The Uncle Buddy I Hardly Knew
Discovering A Family Treasure
by Rick Lingberg
"The first thing I'm going to do when I get to heaven is to look up those German boys I killed during the war and tell them how sorry I am." That's one of the last things my Uncle Buddy said before he passed away in 1990.
In other words, he received the nation's second, third, and fourth highest decorations for bravery by the time he was 32 years of age. By most measures that's pretty big deal. Yet, I'm ashamed to admit I barely knew anything about this or asked him any questions. But, what if I could now?
What, if anything, prepared you for the experiences of war?
Uncle Buddy was a life-long bachelor, a rural mail carrier, and to me he always seemed to be a bit grumpy. Maybe it was the 50 years difference in our ages, but it might have been something else.
As a youngster, I mowed his yard for a little spending money. On a hot summer day I enjoyed the post-mowing time at Uncle Buddy's. This usually meant quenching my thirst with an ice-cold bottle of Royal Crown Cola (the "big 16 ouncers"). It was a little 'heaven on earth' experience when I sat in my Aunt Susie (Buddy's sister)'s rocker, awash in the cool comfort of his window air conditioner while watching Baseball's Game of the Week (only one per week back then) on his 24-inch RCA Victor color TV. For me, this was truly life at its best.
A picture of Uncle Buddy in his Army uniform hung nearby. For all the times I sat there I never once asked him anything about it. Maybe I was too young, too dumb, or just a little afraid to ask. Now I wish I had.
After you landed at Normandy how long did you expect you would be there?
Uncle Buddy, along with the 30th Infantry Division, began hitting the beaches of Normandy on D-Day Plus 4. They were there to replace some of the units that had been lost during the initial attack of the D-Day invasion.
The 30th Infantry Division would become known as “Roosevelt’s SS Troops,” so named by the German High Command because of the consistent vigor and terrific pressure they brought to bear on Hitler’s elite 1st SS Division, thereby allowing Gen. George Patton’s armored forces of the U.S. Third Army to go forward and race across France, consequently shortening the war by many months.
Did you ever feel the German's had the upper hand?
From his Bronze Star Citation; 9 October 1944, Germany: While Lieutenant Scheuring's company was establishing a road block they were attacked by a numerically superior enemy force of twenty half-tracks, armored vehicles and a strong infantry force. Realizing that the company could not hold their positions, Lieutenant Scheuring volunteered to organize and lead a delaying force until the company could withdraw to better positions. Although subjected to heavy small arms, mortar, and twenty millimeter gun fire, Lieutenant Scheuring and his delaying force fought bitterly until the company had reached positions to the rear. Then by giving ground slowly, Lieutenant Scheuring directed the withdrawal of the holding force until the company was reached.
L. S. Hobbs
Major General – U.S. Army
Can you describe a day in the life of a WWII G.I.?
James M. Lewis
Bridgadier General – U.S. Army
What was it like when you came home from the war? Did you have nightmares? Did you talk with family or friends about your experiences?
You seem a little grumpy-why?
We know from numerous research studies that the more prolonged, extensive, and horrifying a soldier’s exposure to war trauma is, the more likely he will become emotionally worn down and exhausted. This happens to even the strongest and healthiest of individuals, and often it is precisely these exemplary soldiers who are the most psychologically disturbed by war because they are able to endure so much of it with such courage. Most war heroes don’t feel brave or heroic at the time but simply carry on and do their duties with a heavy but strong heart so that others will be safer—despite often feeling overwhelmed and horrified inside.
Can you describe the person you were before the war and then the one you were when you came home?
For some reason, I had the impression that Uncle Buddy was a bit more cultured than the rest of us. He may have considered himself a bit of a bon vinvant (a person with refined taste, especially one who enjoys superb food and drink). Perhaps it was because he had been overseas during the War and “seen the world,” unlike the rest of us. Perhaps, because of things he had seen and the experiences he had, he was unlike the rest of us.
War is a life-threatening experience that involves witnessing and engaging in terrifying and gruesome acts of violence. It also is, for most military personnel, a patriotic duty to protect and defend one’s country, loved ones, values and way of life. This we must never forget.
It’s a story about when one of our own was called to serve, and Uncle Buddy did so most gallantly and bravely. We can be proud of that and now know that, if asked, our family can and will do it again. Uncle Buddy’s story and all other “Uncle Buddy’s” stories serve to remind us all that these lasting legacies are not just a reflection of our past but instruments to strengthen our futures—if we only ask.
Did you ever find those German boys?
Author's note: All the questions 'we would have liked to have asked of Uncle Buddy' were submitted by Scheuring family members for the purposes of this article.
Special thanks to Clare Fairfield and Richard "Skip" Girard (Uncle Buddy's great-nephews) for providing photos, research information and valuable insight.