My Father, a WWII Veteran, Gave His Sergeant the Ultimate Honor


last homecoming

THE TRAIN PULLED INTO the station in Franklin, Tennessee, on December 16, 1948. It was 9:13 within the morning on a grey, overcast day. The temperature was within the 60s, heat for that point of yr. On board had been the stays of Technical Sergeant Lee Gordon Allen Jr.—“L. G.,” as he was identified to his household and mates. 

The article saying his return was on web page six of the afternoon version of the Franklin Overview-Attraction, tucked between Christmas adverts for McClure’s division retailer and Tohrner’s Store for Women. Have been it not for the transient four-paragraph merchandise within the native paper, his homecoming doubtless would have gone unnoticed by anybody outdoors of his household. 

Sergeant Allen’s return dwelling got here precisely 4 years and two weeks after he was killed in a firefight with German troopers within the French city of Sélestat. It was common for a lot time to go between a soldier’s dying and the return of his stays. After World Conflict II, with 359,000 American lifeless scattered throughout each hemispheres, the navy mounted a six-year restoration effort that yielded the stays of 281,000 fallen servicemen. 

The low-key nature of his homecoming appeared a mirrored image of how L. G. seems to have lived his life: quietly, unassumingly, with out fanfare. Nonetheless, whether it is true that actions communicate louder than phrases, Sergeant Allen’s actions on December 2, 1944, for which he was awarded the Silver Star, communicate volumes about his bravery, his dedication to his troops, and his character. 

My father, a personal in Sergeant Allen’s unit, noticed him not solely as a chief but additionally as a mentor and, sure, as a superb buddy. And, it turned out, somebody he was decided to recollect in a particular and really private method.

Allen developed shut relationships with most of the troops in his platoon, together with the writer’s father, Sam Kamlet, who known as Allen “as high quality a person as I ever wish to know.”

forging a friendship

L. G. ALLEN WAS BORN on July 7, 1918, outdoors of Franklin, in a rural space of Williamson County. He was one among 4 kids born to Lee Gordon and Minnie Allen. Allen enlisted within the military on December 6, 1939, at age 21. He had solely an elementary faculty training. He served two years in Panama, re-enlisted, and was then stationed in Iceland for 18 months. Within the spring of 1944, he was assigned to Camp Howze, outdoors Gainesville, Texas.

It was there that my father, Sam Kamlet, would have met L. G. Dad enlisted within the military on June 17, 1943, a day after graduating highschool in Denver. He was 18 years previous. He reported first to Camp Fannin, close to Tyler, Texas, the place he obtained his preliminary coaching. He was ultimately enrolled within the Military Specialised Coaching Program—a course to coach military personnel in technical fields reminiscent of engineering, dentistry, and medication—and attended courses at Texas A&M in School Station. He had excessive hopes of turning into an engineer. Although he did properly in his courses, the military abruptly ended this system. Dad discovered himself assigned in March 1944 to Firm A, 409th Regiment of the 103rd Infantry, the “Cactus Division.” He packed his duffel bag for Camp Howze.

(Man Aceto Assortment)

Like many veterans, Dad hardly ever spoke about his struggle expertise. Each time he was requested about it, he largely deflected the query, saying all of it appeared like a dream. Prefer it wasn’t actual. He didn’t wish to make an enormous deal out of it.

Nonetheless, towards the top of his life, Dad agreed to debate his expertise in some element, creating one thing of a memoir primarily based on 4 completely different sources: a recorded dialog with my siblings and me; an interview carried out for the Library of Congress’s Veterans Historical past Challenge; a short, handwritten autobiography he produced at my insistence; and tons of of letters he wrote dwelling through the struggle. One factor that stands out is a singularly targeted and constant recollection of, and fondness for, Sergeant Allen. Each time he spoke aloud about Allen, he would break down in tears, struggling to compose himself. It bordered on reverence. 

“One of the crucial exceptional folks I met within the Military was my platoon sergeant whose title was ‘Canine’ Allen,” he wrote. “He was actually powerful on the surface however at coronary heart a really feeling individual. He was common Military. He was a brief, stocky man and onerous as nails.” 

I can not say for sure why the 2 males grew to become mates. I remorse by no means asking Dad earlier than he died in 2008, however I’ve my theories. Dad was somebody who revered authority and believed within the chain of command, so it was pure that he would respect his sergeant. Past that, it could be that as a result of Allen was six years older, Dad noticed him as one thing of an enormous brother. 

Or maybe the clue is in L. G.’s nickname: “Canine.” Perhaps it wasn’t an informal alternative, however slightly mirrored Allen’s true nature: steadfast, fiercely loyal, and protecting. “You construct relationships on belief,” Dad mentioned. “And folks like that, you suppose are invincible. And it’s not true.”

Allen’s dying hit Kamlet onerous. He wrote to his future spouse, Bette (prime left with Sam earlier than he enlisted), whom he known as “Krum,” that when a platoon mate “informed me the information I obtained sick.” 

recorded for posterity

I HAVE SPENT MANY HOURS poring by means of the tons of of letters that my father wrote throughout his yr and a half within the military. Most had been to my mom earlier than they had been married. 

Lots of his interactions with Allen that he wrote about had been routine: requests for a go into city; working onerous to get by means of inspection; in a single day hikes. And but, by November 1944, it appeared that one thing of a brotherhood had been shaped. On November 12, as their unit made preparations for delivery off to Europe, Dad wrote that he, Sergeant Allen, and the assistant squad chief had vowed “to not shave till we get our first German. I hardly anticipate to develop a really lengthy beard,” he mused. 

Their bravado was quickly changed by uncertainty. In that dialog with my siblings and me, Dad informed us concerning the regiment’s arrival in Marseille, France: “Once we first landed, earlier than we went to the road, [Allen] went round with a bit pocket book [and got] our dwelling addresses, and you already know, who our subsequent of kin had been.” Dad went on to say, “And we had been actual dummies, [asking] ‘What are you doing that for, Canine?’” Allen answered, “Effectively, after this struggle is over, I’m going to come back and sponge off of all of you guys.” Dad paused for a second and added, “Effectively, that’s not what occurred.”

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The 409th had been in France solely weeks when the troopers had been engaged in a battle to liberate the city of Sélestat in Alsace on the foot of the Vosges Mountains. The city was strategically vital. Situated simply 11 miles from the German border, it sat on the junction of a number of main roads, together with the Strasbourg-to-Colmar freeway. The Germans had closely fortified the city, putting machine gun nests to type an outer defensive ring. Roadblocks had been mined and had been protected by snipers in close by buildings. 

Early on the morning of December 2, 1944, members of B Firm had taken cowl in a home in Sélestat once they got here beneath heavy shelling from German tanks firing straight into the home, adopted by concussion grenades. The Individuals inside had been trapped, their situation unknown.

The official quotation issued in recognition of Sergeant Allen’s Silver Star explains what occurred subsequent: “With out additional orders, [Allen] organized a squad for an advance on this enemy held place. He efficiently situated the home and discovering three wounded troopers, calmly ready them for evacuation. Sergeant Allen then returned to his platoon and arranged an assault on the enemy place. With utter disregard for his life he led his platoon ahead, understanding that no communications had been out there to contact help within the rear. When pinned down by sturdy enemy fireplace, he positioned his males in comparative security. Then exhibiting nice devotion to responsibility, he fearlessly uncovered himself to enemy fireplace so that the supply of the hearth may very well be ascertained. Sergeant Allen was final seen gallantly finishing up this valiant job.” The quotation concludes, “All through this motion his conduct was in accordance with the best traditions of navy service.” Sélestat was liberated two days later. 

In japanese France, troopers of the 103rd Infantry—the “Cactus Division”—drove the Germans again in late 1944. Motion in Alsace led to the liberation of the city of Sélestat (prime and beneath), the place Allen misplaced his life. (College of Southern Mississippi/103rd Infantry Division Affiliation)
(College of Southern Mississippi/103rd Infantry Division Affiliation)

It’s attainable my father would have been in that firefight, had been it not for the truth that two days earlier he had suffered an ankle harm and was in a rear discipline hospital being handled. It was there he discovered what had occurred. In letters dwelling to my grandparents and to my mom, my father wrote of his anguish. “I discovered a man from my outfit right here and he informed me some very dangerous information. In someday, we misplaced 4 of our greatest males. The corporate commander, platoon chief, government officer and my platoon sergeant. The sarge was actually a swell man…. It actually damage me to listen to he was killed. He was the most effective soldier I ever knew and as high quality a person as I ever wish to know. There wasn’t a person in your entire firm that wouldn’t go to hell for ‘Canine.’ I’ll miss him terribly and I’ll at all times bear in mind him as a real buddy and an actual soldier.” 

Dad’s sorrow then turned to anger. “After listening to one thing like that after which studying concerning the ridiculous issues folks again dwelling are doing, it simply makes a man really feel nauseated. Bear in mind after I wrote you and mentioned folks again dwelling had been too optimistic? Effectively they nonetheless are. If they may solely see the issues I’ve seen within the few minutes I’ve been right here, they’d notice that this struggle isn’t a picnic and the G.I.’s listed here are going by means of a hell they are going to by no means be capable of neglect. However what’s using speaking—America will nonetheless carry on dancing, losing and having an enormous time and G.I.’s will nonetheless carry on going by means of hell. Gee honey, after I get began on one thing like that, I neglect myself. I’m sorry however the sergeant’s dying actually hit me fairly onerous.” 

My father’s feelings had been obvious as soon as extra when, on December 20, 1944, he wrote once more to my mom from the hospital. “That they had a retreat parade right now to current the purple coronary heart to a few of the blokes. I feel it will likely be a very long time earlier than I really feel the best way I did right now. Retreat is meant to be a tribute to fallen comrades. Effectively, at this retreat I actually had somebody to pay tribute to and that was my platoon sergeant. When the bugler performed The Star Spangled Banner I felt a chill run by means of me. Imagine me a person will get to understand our flag and nation after he’s away from it.” 

Not lengthy after, my father returned to his platoon, which was quickly engaged within the Battle of the Bulge. He wrote extra letters dwelling, with mentions about guarding German POWs, serving to a fellow soldier who had been partially paralyzed by enemy fireplace, and later being wounded himself. The bullet in his left shoulder in the end led to his personal return dwelling, and his discharge. He was awarded a Purple Coronary heart with an oak leaf cluster, a Fight and Knowledgeable Infantry Badge, and a European-African-Center Jap Marketing campaign Medal with three bronze marketing campaign stars.

Years later, we took Dad to see the Nationwide World Conflict II Memorial in Washington, D.C. He was overwhelmed with emotion. He stood by himself for the longest time, misplaced in his ideas. In one thing of a symbolic reunion, each he and Sergeant Allen have been honored by having their names entered into the memorial registry. 

One in all Kamlet’s heartfelt letters dwelling (proven beneath) after Allen’s dying famous that “G.I.’s listed here are going by means of a hell they are going to by no means be capable of neglect.” Sam and Bette married after the struggle and had 4 kids, together with the writer.

A MAN TO REMEMBER

RECENTLY I TOOK A TRIP to Franklin to satisfy Sergeant Allen’s niece, Corinne Aiken. She was a two-year-old toddler when Allen enlisted within the military, and solely seven when he was killed. She has no recollection of him. Corinne’s sister Carolyn, who is eighteen months older, informed me in a cellphone interview of her imprecise recollections of the funeral service on the household dwelling on Important Avenue in Franklin, and of going to the cemetery for the burial. Each girls bear in mind the gun salute, the enjoying of faucets, and the flag that was taken from Allen’s casket, folded by the honour guard, and given to his mom, Minnie. 

Corinne took me to go to his gravesite. For me it was an vital milestone in my journey to be taught extra about him. His grave is marked by a easy gravestone. As I anticipated, it’s engraved with the title he most well-liked, “L G Allen.” It doesn’t point out his Silver Star. 

L. G. Allen’s physique returned dwelling to Franklin, Tennessee, in 1948 and was buried with full navy honors. 

Corinne recalled that her grandmother, Allen’s mom Minnie, was overcome with grief after his dying, in addition to by the unintentional drowning dying of Allen’s sister in Franklin simply six months after he was killed. 

Each Corinne and Carolyn bear in mind their grandmother, whom they known as Mama, singing songs she had written concerning the deaths of her two kids. The tune about L. G. is gloomy and delightful, expressing the love of a damaged coronary heart. 

Come let’s go down by the ocean and sit within the moonlight

I’ve obtained a tragic story to inform you and it have to be informed proper.

I’ve obtained to go and serve my nation, it’s Uncle Sam’s demand.

I wish to make a superb soldier and do the most effective that I can.

We used to take a seat by the ocean and watch the tide come and go

By no means dreamed our hearts can be damaged,

our morale so unhappy and low.

Will you promise me my darling earlier than I bid you adieu, 

That you’ll at all times be devoted and discover no one new.  

Simply as Mama continued to mourn the lack of her son, so, too, did my father for his buddy. In one among his final letters despatched to my mom earlier than he returned to the States, Dad wrote once more concerning the man he admired. “I obtained a letter from you yesterday and also you talked about how pessimistic one among my letters had made you’re feeling. That’s not what I meant to do however I suppose my coronary heart was full and I wanted to pour a few of it out someway. Nonetheless, it’s not typically that one meets a person as high quality as Sergeant Allen was. Frankly, I’d like to call one among our youngsters for him.”

I’m that child. Lee Gordon Kamlet.

Amongst my most treasured possessions are the flag that draped my father’s casket and a framed copy of Sergeant Allen’s Silver Star quotation. They’re priceless items from two males who performed central roles in my life: one whom I really like and admire, and one whom I love and whose namesake I’m privileged to be. Every has taught me the which means of power, braveness, humility, and honor. 

All photographs courtesy of Lee G. Kamlet, besides the place famous.

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