Second World War: Father Suffered From Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Daughter recalls her father's triumphant return from the second World War, shell-shocked.

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 I was a child of 5 when my dad was drafted. He would be in the last or one of the last cavalry units to be trained at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. They would later be called infantry. 

There were two girls in my family, and before Daddy shipped out from Fort Ord, California, my brother was born. We lived in south central Kansas, not very far from both sets of grandparents.

My memories tend to be of the good and fun things; candy, starting to school, running errands and helping out with our new baby. Each home had a flag in their window with a star for each person in the service. Our flag only had one star, my grandmother's had two stars. My dad would be in the China, Burma and India Campaign. His brother was in the Pacific Theater. All those strange sounding names - Guam, Luzon, Midway, the Philippines, and of course, Hawaii.

I remember the hated ration stamps. I remember how we got word of the War by our battery-operated radio, if the battery was "up." The newspapers would usually be a day old when we got them, since we lived out in a country area.

I remember the V-mail and the censored, cutout letters that we got and how they looked so funny to us. There was always a page for us, and Mother would often cry when she read it to us. Mickey Rooney was in the same outfit as Daddy. I'm not sure how Mama got by, but she did, and there were always pennies for penny candy. There's no telling what she went without to buy our candy. And Danville was such a small town that it was as if we had dozens of grandparents.

A telegram came that daddy had been wounded in action. He was in a military hospital somewhere overseas, and would be shipped Stateside soon. It never said how badly he was wounded. I don't remember how long it was before we heard more, I only know that it seemed an eternity. I think he was in the hospital in California before we knew that his physical injuries were not bad. He had been shell shocked. It is called post-traumatic stress disorder now. It should be called "hell." He had been hauling supplies on the Burma Road and there was a major battle. He was one of two men who survived the battle, and since the other man was wounded seriously, he dragged him for three days 'til they were safe. The only physical injury my dad had was some scraps of shrapnel in his hand. There wasn't much help for this problem then.

Daddy was given a Purple Heart and was supposed to get another award, but he only wanted to forget all he could about that War. The hell he would often remember can never be imagined, unless you have seen one suffering as he did. He would re-live that battle, as we watched helplessly.

He used to be an avid sportsman and fisherman. Rabbit and squirrel hunting were his favorites. He would try to hunt, but he only used his guns for protection after a few tries. He had seen so many large snakes in the jungle that he was deathly afraid of the most harmless ones after he came home. He would leave fireworks displays, retreating to a distance where he wouldn't be able to hear. It would bring back the memories.

It certainly changed his life forever, and ours. He would carry those demons until the day he died in 1974.

His brother survived the battles of the Pacific Theater and returned home to be killed in a car wreck three years later.

One of his sisters married a man who had been severely wounded in France. It truly was a world war. I pray that it will never happen again.

My husband is a year older than me, but he can't remember that war at all. I told him that he would if his father had been in it like mine was. It wasn't over for our family when the peace treaty was signed, not even when my dad was buried. The memories are always there, burned in my heart forever.

Louise Parks
Bellflower, Missouri

 Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.