On the 4th July, Reno Taini will drive his restored Dodge WC56 Command Car in the Independence Day parade, held each year in Redwood City. This year his passenger in the parade will be a special man, Ralph Rush, a friend to Taini and also someone who faced truly terrible sights in World War II.
Rush was an Army scout in the 89th Infantry Division and in April 1945. He was a member of an eight-man patrol that stumbled into the satellite area of the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp in eastern Germany. As he and his fellow servicemen opened the gates of the Ohrdruf slave labour camp, they beheld profoundly nightmarish scenes.
Rush was serving under General George Patton at the time and he, along with General Dwight Eisenhower, visited the camp on the 12th April 1945 to see for himself the utter horror that had been revealed. So great was his anger that he forced local Germans to tour the camp to see the horrific acts that had been committed within.
Rush, who is now 94, will ride alongside his friend who painstakingly restored the Dodge after originally buying it in 1970. Taini chose the Dodge as it brought back fond memories of his earlier years when he used a similar vehicle whilst collecting specimens for the California Academy of Sciences and the Mexican government, as a member of a scientific expedition. He also drove a Dodge WC53 carryall, similar to the command car, with three friends from Daly City to Veracruz where they climbed the 18,406-foot volcano, Pico de Orizaba.
In Taini’s mind, the Dodge symbolised all the good and exciting things he had done in his life, so he purchased one and carefully restored it. Now he wants to use it to try and get people to stop for a moment in their busy lives and think about something bigger. In his words:
“I just want people to take deep breath and think about it. Let’s have a moment of silence for the hundreds of thousands of people he [Rush] represents. There were a lot of people who shared that experience.”
This is Taini’s homage to a man that saw so much and to all the forces from all over the world that gave so much to turn back the hatred that the Nazi’s embodied.
Taini said that Rush’s story filled him with awe. He was amazed to think of so many men encountering such horrors during the days that they served with the American forces.
“What the heck would I have felt or done if I had stumbled on something like that?” said Taini.
Rush is humbled by the honour shown to him.
“I feel very lucky,” he said. “I feel great about getting all the guys back and what we did for the American people. I think we did everything that was expected of us.”