Dex Armstrong Pt.4 Contact Dex 180-01X
Sept. 2009
WWII Memories
Addressed to Dex - from a BBS poster: Corabelle
Copied from a SubVet BBS - September 2009
Corabelle's posting:

You have often referred to life as it was for you when you were growing up. Many times it was during WWII. This isn't a story about the games that we played as kids, but a real-life war story.

When we went to the Saturday Matinees at one of our local theaters, they would always show NEWSREELS; our way of knowing what was going on on the battlefields. One newsreel has stuck (and will stay stuck) in my head forever.

A young pilot was landing his plane on a carrier. The tail hook - or his brakes - didn't work as well as he would have wished, and his plane slide a ways over the deck, hanging precariously over the side. He tried to open the canopy. He struggled. It wouldn't open. He was still frantically trying to slide it back when the plane slid completely off the ship, and we watched him still stuggling, as the plane disappeared beneath the waves.

An indelible image.


Dex's response:

As a little tyke, I was living at Fort Bragg, on post with my Mother. The men of the 82nd were overseas, I think the current term is "deployed".

The place was loaded with little kids and women, what remained stateside of the troopers' families. Occasionally, returning wounded would return. As a liitle guy, I got to see a lot of men missing limbs and exhibiting some pretty nasty wounds coming home to their kids.

There was also a very understandable policy that was pretty heartless. If your husband was killed or captured, the War Department gave the grieving widow or wife of the guy in the Stalag a week to pack up and clear the post to make way for her husband's "follow on" and his family. My earliest memories involve a lot of women hugging each other and crying.

The Commissary was a long one story wooden building. It was painted white and had a covered porch that ran about 150 feet along the front of the building. The porch was accessable by steps leading to the Commissary main entrance. On the left side of the main entrance to the building - on the front wall of the building covered by the overhang of the roof - there was a bulletin board about sixty feet long.  It contained notices like what movies were scheduled at the Post Theater, Innoculations being given at the Post Dispensery, Blood Drives, War Bond Drives, Scheduled Visiting Dignitaries and Units arriving for pre-embarkation combat refresher training. And the latest casualty lists for units based at Bragg - the principal of which was the 82nd Airborne Division.

In the days of WWII there were no "reproduction machines" so the method of creating copies was "flimsies" and carbon paper. The casualty lists had a priority of something like the fifth flimsy. All the letters on a fifth or sixth flimsy looked like they were growing fur and were hell to read.

The 82nd took one helluva lot of casualties on every drop: Sicily, Anzio, St. Mere E'glise (Normandy) and Neimegen. After each combat jump women clutching little children - or with children wrapped around their legs - sayiing "What's wrong Mommie?"

Women would be running their fingers down the lists looking for their husbands, starting with the names of the known dead. There would be outbursts of grief, women holding women crying uncontrolably. Women yelling "Oh my God...Oh my God... Dick's gone."

That building is still there --- still at Bragg, but it is no longer a Commissary.  It needs either to be demolished or undergo extensive repairs - but that old bulletin board is still there. And when I pass it I can still feel the pain of the horror of human loss and maiming. Believe me Corabelle, there is no movie screen image that could match that image.

On that porch the wives of heroes were introduced to their recent widowhood in total bucket saturation. After Neimegen - where The Old Man's battalion got pretty well chewed up -  Mother moved to Gastonia and bought her groceries at a local store. She was sick of seeing young mothers have to gather their things, pack up, leave Post and face the world in their early 20's and alone or with infants and children.

And as for playing Army and war --- It was what our Daddy's were doing.    For real.