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On Now The 73rd Anniversary of D-Day – Thanks to My Personal Hero

June 5, 2010

This post was first published in 2010 and I am pleased to be able to report that Uncle Gil continues to be well…updated…

Today marks the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings.

My ex-wife’s now 93 year-old uncle, Gilbert Wilhelm, then a diminutive 19-year-old kid from Cincinnati, landed on Omaha Beach with company F of the 102nd Cavalry Recon, in a infantry support tank like the one below, sometime around 11:30 AM that day.  They were supposed to have landed 5 hours earlier but did not, thank God. Remember the tanks in Private Ryan? The first wave of tanks had to leave their LST’s too soon and most sank to the bottom of the ocean. By the time Gil finally landed they drove right onto the beach from the raft that took them in.

My kids say that “Uncle Gil won WWII” which is technically true (he did have a little help from millions of others) and for all of us to be able to hear the history of that day first hand is the historical equivalent of being alive in 1928 and having a Civil War veteran tell you about the battle of Gettysburg.

The 102nd Cavalry Recon was in the vanguard of the allied advance from the time it landed on June 6th until shortly before VE Day in 1945. Starting with the deadly hedgerows of France, they were the first unit into Paris, fought in the Battle of Bulge and crossed the Rhine into the heart of Germany.  Think “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers” combined and that is what Gil and his comrades experienced.

The Stuart M-3 tank you see to the left may look menacing but it was not, certainly in comparison to the German armor. It was lightly armored, with a small gun and as Gil tells it if they ever saw a German tank they turned tail and ran as they were not a match. Mostly they probed enemy lines on recon, supported infantry and screened the flanks of troop movements.

In fact on July 31, 1944 as part of the battle of St Lo and the “Breakout” Gil’s first tank was destroyed and he escaped unharmed.

“Before the enemy retreated in disorder down the reverse slope of the hill, three tanks and various other vehicles were destroyed beyond repair and several tanks, armored cars , half tracks and 1/4 ton trucks were immobilized by the terrain, mines or enemy fire. 33 casualties were sustained in the battle and the vehicular losses necessitated an almost complete re-equipment for some of the platoons.”

From the official Unit history

Several weeks later the replacement tank was hit by a dreaded German 88 shell that went clear through the tank and its engine and causing it to erupt in flames. Gil scrambled to safety and the went back to get one of the drivers out of the burning tank. He dragged him out while under enemy machine gun fire from 50 yards away and tried to drag him to safety.  The young driver, a replacement who had been in this tank only a week or two, was killed. For this selfless act of  heroism Gilbert Wilhelm was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s 3rd highest honor for valor. Only 50,000 were awarded to the tens of millions who served in WWII.

Gil’s Commemorative Brick at WW II Museum in New Orleans

IMG_2748

Until the 50th anniversary of D-Day Gil, like most veterans,  did not talk about his experiences at all. For the past 15 years, since I started dating my ex-wife, Gil has shared his experiences with me mostly because I simply asked him questions. We will generally have a glass of wine or two, often from the stash he and his friends make, and simply talk about things and I’ll keep asking questions. Every time we chat something new will be remembered or put in context. The more I learn the more I am simply amazed by what Gil and his generation did.

He was a typical teenage boy from Cincinnati who had never been anywhere before, just like millions of others. He was trained, went to war, did his duty and more and returned home to start a family and live a normal life. Kids, grandkids, boy scouts, camping, family, unbelievable woodworking skills and lots of hiking and activity.

Today he is thankfully still in wonderful health and  is more active than most people we all know.

But today around 5:30 AM and all morning spend a minute reflecting on what Gil and millions of others did for us and the world 73 years ago. Nearly 8000 men died that first day alone in securing the beachhead that led to Hitler’s ultimate defeat.

Be sure to thank your family “heroes” and any other person that served in WWII or any other of our wars, including our current ones.

Gil, thank you for “winning WWII” as the kids put it and for being such a special person, wonderful brother, father, grandfather, uncle, great-uncle and friend. For who you are and all these things combined you are my personal hero.

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Iran a Nation of Bloggers

June 15, 2009

Did you know that Iran has the third most bloggers in the world? Watch this great video to learn more about this nation’s younger generation and it will help you understandwhy the news is coming out of Iran via blogs and Twitter.

IRAN: A Nation Of Bloggers from ayrakus on Vimeo.

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” – But Twittered and You Tubed

June 14, 2009

If you watched the traditional media all weekend you would have little idea that there has been an amazing amount of unrest in Iran as a result of the apparent Ahmadinejad re-election.

The reason is that Iran tried to cutoff all access to the outside from cell phones to text to TV and more but couldn’t shut all the modern social media channels that now exist down completely.

Several journalist bloggers, local twitterers, Facebook pages and You Tube provided a window into the violent protests that have followed this apparently rigged election.

The Huffington Post did yeoman’s work monitoring all these and aggregating the news. The NY Times had a reporter there and CNN finally started following events closely today relying on these new channels.

Twitter emerged as the lead news source. For Twitterers follow @persiankiwi, @ mousavi1388, @maydar is no longer online.

Go to HuffPo for the latest coverage and stay informed with new media.

Is the Tiller Murder Christian Fundamentist “Terrorism”?

June 1, 2009

Murder is murder and there is no acceptable excuse for Dr. Tiller’s murder regardless of your political views. This is America. We do not murder. We do not condone murder. But there are people who are in this case which disgusts me.

Shannyn Moore from HuffPo has an interesting post to read. Read it and think:

“Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism.

It’s shocking to write. But it’s time to start calling it what it is.

When Jim D. Adkisson walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church with 76 rounds and a shot-gun, he killed 2 people and was charged with murder. His motive was “he hated the liberal movement” and was upset with “liberals in general as well as gays.” He should have been charged with terrorism.

Sunday George Tiller, a Wichita doctor, was killed INSIDE the lobby of his Wichita church. Reformation Lutheran Church became a crime scene; fundamentalist terrorism.”

Enough is enough in this country of excuses for violating the rule of law regardless of political disagreements.

We are one nation with many views and respect for them and for the law is what we are founded on.

The 65th Anniversay of D-Day is Saturday. The heros that fought that war did not fight to support murder based on different views, regardless of the topic.