Picture-perfect war bride.
IN JANUARY 1945 I was stationed in Ghent, Belgium. I was captain in the 17th Port Transportation Corps, and I was in charge of the motor pool. This included teaching soldiers how to drive vehicles of all kinds, loading and unloading vehicles from the ships to the trains, loading armament of all kinds, and many such duties.
One day at the home of my driver, Rene Krumps, I saw this picture of a group of young people, and in the corner was a picture of a lovely blonde young lady, with wavy hair like the movie stars of the day. I told Rene I would like to marry someone like that. He told me he knew where this girl lived. One day in early May we went by the house at No. 14 Rue Astrid in Ghent, Belgium, near Citadelpark. She wasn't there, but her mother, Laure Scribe, answered the door. Her mother spoke a little English and greeted me nicely.
A couple days later, the surrender of Germany was official. Everyone was celebrating, especially at the downtown headquarters where I was stationed. I decided to get out and take a walk. After a while I realized I was in the neighborhood of the park, and near the home of the pretty blonde. I remembered the doors and the look of the homes. I took a chance and knocked on a door. To my surprise, this beautiful young blonde from the picture I had seen answered the door. I was at the Scribe family residence. I said hello in the only French I knew. Her name was Yette, short for Henriette. Her mother said hello and remembered me from the few days before. She translated my introduction to Yette.
Before I had knocked at the door, Yette and her brother Rene were asking to go downtown to celebrate what became known as Victory Day or V-E day. The lights would be turned on for the first time in over 4 years. There would be a lot of celebrating. Yette's father, Henry, a major in the Belgian army, did not want them to go downtown; it would be too wild for his daughter and her friends. With perfect timing, I asked her parents if I could take Yette and her brother down to the town square. Her mother, in asking some questions, had figured out that I was Catholic, a captain, and that I seemed pretty decent. So her father finally consented. He thought she would be safe if she was with a captain, because enlisted men would leave her alone.
Yette's brother Rene and some neighborhood friends all went with us down to town square, located in front of the Gestapo headquarters. There was a band playing in the square and lots of celebrations. I was able to buy ice cream for everyone from my headquarters. We had a very memorable time, even though Yette did not speak English and I did not speak French.
The next day, I went back to Rene and I cut out the picture of Yette as a special remembrance of that day. I did not know what my future would hold, but I wanted to treasure that day always.
I continued to visit with Yette's family throughout the summer. In August I was stationed in Germany, and I wrote letters to Yette that she would translate word for word, slowly learning English this way. I was able to take weekend trips by train from Germany to Ghent. In December that year we were engaged, and we married in August 1946. We were married 53 years until she passed away in 2000. We had 5 children, 12 grandchildren, and now 3 great-grandchildren.
Lou Schirm 3
wartime captain, 17th Port Transportation Corps
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|Title Annotation:||WAR STORIES: AWWII Scrapbook|
|Author:||Schirm, Lou; Harnsberger, Lorette; Graham, James T.; Adolphson, Harlan|
|Publication:||America in WWII|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2011|
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