Robert Allen Lane came into the world in historic Marietta, Ohio, on January 25, 1913. As the first born, he was loved and cuddled by the family clan, but in 1924 young Robert became the "man of the house" with the death of his father. Robert's beloved Aunt Kathryn, who raised him, died August 1929, just before the start of his senior year. For him, the Roaring Twenties gave pause in deep reflective moments.
Fatherless, with no financial aid, and of course no GI Bill, Robert entered The Ohio State University in September 1930. Struggling to pay tuition during the Great Depression, he still graduated in June 1934. A job secured, in spite of the nation's 25 percent unemployment, he married his lovely big band dance partner in August.
By 1939 the family lived in Maryland because of Robert's position with the Soil Conservation Department. He supplemented his income for his growing family as a member of the Maryland National Guard.
The winds of war blew fierce and deadly across Europe. In the U.S., Congress passed the Burke-Wadsworth Selective Training Act on September 16, 1940. Our first peacetime military draft began October 16 for men age 21 to 35.The draftees would serve one year. Fathers were exempt.
Though their third child was due in April, as a member of the National Guard Robert Lane was activated. He reported to Ft. Benning, Georgia, for one year of army service beginning December 13, 1940. Assigned to the nascent Second Armored Division, soon 1st Lt. Lane drilled through severe tank maneuvers in Louisiana, Tennessee, and the Carolinas under fiery directives from Gen. George S. Patton.
Since the 1940 holiday week was disrupted maybe Robert would be home for Christmas in 1941. However, Congress voted 203 to 202 in the summer of '41 to extend the term of duty for draftees to thirty months. Enrollment in the military was expanding. Then a horrific disruption occurred six days before a possible one year December 13 discharge. The United States declared war against Japan December 8 and Hitler declared war on the U.S.A on December 11.
Before boarding a huge convoy ship leaving for war in late autumn 1942, Capt. Lane penned letters to each of his children.
My dear Sandra,
I know a little girl who isn't two-years-old can't read a letter but perhaps you will be old enough to read before I see you again.
Your Daddy was in the Army when you were born and your life has been without having me with you. We were just getting to know each other when I had to go away and I believe I could have taught you to say "Daddy" if I would have been with you a little longer....I hope I get to see you again before so very long. As ever, Daddy
In North Africa no church bells rang for Christmas. Instead of a brilliant star, Capt. Lane watched bright flares flash from Luftwaffe pilots bombing Casablanca during holiday time. French Morocco was secured quickly and the Second Armored Division settled near Rabat for several months before moving east.
General Patton knew his vigorous training paid off as the Second Armored Division helped liberate Sicily in July 1943. By November the Division sailed west through the Mediterranean. The men crowded the ship's rail to look at Gibraltar. They cheered. Yes, they would be home for the family Thanksgiving dinner and then Christmas. The men had been overseas for a year.
After their ships landed in Liverpool, soldiers received a bountiful Thanksgiving dinner at Tidworth Barracks, England. The troops gave delightful Christmas parties with chocolate treats for young war orphans. Children in America were safe dreaming of Santa and listening to the popular holiday song: I'll Be Home for Christmas.
Horrific battles in Normandy strained all the combat soldiers, yet again, Daddy never forgot our birthdays. Hallmark cards were not readily available in awful war torn areas, so he had a soldier create hand-drawn cards for us. Then our mail and Christmas hopes ended.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, August 23, 1944, near Conche, Normandy, a Nebelwerfer screaming rocket struck the back of Major Lane. He died instantly. Mother received a telegram rather than a tenth anniversary greeting. Daddy's son, age seven, became the "man of the house."
Robert Lane did not live to be a "Benning to Berlin" soldier. He did not march on July 4, 1945, as the Second Armored Division led the victory parade in Berlin past President Truman. He was absent from our family accomplishments and celebrations. He missed attending reunions with his best friends in the "Hell on Wheels" division. His GI Bill for advanced education opportunities would never materialize into an excellent career. He held no dreams for a White Christmas. The luster on awarded medals and stars lost their shine.
Daddy, you missed so much. We missed you very much. Though flowers placed at your white marble cross in the Normandy American Cemetery wilt in the sun, our love for you never wilts. Traveling into each location where you served, I see and hear the surrounding environs but never hear your voice.
You are blessed and beloved by your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren remembering your valiant service to preserve freedom. Our thank you, forever.