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Twist of Fate

Splasher Six Volume 29, Fall 1998, No. 3
Cindy Goodman, Editor

What twist of fate could tie a Belgian Resistance fighter, executed by the GESTAPO in 1943, to a young American Airman from Coffeyville, Kansas who was KIA in 1945? Joseph Wouters and Dwayne Cary lived different lives, were from different parts of the world, and never met each other. Yet, they were united against a common foe, and today the grandson of one routinely places flowers on the grave of the other.

Serge A. Mondelaers is a 45-year-old Detective Inspector, Homicide Branch, of the Police Judiciaire, in Liege, Belgium. He enjoys flying Cessna 150’s in his spare time, and grew up listening to his uncles tell him of seeing “hundreds and thousands of U.S. aircraft flying towards Germany in order to destroy the Reich.” They were kids, and “they were used to seeing fighting between allied airplanes and the German Luftwaffe. They were looking at the white parachutes falling down and the airplanes, allied and enemy, crashing in the neighborhood.” Such were the stories of Serge’s youth. But in addition to the stories of the “dashing” young fliers, and clashing machines of war, he also was told of the bravery and sacrifice of his own grandfather. “My mother and my grandmother told me a lot of things my grandfather had done during the war against the German enemy. He was a member of the Resistance movement. He had three children. One day in 1943 the infamous GESTAPO, the Nazi Police, came into the house of my grandparents and family. My grandfather had been betrayed and was arrested by the Germans. After a ‘trial’ the Germans decided that JosephWouters was to be sentenced to death, and he was shot at eh age of 37 years old.

As children do, Serge grew up to pursue a career of his own, but he never forgot the stories of his youth or the sacrifice of so many. While working a case, Serge met Felix Mathiew, a Belgian veteran who fought with the US Army during WWII. It was Felix who asked Serge if he would be interested in becoming a “Godfather” who would take care of a grave at the Ardennes American Cemetery. Thinking back to the stories told by his uncles, Serge asked to tend the grave of a U.S. airman. This is how he became involved with the 418th Squadron’s Dwayne Cary, who perished along with the rest of his crew on the Buchen raid of 07 Apr 45. “Each time I have opportunity, I bring flowers to Dwayne Cary’s grave. I am also present at the cemetery when there is an official celebration.”

Also a Godfather with Serge is Henri Hannon, who works with the Belgian C.I.R.B.A., an organization dedicated to the remembrance and honoring of all the casualties of the Battle of the Bulge. It was Henri who first contacted the 100th Bomb Group for Serge, searching for information about the 100th, Dwayne, or Dwayne’s family. Henri lives near the Ardennes battlefields and “I often go visiting the battlefields with the veterans who come to Belgium. I feel a deep need to honor those brave men who sacrificed for our little Belgium and for LIBERTY! If someday 100th veterans want to come to Belgium, we are ready to welcome them!”

Serge has recently been able to contact Dwayne’s brother Marvin Cary, and the two have begun corresponding. Marvin says that the entire family is excited and thrilled to find out that Dwayne’s grave is being so well cared for. The family greatly appreciates the efforts of Serge, Henri and all the other Belgian Godfathers. “It’s wonderful to find that the boys and their sacrifice are not forgotten”

Serge has an eloquent message to you, the members of the 100th Bomb Group. “Please tell them that all my family and friends are proud of them. We shall never say enough ‘Thank you, Friends,’ to the missing airmen and those who are still alive. You can assure the members of the 100th Bomb Group that I will take care of Sgt. Dwayne Cary’s grave. I’ll pray God for him and all his war companions.”

Editor’s Note:

As I wrote the story “Twist of Fate,” I was surprised to find myself suddenly and forcefully drawn back to forgotten childhood fears of trench-coated villains coming to snatch me from my Mother’s arms and destroy my family. A child growing up in Arkansas in the late 50’s had, for the most part, only the movies from which to learn of WWII. The veterans I knew (my father and uncles) had put the war behind them and were busy building homes, families and careers. So my tutor was the Saturday afternoon movie where I shivered my way through old classic war thrillers. It was then that, as a six year old, I was introduced to the ultimate evil…the GESTAPO!

Worse even than the perpetrators of Pearl Harbor or Wake Island, they were the ones who took away the pretty girls and shot the brave young men, the ones who followed you in big, black cars and knew everything about you. They were the ones you feared the most.

So here I was, grown and a mother myself, remembering when, as a child under the covers after a nightmare, I was comforted by parents who assured me that the Nazis would never come here…never come to take me away. I am reminded once again of the debt I owe you…the debt I cannot repay to those who didn’t come home. And, again, I say thank you. Thank you for chasing away a child’s fears that “the Nazis would come here…”