Tobin

By Joe Daly

Biography

The man behind the typewriter paused to make a very private and profound decision.

Reassessing the risks and benefits for the thousandth time, he made up his mind.

Would he have the guts?

He lowered his head and attacked the keys.

 

One day you’re working in the Post Office, selling stamps to chatty pensioners, and the next thing you know, you’re staring into a towering mountain packed with pissed-off Germans unleashing thunderous machine guns in your direction, all hoping to God they can shatter your skull with one of their bullets.

Grab a seat. Life’s in session.

Born in 1916 to first generation Irish immigrants, Joe grew up in the grim city of Worcester, Massachusetts. In his true crime masterpiece, In Cold Blood, author Truman Capote described Worcester as “a Massachusetts factory town of steep up-and-down streets that even in the best of weathers seem cheerless and hostile.” Fort Lauderdale, it was not. Hell, on a good day it could barely give Akron a run for its money.

Once a hotbed of anti-Irish sentiment, Worcester nonetheless harbored an abundant Irish population who gamely stepped into whatever jobs they could secure in its blue collar wonderland. Joe’s father was a janitor at a local grammar school who did well to provide an apartment for his wife and four boys. Joe’s mother, orphaned at age 7, spent her childhood working in a barroom while her peers enjoyed the benefits of public education. Naturally, the virtues of hard work and self-reliance were enthusiastically celebrated in Joe’s boyhood home.

Possessed of an uncommonly deep understanding of chemistry and languages, Joe made it into college, graduating in 1937 with a liberal arts degree from the local Jesuit institution. With the Great Depression still in the rear view mirror and stormy skies gathering across the Atlantic, he was happy to find work in the local Post Office, where he dreamed of one day becoming a chemist.

Of course, by the turn of the decade, no one was making any long term plans. Germany’s Nazi regime had begun horse-whipping the rest of Europe, leaving the Allies and the rest of the planet wondering if the big kid across the pond was ever going to step in and help.

The Imperial Japanese Navy resolved that uncertainty on December 7, 1941.

Joe began checking the morning mail for his draft card.

 

Joe was drafted on February 2, 1942 and sent to Fort Devens, in Ayer, Massachusetts, for basic training. Four months later they shipped him off to Camp Croft, in South Carolina for infantry training.

It was hard to swallow- four years of college and five more in the workforce all amounted to this- the bottom of the bottom of the United States Army. Cannon fodder.

“The infantry man is the lowest man in the company,” Joe later said, “The lowest man in the whole organization. They thought we were all dumbbells.”

To those who speak military, he was assigned to K Company, 180th Regiment, 45th Division, which was based out of Oklahoma. Originally comprised of National Guardsmen from Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado, the division’s motto was (and still is) “Tanap nanaiya Kia alhtaiyaha,” which is Choctaw for “ready in peace or war.” This was a tribute to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, whose removal and relocation in the 19th and early 20th centuries became known as the “Trail of Tears,” yet who nonetheless sent many of their boys to fight with the 45th.

Ironically, before World War II, the 45th’s insignia was a swastika, a symbol of good luck to Native Americans. Understandably, Mr. Hitler’s choice of flag rendered the 45th’s banner somewhat unusable, and the division wisely adopted a less-incendiary emblem that still embraced its storied lineage.

 

 

 

In the sticky heat of South Carolina, Joe and the rest of his battalion were indoctrinated into the U.S. Army way of life.

“They change you right away. Before you know it. You might go in there saying ‘they won’t change me,’ but they do. Even today I don’t put my hands in my pockets. When I go into a building, I take my hat off. Nobody has to tell me that. That’s what they did to me.”

As Joe was keeping his hands out of his pockets, the Chiefs of Staff were planning several European invasions through both Europe and Africa. It didn’t take Albert Einstein to figure out the kind of invasion for which the fighting 45th was being trained.

Their lieutenant was a red-haired Choctaw, curiously named Fitzpatrick. Early one morning he led the platoon to the South Carolina shore where a Navy man stood, a boat anchored not far behind.

Lt. Fitzpatrick began barking out orders, sending the entire platoon into the sea and up the ramp into the back of the boat. Slogging through the waves and the tepid salt water, every single man understood the significance of the drill they were about to rehearse.

Once all were aboard, the boat headed out into the open sea, pulled a U-turn and then stormed towards the beach. When the engine stopped revving, the ramp would drop and the entire platoon would burst out and charge toward the shore, rifles in hand, with some banking right and others left.

“Go! Go! Go! Keep that rifle up, boy!” Fitzpatrick barked.

“You’d have to be pretty dumb not to realize what you were getting ready for,” Joe dryly observed.

They repeated the drill several times until Fitzpatrick rhetorically asked, “any questions?”

Joe raised his hand.

“Yes?” asked the lieutenant.

“Sir, we’re always taught in a defense action to bring the machine guns back to the tree line so you can catch the invaders when they hit the beach.”

“Right.”

“Well, don’t you think the enemy knows that, too?”

“Boy, you can’t have the Navy with you all the time!”

That was the moment when Joe knew he was fucked ten ways ’til Sunday. He went home and began saying his goodbyes to everybody.

“You’re never gonna see me again,” he told them.

 

All fear stems from the anticipation of losing something you’ve already got or not getting something that you want.

When your fear is imminent death, both sources flow with abundance.

The man behind the typewriter was ready to make his move.

He had not just seen the writing on the wall- it was in the very missives that he typed. An administrative clerk in Regimental Headquarters, he sat in the presence of officers and strategists as they plotted the invasion of Europe. Tucked deep inside the brains of the regiment, he was among the first to receive intelligence and he knew what the rest of the guys had long suspected- that the entire regiment would be heading straight into the belly of the beast.

Combat was assured. Survival was not.

Fuck that, he thought. He wasn’t ready to cash his chips in just yet.

And so the man quietly slipped off of the base without telling a soul.

Absent Without Leave.

His name was Tobin.

 

The officer entered the barracks and called out to Joe.

“Go to Regimental Headquarters, pronto. They need some help up there.”

“Yes sir,” he replied, hoofing it up to HQ.

For the rifle-toting rank and file of the infantry, HQ is like heaven. That’s where all the strategic planning occurs, so while HQ moves with the rest of the regiment, that section tends to be physically insulated from the front lines. Basically a whole lot of hell has to rain down before the guys sitting at their desks in HQ are required to pick up a rifle and start shooting.

Joe found the Adjutant of the regiment and reported for duty.

“This is the situation. The army regulations have to be brought up to date. There’s a big book of corrections here- just cut them out and paste them in over the old regulations. You think you can do that?”

It turns out that HQ had recently been audited by the Army Inspector General (AIG), who determined that while a considerable number of regulations had been changed, those updates were not reflected in the regiment’s manuals and Hell was in the midst of being paid.

“Yes sir,” Joe replied, “that’s just like changing mail schedules. We do that every week in the Post Office.”

The Adjutant could not have given less of a shit what they did at the Post Office. He just wanted the AIG off of his ass. Apparently the old clerk, catching wind of their impending deployment, had gone AWOL, leaving a mountain of work behind him.

“What happened to the guy who was doing this,” Joe asked.

“AWOL.”

The errant clerk’s folly was short-lived and he was quickly retrieved, relieved of his duties at HQ and returned to the lowest rung of the regiment.

“Who was he?”

“Name’s Tobin.”

 

Realizing his outrageously good fortune, Joe kept his head down and his mouth shut, quickly becoming a de facto authority in army regulations.

When an opportunity came to apply for a seat in Officer Candidate School, he leapt at it. Surrounded by officers all day long, Joe knew that his overall quality of life, as well as his odds of surviving the war in one piece, would be vastly enhanced by an officer’s commission.

“I knew there was a difference between being an officer and an enlisted man. I knew.”

He approached the Sergeant Major, a guy named Jim Arnett from the Oklahoma National Guard.

“Look at this, Jim,” he said, producing his completed application, “is this OK?”

“Just let me know when you need to get it done and we’ll push it along.”

With Arnett bringing his influence to bear, Joe’s application was fast-tracked straight to The Adjutant General of the United States Army, with explicit directions that the application be moved to the head of the AG’s “To Do” list.

The response arrived three days later.

A guy from the regiment strode into HQ with a telegram in hand and walked up to the Sergeant Major. He gestured back at Joe, sitting at his desk, and said, “well, you gotta salute him now…”

Joe was “to be commissioned directly in the Army of the United States as a Second Lieutenant and ordered to report to the Commanding General at the Port of Embarkation in Brooklyn, New York, immediately.”

 

Joe did three months in Brooklyn before being shipped over to the North African Headquarters, stationed just outside of Casablanca at Camp Cazes, where he was awarded command of a postal regulating section- the 40th PRS.

They promoted him to Captain, and after a couple of years, the PRS began preparing to move the base post office out of North Africa and into Europe. It was during those initial preparations that a sheaf of papers came through the post office with some stunning news.

A new man was being transferred onto the base.

The man was from K Company, 45th Division.

His name was Tobin.

“This is the guy!” Joe exclaimed when he realized who had just arrived at Camp Cazes. “Bring him in here,” he told his clerk.

He had so much to say to him. Whatever the man’s motives for going AWOL, Joe felt obliged to extend his gratitude. Had Tobin not fled when he did, Joe would have missed out on the opportunity to attend Officer Candidate School and receive a commission. At the very least, he’d buy him a drink.

Then Tobin shuffled into the office. His trembles and sunken eyes told a story that his voice never could.

“Tobin!” Joe reached for his hand, but no familiarity registered. “Don’t you remember me?’

“No sir,” Tobin replied with the unfocused weariness of the thousand-yard stare.

“Weren’t you that guy who went AWOL? You know, I got your job and that’s why I’m here today.”

“I don’t know that, sir.”

It was clear that Tobin had been through the wringer and that in his condition, formalities were impractical. Perhaps he could pass along news of Joe’s old buddies.

“Well then tell me, how about Donnelly? How’s Donnelly?”

Donnelly was the envy of the Company because he had a highly-polished metallic plate that fit into the pocket directly over his heart. It would take a pretty special bullet to stop Donnelly’s ticker.

“Donnelly? He’s gone. They’re all gone.”

“Donnelly? No,” this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, Joe thought, “didn’t he have that plate? Remember that plate? The silver plate?”

“Yes sir.”

“How did he die?”

“The head.”

Unwilling to accept what he was hearing, Joe offered up another name.

“Gone.” Tobin replied, “Sir, they’re all gone. I’m the only one left.”

“You’re the only one left?”

“Yes sir.”

“Where did it happen?”

Sicily.”

Upwards of 200 men- Joe’s old friends and barrack-mates, stormed the beach that day and all but Tobin were killed.

They stood face to face for a moment before Joe dismissed Tobin.

The gravity of what he had just learned pulled him down into his chair. The faces of his buddies flashed in his mind.

That was supposed to be me, he thought.

Had an office clerk named Tobin not gone AWOL, Joe’s life would have met a bloody end on a pitiless beach in Italy.

Maybe he would have been the one to beat the odds and ended up like Tobin. He couldn’t decide which sounded worse. He just knew that his message has been received.

This is your one shot, boy. Make it count.

 

Joe made it through the rest of the war in one piece and reunited with his parents and three brothers in Massachusetts, where he went back to work for the Post Office.

He was recalled to serve during the Korean War, finishing his military service as a Lieutenant Colonel. Returning home once again, he resumed employment with the Post Office, but this time they gave him a gun- he served as a United States Postal Inspector for many years, eventually finding his way back to his hometown of Worcester.

One day as Joe was leaving his post office for lunch, a co-worker asked him to wait a moment. The co-worker then asked a brunette at the counter, “Hey, you got any lunch plans?”

“No,” she replied cautiously.

“Well, Joe, why don’t you take her to lunch then?”

Grudgingly, Joe ended up taking the girl out to lunch. A few years later they were married in St. Peter’s Church in Worcester- a couple miles from Joe’s boyhood home.

I was born in August, 1968- their first child, and my sister came along in 1976. We grew up on Worcester’s west side- a small, happy family that was ripped apart in 1989 when cancer took my mother from us. Nonetheless, we did what the rest of the world does when they lose a loved one- we moved on.

My sister and I have fluttered all over the world, graduating from colleges and grad schools, living in cities and countries across the globe, ever anchored by our father back in Worcester.

What a ride it’s been.

My dad still lives in our old house back on the west side, about a mile up the road from my sister, her husband, two daughters and their dog Ray. Hardly a day goes by that my dad and I don’t chat on the phone for at least a few minutes, and I return home from California once or twice a year. While I miss San Diego’s sunshine and beaches whenever I’m away, when I’m home with my family in Worcester, I feel like everything in the world is perfect.

My father, Lt. Colonel Joseph W. Daly, turns 95 years old today- September 16, 2011.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Enjoy your day.

And Tobin, wherever your light now shines, rest well, soldier.

 

JOE DALY writes for a number of publications, including the UK's Metal Hammer and Classic Rock magazines, Outburn, Bass Guitar Magazine and several other print and online outlets. He is the music and cultural observer for Chuck Palahniuk's LitReactor site and his works have been published in several languages. When he is not drafting wild-eyed manifestos, Joe enjoys life in San Diego's groovy North County, teaching music journalism, doing yoga, running, playing guitar and spending tireless hours in deep and meaningful conversations with his beloved dogs, Cabo and Lola. You can check out his rants at http://joedaly.net and follow him on Twitter: @JoeD_SanDiego

67 responses to “Tobin”

  1. GABixler says:

    This is such a wonderful tribute to celebrate such a significant birthday…

    Life, indeed, just seems to “happen” doesn’t it…I’m learning that more and more each day.

    Send my congratulations on Joe’s 95th!

  2. I love this, Joe! What a great story and, of course, a great way to honor your dad on his birthday. My grandfather fought in WW II and was a postal worker as well. I wish I had the same kind of insights and understanding of his experiences the way you have of your dad’s. Well done.

  3. Hot Rod says:

    “What a ride it’s been.” And continues to be.

    Exactly! Life is just that, a ride you can’t get off with all it’s ups and downs.

    Tell the Lt. Col. Happy Birthday and thanks serving.

    Great story!!

    God bless you and your family.

    P.S. tell your dad thanks for taking out that brunette to lunch. I think you know where I’m going with that. Thanks dude. Rock On!!!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Hot Rod-

      Thanks a bunch- I will be sure to pass along your regards. And yeah, I’m glad he took her out to lunch too. A whole lot better than eating a sandwich and poring over the Daily Racing Form.

  4. Dana says:

    Happy Birthday Joe the First!
    What a great tribute to your dad, and some fascinating insight into the war too. (The swastika! Oy!) I wish I knew more about my father-in-law’s service, but it wasn’t something he liked to talk about much. My dad was one of the few he talked to about those years. Do you know where your dad was stationed during the Korean War?

    I can say with sincerity that your dad must be one helluva guy to have raised such great kids.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Dana-

      Thanks a bunch. It’s truly amazing how many stories that generation can tell- when the stakes were a hell of a lot higher than the stuff we tended to deal with in our twenties.

      He’s talked about Korea, but to be honest, I’m always far more fascinated with WWII. I need to get some more stories out of him for sure.

  5. I feel humbled. Beautiful story, beautiful writing, beautiful human being.

    The world’s a far better place with you in it, Joe. Tell your old man, from me, he’s done a fucking brilliant job of child-rearing.
    Respect, my friend.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Harry-

      You’re a class act from head to toe and as you know (or should know), your feedback is something I value quite highly. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Thanks to our Allied fathers and grandfathers, cats like you and I get to enjoy the succulent fruits of rock and roll.

  6. Great history. I love this kind of stuff. Makes me want to do the exact same thing with my grandfather. I read something recently about the number of WWII vets that die every day, getting exponentially larger, and their stories dying with them, unremembered. It was very smart to get this down, and out in public. Give Joe a hug for me next time you see him.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, man. You most certainly need to break out the hand held recorder and start gathering some stories.

      And it’s so true what you say about these stories dying with that generation. What a privilege it was for me to have this story passed on to me. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading Unbroken and I’m amazed that I’ve never heard that story before. More amazing is that when I ask my dad or some of the older guys I know from that generation, they’ve never heard it either. Which confirms what you said- there’s got to be a mountain of amazing stories out there, ripe for the telling.

  7. Rachel Pollon says:

    So nice that you have this kind of relationship with your dad and such a deep understanding of who he is and where he’s been. Really interesting to read about this unique situation and time. History is that much more interesting when it’s personalized. Glad you shared. Happy birthday to your pops!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Rachel! It was fun to do something off the beaten path, for me at least. The more research I did, the deeper into the story I fell. Truly a pleasure to research and write.

  8. jmblaine says:

    I kept hearing a great Motorhead record
    in the background of this story
    I love this brand of heart & soul in writing
    & I love the ending & the line
    wherever your light may shine.

    the writing I like best
    makes me feel the same way
    as the music, heavy, with gravity and heart.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Motorhead.
      If ever there were a perfect soundtrack
      for world war,
      it’s them.

      Thanks for your comments.
      About the story
      and my new profile pic.

      Joe Perry and I are both
      Massholes,
      so I feel honored.

      Rock on.

  9. jmblaine says:

    Also:
    in your new author pic
    you totally look like
    Joe Perry from
    Revolution X.

    <i? dude

  10. Martha says:

    Thank you for sharing a very personal and touching story. Recounting this moment in history helps keep that moment alive….it is the only way many of us experience not only the horrors but the heroism that war involves. Happy birthday to your dad. I celebrate with you on the richness of your heritage.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Martha. Yeah, it’s pretty humbling to come from the next generation, knowing what these guys all did. Whenever I hear an older person talk about how different it was back in their time, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and pay attention.

      • Martha says:

        I recently read Unbroken …. I too was unaware of Zamperini (his story of running was compelling in and of itself) but his hope and courage in the face of humiliation and abuse humbled me to the core. It is hard to imagine anything I could justifiably complain about (well..with the exception of long lines at Krispy Kreme when I got a dozen hot to go donuts in hand) Thanks again for sharing your gift of storytelling.

  11. Matt says:

    Words fail me here. This is so goddamn good. There’s really little I can say other than that my hat’s off you, Joe (s). And that I hope Tobin found some measure of peace.

  12. Wow, Joe. What a story. Brought tears to my eyes. Always amazing, the way one seemingly insignificant decision can completely change the path of a life.

    Happy birthday to your dad. (:

    • Joe Daly says:

      Aw, sorry for the floodgates, Tawni, but thanks for the read. 🙂 Yeah, you never know how something’s going to play out, eh? Glad this one played out the way it did. Phew…

  13. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    An amazing story, Joe, and it’s never quite as easy as it looks to tell the story of someone who means so much. A great, inspiring read.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Nat. I certainly wanted to choose my words carefully to make sure I respected not just my dad’s story, but Tobin’s. Dicey dealings, but ultimately rewarding. Thanks a bunch for the comment.

  14. Jonathan says:

    Incredible story, Joe. You really knocked it out of the park. What a great remembrance of your dad, and all the men that were willing to give everything so that we can enjoy our freedom. I only hope that we can use our freedom in ways that will honor the sacrifice of the generations that went before. Thanks for sharing a piece of history, and a glimpse into your dad’s life with us. Happy 95th to your dad!!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Jonathan-

      Thanks a million for your wonderful comments and of course, for taking the time to read the story. So true that they gave us a gift that we can only repay by using it, valuing it, and when necessary, defending it.

      Will pass along your regards. Thanks again!

  15. Brett says:

    OMG. That was an epic read.

  16. James D. Irwin says:

    Got up to the swastika line and my inner history nerd kicked in, and I feel compelled to dump some swasti-facts before leaving a better, proper comment. WWII trivia is sort of my disease and you should understand that I can’t help myself.

    The swastika, I believe, has it’s origins in the Hindu faith where it is the other way around and is a peace symbol. It was adopted by many clubs, sports teams, and even other cultures to convey both the fair play they wished to represent, as well it being considered a good luck symbol. This has resulted in many unfortunate sports team squad photos that make Midwestern high school hockey teams look like a bunch of drunk Mel Gibsons on a friday night.

    In the San Francisco branch of Macy’s there is a buddha statue emblazoned with a swastika somewhere in the women’s department.

    The swastika was, unsurprisingly, banned in Germany after the war along with the Hitler saltute. Exhibiting either will result in arrest. However, Germany was too poor post-WWII to tear down buildings just because of a little symbolism. So the result is that the ceiling of the entrance to an art museum in Munich is comprised of many, many interlinking swastikas that are allowed to stay because they’re subtle, not in direct view, and attached to a beautiful building.

    I will now return to the scheduled broadcast…

    • Joe Daly says:

      Great info for sure. Amazing how many cultures embraced the swastika long before Hitler appropriated it. I’ve seen pictures of American baseball clubs with swastikas on their hats, which looks nothing short of bizarre these days.

      Doing the research for this one, I was fascinated by the early 20th century’s fascination with these sort of mystical symbols- very fashionable back in the day.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I don’t know if this is going to nest in the right place, but it’s a continuation of the swastika debate…

        I forget why Hitler appropriated the swastika. I know that he designed the Nazi flag himself. The Waffen SS used skulls as logos. They must have known they were the evil ones…

        Mysticism was big in the early 20th century. I think it was the exposure to new information (factual or otherwise) on new and exciting worlds that must have seemed like fucking Mars back in those days. It seems weird to think about today when I live opposite an Indian family, I play football with a guy from Kenya, and with tv and the internet the world has become a lot smaller (and tolerant, of course). It must have been mindblowing for little white English people who’d never really left their town to hear about exotic races with brown skin and MULTIPLE deities.

        Have you ever read ‘A Study in Scarlet?’ You read it and wonder what the fuck the Mormons did to upset Arthur Conan Doyle. They get portrayed as wild raping savages living in Sergio Leone’s version of the Old West. Of course he’d never been to Utah, he just heard wildly overblown stories about them and later apologized after he visited America. I forgot what the point is (remember when TNB comment boards always ended up like this…?)

        I remember— the fairly simply theory that mysticism and the fascination with it in the early 20th century probably has it’s origins in myth, half-truth, and excitement. It would have been an amazing time to be alive…

  17. James D. Irwin says:

    I’m always fascinated by war stories, especially ‘smaller’ stories. Smaller isn’t really anywhere near the right word, because there are no small stories… but you know how there are one or two war heroes everyone knows about… the few stories of heroism everyone has some idea of…

    And it sounds horrible and insincere to say ‘everyone was a hero’ the way sports pundits say after a team wins a difficult game. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t true. I walk through a cemetry every day on my way to unviersity. There is one fairly large towering monument to those who sacrificed themselves in WWI and WWII. It seems strange, but the small grave in front of it has more impact. The monument is just… an idea… names… a horrifying bar chart illustrating incomprehnsible tragedy. The grave in front of it reads ‘…. Killed in active service, June 14th 1944.’ It’s more immediate… it’s easier to comprehend and picture… wonder what he used to look like… what he dreamed of… whether there was some local girl he intended to marry and… and how? Where? I did some research long ago to find out.

    But what seems even stranger to me is that there aren’t monuments to people who risked their lives and came back with them. All we can really do is listen to their stories, share them, and pass them on. As long as we keep doing that… it’s the least we can do.

    This is all a roundabout way of saying that I thought this was a beautiful and fitting tribute.

    • Joe Daly says:

      JDI-

      Thanks, man. What a fitting context into which stories like this can be placed. I’ve always found it striking that military grave markers are often the most simplest ones in the cemetery. Arlington is breathtaking, with simple white crosses marking the final resting place of so many who exchanged their ride in this lifetime for the principles of their country.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I always find it haunting on Rememberance Sunday when they show sweeping shots of the poppy fields that were once No Mans Land.

        More so a few years ago when two war veterans— one British, one German— travelled there together to lay a wreath. It was one of my favourite war stories as they shared stories it transpired that they had actually been pretty much directly opposite each other for a considerable period during the war.

  18. Hilary says:

    That was some story. I relished every second of reading it, as it was such a compelling read and so well written. What a beautiful tribute to your dad! So glad you finally wrote that piece! A fitting occasion.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Many thanks, Hilary. Glad you enjoyed it. I confess that I know precious little about military organization, so hopefully I got the military deets across accurately and coherently. Definitely one of my favorite exercises in writing. Thanks again!

  19. Carolyn says:

    Joe ~ I think you should be writing a book ! My father always enjoyed having a beer with your Dad on a Saturday afternoon, great man with great stories! Best to all!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Carolyn! I still remember when those two went to see “Apocalypse Now” in the theater. My father came home and said something like, “what the hell kind of movie was that, anyway? That was kooky.” It was always fun to see them kitchen hopping for their well-deserved lagers. Thanks for the comment!

  20. Don Mitchell says:

    Joe, it’s great. Those little bits and pieces of history are too good to lose. Of course it’s a matter of life and death it’s hardly “little.”

    I was working today on some WW II memories of native people on top of whom the Australians, Americans, and Japanese fought. It’s all of a piece. Some people get lucky and others die.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Don and well said. When you’re the one in the middle of all the heat, I’m guessing that “little” isn’t prominent in your vocabulary.

      What’s the deal with the piece you’re working on? Will it be published here? Looking forward to it.

  21. Gloria says:

    Holy shit, you’ve mad me cry. Right there, at the end, like a surprise attack. Your writing is beautiful, Joe. Really, really incredible.

    And, wait…your dad had you when he was 56? And your sister when he was 64? Holy cow! What a guy. 🙂

    Happy birthday, Joe’s dad Joe!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Gloria. Yeah, he got started late in the game. Big time. Needless to say, I’m genetically optimistic. 🙂

      I appreciate your comments and am looking forward to sending your birthday wishes and those of others his way. He’s going to love it.

  22. Peter D says:

    Like I’ve told you before, you’re brilliant. What a great tribute to a great father from a great son. Your dad did a fantastic job with you and it shows. Wish him a Happy Birthday for me and thank him for his service and I hope everybody realizes that freedom is not free. Thank you Lt. Col. Daly and many more, I love your son, he’s a gbreat friend.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Peter-

      Thanks a bunch for your comments and for your own service for the military. You give back way more than you’ve ever received from the armed services. It’s a privilege to count you among my closest friends.

  23. Noel says:

    Happy birthday Joe:)

  24. Hey man, this was one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. Really well written from start to finish.

    I liked the little note about the swastika, too. It’s easy to forget how meaning meanings it has, or used to have.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, David. That swastika thing is mind-blowing, eh? I couldn’t believe when I came across that. Amazing that such a trendy, positive symbol is forever relegated as an embarrassing reminder of man’s capacity for cruelty.

  25. Zara Potts says:

    Cupcake,
    It’s always a delight to read your words. You have a wonderful gift of telling a story and revealing all its parts just so.
    Ugh. War. Such sorrow, such stories, such random acts and little miracles.
    Happy birthday to your dear Dad, Cupcake- and lots of love to you.
    Pookie

  26. Lorna says:

    Love makes me cry sometimes. Like today. Happy Birthday Mr. Daly.

    You’re a pretty good guy yourself, JoeD.

  27. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your father, Joe. War stories, stories told by men about their fathers, I always appreciate the masculine voice. “Grab a seat. Life’s in session.” Call me old-fashioned, but this is why women faint.

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, LRC. It can be a bit intimidating listening to guys like that talk about the stuff they went through back in their day- stories of harder times and greater sacrifices are what we men crave, but at the same time, it can be a bit rough on the ego when one (me) is forced to admit just how good I’ve had it, all things compared.

  28. Richard Cox says:

    Wow, what a great story, JD. Such good fortune from a small thing. Goes to show how each decision we make can have great and unforeseen consequences.

    Can’t imagine what it was like to be Tobin. First he deserts and then he’s the only one who survives? Mind-boggling.

    Happy belated birthday to the elder Joe!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Coxy. I certainly benefited from the experience in more ways than one.

      So right about the impact of decisions. If you do the right thing, it’s easy to stomach even the unintended consequences of your decision. But when you’re aiming low, it’s got to be pretty hard to accept when things spiral beyond what you might have anticipated.

      Poor Tobin. The compounded blow of survivor’s guilt must have been terrible. I’d be surprised if he’s still around, but I hope he found some small way of moving forward. After all he went through, I believe he earned it.

      Passing on your belated greetings. Thx!

  29. Megan says:

    Great piece, Joe!

    You do your dad proud.

    And what an amazing story. I’m always boggled by the war stories, your fathers, my grandfathers. It’s almost incomprehensible to me that these things happen. But they do.

    I’m glad your father lived and is able to tell you these tales.

    Happy Birthday papa Daly!

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks, Megan!

      I’m equally happy that he made it through to tell me these tales. Yeah, the stories those guys have fairly well eclipse anything I’m bringing to the table.

      Thanks again!

  30. Terry Rondberg says:

    Incredible story, Joe. What a wonderful story about your father, and all the men that gave so much of themselves so we could have our freedom. Thanks for sharing a slice of history, and a piece of your father’s life. This is very well written. Being Jewish the Nazi’s and their swastika have always held a special interest to me. Stories like yours are the only way I have been able to experience the horrors and the heroism of the war. Congratulations to your father what a fantastic tribute and a great honor you have given him. And to your father on his 95th mazltov מזל־טובֿ צו דײַן געבוירנטאָג

    • Joe Daly says:

      Thanks a million, Terry. I can’t imagine how it feels to be Jewish and to gaze upon a swastika, knowing all the atrocities that were orchestrated beneath it. Every war leaves its veterans behind and at some point, there are no more- just the stories. I’m so lucky to be able to capture such a personal one from my dad. Thanks for the bday wishes, although I’ll need some assistance with the translation…

  31. Such a tender and moving story, Joe! Made all the more significant when the reveal is memoir…and it’s your own father. A lovely tribute, and I read it on the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing. Circles, and cycles.

  32. D.R. Haney says:

    I’ve been meaning to say for weeks, Joe, how moved I was by this piece. I should’ve commented when I read it, but I was pulled away by whatever insanity was going on at the time. There’s been a lot of recent insanity in my life, some of it literally so. Anyway: Wow. This is unquestionably my favorite piece of yours to date, though of course I have a lot of catching up to do.

    I hope you see this. I’m no longer receiving notifications about comments, including responses to comments I’ve left on the posts of others, and I assume that’s true for everyone here.

  33. […] Some of the regulars here have heard the stories of my dad, who, at 95 years old, is still going strong, walking a couple miles a day when weather permits and calling the occasional radio talk show to share his theories on shrubbery and the price of fish. […]

  34. Robert White says:

    Hello Joe-

    Great article about your dad. Pleased to know that he is doing well. I knew him when I was Postal Inspector domiciled at Boston. Worked with him and Jack Day a few times. He was quite a “character” with a great personality and reputation. I rember him telling about the time he bought you your first baseball glove. You are fortunate to have him in your life.

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