This has already been a special week. The beginning included part of Bob's visit and all the social activity that just naturally come with Bob. This week, we also celebrated my father's 90th birthday although it was like pulling teeth to get him to do more than go to lunch. I asked him what he had planned for his next 90 years and he just laughed.
This surprising story came from a chat in the locker room at the health club. I've often exchanged pleasantries with an older gentleman with a French accent. Today, I mentioned my father's 90th birthday and he said that he was only 1 and 1/2 years behind him. He asked if Papa was in any wars and I mentioned his role as a pilot instructor in WW II. At this point, my French friend told the following story.
He was 18 years old and living in Normandy when the Nazi troops arrived. There was a lot of activity in his village because the Germans were building the coastal defenses. He tried to stay out of the way of the Germans, but some soldiers, seeing him as a young man and a possible threat grabbed him and threw him down on the road in his village. They threatened to shoot him, but he was lucky and they let him go.
At one point, a tank was rolling through the village and was being guided by only one soldier on the ground in the front. To express protest, he grabbed some red paint and a brush and painted a red 'V' on the back of the tank. He got away with it, but realized later how stupid it was. The Nazis could have blamed anyone for his prank. Realizing that he was at risk from the Germans, he left home and moved to Paris where he thought he could disappear into the large city. But he still had to keep running as the Germans were now looking for him. Apparently, more than once he had to run from the Gestapo. Leaving Paris, he moved to a farm a few hours from Paris to live with relatives. He stayed there until liberated. While at the farm, an American pilot bailed out of his plane and was parachuting to the farm. Unfortunately, German soldiers shot at him from the ground and he was dead when he landed.
My French friend considers himself very lucky. He has two cousins who were not so lucky. One cousin was sent to a concentration camp for helping hide an Allied pilot. He never returned. Another was sent to a concentration camp in Germany and came back paralyzed on the right side. Apparently, a subject for German medical experiments.
It is so amazing to hear the stories of the great generation. I wonder how this Frenchman ended up retired in Chelsea.