Next Veteran’s Story - Robert

A story by: Evelyn Marshak | Added: 2013
Germany
1945

When I asked Robert what he did in World War II as a combat engineer, “He answered that we did what we were told to do.”
 Normally I do interviews by myself, but sitting in your ophthalmologist’s waiting room waiting for your name to be called, is not like the usual interview. I was real lucky because a fellow patient has a lot of background in conducting interviews for a hospital . It was as if we were a team that had practiced a great deal. I’d ask Robert a question and then she’d encourage him to explain his answer further. My name was finally called and I never saw my “aide” again. But Robert had been called before both of us so we two women talked a bit about the interview. She was impressed about how casual he was after he had been wounded in Germany right at the end of the war , and soon after his arrival in Germany, and spend 1 ½ years in hospitals recovering from wounds that he deemed insignificant, What he wanted to talk about was a nurse from Watertown, CT who stayed with him a whole night while he was hemorrhaging. He never saw her again and was grateful that she was there when he needed her. He entered the war just before the war ended In April, 1945. After training at Fort Belvoir and other training camps, he was transferred to Fort Dix and then sent overseas. Before being sent abroad, he mentioned that he could get a train from Virginia to reach Bridgeport or New Haven to visit his family but then had to hitchhike the rest of the way. “ I never had much trouble when I needed to hitchhike. A man in an Army uniform normally was picked up by someone in a short time. I’d leave camp on Friday and had to be back on Monday morning He made it seem like a normal thing to travel that far to see his family for not much more than a few hours. “I almost didn’t get into the army because initially I was listed as 4F. I did a little talking here and there and I was accepted under limitations. No, I didn’t want to stay home. I was 18 and everyone I knew was going into the service. At 18 you don’t think much about being wounded or killed or being taken as a prisoner of war. When I asked if his mom had made anything special for his first meal post war and he seemed hesitant to explain that a fancy, first home-cooked meal for me was expected. “No, I don’t talk to family members about the war because there seems little interest in what I did so many years ago. “I have been back to Germany twice. We were stationed outside of Cologne, Germany when I was wounded. I did make a few friends in the service but once we were discharged, we never saw each other again.” Robert wore a cap saying he was a WWII vet so it made it easy for me to approach him for an interview.