Memorial Day always brings with it the lack of memories of my Grandfather and the stories that haunted me as a child of his last days in service when his ship went down.
“On 8 Apr, 1944, the unescorted Nebraska (Master Bernard Cyril Dodds), dispersed on 4 April from the convoy OS-71, was torpedoed and sunk by U-843 southwest of Ascension Island. Two crew members were lost. The master, 55 crew members, eight gunners and two stowaways were rescued. The boat of the master landed at Bahia, boat of the radio operator with 20 survivors landed at Recife on 22 April and the remaining survivors were picked up by the British merchant Kindat and landed at Freetown.” – Uboat.net
“The U-boat left Lorient on 19 February 1944, bound for the Indian Ocean. En route, on 8 April, she torpedoed and sank the unescorted 8,261 ton British merchant ship Nebraska, dispersed from Convoy OS-71, south-west of Ascension Island. Two crew members were lost, while the master, 55 crewmen, eight gunners, and two stowaways were rescued. Oskar Herwarts surfaced U-843 and offered assistance to the three lifeboats launched from the Nebraska. This included charts torn from a chart atlas and gave position and course to steer to Brazil. Two lifeboats made landfall close to Recife months later. A third boat was rescued by a British warship after several weeks.” – Wiki
I never got to meet him as he had passed away some years after returning from the war, having went to go hunting one morning and not returning alive – whether by accident or not.
My Grandmother’s home is graced with his medals from WW2, little glass frames with colored ribbons and metal engravings. She never remarried and she never moved. My Grandfather’s grave is way off in Boone County, AK and I’m sure she hasn’t seen it in many, many years. I found this photo online and it was taken in November of 2008 by a couple who started uploading photos of gravestones for families that were looking for lost members or ancestors. I just wanted to tell them thank you, because I’d never gotten to see where he was resting and it’s nice to know his stone still looks okay after all these years. I thought some of my family might want to see that it’s okay too and although we couldn’t put flowers there on Memorial Day, at least we could pay our condolences to much more than memories.
For the men like my Grandfather, those from yesterday and today, who had given great sacrifice and deal with the issues that come from such acts of heroism and valor; know your struggles are not forgotten and that they live within all of us – from our children to our grandchildren. The lives that were lost before, during and after the wars that have passed through our country are not forgotten, we remember through our lineages what you had ultimately sacrificed for us. You carry within you what was, the why and how of all we have given to get where we are today and although Memorial Day has passed, the gratefulness and respect for you never will.