The legendary rock band KISS has surprising roots from World War II
The legendary rock band Kiss is known for their makeup, over-the-top stage show, and hits like “Rock ‘n Roll All Night” and “Detroit Rock City.”
They aren’t known as historians, although two of the band’s members — Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer — have remarkable stories to tell about what their families went through during World War II. And equally remarkable is how these stories link the two members of Kiss to each other.
Backstage at a Kiss concert in northern Virginia in late July, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer talked about his father’s military service. James B. Thayer retired as a brigadier general in the mid-60s, but in 1945 he was an first lieutenant in charge of an anti-tank mine reconnaissance platoon that made its way across France into southern Germany. The unit saw a lot of action, including battles with Waffen SS troops – among the Third Reich’s most elite fighters – that involved bloody hand-to-hand combat.
As the platoon made its way farther south they stumbled upon the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. “The SS had just fled,” Tommy Thayer said. “They left behind 15,000 Hungarian-Jewish refugees who were in bad shape.”
Ironically enough, based on time and location, among the refugees that U.S. Army Lieutenant Thayer liberated was most likely a family from Budapest that included a teenage girl who would later give birth Gene Simmons, Kiss’ outspoken bassist and co-founder.
As a result of this connection, the band has thrown its clout behind the Oregon Military Museum, which will be named in honor of the now 93-year-old Brigadier General Thayer. Tommy Thayer is on the museum’s board, and the band recently played at a private residence in the greater Portland area to raise money and awareness for the effort.
“The idea that Americans enjoy the kind of life that the rest of the world is envious of is made possible – not by politicians – but by the brave men and women of our military,” Simmons said. “The least we could do is have a museum.”
“There is evil being done all over the world,” Simmons said. “And the only thing that keeps the world from falling into complete chaos is our military.”
Beyond supporting the Oregon Military Museum, in the years since 9-11, Simmons has worked as a military veteran advocate. Among some of his more high-profile efforts is the band’s hiring of veterans to work as roadies for Kiss on tour.
While other celebrity vet charities could rightly be criticized as something between Boomer guilt and vanity projects, the bass guitarist’s desire to help vets is fueled by what his mother’s side of the family went through to make it to America a generation ago.
Simmons has a few things to say about national pride, something he thinks the country has lost a measure of.
“When I first came to America as an eight-year-old boy people were quiet when the flag was raised,” Simmons said. “We all stood still.”
To Simmons’ eye that respect is lacking in too many Americans now, particularly younger Americans who are surrounded by information and media but may not appreciate the relationship between history and their daily lives.
“Just stop yakking for at least one minute,” he said. “The rest of the day is all yours to enjoy all the benefits that the American flag gives you.”
Here's why the Russian navy just took a Philippine vacation
Russia has sent three antisubmarine ships to Manila in an effort to build stronger ties with and dissuade American ties from the Philippines.
This is why the Pentagon is investigating the ambush in Niger that killed 4 special operators
What exactly happened in Niger, and how did we lose four service members in a surprise ambush. There are questions, and McCain and Mattis want answers.
This South Korean howitzer can bring the thunder if Pyongyang attacks
The K9 can hit a target 25 miles away with three rounds in 15 seconds.
7 reasons why Obi-wan Kenobi was basically Ulysses S. Grant
Just replace Obi-wan's Spirit form at the end of Return of the Jedi with Grant's love of spirits and you could make a case for one inspiring the other.
This new technology can help tank crews 'see' through their armor
Being buttoned up in a tank used to mean being blind as a bat. With this new technology, that's no longer the case.
This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump's gold star family call
"If you're not in the family, if you've never worn the uniform, if you've never been in combat, you can't even imagine how to make that call," Kelly said.
Blumhouse and WATM team up to produce 'Searching for Bergdahl'
Blumhouse Television and WATM are teaming up to produce the documentary "Searching for Bergdahl," the untold story of the seven-year search for the missing soldier.
This is the real reason John McCain's Liberty Medal speech was so epic
When US media focused on a jab at President Trump, they missed the parting thoughts of a veteran and public servant of more than 60 years.
This little bot can take a lickin' and keep on tickin' for troops on assault
Weighing a little over five pounds, the FirstLook can handle being thrown into a hostile environment.