The Last Things He Saw

editor Saturday 9 June 2018 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email Printer friendly

By Jeffrey Greenberg.. Chasing the ghosts of my uncle, who was killed in action in Normandy during WWII. In a manila envelope in the top drawer of her dresser, my mother kept a Scottish Grenadiers’ cap with a red checkered band and ribbons falling from its back. Her brother Monroe had sent it to her from Great Britain a few months before D-Day. [Photo top right: Monroe J. Molensky | Credit: www.abmc.gov – www.honorstates.org – http://36air-ad.com/update-1lt-polensky-j-monroe/ – http://www.36air-ad.com/names/serial/1010179 – Jean-François Pellouais].  He was always looking for gifts to send home. From the American Southwest, where his unit trained, came Navaho trade blankets; from Edinburgh, a Scottish wool sweater bought on the “QT,” and of course, the Grenadiers’ hat. He also sent letters home, filled with lists of things he wanted his sisters and parents to mail him in return: Hershey’s chocolate, chewing gum, the Saturday Evening Post. They fitfully arrived at the army’s convenience. He was especially fond of the Chesterfield “cigs” they sent, which he traded for a bottle of good Scotch.

My uncle, whom I never knew, was killed on the fifth day of August 1944, somewhere south of Hill 211, along the Sée River in Normandy, a waterway so narrow a giant step will take you across. Monroe was a First Lieutenant assigned to HQ of the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. I’m told they were like scouts in the old cavalry pictures. The eyes and the ears of the infantry. Probe, engage, report, like a dental pick in a cavity.

But this story is about Normandy. About chasing his ghost there. Read the full story.

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