Published 10:00 am Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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There are so many all-American qualities about Alan Kinder, who grew up on the opposite side of the country, but can say “y’all” with the best of Hall County locals, many of whom would not know of Kinder’s patriotic past without disclosure from the media.\

If you know anything about World War II and its survivors, you would expect narrations of one’s combat experience to be sheathed in modesty and humility which poignantly characterizes the Greatest Generation.   Like so many of those who helped bring about the defeat of Nazi Germany, Kinder, 99 years old, is a reluctant hero.

I have never interviewed a survivor of this war—and there have been dozens—who did not become choked up at some point when they recall that they had buddies who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives to their country.  “Why me,” they would say, often wiping away a tear.  “Why did I get to come home, be with my family, and enjoy a life of success and happiness—and they did not?”

Alan Kinder arrived in Normandy “behind” the invasion.  When he disembarked at Utah Beach after dark on August 17,1944, the Allies had broken out and were pushing across France with alacrity.  Unfortunately, they ran out of gas. Literally—the only thing that could have slowed them down.

Kinder had been assigned to an instrument survey battalion, appreciating that he had it much easier than those with whom he had gone to basic training with and became infantrymen.  He knew his chances for survival were much greater which is why he has always deflected tribute and glory which he feels should be reserved for those who saw the fiercest of fighting.

However, his story can be likened to that of the point guard whose brilliant pass allows the guy under the basket to make the game winning goal or the lineman whose timely block springs the fleet footed halfback who scores the winning touchdown.

Recently, as he prepared for his Delta flight across the Atlantic for the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, I sat and talked with him and his grandson, Justin Marsh, and Andy Anderson, a longtime friend and career Army officer, who is making his sixth consecutive trip to the D-Day anniversary celebration.

Kinder is the guest of a patriotic non-profit which is taking him and seven other Normandy veterans to France for the invasion anniversary celebration.  He will appear, along with three others, on ABC’s nightly news June 4-6.  He has received a commendation from Gov. Brian Kemp, all befitting of Greatest Generation survivors.

Kinder saw action at Luxembourg, Nancy, and Bastogne as the Battle of the Bulge—Germany’s last major offensive—became Adolph Hitler’s last gasp before the Nazi’s unconditional surrender in May of 1945.

The most significant vignette in Kinder’s miliary career came later when Japan’s official and unconditional surrender came about September 2, 1945.

“We knew that as the war was ending in Europe that the next thing for us was to begin training for the possible invasion of Japan,” Kinder says.  “We were all so grateful for the Japanese surrender.  That was a high moment for us.”

That is another thing that has always been consistent with the veterans who would have been called on to join the invasion of Japan, had the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not taken place. With estimates of a million casualties or more, President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the devastating atomic bombs was universally appreciated by American servicemen and women.

Kinder, grew up on acreage near Bellevue, Wash. where he tended pigs, cows, and chickens.  “We were more country than Loretta Lynn,” he laughs.

There were reports of submarine sightings off the West Coast and fears of Japanese attacks from bases they had captured in the Aleutian Islands, which are 2,280 miles from Seattle.   None of that came about, thankfully, but there was understandable doomsaying and unending worry.

He was 16 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harber.  Less than three years later he was off to war in a strange place with which he had no familiarity or knowledge—on the other side of the world.  “I grew up in a hurry,” he says.

His battalion was assigned duty near the front lines where his unit used sensitive microphones to try to detect where enemy artillery was located so that Allied artillery and bombs would have greater accuracy in their attempt to destroy German firepower.

Following the war, he enrolled at the University of Washington where he earned his degree, becoming a ceramics engineer. He was and remains thankful for the G.I. Bill which enabled him to obtain a college degree.  He was a Washington Husky then, but now a passionate Georgia Bulldog.  “I’ve become very Georgian, and I love that phrase, ‘How ‘Bout Them Dawgs.’ That is so wonderful.  It is a down home term I have learned to love and appreciate.”

Business opportunity brought him to Milledgeville years ago, and he found out that he liked the people who were friendly, courteous, and would “do business on a handshake.”

When retirement came about, he chose to remain in his adopted state where he has enjoyed a long life, happy to salute the flag at every opportunity and stand erect with his hand across his chest when the national anthem is played.