A World War II Love Story with an Internet closure

Posted on November 23, 2010

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        My Father-In-law, Clyde E. Roller, served during WWII as an infantryman in Company F, 12th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division. He did not make the D-Day landing but join the unit shortly there after. The 4th Infantry Division fought in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany. On September 17, 1944, at the age of 19 years and 9 months, Clyde received his first Purple Heart when he was wounded near the German/Luxembourg border. He received a concussion, chest injuries and a sprained ankle. He was evacuated to England.  He returned to his unit 63 days later on November 18, 1944. On December 21, 1944, at the age of 20 years and 1 month,  near Connsdorf, Luxembourg, he received his second Purple Heart when he was wounded again. His injuries this time was a Blast Injury to Chest from a High Explosive Artillery round. At age 20 years and 2 months Clyde received his third Purple Heart once again from concussion from tank gun fire which it knocked him out and other injuries. He was sent back to England. He was discharged from the hospital on March 17, 1945 but remained in England until he was reassigned as a “Grave Digger and Handler of Bodies”. Then he was sent to Luxembourg City to help layout, build and bury bodies at the American Cemetery at Hamm, Luxembourg.

While assigned in Luxembourg, Clyde met a young Luxembourger soldier named Marcel Mischo and became friends. When he could get a pass, Clyde would go and have supper with Marcel and his family. Then one day Marcel’s  sister, Madeleine, was released from a German Labor Camp and returned home. Clyde and Madeleine soon fell in love. Within a few months Madeleine was with child. Clyde tried to marry her but was sent home before he could. Clyde wanted to go back and get both Madeleine and their son but because of the injuries he received in the war he was neither physically or financially able to. Clyde could not hold down a job because he suffered from Epilepsy and his lungs were slowly being eaten away from a disease he picked up when wounded by shrapnel.

After a few years, Clyde did get married to a young lady. He and she had four daughters. Clyde still wanted to get Madeleine and his son to the states but he just couldn’t. Over the years, Clyde would get Christmas Cards and he just knew they were from his son. The last card Clyde received had a New Jersey address. This was the only card that had a return address. Clyde had his eldest daughter write a letter and send it back. In the letter, he said he just knew the person sending the card was his son. He also stated he was dying and would really like to see him just once  before he died. No reply was ever received. Clyde passed away on April 9, 1976.

My wife. Carol, and her sisters talked many times about wanting to meet their brother. They figured they never would. Carol and I had visited the cemetery at Hamm but we did not have the information need to find Madeleine or her son. We did not know either of their last names. Around the 10th – the 14th of  October  2007  Carol and her sister, Barbara, were talking and decided they would never get to meet their brother. On the 23rd of November, I went on-line to check me emails and received the following:

Dear Patrick,

I hope to reach by this way. I found your name as the son in law, honoring Clyde Elmer Roller. I try to trace the way Clyde Elmer Roller in Europe during WWII and I hope to get some information via this way from you and Carol. I’m in Germany and would most appreciat to learn if Clyde is still alive and in case to get his coordinates. Or to get directly in contact with Carol. Where do you live in the states? Can I call you? Or do you prefer to stay in contact via email? Please let me know if this email reaches the right Patrick and Carol.

J.Claude Kemp

Well Carol started getting all excited. That’s my brother she kept saying. I said wait a minute. Let me email him back. I will ask him why he wants to know. It could be that this is the son of someone who served with your dad. I didn’t want her to get her hopes up and then become crushed. So I emailed Claude back asking why he wanted to know. He emailed back saying, there is no easy way to say this but I am his son. Claude’s mother, Madeleine married almost 10 years after Claude was born. She married a man named Kemp and as required by law Claude was adopted by this man.

Claude said that six months prior to getting in contact with us his mother gave him a box. She told him he was not allowed to open it until she died. Claude took the box back to Germany with him. After almost six months, Claude went back to Luxembourg and told his mom that if the box contained information about his father he needed to know that information now. She finally said okay. He took the box back to Germany and opened it up. In there was a stack of  letters that Clyde had sent to Madeleine as well as a newspaper article about Clyde and several photos. We told Claude that we would mail a couple of pictures that we had and he said he would do the same thing. When we got the letter from Claude we knew this was truly Clyde’s son because the pictures he sent us were almost identical to the ones we sent him.

Claude said that as he was growing up, his mother would take him to the cemetery in  Hamm and place flowers on a grave. He just knew that this was his father’s grave. It wasn’t. Madeleine and a couple of other girls had found an American Pilot who had been shot down and killed. They turned him over to the American authorities. If you will go to the Memorial Day” section of this blog you will be able to read a letter written by some Lady in Luxembourg in 1945. Madeleine was carrying on that tradition by taking flowers from her garden and putting them on a soldier’s grave.

After several phone calls and emails, Claude decided that he and his wife would fly to Kentucky and stay with us and  meet his American sisters. Claude had never been in the southern part of America even though he had travelled much the west and north. He even had a job that lasted five years in Canada. We spent four weeks touring the south. If he just had known the information back then.

Last year Carol and I flew to Germany. Claude picked us up at Frankfurt International Airport. We drove from there to Luxembourg. For a long time, Madeleine said we were not welcomed in her home but we had sent Claude a lot of pictures for him to share with his mother. Shortly after she told Claude that Carol and Patrick are welcomed in her home. We spent six days in Luxembourg. We did a lot of travelling and sightseeing but we also spent a lot of time with Madeleine.  It was a very special time. It was very easy to see how Clyde fell in love. Madeleine told us how she had waited for 10 years for Clyde. It was only because of her father’s insistence that Madeleine married another man. Madeleine’s father had a family member who lived in the US to check on Clyde. This man told him that Clyde was in bad shape and not to let his daughter and grandson come to the states. Claude’s two brothers Guy, and Roby along with their wives came to meet us. It was truly a great visit.

Since that time, we stay in contact with Claude. We have become very close to Madeleine. We call Madeleine twice a month. Madeleine always says that she hopes to live long enough to see us one more time. Carol and I will return in 2011. We made that 2011 trip and this time we took Carol’s sister, Barbara, with us. Her and Madeleine hit it off right away.

The internet has made it possible for me to find many of the men I served with in Vietnam. It has made it possible for me to write this blog for all to read.  The greatest thing that it has done is brought two parts of a family together as one and to give closure to a wonderful lady by knowing the man she loved never forgot her, always loved her and told his daughters about her and his son from the beginning.

The countries of Luxembourg and Belgium honor the American Soldiers. I have posted a letter from a

Recently my wife, Carol, and I were going through some old papers we had from her dad’s stay in Luxembourg and we came across a “yellowed” piece of paper. We opened it and found my father-in-laws signature on top and the following poem written in a lady’s hand writing:

Lilly Marlene

Under the lantern by the barrack gate,

Darling I remember how you use to wait,

Twas there that you whispered tenderly,

That you lov’d me. You’d always be,

My Lilli of the Lamplight, my own Lilli Marlene,

Orders came for sailing somewhere over there,

All confined to barracks was more than I could bear,

I knew you were waiting in the street,

I heard your feet but could not meet,

My Lilli of the lamplight, my own Lilli Marlene,

Time would come for roll call, time for us to part,

Darling I’d caress you and press you to my heart,

And there neath that far off lantern light,

I’d hold you tight, we’d kiss “Good Night”,

My Lilli of the Lamplight, my own Lilli Marlene.

Carol and I matched this against the letter that we had just received from Madeleine and that are  remarkably similar. We will take that piece of paper with us when we go to Luxembourg this Fall and find out for sure.

I looked up “Lilli Marlene and found out the following.

I went to

www.telegraph.co.uk and found that is was a poem written by a German soldier named Hans Liep during WWI. It was to his girlfriend Lilli and to a nurse who would wave to him as he walked Guard Duty and  she was returning home from work. Her name was Marleen.

When he began to fear the outbreak of WWII and had it composed into a song. The Nazi’s hated it. Goebbels said it was not Military enough. Marlene Dietrich who was anti Nazi loved the sing and began singing it as much as possible. WWII began to rage in Africa. The music for the German soldiers was played from a radio station in Yugoslavia. One day the station got hit and most of the music was destroyed. The station manager found and old box of records that were not destroyed. The bottom record was “Lilli Marlene” He had a friend serving in Africa so he played the song. Rommel like the song because he saw it was giving Esprit Dé Corp to his men.

The British soldiers started singing the song in German. Back in England on a break a composer asked them to sing a song in German. They said they would if he would compose the song in English. He agreed. They sand “Lilli Marlene”. The American soldier picked up the song as well.

We believe Madeleine wrote this poem on this piece of paper for Clyde so he would remember their love. He never forgot it and neither did she.

Below is the song in German and then in English. You will notice the poem I have is not complete but the meaning is.

Original German lyrics

Lili Marleen

Vor der Kaserne,
Vor dem großen Tor,
Stand eine Laterne,
Und steht sie noch davor,
So woll’n wir uns da wieder seh’n,
Bei der Laterne wollen wir steh’n,
Wie einst, Lili Marleen.

Unsere beiden Schatten,
Sah’n wie einer aus,
Daß wir so lieb uns hatten,
Das sah man gleich daraus.
Und alle Leute soll’n es seh’n,
Wenn wir bei der Laterne steh’n,
Wie einst, Lili Marleen.

Schon rief der Posten:
Sie blasen Zapfenstreich,
Es kann drei Tage kosten!
Kamerad, ich komm’ ja gleich.
Da sagten wir Aufwiederseh’n.
Wie gerne wollt’ ich mit dir geh’n,
Mit dir, Lili Marleen!

Deine Schritte kennt sie,
Deinen zieren Gang.
Alle Abend brennt sie,
Doch mich vergaß sie lang.
Und sollte mir ein Leid gescheh’n,
Wer wird bei der Laterne steh’n,
Mit dir, Lili Marleen!

Aus dem stillen Raume,
Aus der Erde Grund,
Hebt mich wie im Traume
Dein verliebter Mund.
Wenn sich die späten Nebel dreh’n,
Werd’ ich bei der Laterne steh’n
Wie einst, Lili Marleen

English lyrics (Connor)

The English lyrics, as sung by Vera Lynn, are by Tommie Connor, dating from 1944.

Underneath the lantern
By the barrack gate,
Darling I remember
The way you used to wait.
T’was there that you whispered tenderly
That you loved me;
You’d always be
My Lili of the lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.

Time would come for roll call,
Time for us to part,
Darling I’d caress you
And press you to my heart,
And there ‘neath that far-off lantern light,
I’d hold you tight,
We’d kiss good night,
My Lili of the lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene.

Orders came for sailing,
Somewhere over there.
All confined to barracks
was more than I could bear.
I knew you were waiting in the street,
I heard your feet
But could not meet
My Lili of the lamplight
my own Lili Marlene.

Resting in our billets
Just behind the lines,
Even tho’ we’re parted,
Your lips are close to mine.
You wait where that lantern softly gleams,
Your sweet face seems
To haunt my dreams,
My Lili of the Lamplight,
My own Lili Marlene

n unknown woman in Luxembourg. One that talks about the sacrifice of the American Soldier. The following pictures will once again attest to the Loved that the people of these two countries for the men and women who served in the American Armed Forces.

The following are pictures of: Clyde and Claude photo shopped, Claude with his four sisters, Claude at his father’s Grave in Louisville, Kentucky, me and Madeleine 2011.  Clyde Rollers Kids  Claude at Dad's Gravesite me and madeleine

Memorials in Luxembourg  are both in Rock/Plaques as well as in  Museums.

                       

The Military   Museum at Ettelbruck.

                                                                  

The city of  Bastogne , Belgium;

                     

Prior to being wounded the third time, Clyde and his unit were stationed in a town called Berdorf. Their Head Quarters was located in the “Hotel Parc” later changed to the “Fortress Hotel”.  The men, when possible, would sleep inside the hotel as the temperature was extremely cold. After the war the town people of Berdorf had a plaque made to honor the men of Company F. The sign has been taken down as the Hotel Parc is being rebuilt. My wife and I have visited this town twice and had not been able to see the sign. I asked my brother-in-laws sister to help me get a picture of the sign. She contacted the town government and explained the situation. They not only took a picture of the sign, they put a basket in front with an American Flag. Here is that sign:

    

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