Friday, December 16, 2011

Intersections of Life


Robert Helmuth Meyer
December 16, 1920 - October 30, 2011

Today I honor my Uncle Robert Meyer.  He was the third of five sons born to Olga and George Meyer. They were a happy family who weathered the Depression then found themselves facing World War II as many Americans did. Four of the five sons served during World War II.

The Meyer Home
Uncle Bob was a radioman in the 535th AAA Battalion. His battalion was attached to the 99th Infantry Division;  which was a companion to the 101st  Airborne. Wherever the 101st  was, my uncle was not far away.

AAA stands for anti-aircraft and automatic weapons. Uncle Bob’s battalion protected bridges and airfields. He helped defend the famed Remagen Bridge. During the Normandy Invasion, he landed in the first wave on Utah Beach with the job protecting the battleships in the channel.

Intersections of Life: He continued to fight throughout Europe occasionally crossing paths with his brothers. One time my Dad was traveling in a truck when he saw his brother, Bob, sitting in a tree beside the road. Dad quickly jumped out the truck and the lucky brothers were reunited.

Intersections of Life: His path also intersected with older brother, Al. Al drove a tank named “The Destroyer.” One day Uncle Al was sitting in his tank when a guy came up to him and asked him if he had a brother, Bob. Bob and Al were just one mile apart! Al was granted permission to see his brother. Backtracking a mile Uncle Al and Uncle Bob were reunited. I can only imagine how happy they were to see each other.

Intersections of Life: In December 1944 Uncle Bob found himself in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. His birthday was December 16th and had received a birthday cake baked by his mother. There was no time to enjoy if for The Battle of the Bulge had begun. There are stories of Germans using captured jeeps and uniforms to imitate American soldiers. So when the battle began, his first responsibility was to destroy his radio and all papers and abandon that birthday cake.

Uncle Bob was on the front line and stationed in Krinklet, Belgium when the German Panzers rolled over the 99th Infantry. The battalions scattered and the 535th was listed as lost in action for a very long time.

Americans created deep trenches in this heavily wooded forest by bombing the ground. The large holes were cleaned up and topped with tree. A final layer of pine boughs were added creating warm, safe trenches. The Germans bombarded American forces by firing high above the Ardennes Forest. Bombs exploded in the air, tops of trees were blown off and shrapnel rained down on American soldiers. My uncle feared thunderstorms throughout the rest of his life. The rolling of thunder sent him back to the Ardennes Forest.

Back to the birthday cake…. It is said that a high-ranking German official inspected the vacated trenches and found a birthday cake. There are reports that he knew the war was lost. Germans had trouble getting necessary fuel, but an American could receive a birthday cake? I have read comments that the cake came from Iowa or New York. I wonder if that German official came upon my uncle’s cake from Illinois? You never know.

Uncle Bob continued to serve his country now as a MP. He made his way to Austria and then to Paris. World War II officially ended 2 September 1945 and men were beginning to return home. Uncle Bob’s battalion was not rotated home for they were still considered lost in battle. His Captain angrily asked,
“Why aren’t my men going home?” Eventually Uncle Bob returned home. His service to our nation began in October 1942 and ended 6 December 1945 just in time his twenty-fifth birthday!

One Christmas season, Uncle Bob sent his Christmas card making note the anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. My husband belongs to an organization that spans the globe and sent my uncle’s Battle of the Bulge story out to membership of the organization. Several members had British roots and responded in thanks for the “Yanks” who bravely defended them. I sent those responses on for Uncle Bob to enjoy. I regret not saving a copy of them for my growing genealogy collection.


1 comment:

  1. Your best post to date! Robbin needs to read this.