On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Facing Death-A Memorial Day Tribute

Lt. Frank Ebner Gartz DOB 1924
This Memorial Day, I'm remembering two relatives who each served in one of the two world wars.

World War II
My dad's younger brother, Frank Ebner Gartz, was a navigator in the last year of  World War II. He trained stateside from January, 1943 through December, 1944. On Christmas day, 1944, he and crew of young men flew to Italy via North Africa to fly missions as members of the Second Bomb Group stationed at Amendola Air Base, near Foggia, Italy, on the Adriatic Coast. 

Frank Gartz and his crew. Frank standing 2nd from left.
Frank flew twenty-five missions. One of my  favorite quotes from his letters was advice he gave to  his bombardier, whose actual last name was Booms (did a name define his  destiny?). The bombardier and navigator sat in the half-spherical Plexiglas nose of the B-17, able to see clearly all the enemy flak zooming toward them. Frank wrote my grandfather after a particularly harrowing mission in March, 1945:

Today I flew my 10th mission, and it was the hottest thing I have seen so far. There was more and bigger flak. We bombed an oil refinery in North Eastern Vienna and those people don’t like us to drop our presents to them. 

B-17s flying in formation; photo taken by
Frank Ebner Gartz (see below for permission
to use photos from this blog).

Lt. Booms, my bombardier, had a rough time. He said that they threw everything they had at us including their kitchen sinks. Booms has to sit up in that Plexiglas nose where he can see all that stuff exploding around him. It sort of gets on his nerves. I was trying to explain to him that when your time comes it doesn’t matter where you are…your number is up, and that’s all there is to it.

Such was the fatalism of a twenty-one year old who faced death every time he took off on a mission. 

World War I

My grandmother's brother, Samuel Ebner, was also twenty-one when he was sent off to fight in the Battle of Galicia in August, 1914, one of the first battles of the war. I have no photo of him, only this last postcard he wrote on August 19, 1914, just eight days before being killed. He wrote:
Dear Parents,

I share with you that we are now in Galicia. Most beautiful greetings to all. Farewell.

War Memorial to "The Fallen"
Grosspold, Romania
Photo by Ulrich Wien
Kaspar Ebner 
(apparently a nickname since his father was also named Samuel)

My grandfather, twenty-one when he came to America, missed fighting, and likely dying, in this awful war, as I wrote about in my last post, An odd fellow.

To read more about Sam and the memorial that stands in honor of him and his fellow soldiers from Grosspold, Romania, lost during that tragic war, see The Fallen-Part I, The Fallen-Part II, and The Fallen-Part III. Part III reprints the letter my grandmother kept, that reveals how she and my grandfather, 5000 miles distant from their homeland, helped make the memorial possible.

So today, I thank all of our men and women serving so far from home for their service, bravery, and commitment in our own tragic war. I wish them safely returned into their families' arms again.

Please, if you would like to use any of the photos on this 
blog, you must ask permission, credit the photographer, and provide a link back to the site. 


Anonymous said...

How fitting to read this on Memorial Day...Naomi

Anonymous said...

Thank you for so eloquently reminding us of the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces. Your testimonial vivdly brings home what our troop endure. Katy

Adrienne said...

A beautiful and apt posting for Memorial Day, when we recall these warriors and the sacrifices they made.

Marian Kurz said...

On this day, when we can see family and friends, let a flag fly and enjoy the bounty of living in this country, we remember those who made it possible. Will there ever be a day when young men and women will not be called to make those sacrifices? Let us pray that comes sooner than later.

Jacqi Stevens said...

Thank you for sharing these mementos from your family in this Memorial Day tribute.