Service and Sacrifice: 100-year-old WWII veteran shares memoir

 

BARDWELL, KY — They are called the greatest generation. Those who served in World War II have incredible stories to tell, but they are dying quickly: 348 pass away every day, according to The Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thomas E. George, who goes by Tom, celebrated is 100th birthday Dec. 28, 2018. He lives at Countryside Center in Bardwell, Kentucky, and just about the entire town came out to wish him a happy birthday. He’s seen so much in his lifetime, including three-and-a-half years overseas during WWII. In 2010, George documented his memories of his service in a memoir, “The Ways of War.” George says he felt compelled to write down “memories during the war and things that I went through.”

“I thought it was important that people hear from someone who went through things that they would not hear of otherwise,” George says.

He was just 24-years-old when manhood was suddenly thrust upon him. In the book, he writes “March 14, 1942, I was drafted in to the U.S. Army. The United States was fighting two wars on two fronts.”

His first stop was basic training. “That is when I first went in the Army. You was being trained,” George says, pointing to a picture of himself standing with a rifle.

“We had no idea where we were going,” he wrote. “Or into what type of service: tanks, infantry or artillery.”

George was assigned to the 938th Field Artillery A battery — a firing battery — and placed in the communications section. Eventually, he ended up in Italy, at Anzio Beachhead.

In “The Ways of War,” he wrote “The 31st of January, 1944. We were digging everything in for we knew that the Germans would try to push us off the beachhead.”

The soldiers were under constant surveillance, surrounded by three mountains held by the Germans. “You were in combat all the time,” George says of life at Anzio Beachhead.

“Days went by. We shelled the Germans and they shelled us,” he wrote.

More than seven decades later, George can still remember the sound. “Terrible noise,” he says. “That’s what I would call it.”

There were some close calls, including this one he wrote about: “Three feet from where I lay, three rounds of 88 artillery projectiles had hit.”

“One step and they would have been, and that would have been the end for me,” he says with a laugh.

It was difficult for George’s parents and sisters back home.

Evelyn and Tom, ages 2 and 4

“We were pretty close growing up,” George’s sister, Evelyn Wilson, says. “After all of these years, I still think of him as my big brother.”

Wilson remembers saying goodbye and the agonizing wait to hear word of George.

“We went a long time, a while, without hearing from him,” Wilson says.

George survived the war and made it home.

“He thought the Lord really watched over him,” Wilson explained. “And I believe that too.”

Asked if it seems like long ago that he entered the Army or not long at at all, George says “Maybe, yesterday,” tearfully recalling his younger days.

“They were all, you might say, your buddies. That’s who they were,” George says, pointing to a picture of him sitting with several fellow soldiers.

Each of them served their country well. They sacrificed so much — some of them their lives — to protect our way of life.

“We knew what we were fighting for,” George says.

The final paragraph of George’s book reads: “I may have looked the same, but I would always remember my days in the Army, the friends I met, and especially the days of combat and the horrors of war.”

To read George’s book in its entirety download this PDF: The Ways of War

To submit a story idea for our Service & Sacrifice special reports, click here.

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