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My Blog - Inspired By My Pictures

Years ago I heard the advice, "Don't take pictures while on vacation, just focus on the experience."  This turned out to be terrible guidance for me.  In my late 30s I started taking more pictures.  This activity helps to cement memories that would otherwise be lost whether on vacation or just going somewhere on the weekend.  In this blog I share the memories and stories inspired by my pictures.  

The night was exceptionally misty and the roads greasy with mud from a downpour in the late afternoon; so, after five miles of track and tank line ditches, the column was halted. At 0400, the fog lifted somewhat and they proceeded on the route closing in bivouac at Champs at 0900 of the 15th. At 1700, movement orders for the 489th arrived with instructions to cross the Moselle on the bridgehead in the vicinity of Arnaville.


Sept 15, 1944


My darling,

Betty I don’t even know when I wrote you last it has been so long ago. I’m sorry honey but it can’t be helped. I expect letters from you, but know I shouldn’t. Honey I’ve been so darned busy all the time getting stuff or taking care of myself. I sure can’t write letters after dark and I try to get all my work done during the day so I won’t have any night driving to do.

I’m okay, and still doing fine. Maybe losing a little weight, but that is all. I sure could go for one of your meals. I’ve had steak the last three days, but it has been German captured stuff.

The weather has been fairly good, only it rains very often and the mud is terrible. Sid should be able to tell you about this mud.


Betty, you should know where we are headed by now. The enclosed clipping is from the “Stars & Stripes” paper. You sure missed your guess in where we were. You haven’t guessed correctly yet. So your average is zero.


I received a ballot from RJ Ward the other day. Tell your mother to cast her vote for Hoffman, and I’m going to send it back very soon. Mr. Atkin sent me a form to fill out for a Chicago ballot. I threw that in the basket. I don’t want anything to do with Chicago.


I've written this in a hurry as I have someone waiting to make another trip and its after five pm already. But regardless of the hours I’m very glad I'm doing this type of work. At least once in a while I get back far enough so that I don’t have to be too careful, which sure is relaxing.


Honey, I know this doesn’t answer any of your questions, but I’ll try to get to that tomorrow. Just honey, I really mean that, you know how much I miss you. I sure could be home. I don’t know whether I want to travel again when I get home or not. Be good - I miss you and love you much.


All my love,

Jack.


The most exciting part of what I received from my grandfather is the letters which he wrote to my grandmother while he was in Europe. They saved them and eventually gave them to me after my grandfather passed away. They're in a nondescript cardboard box labeled "Letters from Jack: WWII. Give to Scott."

I've opened the box a couple times over the last decade and gone through a letter or two. They aren't easy to decipher. They're in cursive. They reference family members who I don't know or cultural phenomena I'm not familiar with. Who knows what conditions they were written in, both physically and mentally. Still, I need to go through these and capture my grandfather's experience. This is why they were left to me.


My grandfather was in the 489th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. The description below is of September 17th,1944.


The tanks and infantry started a forward movement at 0800 on September 17th. The weather continued bad and progress was correspondingly slow. Artillery missions were relayed to higher headquarters, but enemy counter-battery continued throughout the day. By 1800, the CC supported troops occupied their line of departure, Marieulles.

My favorite thought in my grandfather's letter below is the comment about candy. My great grandfather was a candy maker and my grandparents have an amazing caramel recipe which I took for granted as a kid. Towards the end of his life my grandpa returned home from the hospital after a battle with cancer which he won for a couple years. I was there to see him return. He sat in his favorite chair in the family room.

After sitting the first thing he did was ask where the candy jar was. It was usually on the end table right next to his chair. Grandma said the doctors told her that he needed to stay away from candy so she'd moved it. Grandpa looked disgruntled and then said something along the lines of, "No problem. I've got my secret stash." He then put his hands underneath the cushion of his chair, pulled out a couple pieces of wrapped candy and smiled as he ate them.



September 17, 1944


My darling;

Believe it or not, I’m keeping a promise by writing today. I’m also going to write mom as it has been some time since I wrote her. I received three letters you sent yesterday. One of your letters claims that uncle Charlie has written me. I can’t remember receiving a letter from him since I’ve been over here.

Betty, it started to rain at five this morning. It’s now almost 5 pm and it has rained hard throughout the day. I sure don’t know what I’ll sleep in tonight because everything is wet. It reminds me of Tennessee.

Maybe I should tell you certain things, maybe I should not. Tell me whether you want to hear about the different people in the unit. Some time ago Captain Maise was killed. I don’t know whether I spelled his name correctly. He’s the one that lived in the downstairs apartment while we were in Tennessee. I know your mother had met him and you can write that he’s gone. Everything is okay with me. Only this rain sure does get me down.

I had Irish hamburger for all three meals today. I’m really getting to be a meat eater again. Honey, go to South Bend and go to the Philadelphia shop and get me some chocolate covered candy. I believe it’s cool enough now, you can send it to me. I sure miss my candy. I got a box the other day and I think I’ve done pretty good. I only ate four pieces of it although I nearly ate more. I sure could have. You can send that as often as you like.

I’m glad you went to Chicago but Betty all those stories you heard about Elaine may or may not be true. Anyway, it is water under under the bridge by this time. If you like her and she is nice to you, what do you care what she did a year or so ago. Now don’t take this as me being too liberal. I don’t want you to get any ideas so you understand.

Did or didn’t Warren get his commission? Nobody has told me anything. Let me know which way it is will you? What is this system of discharging the Army has? I haven’t seen anything about it. I sure would like to know where I came in on it. So in your next letter you can explain it all to me.

I’ve got to get started on a little work now so I’ll close and come back to this letter in a few minutes.

I’m back but I can’t think of much more to say. You know exactly how I feel about things for sure.

A little French girl came over a dozen times yesterday. I gave her everything I got I didn’t want. This morning she brought over a pie. I gave her four packages of cigarettes for it for her papa. She left all smiles.

Honey, this is all for today. I’ll try to do better in writing. Maybe I won’t get a chance tomorrow but if I do, I’ll write.

All my love

Jack


Jack Ginther was born December 15th 1918 in Galien Michigan. He died February 22nd 2008. These are the dates that bookend his life but who was he to me? As a child he was the fun grandfather who always bought me a gift and wrestled me on the floor of the family room. As a kid leaving college he was the proud grandfather excited to see me start my career at an investment firm after graduation. I know he was a human and therefore far more complicated but those two thoughts are the anchors of the memories of my relationship with him.

He never talked about the war. Not really. As a kid he gave me a razor without a blade and we stood in front of the bathroom mirror to shave. Later in life when I stopped shaving he said he couldn't trust a man who's face he couldn't see. We stood in front of that mirror, bellies out and chins covered in shaving cream. My shirtless grandfather had a scar across his abdomen. At first, it was the remnants of a wound given to him from a duel with Darth Vader. When I realized Darth Vader wasn't real it turned into the traces left from a knife wound from a German during the war. Later I was told it was from a childhood surgery.

That knife wound was the most exciting story he ever shared about the war, even though it wasn't true. When he described the war later in life he described moving from one city to another without any excitement. I asked him if he ever wanted to go back to France. He said, no, it was an ugly country. I asked him if he wanted to see Saving Private Ryan when it came out. He responded, no, why would he want to watch anything about the war. Every response to every question was dry. He was never emotional when he discussed it. He never brought up being scared or happy about the bonds with his fellow soldiers. The only anger I ever saw was when someone brought up general Patton. He hated Patton.

While he provided little detail to me, some part of him must have wanted me to know more. He provided me with a trove of documents and objects allowing me to do my own research. I've never been to war and I hope I never have to experience it. But, I want to know more about this brief but important part of Jack Ginther's life.

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