With this coming Sunday being July 4, it started me thinking about my father, William Brian Oglesby, Sr. He was born in 1920 and died in 1972. My mom called him either Billy or Honey and they genuinely loved each other. We never knew anything other than a stable family life.
We boys, there are four of us, all knew him as daddy. Just a normal guy who worked on cars for a living, loved to have a good time and loved our mother. But there were some other chapters of his life before we were born that he rarely talked about. In many ways I now think of him as a true war hero. He didn’t win a lot of medals and made no daring battlefield stands, but his ordeal in WWII must have been pretty harrowing. He was severely wounded in battle and captured in France by the Germans in late 1944. He lost a few fingers and had pretty severe scarring on other parts of his body. He also spent some time in POW camps, but was eventually repatriated because he was no longer capable of combat.
He rarely, almost never, talked about his military time. When he did, it was usually of fond memories of friends. One rare time he did mention his time in captivity, he made note of the fact that he was held in Stalag 13, and that only because that was the prison camp where Hogan’s Heroes, a popular television series during my youth, were interred.
My family doesn’t seem to know much about our history and we don’t have a lot of tangible artifacts to connect with the past, but I am fortunate enough to possess the telegrams my grandmother received during the days of my father’s war experience. When I read them I can only imagine a mother’s anguish of hearing the news that her only son is missing in action. I’m sure she was desperate to know more, but as you can see from the telegram below, there was no more. Just, that her son is missing in action.
Then, almost a month later she learns that he is a prisoner of war. Again, no more details. I’m sure she prayed for him daily. Since my family never talked about these telegrams or these experiences, I can only guess that they had no more information than what can be found on these three sheets of paper.
A few months later she learns that he is coming home. What joy that must have been. But, joy tempered with sorrow. He’s coming home because he is injured so badly that he can no longer be of use to the war effort. What happened to him? How bad is he? I’m sure these thoughts raced through her mind. The third telegram gave no details, just that he would be in the hospital and that she would not be allowed to even greet him as he arrived. In typical military indifference they even referred to him as her husband. On a side note, my father’s father had died at least 15 years prior to that and she had remarried.
I’ve also included here the Allied Personnel Repatriation Tag that was attached to his stretcher when they brought him off the ship in New York. It contains almost all the information I know about my father’s six years of military service. These are treasures for me. A few brittle scraps of 65 year old paper that give me a connection to my dad, a true war hero.
I don’t know the story of how my mom and dad got together, they are both gone now and I can’t ask. But I do know they weren’t married during WWII, but my mom should also be mentioned for her service in the Women’s Army Corps.