BG man channels wartime memories into his painting

Silverio Gonzalez, 87,
with his patriotic-themed watercolor painting, a bald eagle. 11/6/09 (Photo: J.D.

At 87, some may feel Silverio Gonzalez is a little old to be discovering a talent that lay hidden all
these decades.
One of the most enthusiastic members of the weekly painting class at the Wood County Senior Center, it
becomes more evident by the month that he has a true gift for painting.
"He has painted a military scene that is excellent," noted Danielle Brogley, director of
programs for the Wood County Committee on Aging. It features a defiant bald eagle perched in a tree.
Another of Gonzalez’ works, a detailed backyard snow scene with bare-branched trees, is currently on
display on one wall of the center’s dining room.
Both are done in watercolors, his favorite medium and one which allows for the most delicate detail.
It took four months to finish the most recent of his seven paintings, he estimates.
Thinking back, the rural Bowling Green resident says he never painted – in fact, never even drew – when
he was younger, "except I did paint on a wall of a farmhouse."
It puts him in mind of his last wartime duty at the close of World War II, guarding German prisoners of
"Some of them were very good at pencil drawings, like a castle, small buildings or whatever they
could see from the enclosure."
The most artistic prisoners would trade their drawings "for candy, cigarettes or whatever they could
get" from the GI guards.
Gonzalez’ war didn’t begin until late 1944 but "I saw a lot of battles in those four months"
prior to VE Day in May 1945.
In 1942 he and his girlfriend in Perrysburg got married on Christmas eve.
"I was deferred from the draft one year as a field hand back in Texas" and became a father for
the first time in January 1944.
"In 1944 I had to answer the draft, they informed my employer, so I got sent to Fort Sam
Houston" and later Fort Knox, Ky., for six months’ training.
The baby was barely 6 months old "when I left." He boarded a troop ship that sailed for Europe
from New York Harbor on Dec. 23, 1944.
"Christmas Day were were on the high seas, part of maybe 18-20 ships in a line, protected by
destroyers and zig-zagging. It took 16 days to cross the ocean to Southampton, England," followed
by a Channel crossing to Le Havre, France the next night.
New soldiers were desperately needed at the Front so with barely a pause "they took us by
train" in frigidly cold box cars. "On the radio they were blaring about the Battle of the
Bulge" where American troops were being savaged in Belgium.
Gonzalez and the others debarked at Luxembourg, where he was designated a replacement in a tank battery
with the 4th Armored Division of Patton’s 3rd Army.
"I was an assistant driver on a light tank" and still has gruesome memories of the tank rolling
over what he first thought were dummies lying in the road. It turned out they were the arms and legs of
frozen German bodies.
"We crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim on pontoons" where he still remembers the signs on the
overpasses which the Germans had erected in advance of the Allies’ arrival: "See Germany and
The worst day was the one in which his tank threw a track "and were sitting ducks" while ahead
was a field full of the feared German 88s.
"We had to scatter. I ran for a German foxhole and an armor-piercing bullet went over my head.
"Another of our tanks took a direct hit." The entire crew was killed except for the crew
commander "who had his legs cut off, and I think he died."
"It took a whole day before the U.S. maintenance guys came through and fixed our tank."