It’s always embarrassing to miss the death of a friend, particularly when the friend is a relative, however distant. Jerry and I were cousins, by virtue of his being the nephew of my maternal grandfather. And we’d been in touch for more than a decade, only to lose track of each other soon after he passed his 92nd birthday a year ago this month.
His Feb. 15 obituary in the Dallas Morning News is available in full when you go in through Google, curiously, since going directly gets you an advisory to become a subscriber if you want to read the whole thing. And you might, because Jerry was one of the last Army veterans of the Allied invasion of France at Omaha Beach.
I knew that part. He gave me a small vial of Omaha Beach sand after a return he made there a few years ago. But I never heard of the secret stuff which his two sons, apparently, revealed in the obit, which is reprinted free here: his September, 1941 “clandestine [assignment] as a military observer in London [receiving] radar training from the Royal Air Force….He carried a diplomatic passport and was required to dress as a civilian when he was not on a British military base.”
In which he also “flew combat missions over the English Channel with Royal Air Force crews using radar to hunt German submarines that surfaced to recharge their batteries…” Or that he had a hand in helping American troops “liberate a concentration camp north of Munich [possibly Dachau] late in the war.” These things he never talked about with me.
He did talk about much else involving the war, including his participation in the Battle of the Bulge. He was an Army major, a staff officer, by the time the Nazis surrendered. He also talked about the Internet, the Web, and computer technology. He was a devoted Apple user and was always enthusiastic about communications, starting with his shortwave radio experiences as a 13-year-old, right up to his Skyping with an iPad not long before he died of pneumonia on Feb. 7. He was pretty frail by then and frequently ill. The old man’s friend, they used to call pneumonia. I suppose it was. Rest in peace, cousin.