Sunday, January 08, 2012

Family History

One of the things that I have come to understand over the last few years is that you need to appreciate where you come from and your family's history. My father has recently done some research into the World War II battle that claimed his father's (my grandfather's) life. It has been interesting to watch my father's journey through the information. His research brought him in touch with  a historian named Frank van Lunteren, who has been documenting the lives of our soldiers, and who was familiar with my grandfather's story. Here is what Mr. van Lunteren relayed to my father:

Thank you so much for contacting me regarding your late father, Captain Harry J. Cummings. He was the regimental personnel officer of the 504th PIR and was not supposed to fly to Sicily on July 11, 1943, but decided himself to come along. His plane was shot down with all the paratroopers still in it and the pilot crash landed in the sea, not too far from the coast of Sicily. They were on swimming distance to the shore. However, American boats opened up and your father was killed after he cut loose a fellow officer, Major Ivan Roggen, who was tangled up to the static line and on the verge of drowning. As your father swam to the door of the plane, which was rapidly filling with water, he was riddled by machine gun fire and instantly killed... Major Roggen passed away in October 2010, living for another 67 years had it not been for your father's help.

Here is a video that was posted about my grandfather as well:

I always knew that my grandfather had made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, but it is amazing to know additional details of his service. I have had the opportunity to visit his grave site in Long Island, NY, and it really hit home when I was able to see pictures of his headstone in the video above along with the context of his death. What a gift to be able to know the details of your family!