Birthday Tribute to World War II Vet Don Shady

Don Shady fought in Army Air Corps in WWII.

Don Shady fought in Army Air Corps in WWII.

Today I want to say ‘Happy birthday’ and give tribute to a World War II vet that I’m happy to call my friend.

We attend the same church and usually see each other weekly, but I didn’t know Don Shady well when I interviewed him about his experiences in the Army Air Corps during the war.

In fact, I had not interviewed many Army Air Corps members at that time and fear I may have burdened him with some silly questions about the American military’s newest branch (it became the Air Force in 1947).

But Don was patient with me and believed in me enough to allow me to put his story in the book World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

His is one of 28 World War II stories from Allen, Adams, Wells, Whitley, Huntington counties.

Don shared accounts of when he was piloting a C47 during battle. The following is an edited excerpt from my book:

In December 1944 Lieutenant Shady was involved in the Siege of Bastogne. It was a battle between American and German forces at the Belgian town of that name.

Weather aided the German army’s efforts. “A low ceiling from cloud cover prevented us from taking in supplies early by air, but we flew on Christmas Day and the day after,” said Shady. The siege lasted one week until the nearly depleted American forces were relieved by General George Patton’s Third Army.

Since the book has been published, Don has helped with its publicity.

Front row: Bob Foster, Don Shady. Back row: Nelson Price, Kayleen Reusser

Front row: Bob Foster, Don Shady. Back row: Nelson Price, Kayleen Reusser

On February 28, Don and another vet featured in my book, Bob Foster, accompanied John and me to Indianapolis to be interviewed by Nelson Price on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis. The hour-long show, Reflections of World War II veterans, was a success largely due to Don’s contribution in recounting his war experiences.

He had shared with me that he had never been on the radio in his life. It meant a lot to me that he was willing to venture out on a snowy day to go with us on an all-day trip.

WWII vet Shady good

More recently Don and three local World War II vets participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Wells County Public Library. Don shared his story of helping to liberate Polish prisoners of war back to their homeland. “They were filthy and we had to delouse the plane after each trip, but it was rewarding,” he said.

Thanks Don for being such a gentleman and kind friend. I’m glad we’ve gotten to know each other.


WWII Legacies: Stories of NE IN Veterans is available at this site’s homepage using the Paypal button.

WWII Legacies Profile: Paul Zurcher

Zurcher uni Purp Heart

Thirteen weeks after being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, Paul Zurcher of Monroe was on the front lines of battle in Italy. He was part of the 10th Mountain Division, a machine gun squadron in which Zurcher served as the ammunition bearer.

Often, while burrowed in a foxhole during battle, 19-year-old Zurcher wondered about his future. “I didn’t know if I would survive,” he said.

Digital StillCamera

Digital StillCamera

This is the beginning of the story I wrote for my book about a great World War II veteran and Christian man. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Zurcher after hearing about him and his business from many people in my area. One of Mr. Zurcher’s biggest fans is my husband who loved to do business at Zurcher’s Best-One Tire and Auto Care in Monroe, Indiana.

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

Last year when putting together my stories for my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans, I asked Mr. Zurcher for an interview.

He was happy to sit with me in his conference room. Afterward we took a walk around his large tire empire. This 90-year-old trotted around the huge buildings so fast that I had trouble keeping up!

He had a great story about growing up poor and learning to value family and a relationship with God more than anything. He developed his tire business after the war and it is well known throughout the world today.

I actually interviewed Mr. Zurcher on the day he was awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash from the governor of Indiana! This is the highest award given to a resident.

His time in the war was dynamic. Mr. Zurcher was the first to be part of the Italian invasion with the 10th Mountain Division. He was shot in the chest in combat and survived. He was later awarded a Purple Heart.

Zurcher Paul
He also attended the book launch party I conducted in November 2014 at the Bluffton Armory.

It’s amazing to me that after interviewing 80+ World War II vets (my goal is to interview as many as I can!), I still hear unique stories like this one.

You can read the rest of Paul Zurcher’s story and those of 27 other veterans in my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans. Click the ‘Buy Now’ button on my Home page.

Mr. Zurcher was signed up to go on an Honor Flight for Northeast Indiana but sadly passed away on May 7, 2015, just days before his flight.

Read more about Paul Zurcher’s life Paul Zurcher obituary

It was an honor to get to know Mr. Zurcher from these events. I’m sure his presence is missed.

If you know a World War II vet, be sure to tell them thank you. If they live near a group that takes Honor Flight for Northeast Indiana trips, help to arrange their passage on it.