Veteran tells how killing a young German soldier haunted him for life

Illustration for article titled Veteran tells how killing a young German soldier haunted him for life

In this day of remembrance for all of those who fought for this country—and others too—I thought it would be good to hear the heartbreaking story of Joseph Robertson, a World War II veteran who had to kill a young German soldier face to face, during the Battle of the Bulge. Listen—and think.


Robertson (on the left) fought with the 30th Infantry Division. Four years before his death at the age of 90 he told the story about what happened to his son in law John Fish, Jr. (on the right.)

Illustration for article titled Veteran tells how killing a young German soldier haunted him for life

He said it was the saddest moment of his life—which haunted him every night of his life, even while he knew this young kid would have killed him just the same. But that doesn't matter. If you're a normal human being, killing another human being will leave a mark on you.

Obviously, Robertson was affected by PTSD. Today we know a lot about post-traumatic stress disorder and veterans of modern wars get treated for these and other mental illnesses derived from their time in combat. But, back then, little was known. Most people assume that PTSD is a relatively modern sickness, but the truth is that every soldier since the beginning of time has been exposed to the same extremely stressing moments, accidents, death, and atrocities that would leave any healthy person scarred for life. All of them—unless they were psychopaths—have suffered PTSD in various degrees.

Robertson, like all the men and women of his generation, not only had to fight a war against the dark forces of Nazism, fascism and Imperial Japan. They had to get back to build their countries and their own lives, all with a tremendous psychological weight over their shoulders and without any help.


And that's why, if you see any veteran today, you should go to salute them as the true human heroes they are and say thank you.

Top image: American infantrymen in the Battle of the Bulge. 19,000 American soldiers were killed, 47,500 wounded, and 23,000 were captured or missing. 200 British soldiers were killed, 969 wounded, and 239 missing. Estimations on the total number of Germans killed, missing, captured, or wounded ranges from 67,200 to 100,000.


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My grandfather just passed away about a month ago. He too fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the tank division as a tank commander. He said that it was one of the worst battles he was involved in and was surprised he came out of it alive. He had many friends that were killed eight in front of him and he had to pull the trigger to kill others. He suffered from PTSD for many years, and it wasn't until he started sharing his war stories years after the fact that he started to feel better. He found it therapeutic to share his stories.

I was always proud of his military service, and grateful for his sacrifice. I only wish I had a more thorough record of his stories since his mind stated to go before his body did.