Thursday, November 10, 2011

Claude & Jack - WW II - Veterans


Claude & Jack Friddle - abt 1945

In the fall of 1941, my mother’s family were living in pretty good times.  My mother was born in October of 1941 – ironically while her father was off hunting.  Claude (Capitola’s younger brother) drove his sister to the hospital to have my mother.  He used to tell my mother that he had helped bring her into the world.  Grandma Cappy decided after that experience that if her husband, Richard, couldn’t be there for the birth…then she wasn’t going to have any more children.  They were happy with their two daughters – their lumber lot was doing well, the ranch out in Tammany was also doing well.  Mom & Pop Friddle lived next door (David Carl Friddle & Sophia Dollar Friddle) and Capitola’s younger brother was involved in the waning years of high school and her older brother, Jack was off living in Baker City, OR with his wife Hilda and also working.  However, when Pearl Harbor was bombed, they like everyone else were glued to the radio listening to Roosevelt grimly relating what had happened.  Everything they knew about their life was about to change – as it did for so many families across the United States. Young men joined up and started leaving for faraway places for training and eventually to the battlefield.  Amongst those young men was my great uncle Jack. 

At 34 years old, he wasn’t quite as young as most of those signing up.  He had had some military experience in the army in the early 1930’s.  I’ve never had a specific date – but I have a photo of him in his uniform.  Jack enlisted on 25 Feb 1943 and he became a paratrooper and ended up as a captain.  Jack spent some time training down in North Carolina and got the chance to see some of his mother’s family.  Several of his mother’s siblings made the trip to see him.  Eventually Jack ended heading for the Pacific theater.  As I never heard a lot of specifics, I know that he spent a lot of time like most paratroopers jumping from one island to another.  Not only did you have the danger of the parachute jump, I don’t think they ever knew what they would face when they landed.  When I was around Jack, he didn’t’ talk about his experiences probably because I was little girl and he had much more fun teasing me.  However, he and his brother, Claude used to spend a lot of time telling each other stories.  I do know that he survived several close calls including having an unexploded bomb come down literally right next to him.  Jack also arrived home with a Japanese rifle that was complete with a bayonet.  Jack gave that rifle to my father years ago and my Dad gave the rifle to my brother a few years ago. 

Claude signed up in 1943, just after high school graduation.  He went to his father first to tell him – because he wanted help telling his mother.  He knew that Mom Friddle would be beyond upset that he had signed up.  Her older son was already serving in the war and she didn’t want to chance losing her second son.  Nevertheless, Claude headed off for training and then to the European theater.  He spent a lot of time in England making friends with the other servicemen and then watching a lot of fly off on bombing missions to Germany – knowing the whole time that many of them would never come back.  I only heard him talk about World War II a few times, but that was something that deeply affected him.  Claude was part of the 1st Army – Tank Division.  His first experience in battle came on D-day as the second wave at Omaha Beach.  Claude spent the next several months battling through the hedgerows and inching towards Germany.  He was in the Battle of the Bulge fighting under Gen. George Patton.  During his time there, he had 5 tanks shot out from under him.  During the Battle of the Bulge, Claude’s legs were severely frozen and during the last years of his life – diabetes and damage from the war made it so that he had little feeling in his legs.

By the late summer of 1945, Jack and Claude were both heading home from war.  My mother remembered them coming home.  As she was quite young, this was a momentous occasion.  Jack and Claude nicknamed their two nieces the “Geisha Girl” (Aunt Joan) and the “Blonde Bomber” (Betty, my mother).  When they entered the house, they were surprised to find a map on the wall with push pins dotting its surface.  Through news reports and Jack & Claude’s letters, Mom Friddle and Grandma Cappy had traced their progress through the war.  Much to Jack & Claude’s surprise, this map was remarkably accurate.

Like so many other servicemen, Jack and Claude came home and took up the business of living a civilian life.  Jack went back to managing a retail store and eventually owned a few stores along the way.  He died in 1987 at the age of 78.  Claude worked several jobs and eventually ended up the irrigation department in Lewiston, ID.  He was married for over 60 years and had three daughters.  Claude recently passed away at the age of 87.  Jack and Claude were always tied together as brothers – I think that their war experiences tied them even more closely together.  They had a shared experience that only another veteran would understand.