The online edition
©2014, Aaron Elson
Edwin E. Willard, of Lebanon, Mo., was a lieutenant in Service Company.
We had a young fellow who had three women claim him as their husband. So the battalion commander told me, "Id like you to sit down with him and lets work this thing out," because the Office of Dependency Benefits is not going to pay three women.
So I called him in. I looked at his service records, and I said, "Tell me when you married Jane."
"Well, I started living with her," he said. "Then I ceased to live with her, and I started living with Mary," and he had one child with Mary.
"I ceased to live with her, and I started living with. ..." He was from Mississippi or Alabama, they were common-law marriages, none of these were actually in the eyes of the law, but I guess the law down there does, too, recognize common-law marriages.
When I got all these names down, I looked at his service records, and theres another womans name there. So I said, "How about her?"
He said, "Dont worry about her."
I said, "What do you mean, dont worry about her?"
He said, "Shes not gonna bother us."
I said, "How do you know shes not going to bother you?"
And he said, "Well, shes dead."
I said, "My gosh, when did she die?"
And he said, "Oh, she was dead when I came in the service."
So I said, "How come you told everybody that was your wife?
And he said, "Well, I knew she couldnt cause any trouble."
So we had a problem deciding which one of these wives was entitled to his benefits, but he was pretty unconcerned about the whole matter.
And you know, a lot of fellows really stewed about those sort of things, and there were a lot of them who figured they werent gonna make it home anyway, so why bother thinking about it?"
My grandmother had a number of children, many of whom she lost in childbirth or later, through smallpox or diphtheria. She actually raised two boys, including my father, and two girls.
Of the two girls who survived, ones name was Anne, and the other was Marie.
At one point, there was a fellow named Joe Medich, who was a huge man. Those huge guys always seemed to wind up as drivers. Joe was taking some pictures one day, and I was standing alongside his tank just balancing on my elbow. His tank was named by him, for whatever reason, they had printed on there, "Anne Marie."
He took my picture alongside his tank, and later gave me a copy, and I must have sent it on home. My father ultimately showed it to my grandmother, and she said, "Praise be to God! The boys named the tank after the girls!" She just assumed that immediately, and no one said otherwise, and she was delighted.
She never got to tell me about it, because she died before I got home. But that little mistake gave her a lot of pleasure.
There was a fellow in Service Company named Raffi who was kind of an interesting character.
Raffi had a young lady he met over there that he paid a lot of attention to. He told her he was going to bring her back to America with him.
She found out he was married, and he told her it was no problem, because his wife was broad-minded, and back in the States, shed understand. He told her everybody in America has more than one wife.
So it turned out this gal writes a letter to his wife, only his wife couldnt read it because she wrote it in German. But Raffis father-in-law got ahold of the letter and he could read it. Raffi said the old man wrote to him and said, "You know, you might as well get killed over there because if you dont, Im gonna kill you when you get home."
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