Today’s WWII veteran Corporal Fernand Frechette shared many personal stories and photos for the book and miniseries My Father’s War: Memories from Our Honored WWII Soldiers. Here’s another great short story.
In the spring of 1944, while in Luxembourg, he had his first encounter with enemy troops. His company commander enjoyed a drink now and then. OK, more often than not, but could we blame him? Frechette was the only one in his company that spoke French fluently. So the First Sergeant would drive the jeep for the Captain and have Frechette ride along. He recalls “visiting a farmhouse and there were two nuns and a small young girl on the side of a dirt road and the Captain stopped to talk with them”. Frechette’s eyes were sore and hurting from the dusty roads. One of the nuns offered her sunglasses to him. An act of kindness that has stayed with him.
Frechette, of course, being the only French-speaking soldier had been told a secret by the little girl. “The barn behind them had German soldiers in it!” There were only the three of them at this time together. The Captain, Sergeant and Corporal Frechette were pretty concerned about this situation unfolding. The captain had a couple grenades and a sidearm pistol, the First Sergeant had a carbine rifle and Frechette had a submachine gun.
The barn was located next to a hilly bank and Frechette was ordered to climb it to overlook the doorway. The nervous Captain threw one of his grenades at the barn, but it landed only close to the door. The captain and sergeant went to the door and watched nervously as the door swung open and a German soldier came out waving a white flag of surrender. Behind him, there was a line of German soldiers walking out with their hands up but still armed, over thirty soldiers in total in that barn, all coming out to surrender. This was the first time they had seen the enemy face to face and they were scared and were quite outnumbered.
“If I had to pull the trigger I don’t think I would have been able,” he recalled about his first encounter. “I was shaking so hard, I’ve never been so afraid in my life. The first German soldier I went up to with my gun pointing at him, he had a machine gun too. I grabbed his gun and he put his hands up. Then about 30 more Germans followed him out. This was our first contact with some German soldiers and I was never so scared in my whole life,” he recalled.
With shaking hands and more courage than he ever thought he had, Frechette reached over and took the firearm from the enemy. He has that exact weapon seventy-years later. Given to his son Gary many years after the event. The Nazi’s were tired of fighting. Who knows how long they had been in that barn, what they might have had to eat, drink and endure. The Captain had Frechette get in the jeep to go get some support from the troops. Frechette smiles today when talking how his “legs were shaking and he could barely drive the jeep.”
Frechette went on from breaking codes, being part of General George Patton’s “Ghost Army” to liberating concentration camps Auschwitz, Buchenwald and more. Other short stories and photos similar to this one will also be shared.
Charley Valera is the award-winning author of My Father’s War: Memories from Our Honored WWII Soldiers, the book and now miniseries are available at Amazon, BN.com and view on YouTube. He can be reached at his Website.