My maternal grandfather, Leo Kavanaugh, died in 1970 a few months after I was born. I never got to meet him. While I was growing up my mother told me wonderful stories of her father and he became something of a hero to me.
I always knew that my grandfather served in WWII, but didn't have any details.
In 1998 I started looking for information on the Internet about his unit. One thing led to another and I found myself tracking down and interviewing veterans from his unit – 33 in all, including my grandfather’s four best buddies. Flattered by my interest, these old soldiers, now in their 80s and 90s, shared stories, photos, memories and tears about this difficult time in their lives.
I then went to France, Holland and Germany and tracked down the people and places connected with my grandfather’s unit.
Finding Granddad’s War is the story of my search, with interviews of the people and veterans I met along the way. There’s a lot to it – some painful and fun: bloody river crossings under German fire; love affairs with Dutch women; bar-room brawls; visits to French brothels; bank robberies (at least two!); pet dogs and monkeys; German civilians with very different memories; and resurrection and catharsis of long-buried, painful memories.
In Part II, I give instructions on tracking down your own family member’s war story.