Veterans and battlefields

Veteran’s day, some current research and a visit with a friend has gotten me thinking about the significance of revisiting a battlefield. Recently, Colonel Robert W. Powell, a world war II veteran returned to Holland. In September 1944, during operation Market Garden he crashed landed in Holland as a glider pilot. He was knocked unconscious with a severe head injury and broken ankle. Four months after crashing he woke up in a hospital in Paris. For the past 70 years he has not know what happen when he crashed.

A group of paratrooper took the Colonel back to where he crashed on the anniversary of his landing. It was an amazing journey. Mayors in the little Dutch towns greeted him, and he visited the memorials erected by the Dutch to the Americans in this towns.  ( Which leads me to another thought that I won’t discuss in this post.)

Col. Powell learned that the Dutch citizens went to the fields and carried the wounded American fliers to a farm house where they had set up a hospital. At some point, the Colonel was transferred to a military hospital in Paris for further treatment.

Colonel Powell was touched by the reception he received, but was more touched by learning of the actions of the Dutch people during the war and how they saved his life. He walked the field where his glider landed and visited the farmhouse where he was treated. Talking with Powell, he said that the visit filled in the gaps in his memory and life. He now knows what happen so long ago and has an ever better picture of the operations that he took part in.

I have been reading about Civil War POW’s and their visits back to the prison camp where they suffered. The memorials on the Civil War battlefields were initiated by the veterans who returned years later to learn of the battle and see where they had fought.  It is interesting to see similiarities between the world war II veterans that I have meet with over the years and the civil war veterans. The need to revisit  battlefields, to remember and to ensure that others remember is a reaction that has been with veterans for generations. The horrors and heroism on the field of battle should never be forgotten.

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