The following excerpt from my book, Reconciliation, A Son’s Story shows how war and PTSD symptoms can create a lifetime struggle for a father and son to bond and experience a loving relationship.
“My oldest sibling suffered the most of all of us. Dad was not home from the war when he was born in September 1941. I believe Dad was steaming toward Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the USS West Virginia at that time and was not able to get leave to see his first son born. When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, 1941, Mother was scared and worried that her son would never see his Dad. She didn’t know for some time whether Dad survived or not. I can imagine what she was going through at the time. Constant worry and distress, trying to keep her head up, and take care of her son during a very scary time in American history. Dad was in the middle of it, the beginning of WWII.
Thousands of babies during WWII became toddlers while their fathers were away fighting for our country. Although often too young to understand completely, kids feel and they are a lot smarter than parents think. I believe my older sibling was exceptionally intelligent and highly strung as well. Mother and son probably developed a co-dependency that served them well while Dad was away. Dad came home briefly one time during the war when his son was almost 2 years old. This represents a significant period of time for a child not to know his father. There would be virtually no memory of this first visit for a small toddler.
When Dad finally came home to stay after a 2 year absence, following his USS Belle Grove War Cruise in the Asiatic Pacific Theater, his son could have been scared and suspicious of this big man who he knew only from pictures and talk about things he didn’t really understand. He was also jealous, as any child would be, that this strange man was taking time away from the attention he was getting from his Mother; undivided attention. Alcohol was a big part of life at that time as well, but not a healthy component in a family damaged by war and separation. I believe my older sibling never felt comfortable or close to his dad since there was not an opportunity to bond until age 4 or 5. It is my opinion that a child experiencing a long separation could have a difficult time developing a healthy lifetime relationship with a father they don’t bond with early in life. Each experience like this is not always the same, but in my own family and from my research, it is clear that long separations are difficult to overcome, especially if a parent is a suffering from symptoms of PTSD or “battle fatigue” as it was called during WWII.”