My father's war
My father, Lt. Robert Candlish, served in D Company, 1st Platoon, from January to March 1945, then was in a mortar platoon after March.
An extremely kind man named Leo Mannenbach of D/394 came to his funeral in 1996. This man, whom I had never met or seen, came in dressed in a WWII jacket and cap and saluted the flag and then my father. Until then I'd mostly been numb but his tribute touched something deep inside me and that image has never left.
Later he came to me and said, "You're Bob's daughter, aren't you?" He told me that my father was a very brave man, who would never ask anyone to do something he wouldn't do first. He told me my father's company would have "followed him anywhere." He also said it had been an honor to serve with him.
This was a whole new side to a father, which in many ways, I had never known. He'd never talk about the war. I'd ask him many times and he'd always say, "You're too young," or later, "You don't want to hear about it," but mostly he'd just walk away.
The only story he ever told was being in a French chateau and finding a wine cellar the Germans had missed and how drunk they all got. The whole platoon was missing the next day and were almost charged with being AWOL. Since the war was officially over, the commander was only angry that he wasn't told about the party.
The only other glimpses I had of my father's war experiences were his anger at my protesting the Vietnam War, calling me a hypocrite because I also wore a POW-MIA bracelet, and his anger when I was reading about the concentration camps when I was in high school.
He slipped and said that I shouldn't be reading that. "Believe me, it was disgusting," he said, which now makes me think he may have been part of the liberation forces at Bergen-Belsen or other camps (which I've only learned about in my research since his death).
He also never told me about the Battle of the Bulge, the Ardennes, or the Remagen Bridge, which I've since learned he took part in.
On Memorial Day I kept thinking about this part of my father that I never knew. He probably was a scared young man who showed enough courage under fire to inspire a man to come 50 years later to honor him.
Unfortunately Mr. Mannenbach died in 2001, and I never got to tell him how much his actions meant to me. I wish I could return his salute.
For all the veterans of all the wars, please tell your kids and grandkids about your experiences. I know it's not easy to talk about, but it's even harder for your sons and daughters to find this piece of your life when you are gone.
You don't know how much I wish I could tell my father how proud I am of him with all he did in the war. Unfortunately for me, it's too late.
I've worked with a lot of veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), mostly from Vietnam. They always tell me I will never really understand loyalty and honor until I have served with "buddies" in war. I think they are right. Leo Mannenbach demonstrated that very proudly to me.