|By Bob Weaver Sept. 2011|
My friend Victor E. Whytsell of Richardson has died at the age of 88.
The old World War II vet earlier this year called me to come to his home, wanting to explain and have me write the horrible impact the war had on his life. His recollections took some time between the tears.
He was a man from a rapidly fading generation of men who marched off to that great war, but he was also a man from another fading generation, a man of the sod, a person of place.
Victor (far left) held reverent those who
served their nation, with his VFW friends
What was important to him was being connected to the sod and people who stood on his slice of the earth, and to his hundreds of military buddies who have gone on before him.
Not unlike his brother Randall, he reveled on the history and people of his community, providing photos and stories about them to the Herald year after year.
He was part of a local VFW group that dutifully went around Calhoun and regional counties for several years erecting American flags in a hundred cemeteries.
I will always recall his salutes and the bowing of his head in memory of their service to America.
Hopefully he can now rest in peace on his mountain above the West Fork Valley.
See complete obituary Victor E. Whytsel
"Why can't our political leaders learn from these
terrible wars," says WWII vet Victor Whytsell
"WALKING IN THE ENEMIES SHOES"
By Bob Weaver Feb. 2011
"All these years I've spoken little about the horror of war, but I can tell you it has been with me every day of my life, in one way or another," said eighty-seven-year-old Victor "Gene" Whytsell of Richardson.
He was a 19-year-old Calhoun boy from the river village along the Little Kanawha when he landed at Normandy in 1943, eight days after the invasion, and saw combat across Europe until the war ended in 1945.
"I have a reason for telling you this now, if you'll bear with me," Whytsell said.
"My dad and mom and my wife, as far as I know, never understood what a deal it dealt me," he said, recalling part of his life when he had difficulty holding a job and drank heavily, indicating he rarely talked about his combat experience.
Whytsell was a 19-year-old Calhoun, country boy when
he was thrust into World War II, the deadliest military
conflict in history with over 60 million people killed
"I always thought it sounded like excuses, but my brain took a beating," he said.
"So many people I know from here suffered deeply from the war, some had really terrible lives, some killed themselves and a lot of them died early."
Whytsell describes relentlessly engaging the German army across Belgium, Holland, Germany, France and Czechoslovakia.
"Some battles lasted a week, day and night, without a break.
"A few times the temperature dropped to 25 below zero. A body got really cold," he said.
"I've seen hundreds killed, and on many days I thought it would be my day to die."
"I never got a scratch, and I know why. They were all praying for me back home."
He told a story about a fellow soldier next to him being shot, after which he picked him up and carried him from the affray. "I put him down on the ground beside me, and he took another round."
Whytsell's outfit was the 314 Regiment, 79th Infantry Division, the first to cross the Seine and Rhine Rivers.
When the war was over, Whytsell was assigned to a prisoner of war camp operated by the Red Cross. It was there he met a German soldier named Fritz Koch, who was also helping at the camp.
"We got to be friends. He had a leg shot off. I could have been the one who did it."
"He invited me to his house a short distance away to have Sunday dinner with he, his wife and little daughter."
The Sunday ritual continued for several months, Whytsell said, "We became really good friends."
Wooden shoes given to Whytsell by his German soldier friend.
The translated inscription reads, "Dedicated by your brother Fritz"
When I left to come back to the US, he didn't have much to give me, but he made me a pair of wooden shoes, and inscribed them for me," he said.
"We embraced each other and wept and wept," Whytsell continued.
"So why can't our political leaders learn from their terrible wars, when people like Fritz and me can love one another?" he asked.
"I've often thought if our leaders could spend ten minutes in combat, we wouldn't have many wars."
"That's what I want to say, after all these years," Whytsell said.
"Despite my long suffering about all this, I'd go and soldier again," recalling the bond which he still feels toward his fellow soldiers and fighting for his country.
See LIBERTY HILL'S SOLDIERS OF THE SOD - VFW Post 5959 Honors Them
RICHARDSON - Photos Of What Once Was