| Saturday September 27, 2008 was a beautiful sunny southern California day. But a pall of sadness came over the nation with news of the passing of actor Paul Newman. Practically every news media outlet throughout the United States reflected on what a great and wonderful actor Mr. Newman was and praised him for a lifetime of humanitarian work.
But as the sun set on the western horizon I received news of another hero of "The Greatest Generation" who quietly passed away today. This man was Hal Scharf, and his lifetime of achievement and selfless service will not receive any media attention save a small notice in the local newspaper obituary.
But those of us who knew Hal Scharf and knew his background, achievements and service know that a giant of a man has passed into history today. Hal was a WWII veteran and he was my friend.
I first met Hal Scharf in 2005 when I joined Chapter 785 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. One of our members, Greg Young, introduced Hal to us during one of our monthly meetings. I learned that Hal served with the Essex Scottish Regiment, which was part of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. In August 1942 the Essex Scottish Regiment were decimated at the Dieppe Raid.
The Dieppe Raid, also known as The Battle of Dieppe or Operation Jubilee, during the Second World War, was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, Seine-Inférieure on the Northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. Over 6,000 infantrymen, predominantly Canadian, were supported by large British naval and Allied air force contingents. The objective was to seize and hold a major port for a short period, both to prove it was possible and to gather intelligence from prisoners and captured materials while assessing the German responses.
No major objectives of the raid were accomplished. 3,623 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore were either killed, wounded, or captured. The Allied air forces failed to lure the Luftwaffe into open battle, and lost 119 planes, while the Royal Navy suffered 555 casualties. The catastrophe at Dieppe later influenced Allied preparations for Operation Torch and Operation Overlord.
Hal Scharf was one of the 3,623 men who made it ashore and was captured by the Germans. Hal spent three years in a German prisoner of war camp. He lived a living hell during those three years that shaped his character in ways that most of us can only imagine. But during my precious time with this man he never displayed any anger or animosity toward the Germans or for that matter toward anyone.
There is a lot more that I can say about Hal Scharf and I will do so in later posts. But I wanted to honor him in this small way by telling of his passing today. All of us who knew and loved him will miss his smile and his friendship and everyone who cherishes freedom should take a moment to salute the life of Hal Scharf. Because today we lost a true hero.
You have taken the point once again, Hal. May God welcome you with peace and happiness. Until we meet again.