The following story is adapted from a special collection my mom assembled for her parents decades ago. I hope that in a small way, sharing this lighthearted piece will serve as a kind of decoration on Memorial Day—though it is not meant to diminish the solemnity of Memorial Day, set apart to remember those who have given their lives in service to our country.
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My grandfather joined the Army in 1917 and was overseas with the Motor Transport Corps in France doing a lot of convoy work.
One assignment was to transport to Paris some high-powered Cadillac and Buick cars for General Pershing’s staff, and my grandfather was in charge of assigning the drivers. He decided it would be nice to see Paris, so he assigned himself to drive one of the cars—one version of the story has Grandpa driving Pershing’s personal vehicle.
Well, the convoy was flying down the road at top speed, and Grandpa had never driven a fast car like that. He had trouble keeping up.
Speeding down a hill, he suddenly saw that the entire convoy had stopped for some trucks to pass.
“I knew I couldn’t stop in time and had just about decided to ram the rear truck,” Grandpa explained one time (adding that he probably would never get out of the guardhouse for wrecking Pershing’s car), “when I spotted a possible way out. Just before I crashed into the convoy, I veered to the side, careened along the convoy and ran upon a pile of cinders that had been left by the roadside for winter emergencies.”
The soft landing left the Cadillac undamaged, wheels spinning as it perched atop the heap.
When Grandpa got out, the convoy leader ran up, shook his hand and said, “That was one swell piece of driving!”
Grandpa was too weak to answer, but said he was thinking, “You mean that was one swell piece of luck!”
Pictured above: my grandfather, the man who very nearly crashed General Pershing’s car. Photo was taken in France.
He returned from the war and married his sweetheart, my grandmother. Together they raised four wonderful children—my three uncles and my mom.
All three of my uncles served in World War II.
Thank you to all who have served or are serving in our armed forces.
Please share your stories with someone today.
(modified from the archives)
Megan Willome says
People who have served in the military have amazing stories. I’ve been privileged to write pieces of a couple of them. There’s one more I need to get.
Glad you shared this one, especially as WWI is looming larger as we near the 100th anniversaries.
You’re right! I wonder if my mom and her brother could try to remember as many of Grandpa’s WWI stories as possible?
Sheila Seiler Lagrand says
I think this happens sometimes–something that looks to me like a crash-landing looks to someone else like a well-orchestrated maneuver!
PS: Love the new look here.
I like the principle you drew from Grandpa’s story!
Also, thanks for the PS. I look through other blog designs and sigh, knowing mine is so different. But, I’ve always been a bit different. Oh well.
Sheila Seiler Lagrand says
I’m glad you like my conclusion, Ann. And I know what you mean about other blog designs, and sighing, and being different.
Yes, I do.
That is a great story !! I had an Uncle in WW one who was buried alive, but they got him out and ever after he was afraid of closed in places. Go figure??
Several cousins in WW 2 one lost at sea but the others made it home safely.
Enjoy your Memorial Day week end.
WOW! What a story!
All of my uncles made it home safely, as did a close cousin who was seriously injured. His jaw was reconstructed and he was such a jolly man. So many were spared, even though so many lost their lives.
Connie@raise your eyes says
Love hearing the old stories, especially when all ends well.
Me, too! I understand the need to tell the hard stories, too, but I like a happy ending and a good laugh, as did my grandpa, from what I hear.
Lynn Hopper says
Uncle Don and I both enjoyed this!! Thank you for remembering!
Thanks for capturing the story so well in the first place–that’s some good journalism at work! 😉
Sandra Heska King says
That’s one swell story! Thanks.
And whatever happened to the use of “swell”? It fell from usage, and what a wonderful exclamation, don’t you think?
Laura Brown says
That’s a swell story.
Ann Kroeker says
Isn’t that a great word? It got swallowed up by words like “awesome,” I guess.