by Fred Apgar
On October 22nd, 2020, Fred Diedrich, a WWII Army paratrooper and his British born wife, Nancy, celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. Following his participation in the DDay Invasion, Fred returned to England and met a young English girl named Nancy Stanley. Nancy and her family had experienced the war’s fury first hand during the numerous German bombing raids that took place from 1940 and into early 1942. including a bomb exploding near their home, causing substantial damage. Fred and Nancy dated, and they took a liking to each other. In September 1944, Fred and his unit were sent back into combat, participating in Operation Market Garden and then the Battle of the Bulge. By April 1945, the war in Europe was over, and Fred was serving in an Honor Guard unit in Berlin.
During that time Nancy had faithfully written letters to him. Since they had very little time together in England, theirs was a romance by mail. In one of his letters, Fred proposed marriage, and her immediate response was a resounding “yes”. Since Fred had been scheduled for a furlough, the wedding was planned for October 22, 1945. However, Fred’s furlough was cancelled, and he received orders to return to the United States.
Nancy knew that “doing nothing” was not an option so she wrote a letter to the Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Major General James Gavin, addressed to him “Somewhere in Europe”. Shortly thereafter, Fred was summoned to General Gavin’s Headquarters in Berlin. The General held up a letter and asked Fred, “Corporal Diedrich, do you know Nancy Stanley?”. Fred, nervous facing a two star general, hesitated and finally replied, “Yes, Sir.” The Commander then asked, “Do you want to marry her?” to which Fred replied in the affirmative. General Gavin told Fred he couldn’t grant Fred a special furlough, but he would be sending Fred on a special errand to England. Fred soon found himself on General Gavin’s plane on his way to England. Hitching a ride in a mail truck, Fred arrived at Nancy’s home, and the wedding took place as scheduled. After a brief honeymoon, Fred returned to Berlin on General Gavin’s plane. Within days, he was on a troop ship headed home leaving his new bride behind. Seven months later, on May 2, 1946, the newlyweds were reunited. Nancy had sailed to America on the Queen Mary with over 2000 other war brides and more than 900 babies. After a cross country train ride that deposited the English war brides and their babies in towns and cities all across America, Nancy, and two other brides, finally arrived on the west coast to join their husbands.