A Memorial Day Tribute – Infantry and Air

Lt. Frank Ebner Gartz DOB 1924

Lt. Frank Ebner Gartz DOB 1924

This Memorial Day, I’m remembering two relatives who each served in one of the 20th century’s two world wars.

World War II – Frank Ebner Gartz
My dad’s younger brother, Frank Ebner Gartz, was a navigator in the last year of  World War II. He trained stateside from January, 1943, through December, 1944. On Christmas day, 1944, he and crew of young men flew to Italy via North Africa to fly missions as members of the Second Bomb Group stationed at Amendola Air Base, near Foggia, Italy, on the Adriatic Coast. 
Bombing Missions
Frank Gartz and his crew. Frank standing 2nd from left.

Frank Gartz and his crew. Frank standing 2nd from left.

Frank flew twenty-five missions. One of my  favorite quotes from his letters was advice he gave to  his bombardier, whose actual last name was Booms (did a name define his  destiny?).
The bombardier and navigator sat in the half-spherical Plexiglas nose of the B-17, able to see clearly all the enemy flak zooming toward them. Frank wrote my grandfather after a particularly harrowing mission in March 1945:
B-17s flying in formation; photo taken by Frank Ebner Gartz (see below for permission to use photos from this blog).

B-17s flying in formation; photo taken by
Frank Ebner Gartz (see below for permission
to use photos from this blog).

10th Mission described in letter from Ebner to his Dad, March 1945

Today I flew my 10th mission, and it was the hottest thing I have seen so far. There was more and bigger flak. We bombed an oil refinery in North Eastern Vienna and those people don’t like us to drop our presents to them. 

Lt. Booms, my bombardier, had a rough time. He said that they threw everything they had at us including their kitchen sinks. Booms has to sit up in that Plexiglas nose where he can see all that stuff exploding around him. It sort of gets on his nerves. I was trying to explain to him that when your time comes it doesn’t matter where you are…your number is up, and that’s all there is to it.
Such was the fatalism of a twenty-one year old who faced death every time he navigated his crew of other equally young men on their missions.
 
World War I
Veteran’s Day was originally called Armistice Day, to mark the date, November 11, 1918, when the armistice was signed that brought an end to World War I hostilities.
On June 1, 1954, the name was changed to Veteran’s Day, to honor American veterans of all wars. I’m also honoring the memory of my Great-Uncle.

 

Samuel Ebner, my grandmother’s brother

My grandmother’s brother, Samuel Ebner, was also twenty-one when he was sent off to fight in the Battle of Galicia in August, 1914, one of the first battles of the the First World War, then called “The Great War.” I have no photo of him, only this last postcard he wrote on August 19, 1914, just eight days before being killed. He wrote:

Dear Parents,

I share with you that we are now in Galicia. Most beautiful greetings to all. Farewell.

(apparently a nickname since his father was also named Samuel) Kaspar Ebner

War Memorial to "The Fallen" Grosspold, Romania. Photo by Ulrich Wien

War Memorial to “The Fallen” Grosspold, Romania. Photo by Ulrich Wien

My grandfather, twenty-one when he came to America, missed fighting, and likely dying, in this awful war.

My grandparents in America sending help overseas

To read more about Sam Ebner (Jr.)  and the memorial that stands in honor of him and his fellow soldiers from Grosspold, Romania, lost during that tragic war, see The Fallen-Part IThe Fallen-Part II, and The Fallen-Part III. Part III reprints the letter my grandmother kept, that reveals how she and my grandfather, 5000 miles distant from their homeland, helped make the memorial possible.

So today, I thank all of our men and women serving so far from home for their service, bravery, and commitment in our own tragic war. I wish them safely returned into their families’ arms again.

Please, if you would like to use any of the photos on this
blog, you must ask permission, credit the photographer, and provide a link back to the site.

This post represents a teensy percentage of the family history that I had to leave out in order to focus my book on the topic of redlining, and the racial change it spurred in our West Side Chicago neighborhood.  Fifty years after my paternal grandparents had settled in West Garfield Park, the first African Americans moved into a house on our block, and the future of the community was changed forever.


Order Redlined now to find out more about this tumultuous era and the family that experienced it firsthand.

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