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17 December 2019

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Matthew

Col: You write non-fiction like poetry. Simply beautiful.

Diana C

Agree with Matthew....very nice read.

Of course it also brings to mind the Christmas of 1914 during WWI, which was one of the most inexplicable wars I can think of.

Merry Christmas to all on the blog and especially to the writers.

Bob Visser

Dear Sir,
Your mention of operation Market Garden brought back memories. I did grow up in the Nazi occupied Netherlands and eagerly followed the Allied progress after the landing in Normandy via Radio Oranje, broadcasting from London. When they brought the news of the landing near Arnhem, the action was now near, in our own backyard and hope was high for immediate liberation. Alas, we still had to wait and endure the terrible hunger winter, before we were finally liberated by the Canadians under Montgomery in April 1945. I still have a red beret, dating from that time and I will now dedicate same to your Bill Harris. Rgds. BV

Jim Ticehurst

Colonel...I appreciate you sharing this event..and this Part of Bill Harris Life..with your own expierences...As mentioned above..You have a Fluid...Poetic Style..that is a Pleasant Easy.. Read...Rather ...Its...Fact...Fiction....Historical...or Any Aspect..of Lifes Experiences..You are gifted..and We are Blessed You share your Talents..Thoughts.and.Insights...What would Life Be..Without..Literature...and The Written "Word"...Merry Christmas..to All..and to All.. . a Good Nite..

Brian G

This summer I took a trip with my dad and his friend, Chuck, to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Chuck was in the U.S. Army 299th Combat Engineer Division and was in the first wave on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. Actually he was there a couple days prior, underwater, to set up explosives on the German fortifications. He survived the invasion though was wounded with shrapnel in his arm. He spent some time healing in the hospital in St-Lô before going on to fight in the the Battle of Bulge. After the war he returned home and became a teacher in Northern California. That’s where he met my dad, also a teacher and WWII veteran (U.S. Army 77th Division, Battle of Okinawa).

Chuck is 94. His wife died a about 10 years ago and the only family Chuck has left is a 60-something unhappy spinster daughter, who, from what I could gather, is somewhat estranged from him. Anyway, my dad called Chuck the other day to ask him his plans for Christmas and if his daughter would be visiting him. Chuck told him no, that he planned to spend the day there by himself. My dad felt terrible and kind of helpless (my dad lives in Frederick, MD and Chuck in Los Altos, CA). Chuck, like my dad, does not belong to any veterans groups. So smartly my dad thought to call the local paper out there, the Los Altos Town Crier. They knew of Chuck from having profiled him in the past and promised to have people there from the paper spend time with him. Maybe not an It’s a Wonderful Life-ending, but who knows?

Christian J Chuba

There is nothing like a personal connection. By the time the battle of the Bulge my dad was already in a German POW camp. He became fascinated by the fact that the U.S. had and used proximity fuzes in artillery shells during the battle. It was very bad news for German infantry.

FkDahl

Brian, I live in Los Altos, does Chuck still need someone to spend Christmas with ? I always make too much food...

Pierre Bancel

This story reminds me one of paratroopers who, sadly, never arrived.
My father, then aged 17, was a liaison officer with the Ist FFI (Forces françaises de l'intérieur) Region military headquarter in Vercors. He and his comrades in l'Équipe, as they called themselves, brought to local heads of the Résistance in occupied Lyon, Bourg-en-Bresse, Saint-Etienne, Grenoble, Valence – most of southeastern France – millions in false francs and food tickets printed in London and parachuted on the Vercors Plateau, together with military orders, by either train or, more often, bicycle. All that under the nose of Klaus Barbie's Gestapo, the Wehrmacht MPs, and Vichy France gendarmes as well as the fascist Milice. Many of them were caught, tortured, killed or sent to Nazi death camps.

In the Spring of 1944, in preparation of the Normandy landing, General de Gaulle called all Résistance fighters in France to gather in remote places which they would « free », in order to fix far from any possible landing place as many German troops as possible. Some 3,000 young men crowded on the Vercors Plateau, as eager to fight as poorly equipped. My dad’s former chief, Capitaine Hubert, then a 22-year old student in Ecole normale (primary school teachers’ school), recounted that « London » had promised to send 600 élite (presumably French-speaking) Canadian troops along with heavy armament.

In early June 1944, obeying codeword « Le chamois des Alpes bondit » heard from Radio-Londres, maquisards under Colonel Descour proclaimed the « République Libre du Vercors » and flew a huge French flag stamped with the Gaullist Lorraine cross, visible from miles away in the Rhône valley. Aided by villagers from Vassieux-en-Vercors, they prepared a landing ground for all the military assistance that had been promised to them.

However, that support never came. Instead, the Nazis launched several attacks against the Vercors, first slaughtering all the 190 inhabitants of Vassieux, men, women and children alike, and killing several dozens of fighters trying to rescue the civilians, then, afew days later, sending heavy gliders full of assault troops, mainly Ukrainian SS, which landed on the ground prepared for the Canadians, while armored cars and trucks also brought ground troops in the fight. With a gun for three and very little ammunition, FFI maquisards lost 600 men and were forced to disband.

At the time of the assault, my dad was returning from a mission in Lyon. He crawled amidst the Nazi Sturmtruppen to join his comrades, but he arrived on the plateau only to find a desolate battleground with corpses lying all over the place. I don’t know how he managed to escape and found refuge at his parents’ home in the Pilat Mountains, on the opposite bank of the Rhône. A few days later, someone knocked at their door, in tears. It was one of his teammates of l’Équipe and another survivor of the massacre, coming to announce to my grandparents that their son, Cadet Officer Loulou, had been declared MIA…

I remember, in the early 1960s, our visit to the Vercors, and how our mother took us away when my father’s face, usually jovial, suddenly changed when we came to the burnt church with a glider carcass nearby. He walked away alone and disappeared for a while, then returned to us, smiling. He never talked to us of his time in the Résistance again, nor did we do this pilgrimage again. All I know I learned from his official military record and from Capitaine Hubert, whom I interviewed many years after my father’s death. Most surviving members of l’Équipe kept strong lifelong ties.

In memoriam Loulou, Kiki, John, Sim et tous les autres.

Brian G

Thanks FkDahll. In addition to the folks from the local paper I think we’ve managed to wrangle a relative of ours to visit.

But please, Chuck has a lot of funny and amazing stories to tell— from rigging up explosives underwater at Omaha Beach a couple of days before D-Day to bartering with Russian troops with chocolate and cigarettes after the Allied Victory. So if you want to hear stories firsthand you’ll never hear elsewhere then you must meet Chuck. And he loves telling these stories. Nb: be sure to have him tell you about being scared out of his mind on Omaha Beach and hiding behind a telephone pole as bullets were striking on both sides of him and his lieutenant coming up behind him and putting a gun to his head and telling him to either run or he (lieutenant) would shoot him dead right there.

brownflamb@gmail.com


Article on Chuck from this past summer:
https://www.losaltosonline.com/news/sections/community/177-features/60199-world-war-ii-veteran-visits-his-battleground

Bilenda Harris-Ritter

I am Bill Harris' daughter and I loved reading this. Thank you so much for sharing a memory of my Dad. I would love to know more stories if you have any.

Maggy

Thank you so much for this! Bill Harris is my dad! To read this, and on Christmas no less, brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so very much and If you have more stories of my dad, I would love to hear!

Maggy

Maggy

Wonderful!!!!!

turcopolier

Maggy and Bilenda

i will write you both soon.

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