AUGUSTA, Maine — Family members of World War II tank driver Harry Grimm, who turned 90 on Monday, have undertaken a secret mission.
They are taking him on a ride Friday to a place that should put a smile on his face and may cause a tear to fall from his aging eyes.
“For a number of years, he’s been saying he wanted to see inside one of those new tanks,” his daughter Frances Gilbert of Mechanic Falls said on Thursday.
Local state Rep. James “Jim” Hamper, an Oxford Republican, heard the story and spoke with Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, who said something like, “I think we can make that happen,” Gilbert said.
Family members and military officials got together and created a plan to surprise the nonagenarian, who lives in Mechanic Falls, with a trip to Camp Keyes in Augusta, where there is a tank parked outside.
“Command Sgt. Maj. Terrence Harris, the highest ranking enlisted soldier in the Maine National Guard, and Sgt. Maj. Shawn Thibodeau of the Maine Army National Guard will present the World War II award to Harry Grimm” during the noontime visit, Capt. Shanon Cotta of the Maine National Guard said.
Grimm enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 1, 1942, and was honorably discharged on Nov. 1, 1945. He was a tank driver, serving during the Battle of the Bulge and all over Europe.
Like many of his brothers-in-arms, he has remained quiet over the decades about the horrors of war but recently took out the patches he wore on his uniform and has opened up ever so slightly about the past, his daughter said.
While she was growing up, “He would talk about certain things. He would talk about the funny things, things that happened in boot camp, stuff like that,” Gilbert said. “That generation didn’t talk too much about it.”
Now that 65-plus years have passed, “He’s started to visit those thoughts,” she said.
While serving with the 696th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, Battery C, Grimm earned the American Service Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal, a Good Conduct Medal and four battle stars — an indication he served during four major battles.
He was a medium tank driver during World War II and had earned the rank of Technician Fifth Grade by the end of his time in uniform.
Harry’s longtime wife, Ruth Grimm, Gilbert and her sister, Ruth Huber, who came up from New Jersey for her dad’s birthday and his surprise day trip to Camp Keyes, are scheduled to be in the car with the military veteran.
“We were just taking him up to visit the tank and this all happened,” Gilbert said.