World War II was almost a taboo subject in my family. My grandparents, on my mothers side of the family, never directly talked about it (or at least not to me). It seemed as if the whole duration of the war was a giant void to them. It represented lost years together and brought back the strong emotion of love - longing to be together and longing for the way things used to be. So naturally when the war was over it was easier to forget about the war and move on with their lives rather than relieve it and stay trapped in painful memories. So my grandparents began to live like everything was normal again. (I am living proof of that, being the Baby Boomer’s Boom).
This is my story of my grandfather and how hid experiences in World War II affected my family.
My grandfather was 19 when he joined the Navy. Somewhere in the attic at my grandparents house is his old uniform. I don’t remember trying it on a few years ago. Even at 13 my hips were to large to fit into that slim Navy pants. I don’t remember the name of the ship he was stationed at but I do remember a few stories he told me.
There was a time when my grandfather’s ship and the fleet it was in were communicating to each other on CB Radios, where the fleet was headed. Overhead two Japanese spy planes were flying. Grandpa told me that they talked in code over the radio’s so the spy’s couldn’t figure out the fleet’s plans. Grandpa’s ship’s code name was the USS Alleycat. I recall vividly my grandpa saying "D*mn Japs," but when you are put in a life or death battle situation, you learn to hate the enemy fairly quickly.
My grandpa has a large scar on his scalp that became more and more apparent as he balded. From what I understand my grandpa was on shore in Sicily and an enemy with a knife attacked him. My grandpa managed to fight him off, escaping with a gash on his head. He never told anyone the complete story behind the incident. I only remember how I used to run my fingers through the groove of the scar and imagine what it was like to be attacked.
Most grandfather’s war expenses were kept to himself. He loved to watch old black and white battle ship movies, like Torra Torra Torra. He would tell us facts about the war, but he would rarely share anything personal. When I had an eighth grade project to do, I called my grandparents for an interview. I recall a very strained tense conversation between my grandparents and myself. The war was simply not a topic he could comfortably talk about personally. Perhaps my age had something to do with his story telling. He always wanted me to live happily and optimistically, and perhaps he felt that "bubble" would be violated if he filled my head with violent war stories.
Two years ago, my grandfather passed away. Looking back, I wish I had understood more about World War II when I was younger, so I could take his stories and apply them to previous knowledge. Then again, maybe not. The sense of mystery, dignity, and pride for the US of A are things that I associate with my grandfather. To fully understand and take the question out of my memories of him would drastically alter my point of view. I don’t know if my grandpa ever killed a person, nor do I want to know. It is safer to stay in cherished memories even if they are a bit mysterious . I remember Grandpa as noble, brave, and wise. He was one of my role models up to the day he died, and I’d prefer to hold onto the positive qualities he had.By Rebecca "The Giraffe" Bernard