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Some Thoughts on Liberation

My greatest takeaway from this most recent trip involves some refined feelings about liberation. I'm writing this post in a time of high cynicism. And the were matters of which one could be cynical back in 1944, the year in which Charlie fought and died. This trip, however, left me with renewed appreciation for what our country did back in that war, helping me refocus on what I've had the chance to see and do the past few years.

Christopher is the military historian who accompanied us on this voyage. In one of our webinars this spring, he made an offhand reference to a piece of scholarship about the Holocaust he said was worth reading. It's entitled Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. It's heavy. I can't say I read every chapter. But I read most of it on our bus rides this summer. And I'm glad I did.


Saying that Bloodlands is a study of the Holocaust is a bit incomplete. Much of the book (somewhere between one-third and one-half) focuses with a narro…
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Charlie and Pap

I mentioned in a previous post that Charlie reminds me more of my grandfather than any of the others that I have gotten to know the past few years. This has lent an air of happiness to much of my research and journey, but in at least one way has made me more sad than the previous projects.


Why did I settle on Staff Sergeant Charles F. Simcox, Jr. as the subject of my research? My task was to identify a soldier buried at Luxembourg who came from Pennsylvania, preferably from near where I live. I had a lot of names to choose from (many Pennsylvania boys are buried there). My second choice was a Montgomery County pilot who flew troop planes. Charlie stuck out, though, for a few factors. The name mattered: distinct but not prone to misspelling. That he was from Chester County mattered, too. That was home to me growing up. That he had earned a Distinguished Service Cross and had risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant also suggested to me that there might be a significant paper trail. Of cour…

Eulogizing Charlie

You may find the eulogy I wrote for Charlie interesting. I have it copied here.
The marker by which we stand today identifies Staff Sergeant Charles F. Simcox, Jr., as a hero who gave his life in service to our nation. Before entering the service, his family knew him as Charlie. To this day they keep the memory of Charlie, or Uncle Charlie, alive. Many of the members of this closely-knit group still live near West Chester, Pennsylvania, where Simcox grew up. They have not grown apart in the decades of peace and prosperity that Simcox’s service and sacrifice made possible.   
Something that I wanted to convey, but that seemed very difficult to convey, was the joyous and warm sense of his family. When I reached out to them this winter, they were more than happy to meet with me. I felt like something of a guest of honor. And so many of them came out to meet me that I lost track of who was who. A warmly receptive family isn't a given in doing work like this. My attempts to reach out to…