To win Rose Marie’s affection, I stepped out of character. I took time, tread carefully, behaved like a gentleman and finally got the job
done. Notwithstanding the army’s policy prohibiting mixed marriages,
a year later, I broke the rules and married Rose Marie. Think about it,
a beautiful young nursing student with a bright future with a dumb airborne
guy like me. Friend, I definitely married above my station.
Marie’s father, a Luftwaffe pilot during World War II, was hard
as nails and rigid as a board. More than just the military thing, he
despised me for who I was, and I don’t need to tell you why. Interracial
marriage, impossible in the U.S., was more acceptable in Europe, but he was
among the last of a dwindling number in Germany who believed Africans had tails
and were unfit to co-mingle with whites. When we became engaged, it took courage
for Rose Marie to face her family and tell them she wanted to spend her life
with a black man.
Her father, an executive in the Opal Automobile plant
and a respected member of his community, had dreamed of something better for
his daughter. Bad
enough she’d chosen a soldier, but a black man – der Neger – was
beyond credulity. But Rose Marie let him know she would not stand for
interference in her affairs. She’d made her choice, and her parents
would just have to live with it. Later, I became very fond of my in-laws. They
were wonderful people and caring and gentle grandparents.