Good friends
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?

I certainly 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 bitterness.

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 fighter pilot.

After resting, 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.

Today, travelling 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,



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