This story in the SJ-R about the Springfield man who was among several Illinoisans honored by the French government for their part in the liberation of France in WWII reminded me of something I had not thought about in years.
Back when I was a child, my father, who worked for the State here in Springfield, had a boss who was a veteran of the Normandy campaign in WWII. I can’t remember if he landed on D-Day itself or shortly after but he was there. I think I remember the man’s name, but I’m not sure so let’s call him Mr. Vet. While in Normandy, Mr. Vet befriended a French man. This man would write to Mr. Vet fairly regularly. In French. Well, Mr. Vet didn’t know French, but he found out that my mother did (she was a French major in college). So Mr. Vet would give the letters to my father who would bring them home for mom to translate. However, I don’t remember her ever writing replies for Mr. Vet. Maybe she did.
While she was transcribing the letters, I can remember my mother reading them out loud. The French man was very expressive about his gratitude toward Mr. Vet and the United States for liberating France. I remember one reference where he compared the effort to the French assistance given to the Americans in the Revolutionary war. I was amazed at this guy’s enthusiasm even 25 or 30 years after the war.
Anyway, I have no idea if either man is still alive. A quick look in the Springfield phone book for Mr. Vet doesn’t reveal anything, but I may have the spelling wrong or the wrong name altogether.
As the WWII generation dies off, I sometimes find it hard to remember those days when they were everywhere, working the jobs and running the world. When I was a kid, WWII seemed like ancient history but the guys (and women!)who were there were all around and no more than middle aged. That seems strange now.