Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bob Slaughter, Ambassador for D-Day, Dies

Bob Slaughter (left) with Bill Clinton, one of the presidents he met late in life.
The young soldier.
Just learned a few minutes ago that Bob Slaughter died at Roanoke Memorial today. Bob was instrumental in helping get the D-Day Memorial in Bedford built and in his late life he became something more than the humble printer he was for most of his working life. He was an ambassador for one of the most important events in American history, the invasion of Europe. He was 87.

Bot met presidents and potentates as the 6-feet-5-inches former grunt who charged the beaches at Normandy in 1944, breaking into Europe and defeating the Nazis months later. He was in the initial wave, the one that was more often than not shot to pieces. He was a big target, but as one of the 29th Infantry, he was tough, brave, scared half to death and confused, but hell-bent on getting that beach secured.

I worked with Bob for a number of years at the local daily in Roanoke where I was a sports writer/features writer and he a shop foreman in the composing (which no longer exists). It was Bob's job to make sure the paper was properly put together by the typesetters and the layout guys, then sent to plate-making so those plates could go on the press and bring you a newspaper. He was good at it, a good manager with a firm and fair manner.

Bob Slaughter at home.
Bob was not one of those combat veterans who avoided conversation about the most significant event of their lives. He loved talking about the war, about combat, about battle and about friends and foes. He once told me that the first time he ever saw a jet airplane--the ME 262 that the Nazis built--he and the rest of the guys in his squad were so terrified by the sound that they threw down their guns and ran.

Bob never had any compunction about giving you the facts and letting you figure out for yourself if these guys were heroes and in that, he became a hero to me. Most people are not heroes. Most soldiers are just trying stay alive and keep their friends alive. They don't think about medals and heroism and Bob pointed this up over and over with his stories of people being people in times of stress.

He was a good man and a good representative for what is essentially human folly. He understood what war was and for that I applaud his memory.

No comments:

Post a Comment