War Keeps No Promises

1 September 1939

The bombings started at 0440 hours in Wieluń, Poland. The German Luftwaffe mercilessly barraged the city leaving 75% of it destroyed and more than 1,200 Polish citizens lying dismembered among the rubble, all within the hour. However, the bombing did not subside for another eight hours.

Only five minutes later than the start of the bombings in Wieluń, a German pre-dreadnought battleship, the German Schleswig-Holstein, laid siege to a military transit depot in Westerplatte, Poland. Simultaneously, a German designation of three platoons marched into town and laid waste to the Westerplatte. World War II had begun (Chambers II 819).

6 October 1939

Our town, in Bedford, Virginia, grew worried. On 14 September 1939, our church sent a group made up of seven young men to be missionaries in Warsaw, Poland, and we had not heard from them since. Among these men was my brother, Dimitri Wolffe, who was an admirable Christian. Standing 6’3” with a luscious blonde, yet groomed, head full of curly hair, Dimitri was a walking exemplification of the “ideal man.” My brother was indisputably strong and determined. In fact, every single member of that seven-member team was — capable of anything they’d set their minds to.

Days passed and the mystery’s ferocity only grew, until one day, the news came.

14 October 1939

To whom it may concern,

     On 16 September, Warsaw, Poland received 30 men:

       Salt Lake City, Utah: Five.

       Seattle, Washington: Nine.

       John Day, Oregon: Nine.

       Bedford, Virginia: Seven.

We regret to inform you that the Germans invaded East Poland 17 September and besieged Warsaw, leaving the town and citizens in ruins or surrendered to the mercy of the German army. Hope is delusion. God save us.

– Republic of Poland

            After hearing that letter, there was not one man, woman, nor child that felt any kind of neutrality toward the Germans. The fathers of those volunteers were pushed to a point of action. At this time, it was illegal for American citizens to fight the Germans serving under another country’s military — the penalty being forfeiture of citizenship. However, to a father seeking his son’s vengeance, this was an easy price to pay. And so it went: each father began making preparations to leave on 6 November serving under the British Royal Air Force.

17 October 1939

My father was assigned to one of three squadrons – later to be referred to as “Eagle Squadrons” – designed to accommodate American pilots who wanted to fight but were unable to due to America’s Neutrality Acts. “The Avenging Seven,” as we called them, decided that action must be taken immediately. Though preparations initially had them leaving 6 November, they found themselves leaving even sooner on 18 October – arriving in Great Britain as early as 20 October.

            My pregnant mother and I only had but four days after receiving the letter to process the death of my brother and accustom ourselves to the absence of my father. However, no amount of crying urged my father to stay. In fact, it had an opposite effect in which the crying only further cemented in his mind the determination to leave.

18 October 1939

I saw him less in those four days than I had in my entire life. It seemed as if he had almost forgotten about us: had I not called out to my dad on the day of his departure, he would not have remembered to say his goodbyes to my mother and me. But he heard my call, kneeled down, sat me on one knee, and with his soft, cadenced voice said, “Brookes Miller Wolffe, you take care of your ma – now. I’ll be home before y’all know it. I took on the task of man of the house at ten, so I know’n you can at 13 and I know you’ll do a darn better job than I ever did. Don’t disappoint me.”

            With that, he stood up, kissed my mother, and disappeared into the crowd that chanted in unison, “They are sending the seven! Oh, thank heaven!” Not among this crowd, however, were the families of these fathers. For those closest to the town’s “heroes” would never recall this day with the same kind of patriotism and pride as the crowd had. 


25 October 1939

It sure didn’t take long to realize my father was a liar. She tried to hide it, but pillows only muffled the sounds of my mother’s sobbing. She spoke as if there was hope, but her paling skin and increasingly dark eyes told only of the horrors my father had probably already faced. But more than any of this, I knew the truth in my heart: the odds were insurmountable.

28 October 1939

At 4:15 P.M. our family, along with 6 others, received a letter from the official headquarters of the RAF stating that our “Seven Avengers” each took a position in two, four-person Bristol Beaufort bomber planes along with one other American volunteer from Oregon. The letter’s unlucky drafter made an effort to write in a way that would accentuate the honor in their cause. But the valor was short lived when we found out within the first 20 minutes fighting, a German anti-aircraft gun had shot out the right engine crashing one bomber into the other, instantly killing all aboard both planes.

Who am I fooling? I already knew it to be true: the day my father read the Polish letter of condolence was the day we really lost him.


29 October 1939

“Mother? Mo-mom . . . mom!”

30 October 1939

            I woke up still cradling her head in the same way from the night before. No one had come because I hadn’t called anyone. As I stood to my feet, my body ached and my head turned. “You take care of your ma – now . . . you’re the man of the house now . . . don’t disappoint me.” His words spun through my head so viciously, they beat everything to a pulp that drained through my eyes as tears. I had disappointed my father.

            For a split second, I thought it possible that all this was just a nightmare, but not even the darkest mind could conjure up such hell.

            For a moment, the doctor examined my mother. Expressionless, he raised to his feet and said she had suffered a stroke from the shocks of the news. He and two other townsmen hoisted the lifeless pregnant body onto a stretcher and placed a sheet over it.

Goodbye, mama,” I whispered.

4 November 1939

            It had been two months and three days since the start of the invasion of Poland. By 3 September, the British and French had both declared war on Germany and along with them, Australia and New Zealand. Yet America stood idly by, ambivalent on what should be done in order to put down the German insurrection – ambivalent, that is, until today. Along with all of the prior Neutrality Acts implemented in order “to preserve the neutrality and the peace of the United States and to secure the safety of its citizens and their interests,” the Neutrality Act of 1939 was added by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which ended the embargo on arms. This allowed America to, on a cash-and-carry basis, trade with belligerent nations such as Great Britain and France (“Neutrality Act of 1939”).

            My father had forfeited his citizenship and died an untimely and dishonorable death. All for this? A further cementation of the already weak position? I did not understand. How could we supply a war we refused to be a part of? In a matter of 12 days, I’d lost my brother, my father, my mother, and the beautiful little sister my mother was pregnant with. But at the age of only 13 – what was I supposed to do?

2 December 1939

Life was different now — having no family in Bedford, Virginia, there was no point in staying there any longer. I started my new life in rural Tennessee with my Aunt Betty and Uncle Jack. They were younger than my parents and had plans to have children but never followed through with it. Jack worked in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, at what was later to be divulged as a nuclear production complex. It was one of the four facilities made during the time of the Manhattan Project and Uncle Jack was one of the “small privileged cadre of inner scientists and officials [who] knew about the atomic bomb’s development” (“The Manhattan Project”). My aunt on the other hand lost her job mid-way through the Depression and hadn’t worked since.

They were religious people, having worship in the morning and evening, as well making sure to pray before each meal. In fact, if I was quiet enough, I could hear my aunt whisper prayers to herself such as, “Lord give me peace,” or “Lord stay my hands before I eviscerate this husband you gave me.” Regardless of the many kinds of prayers she prayed, at the end of the day, my aunt and uncle loved each other, and their God, very much.

However, the numbness and shock of losing my immediate family all within the span of two weeks began to wear off. More and more I found myself feeling such a crippling pain as to soften even the heart of Hitler, or Lucifer himself; but at this point, they were one and the same in my head. The anger festered. I failed my family. I would not fail my country.

18 December 1944

Five years had passed. Now 18, I reflected back over the events that had transpired. Soon after moving in with Jack and Betty, I began to train in secret. My hatred for the Third Reich, along with my desire for vengeance, grew day by day as I learned more in reference to what this war was about and how many lives this war would claim. My eyes were opened to that reality on 7 December 1941 as thousands of mutilated corpses were afloat in a luscious sea of red, while remorselessly the Japanese continued to lay desolation to an already broken-spirited town. My private training became public, and soon my only goal was to be made into an unstoppable mechanism trained to pierce and absolutely devastate the soul of the Nazi party. Now the day had finally come and the work was to finally pay off. Myself and two other men, Rolfe Anderson and Thomas Rollins – men I had schooled and trained together with in New York – were to be shipped out as replacements on 20 December to aid the 101st Airborne at Bastogne in Belgium. We were now under the jurisdiction of the United States military.

24 December 1944

We arrived at Bastogne at 2015 hours. As the city was being shelled, we ran over to a dirtied Commanding Officer bleeding from the arm, with a cigarette in his mouth. The man nonchalantly rocked in his chair as his glazed over eyes told stories of a past dream for valor that had been battered by the holes of a thousand bullets. I had never experienced true misery until that moment as his gaze fell on me, and muffled through the smoke of his cigarette he said, “Foolish boys. Dead corpses. Bastogne doesn’t make a man, it makes foolish boys and dead corpses.”

And while walking away, as if the man in the chair had known, a mortar took out a medical transport vehicle, shooting off a piece of shrapnel that sliced not only through the body of, but through the soul of Rollins leaving him completely lifeless on the ground beside me. Anderson, having been a lot closer to Rollins than I ever was, fell to his knees hysterically weeping as he looked over the body of his lost companion.

            Desensitized, I turned around. As he rocked, the man chuckled, blew out a puff of smoke, and uttered the last words I heard, “Foolish boys. Dead corpses.”

Works Cited

Chambers II, John. American Military History. Oxford University Press, Inc., 1999. Print.

“Neutrality Act of 1939.” Digital History, http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp

_textbook .cfm?smtID=3&psid=4074. n.d. Web. 15 January 2018.

“The Manhattan Project.” U.S. History. http://www.ushistory.org/us/51f.asp. n.d. Web. 25                  

             January 2018.


“Pearl Harbor.” History, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/pearl-harbor. n.d. Web. 1

            February 2018.

“The 101st Airborne During World War II.” The 101st Airborne, http://www.ww2-airborne.us/.                18corps/101abn/101_overview.html. n.d. Web. 31 January 2018.