June 23 2014
Dearest Old Bolds,
family and friends,
Despite my best
intentions, another week has passed before I could put thumbs to Blackberry. I hope you are
getting ready for the delightful summer picnic - I know I'll miss it!
Where did we leave
off last? Ah yes, with the infantry. We had our second lovely full day this summer with a couple
who met and married during the war. He was badly wounded in Russia, and
she was a nurse in the hospital where he spent a year recovering. They are
still happily married 70 years later. Who doesn't love a good love story?
couldn't resist the charm if this delightful couple, and the stories both can tell beyond their
romance: he of fighting near Leningrad, Stalingrad, Normandy, and Hungary; she of
her duties at a hospital in Thuringia.
This week we
stayed with our dear friends in Mannheim, who in addition to extending tremendous hospitality and
loving friendship, also share our interest in preserving history. Our host
has been visiting with veterans and recording stories since 1989, and so has
truly awe-inspiring knowledge and contacts in the field.
He kindly invited
his sprightly 94-year-old neighbor to join us for after-dinner drinks on the terrace, and we
were enthralled by this cavalryman's ability to so eloquently
convey the horrors of a war reached on bicycle through Russia in 1941 and 1942.
After nearly reaching Moscow, and as the
winter and Russian troops both launched a major offensive, he lost almost
every person he knew to the cold, disease or combat. Then he himself was
wounded. In the hospital and then back at his unit's home base in Germany,
our new friend couldn't speak at all for six months. What a wonder it was
then, that he could speak of it now with such raw emotion, detail, and
During the week, we continued our marathon
of interviews, and visited our cavalry friend at night to hear more. On
Sunday, we visited a Stuka pilot who flew with Rudel and had over 500
missions to his credit before war's end. Monday we spent time with an
infantryman who had taken part in the invasion of France in 1940 before being
accepted by the Luftwaffe and trained as a ground attack pilot.
Tuesday we drove
along the gorgeous, castle-studded stretch of the Rhein near the Lorelei to meet with a JG11
working, and backing up all my electronic files on Wednesday, it was back to the Stuka pilot on Thursday
to scan in more of his flight records and photos. (Again, many thanks to
Andrew and Morten for the excellent contacts)
On Friday morning, Charley had to take the
train home in order to respond to a family emergency, and I pushed on to
meet a German historian recommended to me by Andrew. Horst generously
introduced me to two fighter pilots, so that I could find out more about German
fighter attack tactics.
Both pilots flew
over the Reich, trying to defend it from Allied bombing attacks. One did so by pledging to bring
down a bomber every mission, whether through firing his cannons or
ramming it. Unsurprisingly, after the war, the local Americans became his best
friends and colleagues, as he accepted employment at the nearby base.
solo, I must sadly leave our friends and depart for eastern Germany, where I will meet with
two more fighter pilots who fought bombers.
As I reflect I
realize that travelling, visiting, and working with Charley, learning from him, and sharing his delight
in new friends and places has been one of the most enormous privileges
of my life. I hope he will be able to join me for the rest of our planned
interviews in July.
Either way, I can
hardly express my the entirety of my gratitude for the assistance he has so wholeheartedly given,
the knowledge he has shared, the enthusiasm he has radiated, and the
friendship he has granted. I simply would not be able to do this work without
Charley's help, the love and support all of our friends here and my
family and friends at home, and the collaboration of many like-minded
historians who all believe in the vital mission of capturing and passing history
down to future generations.
If good friends
are a more accurate measure of wealth, then I am truly one of the richest women in the world.
All my love to
you, my beloved Old Bolds, friends, and family,