Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

VE Day + 70 yrs.

Yesterday was the 70th Anniversary of VE Day -- "Victory in Europe" Day -- the day Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies, ending WWII in Europe.

It's also the seventieth anniversary of the one time during the Second World War when my father, Ira Reiff, came very close to death or serious injury.  My father passed away a year ago this past December, on December 22, 2013.  The commemorations of this year's 70th Anniversary reminded me of this story, which -- though it has nothing to do with the Second Afghan War or miniature wargaming -- I think is worth telling here.

The above photo shows how some American servicemen stationed in the Pacific celebrated the announcement of "Victory in Europe", but my dad's experience was a bit different...

In the Spring of 1945 my father and his Army Signal Corps unit were on Iwo Jima.  On the night of May 8th (I believe it was already May 9th in the Pacific) my dad and one of his fellow signalmen were assigned to monitor a radio antenna truck parked on high ground.  He always described it as "on top of the mountain."  Since the only other high ground on the island is some low hills, I've always assumed it was parked on Mt. Suribachi, but I don't know for sure.

That night, word reached the fleet in the harbor that the Nazis had surrendered.  My dad and his comrade heard about it as well over the radio they were manning in the truck up on the mountain.  The news made them happy, for a minute or two, before the big guns on the warships at anchor started firing in celebration, and the rounds starting falling on and around their truck.  I suppose that on the maps and charts no major or even minor unit was noted as occupying the particular high ground where that radio truck was parked.  It was just one truck with a rotating crew of 2 enlisted men, so perhaps not worthy of having its presence noted up the chain-of-command, not to mention laterally to the Navy.  That, or somebody on the ship or ships was just too full of enthusiasm to care.  Either way the shells starting falling like proverbial rain, which was a first for my father.  He had experienced Japanese air attacks in India and on other islands in the Pacific, but those had always inflicted more laughs than casualties, at least on their American and Allied targets.  In fact the real casualties those attacks usually resulted in were the unfortunate Japanese pilots, who earned the nickname, "Washing-Machine-Charlie," in honor of the similarity between the sound their by-that-time rickety engines made and the sound of early electric washing-machines.

But the celebratory barrage on VE Day was very different.

Luckily for my dad (and for me!) he and his comrade managed to get the hell out of there without being touched by anything except flying dirt -- plus a great story to tell if they managed to survive the rest of the war.  Later my dad's unit, like many many others, was assigned to participate in the invasion of Japan but -- luckily again for him and me both -- that never happened.  If it had, no doubt my dad would have more near-death experiences, if his luck had held and he'd managed to survive.  As it turned out though, his one and only near-death experience of World War Two came courtesy of the US Navy.

My dad told me that story a few times over the years and would occasionally curse the Navy but he'd also say they made up for it with excellent food they fed him on the troop-ships and the great job the Seabees did whenever his Army Signals unit needed help on a construction project.

A popular cliche says when the people we love die they're not really gone because they live on in our memories of them.  Over the past year I've decided that, like many cliches, this one holds more than a kernel of truth.

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Hopefully I'll be back with an update on my 2'x4' Talab Khairabad swamp terrain-board before too much longer.  Right now I'm using almost every free moment to try and get it done!!!


  1. That's a good story, thanks for sharing

  2. Ethan, Great story. So glad your dad survived the war so you could share that with everyone!



  3. Thanks for taking the time to post your comment, Phyllion, and thanks for doing the same, Jeff, I really do appreciate it.

    Hope to have a post on my ongoing progress on the Afghan swamp terrain-board in the near future...