This is awesome!
The son of a WWII hero who keep an incredibly detailed diary has been looking for a way to bring his Dad’s experiences to life.
He then took them and turned them into a live-updated blog that coincides with the battles from 70 years ago! Live history and follow along every day here: 70yearsago.com
CHAMPAIGN — Veteran Charles F. “Chick” Bruns of Champaign wrote a “blog” during World War II.
Only now is it being published.
And with the help of a website created by his son, readers can follow along — 70 years later — with daily entries in his diary, as his unit served in north Africa and Europe, until the war’s end.
Bruns’ son, Cissna Park farmer John Bruns, has repurposed the diary into website called http://www.70yearsago.com
“My father is blogging from the past,” John Bruns said.
Chick Bruns, 94, a graduate of Holy Cross School and Champaign High School, had been selling clothing at Joseph Kuhn & Co. in downtown Champaign when he decided to volunteer for a year of duty with the U.S. Army.
Before that year was up, the U.S. had entered World War II, and Bruns found himself among the first servicemen headed as part of the Third Infantry Division for the invasion of Africa in the fall of 1942.
Bruns and the rest of his unit hit the beaches about 20 miles from Casablanca.
Since Bruns’ unit were combat engineers who did everything from building roads to defusing enemy mines, Bruns rode a truck as the Army moved across the deserts of north Africa.
“It was very different from working at Joseph Kuhn & Co.,” he said.
Bruns began a diary, where he noted his experiences and emotions each day of the war, from Africa to Sicily, Italy, France, Germany and Austria.
“A lot of that diary was scribbled as I tried to keep track of what happened,” Chick Bruns said.
Shortly after arriving in Africa, his ship sank, taking most of his personal possessions.
But Bruns happened to keep that notebook and a camera with him when the ship sank, allowing him to document his daily thoughts and experiences until after the German surrender in 1945.
Bruns also sent frequent letters back home to his family in Champaign, keeping them up to date on his experiences.
“I sent back letters as many times as I could,” Chick Bruns said.
Long after the war ended, Chick Bruns would frequently tell his war tales to John and his brother, Charles Bruns Jr.
John Bruns said those tales left a good impression upon him, and he thought his father’s experiences should be shared with the public.
So John Bruns began transcribing Chick Bruns’ diary with the intention of converting the text into a book.
Since some of the copy was written in pencil on onionskin paper, John met with his dad a couple times a month to ensure accuracy.
“I sent inquiries to different publishers and never got any interest in a book, so I decided to go in another direction,” John Bruns said.
When the elder Bruns took part in an Honor Flight last year to the World War II Memorial in Washington, it occurred to John Bruns that October 2012 would be 70 years from the date that his father began his diary.
“I saw that the domain name 70yearsago.com was available, and off I went,” John Burns said.