People Share The Most Interesting WWII War Stories Their Family Members Told Them

Do you have a relative who fought in the deadliest conflict in human history?

World War II raged for close to 6 years, with over 30 years of political turmoil in central and western Europe leading up to a massive war that destroyed so much history throughout the earth. The eastern front in Asia, led by Japan, and the western front in Europe, led by Nazi Germany, ravaged humankind to their very core.

Family members who fought in this difficult piece of history no doubt have seen far too much for one lifetime.

u/Ramboooshka asked:

Redditors whose father, grandfather or great grandfather fought in WWII, what is their most interesting war story they've told you?

Here were some of those stories.

The Terrors Of The South Pacific


What's more interesting is what they DIDN'T say.

On the 4th of July, we were never allowed to have fireworks at my cousin's farm. We'd hang out all day and we didn't go into town for anything - my cousins had never even been to a parade. This was in a place and time where EVERYONE had firecrackers.

Because my uncle, who had served in the South Pacific, couldn't be around fireworks. If he heard a bang, including a car backfiring, he hit the deck before he even knew he'd heard a noise.

It wasn't slow like a tree falling - it was more like he was instantly down flat, almost pressed down to get UNDER the dirt. He also came back with his hair pure white and an understanding of basic Japanese. My dad, all my uncles, everyone had served in WWII, but he was the one left with this reflex. I asked my mom about it.

Me, about age 9: Wow. I guess that's how he stayed alive.

My mom: Oh, no, he was never anywhere near combat. They teach them that in basic training.

Me: Um, how do you know he never was in combat?

My mom: He told us in his letters. He was never in danger.

Me: Ummmmmm.....

She is now 90 and she still believes her brother was never in combat.


Unintended Consequences

Well, not a typical war story, but here it is. My Dad was reported MIA in the Battle of the Bulge. My Grandfather had a "nervous breakdown" and went to Canada for a rest cure. Came back with a mistress, moved her into the family home, with my Grandmother & Aunt. My Dad was found relatively unharmed. The mistress stayed. NO ONE talked about it. She became an unofficial "aunt" while I was growing up. I didn't figure it out until I was much older. Good times, eh?


The Truest Terrors Of War

Context: The Netherlands (neighbor of Germany)

My grandmother worked as a nurse, during the war. She was engaged to a man who was drafted. At some point during the war, everyone lost contact with her fiance and presumed him dead. A year after the war, my grandma was engaged to another man, when her first fiance suddenly came knocking on her door. She decided to stay with her current fiance, who became my grandfather.

She never actually told me this, I had to hear it from aunts and uncles after she passed away. The war was very traumatising for her. She had to flee north with patients as the Germans invaded from the south.

Before that, her youngest brother was one of the first in the country to be sent in front of a shooting squad for rebellious acts (the youngest of the eighteen dead), after telling his father all would be fine because he was too young and to not cover for him. He knew he'd be murdered while writing that letter and my great grandfather never forgave himself for that. They stole fireworks from the Germans.

Her other brother died due to pneumonia, after being put in the halls of the hospital because there weren't enough rooms to hold all the patients.

My grandma lost a lot in the war.


A Reason To Fight

Maybe not war story, but happened in WWII regardless.

TLDR: Grandfather was deployed in Europe and met my grandmother. The two sent letters back and forth and the guys in the mail room edited them to look like they both liked each other. My grandfather proposed after a year into this. She said yes.

Long story: So my grandparents are both very old. They were young but of age at the time of WWII. My grandfather is an American man and could've been the poster child for the typical all-American. He joined the army in WWII and was deployed in Europe. My grandmother was born and raised in Southwestern Germany. Lived in a beaten up town from bombings but still had a house standing.

My grandfather was off on a motorcycle trip through the country side and stopped in my grandmother's town. He came to like her and continued to stop by. Later on, the war ended and he was sent back to America. My grandmother remained in Germany. The two mutually agreed to send letters back and forth. While my grandfather still remained in the army, all mail went through the mailroom. Well they sent love letters for a while and his buddies in the mailroom saw them. After a long time of this, my grandmother had enough of my grandfather and sent him the "go away" letter. The buddies in the mailroom started editing the letters between the two.

Once again, a long time passed and this continued to go on and my grandfather went back to Southwestern Germany to propose to my grandmother. He had a round trip ticket for himself and a one way to the US. Needless to say, my grandmother was very surprised when he showed up. Things slowly unfolded and she said yes. She packed up her belongings (which weren't much because of the war) and flew back to the US. The two married, had the buddies in the mailroom become groomsmen, and settled in a city. They have been married for over sixty years and still live in America today.


The Most Infamous Battle Of The War


My step grandfather spent some time in North Africa and was in Normandy. He was part of a crew on a half track. They saw a lot of action. They used molotov cocktails against tanks because they didn't have much firepower to knock them out. They would throw the molotov cocktail on the tank and catch it on fire, then shoot the crew when they tried to escape.

They caught a bunch of Germans in a staff car and took them out. Another time a sniper was shooting from a brick building. Their bullets weren't having much effect and so they just rammed the building to eliminate him.

His tour came to an end when they were engaged by a 88 cannon in France during the breakout from Normandy. They had seen them in North Africa and knew that they were very accurate. They would first fire 2 shots. One to get the range, another to get the angle ( left/right ). The third shot would be dead on.

So they saw the first two shots and knew that they would not make cover before the 3rd. So they stopped the halftrack. 4 of the guys took cover under the halftrack, he dove into the ditch. The 4 guys under the halftrack died. He woke up a week later, naked, in a hospital in England.


Precursor To Pearl Harbor

My grandfather was in the Navy and was stationed on the U.S.S. Indianapolis. He was part of the group of soldiers that got off in Guam 2 days before the ship was sunk by the Japanese. He never really talked about it, as pretty much all of his friends in the Navy died on that day.


A Slice Of Life In The Darkness

He didn't fight, but my grandpa was a child in Germany at the time. One of my favorite stories from his is at the end of the war, US troops were heading past his family's farm. Some of the group broke off and came to the house. They didn't speak German, and none of his family spoke English. Eventually they figured out the troops wanted milk. They handed over a decent amount. And the troops took it back to the rest of the group.

They kind of stood around with it for a bit, and eventually brought whatever it was in back to the house, and started passing drinks out. They took the milk to make chocolate milk for all the kids on the farm.


Mismanaged Pain Medicine

Not a relative of mine, but I met a man who stormed Omaha Beach and was a main advisor to Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan. He got shot in the face and several other places on his body by an ambushing machine gun.

Interestingly, the little morphine shots they had irl were slightly less than a lethal dose, so two of them would kill you. In the film, when they give the medic a second shot of morphine, it's the morphine that kills him.


Begone Ye Pestilents

My grandfather was in the Eight Air Division in WWII. He flew close to 30 missions in B-17s. His most notable mission was in 1944 when he and his crew were shot down over north-eastern France. According to a current map it was somewhere between Metz, FR and Luxembourg City, LX.

He said they crash landed in a field and one of his crew members was killed by a German farmer with a pitch fork. They spent a few days avoiding capture by Nazi soldiers by hiding in the woods. At some point they came across a skirmish between Americans and Nazis. They hid in the forest and only came out in the morning after all the fighting had stopped for awhile.

He told me that they figured out who was fighting the night before by inspecting the bodies. There were numerous dead Nazis but no dead Americans. He told me that at this point in the war, Nazis were not diligent about taking home their dead, but the Americans were.

People from a nearby village apparently came out and found my grandpa with his crew in a field full of dead Nazis. They asked if they had killed all those Nazis by themselves and my grandpa said "of course we did".

I think it took them about a week after crashing to come across Allied soldiers and get rescued.

I wish I could remember more details but the last time he told me that story was over ten years ago, shortly before he died.


The Memory Does Live On


My grandfather was an officer in the US 103rd Infantry Division - known at that time as the Timberwolves. They fought in Normandy, and went on to help liberate Belgium and the Netherlands.

Forty years later, in the 1980s, my grandfather was riding around the Netherlands with my uncle (who lived there at the time). At one point, south of Utrecht, my grandfather started giving my uncle directions on where to go:

Turn right here...

I think we take the third left, yes....

Keep on this road until we get to a village...

OK. Stop by the building on this corner.

They got out of the car, and my grandfather explained. "Nobody remembers this. My troops came in and retook this village under heavy fire from the Nazis. It was the worst combat we had seen since the invasion. I lost my First Officer to enemy fire. Nobody remembers this. Nobody cares anymore."

My uncle's girlfriend looked up, and pointed out the name of the street that they had stopped on: "Timberwolfstraacht." The sign even noted that it was dedicated to the battle, and noted the date of the liberation.


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We always think we know what is right and what is wrong, what's the truth and what's a lie. The reality is that most of what we know is just an opinion or a partial truth that we've filled in with our own rational (or irrational) explanation. These opinions that we pass off as 'facts' are far from it and it takes a lot of courage to look at yourself and admit you were wrong or misinformed about something. Everyone likes to pretend they're on a different level, but the truth is you're not so different from the people you disagree with. Meditate on that.

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What is the strongest opinion you once held but no longer hold, and what make you change your mind?

Jade-Colored Glasses

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Cant' Have A Conversation With A Parrot

I used to be a conspiracy theorist. Believed that 9/11 was committed by the US government and that we never landed on the moon.

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A Big, Mysterious Universe

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Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man

I used to believe anyone can be a successful artist if they just put the time and effort into it. There is no such thing as talent, only hard work.

What changed my mind: Art school. There were quite a few people that tried hard, but just weren't able to achieve professional level art.


You're Not Your Emotions

For the longest time, I thought my emotions were in a sense the most "real" part of me. I was always a very emotional person and I didn't make a real effort to control it as I thought it was a good thing, that I was just being honest with myself. Over time though, I started to become very depressed and the negative emotions just keep adding on and on. I thought "this is just how I am I guess". Unfortunately it started hurting other relationships I had, and everything changed when my girlfriend broke up with me. After a lot of reading I found that emotions are not who we are at all. They're just reactions and there's nothing that requires us to act on them or feed them. I'm learning to let it go through me instead of hanging on like I used to.


Don't Forget Big Willie Style

I used to think that hip hop was bland, repetitive, and all about clubbing and sh*t. Then one of my friends pointed me towards people like Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Nas and Run The Jewels, who all have great songs and clever lyrics, and I realized that Hip Hop is pretty great.


The A**holes Will Always Find A Way

I used to think that the catholic church was responsible for all of the hateful people in it. I gave people the chance to challenge my opinion and someone explained it very nicely to me. Basically, the hateful people use the church as an excuse, if you remove the church they will gladly find another excuse.


High Times


I used to tell myself that I would never stop smoking weed, and that I'd be happy if my kids grew up to be pot smokers... Now I have a kid, don't smoke, and realize what an idiot I was when all I did was smoke all day. I could probably be in a much better position if I hadn't smoked all through college.

But I mean, I still think pot's okay... Just in moderation.


The Road Less Traveled

"All taxation is theft, man! I made my money without any help from public institutions or the infrastructure they support, I should be able to keep every last dime of it!"

Naturally that was when I was 18, living at home rent free, and working at Pizza Hut as a delivery driver who relied upon public roads for pretty much every cent I made.


All Those PSA's Didn't Do Much

The whole D.A.R.E anti-drugs. Yes crack and heroin is bad, but they over dramatized what happens when you do smaller drugs. Weed isn't even a gateway drug, alcohol is more of a gateway drug. When I saw weed for the first time I thought it was tobacco (This was after all the D.A.R.E training too). Letting the government teach you your morales and philosophy is a thing that sheep do. Don't be a sheep.


Where Would We Be Without The Kindness Of Strangers

I used to think people on welfare and state assistance just weren't trying hard enough. I grew up spoiled and entitled and it seemed like any kind of charity was a stigma.

Then, my husband became chronically ill, and the economy took a shit. My family has been close to homelessness more than once, and have relied on state insurance and assistance off and on throughout the past few years. There are definitely people out there who abuse the system, but some just get stuck in a horrible cycle of poverty.

I also work in a school that has a high number low income and refugee families. It has really opened my eyes to the struggles that some people face.


He's Still There For You, The Best He Can Be

I could go through life and could seek meaningful advice from my Dad who has always been there for me.

Now he has been reduced to a feeble condition, I am starting to understand I'm out there on my own, and even what he's sure of is suspect given his mental and physical facilities have been rapidly deteriorating in his late seventies. I feel horrible that I have noticed this long before he did - or at least admitted as much.


Clear Your Mind

This was before I received an ADHD diagnosis. When my doctor referred me to an ADHD specialist, first of all I refused to believe him and was kind of slighted that he even suggested that I could possibly have ADHD.

I had a very strong opinion that if I get a diagnosis that I would refuse to take prescribed amphetamines because they are "bad" and "addictive" and that they would ruin my life.

Then I actually tried the prescription and it was like magic.


Going Through The Whole Spectrum

Used to be fairly open with my views on immigration policy. Then I worked for a while down near Corpus Christie doing immigration work. I'd say one out if every hundred people that came through our office was going to somebody who actually wanted to work and try to make a living here. So many people simply wanted to exist enough to get welfare. Many were young men who we would later defend against exportation as a result of their criminal activity. I began to despise the work of defending these men and wished they would be deported.

Now, I'm dating a foreign girl and we are in the legal immigration process. She has advanced degrees and skills, so that makes things a little easier. But it does make me resent people who just bypass the system. We can't bypass the system because I imagine my participation in immigration fraud could get me disbarred.


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