KENILWORTH, NJ – Senior at David Brearley High School, Michael Naya has been interviewing Great Depression survivors, World War II civilians and veterans, as well as Korean War veterans for almost four years. He is writing a book on their lives and the events that they have witnessed. Naya goes to a nursing home occasionally where he speaks to other veterans to hear their stories, have a nice conversation, and to check up on them. He introduced two WW2 veterans who were fighting each other in the war but live in the same home because he thought it would be interesting to get them together.
In Naya’s words he tells their story.
Johann “John” Myers was born in the midst of post-World War Germany in 1925. Germany was recovering from paying the destruction caused by World War I and was in a great Depression. John was just a teenager when World War II began in 1939. At the age of eighteen he joined the German Army since others in his neighborhood had been serving. While on a train to the front lines he was cut on the ride there. He was sent to a German hospital where he recovered for the next several months. After he recovered, he was sent to his unit which was stationed on top of a hill. In the middle of the night John awoke to other men going for a walk so he decided he would go to. When he returned, he discovered that the men who had stayed behind on the hill had been killed. From there John was a tailor and a truck driver for the German Army. John never touched a rifle throughout his time in the service and went on to become a successful tailor after moving to America in 1956.
Peter Migliorini was born in Brooklyn to Italian immigrants in 1926. He was just fifteen years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked forcing America into World War II. At the age of eighteen he was drafted into the US Army and was sent overseas in 1944. He served as a replacement at the Battle of the Bulge alongside the 75th Infantry Division, 289th Regiment, Co. G. Alongside his unit they made the push into France and Germany often working alongside the French in fighting back the German Army. Peter had several close encounters with the enemy, including a German tank bursting through the wall of the home he had been staying in. He was stationed in Germany when World War II ended and even met several German prisoners of war. Peter went on to work in a series of kitchens as an inspector in New York City.
Seventy-five years later Peter and John were now living in a nursing home. After I told Peter and John that there was a serviceman from the American and Germany army respectively who wanted to meet them they were both eager. On April 10, 2018 I introduced John to Peter and the two instantly struck up a friendship. They began talking about the war, then their families and their lives after the war. Peter had to say this about his former enemy, “We were enemies once and now we’re friends. The Germans are smart and great people and I have nothing against them.”
John had this to say,“We were fighting each other once but now we live in the same building as each other. He’s my friend ...not my enemy.” Today the two former soldiers can be seen chatting away about the days that have long since passed. Their minds and memories sharp as ever. There is a bond between the two that is unlike any other represented today. It is a message about forgiving your enemies and although not forgetting the past they created a bright future.