Sunday, August 16, 2015

“What Did You Do In The Great War Grandpa?”

B.J. (Bonnie) Bryan, herself a veteran, writes that at “71 I was honored to go on the Ride for the Wall from Magalia to Washington, DC in honor of all veterans but especially the Vietnam vets as many of them did not get a welcome home.” Almost a decade later the Paradise resident has compiled her “brother-in-law’s journals during World War II that he sent me after he returned stateside.”

They appear in two large paperback volumes entitled “What Did You Do In The Great War Grandpa?: The Story Of The 749th Tank Battalion And Its Assigned Infantry Regiments In World War II” (Volume 1, $24.95; Volume 2, $18.95, from Beautiful Wrinkles Press; available from

In addition to the work of Sgt. Ernest Humphries, C Company, 70th Infantry Division, Bryan has included rosters and awards, a bibliography and glossary, and almost twenty maps showing tank battalion missions.

Volume 1 begins with a dramatic speech to American troops in Britain, at the start of US involvement, by “Old Blood and Guts” himself, Lt. Gen. George S. Patton. “You are not all going to die. Only two percent of you here, in a major battle, will die. Death must not be feared. … Sure, we all want to go home. We want this thing over with, but you can’t win a war lying down. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards!”

The journal entries that follow, by contrast, are laconic. Paragraph by paragraph, Humphries documents deployments. July 4, 1944: “Enemy units were located at the front lines north of Bolleville that included the 920th, 921st, and the 922nd Inf Regts [infantry regiments] of the 243rd Inf Div. They continued a stubborn defense from hedgerow-to-hedgerow using small groups of men for this delaying action. Enemy artillery and mortar fire was steady throughout the day.” Entries will appeal especially to military aficionados.

VE Day, May, 1945 (“sabotage and sniping remain a constant threat to security with German companies in a state of chaos”), “the 311th day in combat for the 749th Tank Bn. … Clear with good visibility. Combat efficiency and morale were excellent.”

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