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Family Lore: Fact or Fiction?


fstop61

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Most families have their own stories regarding how ancestors single handlely won the war when if fact they spent the war peeling potatoes stateside or other stories that have been passed down through the generations that were just BS. My family was blessed? with a couple of them.

 

Great great grandfather was wounded in the upper leg fighting around the Otto/ Sherrick farms (Antietam)- my family always made it a big joke that he was shot in the backside running away from the fighting. Though, I don't know what really happened-I can't imagine the family story has any truth to it.

 

Great grandfather was in the US Navy in the 1890's and family lore had him as a survivor of the USS Maine- no, he wasn't ever on the Maine, but did serve on several different ships including the Olympia and was on the USS Raleigh during the Battle of Manila Bay. (his records show that he was busted in rank a couple of times too).

 

I look forward to reading your family stories

Looking for: Fourth/ Seventh Rhode Island Infantry items


Purple Heart : Robert L. Freitag KIA ETO 2/11/45


Any US/German items with the last name "Freitag"


also, war-related posters



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My Father served in the 85th Infantry Division in the Italian Campaign. He didn't say much about his experiences except mostly "funny" stories. He did tell a few that my brother and I thought "Dad is crazy". However, after we grew into adults and studied more about the Italian Campaign, we validated some of his stories.

 

Camels in Italy -- Dad was a FO with the artillery and his unit entered Pisa. He said he used his binoculars to look across the Arno River and saw 2 camels grazing under the Leaning Tower of Pisa. My brother and I doubted this but then thought maybe the Germans brought them from N. Africa. However the Germans left N. Africa more than a year earlier. I've never confirmed this except to find a story that the Germans enticed their Russian conscripts to come into Italy to fight by promising them some land. Guess what the Russians brought with them; bactrains.

 

Witness to Hanging of Mussolini -- Dad always said he saw Mussolini strung up in Milan. He gave details of grieving widows beating his body and one firing a pistol for every son she lost. He described how he jumped in a truck and rode to Milan and how the police using water hoses to push back the crowds. Was he there? Once he even had the wrong name of the town. Since he died, I created a website to detail this event and search to see if any GI's were present. Some accounts said the partisans blocked the road into Milan keeping out the Allies until they could finish their work.

Well, I have received literally hundreds of emails in response to my webpage. Most say something like: My dad brought home this gruesome picture of Mussolini and he told us he was there. I would try to explain to the family that he didn't literally meant he was at that spot but that he was there in Italy. Many were sure he was there. I was even contacted by the PBS-TV show "History Detectives" who were investigating the story of a Vet who was given a Fascist Dagger belonging to Mussolini when he was there in Milan. That story was disproved; the dagger was a lower grade officer's.

Link to History Detectives: http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/investigation/mussolinis-dagger/

 

So is there any truth to these stories? I found a photo on the internet that shows 8 soldiers definitely wearing US helmets. The US unit that was closest to Milan was the 1st Armored Division. I did some research at NARA College Park and found a photo of one US unit that entered Milan: 91st Recon Squadron Troop. This is a recon unit that was probing out in front of the 1st AD. That was the only unit that could have been there. And I really can't visualize how my Dad could have taken a truck some 40 or 50 miles thru the German "lines".

I hae another theory why so many GI's claiming to see Mussolini. I could believe that some Buck Private marching down a road at night and see a body hung by the partisans. Turning to his First Sergeant, he asks what was that and the prankster Sergeant says "You can tell you Grand Kids that you saw the great Il Duce".

 

Salerno D-Day +12 Hours --- My Uncle served in the 36 Texas Division and was captured at Salerno. That was a fact. I would ask him what unit (company, regiment) was he in and he always answered: I don't remember. Odd. He did say he was taken prisoner on the First Day of the landing. Well, I read a few accounts of Salerno and all the text books seem to say the first day was a cake walk and it wasn't until 3rd day before the Germans mounted a heavy counter-attack. Why was my Uncle wrong about his date of capture? Well he couldn't remember his unit so I guess those months in Stalag IIb caused him to block out his memory on it.

Well, a few years ago, a nice lady who posted to the Texas History forum site(now Texas Military Forces Museum) passed around my Uncle's story at a Vet's reunion. She came back with 5 names of Vets. One was my Uncles platoon commander who filled in ALL the details. Their landing craft was the far left of their Regiment, which was the left flank of the assault. They were left of the left. They moved inland and passed the LIFE reporter who was wounded (and published his story) and continued to the bridge over the Sele River when an armored recon unit over-ran them and surrounded them. Date: 9 Sept 1943. My Uncle was right.

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my father began the war as a flying sergeant in the RCAF, later getting a commission as a flying officer. from there he began service as a flight instructor on harvards. i can't tell you how many times, while my brothers and i were growing up, hearing the story of how he survived a mid air collision. in 1998 he passed away, and during the course of events, one of my brothers and i came upon a trunk, inside which we found the newspaper clipping, a badly torn khaki shirt with pilot's wings, remnants of a parachute harness and a vintage swiss watch. in all the years, he had never told us about this stuff, much less shown it to us. he never left canada during the war, all his service was at home, but it meant a lot to him. so much that he had kept one dress uniform in the closet his whole life. the disease that took him had caused so much weight loss that the uniform fit him once again. so we put him in it, and he took it with him. seemed appropriate at the time, and i have never regretted it.

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Garandomatic

Had a cousin, I believe,that was an aircrewman in a bomber in WWII. I was very young, but interested. All he said was that he cleaned the toilets on the bombers, but I think there was a bit more to it than that. Don't have the other side, the exaggerated story, that I know of. Lore said our farm was a land grant, but it is a township north of that line. The way I figure it, my ancestor was not the eldest son, and maybe his brother either got or sold the land grant instead. Their father was a Pennsylvania Ranger, their uncle was an officer in the PA line.

Looking for the following:

452nd and 447th Bomb Group items

Anything 12th Armored- especially uniforms

155th Assault Helicopter Company, Camp Coryell, or Ban Me Thuot Vietnam items[/center]


WWII US Navy Uniforms from the Battle Off Samar: USS Johnston DD-557, USS Hoel DD-553, USS Samuel B. Roberts DE-413, USS Heermann DD-532, USS Dennis DE-405, USS John C. Butler DE-339, USS Raymond DE-341, USS Fanshaw Bay St. Lo, White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay and Gambier Bay...


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BigDogMilitaria

My Grandfather passed away before I was born. He always walked with a limp and sometimes had to wear a knee brace from a war time injury. He told all of his kids he fell out of an airplane over Tokyo in WWII. He was in the Air Corps. All of his kids believed him until they got older. When he met my Mother, he told her the same story and until a few years ago she always believed it. Turns out he blew his knee out playing softball at one of the bases he was stationed at. The War wasnt all a waste for him, he did bring my Grandma back with him when he came home from Washington!

Always looking for named items from Detroit area Vets!

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This is actually a legitimate story. My father served in the Brazilian army for a couple years during the late 70's in the infantry. He has told us a few times about standing behind a howitzer and watching the shell fall short. He said he and his buddies dove to the ground and hugged his helmet. The shell ended up being a dud.

 

Looking to buy US dog tags, any era. Contact me and let me know what you have!

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SergeantMajorGray

My mom has told me that during WW2 my grandfather was shot at buy a German soldier and the bullet grazed the front of his helmet. He was in WW2, Korea and Vietnam and was awarded the 3rd award of the combat Infantryman's badge 2 purple hearts and a bronze star. So he definitely saw combat but this could have happened in any of the 3 wars if it did happen.

Grandson of Command Sergeant Major Max I Gray U.S Army

Also grandson of CWO-3 Arthur WillIam Seabury jr. USMC

 

 

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My Grandfather (who was in the 36th Seabees during WW2) always told me the story of when he captured a Japanese prisoner.

 

They were clearing the path on Bougainville for the Piva Airstip.. and my grandfather went down towards the end of the clearing to do more work. All of a sudden a Japanese popped up out of a foxhole, with his arms up in surrender. My Grandpa held him with his rifle, and took him back to the officers. Apparently along the way a group of Marines said "We'll take him and turn him in". My Grandfather politely declined and brought the soldier to the officers and put him into custody.

 

I asked him why he thought the soldier was all alone in a foxhole right there, and he said he thought the guy might have been sick and sort of abandoned by the rest of the Japanese. I wonder if this would be the reason or if he was just lost? Or perhaps was sent on recon or observation and was too scared? If anyone has any input on why they think he was all alone in such an odd spot I'm all ears.

 

I also asked him why the Marines wanted the soldier... and he said they probably wanted the capture on their records, or wanted to kill him.

 

I'm positive this story is true, as I don't think my Grandpa stretched the truth or fibbed even once in his life, and his mind was sharp as a tack until the final couple years. (died this year at 101)

GOT SEABEE ITEMS? PM ME!

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Had an uncle in north africa who had the Soldiers Medal. As a kid I heard he'd earned it saving some guys from a burning tank. It turned out that as a ground crew member he ran into a burning B24 Liberator that crashed on landing and pulled out some crew members. This was told to me, when I became an adult by another uncle who was on Guadalcanal with the 36th Seabee Construction Battalion who mentioned he'd like to go back and try to find the 03 Springfield he'd tossed into a pond because it never cycled

rounds correctly and jammed so he just used his 45 Colt auto.

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Which one was there?

47th? I've got one of his reunion caps. I don't know why I had 36th on my mind.

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When I was a kid, I always asked my dad if he was in any battles. He was on a destroyer (APD 113). He would always say, "The Battle of Bedloe Island" and laugh. That island is now Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is. His ship got as far as Guantanamo, Cuba when the war in Japan ended. By some pictures I have, I suspect he spent a lot of good times on liberty, not Liberty.

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A late, great-uncle of mine had vicious scar on both sides of one of his forearms...it was the "recessed" type...very deep. As a little boy growing up it fascinated me. Family lore was that whilst he was in the trenches in WW1 he was bayoneted in the arm by a German...the scars being the entry/exit wounds. He passed away many years ago. I have no way of verifying it but it is plausible as he did see active service with the BEF in WW1.

"We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!"

 

Winston Churchill

" Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."

John Winston Lennon

 

 

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Which one was there?

I'm not sure.

I only know for sure about the 36th as that was my Grandfather's batallion.

GOT SEABEE ITEMS? PM ME!

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I'm not sure.

I only know for sure about the 36th as that was my Grandfather's batallion.

OK, Thanks. I went looking and found them.

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My "famous" family military story starts at Will Rogers Field in OK during WWII. My grandfather finally got some leave and was going to visit my future grandmother in Reading, PA. He managed to secure a seat on a B-24 doing a cross-country flight that was actually heading to Reading for training.

 

At some point prior to leaving he was bumped from the flight by a lieutenant whose wife just had a baby. Of course my grandfather was upset at the time but my grandmother and her family didn't know. It turned out that the plane encountered bad weather about 50 miles outside Reading and instead of climbing like a more experienced pilot would have done, the crew decided to decend when they had trouble seeing the ground.

 

Of course you know where this is going by now. The plane impacted the ground and the man who replaced my grandfather did not survive. I pulled the crash report and have been searching for the graves of the other crew members. I have found about half but although I am in North Carolina, I cannot find the one crewmember who lived about 1 1/2 hours away.

 

Mike

My friends, my heroes. You will never be forgotten.

Jason Gonzalez- June 5, 2005

Keith Mariotti- June 30, 2005

Jason West- July 24, 2006

Carlos Martinez- April 25, 2009

Patrick Hamburger- August 6, 2011

Kevin Hatcher- March 29, 2012

David Chu- June 23, 2013

Steven Keech- September 15, 2013

Mark Armijo- March 6, 2019

 

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My great uncle landed on Normandy (well after the breakthrough) with his MIS unit. He served in an intel capacity and stated that he always had a jeep assigned along with a driver. The story was that his driver was the son of Chicago mobster, Al "Scarface" Capone. Wanting to prove/disprove this, I searched to see if there were any Capones that could be ID'd as part of his unit. I've been unsuccessful. In addition, the only verifiable offspring of the mobster, Albert Francis Capone ("Sonny") is of the correct age to have served (December 4, 1918 – July 8, 2004) but I seriously doubt that he did having been born with congenital syphilis (a gift from dear old dad) - something he suffered from his entire life. I was unsuccessful in locating anything pertaining to this legitimate Scarface offspring.

I am betting that it was a running joke - that some other schmo that had the Capone surname - and they had fun with it during the war and the legend lived on throughout his life.

I do not profess to be a militaria expert, but I conduct as much research as I am capable of and then write about my findings.
Check out my blogs, The Veteran's Collection (general militaria) and Chevrons and Diamonds (military baseball)

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My Great Grandfather was in the 7th Army during WWII. I was told a story that he was on a ship that got sunk by a U-boat. He was floating on a piece of the ship and he shot a German flare gun he had acquired to mark his location so they could find him. I don't know if it is true or not he died before I was born. Thanks, Eric

Looking for medals and medal groupings awarded to veterans from Missouri. Thanks, Eric

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This is kind of reverse to the topic.

My Father enlisted in the Illinois National Guard in a horse cavalry troop in 1932. We used to kid him about chasing Indians on his horse.

 

Mike

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As a kid growing up I had always heard "your great uncle James won the VC". Many years later, when I started becoming acquainted with the nascent internet and found a VC website I found that it wasn't true. There was another recipient with the same name and from the same area, decades before, so that may have been a relative of sorts that people confused.

 

From what I could gather from my grandmother, he received "the second highest". Well, who knows. I believe British awards aren't quite as easy to look up.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well the only one I can think of is my family said my great uncle was in the 82nd airborne in Vietnam and he was a war hero but then I heard that he felt an AK-47 bullet go over his head and already that doesn't sound believable but I come to find out HE WASENT EVEN IN THE VIETNAM WAR! But I did get his jacket and he was 82nd airborne but in the mid 70s. Don't know why they all thought he was in Vietnam.

Cold War Collector 1945-1991 NATO & Warsaw Pact

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I grew up being told I was related to Colonel Abel David Streight, see the Nathan Bedford Forrest string on Museums and Monuments. A great grand mother told my mom it was nice to name me David after him. My dad even looked like him but without a beard. My Streight ancestors came down from Canada after the Civil War and Colonel Streight was from across the river in New York, but when they came to North America they wintered over with relatives in up state New York around 1830. I can't find how he ties in, since his son died without issue I can't find a family history on him. I think his father was a brother of an ancestor but I can't prove it. I would love to be able to claim him as a relative, leading his mule cavalry on a raid acrosss the south and escaping from Libby Prison. That is a better story than another relative in the Civil War who was "exiled" to command the Army of California after the Second Bull Run.

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In my family I can't get back too far with the military history. WWI period is about as far back as I can get.

 

My wife's family on the other hand is awesome. Her family had a tradition of a g-g-g-grandfather who was an officers page in the American Revolution who later received his officers commission and was given a land grant for his revolutionary service.

 

Last year my wife got me ancestory.com as a birthday gift. Her family story was 100% true! Her family military history is off the hook. From pre revolution to present about every other generation served in the military on several branches of her tree.

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