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Fitz' letter included in Brokaw book

April 27, 2001

Fitz' letter included in Brokaw book



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

Clyde Fitz familyPhoto: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

The letter, in a white envelope adorned with stickers and bearing a child's name, is brief.

In 1992, Clyde Fitz wrote the letter describing his World War II experiences and gave a copy to each of his three grandchildren as a Christmas gift.

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"We were so young we didn't appreciate it then, but we do now," said his granddaughter Caitlyn Mongan.

After Fitz's death three years ago, his family came across his letter and realized the legacy he had left.

Touched by the concise, poignant prose, his daughter Dawn Lowenhaupt sent the letter to newscaster Tom Brokaw in the hope he would include it in his book of the accounts of World War II veterans.

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Brokaw's new book, "An Album of Memories," is due out next month. It includes Fitz's heartwarming story and an introductory letter from Lowenhaupt, of Hagerstown.

"He talked constantly about the war. We heard his stories over and over, we absorbed them but we didn't really pay attention," said Lowenhaupt.

After rereading the letter, Lowenhaupt said, she was touched anew by his eloquence.

She said her father would have been hesitant to send his letter to Brokaw but would be proud it had been printed.

Dedicated to Lowenhaupt's children, Courtney, 19, Corey, 17, and Caitlyn Mongan, 15, Fitz's letter is undated and unsigned.

He opens by writing "This may or may not be of interest to you later in school," and goes on to describe his years growing up in Antrim Township, Pa., during the Depression.

Born in 1918, Fitz was one of 11 children and never went past the eight grade.

"The Depression was rough, but a good educator. One could live without money," he wrote.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was a pivotal moment in Fitz's life.

"I always felt my place was in the Army, so I enlisted," he wrote.

A 21-year-old Fitz was inducted into the Army in Baltimore on Dec. 12, 1941, and issued dog tags, he wrote.

During the war Fitz, who served with the 1st Armored Division, initially was stationed in Ireland, Scotland and England.

"We stayed in England until Thanksgiving Day, when we boarded a ship at Liverpool and sailed that night. Most of the parts of the ship were very dirty (which we cleaned). Food was very sorry (which we had to eat), he wrote.

Five days later, Fitz's division was sent to North Africa. On Sunday, Jan. 31, 1943, they were sent to the front.

"As we were pulling into position the Germans bombed our battery. It was 3 p.m. We remember the time, as a lot of GIs' watches stopped as well as others," Fitz wrote.

Machine gun fire was heavy and he was hit in the armpit to the left upper chest, he wrote.

"I was knocked down and dazed, but my head cleared and I was able to warn others of the fire. I got away from it fast," he recounted.

Eight weeks later Fitz had recovered enough to be returned to his battery at El Guettar.

Life was hard for the soldiers on the North African front, he said.

"We made mistakes, had hardships and frightening times. Thank God, we seemed to profit from them all and won," he wrote.

From there his battery was sent to Naples, Italy where they prepared for battle.

"On the night of the 30th of November, we moved into firing position. We dug in and camouflaged, then carried ammunition down the muddy slippery paths to our guns, three rounds at a time; total weight 155 pounds," he wrote.

After a series of battles in Naples, Fitz was shipped to Anzio, where he and his buddies slept in underground holes covered with wood and dirt.

Near the end of June, Fitz and his battery found out the war was over and they were going home.

Fitz, who later would work as a mechanic at the Fairchild airplane manufacturing plant in Hagerstown, wrote that he "learned a lot in the Army. I took orders and carried them out the best I could. I never got in big trouble. I hope I did my bit to help keep this great country the land of the free.

"I was with the best of men. Could not have picked better," he wrote to his grandchildren. "On the other side one needed FRIENDS. Mine were my GOOD BUDDIES.

"May God Bless them all."

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