Tuesday, May 07, 2013

An ashtray from the ashes of the Third Reich

ashtraySixty-eight years ago this week, Capt. Phil Kroon, a Grand Rapids, Mich., boy serving with the U.S. Army’s 144th Field Artillery Group, had a chance to rummage through Adolf Hitler’s Berghof retreat at Berchtesgaden and a Diplomatic Corps castle down the road.

Capt. Kroon brought home a lot of cool stuff, including this heavy granite ashtray from the Berghof. There’s no chance that Hitler used it because he was a non-smoker. In fact, he had a standing offer of a gold watch for any member of his entourage who quit smoking.

Capt. Kroon was my father-in-law from my first marriage. He took a reduction in rank to remain in uniform when the Army downsized after World War II and served in Okinawa and Korea. He moved his family from Redlands, Calif. to Lafayette, Ind. when he was assigned to the Army ROTC program at Purdue University. That’s how I happened to meet his eldest daughter, Diane.

Phil Kroon was a good man who loved his family, his country, and his church and served them all faithfully until pancreatic cancer took his life in 1988 at the age of 69.

Check back tomorrow to read the letter he wrote to his wife on V-E Day, May 8, 1945.

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