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2014, Aaron Elson


Tanks for the Memories

The online edition

2014, Aaron Elson

Chapter 22

The telegram

 Jim Gifford

    I was from Gloversville, New York. There was a fellow from Albany in my outfit, Fred Putnam, he was killed at Mairy. He was a bow gunner or a driver in George Peck’s tank. An armor-piercing shell came in and went through him, killed him instantly.

    Then the tank burned, so they didn’t bury Putnam. There was nothing to bury.

    After the war, I went to see his mother. She asked me how he died. I told her some of the details, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her he was cremated. I said there was a church nearby, and there was a cemetery in the churchyard, a walled yard with a cemetery in it, and that he and some other soldiers that were unknown were buried there, and the people in that church tended to the graves.

    She said to me, "Oh, I’m so glad. I wondered what happened to him."

    I didn’t have the heart to tell her. It gave her something to live with, you know. I don’t know if I was right or I was wrong, but I think I was right.

Lester Suter

    I had to send the personal effects of all the KIAs back to their wives and mothers and friends. A lot of them had wives, and they’d have pictures of girlfriends that they had met in England or even in Germany or France. I knew this because they’d have a picture of their wife and then maybe two of girlfriends. So I would go through their wallet and pull out these girls, so it would never be known to their wife. I thought that was only a fair thing to do, since he was dead and gone, it didn’t matter any, why should they know what he did when he’s gone? I thought it was a benefit to them, although they were dead.

Joe Fetsch

    Pfc. Joseph R. Fetsch drove a gasoline truck for the 712th.

    There was an old guy who delivered the government telegrams in my neighborhood. We lived in a row house, what they call town houses now, in Philadelphia. My mother and my sister had gone out of the house, they were going up to the store, it’s getting late in the evening, and they see him with a flashlight. He hits our house and hesitates. And he hits the next house and he hesitates. And he comes back and looks at ours. The kid next door to me, he went in the service maybe a year after me, and ended up in the infantry.

    My sister’s telling me this, now. She says, "I couldn’t hold onto Mom."

    Finally, the old man went next door, and he had a telegram that said, "Your son is missing in action."

    So Christ, a week later, here comes another telegram, "Your son was killed in action." My mother went over and nursed this lady for a week to get her back on her feet.

    That was in January, around in the Bulge time is when he got killed. Here comes April, the first part of April, and here comes the same little guy again, he’s got his light out. And my mother sees him coming up the road. It made here sick, she damn near died. She damn near died. Then she was scared to open the envelope, that telegram. My sister opened it, and it just said that I was wounded.

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