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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O'Hare's WWII Diary: A Final Glimpse at a Time When We Were "Prima"

These are the final entries from my dad's brief writing career, a diary which he started almost immediately after being released as a German POW. My father was a complicated man, and I considered him a cold bastard much of the time. These diaries, and some other letters he wrote to his own "mommy and daddy," opened my eyes in many ways.

I wish I had been a better son.

In addition to the personal impact, these diaries provide a brief glimpse into that greatest generation. Like my father, most WWII vets share very little about the sacrifices they made when the entire world needed them. Sadly, a thousand of them die daily, and with them the memory of a time when Americans were considered "prima."

5/23/45

My lazy senses responded sluggishly to the blare of a bugle that had commenced blowing about 5:30 this morning. Some character dramatically announced that it would be appreciated if everyone fell out. A true count was needed due to the fact that today had been chosen as 'the day' by the powers that be. I did not fall out. Soon after we drew rations and packed. At 11:30 we fell out, were issued cigarettes and were given cigars by the Russkies. Then, after waiting for the usual period, we marched to the exchange lot. As is usual in all these matters nothing went as scheduled. We waited in the exchange lot for almost three hours during which it rained most of the time. The trucks finally arrived and we loaded and were off.

Vonnegut, Dannine and I were lucky enough to get a civilian bus instead of a G.I. truck. Kruse, Jones, Coyle, Watson and Burns also piled into a civilian bus but unfortunately not the same one. After three hours rolled around we arrived in Halle. According to the authorities we will be here three days at the most waiting to be flown via C-47 to LeHavre, France.

I have just digested my first Army food in 6 months - '5 in one' rations consisting of ham and sweet spuds, cheese, crackers, pineapple, rice pudding cigarettes and chocolate. How amazed the limeys were when we told them that the above was for one meal and not one day! We got separated from Jones, Kruse, Coyle, Watson and Burns.

5/24/45

Awoke, washed and drew more '5 in 1' rations of the same unsurpassed American caliber. Before much of the day had passed we moved to a new area of camp. They are separating the English and Americans. I wish they had done that six months ago. Spent the rest of the day on my lazy back reading.

5/25/45

Routine day. I showered, deloused, read, ate and am about to turn in. Red Cross Clubmobile presented itself and I basked in about six doughnuts and a cup of real coffee. Prima.
Blogger's Note: First published 12/17/07.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

bernie
thank you for sharing some personal insight on your father. as you know, your father appeared in front of me many times and each was always enjoyable. his dry wit and sense of humor was always on display and his knowledge and interpretation of our statutes even more interesting. his demeanor and respect for our institution taught me more than all the continuing ed class we attend each year. for me, meeting and having your father practice in my court was intriguing. Getting to know more of his personal life....."prima" thank you for sharing. the judge

Bernie O'Hare said...

Judge,

Thanks so much for the kind words. Back in the 70s, I remember him riding a moped to hearings in your court.

WhetherVain said...

>I wish I had been a better son.

?

This is a most perplexing comment, Bernie!

Other than maybe not practicing the violin as prescribed or frequently ruining the shrubbery, I fail to understand this perception of yourself. So, you drank. So did your Dad; so did my Dad.

IMHO, unless you are talking about your middle/high school years - when we became separated (but where it appears that you furthered your academic standings and maturity), we were blessings to our parents. Think about it - and recall some of the other "characters" of our time!

I do share the "cold" characterization of your dad though. Obviously, I wouldn't go so far as calling him a bastard (although that's often the way I openly refer to my parenting style of my own kids ;-)

His strict persona did garner my respect and I do regret not knowing a warmer side of him which I realize NOW that he must have possessed ... in order to attract someone like your Mother.

Then again, I guess we could all have been better, huh?

My accordion's up in the attic. Where's your violin?

- no response required -

Bernie O'Hare said...

WhetherVain,

No response may be required, but I'll at least tell you about that damn violin. A secretary in my father's firm had a daughter who was taking violin lessons, and it went to her.

Anonymous said...

bernie (the judge)
we never could do right by our fathers..........when i entered this public side of my life....my fathers comments weren't very positive. joe reichle, who was very close to my dad, told him "the kids gonna win, with you or not" my dad then gave me some help in my first bid for public office, and that was for a county seat(jurycommissioner) a party position, but held by an old marty bechtel buddy by the name of sam getter. we won the old fashion way of grass roots politicing(door knocking,rallys, and handing out cards at the gates of bethlehem steel). larry k introduced me to a young blond whom i later married, he always told the story that i stole her from his campainge,he was so right. I'm sure our fathers now are looking down and saying we both accomplished something with our lives, even if at times we may not see it. don't be so hard on yourself or your dad, i'm sure they see it differently from above.

Patrick "Dennis McDennison" Coughlin said...

Uncle Bernie,

Thank you again for the continued insight in to Crazy Bop. Having been one of the middle grandchildren (the sixth of twelve, actually), I'm blessed/cursed with the simpler memories- ding-dong ditching to find skittles at the door step, somehow making the term "shithead" one of endearment, and giving me my first weapon (swiss army knife) at seven (a gift that THRILLED your sister). So when I see his reflections as a young man, it gives him more depth and makes the inconsequential memories a little more clear.

I can definitely sympathize with the better-son sentiment. I don't think anyone looks back on a relationship when one life is taken away and thinks, "I did everything right!" I've found this simple notion pivotal in coping with loss. I think with fathers and sons, there is extra analyzing. It's a complicated relationship, and I can only take refuge in the fact that, no matter what, the dysfunction can and must go on! (As I've found that for every bad thought, there's at least one that cracks me up.)

Here's to a happy holiday season and perhaps a kind thought that somewhere, your father and mine are sailing and joking about when mine was simply referred to as "that goddamned engineer!"

Cheers,
Patrick

Anonymous said...

Bernie disappointed his father and caused him great heartache. In his remaining years Mr. Ohare had nothing to do with Bernie. Bernie knows this is true and while these articles are nice, Bernie was not even close to being a good son.

Bill said...

Thank you for sharing this personal diary with the public, Bernie.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks, Bill.

Anonymous said...

Powerful stuff. I've been trying to live up to my interpretation of the old man's expectations for 50 years now. And he's been dead ten of them. Thanks for sharing yourself and your treasure. It's what gives this blog more texture than any other. Merry Christmas from your most loyal opposition. Best in '10.