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Capt Henry Thomas Waskow
Birth: Sep. 24, 1918
DeWitt County
Texas, USA
Death: Dec. 14, 1943, Italy



Dear Newsmax Reader:

As Memorial Day comes to a close, we share with you below an article by historian Rick Atkinson.

Item #10 with its account of the death of Capt. Henry Waskow is particularly poignant today, Memorial Day 2009.

We celebrate Memorial Day by remembering those like Captain Waskow who gave the last full measure of their lives so we may remain free.

'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'

#10. They died for you. We've talked about the WWII Army in as both an organism and a machine, an institution that grew stupendously, that demonstrated flexibility and adaptability. But we ought never forget that at the core of this story is suffering. The U.S. military sustained almost 300,000 battle deaths during the war, and about 100,000 others from accidents, disease, suicide. Many of those deaths were horrible, premature, and unspeakably sad. One, two, three, snap.

War is a clinic in mass killing, yet there's a miracle of singularity; each death is as unique as a snowflake or a fingerprint. The most critical lesson for every American is to understand, viscerally, that this vast host died one by one by one; to understand in your bones that they died for you.

I will close by offering a meditation on one death. Among those fighting in the ferocious battle in mid-December 1943 for San Pietro in central Italy, midway between Naples and Rome, was Captain Henry T. Waskow. Waskow was from Belton, Texas, born on a farm, and while he was a student at Trinity College he had joined the Texas National Guard.

The Texas Guard was federalized and became the 36th Infantry Division, and Henry Waskow eventually became commander of Company B, in the 143rd Infantry Regiment. He survived Salerno, but on December 14, 1943, while leading his company up Monte Sammucro, above San Pietro, he was killed by shellfire. His body lay on the mountain for several days until the company runner could get a mule from the valley below and bring Capt. Waskow down. At the foot of the mountain was, by chance, Ernie Pyle, the great war correspondent. Here's part of Pyle's account of that scene:

"I was at the foot of the mule trail the night they brought Capt. Waskow's body down. The moon was nearly full at the time, and you could see far up the trail, and even part way across the valley below. Soldiers made shadows in the moonlight as they walked. Dead men had been coming down the mountain all evening, lashed to the backs of mules. They came lying belly-down across the wooden packsaddles, their heads hanging down on the left side of the mule, their stiffened legs sticking awkwardly from the other side, bobbing up and down as the mule walked.

The Italian mule-skinners were afraid to walk beside the dead men, so Americans had to lead the mules down that night. Even the Americans were reluctant to unlash and lift off the bodies at the bottom, so an officer had to do it himself, and ask others to help.

The first one came early in the morning. They slid him down from the mule and stood him on his feet for a moment, while they got a new grip. In the half light he might have been merely a sick man standing there, leaning on the others. Then they laid him on the ground in the shadow of the low stone wall alongside the road. I don't know who that first one was. You feel small in the presence of dead men, and ashamed at being alive, and you don't ask silly questions.

We left him there beside the road, that first one, and we all went back into the cowshed and sat on water cans or lay in the straw, waiting for the next batch of mules.

Somebody said the dead soldier had been dead for four days, and then nobody said anything more about it. We talked soldier talk for an hour or more. The dead men lay all alone outside in the shadow of the low stone wall.

Then a soldier came into the cowshed and said there were some more bodies outside. We went out into the road. Four mules stood there, in the moonlight, in the road where the trail came down off the mountain. The soldiers who led them stood there waiting. 'This one is Captain Waskow,' one of them said quietly.

Two men unlashed his body from the mule and lifted it off and laid it in the shadow beside the low stone wall. Other men took the other bodies off. Finally there were five lying end to end in a long row, alongside the road. You don't cover up dead men in the combat zone. They just lie there in the shadows until somebody else comes after them.

The unburdened mules moved off to their olive orchard. The men in the road seemed reluctant to leave. They stood around, and gradually one by one I could sense them moving close to Capt. Waskow's body. Not so much to look, I think, as to say something in finality to him, and to themselves. I stood close by and I could hear. One soldier came and looked down, and he said out loud, 'God damn it.' That's all he said, and then he walked away. Another one came. He said, 'God damn it to hell anyway.' He looked down for a few last moments, and then he turned and left.

Another man came; I think he was an officer. It was hard to tell officers from men in the half light, for all were bearded and grimy dirty. The man looked down into the dead captain's face, and then he spoke directly to him, as though he were alive. He said: 'I sure am sorry, old man.' Then a soldier came and stood beside the officer, and bent over, and he too spoke to his dead captain, not in a whisper but awfully tenderly, and he said: 'I sure am sorry, sir.'

Then the first man squatted down, and he reached down and took the dead hand, and he sat there for a full five minutes, holding the dead hand in his own and looking intently into the dead face, and he never uttered a sound all the time he sat there.

And finally he put the hand down, and then he reached up and gently straightened the points of the captain's shirt collar, and then he sort of rearranged the tattered edges of his uniform around the wound. And then he got up and walked away down the road in the moonlight, all alone.

After that the rest of us went back into the cowshed, leaving the five dead men lying in a line, end to end, in the shadow of the low stone wall. We lay down on the straw in the cowshed, and pretty soon we were all asleep."

But Capt. Waskow had the last word. In a final letter to his parents, one of those just-in-case letters that soldiers sometimes write, he told them this: "I would like to have lived. But since God has willed otherwise, do not grieve too much, dear ones_ I will have done my share to make this world a better place in which to live. Maybe, when the lights go on again all over the world, free people can be happy and gay again_ If I failed as a leader, and I pray I didn't, it was not because I did not try." He added: "I loved you, with all my heart."

The first duty is to remember. We have an obligation to the Captain Waskows of World War II, and all our wars, to remember.

Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial
Provincia di Roma
Lazio, Italy 
Family links: 
  Frank Carl August Waskow (1882 - 1957)
  Mary Goth Waskow (1877 - 1944)
  George Carl Waskow (1902 - 1984)*
  Bertha Johanna Waskow Tippit (1904 - 1992)*
  John Otto Waskow (1906 - 1981)*
  Paul Frank Waskow (1909 - 1982)*
  August Waskow (1912 - 1977)*
  Selma Rosa Waskow Barr (1915 - 2014)*
  Henry Thomas Waskow (1918 - 1943)
  Henry T Waskow (1918 - 1943)*
  Mary Lee Waskow Barr-Cox (1922 - 2012)*
*Calculated relationship
North Belton Cemetery
Bell County
Texas, USA
Plot: 826 NEW SECTION.
Created by: SFC Frank Irons Sr. Reti...
Record added: Jun 24, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 11230245
Capt Henry Thomas Waskow
Added by: William John Duddleston, LTC (Retired)
Capt Henry Thomas Waskow
Added by: SFC Frank Irons Sr. Retired US Army 1977
Capt Henry Thomas Waskow
Added by: Daniel Waskow
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- Lazer
 Added: Aug. 17, 2014
"Capt. Henry T. Waskow, who died December 14, 1943 in Italy, is buried at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery."
- Dave Kerr
 Added: Jan. 11, 2014

- A Marine's Daughter
 Added: Dec. 31, 2013
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