Thursday, November 21, 2013

Norbert Kuchman -- Combat Medic

Sometimes the journey of a postcard is almost as interesting as the journey of the soldier who wrote it. Such is the story of a postcard Norbert Kuchman wrote to his girlfriend, Fawn, back home in Rochester, New York during World War II.

Norbert entered service in 1943. He went on to be a combat medic in the European Theater of Operations and saw combat during the Battle of the Bulge. He apparently wrote quite a few postcards to Fawn, and I found one of them postmarked Nov. 6, 1943 for sale on eBay earlier this year.

The postcard had been through quite an odyssey. In the course of 70 years it appears to have gone from Norbert at Camp Upton in New York; to Fawn in Rochester; to an estate sale; to a flea market; to an eBay seller in Kentucky; and finally to Norbert’s son, Dave.

When I spotted the card on eBay it was easy to track down Norbert’s family because Dave had posted his dad’s obituary on the web site Find A Grave, along with photos. From the obituary it was clear that Norbert didn’t marry Fawn; he married a girl named Jane in 1950 and Fawn married someone else. Norbert passed away in 2006 and Fawn in 2011.

Knowing that Jane was still living, I was hesitant to contact the family concerning Norbert’s postcard to an old flame. I decided to take a chance and contacted Dave via email. I told him I was concerned about “opening a can of worms.” He replied, “No can of worms. This is great!!” Dave confirmed that the card was from his dad. He said his mother knew about Norbert’s earlier romance with Fawn and it was not a sore subject. As Dave explained, “My Dad met Fawn and my mother thru his sister Agnes. The girls went to school together and knew each other.”

This was one of the few cases where I returned a postcard to a family without first buying it myself. Instead, I told Dave where to find it on e-Bay and he bought it. The seller has several other cards written by Norbert, and Dave continues to buy them as they’re put up for auction. His most recent email to me said, “I was able to acquire thru eBay auctions on Friday four more of my Dad's postcards. Three more to go.”

Dave told me about other interesting pieces of his dad’s memorabilia: “I have his military scrapbooks and also his Army journal given to him by Fawn which follows the post dates on the postcards. Kind of neat to link the postcards to the journal.”

Like so many from the Greatest Generation, Norbert, who undoubtedly witnessed terrible things as a combat medic, returned home and led a long and productive life. He and Jane had five children. He retired in 1983 after 30 years with Eastman Kodak.

Dave preserves the memory of his dad and other relatives who served by posting their stories on web sites devoted to veterans, such as The listing for his dad is here:

Dave summarized Norbert’s military service:

“He served with the 385th Infantry Regiment of the 76th Infantry Division as a Combat Medic. He later joined the 308th Medical Battalion, Company D of the 83rd Infantry Division in the Battle of the Bulge.

“He was Honorably Discharged on January 27, 1946 as a First Sergeant and reenlisted on January 28, 1946 in the Regular Army. In 1947 he was with the 250th General Hospital in Germany where he purchased a new 1947 Volkswagen and toured Europe. He was Honorably Discharged as a Second Lieutenant on April 5, 1950.

“He was awarded Bronze Service Stars for Campaign Ardennes, Campaign Rhineland, and Campaign Central Europe. Also awarded was the Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Medal, Combat Medical Badge, World War II Victory Medal, American Combat Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Occupation Medal, Marksman Shooting Badge (Carbine-Rifle), and the Bronze Star Medal.”

Many WWII postcards featured cartoons poking fun at Army life. The cartoon on Norbert’s postcard to Fawn showed soldiers being issued ill-fitting uniforms. In his message he added, “P.S. My uniform fits me well.”

Here are images of the postcard, a photo of Norbert in uniform, and a photo from the wedding of Norbert and Jane.

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