A scrapbook holds the Western Union telegraph Vernon Edney's family received in 1944 telling his parents their son was injured in battle.
Edney's father served as Hendersonville's police and fire chief in those days. Before he came home from work, Edney's sister, Marie, would steam open and read the telegraph envelopes the military sent to give the family news of her brother, Edney's wife, Faye, says.
Faye Edney now keeps the telegraph in the scrapbook along with her husband's military records and photographs of him in the time he spent training at a cold camp in New York.
She also jots down in a separate notebook bits of information and stories from the war her husband sometimes mentions.
Those occasions are rare, she said. "He never talks about it," Faye Edney said. "He just came home and forgot it."
Edney is 81 years old and a Henderson County native.
The years he spent fighting in World War II were the only time he spent away from his hometown.
He suffered a stroke a few years ago, but with help from the information in his scrapbook and a little prompting from his wife, some of his memories from World War II become clear.
Edney was drafted into the 45th Thunderbird Division of the U.S. Army's infantry in December 1942.
He underwent training in California and later in Pine Camp, N.Y., which Edney described as "the coldest place in the United States."
The training was nearly as bad as combat, but Edney said an unintentional consequence of the training may have helped America's war effort.
"The Germans knew everything we were supposed to do and how we did it," he said. "But we never did anything the way we were supposed to."
After training, Edney headed overseas for the war.
The private first class fought in Africa and in Italy on the island of Sicily and the seaport of Anzio. He also served in France and Belgium.
While Edney was fighting in Anzio, shrapnel from a German tank grazed him in the head.
He and other soldiers were firing on the Germans when Edney said he saw a tank coming in his direction. But he said he thought the tank could not get a clear aim at him.
Edney was wrong. The tank fired at him and the shrapnel flew.
"If it had been an inch higher, it would have ripped my head," he said. "I felt the top of my head and felt blood and I said, ėJust an inch from being it.'"
The Western Union telegraph in the scrapbook tells Edney's parents only that their son was slightly wounded.
Edney said he also narrowly escaped capture while fighting in Anzio.
He and other soldiers took cover when the enemy began shelling their position. He said he probably took cover in the right place because German soldiers later discovered the soldiers he was with when the shelling began.
"I got in a trench and started crawling to get away from them," he said.
Edney said he spent much of his time in the war cold, wet, hungry and without a change of clothes. "I don't know how we lived," he said. "Everything we had was on our back."
The soldiers carried a blanket, a pup tent and military K-rations for food. Sometimes they had a pack of cigarettes, he said.
Edney found he missed most the sliced barbecue he used to eat in Hendersonville.
He said he did not write home very often. "There wasn't much to write about that was good," he said.
Edney also fought through France and served in Belgium before the war ended.
He was in Germany when he learned his father had died. Edney was turned down on his request to return home.
He was eventually transferred to the 123 ordinance ammunition company.
He was awarded the campaign medal with six Bronze Stars, the Good Conduct Medal, a Distinguished Unit Badge, a Combat Infantry Badge and a Purple Heart during his service in the war.
He was discharged from the military in September 1945.
Edney met Faye after the war, and the two were married in 1952.
Edney became a volunteer firefighter and worked in the repair business doing roofing and plumbing.
His wife says she is keeping the scrapbook and her notebook of her husband's memories for their grandchildren.
One 18-year-old grandson seems especially interested in his grandfather's war memories.
"He's interested in his grandfather and wants to read it," Faye Edney said.
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