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Ann Kathleen Otto

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Tracing History

October 28, 2017

Have you ever wanted to dig deeply into an ancestor’s past? I did that for some of my family members for Yours in a Hurry. Now it was my spouse’s turn. This is a first in a series of blogs reflecting on a recent World War 2 Memorial Tour. If you follow my site, you know that history is a family passion: we read it, and we visit and support museums, historical societies and sites, and libraries. In addition to wanting to revisit my family history, I wrote my first novel because I’m interested in the early 20th century.

A Father's Untold Story

Why a nearly three-week World War 2 tour? Dave’s dad was in the first wave at D-Day with the 29th Division. Like most of those veterans, he didn’t talk much about his experience. After this tour and reading more about what we saw, I can understand why. Who would want to relive the horrors, even in the mind?

Dave has read a lot about this war and others. He wanted to trace what he knew of his father’s path across Europe—St. Mere-Eglise, Bastogne, the Eagle’s Nest. We finally found a tour that did that and more. After seeing some locations, such as Nuremberg and the Remagen Bridge, on an earlier river cruise, we wanted a more in-depth look at Europe’s history at that period.  

Learning From The Past

The tour included World War I stops, and one was the site of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest US engagement of that war. Some characters in my work-in-progress, Little Diamonds, are World War 1 veterans, like Danny, a Meuse-Argonne survivor with post- traumatic stress syndrome. I started writing the novel before we knew that the site of that offensive would be part of the trip. I felt I was fated to be there, and couldn’t believe the similarity of the forests there to those of rural southern Ohio, the Little Diamonds setting.

Future novels will cover other aspects of World War 2, especially life on the home front for gold star mothers. Reading about this history is one thing. Seeing these European locations and hearing from individuals who were children at the time of the war made me aware of the extreme losses for two generations in the countries we visited—France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands—as well as the United States.  

Search for Answers

Were Dave’s questions about his dad’s war record answered? Yes and no. For instance, after the occupation he was at Himmler’s house, and we could almost see it from the Eagle’s Nest, Hitler’s hideaway in the Alps near Salzburg. But Dave came back with has as many questions as answers. Some of his father’s comments of where he was after the occupation don’t fit. That’s a project for this winter.

Please join us on this journey, and share your family stories about this historical period. I’ll be glad to share them.

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