Carl Rossbach did not have a problem finding a job in a city close to Detroit. He didn’t want to be too close to the big city with all of it’s people and hustle/bustle. He finds a job at Hoover Ball and Bearing close to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He stayed on this job for 25 years earning the proverbial ‘gold watch’ and 75% hearing loss from the grinding machines he worked on for all of his career at Hoover. Betty graduates from Alcester High and Mom Eunice and newly graduated Bet travel to Michigan. Neither Mom or daughter tell Dad about the Bill Flanders episode.
When Bill finds the Rossbach’s he has news for his girlfriend. The Civilian Conservation Corp, which he signed up for his third hitch illegally (changing his name from William Mark Flanders to Mark William Flanders) had been disbanded and all the corpsman were being drafted into the army. The US decided to help England after all and were now gearing up since their military was woefully under staffed. Bill finds Betty and declares his undying love for her and, ‘oh by the way, I am leaving in a few days for boot camp and am going to fight Hitler’s army in Europe’. The two lovers did what thousands of other couples did, they rush off to get married. Carl Rossbach is completely bushwhacked and now has a son-in-law who is off to the war.
Dad headed to Fort Riley Kansas to be trained in the US Army Cavalry. I also did my basic training at Fort Riley Kansas, almost 30 years later. The little leech town next to Fort Riley is Junction City. We used to say that if Fort Riley is the asshole of the world, Junction City was 5 miles up. All in all both the fort and the leech town are miserable places. The Army Cavalry in 1942 was a force of men and…horses. We were so far behind Germany in military preparedness we were thinking our horses could out run and fight the German tanks.
In typical Bill Flanders life story line, he made it all the way through boot camp on a horse, was ready to ship out with the equine Fifth Army, only to be told: “We’ve finally built our own tank, you need to come back and go through basic training again.” Dad heads back to Kansas and the asshole. After this basic training he was soon to meet his commanding officer another person often referred to as an anal opening: George S Patton.
Back home in Ann Arbor, Betty was restless and needed something to do. She had a few office jobs and was a good typist. But, the music wouldn’t stop calling. She found out that there were newly trained soldiers all over the place. And these guys needed to let off steam before being shipped out to Europe. Mom volunteered to do USO shows in the Ann Arbor area. Her reputation preceded her and she was in demand not only in Ann Arbor, but as far away as Louisiana. She knew she was helping the effort by doing what she could: Play Music. This was the genesis for her profound patriotism.
Dad never did tell me much about his experience in World War II. He once said that the most frightening thing he experienced was when the German airplanes would strafe his line of tanks. I do know he was standing close to General Patton in a field hospital when Patton did one of his most controversial acts of the war. There was a young soldier who was being treated for shock and traumatic seizures, the kid was almost catatonic. General Patton walked by, looked at his chart and told the solider to stand at attention in front of him. Patton shocked everyone and slapped the kid and told him to get his ass out there on the front line immediately. Dad saw it all.
Uncle Albert told me a harrowing story about Dad and the war. In Italy my Dad came across a US GI raping a young Italian woman. My Dad stopped the rape and held the guy down until the Military Police came and arrested him. The man was convicted and sent to prison in the US. At the trial after my Dad testified, and the guy is convicted, he turns to my Dad and says, “I swear I will find you and kill you…be watching for me.” After being strafed by Hitler and watching a crazy General, he had to live with this threat. Of course Uncle Al also said, that he, Albert, better not find that guy first…Al was an interesting, bad Dude.
With Hitler on the run, Dad receives a short stateside furlough in 1944. He comes home and along with thousands of other Servicemen, conceives his first child. Thus the story of the twins who became Van was begun.