A series following the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. This updates the series Following the 10th Armored that I did five years ago. The beginning posts set the stage for 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europewith the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.

# 24- Meeting the Family

    •    June 26, 1944
Harold called from Wmsport. Ruth and I went to Antes Fort to get him. Carl and Mabel for supper then went to Mabel's.

    •    June 28, 1944
Went to the wedding. Carl and Mabel looked grand. Went to the Dutch Inn for lunch. It is awful hot. Carl and Mabel left for a trip. Ruth, Dora, and Buddy went out for the evening.
— Diary Entries, Beula Keller Lehman

Harold brings his new wife home about six weeks after they got married. It is now three weeks after D-Day and the war is moving on. Dora gets to meet the family for the first time at the wedding of Dad’s older brother, Carl. Carl and his wife Mabel have been together for a while, as indicated by Grandma’s diary. Carl is almost 43, Mabel is 42. He works for the Erie Railroad in the Hornell, NY, shops and regularly commutes by train or bus. She is a language teacher in the Lock Haven schools. Carl pops into the picture of Beula’s life, stays a moment, and then heads to Lock Haven to be with Mabel. They return, pass through, and he’s gone again. This life never changed. She kept teaching; he kept working for the railroad.

Harold and Dora attend the wedding then spend the evening out with Harold’s sister. In 1933 Ruth was the first of the siblings to be married. We hear very little in the diaries of her husband, Fred Parker. By 1944 they were living in Bethlehem, PA, working for Bethlehem Steel which had bought out the Williamsport Wire Rope Company.

It is a quick visit for Buddy and Dora. On July 1, four days after the wedding, Buddy and Dora are headed out.

It will be Buddy’s last visit home before he enters the war.

    •    July 1, 1944
Packed a lunch for Buddy and Dora. Took them to Wmsport. They left at11.15. Came home and went to bed for it was so lonesome.
— Diary Entry, Beula Keller Lehman

◆    June 26, 1944
◆    75 Years Ago
Cherbourg is liberated by American troops. In less than 90 days, Buddy’s troop ship will land in Europe at Cherbourg.

#23- Mixed Marriages

Back in post #18, I mentioned my parents mixed marriage. In the late 1960s I had a conversation with a Jewish cashier in a local music store in Bethlehem, PA. We were talking about the increase in mixed-race marriages. The cashier, probably in her early- to mid- 40s expressed a certain discomfort and disagreement with that. Being Harold and Dora’s son I mentioned to her that my parents were a mixed marriage- a Christian and a Jew. She had no comeback, but I have a hunch that she wasn’t all that pleased with it, yet it caused her to pause.

I decided to do a little digging into mixed marriages, specifically mixed-faith marriages. One paper I found from Brandeis University talked about endogamy- the custom of marrying only within the limits of a local community, clan, or tribe. While there were periods of ups and downs over the years in the United States, the rate of mixed Jewish/non-Jewish marriages was quite low. In New York City in 1910, just about the time my grandparents became citizens of the United States, the rate of Jews marrying non-Jews was only about 1.2%! A few years later in Cincinnati in 1917 it was still only 4.5%. By 1950, not much had changed. Only 4% of Jewish marriages were to non-Jews. (Compare this to a Catholic-non-Catholic rate of 27%.) By 1957 the Jewish/non-Jewish marriage rate was still at 7%.

The reasons are many for this. Religious stereotypes and anti-Semitism played a major role in keeping the groups apart. Many communities, Jewish and non-Jewish, were often more homogeneous than they have become in the years since. For Jews, the centuries-old prejudices, pogroms, and ghettos, with the Holocaust in World War II being the most recent, were a huge deterrent to inter-marriage. Adding to that was an undercurrent of fear that if the Jewish people assimilated, it was a move into oblivion. While the Holocaust, like the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th and 16th Centuries, showed only too painfully that assimilation was helpless against genocide, it felt like assimilation was also, in and of itself, dangerous.

As recently as 1970 the intermarriage rate for Jews was still only 17%; that has changed in the past 50 years. Today the Pew Research Institute estimates that overall 58% of Jewish marriages have a non-Jewish spouse. That number is impacted by the religiousness of the Jewish spouse- only 2% of Orthodox Jewish marriages are mixed marriages even though overall the times have really changed.

That 2% number also highlights for me the incredible move my parents made 75 years ago! Even today, only 2% of marriages like theirs would be mixed. The greater society may have come to accept and participate in such marriages, my mom’s community would have great difficulty with it. In 1944 it would have been scandalous! In both Brooklyn, NY, and Jersey Shore, PA.

I was clueless about it all until I went away to school and met a number of Jewish students and learned more and more about the centuries of anti-Semitism. By that time both of them had died and I had become a Christian. I had little understanding of my Jewish heritage- that would come later. But even in those early years of my own exploration, I knew that Harold and Dora were rebels. The “status quo” was something to go against. Both, as youngest children from quite close and closed communities, decided that whatever they found in each other was worth the challenge.

Seventy-five years ago the Pennsylvania family had not yet met Dora. That was soon to change as the final summer of preparation was nearing its end.

◆ June 1944
◆ 75 Years ago
13 June- Germany launches a V1 Flying Bomb attack on England, in Hitler's view a kind of revenge for the invasion. He believes in Germany's victory with this "secret weapon." The V-1 attacks will continue through June with horrifying losses.
19-20 June- The Battle of the Philippine Sea takes place. The United States Fifth Fleet wins a decisive naval battle over the Imperial Japanese Navy near the Mariana Islands.

# 22- D-Day

◆    June 6, 1944
◆    75 Years Ago Today
D-Day as Operation Overlord was executed- the largest naval invasion in history.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.
 
The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

― Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Normandy Invasion consisted of
    ▪    5,333 Allied ships and landing craft embarking nearly
    ▪    175,000 men. The British and Canadians put
    ▪    75,215 troops ashore, and the Americans
    ▪    57,500, for a total of
    ▪    132,715, of whom about
    ▪    3,400 were killed or missing.

Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
American personnel in Britain included
    ▪    1,931,885 land,
    ▪    659,554 air, and
    ▪    285,000 naval—a total of
    ▪    2,876,439 officers and men housed in
    ▪    1,108 bases and camps.
The waiting for history to be made was the most difficult. I spent much time in prayer. Being cooped up made it worse. Like everyone else, I was seasick and the stench of vomit permeated our craft.
— Pvt Clair Galdonik, 359th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 90th Division
According to Smithsonian.com
When Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy... most Americans slept—news of the invasion wouldn't reach the United States shores until 3:32 a.m. EST, when General Eisenhower's Order of the Day, a message recorded for the troops going into the invasion, was read over American radio stations. President Roosevelt himself wasn't briefed of the invasion's status until a mere 30 minutes before the American public found out. (-Link)
At the end of the first day, 156,000 Allied troops had come ashore at Normandy. It was the first successful opposed landing across the English Channel in eight centuries.


In Georgia, my Dad and the troops watched with interest. A successful invasion would mean they were that much closer to heading for Europe.  No one probably wanted to think about what it would mean if it weren’t successful. The Battle of Normandy lasted into mid-July.

It was successful.

About six weeks ago I was sitting outside enjoying a calm peaceful evening when I was struck by the contrast and similarities to what might have been happening 75 years ago. Since I have been absorbed by World War II for a number of years now, I realized that my writing and exploration of the war was about to get more intense.  Out of nowhere came the thought, “War is coming!” The war in 1944 was in full swing, of course. The Pacific War had begun to turn in the Allies favor and the African and Italian campaigns were quite successful. The Soviet Union had overcome the eastern front and was heading west. But the big event was yet to come. The invasion of Europe, code-named Operation Overlord, was well along in the planning stages and tension was great.

I know the outcome these seventy-five years later. But since part of my self-appointed task has been to follow my dad in the war, I also know that what I am seeing and feeling is more anticipation of what I will discover about Dad (Buddy), the world of 1944-45, and ultimately about myself. There have been a number of turning points in Buddy’s War so far from his running away from home in 1940 to activation into the 80th Armored Medical Battalion; from being part of the now famous 10th Armored Division to marrying my mother. D-Day meant the time was getting short.


"D-Day Statistics: Normandy Invasion By the Numbers" History on the Net © 2000-2019, Salem Media.