Patriotic People Share Their Grandparent’s Epic War Stories
Many of today’s young adults can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to live through a war. Their grandparents, on the other hand, have experienced the incomparable brutalities of World War I, World War II, and other terrifying conflicts first-hand. Needless to say, they have some pretty mindblowing tales to share with the rest of the world, and thanks to the internet, we can learn more about these historic moments through their eyes.
It’s impossible to fully understand the bravery it took to fight in the most brutal wars in history. Could you imagine continuing to fight with your troops after getting hit with a bullet? What about being a tank driver in one of the most critical battles of WWII? These epic grandparents deserve immense recognition for their service and dedication to their country!
#35 Bravest Way To Use A Bulldozer
He didn’t talk much about his time in the war so I don’t have specific locations, but I do know that he was in the Pacific during WWII. He was an aircraft mechanic in the Navy.
One day, the Japanese ignited their ammo dump. My grandfather jumped on a bulldozer and pushed the flaming, igniting mess off of a small cliff. He was injured in the process and received the Purple Heart.
#34 As If Learning To Drive Stick-Shift Isn’t Hard Enough
My grandpa lived his whole adult life with shrapnel in his arm. He was barely 18 when it happened. He had been resting after being up early to make breakfast when a bunch of men came rushing past him, saying that the enemy was coming. He and a driver hauled tail as fast as they could but they were the last ones out. The driver ended up getting hurt, so my grandpa had to learn to drive a truck on the spot.
He never really talked about how he got the shrapnel. The story always ended with, “…and that’s the day I learned to drive a truck through a jungle.”
#33 A Heartwarming Exchange With The Enemy
My grandpa was born in 1939 in a small town along the coast of Norway. At the time, Norway was occupied by the Germans.
One day in 1943, the Germans came to town looking for resistance fighters. They went house to house and eventually came to my grandpa’s. He clearly remembered a small squad of six to 10 guys coming in and going through the whole house while his family huddled in the living room.
During the course of the search, my grandpa’s infant brother began screaming. My great-grandmother tried in vain to calm the child. She was convinced that the Germans would hurt them because of all the noise.
A German soldier came into the living room and walked straight to the crib. He looked down at the baby and began crying. Everyone was shocked. He reached into his pack and pulled out a wrinkled photo of another infant who looked very similar. The commanding officer explained that one of his soldiers had a son at home who he never got the chance to see. His wife had sent this photo to him.
The soldier then sat down with all the kids and shared his chocolate ration with them. It was the first time my grandpa ever tasted chocolate. He never forgot that.
#32 Nothing Short Of A Miracle
As a baby, my grandpa was rescued by his aunt. They hid on a train that was being searched by the Germans. He was crying his head off and all of the passengers told his aunt to make him shut up. Literally, moments before the Germans approached the car they were all hiding in, he stopped crying. If he didn’t, I don’t even know if my family would exist today.
#31 A Unique Way To Earn A Purple Heart
I loved listening to grandpa’s stories from WWII, but my favorite is how he earned a Purple Heart. He was an engineer and built bridges. They were under attack in France and an explosive landed nearby. Shrapnel caught him right in the butt. My mother hated when he told me this story because he always shared the scar on his buttocks with it, often in public, mostly on golf courses.
#30 “Her Husband”
He was exempt from the draft during WWII because he had horrific eyesight. He was going to school for a mining engineering degree and was infinitely more useful at home than abroad anyway. However, my grandmother got bored of waiting for him to finish his degree, so she joined the Women’s Army Corps and was sent to India. She was eventually promoted to the rank of Captain. Then, it was my grandfather’s turn to wait for her. When she got back, they went to Las Vegas and got married.
They are buried in a military cemetery and my grandpa’s gravestone is one of maybe three that say “her husband” underneath his name.
#29 A Life-Or-Death Decision
My step-grandmother was six years old in her Polish-Jewish village when the Germans came. The elders decided to stay, but her father said they should leave, so they abandoned their house that night. The next morning, the Germans destroyed the entire village.
Meanwhile, her family walked to the Soviet lines, where the skeptical Stalinists put them on a train to Siberia. They lived in a gulag for 3 years and almost starved to death, but were saved at the last moment by the Red Cross. They were released in the winter and were told to leave, so over the next six months, they walked 3,000 kilometers through the snow and desolation to Persia with a group with other prisoners. By the time they reached Persia, the war had ended, so they were put on a truck headed for Israel. She served as a nurse during the War for Independence and the Six-Day War.
#28 A Breathtaking Series Of Great Escapes
My grandpa was from Poland. He got locked up in a concentration camp, escaped, got caught and then sent to another concentration camp. He ended up escaping again, then made his way over to England.
#27 It’s The Little Things
My grandpa was captured by the Germans. He was imprisoned for several months, but he was fortunately treated very well, all things considered. I remember one of the stories he always told was about another prisoner. He hated potatoes, and my grandpa hated carrots. So they would swap. One day, my grandpa would have cold potatoes, and the other guy would have hot carrots, then the next day my grandpa would have hot potatoes and the other guy would have cold carrots. They were liberated from Leipzig, Germany later on.
#26 This Is The Definition Of Resilience
His helmet stopped the bullet, but his skull still got fractured. He bribed the medic to lie about his wound so he wouldn’t get sent home. Once his unit got to Germany and the war was almost over, he finally went to get proper treatment.
#25 They Weren’t Expecting That
My grandfather served in the Pacific during WWII.
One time, he and a buddy were manning a machine gun on a hill when they saw a handful of Japanese soldiers crossing a field. They opened fire and missed every single one. They ran away.
#24 The Furthest Thing From Paradise
My grandpa joined the Marines after dropping out of high school. He had the choice of being stationed in Iceland or Hawaii. He chose Hawaii and was there during the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the rest of the war, he fought in the south Pacific.
#23 Just Another Day On The Job
He was a translator for the U.S. during the Korean War. He spoke Russian. One day, the Chinese were hitting their line really hard so they had to put the cooks, mechanics, and translators on duty. He was on the front line for three days before getting sent back to Alaska to interrogate Soviet POW’s.
#22 This Miracle Reunion Could Have Never Happened
My grandpa was a just a kid when the island of Java was invaded by the Japanese. He belonged to a decently wealthy Dutch family but they lost about 90% of their possessions to the Japanese.
He was sent away to a few camps. His older brother and father were taken before him, so he lost contact with them. He tells us stories of how he was forced to catch and eat bugs. He also recalls losing his front teeth due to poor health and being neglected for weeks.
As the war came to a close, he was moved a few times. He sat on a piece of wood in a new camp and a guy came and sat next to him. He had a big, long beard, and he started to ask him about his education. Turns out, it was his father.
The whole family survived the war. They packed up what they could and moved back to the Netherlands.
#21 Incredible Dedication To His Unit
He was a Buck Sergeant in the 29th Infantry and landed on D-Day. He was hurt during the battle and sent to a hospital, where he was treated. When his health improved, he was offered a position as an interpreter in London but opted to re-join his unit. He was then captured and held as a POW. The Russians eventually liberated them but didn’t provide any logistics to get them anywhere. He and another soldier worked together to find the American front lines, fight the rest of the war, then return back home to America.
#20 The Only Time He Truly Felt Afraid
Grandpa was a tank commander during WWII.
One night, he was sitting in his tank guarding a crossroads when he heard the distinct sound of German soldiers coming down the road. I guess their boots had metal on the soles that made audible clicks on the pavement.
His gunner wanted to open fire on them but grandpa knew there was an orphanage just downrange from the Germans. So grandpa hopped out of the tank with his .45 instead.
He snuck up on the Germans and ordered them to surrender. It was late in the war so these guys just threw their hands up immediately. Grandpa marched them back to his tank and handed them over to a nearby infantry unit who took them to the rear.
When he got back to his tank, he went to clear his .45 and realized he never chambered a round. My grandpa was at the Battle of the Bulge and was one of the first tanks into Aachen. He liberated a concentration camp and had four tanks shot out from under him. He said realizing that his gun wasn’t loaded when he faced those Germans was the only time during the war when he was really scared.
#19 Not Your Typical Walk Back Home
My grandfather joined the Italian army and faked his date of birth. The authorities soon found out and he was sent home. He rejoined the army again once he was of age and became a Bersaglieri. He was stationed in Verona when Italy was captured by the Germans. He escaped by jumping out of a third-story window, then walked over 400 miles back to his family’s home in the south, evading capture along the way by pretending to be mentally handicapped. He hid out for the rest of the war in a hidden cellar on the family farm that my great-grandfather built.
#18 A Near-Deadly Good Night’s Sleep
My grandpa served in WWII as a tank driver. One day while in France, he and his unit found an abandoned warehouse to sleep in for a few hours.
He was the first to wake. He looked across to the other side of the room and saw a German soldier lying on the ground staring back at him. It turns out that a German patrol was also sleeping there and no one noticed. Grandpa and the other guy woke up their people and slowly backed out, not saying a word, and both went about their business.
#17 He Refused To Fight, But He Saved Lives
My grandfather had graduated from college.
He began teaching at a university when a Chinese military official whose son was going to the school came up to him and offered to double his salary if he joined the military. My grandfather didn’t have any military background or training but the official said it didn’t matter. He made him a colonel and put him in charge of logistics.
He never once fought a battle. Instead, he traveled the world, to the US, Russia, England, Germany and Vietnam trading weapons, vehicles, food supplies, and clothing,
#16 A Spine-Chilling Sacrifice
My grandfather was flying over an island in the Pacific when the aircraft took a hit. The pilot got injured and was unable to keep the plane steady for everyone to parachute out, so the co-pilot volunteered and assured everyone he would make the jump as soon as everyone was far enough away from the plane. My grandfather and the other men on the plane jumped to the island below and never saw the co-pilot jump. He stayed behind, sacrificing his life so the others could make it out.
That co-pilot’s sacrifice is the whole reason that my family is here today.
#15 The World’s Most Priceless Dollar Bill
He was a guard during the Nuremberg War Crime Trials after WWII. He looked after all of the top German officials, including Hermann Goering.
My grandpa said that before Goering passed away, he had all of the German soldiers sign a dollar bill which he then tucked away in an old book where it remained for years.
Unfortunately, my grandparents divorced back in the early ’70s and my grandma sold a bunch of my grandpa’s stuff at a garage sale… The book was unknowingly included.
Someone somewhere has that dollar bill.
#14 Without A Perfect Memory, He Wouldn’t Have Survived
Every year on my birthday, my grandfather would tell me about what his life was like at my age. He was 14 during WWII when the Red Army invaded Germany. He helped dig a trench around his town, but the Russians just dropped trees in and drove across. They burnt his village to the ground.
He and his mother survived in a river, but his father and sister were left behind. They were eventually captured by the Russians and were forced to march across Europe. His mother passed away during the march.
Sometime later, he was in a forced labor camp where he had to lay mines. He remembered the pattern and slipped out in the middle of the night, through the mines, and moved to Canada.
#13 He Nearly Lost His Life By Not Fighting
My late grandpa was a French guy who was too young to be enlisted in 1939. He planned to enlist later in 1944 when he turned 16, but since he lived in Alsace, he would have been drafted by the Germans to fight on the Russian front. So he hid in his basement to avoid that.
One night, an American bombing happened and he was hit by shrapnel a few inches away from his heart. My great grandfather violated the curfew to find a doctor and he went under surgery on a potato stash. By the time he recovered, D-day had already happened so he didn’t have to be a soldier for the Germans.
#12 They Were So, So Close To Escaping
Back in WWII, my grandfather was traveling from South Africa to fight Rommel in North Africa and was captured. He was transferred to a POW camp run by Italians, where the conditions and treatment were absolutely abhorrent. He escaped with his best friend from South Africa and a French guy. It was winter, so they had to trek across the mountains in decimated boots and hardly any warm clothes or food.
The French chap fell down the mountain. They tried to get him but they were too weak. He didn’t make it. They were apparently in sight of Allied lines when they were picked up by a German patrol. Must have been devastating.
He was with the Germans for only a few weeks before he was liberated. Interestingly, he said the treatment in the German POW camp was significantly better than in the Italian one. He didn’t go into too many details about anything but he used to say: “War is the worst—make sure you never have to go.”
#11 Being A Prisoner Was The Reason He Survived
My grandfather was in the navy, stationed in Hawaii during Pearl Harbor.
Apparently, my grandpa punched his commanding officer. Because of this, a day or two before Pearl Harbor, he was thrown in the brig (a sort of Navy ‘jail’ used for punishment) which was in a lower level in a nearby base. He, at the time, was staying on his ship in the harbor.
Then the Japanese started bombing.
He heard it. He felt it. He saw it out the upper little-barred window.
Because he was in the brig, he was forgotten about until about 32 hours AFTER it ended.
#10 A Horrific Return For The Holiday
Grandpa served in Vietnam during the height of the war. He was from Saigon and worked with the Pentagon so he had some weight to his name. His duty was to identify soldiers and send home letters to the families to update them on their sons’ statuses.
During Tet, which is Vietnamese New Year, there was was a mutual agreement between the North and South to not fight so people could go home and be with their families. My grandpa and grandma took my two-month-old dad to a family member’s home on the night of Tet. When the three of them returned home, many of their neighbors were standing outside of their house. Turns out, the North found out my grandpa was working with the US, but they went to the wrong house, devastating the neighbor’s house instead.
#9 (Literally) Deafening Disrespect
He was a kid during WWII. He walked past a Japanese soldier and didn’t stop to bow. The soldier called him over and gave him a slap on his left cheek so hard he became deaf in his left ear.
#8 A Hilariously Meaningful Tattoo
Growing up, my grandfather had a tattoo of the word “Joey” on his forearm. My grandmother’s name is Joann so I figured he just got her name tattooed on him around the time that they first met or got married.
It wasn’t until his funeral that I found out the true meaning behind the tattoo. When he was in the Navy, he and his buddies got a little too tipsy and decided to get tattoos. The problem was that my grandpa was so out of it he couldn’t articulate what he wanted. The tattoo artist ended up just signing his own name, “Joey,” on my grandpa’s arm.
#7 Heartshattering Story Behind Family Heirloom
My great-grandfather was a boy during WWI. He met a New Zealand soldier in Albany, Western Australia where he lived. It was the last drop off point before the ANZACs left Aussie soil.
The soldier agreed to be his pen pal and started writing letters back to my great-grandfather as well as sending a collection of badges from both sides.
Then the letters stopped. He knew what had happened, but didn’t find out definitively until the mid-1920s when he was older and the records became available. His friend lost his life on the Western Front.
I have the badges sitting in my drawer next to me.
#6 Definitive Proof That Dog Is Man’s Best Friend
My grandfather was in Australia recovering from some of his injuries and he could not shake off this one dog. The dog just came into his tent one day and would not stop whining, annoying the heck out of my grandpa who just wanted to sleep. He got up and made his way to the base so he could get away from the dog.
When he was in the base that day, there was a surprise air attack. He stayed in the hospital until it was over, then made his way back to the tent. Right through his cot was a massive piece of shrapnel that would have ended him if he hadn’t gotten up. After that, he felt like he owed the dog his life for annoying him into leaving. When it came time to go back to the US, he smuggled the dog onto the ship with him. His commanding officer found out about it and told him that the dog needed to be thrown overboard. After much begging and pleading my grandpa was allowed to keep him, but he had to be chained on the top deck and eat out of my grandpa’s rations.
The dog successfully made it home and was named Pom Pom. He was my grandpa’s best friend for years to come and became a staple of his mechanic shop.
#5 Creative Last-Ditch Attempt At A Meal
My grandpa had gotten split up from his group during a routine patrol and the Vietcong soldiers ambushed them. He was lost for eight days in the complete wilderness and the only way he could get food was by throwing his hand grenade into a river that he found. He came back extremely malnourished.
#4 Just Follow The Stars
He was captured after his plane was shot down in Italy. He was a navigator and taught other American prisoners how to use stars to guide themselves back to friendly forces. He got a medal from France decades later. The US eventually gave him a Purple Heart like, 70 years later.
#3 They Didn’t Think That One Through
My Italian grandfather was in the army (WWII) and somehow ended up becoming a radio operator for the battalion, despite not knowing how to read or write. The commanding officer was so embarrassed by him that he took it upon himself to teach my grandfather how to read and write.
70 years later, we got my grandfather a nice set of headphones and a CD player so he could listen to Italian opera, and he would not wear them because it reminded him of the war.
#2 If That’s Not True Love
He was a sergeant, part of the Soviet Army in WWII. He went all the way to Berlin and on the way, he lost vision in one of his eyes due to a grenade exploding close to him. He had the chance to stay in Germany, having met a lovely girl there, but he returned because he promised grandma he’d be back. Grandma never liked this story very much.
#1 Nearly Broadcasting His Last Breath
My grandpa was part of the third wave on Omaha Beach. He was a radioman, tasked with setting up a station on the beachhead. He jumped out of the landing craft with 60 lbs of radio equipment into a deep part of the water. He sank until he touched the bottom while he struggled to cut off the equipment. He was drowning and thought it was all over for him until he pulled his Mae West life preserver and floated back up. He climbed back up onto the ship once he was ferried back, strapped on more equipment and headed back to the beach.