A name, a number and letters…

Naar aanleiding van de naam en het legernummer op de “Dogtag” die Jacob Kingma droeg in Munshausen,schreef hij het volgende verslag:

Jacob Kingma

Tijdens het mooie weekend wat we hebben gehad in Munshausen had ik de eer om Ronald E. Johnson te mogen vertegenwoordigen. Toen we in november onze dog tags kregen, bleek hierop ook het registratienummer van Ronald op te staan.  20306939.

Aan de hand van de naam en het nummer kwam ik op de site

https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=20306939&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=1914466

erachter dat Ronald afkomstig was uit Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Aan de hand van deze gegevens ben ik verder gaan zoeken en kwam ik uit bij een necrologie van Ronald.

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/butlereagle/obituary.aspx?n=ronald-e-johnson&pid=123027112

Hier werden de namen van kinderen in genoemd en met deze namen ben ik gaan zoeken op Facebook en kwam ik uit bij 3 mensen van wie ik sterk het vermoeden had dat ze familie moesten zijn. Deze mensen heb ik via Facebook Messenger het volgende bericht gestuurd:

My name is Jacob Kingma and I live in a town in the north of the Netherlands called Leeuwarden. On the 22nd and 23rd of November this year Iwent to a town in Luxembourg called Munshausen. I was a participant in a reenactment event in honor of the men of the 110th infantry regiment of the 28th infantry division who were stationed there during November 1944. During this event we got to wear dog tags of men who served with this unit. My name on the tag was Ronald E. Johnson with army number 20306939. During a search on the internet I found a obituary of Ronald E. Johnson who was born in Latrobe, Pa. Also in this obituary his children where mentioned. With the names of these children I’ve started a search on Facebook and so I found you. I want to let you know that it was a great honor for me to represent Ronald E Johnson. Thanks to his service I can now live as a free person and raise my kids in freedom. If you want I can send you some more info of the event in which I participated. My email address is jkingma80@gmail.com. With kind regards Jacob Kingma.

Na enige tijd kreeg ik het volgende antwoord van een van de eerder genoemde personen terug:

It was a joy and privilege to receive your message. I am just now responding because we have been visiting family over Thanksgiving. This was one more thing to be thankful for. I didn’t know if you had sent a message to my siblings so I forwarded this to them. I left out your contact info. If it is OK with you, I will pass it on to them. My niece has visited Belgium twice with school trips, and this past year visited the area my father fought in. I would like to receive additional info about this event. I really appreciate how many Europeans honor those who fought in WWII.

Dit bleek een van de dochters van Ronald te zijn, mevrouw Cynthia Boden. Uiteraard heb ik terug gereageerd:

What a joy to receive a message back!! I did send this same message you’ve got to Cecilia Colwell, Linda Blair Johnson and Celestine Johnson Weaver. And it surely is okay to give my contact info to your relatives. Maybe I can get an email address so I can send you the brochure which was delivered to the people of Luxembourg as an announcement for the event and some pictures of the weekend itself. Like I said before, it was a great honor to represent your father, and I and my family will always honor and remember the brave men who fought for our freedom.

Ook hier kreeg ik weer antwoord op.

My e-mail address is *****. I will try to find some pictures of my dad to send to you. My older sister has all his military pictures. The past few years I have wished that I had listened to his war stories more attentively in my youth. Thank you and all the others who still honor those who fought to protect freedom.

Naar aanleiding van dit bericht heb ik haar een mail gestuurd:

Hello Mrs. Boden,

As promised in our conversation on Facebook messenger, I hereby send you some photos and a brochure of our reenactment event in Munshausen, which we did to honor the men of the 110th infantry regiment of the 28th infantry division. The brochure is in the Dutch language so I also send a translation. I also enclosed a picture of me and my family. On this picture you will see my wife Liesbeth and my two children Femke (girl,13) and Jan (boy,11). 

I would really like it if you would send my some pictures of your father. Maybe it is also possible for you to provide me with more information about what you know about your fathers service in ww2,and maybe if you have questions, I can help you to maybe get answers. 

In the years 2019/ 2020 we will celebrate the 75th  anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. during this celebrations we, the Dutch people, will remember all the men who fought in ww2 for the liberation of our country. Especially in the Netherlands we are very thankful of our freedom which your father also made possible. You may be very proud of him for his service in the army!

https://bloodybucket.eu/ on this website you can find more pictures and information about the reenactment event. It is called bloody bucket after the insignia of the 28th infantry division which was a red keystone. The German soldiers nicknamed the 28th infantry division bloody bucket because of the fierce fighting of the division in the Hürtgen Forrest.

I wish you and your  family all the best and hope to hear real soon from you.

Kind regards,


Jacob Kingma.

Als bijlages bij deze mail heb ik de folder van het Thanksgiving evenement geplaats met de Engelse vertaling en een aantal foto’s die zijn gemaakt tijdens het evenement. Hier kreeg ik de volgende mail op terug:

Hi, Jacob,

I’m Cynthia Boden’s daughter (Ronald Johnson’s granddaughter). Thank you so much for reaching out to our family! Grandpa rarely spoke of his service, which makes your representation of him so much more special.

I hope your family has a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Sincerely,

Lydia Boden

Helaas was deze mail in mijn spam map terecht gekomen, waardoor ik er bijna een maand later pas achter kwam dat ik een reactie had ik heb toen het volgende terug gemaild:

Hello Lydia,

First of all I want to apologize for the late response. Because your email was transferred to the spam section of my email box I did not notice it. 

As second I also wish you and your family a blessed 2020.

I wish I could tell you more of the personal life of your grandfather during World War II but all I know is that he was a corporal of C Company, 110 infantry regiment,  28th infantry division. The 28th, also known as the keystone division or the bloody bucket, entered the European theatre of war on the 22nd of July 1944 where they landed in Normandy and were put in action almost immediately in the vicinity of Saint Lô. After a month on the 29th of August 1944 the division was given the honor of marching down the Champs-Elysées in the hastily liberation of Paris.

After that they headed for the German defensive Westwall. During the following battle of Hürtgen Forrest the division lost a lot of men. To recover from this battle the division was send to a relative quiet piece of the front in Luxembourg. The 110th was assigned a line between Heinerscheid and  Weiler-les-Putscheid. The men of C Company were stationed at a small town called Munshausen. During their stay on this line they took the full blow of the German attack which started the battle of the Bulge on the 16th of December 1944.

Thanks to the fierce fighting of the man from  the 110th infantry division the Germans could not reach their objectives which eventually resulted in the failure of the German Ardennes Offensive. During this fighting your grandfather was taken a prisoner of war and was taken to Stalag 4b at the German city of Muhlberg. At the end of the war he was liberated.

After the war the actions of the 110th infantry division were forgotten because the administration of the regiment was destroyed during the battle at the start of the battle of the Bulge and many casualties.

Most of the survivors did not tell much about what happened because of the horrific things they have been through.

below you will find 3 internet links to sites were I found some information about your grandfather. Like I told in my previous email, I participated  in a reenactment event in Munshausen were I had the honor to represent your grandfather. during this event we wore dog tags with the name of one of the men from the C Company. On mine was the name and the  army serial number of your grandfather (20306939). It was a great honor for me to give one of the heroes of WW II

the honors and respect they deserve. I am proud of telling the little I know about your grandfather to the rest of the people who were with me during this event, and to my children, so they will not forget about the brave men who fought for our freedom.

http://www.indianamilitary.org/German%20PW%20Camps/Prisoner%20of%20War/PW%20Camps/Stalag%20IV-B%20Mulberg/ROSTER/89.htm

https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=466&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=20306939&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=79950

https://aad.archives.gov/aad/record-detail.jsp?dt=893&mtch=1&cat=all&tf=F&q=20306939&bc=&rpp=10&pg=1&rid=1914466

I really hope to hear from you again and maybe you can tell me more about who your grandfather was as a person after the war. 

I wish you and your family all the best,

Sincerely,

Jacob Kingma.

Mijn geduld werd op de proef gesteld, en ik begon te twijfelen of ik er wel goed aan had gedaan om in mijn reactie naar Lydia meteen al met toch wel enigszins heftige informatie te komen. Maar uiteindelijk kreeg ik in mei een antwoord terug;

Hi, Jacob,

I apologize for being so long to respond, but I am so grateful for your response. I hope you and your family are managing well through this crazy period.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how to answer your question. I think I can be honest about the man he was and still honor his memory. It wasn’t until the last few years of his life that he talked much about the war; most of the stories he told were about getting into fights with the other men in his unit. He certainly never spoke of his time in prison except to say that a better soldier would never have surrendered. As a kid, I couldn’t understand why he might say those things, and it even was a little painful thinking that maybe all of his children and grandchildren might not be worth it. But he was raised in a different generation with a different understanding of masculinity. And I think that in many cases they had a better idea of bravery and courage and right.

As I can remember, when he returned from the war, Grandpa was very ill; doctors only gave him a few years to live. He decided to travel the country. At some point, he discovered chiropractic medicine, and the treatments helped relieve his medical problems. He decided to take medical and chiropractic studies and became a Doctor of Chiropractic. He met my grandmother, Kathy, at school. They eventually moved to Butler, Pennsylvania, where he set up his practice.

When I was about two years old, Grandpa was diagnosed with throat cancer. He hadn’t smoked for twenty or more years and was devastated by the news. Surgical removal of the larynx was required, and he needed a little vibration machine in order to speak after that. I remember visiting the hospital while he was recovering, but I don’t remember him before that. The robotic sound of his voice frightened me for several years and unfortunately made it difficult for me to establish a good relationship with him.

He struggled his entire life with what we now know as PTSD from the war, probably especially from his time as a prisoner. I wish I understand that as a child, but that can’t be changed now. I’m proud to have such an honorable man from that great generation as my grandfather. Last year, I finally decided to pursue a college degree in psychology. I would consider it an honor to his memory to maybe one day work with an organization to help soldiers suffering from PTSD.

Again, thank you for your time devoted to keeping alive the memory of some of the bravest and best that the world has ever seen.

Be well, and all the best!

Sincerely,

Lydia Boden.

Ik was natuurlijk heel erg blij met deze mail en wilde dit heel graag met jullie allemaal delen, maar ik vond dat ik dat eerst moest overleggen met Lydia omdat het toch ook wel persoonlijke informatie  was. Ik heb haar dus terug geantwoord met de vraag of zij het oké vond dat het op de website kwam en of ze misschien ook een foto van haar opa had:

Hello Lydia,

Thank you very much for your email. Despite the crazy times we live in, me and my family are fine. It requires a lot of adjustments, but we manage and are still healthy.

I was very glad that you would tell me more about the life of your grandfather. It gives me, and the other people who participated in the Munshausen event, a better picture of one of the men we commemorated. It also made me more determined to keep the memory alive, of the brave men who fought for our freedom during ww2. 

It made me sad to read that your grandfather was struggling from PTSD the rest of his life, and that his past and his health issues were  in the way of having a good relationship with your grandfather. I can’t imagine the pain and suffering during this horrific times in his live. But it also made me happy to read that he found love in his life and started a family. It made me even happier to read that you decided to pursue a college degree in psychology to maybe work with veterans suffering from PTSD in his memory. I think that it’s a very nice way to honor your grandfather.

If it is okay with you I would like to publish our conversation on the website of the bloody bucket reenactment group so the other members of the group can also read the story of your grandfather. And maybe it is possible to send a photograph of your grandfather to place with his story so that we as a group have a complete picture of one of the brave men of the greatest generation.

I wish you and your family all the best, stay safe and good luck with your studies!

Sincerely,

Jacob Kingma.

Nog geen kwartier later kreeg ik al een mail terug:

I think that would be lovely! I’m living away from home, so I will have to see if I can get a picture from someone else. My sister is traveling home in a few days and may be able to find something.

I should also add that I do have good memories of my grandfather. After he retired, he and my grandmother moved out of town. They had a decent piece of property with a little pond at the bottom of the hill. Next to the pond was a large picnic shelter where we spent every summer holiday. He would hook the little trailer up to his garden tractor and haul the coolers down, then he would come back to the house and take us grandkids down. Sometimes, he drove the long way around, which really wasn’t very long but we kids enjoyed it.

Occasionally, my sister and I would spend the day at their house without our parents (as a family, we made a point to visit every Sunday afternoon). He enjoyed kitchen gadgets and would make fresh bread in his bread machine. I still remember the smells of the whole-wheat bread and split pea soup. He liked to make silly jokes at the dinner table with us.

But maybe the most positive impact he had on me was through music. He loved his classical and Big Band music. He would record shows from television with the Rat Pack, especially Dean Martin. There was usually a classical music cassette tape playing when we spent the day there. He had a full set of video tapes of Victor Borge’s performances. We would watch the Lawrence Welk show if we were there in the evening. He and Grandma also introduced us to old cartoons; I was always disappointed if they put on the current cartoons instead of the black-and-whites. But he loved his music. I think my mom still has some of his old classical 45s.

Please feel free to share as much or as little information as I’ve shared with you. I will try to get a picture to you.

I am pleased to hear that you and your family are doing well, and I wish you all the best!

Sincerely,

Lydia Boden

Ik heb toen nog een kort bericht terug gestuurd dat ik verhaal zal doorsturen naar de beheerder van de website:

Wow.. that’s a quick response!  To read about those sweet memories made me happy.  I can imagine the good times you had with your grandparents and I can almost smell the fresh baked bread. Your grandfather had a good taste of music. 

I will send his story over to the webmaster of our website, and hopefully we can add a photo of your grandfather soon.

Once again I wish you all the best,

Sincerely,
Jacob Kingma.

Het bleek dat ze met haar studie bezig was en ze was blij dat ze op deze manier kon meehelpen aan het levend houden van de herinnering aan haar opa:

You keep catching me just as I’m taking breaks from working on my school essay. I am glad and honored to help keep alive the memory of one of our best.

Thanks again,

Lydia Boden.

Nu is het nog even wachten op een foto van Ronald E Johnson, maar ik vond dat ik niet meer kon wachten met het delen van zijn verhaal. Ik wil iedereen nog eens bedanken voor het fantastische weekend wat we hebben gehad. Hopelijk zien we elkaar snel weer op de nog te komen reünie.

Groeten Jacob Kingma.

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