Gulf Power employee Monica Simpson thinks about her Grandpa Roos every day, but she’ll especially remember him on Memorial Day.
Charles Frederick Roos (pronounced rose) served in World War II as a corporal in the U.S. Army 183rd Field Artillery Battalion. He was in Europe from 1943 until after the end of the war in 1945.
He is the maternal grandfather of Monica, a financial business analyst . She was close to him as she grew up near the small central Illinois town of Chestnut.
“He was a farmer who put five kids through college and was able to retire at the age of 60,” she said. “He never talked about the war with his children or grandchildren, but he would discuss it with his son-in-laws. We all knew him as a hard working farmer, not a soldier, so to think of him in battle was very strange.”
And thanks to too-big boots and a dud grenade, Corp Roos survived the war.
Monica says her family shared one story where he marched many miles in oversized boots.
“His blisters were so bad he couldn’t walk another step,” she says. “So they put him in a vehicle and went a different way. His unit kept marching and they were killed in an ambush. So he was spared because of his boots.”
In another example, a grenade landed at Roos’ feet, but never exploded. Monica says he credits Oscar Schindler, the German Nazi who saved thousands of Jews from the concentration camps, because he encouraged his employees to make German weapons that didn’t work.
When Roos returned home from the war, he had a Lugar pistol that had 1920 stamped on it. He gave it to a cousin, whose son inherited it when his father passed away. In 2009, a year before Ross passed away at the age of 89, her uncle acquired it back from that family and presented to Roos at Christmas and asked him to tell them the story begin the weapon.
“He said that only (German) officers had Lugers, and he took this particular one off an officer who ‘didn’t need it any more’.” she said. “We wanted to know more, but that’s all he would say.”
Monica also shared the story about how he was walking through a German town, he saw a sign above a door with the word, “Roos.” She says he used his bayonet to take down the sign and bring it home with him.
“It probably hit him he was fighting his ancestors,” she says. “I think he was traumatized by what he saw and what he did so he didn’t want to talk about it.”
Her other grandfather, Ferdinand Schlitt, also served in World War II in the Army and was based in Japan after the war ended. She said he didn’t want to talk about it either.
“The only time I saw emotion from him about the war was when I got to go to Japan when I was 12,” she says. “He actually cried. He was very upset with me. I didn’t understand at the time. As I’ve got forgotten older, I’ve got a better appreciation for why he was upset.”