My brother, Darryl, died Nov 7, 2004, at the age of 84. He was a World War II veteran of the European theater, landing on Normandy Beach a few days after D-Day and then fighting through northern France, Belgium, Holland, and, at war's end, northern Germany. His antiaircraft unit fought in the major battles of the Ruhr, the Rhine and the Battle of the Bulge.
When he returned home after the war in 1945, he simply would not talk about any of his combat experiences, a condition we now understand is very common with returning combat veterans.
But one thing he was proud to talk about was his assignment to a small German village on the Weser River, where his unit stopped in April 1945 as the war was winding down. Because of some fluency in German, he worked with the villagers of Boffzen in expediting the spring planting of their crops.
At the war's end, the situation with the German people was pretty grim. The winter of 1944-'45 had been bitterly cold, with record amounts of snow and ice. The village's farm animals and tractors had been confiscated, their food supply consisted only of a few potatoes, and it appeared that new crops wouldn't mature before the growing season ended.
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With unusual foresight, our government in Washington had shipped over seeds to distribute to German farmers, and assigned our troops to do whatever they could to get the fields ready and help get the seeds planted. As a result of the timely planting, the village had a good yield of crops, averting another year of food shortages.