As time marches on and WW2 comes ever closer to slipping out of living memory, family anecdotes and passed-down stories become all the more precious.
These Reddit users shared stories of combat, adversity, and unexpected humor from their grandfathers and grandmothers, all of whom played a supporting role in the worldwide conflict.
He Did Motorcycle Stunts On The Night Before Pearl Harbor
From Redditor /u/ macbubs:
My grandpa was a troublemaker in his youth. He got into legal trouble, and [when he was] around age 17, a judge told him he could either join the military or go to jail. He chose the former.
Not long after joining (so still a very young man), he was stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941 in the USS Utah . On December 6 he was at a bar arguing with a Japanese guy that he was a better motorcycle rider...
He ended up taking the Japanese guy's bike that was parked out front and popping wheelies to show off. He ended up wiping out when he tried to ride it up some stairs. He was thrown in the brig.
On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was [targeted] by the Japanese. My grandpa's ship was hit, and the guard on duty started running for the ladder. My grandpa yelled at him to let them out, and the guard threw keys to my grandpa and yelled, "Save yourself."
My grandpa opened his cell and others (not sure how many) and ran to the ladder himself. Some other "prisoner" grabbed him by the seat of the pants and pulled him down so he could go first, and he was strafed just as he poked his head out. My grandpa was able to get out safely, abandon ship, and swim to shore. The USS Utah ultimately [went down] and is still at the bottom of the ocean, just off the coast of Hawaii.
He spent the rest of the [conflict] in the Pacific and was in a ship off the coast of Japan as the peace treaty was signed, so he was in the [conflict] the longest time possible. He went on to have a long, great career with Union Pacific Railroad.
Because he... [wiped out] that Japanese guy's motorcycle, my grandpa liked to claim that 1) he started the whole thing, and 2) he was the first American to get a [strike] in against the Japanese (by destroying one of their motorcycles).
He Never Told His Wife About His Experiences
From Redditor /u/ abunchofsquirrels:
My grandfather served in the Army in WW2, but didn't talk about it much for years. He did his time, came back, married my grandmother, had my mom and uncle, and lived the rest of his life as a quiet family man.
One night after my grandmother passed, Grandpa started talking about the [conflict] in much greater detail than he'd ever discussed before. Turns out he was in Merrill's Marauders, a special unit tasked with jungle fighting in Burma that faced some of the worst fighting in the Pacific theater. He told us a bunch of horrifying stories, then went out to his shop and brought out all of his medals and various other souvenirs.
We asked him why he never talked about... or showed us any of this, and he said he didn't want to upset Grandma. Imagine going through the [experience] of [conflict] and never talking about it for over 40 years because you thought it would upset your wife.
He Stayed Alive Two Nights In A Row While Asleep Between Men Who Were Targeted
From Redditor /u/ sakhewaet:
My great-grandfather was on a small island in the Pacific as [an] artillery inspector and drill instructor. Apparently, two nights in a row, he slept in between two people of his rank in a very small open tent, and both of those nights, both of the guys around him got [fired on] by Japanese... on the island, trying to [eliminate] them all bit by bit, and he didn’t get touched.
Both nights, the two guys next to him [perished], and he was untouched.
Their Grandfathers Served In The Jungle And Arctic Convoys
From Redditor /u/Maccas75:
One grandfather was in the AIF [Australian Imperial Force], fighting in the jungles of Papua New Guinea on the infamous Kokoda Track. He had nightmares about his experiences for the duration of his life and only spoke about it to me briefly when I was a kid.
He mentioned that he would often cut his own path through the thick jungle, because the Japanese would hide up in the trees and ambush them. He wasn't a fan of the [corned] beef and was constantly soaked through due to torrential rain and mud. He never smoked, but would win cigarettes off his mates in card games, then light and hang them from the entrance to his tent - to help keep the swarms of mosquitoes away. He also coldly told me that the Japanese [slayed] all his friends.
He helped build some of the jungle runways for the American planes to later land. He said that once the Americans came, things began to improve.
My other grandfather was in the Royal Navy, in the Arctic Convoys, delivering much-needed supplies to the Russians in Murmansk. Winston Churchill described the Convoys as "the worst journey in the world."
My grandfather initially put his life jacket on as trained to do, when one of the older sailors laughed and told him, "Don't worry about it son, you'll freeze... in under a minute anyway."
They'd often have to chip away the thick ice on ships to prevent them capsizing. His ship was involved in numerous [engagements] against larger, heavier-armed German ships, as well as U-boats and planes.
He told me how his ship had to use its last remaining torpedo to scuttle [a] fellow crippled Royal Navy ship, [the] HMS Edinburgh, which was carrying heaps of gold bullion from Stalin - to prevent it slipping into enemy hands.
The gold was salvaged in the 1980s.