Paul. Add to that the "forgotten" Korean War vets and the well-known treatment of Vietnam vets and these old guys probably thought... Yea, let's just forget about that old war "Over There."

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I talked once over lunch on the Isle of Rosay with an old WWI Sutherland Highlander. He had some stories and one I remember very well, back then, many Scots lads in Highland regiments only knew and spoke Gallic. He hadn't been exposed that much with Gallic and no german at all growing up. When he arrived on the front lines with others in the same group, after the first time they fired on a returning patrol speaking Gallic, they found out real quick which language was which.

Unfortunately he died before I could visit with him again.

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Interest how the WWI vets, at least in America, died quitely in the 1970s 80' and 90s while the WWII vets were lauded as the "Greatest Generation." I am not saying the title of Greatest Generation is not deserved.

It is my opinion that the fighting on the Western Front in WWI was more up close and personal then WWII for the American soldier. I think this may have led to the returning WWI vets to just want to never discuss it and try to forget it.

I think the term "Greatest Generation" applied to WWII vets, because WWII was really a World War whereas WWI was mostly in Europe. Although it did spread throughout Europe, so did WWII and beyond to the Pacific and Asia.

Japan, Germany and Italy had invaded country after country and they were all pushed back and forced to surrender. So much for Imperialism, Nazism and Fascism..............I think what the sons of WWI vets achieved in WWII, made the fathers feel proud, as much as I became the first born of the same generation.

Question, do you think the same could be accomplished today? With all the techno, yes, without it, no....IMO.

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I was 18, a young airman on my aero-engines trade course at camp Borden Ontario. We were on the hangar floor working on radial engines (from Trackers) when a group of 20+ elderly gents walked in on us. Each had a substancial rack! I was already an ODM collector and could see multiple DSOs, MCs, DFCs, Croix de Guerre, etc... Turned out these gents were the last surviving members of the Canadian WW1 Fighter Pilots' Association... Talk about being impressed!! Had a great hour talking with them. Wish it could've lasted longer... Wish a record had been kept of the conversations... Wish I could remember more...

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  • 3 weeks later...

After returning from Europe at the end of WWII, my father became a pharmacist with the Veterans' Administration. I began going to work with him when I was about 3 years old. In the years that followed, I spoke with thousands of veterans not only from the Great War and World War II, but also some from the Spanish-American War, the incursion into Mexico and even the Boxer Rebellion. I thought that I wanted to be a doctor so I continued to go to work with my father and visited vets in the hospitals until I graduated from high school. My father was never active in any of the veterans organizations, largely because he didn't drink and that was such a large part of their focus, but he always went out of his way to help vets. Consequently, he was frequently invited to attend reunions and I always went along. He was even invited to attend a reunion of German military veterans. I can still remember how honored I felt when I was handed a copy of Wenn Alle Bruder Schweigen signed by some of the men who had been there.

At the same time, this wasn't my only way that I had contact with veterans. Another link to veterans was through my mother's side of the family. When I was very young that side of the family still included relatives who had fought in the Great War, World War II and Korea, but there were non-vets who remembered speaking with relatives who had fought in the Civil War, voted for Lincoln, saw his funeral train, and attended GAR conventions. Another member of the family had brought home a war bride and mother-in-law from Germany whose father and husband had worn the black collar tabs with oak leaves and pips. Oma didn't speak much English and my German was terrible, but we got along great and I never tired of asking questions and trying to learn as much as possible. It was just part of life to sit around the camp fire and listen to relatives and their friends talk about their experiences and compare them. It was a real special event when they brought out some of their treasures to discuss but the stories were great too.

Then we moved to Chillicothe, Ohio, were my father had transferred to work for the VA. The hospital there was located on the grounds of the former Camp Sherman. My high school was on the grounds were the troops trained to go off to the war. The local movie theater still had a call board on the wall to recall all the various companies back to the camp. The local bus station still had post cards of the Camp in the rack for sale. I was surrounded by the Great War. I just wish that I could have made those times last longer.

Edited by dksck
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  • 2 weeks later...

Greeting to all, My Wife's Grand Father was a American Vet of the "Great War", but he would not talk about the war in the 70's and I had just returned from Vietnam from my second tour of duty. Sadly he passed soon after and never did speak about the war.

Regards, Oiva

Edited by Oiva
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  • 4 weeks later...

My grandpa Bill was an aviator in WWI. He wouldn't talk about it except in vague allusions to its horror. I couldn't imagine what he was talking about. Grandma Winnie spoke in glowing terms of how much fun they had during flight training. Some things never change, as I had a similar experience in Army flight school and after, 53 years later.

My great-uncle Morgan was an artilleryman in WWI France. He didn't talk about it either, with one exception. I was complaining about my Vietnam experience one day and he absolutely went off on me, telling me that I had nothing to complain about in comparison to what he went through. He described in some detail the miseries he endured. Gave me some valuable perspective. He went on to graduate the Naval Academy, serve with distinction in WWII and retire as a rear admiral.

I was a callow naïf who never appreciated the living history of my own family. Would that it had been different but I understand why my modern family has no interest in my experiences. The more things change...

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My father was a 1st Lt. in the US Army, but never left the States. My great-uncle served in France as a machine gunner / bandsman, and used to get Christmas letters from a boy in the house where he was billeted. I would translate them for him. They were very formal and stilted, usually not much real news. The old French handwriting was very hard to read.

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Many years ago before the time of personal computers, yes about the time of hammer and chisel and stone tablets, I used to work in a Canadian Veterans Hospital.....

I was very interested even then in Military history and during my lunch hour I used to go to the rooms of many of the vets and tape recorded their stories..... I talked to a couple of Boer War Veterans, a large number of WW1 and WW2 vets, also my own Grandfather who has a 1914 Star Trio.....

The sad part of the story is that I lost over 100 tapes in a house fire 20 years ago......

If I had a computer at that time I could have transcribed them......

Mike

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I remember back in 1997, I met a veteran who showed up for a American Legion event in Ketchikan Alaska. What made him special was the fact that he was a German weapons armorer who claimed to work on Hermann Goering's plane during WW1. He was accompanied by his grandson, who supported his story. The man was very frail and did not speak much English. He was welcomed into the American Legion to partake in the festivities.

I remember there being a lot of WW1 vets in my church growing up in the '70s and '80s. Sad that they are all gone now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes

When I was young in social clubs they've all long since passed away though in fact a couple of 'Wipers' photographed in Miss Coombs book 'Before Endeavors Fade' look familiar but was a long time ago, and one German vet in Manchester he stayed after the War.

Eric

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