In 1944, a few months past his 18th birthday, East New Yorker Norman Lunde was drafted into the U.S. Army during WWII. After training at Fort Dix, NJ, he was shipped to Le Harve, France in time for the drive to Berlin to end the war. The first days of the war were an eye-opener for young Norman. Not only was PFC Lunde now carrying a M1 rifle for the first time in his life, but people were shooting at him as he marched east to Germany. The going was tough, as the 76th Division marched 600 miles through France, Belgium and southern Germany, fighting for almost every mile covered. The plan was to press into Germany from the south while the Russians moved west into Berlin to finally end the war. But General Dwight Eisenhower held up Norm’s Division to let the Russians take Berlin. Germany surrendered a few days later.
Of all of the things he endured during the war in Europe, the most terrifying was the Screamy Meemies. Those were the ear shattering German Nebelwerfer rockets that made a hellish and loud MEEEEMing sound as they were shot at you. “You never knew what to expect with those terrible hell-hounds,” PFC Lunde said, “They could carry high explosives, poison gas or smoke to allow German troops to attack in hand-to-hand combat. In later conflicts this would have caused PTSD, but during the war, we called them the Heebie-Jeebies. It was really hard to get that nightmare sound out of your head.” Finally, a month later, Norman got to climb the Eiffel Tower and gaze out over a liberated world, a sight that he still remembers with great awe. He claims that was the closest he’s ever been to flying, climbing 906 feet to the top viewing platform of the tower.
The one incredible thing that got him through the war? With a huge smile lighting up his face, Lunde says “HERSHEY BARS!” and shakes his head. “We always got half a dozen a week and they were amazing! They tasted so good. We would get packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes too, but I wasn’t a smoker so I gave mine away."
And of all his soldiering memories, what was the best? “Steaming back into NY Harbor past the Statue of Liberty aboard the Queen Mary with 14,000 other GIs,” said Lunde. “It never felt so good to be coming home.” Lunde, got married soon after his return, to Gloria Harris and they moved to the Rockaways to raise their family where Norman has lived ever since.
PFC Lunde will get his second home-coming welcome Monday, May 30 as Grand Marshal of the Rockaway’s proudest veteran’s celebration, the Annual Memorial Day Parade.
By Tom DuganBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS