Friday, May 27, 2011

Postcard Friendship Friday and Sepia Saturday: Lest We Forget

When this beautiful postcard was mailed, 100 years ago, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day, a day to pause and remember both the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil war.  Today, after many other wars, we remember all of the soldiers who gave their lives for our Country. "Lest We Forget", May 30th (now the last Monday in May" was designated as the day of remembrance.





The card was mailed 8/2/1911 and is postmarked Rome, New York which is in the north central part of the state.  E.W. says "I cannot do as I promised because I have got to go to my cousin's.  He is very ill."  The writing appears to be that of a child.  What do you suppose she promised her friend Henrietta?  Another of life's mysteries.
 William LaKoske 1925 -1994

This is my Uncle, Bill La Koske.  The picture was taken around 1943 while he was in boot camp in Ft. Hood Texas. He is 17 years old.  

I know little about Uncle Bill's time in the service.  We were instructed to never ask him any questions about his experiences during WWII.   I've managed to put a few bits and pieces together though.  
He took his basic training at Ft Hood, Texas, and was still there in October of 1943 when my parents took a train to visit him while on their honeymoon.





I enlarged the patch on his left arm, and I also remembered an ashtray he had with the same insignia.
 It is the insignia of the US Army Tank Destroyer Unit.

At the time, Fort Hood was a training center for the TDU, and I found this on line:
"The mission of the Tank Destroyer Unit Training Center became that of training tank destroyer units to the point of blotting out and erasing any fear of armored forces; establishing superiority in maneuvering and gunfire.

The specialized training program for TDs provided for 19 weeks of training. 6 weeks of basic and 13 weeks technical and tactical training. The basic training was comparable to that of a replacement training center." 

At some point, after the D-Day invasion, and on the heels of the Battle of the Bulge Uncle Bill and his battalion were in France and possibly fought their way as far as Belgium.  His job was manning a machine gun attached to the back of a Jeep. During heavy fighting against the Germans, Uncle Bill and several  other men were forced to take cover inside a barn.  The Germans destroyed the barn with canon fire and a beam fell, pinning Uncle Bill at mid-section to the ground.  The other men were killed.  He remained there for 2 days and was near death by the time he was rescued.  He recuperated in Colorado for about 18 months, was awarded the Purple Heart,  and then returned home.

Mom spoke once of the day the telegram came informing his mother, Julia that Uncle Bill was injured. Other than a short telegram, families had no way of knowing anything further about the fate of their husband, brother or son.  

Today, wars are fought right on television.  Soldiers keep in touch on cellphones and computers. At that time, communication except by the soldier himself, was non existent.  Since Uncle Bill was badly injured, it may have been weeks before they received further word about his condition.  They could only wait for a letter or for another telegram informing them of his death.  Luckily that 2nd telegram never came.

(A very special force of WACS went to France in the heat of battle to make sure mail moved to and from the US.  The Army knew how important communication was for morale here and abroad.  I'll tell you all about them next week.)


Fizsimmons Army Medical Center, Aroura, Colorado
A little more detective work:  The Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center is most likely the hospital where Uncle Bill was treated and rehabilitated. It was built during WWI primarily for soldiers with TB and malaria and has always been considered an excellent hospital. It closed just within the past few years, is being updated and will reopen as a private hospital. 

The only thing Uncle Bill ever mentioned was that he had to eat pureed "baby" food for months and -he never explained this one- he came to despise raisins to the point that he would shiver if he even had to look at one.

Joe and Del and Del's baby brother Bill

Uncle Bill is standing on the steps of my Grandparent's house on Holcomb St. in Detroit in this photo. He is with my parents, Joe and Del. The photo is undated, so I don't know whether he was on leave before going overseas or had just returned from Colorado.  My best guess is that he was given leave after he completed his training. February/March 1944 would make sense - based on the winter coats, and the fact that Mom's coat is unbuttoned as opposed to everyone else's.  Which means she's probably a few months preggers with my brother Joe. 


Uncle Bill was my Godfather and a really wonderful Uncle.  He had a great sense of humor and was the main instigator of fun and frolic among the children at the dinner table.

Although he was fortunate to survive the war he, like most soldiers, suffered memories of the horror of it for the rest of his life.  Along with a strange fear of raisins.

While we enjoy this long Memorial Day weekend, let's take time to remember those who died in and of War.

Those incredibly brave men ... men ... they were, many of them just 17 seeing and doing things that we can only imagine. Tossed off of ships by bombs, thrown out of foreign skies, marched in weather we won't think of going out in. Giving their all for freedom for all. The brave soldiers from WWII in my family are gone now - but they came home, every one of them. They kept their promise to my Grandmother. Many never spoke of it. None could forget it. We'll never forget these brave men.

For more Postcard Friendship Friday go HERE

For more Sepia Saturday stories go HERE

25 comments:

viridian said...

Thank you Muse for this wonderful post. I am also remembering your series of postcards from Pvt. Burns from a while ago.

Hazelicious929 said...

That's an interesting postcard. Mine is up - My PFF Entry.

Postcardy said...

I wonder about the fear of raisins. They probably reminded him of some bad experience.

Titus said...

Thank you, Muse Swings. It was a real privilege to read that.

Little Nell said...

What a wonderful story - and great detective work!

Debs said...

amazing story...i see a potential magazine article there...you write so well...

Bob Scotney said...

A tremendous story which you have told so well.
My niece (now 60 years) old has just made contact with me and has turned up an album of my brother (now dead) when he served on aircraft carriers in WWII. I can see us having to do some detective work on those pictures too. I hopw I am successful as you have been.

Kristin said...

The handwriting on the postcard looks childish but the wording sounds like an adult. Perhaps it was just someone with not too good handwriting.

Wonder if your uncle had to eat lots of pudding with raisens when he was on his mushy diet.

Snap said...

wonderful post, Muse. reminds me of my father who was in the south pacific during ww2. he would not talk about his experiences and said he lived on life savers and coke when he first got back and was at Brooke Army Hospital. Happy PFF.....

Martin Lower said...

What a terrific story!

Howard said...

Fascinating story of a real hero

MrCachet said...

Thank you for the wonderful history lesson to go with the cards!

Heather said...

Thank-you for sharing those treasured remembrances of your uncle.

(Queenmothermamaw) Peggy said...

So great work here. A great story told in an interesting and loving tone. I can read the respect and affection you had for these folks. Great post.
QMM

TICKLEBEAR said...

starting innocently enough with the postcard and finishing with this quote has moved me.

if his only memories were of rasins, it could be laughable, but we all know there are darker things in the corner of his brain. i dare not imagine what went through his mind as he laid there, pinned down and surrounded by the dead bodies of his fallen comrades...
:/~
HUGZ

Christine H. said...

What a wonderful post. Great quote at the end.

Lyneen said...

Great post for this time of remembering! Thanks for sharing... Happy PFF!

Mike Brubaker said...

Thank you for the story. The veteran's medal on the postcard is for the Grand Army of the Republic - the Union army. In 1911, many of those old soldiers were still around, but now the distance in time to WWII vets is 20 years greater. We must work harder to remember.

jill said...

I was really touched by this story-- I was sobbing but then the line "along with a strange fear of raisins" made me laugh so hard. Thank you for sharing it. I hate raisins too...lol

MuseSwings said...

Thank you all for stopping by to read about my dear Uncle Bill. I loved your comments, and (Mike) your information about the medal on the post card. The paragraph that is in odd font and looks like a quote are my own words - I copied it from WORD and pasted it in and then couldn't get the font to match up. Thank you again!!

Brett Payne said...

There it is again - that reluctance to talk about their experiences among so many war veterans. Thanks for sharing both postcard and photos.

Jeanne said...

Like your Uncle Bill, my dad was haunted to his dying day by the things he saw in the war.

Even when I don't agree with the war being fought, I honor the soldiers with the courage to fight it.

tony said...

I Am Really In Awe Of All Those Wonderful Brave Men.And Another Kind Of Bravery Must Have Been Needed When Opening A Telegram In Those Difficult Days.

Karen S. said...

Amazing information and photos ...I like the backside of postcards as well as the front...especially when there are stories or info to be found from it! Thanks for putting this so nicely together for us!

Tattered and Lost said...

Wonderful remembrance. Funny about the raisins. The military seems to do that because my dad also has an aversion to certain foods because he had to eat so much of it.