My interview was with my great-grandfather who was a Corporal with the 87th Infantry Division, which was called “The Golden Acorn”, during World War II. The following is his recollection, in his own words, of the events which transpired on Palm Sunday, March 25, 1945, during the crossing of the Rhine River. My grandfather does not particularly like telling “war stories” because many of his memories of the war are very painful and bring to mind many good buddies who were killed serving their country.
As a combat engineer, I was in the third wave of the assault. While I waited my turn, I went into the cellar of a hotel. The cellar was loaded with preserves of all kinds, and with bottles of wine, cognac, and champagne. We began cooking a meal for ourselves, and on the whole, moral was very high. If the men are nervous or scared, they are not showing it. It may well be the last meal for some of them.
When it was our turn, we boarded the LCI’s. Very few shells were landing in the water. The Germans were busy with the infantry on their side of the river. They had to defend themselves against our attacking troops.
Miraculously, no one in my LCI was injured in any way. We landed on the East Bank of the Rhine and began pressing forward. That day we had been lucky!”
My great-grandfather’s unit has had annual reunions in various parts of the country since 1950. He, himself, has been attending the reunions for the last twenty years. These veterans, most of them now in their seventies and eighties, look forward to getting together with old and new friends and reliving the good and bad times of WWII. From what he tells me, the “war stories” fly fast and furious at these reunions but are special mostly to them because they were there and lived to tell about it. They have the utmost respect for their fallen comrades and every reunion begins with a moment of silence for those who did not return.
This article was written by Albert Da Costa’s great-grandson for his English class in 1998.