Veterans Day has come and gone but the themes that encompass this holiday are not. Veterans Day is a national holiday that brings U.S. citizens together to celebrate and honor all of our soldiers. I wanted to honor my grandfather, Columbus Johnson, who served in World War II, by documenting his story. I regret that I have never asked my grandfather about his time in the U.S. army until now, but I am glad I will be the first in my family to immortalize his story.
The U.S. didn’t officially join World War II until December 7, 1941. However, a draft was called in the year 1940. Johnson was drafted on May 6,1954 at 29-years-old and had found the woman who he had wanted to be with for the rest of his life. The moment Johnson knew that he was being drafted into the army, he made plans to marry my grandmother, Frances Vincent. When interviewing my grandfather, he said, “I wanted to marry her immediately.” Johnson started by asking Vincent’s father for her hand in marriage. Fortunately for Johnson, her father said yes, and a wedding was planned for September 5, 1954 because he had to leave that month.
In the meantime, Johnson’s mother was torn. She didn’t want another one of her children to be shipped off to a foreign land for the purpose of being a war instrument. Johnson stated, “She would talk with a fortuneteller to get information about my safety. She did the same thing when my older brother who was also in the army.” Johnson, continued by stating that he didn’t know anything of what the fortune teller said. “The only other person who knew what the fortune teller said was probably her husband because he was the one paying for those appointments.”
When Johnson left that September, Vincent and her family were nervous. However, they had a sense of relief because Johnson wasn’t in active combat. Johnson was only being sent to Germany to increase the presence of American soldiers to keep Germany in line after all the major fighting had stopped. Through the course of September 1954 to when Johnson’s military duty ended and was able to leave Germany on April 20, 1956, Vincent and Johnson would send each other letters that conveyed feelings of love, status updates, and new experiences. When Johnson stood, once again on the soil of his home town Everyone was happy to have him home and he was ready to start his family with Vincent as soon as he was able.
Johnson endured much hardship and had many first-time experiences. On the trip to Europe, his ship ran into terrible weather caused by a hurricane. When he was stationed in Germany, the conditions were often very cold and snowy. The smells of wildlife and their waist nearby permeated in the air. In addition, Johnson experienced his first and last movie that he ever saw in a theater. Johnson was grateful that we didn’t have to experience combat and that he was able to come home alive. The only regret Johnson had was that he wasn’t able to fulfill a promise he made with Vincent to take her to see Germany one day.
Written By: James Gilbert