As I sit here reflecting on all the past Veterans Days that I have experienced within my lifetime, I offer you and your subscribers a tale of closure of sorts regarding my dad, Eugene P. Moran and his WWII legacy.
My brother Bugs (AKA Michael J Moran) and I just returned Sunday/early Monday from crossing the "pond." A whirlwind pilgrimage retracing some of Dad's steps during WWII beginning with Snetterton Heath (90 miles NE of London) where he flew out on various bombing missions. The people there and at the Snetterton Museum were so helpful and supportive of our need to ask so many questions.
We crossed the English Channel via the Chunnel while riding a bus, encased in a long capsule with other traffic, riding on a railway car! Our brief time in Germany was spent with our "Tour Guide" Volker Spickermann (the newest addition to the Moran-family-of-brothers with no matching DNA!) You know: Jerry Brockway, John Armbruster, Stan Turben, Quentin Lathrop, etc. i.e. Those who always loved being involved with Dad in various aspects of life!) Well, Volker & his wife Angela, live exactly next door to my former exchange student Schaetzy~ Silvia Rojek-Zierau. I have known the Spickermanns for at least 10 years or more. Volker is a professional German soldier and former NATO soldier who has heard about Dad for many years.
He agreed to drive and translate whenever and wherever we needed. He and Bugs got along immediately because he convinced Bugs to wear a pair of his lederhosen to the second biggest Oktoberfest of Germany in Xanten last week. We were able to travel to Bremen (home of the stacked donkey, dog, cat, and rooster of fairy tale fame) site of Dad's industrial bombing mission where his flying fortress fell out of formation. A dogfight ensued near Oldenburg, resulting in the B-17 being blown apart on November 29, 1943 above Syke, Germany. The bare field next to the tree line where Dad and the tail were initially discovered made the reality of what actually happened to Dad go from surreal to fact for both Mike and me. The beauty of the golden leaves, at the peak of autumnal splendor under the azure German skies, added to the emotional conflict within my heart. Never could I have imagined such a beautiful agricultural location stimulating all of my artistic senses adding to the emotional highs and lows of such a life changing moment! You may be thinking, "how can they be certain of the exact crash site when today it is an open field?" Volker simply Googled allied crash sites near Syke with the date & time of Dad's crash. Sure enough, a blue star was within a quarter mile of where we parked the car.
One day prior to this part of the journey, we were able to explore the Sandbostel site of a huge POW camp housing mostly Russian, French, and multinational prisoners. A few French prisoners, upon finding our father in desperate need of medical attention, sought the German guards and he was taken to the hospital at the POW camp. Again, like in Britain, the curator of the Sandbostel museum was excited to speak with us and shared his knowledge about the Serbian surgeons who operated on Dad's head three days later. We are deeply indebted to our delightful Schaetzy and her sons for hosting us and for sharing Angela & Volker's friendship. Danke meine Schaetz.
By sharing this personal account of searching for Dad's presence in these European countries, my brother and I have come to grips with the more painful aspects of Dad's trek, but we gained something even more: we have witnessed and shared the loving compassion of today's German people. Our hearts are full. In this respect, we all will work for world peace one-on-one like our German hosts continue to do.
I pray that your hearts go out to all Veterans.
Joni Moran Peterson