November 27, 2012

Dearest Old Bolds and friends,

I was deeply saddened by the news of Ron Nash's passing, and wished I could have been there with you for his service. I will miss him, as I know
everyone else will as well.

Here in Germany the trip goes on and on and on. We left Schweinfurt after the Thanksgiving feast, and went to Stuttgart to finish scanning in some documents from a Battle of the Bulge veteran we had met over the summer. With the efficiency this country is famous for, the German archives kept every requisition for each piece of uniform issued, plus oh so much more. And our veteran friend had not only a whole binder full of those documents, he also had in his possession an amazing collection of documentation of his youth. That got my scanner warmed up.

But over the weekend it really earned its keep. Previous visits to Charley's tank commander from Africa had yielded a great interview but also just scratched the surface of his massive documentation - a photo album and three massive binders of letters sent home. Because the letters - written from the beginning of the Russian invasion and on into Africa and finally from a POW camp in Egypt - were written in an old German script that only people over the age of 80 can read, I asked Ego to read his letters aloud on video while I scanned them. Over the course of two full days I sat enthralled while he read these beautifully written and very detailed accounts of life on the front and the battles fought.

Even more impressive was the fact that on Day 1, while saying goodbye to his son and grandson who had been visiting, our normally very stable 90-year-old tank commander fell off the porch stairs and cut open his head. After a trip to the emergency room and four stitches, Ego refused to rest long and insisted on reading letters deep into the night and through the next day.

I never stop being in awe of this generation!

For the two days following our visit to Ego, we went to Munich and the border of Austria in pursuit of a story about the rescue of the Lipizzaners
at the end of the war. We had met a German veteran in October who had tantalized us with promises of stories and documents that had turned out to be non-existent. It was my first wild goose chase in my two years of doing this, and cost me not only several hundred dollars but also two extremely precious days that I could have spent speaking to veterans who may not be around on my next trip back. It's so unusual as to be shocking to have a veteran straight out misrepresent.

I can't deny that in my current state of near exhaustion, I was and am bitterly disappointed. Ok, maybe not just disappointed - pissed off. What can you do? Lost time can never be retrieved.

Driving north, we were just able to pull into Heidelberg as dark settled in.
The worst part is, a storm front is rolling in, and if we can't get north of it soon, we're going to be caught driving cross-country in heavy snow.

But we are meeting today with the last calvary captain - Rittmeister - alive who rode horses in battle on the German side in WW2. He's well into his 90's, and this may be my only chance to ever talk to him in this lifetime.

I swear I will be careful as we drive northwards towards Hamburg today after our interview. Gosh am I missing the California sunshine!

All my best wishes to you,



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