They Tell Us What Happened

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Ben Cooper, 92, of West Hartford was a combat medic in the 45th Infantry Division which helped to liberate the Dachau concentration camp. Cooper began to talk about his horrific experiences and memories from World War II in 1990. “It’s been a healing process for me,” he says. Cooper is one of more than a dozen veterans we have interviewed and photographed for our Connecticut At War coverage. I believe it is liberating for all of us when veterans tell us what happened. Like Cooper, Seymour ‘Sy’ Reitman and Rico Pace, my uncle Doc fought in the Battle of the Bulge. But I was never able to listen to nor learn anything first-hand from him about the war before he died in a VA hospital in 1987. I had only known from my mother that his tank was blown up, he had been captured by the Germans and they took his wedding ring. Fast-forward to ‘The War’ series by Ken Burns. In amazing detail it recounts the deadly POW escape attempt hatched by General George S. Patton. I learned how my uncle Doc survived the deadly German machine guns on that dark, chaotic night and eventually returned home to my aunt Gert.

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