Pilgrim Climbs Mt. Baldy on 90th Birthday
Eliot Shimer, resident of Pilgrim Place, an Intentional Community in Claremont, California, sat down to rest and reminisce with us after checking off another success on his bucket list! Here are a couple of stories reflecting how he wrestled with and contributed to peace, during and after World War II :
It was almost dark. Every day the same. All around him –bombs exploding, shooting, wounding, killing the “enemy” (He had to call them that and not think of them as young guys, just like him). Now, with nightfall, Eliot realized his squad had been driven in different directions. Maybe some were dead. He hunkered down in the first bombed out house he could find. A little warmth. A little safety. And he saw that, once again, there were German wives and children hiding there, too. He saw fear on their faces and also, anxiety over husbands and sons. And he thought of his own parents, fearing for his safety, too. He talked softly to the women and played with the children. Timidly, the women responded by sharing what little food there was. In the midst of the hell of war, there were human kindnesses and small moments of peace.
The next morning, the fighting was again intense, but now, he could see long lines of German soldiers coming right toward him. He dived into a portion of another building, still standing. Eliot thought that he was alone until he heard a moan and saw, crouching in a corner, another American soldier whose arm had been blown off. Eliot grabbed sulfa from his emergency med pack to slow down the bleeding. They whispered together as German’s walked right by their building but didn’t enter. The wounded young man kept mumbling that his wife would never want him in this condition and Eliot comforted him, making promises he didn’t know how he’d keep. “We’ll get you to medics. This war is over for you, Buddy, and don’t you worry, your gal will want you!” Peeking outside, he saw how many had been shot. There was a window of space but in the distance more Germans were coming. He grabbed the soldier’s good arm and they ran and ran–until they staggered. If they could just top that next hill, maybe they would be out of sight enough to rest. They made it! And there, unbelievably, were American Troops. And with them–the Medics!
Eliot thought that he was alone until he heard a moan and saw, crouching in a corner, another American soldier whose arm had been blown off
V E Day: Eliot joined others to celebrate, but deep down he was heartsick over those who had died. Not only Americans, but Germans. He was with the first troops to liberate the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp after serving three years in France, Italy and Germany. Presented with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, he then joined the J 3 program of the Methodist Church and taught English in Japan where his main influence was working with student groups in social services. Eliot got a Masters and later a PHD in Social work. He and is wife, Toni, served as missionaries in Nagasaki, directing a Community Center in an area devastated by the Atomic Bomb. And in the University in Nishimiya. In the United States, he taught social work at the University of Wisconsin and Capital University in Columbus, Ohio before entering Pilgrim Place.
– by Constance Waddell