George Peuquet (1910 ~ 2005) began his excellent World War II memoir with these words: “I was a civilian soldier from April 28, 1941, until June 19, 1945.” Thus began a journey which took him from Tonawanda, NY, to New Jersey, North Carolina, & on to North Africa & Europe.
George was part of our ‘extended family’ ~ my mother’s boyfriend at Tonawanda High School in the 1920s, a soldier with whom my mother exchanged letters during the war, a Christmas card friend (along with his wife) over many years, & later, after George had been widowed & Mom divorced, an Item again.
George was drafted at age 30, expecting to spend not more than a year in the army. That turned into a 9-month stint, & he was happily preparing to be discharged as ‘too old’ in December of 1941. On December 6, he was at Fort Bragg, NC, rounding up his gear, preparing to go home. Before his discharge papers could be signed, it was December 7, that Day That Would Indeed Live In Infamy, & George had to face the fact that he was in it for the duration.
George’s brigade, the 34th, was attached to more than one army during the conflict, including US & French units. George was never far behind the lines, but he didn’t see combat. As a valued sergeant, he undertook a multitude of tasks from the exacting to the mundane, among which were map-making & photography.
On the homefront, George’s fiancee Catherine Miller was waiting like so many others. George sent home many interesting bits of ephemera, & among the most enchanting of these was this sketch that a local street artist created in Oran, Algeria. The likeness is VERY faithful; I would know George anywhere.
George & Catherine did marry after the war, but they had no children, & I inherited most of his war memorabilia, including his Bronze Star & his Croix de Guerre. He produced a rough draft, very well done even in its earliest incarnation, of his memoir in the early 1990s, & Mom & I edited it for style & content, but it didn’t require much. Later I put it into the computer & was able to present him with a good printed copy; later still, I made up a more elaborate version with illustrations such as this one.
George remembered most of his comrades fondly, & he faithfully attended the brigade’s reunions. But he was not particularly sentimental about his service; he saw it as a necessary evil, but he would gladly have taken that December 6 discharge. He served well, distinguished himself in a variety of ways, & lived on, in his own home by himself until his sudden death from heart failure at the age of 94.
Here’s to you, George.