Skip to comments.WWII Veteran Returns Wedding Photos of Dead German Soldier 68 Years Later
Posted on 12/19/2012 2:08:14 PM PST by nickcarraway
Even though he is 92, Howard Hensleigh remembers 1944 like it was yesterday. Even though he is 92, Howard Hensleigh of Menlo Park remembers 1944 like it was yesterday. That was the year the Army World War II veteran killed a German soldier during a gun battle in Southern France.
The sergeant that I chose to fire the first shot fired and of course they hit the dirt. Firing going back and forth all the time," Hensleigh said.
Hensleigh, who was an intelligence officer and assistant platoon leader, says he knew the German soldiers were not going to give up without a fight. He says he gave them several chances to give up. But a man he later came to find out was named Georg Reick give him no other choice. Hensleigh shot and killed him during a firefight. Hensleigh said he felt it was something he had to do in order to save his men.
When you take prisoners you get all the information off of all of them," Hensleigh said. "I hate to admit it but they dont end up with their watches rings and anything else."
In this case, Reick was stripped of personal artifacts, such as pictures of his wife and family and his wedding photo: It was common to confiscate the goods from the dead Germans at the time. Hensleigh took them, and put his enemy's belongings in his personal scrap book.
They stayed there for 68 years until a young French writer named Jean Loup came along out of the blue. Loup was interested in interviewing WWII veterans who served their country in Southern France for a documentary he was working on. While researching online, Loup found Hensleigh as one of the many U.S. soldiers who had fought in World War II. Loup flew to the Peninsula to meet Hensleigh, and during their meeting, learned of his story and started to connect the dots.
Loup then contacted the company that developed pictures. But the company was no longer there. He then sent them to the mayor of the small German town where the soldier lived.
The mayor recognized the dead soldier and put Hensleigh in touch with the soldiers grandson whose name is also Georg Reick.
The grandson and Hensleigh now e-mail each other back and forth. Hensleigh gave Reick's grandson information he's been longing for and Reick Jr. has pictures he thought he would never get.
A Menlo Park World War II veteran will return photos he stole from a man he killed in the war back to the man's family in Germany. The grandson of the man he killed understood they were both soldiers and is thrilled to get the photos back after almost 70 years. Cheryl Hurd reports.
Seriously, an amazing story.
Boo! That made me go the link looking to add to my ugly bride collection.
He killed the man in combat, did he steal the photos or just take them off a dead man before the body was disposed of?
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Thanks nickcarraway, remarkably touching story this.
Good question. Why would anyone want to keep pictures of someone they killed, however honorably? It’s not like they had monetary value.
I imagine it is common to take things off a man that you have killed in combat, it is definitely policy to search them if you can. Some people find it difficult to dispose of family photos of anyone, no matter how unrelated or unknown.
Yes, it seems a mark of respect that he didn’t just throw them away. I wonder what was commonly done with enemy soldiers personal affects.
That German guy on the right is good looking. Sort of reminds me of the actor William Powell.
Hmmm. I guess I can see why you say that, although I didn’t think of it. Powell was a great actor.
This is exactly what was often done. They were packed away, in boxes or a footlocker with other items. Found some last week, in fact; the lady had NO IDEA that they were there...her Dad brought them back.
Another time, we found what we still call the $5,000 shoe box...it held only four items. The Dad would NEVER talk about what had happened, but the daughter had ended up with the box. She hid it in her house for years, too embarrassed to call anyone.
Honestly, she would have taken $50 to have someone take it away. She ended up with over $4,000.
Her Dad broke down any time he talked about the War...mourning the losses on both sides that he saw "up close & personal." They DID keep these items, in most cases, as a sign of respect. In most cases they are not "named" to a particular soldier.