Author Archives: Todd

My Dad in World War Two

georgecklein1940suniformblogImages © Todd Klein.

When World War Two began, my dad and his family were living in Dunellen, NJ, and he was a student at Dunellen High School. In 1942 or 1943 he either enlisted or was drafted into military service, I’m not sure which. He was unable to finish high school, but granted a diploma anyway along with other young men who enlisted. George C. Klein was born on March 10, 1924, and was probably eighteen when he reported for basic training. I’m not sure where that happened. Fort Dix, NJ is a likely candidate, though we have some photos from High Point, NC, so he may have gone there.

georgephyllis1943Here’s George with his girlfriend, Phyllis Derr, home on leave from basic training. They would marry in 1948, after the war. Dad was tall and thin, but had been on the high school football team, so must have been in pretty good shape.

georgecard1943frontAt some point he was sent to this antiaircraft replacement training center in Virginia to train to be a bombardier, and sent this card home to his father, George Senior. “May we see the next one together as civilians,” he writes.

georgecard1943backMy Dad, writing to his own dad, on the back of that card. Unfortunately, his eyesight was not deemed good enough, and he did not complete this training and went into the regular infantry. He was sent overseas I think later in 1943 and served mainly in Germany.

georgeckleinservicebenchblogI think this was taken in Germany, but I’m not sure. My dad’s main duty, as my mom has told me, was to scout ahead of the main force to help determine enemy locations for bombardment. His mother and all four of his grandparents were born in Germany, and while I never heard him speak German, he could understand and speak it well enough to act as an interpreter for the scouts he was with. This was very dangerous duty.

My dad wrote two letters and a card while in Europe. Here’s most of the text of the first one:

November 16th
1944
Luxemburg

Dear Folks,

     This is just a line to let you know I’m fine. I received a box from Phyll today but still no letters from anyone.

     I can tell you now I was CENSORED on that Aachen deal and it was pretty rough. It was just south of there that “Jerry” caught me that time. There was one time back there with a strong wind that I could easily have spit on some of them. That was the time a “Jerry” sniper whistled two rounds close enough to make my hair stand up. I’d sure like to be hunting now instead of being hunted.

     I was telling Phyll that this dampness and cold was sure playing hell with us. I guess rheumatism is setting in. When my hair starts turning gray then I’m going to start asking for a discharge.

     That’s all for tonight. Say hello to everyone for me. My love to both of you.

     Your son
     George   

Some time before this he was shot by a sniper, and probably recovering in Luxembourg when he wrote the letter. He recovered completely and went back to active duty. He received the Purple Heart award given to those wounded or killed in service.

gckleinletter1944p1clipOne or two words are censored from this letter by being cut out of it. Luxembourg is a very small country between Germany and Belgium. My dad is writing about the Battle of Aachen which took place from Oct. 2nd to Oct. 21st, 1944. Aachen was on Germany’s western border, and part of the “Siegfried Line,” the main defensive network there. Much of the city was destroyed and both sides suffered heavy losses. It was one of the largest urban battles of the war and the first city on German soil to be captured by the Allies. The battle ended with a German surrender. “Jerry” was a soldier nickname for German soldiers.

georgecardxmas1944backblogDad sent this note in a Christmas card to his family in 1944, or more likely early 1945.

Dear Folks,

     This may come a little late but we can’t be on time with everything. This is the second Christmas that I haven’t been home for, let’s all hope the next one will see us all together again. Have a good Christmas.

Your son,

George

Dad was still in Germany in August of 1945. The war was officially over, he was in the “mopping up” operation. He sent this letter:

11 Aug. 1945
Bensheim, Ger.

Dear Folks,

     This seems to be one of the last days of World War II and once again our family seems to have come through with almost as much as we went into it with. These have been hard years for all of us, but now that they’re ending it seems that we did learn from them. At least I know I did. I’m afraid if it hadn’t been for the war I’d never have learned to appreciate a swell family like ours and know what it means to have someone back there pulling and pushing and doing just a little praying for you. You and Dad have made plenty of those rough humps pretty easy just by knowing that no matter how things turned out, there’d always be someone back there who would say, “You’ve done the right thing.” There’s a lot of lessons I’ve learned from you that my children will learn from me. Good sculptors leave fine statues and artists leave paintings, but good parents leave ideals, and a human being is a composite of great ideals. People are really what a family leaves behind and [I hope] someday my children look back on us with as much love and respect as I have for you. That’s all for tonight, my love for both of you.

Your son
George

I find this letter particularly moving. It’s the only thing we have written by my dad that talks about his hopes for the future and lessons learned. He never talked to me about his time in the war, and it’s only through these few letters that I’ve come to understand a little of what it was like for him.

While he never talked about his time in the Army, my dad did like to watch TV shows about it, and I watched some of those with him. I wish I had thought to ask questions then.

My dad died in 1978 from lung cancer. He was a heavy smoker from his teen years on. I still miss him.

 

And Then I Read: WONDER WOMAN #6

ww6Image © DC Comics.

Diana has brought Steve Trevor back home to his world in an invisible plane (which conveniently crumbles after landing) and Steve’s superiors at the Naval Base in San Diego are trying to figure out who and what she is. The fact that she can’t speak English is a problem, among many. Diana takes their imprisonment and probing with patience and appealing innocence. To communicate with her, an expert, Dr. Minerva, is brought in, but she find’s Diana’s words hard to believe. The unusual event that happens her first night in the Naval lock-up changes things considerably.

I continue to enjoy this “Year One” story more than the alternate one taking place in the present, but both are good reads. An origin of sorts, though not set far in the past, this story has an upbeat feel, and Diana herself is a delight. Great work by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott enhanced by excellent colors by Romulo Fajardo Jr. Nice lettering by Jodi Wynne too.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE ALEXANDRITE by Rick Lenz

alexandritelenz

The tagline “A Time Travel Noir” suggests the two genres that are combined in this novel, but the science fiction element is minimal. “Time travel” in this case is going back to a specific time through mystical/mental means, much like Richard Matheson’s film script “Somewhere In Time” based on his novel, “Bid Time Return.” There is no time machine per se, though the lead character does make the trip back more than once…sort of. That’s the complicated part.

Jack Cade is an out-of-work actor in 1996 California with a life that’s falling apart and a wife who wants out of their relationship. Someone leaves a very valuable ring with an Alexandrite stone to him anonymously, and that begins Jack’s investigation and strange journey. Before long he’s being hypnotized and sent back in time to Hollywood in the 1950s, specifically into the life and body of Richard Blake, a mineralogist. Blake has a wife, Margaret who drinks too much and seems hostile, and living in their house is her sister Lily, who would today be on the better-functioning end of the autism scale. Jack has stepped into an emotional minefield, and it takes him a while to figure out why and what his true peril is. Meanwhile, Jack has a chance to explore the Hollywood he’s long been fascinated with, and before long he has a chance to meet and even act with Marilyn Monroe, fulfilling his fantasy. That doesn’t go as expected, and soon Richard/Jack’s life is spiraling out of control. An explosive event sends Jack back to 1996 where everything is changed, and mostly for the worse. But Jack has a plan to get back to the past and set things right if he can.

Writer Rick Lenz is a long-time actor who knows the worlds, characters and times he’s writing about. I found this book an excellent read, even if it did confuse me in places when the time-travel starts looping back on itself. Nevertheless, well worth your time and recommended.

And Then I Read: SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #1

shade1Image © DC Comics.

This new Young Animal imprint title is based on the DC/Vertigo version of SHADE THE CHANGING MAN (as opposed to the original Steve Ditko series) which I lettered, so I was curious to read it. Some basic elements are familiar: the world of Meta where Rac Shade came from, and the “magic” coat he used to reach Earth, now called the Madness Coat. The rest is mostly new except for the overall trippy, psychedelic and paranoic feel of the series and visuals in general. On Earth, a long comatose girl, Megan, has just awakened unexpectedly, and is freaking out everyone in her hospital. Her mind has been taken over by Loma, a birdlike female from Meta, who has used Rac Shade’s forbidden coat to get to Earth and Megan’s brain. Later, when Megan gets home, she throws up the coat.

In flashbacks we learn about the Earth girl Megan, who was popular and rather mean. In the present, everyone is trying to deal with the revived Megan, including her old friends and boyfriend, not to mention her parents. We also see how Loma got the coat through bad behavior herself, and what’s going on back on Meta. Are Loma and Megan a good match or will her two personalities clash? Are all the trippy visuals in her head, or can others see them? What part of the bad karma is going to fall on Megan/Loma first? These are questions that will have me reading further.

Recommended.

Grandma Klein’s Story

harriettmassarklein16yrsThis is a story about my father’s mother, much of it in her own words. My grandmother, born Hedwig Massar, seen above at age 16, was born in 1900 in Germany. Her family emigrated to the United States in 1905. She never liked the name Hedwig, and around age 14 started calling herself Harriett. She met my grandfather, George Klein, some time around 1919-1920 we think, and they were married in 1921.

Growing up, I didn’t feel as close to my father’s parents as I did to my mother’s family, who we spent more time with, but I knew they loved me and enjoyed visiting me. Recently my cousin, Jody Andreatch, has been putting together a huge photo album/scrapbook for the Massar and Klein families, and looking through it got me more interested in that part of my family history. Among the documents included were pages from a 1981 book, “Grandma’s Story,” one of those books children or grandchildren can give their grandmother that has questions and places to write personal answers. It was given to Grandma Klein around 1981 by Jody, and I found her answers fascinating. They paint a picture of a childhood mostly in Queens, NYC in the early years of the last century, a time that seems like ancient history even to me, and I’m pretty old myself.

The questions and answers in the book are scattershot across time and topics, but I decided to put Harriett’s answers together to make a more complete narrative, combining some, adding small bits of connecting material where necessary, and putting my own comments in where warranted. This is mainly of interest to her family, but I thought some readers of this blog might also enjoy it. Here we go. Sections in italics are by me, the rest is nearly all in Harriett’s own words.

GRANDMA KLEIN’S STORY

I was born at home in Edigheim, Germany on November 5, 1900 at six o’clock in the morning. I was 6 pounds 2 ounces with green eyes and blond hair. My full name was Hedwig Massar, named after my mother’s sister. I didn’t like my name so I changed it to Harriett after I got out of school. I learned to walk when I was one year old, I was two years old when I talked. I looked like my mother.

I did not know or ever see my great-grandparents. I don’t remember my grandparents well. They stayed in Germany. I remember a few things about my grandmother. She was always selling bread. They had a bake shop. I also remember the walnut tree my grandfather had in his back yard. I sat under that tree and ate walnuts till I got sick and threw up. Then I got a licking. We were always with them for Thanksgiving until we came to America in 1905. Continue reading