WWII Infantryman Fought in Battle of the Bulge, Liberated Dachau

I recently visited with Millard Schwartz whom I interviewed several years ago and whose story is featured in my first book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans. Millard is a sweet man who always has a gentle smile on his handsome face. He is a humble but brave man who fought gallantly for our country and to free others from oppression.

Here is an excerpt from his story:

 “I prayed every day God would let me see another day,” said Millard Schwartz of Berne, IN.

Schwartz was an American soldier during what was known as one of WWII’s most challenging conflicts—Battle of the Bulge. From December 1944 through February 1945 he and thousands of other Allied troops fought against the Germans in Belgium, resulting in the loss of many thousands of soldiers on both sides. “The Germans had built what was called the Siegfried Line,” said Schwartz. “This consisted of miles of stone cement fixtures with pill boxes behind which German soldiers hid to fire at us.”

Fighting a battle in Germany was a far cry from the peaceful life Schwartz had experienced as a farm boy in Adams County. Born in 1921 in Berne, he completed two years at Monroe High School before quitting to help his father on their 80-acre farm.

When the United States declared war on Japan in 1941, Schwartz was deferred for agriculture purposes, but that ended in November 1942 when he was drafted by the United States Army. Assigned to the 94th Infantry, he completed basic training at Camp Phillips in Kansas, practicing with live ammunition and 105 millimeter Howitzers.

Schwartz traveled to Tennessee to practice war games for 10 weeks. These were called the Tennessee Maneuvers. Upon receiving furlough in November 1943, he returned home to get married. “Betty and I had met on a blind date two years earlier,” he said. Schwartz rejoined the Army following the wedding, reporting for more training in Camp McCain, Mississippi. He and Betty never saw each other again until the war ended.

In July 1944 Schwartz’s 94th Division and 18,000 American troops sailed from New York harbor for Europe on the Queen Elizabeth. German submarines were sinking American ships and Private First Class Schwartz carried a Bible given to him by members of Gideons International for reassurance.

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The story goes on to say that Schwartz fought at the Battle of the Bulge. He helped liberate Dachau (left photo has crematorium ovens) and reached Hitler’s retreat center called Eagle’s Nest outside of Berchtesgaden, Germany (right photo).

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As my husband & I toured these areas in 2017 on a World War II trip, I’ve attached a couple of our photos from those areas.

These photos are part of a 45-minute talk I give to groups about our World War II tour of Europe. I’ve already spoken this year to hundreds of people at libraries, civic groups and history centers about what we learned and saw. View part of the talk here.

I can almost guarantee the sites and information you’ll see and hear will inspire you to appreciate more deeply our country’s freedoms and the people who have preserved them for us. If your group would like to have me speak, please contact me through this website.

WWII Legacies can be purchased through this site as well as at Amazon.

They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans, which contains 34 stories and 100+ photos, can be purchased at Amazon as well.  

Thanks to Millard for his service and for being such a kind, Christian man to everyone who knows him! If you know a veteran, please thank him/her today for their service!

 

 

Tribute to Vietnam War Vet- Ralph Garcia

I usually post about World War II veterans but as today is National Vietnam War Veteran’s Day, I’m posting stories about a good friend, Ralph Garcia, who served in-country and continued to help veterans and his country for years afterward. Photo above is him in recent years standing in front of the Vietnam War Traveling Wall.  

The designation was made official with the passing of the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. On this day in 1973, the last U.S. troops departed South Vietnam, ending nearly 10 years of U.S. military presence there.

Thanks to Ralph’s wife, Sandy, for providing me with photos of my good writing buddy. RIP Ralph. You were really a blessing to me and our Bluffton Christian Writing Club.

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In 1964, Ralph Garcia was a 22-year-old Marine serving in Turkey when he saw the James Bond movie, From Russia with Love. One scene showed Bond entering the Kapali Carsi Bazaar in Istanbul. As a Marine, Garcia had often been there. He thought, like most young men, “Wow! A spy is what I want to be!”

Watching that movie first started Garcia thinking about espionage and intel with the CIA. Married with a family back in the US, Garcia pushed the dream to the back of his mind, never imagining it could come true.

Garcia was born in 1942 in East Chicago, the section of northwest Indiana just over the state line referred to by locals as ‘Da’ Harbor’. Its young male residents, including Garcia, called themselves ‘Harbor Knights’.

As East Chicago was then and still is a steel town, a resident’s existence was measured in the number of years a person attended high school before heading off to work in a steel mill for the rest of his life. Most people settled for breathing dirty air until they died.

At first, Garcia believed everything his culture told him. He quit school at age 16 because his girlfriend had become pregnant. Rather than run away from his responsibilities, he tried to think of a solution to support his family.

Garcia Ralph uni

In 1959 at age 17 Garcia, now married, enlisted in the Marines. He was happy to receive a steady paycheck and he especially liked marching down the street in his uniform to show off for his family.

Over the next several years, Garcia received training in various locales around the world, including Okinawa (photo above) and the 2nd Marine Air Wing Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina. At the latter Garcia helped establish communications for the Marine Air Control Squadron Six during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

The following year an even more momentous national event occurred – Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy. As Garcia wrote in his book, Harbor Knight: “We later learned Lee Harvey Oswald had been in my Marine unit when it was stationed in Japan – MACS-2. Oswald learned his riflemanship in the Marine Corps and then shot the President of US.”

Appreciating the discipline and structure of the military life, Garcia re-enlisted in the Marines. Tests revealed he had an aptitude for languages and he attended Communications Technician School in Pensacola. Later, he studied the Farsi language (Iranian) at the Defense Lang Institution West Coast in CA.

After graduating from the course, he was assigned to Karamursel, Turkey with Company F Marine Support Battalion.

When an offensive was established by the US against the North Vietnamese, Garcia volunteered to go to Vietnam. He received orders to join Company L in Vietnam.

By now, Garcia was the father of three sons. Before heading overseas, he took his family back to East Chicago. In July 1968 he checked in to Camp Pendleton where he received training on guerrilla-type tactics. In October he flew to Da Nong and was assigned to Company L Marine Support Battalion, which was a pseudonym for the Intel unit.

Although armed with a gun, Garcia only used it a couple of times. Instead, he was armed with his honed skills of gathering information. “I was in charge of a processing and reporting section,” he said. “Our job was to anticipate what the Vietnamese would do.”

The Marines worked 12 hours per shift. They also performed duties as guards around the perimeters.

The troops lived in buildings made of mortar and tin roofs. “We used mosquito netting to lessen the risk of malaria,” he said. Garcia was afraid of rats and in Vietnam there were many.

While in Vietnam, Garcia made two career decisions — he would leave the military and he would pursue his dream job of working for the CIA.

Garcia wrote to the government organization, asking for an application. Weeks later, an official wrote back, saying people at the CIA were interested in interviewing Garcia. He happily spent hours completing the 34-page application.

Garcia continued his military service while waiting for a response from the CIA. On his last day in Phu Bai he was delayed from catching a plane to Da Nang when his unit was attacked during the night. He had already turned in his weapon so he could do nothing but wait for a respite.

When he missed his flight, due to the attack, Garcia caught a later flight back to the US. He made his way to Chicago and home. It was 1969 and he was happy to have survived Vietnam.

Eighteen months after sending his letter of interest to the CIA, Garcia was interviewed and hired by the government agency.

His first permanent assignment was in South America. He completed additional jobs in other Latin American countries, including the revolution in Chile in 1973.

Garcia worked for the CIA and for a short stint, the Drug Enforcement Agency, before retiring in 1992. He had divorced in 1973 and remarried in 1975.

He and his second wife, Sandy, and a granddaughter moved to Bluffton, IN. For many years they were active in local politics, Boys and Girls Club, local Vietnam veterans group and volunteering. Ralph died in November 2016.

Garcia Harbor Knight

As for the opposition on the home front that he and other Vietnam vets encountered, Garcia said, “I didn’t  wear my utility jacket or anything that depicted me as a Vietnam veteran from 1968-1991 when I joined the Vietnam Vets of America. I’m still proud of what I did in Vietnam.” “You have to be outside of the US to appreciate the types of liberties we enjoy here,” he said. “I think many people take these for granted—freedom of religion, freedom to vote, freedom of speech, freedom to say something against someone else. It’s a great country.”

Harbor Knight: From Harbor Hoodlum to Honored CIA Agent by Ralph Garcia

Available from iUniverse

 

 

 

 

Saying Good-bye to 2 Special Vets

It’s part of the nature of my project of interviewing some of our nation’s eldest military veterans so I should expect it. With many of them well into their 90s, I have to face the fact that they will all someday be deceased.

Still, it is hard to receive that kind of news.

Recently, I learned that two veterans from my latest book, They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans, had died.

Davis

Lorraine Hook Davis (1920-2018) was a kind, quiet lady whom I interviewed two years ago in her apartment.

As a college graduate, she automatically became an officer upon joining the Coast Guard. That made her an extraordinary veteran to me because she was

  1. a) female- really rare to find these days,
  2. b) Coast Guard—really hard to find in Indiana!
  3. c) college graduate—it’s amazing she had the funds and determination to attend and graduate from college during the late years of the Great Depression.

She didn’t consider her military service during World War II as any great achievement. My word for her – and every other female who volunteered to serve during that ‘Man’s War’– is plucky.

I don’t know if I would have had the courage to sign up, leave home to live across the country for several years and live as a soldier.

Formal Uniform 25072017

I was thrilled to visit with Lorraine at my book launch party in November 2017. Her appearance belies her age of 97! She signed dozens (maybe hundreds) of copies of books for people and looked happy while doing so.

She just reached her 98th birthday a few weeks ago, leaving a long legacy of military service to be proud of among her family.

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Oren Huffer (1924-2018)

aHuffer Oren- HF

This was one of the quietest, sweetest men I’ve ever met. I thought he was reserved during our interview but as I got to know him I realized that was his way. He never hesitated to tell me about his work with gliders during World War II.

You don’t have to know anything about gliders to imagine how dangerous these things could be with no motor to guide them. Landings were especially hazardous. When I asked him about them, he admitted that they were but looked as though it didn’t faze him. He had never been injured which is quite a miracle, in my book.

After the war, he worked as an educator in the Fort Wayne area, which made him extra-special as I’m from a family of teachers.

Huffer

He also attended the book launch in Nov 2017 which made me very happy. The book launch was designed for the veterans so they were seated around a large room. The public was invited to come and meet them and thank them for their service. If they wanted to purchase a book, the veterans could sign them.

Among the 17 veterans present was Oren, who appears relaxed in this photo. I think he enjoyed the day and I hope he had good memories of it for weeks to come.

Oren and Lorraine were both very special people and I’m honored to have known them. I don’t always hear about the deaths of the men/women I’ve interviewed. Thanks to those of you who notify me with updates.

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Good news!

A few weeks ago Fort Wayne Community Schools (IN), purchased enough copies of my two World War II books to put one in each of their middle/high schools. As this is one of the largest school districts in the state, you can imagine my excitement.

I have worked in a middle school library so I know what kids like to read. I’ve also written 15 children’s books (here is my Amazon page listing).

My books could be understood by students in grades 6 and up. My goal is to promote patriotism among readers – what better age group to learn about patriotism than students!

If your group would like to order 10+ copies, please contact me for information about bulk rates.

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As always, thanks to every veteran reading this for your service. This wife/mother of Air Force airmen appreciates your dedication to our country.

 

 

 

WWII Photos on Book Covers

Dew head uni

 

Being snowbound, I have the perfect opportunity to work on my next book of World War II stories. I’m lucky to already have a great book cover designer.

The cover of my latest book, They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans, receives many compliments. Few people know my designer used photos from veterans featured in that very book on the front/back covers.

Clairus Dew’s photo of the C-46 of which he was a flight crew member dominates the top of the front cover.

 

 

On the lower half of the front cover is Bill Wellman, a marine who fought at Okinawa. Someone took a photo of him following that battle.

 

 

On the back cover at the bottom is a collage of letters and other documents provided to me by veterans in the book, including Charlotte Eisenhart (now deceased).

I hope to work with the same designer and take the same approach.

 

aThey_Did_It_for_Hono_Cover_for_Kindle - Copy

 

What would you like to see on the covers of my next book?

I’m also looking for title ideas—more information involving a contest for prizes for winning titles to follow! Thank a vet today for his/her service to our country!

 

 

Pearl Harbor Navy Survivor Tells His Story

In honor of the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, I’m posting an excerpt from a story in my new book, They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans. My husband and I also plan to attend a local Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony.

They Did It for Honor book cover

I did this interview with Dick Girocco, a World War II Navy veteran, via skype, thanks to the help of the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. They arranged for Dick to talk with me through one of their computers. Thanks to Mr. Girocco and every other American military veteran for their service!

This attack on an American base in the Pacific killed thousands of Americans. It is significant because it was the catalyst for the U.S. to enter World War II which had raged in Europe and Asia since the late 1930s.

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(excerpt from Dick Girocco’s story in They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans):

A cacophony of unfamiliar, horrendous noises on Ford Island caused Seaman 2nd class Richard Girocco and other seamen from his PBY squadron (‘patrol bomber’) to run outside of their aviation hangar. It was approximately 0800 hours on Sunday, December 7, 1941.

Ordinarily, the seamen would be resting on their bunks. Today, they had been ordered to prepare to move equipment from Pearl Harbor to Perth, Australia.

The sight of planes in the sky didn’t immediately alarm them. “We thought the Army Air Corps was dropping flour sacks for practice,” said Girocco.

As he and the others continued to gaze upward, they noticed with growing dismay the machine gun fire erupting from the planes. The young American seamen realized the planes were part of the Japanese Imperial forces. Their pilots were firing on Ford Island. Pearl Harbor was under attack!

Burning and damaged ships at PHa result of Jap attack, 12-7-41. L. to R. USS AZ, USS TN, USS WV

Photo Caption: Burning and damaged ships at Pearl Harbor– result of Japanese attack, 12-7-41. L. to R. USS AZ, USS TN, USS WV. National Archives.

Upon landing at the U.S. territory of Hawaii in November 1941 Dick Girocco, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had thought he was in paradise. “There was lots of green water and sand,” he said. Note: The Republic of Hawaii became the Territory of Hawaii to the U.S. in 1898. In 1959, residents of Hawaii voted in favor of statehood, making Hawaii the 50th U.S. State.

He was assigned to a duty station aboard the USS Saratoga patrolling the Hawaiian Islands.

His first impulse on that sunny Sunday morning that his life was in danger was to run back inside the hangar. Realizing he would be exposed as a target, he chose a closer means of rescue. Several feet of pipe lay close by, part of a project the Navy had begun of transporting water from the coast to the hangars.

Dick Girocco close-up-good

Caption: Dick Girocco at Pearl Harbor 1941.

Scrambling inside a section, Girocco watched in horror as a series of bombs hit the USS Shaw. The destroyer had been sitting in the Navy yard dry dock. When the ship exploded, Girocco was sent flying, landing hard in a nearby ditch.

“I couldn’t see anything after that, but could hear the noise and feel the concussion on the ground,” he said. When Japanese bombers set off ammunition in Hangar 6, naval personnel were again in shock “It seemed all we could do was wait for instructions from anyone,” he said.

uss-arizona-burning

Photo caption: USS Arizona burning during attack on Pearl Harbor. National Archives.

Girocco later learned that prior to attacking Pearl Harbor, Japanese Imperial Navy aircraft had bombed the nearby U.S. Naval Air Station on the east coast of Oahu. As a result, 27 Catalina PBY Seaplanes – known as ‘flying boats’ — were damaged and unable to go on the attack. “This was devastating as they could have followed the attackers as a defensive maneuver,” he said.

When quiet finally descended over the area, Navy personnel quickly set to work, trying to establish order. A hangar was made into quarters and a barracks along Battle Ship Row was converted to a hospital for shrapnel wounds and other injuries.

For days the uninjured like Girocco looked for survivors in the oil-filled waters. “We did rescue flights with PBYs,” he said. “They could land on water and retrieve survivors.” Rubber rafts were used to retrieve dead bodies.

News about the unmitigated attack spread to Washington DC and other parts of the U.S., most of whom had no idea where or what Pearl Harbor was. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, furiously declared war on the Axis powers of Japan, Italy and Germany on December 8, 1941.

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A purchase of They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans would make a great present for a history lover, military person, school or baby boomer whose parent may have served.

Please remember to thank a veteran today for his/her service, no matter the era/ branch in which they served.

Hundreds Attend Book Launch to tell WWII Vets Thanks

Many of you participated in our book launch party for They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans on Saturday, Nov 4, 2017, at the Allen County Public Library.

I think it’s safe to say, as the photo below shows, it was a smashing success! Several hundred people are estimated to have attended to meet/ greet some of our nation’s oldest veterans.

crowd

An amazing number of the 34 veterans from the book – 17 – were present. Two additional veterans were represented by family members, which meant much to me. Kurt Wallenstein whose father was Robert Wallenstein, better known in the Fort Wayne area, as WOWO Komet Hockey announcer Bob Chase wrote me these words: “Thank you for the beautiful book and celebrating the lives of all of those great men and women.”

Huffer

Someone who attended who was not related to the veterans wrote me: “Thank you for acting on the realization that veterans had a story that my/our hearts needed to hear!”

Zeissig

I’m so touched by the dedication the public showed by patiently standing in line, waiting for opportunities to have veterans sign their books and speak with them.

Conrad Gaylord

My goal was to have the veterans, all of whom are at least 90 years old, be glad they had made the effort to attend. As far as I could tell, they all left with smiles on their faces.

If you were able to attend, please share your thoughts/ comments/photos about the day.

Kjreusser@adamswells.com

My email newsletter contains up-to-date info about my interviews, books, speaking events, etc. There is no cost and I don’t sell your address. Contact me through my contact form here at this site or my email address above.

If you’ve read They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans, would you consider posting a review on Amazon at  http://amzn.to/2yRAbcq ?

My other book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans, contains 28 stories similar to those in They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans. You can find it & post a review at Amazon (http://amzn.to/2hJdwaW).

The reviews will help more people learn about the great people who served in World War II.

As always, I appreciate your support!

I plan to write more books in 2018 so stay tuned!

 

 

Book Review: They Did It for Honor: Stories of American World War II Veterans

I’m grateful for this thorough review of my new book by this reputable group of military historians.

IHRA

They Did It for Honor book cover

Kayleen Reusser is back with her second book of World War II veterans stories. This one, They Did It for Honor: Stories of American World War II Veterans, has an aptly chosen title. Many of the veterans are quoted as saying they were proud to serve their country and considered it an honor to do so.

As with her first book, Reusser collected stories from many units and fronts, giving the reader a well-rounded picture of life in different parts of the world during World War II. Thirty-four of them, to be precise. Not only does she include stories from the Pacific, North African and European theaters, she includes a tale from the Aleutian Islands and the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater. Some of the more fascinating stories we read were about a black veteran’s experience aboard the USS Yorktown, one man who was present at the surrender signing on September…

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