Sergeant John Griffin
by Jen Scardino




My Grandfather


I have always seen my grandfather as a hero for being one of my best friends as a kid, playing dress up with me, and sitting through hours and hours of board games, little things like that. However when I was seven, I never knew this side of my grandfather, and now, knowing this, I realize that he really is a hero.

John Albert Griffin was drafted into the army when he was 26. He left behind a loving wife as well as a daughter, Mary. I interviewed Mary, my aunt about my grandfather’s great story.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, everything was changed. We were finally at war. My grandfather, newly married, a beautiful little girl at home and a baby boy on the way was not required to enlist because he had a family but he wanted to serve and protect his country. When he enlisted, he was put into a line with all the other men and every other person would be sent to the Pacific or Europe to fight. It just so happened that my grandfather was chosen to fight in Europe, the heart of World War II. So in March 1944, John was sent over to Europe for 3 months of intense training where he learned Morse code and even how to shoot a gun. He ended up becoming a sergeant for the infantry and fighting on the front lines for the next two scariest years of his life.

The Battle of the Bulge


This map shows what happened
during the Battle of the Bulge.
My grandfather saw everything from good to bad and unfortunately there was more bad than good. He didn’t really like to talk about the war but he did tell Mary some stories. John fought in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the biggest and worst battles of World War II. It was a significant battle as well because the Germans were unable to break through the Allied forces, and it just went downhill from there for the Germans. Before the battle, he ran over to a church that wasn’t Catholic. One of the soldiers under him mentioned this and advised him not to go in. His response was, “a house of God is a house of God.” When he was there, he felt like at any moment he could die and by praying it gave him hope. That battle was a defining moment in my grandfather’s life. He was in a fox hole with a friend and was about to go up and shoot when his friend told him to stop. The man told him it was his turn to shoot because he hadn’t done as much fighting as my grandfather. Right as he went up he was shot in the head. He died instantly. My grandfather then got out of there quickly with his unit but carried the man back all the way to base because he felt that if anyone died on his watch, they wouldn’t be just another statistic of casualties, they would be identified and brought home.


The Home Front

Things at home were not much better. Mary would wait for my grandfather on her front steps. At first my grandmother and the rest of the family told the four year old that he was helping the army repair planes for battle. After a while it soon become clear that his job was much more demanding and that the country was at war. At night every family would have to close their blinds and shut off the light just in case there was a German attack on American soil.


Fox Holes

Another time in battle, they were in hiding and the Germans were literally walking over my grandfather’s men. It was raining like many days of the war. There was a man under my grandfather, Delbert, and as the Germans were walking over them, he was fussing with his raincoat. Now at any moment the Germans could look down and kill them easily so this rustling could kill them. One German heard it and that is when my grandfather told him to shut up. Luckily no other German heard so they moved on. My grandfather would get Delbert’s Christmas card every year and every time he would open it, he would say, “Oh, here is the man that almost killed me.”


Honorable Return Home


After two years of intense fighting my grandfather got the okay to come home. He returned to the States and met Mary at the train station. Mary picked him out of everyone before my grandmother could and ran into his arms. Excited to see her father for the first time in years she said, “Daddy! Did you kill those Germans?” He responded with, “I hope not Mary.” My grandfather couldn’t imagine taking away another person’s father.

When he got back home, there was a message and award waiting for him from the US army. They gave him the Sharp Shooter award meaning he was the best of the best when it came to shooting which is why he was a lot of times used as a sniper in battles. The message asked him to attend officer training school because they wanted him to become a Lieutenant or Colonel for the US army not just for World War II but for a job. He declined saying that he was flattered but he did what he had to do for his country and now all he wanted to do was be with his family.



Scenes of the Bulge by Jen Scardino



Bibliography

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Mawhinney, Mary. Personal interview. 6 Jan. 2007.
"Some ideas for chateaux, castles." Belgian Tourist Office. 24 Jan. 2007
     <http://www.belgiumtheplaceto.be/wtm_2005_news.php#TOP>.