While growing up, I regularly heard my father, Tom Kerhin, talk about his time in the army during World War 2. Dad didn’t mind talking about his combat experiences. He was proud of the role he played and proud to be a veteran. My siblings and I became familiar with the general details of his tour. On D-Day he landed with the 4th Infantry Division on Utah Beach. From there he helped liberate Paris and fought in the Hurtgen Forest, as well as the Battle of the Bulge. He also had specific stories about some of his close calls.
I listened but didn't fully comprehend the significance of what he was telling me. I was young and rather apathetic. From my prespective, World War 2 seemed like ancient history. Many of my parents’ friends were in the service during this time. I assumed my dad’s story was commonplace. I came to realize years later that he saw more than his fair share of action, and that his contribution was far from ordinary.
When I was 18, my parents, my sister and I traveled to Europe. We visited the Normandy coast and Utah Beach. Dad got misty-eyed surveying the, now calm, landscape. He said, “it was a lot different the last time I was here." That was when I realized, the war for him was very real and very personal. In hindsight, I wish I had asked him more questions and gotten more details.
Our mom, Milly, told us she saved all the letters written between them during the war. After she passed, we found the letters in a box. I assumed there might be a dozen. There was over 200.
The letters start in December, 1942 and end in June, 1945. In these letters, my parents broke off their relationship, got back together, got engaged, and planned their wedding. When my father was shipped off to Europe, the letters became less frequent and most of the ones that survived were from Tom. He had a hard time holding on to her letters while on the frontlines. Because of the censor, he wasn't specific about his location but fortunately he did date them.
Discovering the letters made me want to find out as much about Tom’s war experience as I could. Once I started my research, I realized my knowledge of WW2 and my father’s time in it was rather limited. Luckily, there are many great books, written by prominent historians, that provide immense detail. I also found several helpful websites on the subject. The best resource was Tom’s 8th Infantry Regiment’s yearbook produced in 1946. It detailed the unit’s movements throughout the conflict.
Using historical accounts and the letters, I began to fill in the particulars of Tom’s time during the war. I eventually wrote his story into nine short chapters. I then spent the next several years turning the writing into videos. The videos are available for viewing here on this website.
I now have a much greater appreciation of my dad’s sacrifice and courage during his nearly three years in the US Army. I dedicate this site to my father, Thomas A. Kerhin, and to the hundreds of thousands of other men and women who gave their time, energy, and sometimes their lives, to fighting tyranny and fascism during World War 2.
An introduction to Tom and Milly,
their families, their upbringings and their initial courtship.
Tom enlists in the US Army
and spends the next year training for his overseas deployment.
The Allies plan, train and execute the invasion of France.
Tom's 4th ID is assigned to Utah Beach.
As the invasion continues, the Allies seal off the Cotentin Peninsula and advance towards Cherbourg with aims of capturing this strategic port.
Now pushing east, the terrain makes advancing slow and dangerous.
The Allies eventually breakthrough and liberate Paris.
The Allies had hopes of ending the war by Christmas '44
but instead the Germans dug in and the fighting intensified.
The fighting doesn't get any easier as the Allies push what's left of the German army across the Rhine and towards Berlin.
Germany surrenders and Tom's duty is now occupying prisoners.
He is back in the States on a furlough when Japan surrenders.
Tom is discharged from the Army in October '45.
He and Milly start their family and the rest of their lives together.