Vets Describe D-Day

D-Day. June 6, 1944.

Possibly only a handful of dates in our nation’s military history are more well- known other than Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941).

D-Day was a top secret event that had been planned for months. Every branch was involved in storming the beaches of Normandy France to overcome Hitler’s forces.

Here are a few comments from veterans of various branches whom I’ve interviewed about their involvement with D-Day:

Despite months of training, nothing went according to plan.

As Leo Scheer’s boat neared the shore of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, it hit two mines, igniting it. “We were told to strip our gear and abandon ship,” he said.

The weight of life vests, layers of clothing and combat boots dragged many soldiers into the frigid waters. “Drowned bodies floated in those waters for weeks,” said Scheer. “Many washed up against the sea wall with not a scratch on them.”

Those who made it to shore were ordered to the west end. Scheer was almost killed twice from gunfire. Finally he arrived, only to find the squadron doctor missing.

Wearing the Red Cross arm band and helmet, Leo worked on injured soldiers, removing medical supplies from bodies of dead soldiers to treat the wounded. “Bandages were packaged in waterproof tins which also contained morphine shots,” he said. “It was all we had.”

The first course of action was to stop the bleeding. “We tried to prevent shock and used morphine when necessary,” he added. Artillery fire continued non-stop for days. Soldiers were treated on the sand. “We eventually got a spot in front of a house and put the casualties there,” said Scheer.

A barrage of artillery file forced Scheer to administer medical attention while lying on the ground. “Even getting on your knees was risky,” he said.

“You slept fully clothed with your helmet on,” said Scheer. “Shells came in close. I buried myself under the sand and in the morning crawled out, glad to be alive.”

Note: The photo depicts the web belt Scheer used at D-Day, now a donated item on display at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

**

Wolfe Don-FW-Air Corps

After flying from the US to an Allied air base outside the town of Muching Green in England in spring 1944, Donald Wolfe had only two weeks of training before he flew his first combat mission, called a ‘sortie’. “During the next several weeks, I flew missions over France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany,” he said.

His 44th mission occurred on D-Day as he flew over Normandy lending support to the Allies.

**

Anderson James -Indy-Army

At Omaha Beach Andy Anderson carried penicillin, bandages, iodine and sulpha packets in his supply packet. As a medic on the battlefield he wore an arm band with a Red Cross, signifying his status. Although he didn’t carry a weapon, Anderson felt safe. “I depended on our American infantry to protect me,” he said.

**

Edwards Al-FW-Navy.JPG

Alfred Edwards of Fort Wayne, IN, was operating a rhino barge on June 6, 1944. Such vessels carried tanks and troops as part of the first wave of troops to approach the shore of Omaha Beach in France. “We had no protection from enemy fire as we guided it in,” he said.

When boats and troops reached the shore and put ramps down, the site was grim. “Dead GIs lay everywhere on the beach,” said Edwards. “We dodged shooting from German soldiers while searching for mines embedded in the sand that could blow us up as we neared the shore.”

Despite incredible odds, Allied forces continued to arrive at the beach for weeks, slowly pushing German forces back into France. Code name of the secret invasion: Operation Overlord, though it was more commonly known as D-Day.

**

These are excerpts of stories in my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans (available for purchase on this site) and in my soon-to-be-released book, They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans.

It will be released in Summer 2017. Stay tuned for more details on how to obtain a copy!

Honor a veteran today by thanking him/ her for their service to our country.

WWII Soldier Shocked by Graves at Guadalcanal

(This is an excerpt of a story from my soon-to-be-released book, They Did It for Honor: Stories of American WWII Veterans)

Gaylord Conrad’s most vivid memories of the Pacific during World War II was not that of a bloody battle field but what came after it.

In late 1943 Conrad from Leo, IN, was attached to the US Infantry at Guadalcanal. The dreadful battle that had occurred there from August 1942 through February 1943 was evidenced by a graveyard for Allied forces.

Approximately 7,000 small crosses on graves dotted the vista as far as Conrad could see.

It was a sobering sight for the farm boy from northern Indiana. “Thinking of the number of lives lost in that battle was overwhelming to me,” he said. “The sight of that quiet field became a permanent picture in my mind.”

Conrad Gaylord kneel uni

After graduating from Leo High School in May 1943, Conrad had immediately been drafted. He completed nine weeks of basic training at Camp Wheeler near Macon, GA, before being assigned to the Infantry. Soon, he was aboard a ship sailing with thousands of troops through the Panama Canal to the Pacific.

The troops were not told where they were headed, though the mostly 18- and 19-year-olds probably would not have recognized the name, had they heard it. New Caledonia was part of an archipelago of islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, 750 miles east of Australia.

In March 1942, the territory had become an important Allied base. The capital of New Caledonia — Nouméa — was headquarters of the United States Navy and Army in the South Pacific. At one point during the war, the island held as many as 50,000 American troops.

Several attempts by the Japanese Army and Navy to recapture the airfield were staged over the next several months. In addition to the thousands of American lives lost, approximately 19,000 Japanese soldiers died in what was a hard-fought Allied victory. Conrad and other American soldiers went in as replacements.

In an attempt to honor the fallen military chaplains conducted a sunrise service on Guadalcanal’s beach on Easter 1944. Just before the service’s commencement, Conrad was shocked to see someone he knew. “Ralph Rineholt and I had graduated from Leo High School together,” he said. The two young soldiers sat together during the service, then separated for duties. Conrad never saw his friend again. “I always wondered if Ralph returned home,” he said.

**

I missed posting this tribute on Memorial Day because I was working on the book this and 33 other stories will be published in by late Summer 2017. But I did have 2 stories of WWII soldiers who died in action published in area newspapers. We can all do our part to support our military.

Stay tuned for more details about the book.

Remember to thank a veteran today for his/her service!

 

WWII Soldier Fought Japanese; Liberated Prisoners

 

Paul Rider of Fort Wayne is an interviewer’s dream. He could recite his story during World War II in clear fashion, had a scrapbook full of memories, a diary and many photos – and a story that had a peaceful resolution decades after the war. Remember to thank a veteran today for his/her service to our country!

Listen to a 1-min telling by Rider about liberating internees at University of St. Tomas in Manila here.

**

aRider uni

In February 1944 Paul Rider of Fort Wayne, IN, was part of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division preparing to leave Australia for an invasion of New Guinea. “New Guinea was a final staging area for the Admiralty Island invasion,” said Rider.

When the invasion began a few weeks later, the Allies nearly didn’t get a foothold according to Rider. “The Japanese almost pushed us off the first night,” he said. “Our 75-mm Howitzer was not too powerful.”

Rider was born in 1920 in Scott, OH, but moved with his family to Fort Wayne when he was four years old. Rider graduated from Southside High School in 1938.

Upon being drafted into the Army in March 1942, Rider was sent to Fort Sill in OK for basic training. He received training of a different sort at Fort Bliss near El Paso, TX when he was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, A Battery, 82nd Field Artillery.

As the name implies, the cavalry division was comprised of horses. Rider and other soldiers selected for the division were expected to ride them. The problem was, they didn’t know how to ride and there were no official lessons. “I had never been on a horse,” said Rider. “The Army chose you to be in the cavalry if you could stand up. We just got on the horse and tried to manage.”

Horses and soldiers participated in Louisiana Maneuvers, a series of U.S. Army exercises. “Two horses pulled a 75-mm Howitzer, while four horses pulled the Howitzer with the additional weight of ammunition,” he said.

In the hot, sticky environment Rider and other soldiers learned the horses’ needs came first. “After a day of riding, we wanted to rest but couldn’t because we had to care for our horses,” he said. They had to take off the saddle, comb, feed and water the animals, a process that usually took about an hour. The tired soldiers slept on pine needles and ticks.

Once his commander discovered he could type, Rider was transferred to an office job. Later, he transferred to Supply where he became Supply Sergeant for his battery of 250 men.

In July 1943 Rider’s division zigzagged unescorted for 25 days on the USS George Washington through waters where Japanese submarines were known to patrol.

After securing it and other Admiralty Islands in mid-May 1944, the Allies constructed a major air and naval base which became an integral launching point for campaigns in the Pacific.

Rider was also part of a flying column (small, military land unit capable of moving quickly) of 700 soldiers that battled first in Leyte, then Luzon in the Philippines. “We landed on the north shore and were under attack, but carried M1 carbines and kept moving,” he said.

Rider Yank mag surrender

In February 1945 Rider and others in the U.S. Army helped to liberate Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila. Located on the campus of the University of Santo Tomas, it was the largest of several camps in the Philippines in which the Japanese had interned enemy civilians, many American, beginning January 1942.

More than 3,000 internees suffered from poor living conditions and lack of food, including children. Many internees were near death. “The internees looked like a bunch of bones moving around,” said Rider. “It was a sad situation.”

In August 1945 Rider’s division was preparing to head to Japan for a major invasion when they heard about the dropping of a bomb on Hiroshima. The news of Japan’s surrender was exciting and the First Cavalry boarded the USS Talladega to sail for Yokohama. They arrived in time to witness the signing of the surrender on September 2, 1945, a date that would become known as ‘VJ Day’ (Victory in Japan). “Our ship moved next to the USS Missouri where the signing of the surrender took place,” he said. “I could see the Japanese officials with their top hats.”

aRider Jap surr newsp

Master Sergeant Rider remained in Yokohama with other Allied troops until September 25 to maintain order. Then, due to his length of time in service and participation in battles, he sailed home on the Talladega. He was discharged on October 19, 1945.

Rider worked most of his life in the banking industry. He and his wife Patricia are parents to seven children. “I was glad to do what I could to serve our country,” he said.

aRider Jap flag

An unusual story that would not be resolved for more than 30 years had begun during the war when Rider and two other soldiers patrolled the jungle on Manus Island. They didn’t find the enemy, but Rider discovered something else — a case lying on the ground. It contained a Japanese flag with writing on it. Rider he suspected it had been dropped by a Japanese soldier and shipped it home as a souvenir.

In 1978 Rider was at a Lions Club meeting that hosted Japanese Lions Club members. He took the flag and a female Japanese guest read names on it. “She said the flag had probably been signed by members of a particular unit,” he said.

With Rider’s permission the Japanese visitor took information printed on the flag back to Japan and upon doing research, found the flag’s original owner who was still alive. Rider mailed the flag to him and the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel published a photo and story about the incident in March 4, 1978.

 

 

Veteran’s Day–Opportunity to Recognize Military Service People

This week we have the official opportunity to recognize military service people! Veteran’s Day will be celebrated on Wed, November 11. Remember to thank a veteran!

My wonderful husband John retired after 21 years of serving in the  Air Force and Air National Guard. We're proud of him!

My wonderful husband John retired after 21 years of serving in the Air Force and Air National Guard. We’re proud of him!

On a personal note, my husband will celebrate his birthday on November 10. He is retired with 21 years of service in the Air Force, Grissom Air Reserve Base  in Peru, Indiana in Peru, Indiana and finally at the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne Indiana

We are proud of him and the effort and commitment he has always had to our nation’s security. Happy birthday, John!

**

Marine poster

November 10 is also the birthday of the US Marine Corps. You can read a nice blog post about the Marines at GP Cox’s Pacific Paratrooper blog. I subscribe to this informative and well put-together blog which frequently sends out information about our nation’s vets and their experiences.

Carl Mankey earned two Purple Hearts while fighting in World War II.

Carl Mankey earned two Purple Hearts while fighting in World War II.

In honor of the Marines I’ve included an excerpt of the story from the sole Marine in my book—Carl Mankey.

“On June 22, 1944, Marine Private First Class Carl Mankey led 20 men from his squadron up a mountain in Saipan in the Mariana Islands. Mankey’s goal was to destroy a Japanese machine gun nest that had fired for hours on Allied troops.

Disregarding heavy fire from the enemy, Mankey moved into the open to shoot at the nest with his rifle, tthrowing grenades and hoping to disrupt the firing. Failing to hit the target, Mankey refused to give up. He returned to the machine gun nest, repeating his brave actions. This time he completely destroyed it.”

The story goes on to relate this Marine’s being awarded two Purple Hearts for valor in service in World War II.

This story is one of 28 in my book which is available for $20 at this site and Amazon. It would make a great Christmas gift for military/history lover.

front aud

This season I’m speaking at several locales about my World War II book and project of interviewing more than 100 (now 103 to be precise) vets from that era.

Last week the Fort Wayne History Center hosted a lecture featuring my book. A crowd of 60 people listened attentively and later expressed support of the subject.

Roger Myers served as a bombardier during WWII.

Roger Myers served as a bombardier during WWII.

Pelfrey Wyall K

I was thrilled to see two of the vets from my book in the audience—Roger Myers (Army Air Corps) and Marty Wyall (WASP).

Thanks to the staff of the Fort Wayne History Center and Director Todd Pelfrey for allowing me to have this unique opportunity!

John and I also participated in the Fort Wayne (IN) Veteran’s Day parade. He rode in the 122nd’s nice bus. I walked with the Blue Star Mothers—women whose children are or have been in the military.

**

Finally, these vets are among those I’ve interviewed who have November birthdays. Some have passed on– Richard Willey, Wallace Avey, Richard Block. We remember them all for their courage and selflessness.

Wallace Avey-Army

Wallace Avey-Army

Richard Block-Navy

Richard Block-Navy

Robert Kiester - Army Air Corps

Robert Kiester – Army Air Corps

Wayne Sauers- Army

Wayne Sauers- Army

Albert Silk-Army

Albert Silk-Army

Richard Willey-Army

Richard Willey-Army

If you know a veteran, please make an effort to honor them on Veteran’s Day, Christmas, their birthdays, any day.

Opportunity to Meet/Honor WWII Vets!

Paul Sell (1926-2014)

Paul Sell (1926-2014)

A big FREE event is coming up one week from today for all of you military supporters/ history lovers around Fort Wayne!

 

On November 1, starting at 2pm at the Fort Wayne History CenterI will talk about my project of interviewing World War II vets as part of the George Mather lecture series.

 aaBurns Virgil uni

A year ago, I wrote a book with 28 stories from WW II vets in Adams, Allen, Huntington, Whitley and Wells counties. The book’s title is World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

 

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

There will be a book signing that day. The book sells for $20 on Amazon and through this website. If you purchase a copy and like the stories, would you please post a review at Amazon? Thanks!

  

I’m excited to talk about the writing of my book and my ongoing goal to interview as many World War II vets as possible. I believe they could all be deceased within the next five years. Keep in mind their minimum age is now 88 years old!

 aaSchultz Cal old

Their stories are too valuable to lose!  

Recently I interviewed my 100th World War II vet! The photos on this blog are among those WWII I’ve interviewed who were born in October.

 100 WWII vets 2015

This poster I made contains all of their precious faces. I’ll have the poster at the lecture for you to examine.

Dr. Justin Arata--Navy

Dr. Justin Arata–Navy

I’ve asked several World War II vets to attend the lecture. We’ll recognize the vets by branch and then allow time for the public to greet them.  

It will be a chance for people to meet/greet World War II vets they may not have known were in their community. It’s also a great way for them to see people they may have known in the past and served with. Wouldn’t that be a cool occurrence?

 

I hope this event is something those of you who live in the northeast Indiana area will put on your calendars and choose to attend with family and friends. Better yet, bring another veteran of any era with you so he/she can participate in the special event!

 

And bring kids with you so they have the experience to meet a World War II veteran. You never know what impact this meeting may have on their lives!

 

The Fort Wayne History Center is located at 302 East Berry Street in Fort Wayne. They have a convenient parking lot (free) next to the door. There is an elevator to the floor with the lecture, which is also free.

Also the News-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Wayne has been publishing new World War II stories I’ve written of vets in our area every other Monday since February. The next story is due out tomorrow. Please read it and if you like it, please let the editors know. I’m hoping they’ll allow the column to continue as long as we have vets around to tell their stories!

 Always remember to thank a veteran for his/her service!

 

 

WWII vet Bob Foster Served Family, Friends, Country

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

On the air! Front row: Bob Foster, Don Shady. Back row: Nelson Price, Kayleen Reusser

I was saddened to hear of the death of a World War II vet featured in my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

Robert ‘Bob’ E. Foster, 92, of Fort Wayne, passed away on Monday, July 20, 2015. I met Bob through a friend a couple of years ago. He was friendly and excited to tell me his story of being a soldier in the US Army during World War II. I included his account in my book. An excerpt is included here:

The fighting at Cherbourg continued for two weeks with an Allied victory. Six months later, Foster was involved in another brutal conflict at the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium. The conflict, which began on December 16, 1944, took place during one of the coldest winters on record. For three months the soldiers fought while sleeping in foxholes filled with snow. Many soldiers froze to death. “Dead soldiers were stacked 20 feet high,” said Foster.

Struggle against the elements was only part of the challenge to survive. When Foster’s captain put him in charge of the platoon for a raid on a town in Belgium, he handed Foster a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) with 15 clips of 30-caliber shells, weighing approximately 15 pounds. “Our other BAR man had been killed,” said Foster.

Bob Foster fought with the US Army in WWII.

Bob Foster fought with the US Army in WWII.

The BAR could shoot like a machine gun, but was little protection against German tanks, which shot 88-millimeter shells, the biggest in the world. When the Germans opened fire on Foster’s platoon, a shell critically damaged his captain’s leg. Foster was also injured in the knee and head but tried to help his captain, pressing his hand against the wound to staunch the flow. Sadly, the captain died.

Foster, weak from his own blood loss, collapsed and medics rushed him to an aid station. Later, he was transferred to hospitals in Paris and England where he recovered and returned to his unit in Germany.

**

Bob Foster & Reusser fam Dec '14

Bob Foster & Reusser fam Dec ’14

Our family visited Bob last Christmas. It was a sweet visit but not the last time we saw Bob. In Feb 2015 we drove him and another vet from my book, Don Shady, to Indianapolis to appear on a live radio station at the University of Indianapolis. Our host was Nelson Price. Our subject, of course, was WWII. The guys, neither of which had ever been interviewed on radio, did swell!

Bob Foster -- today good

Bob Foster on his Honor Flight of Northeast IN

This excerpt from the tribute given at Bob’s funeral by Ted Linn of WANE-TV gives a behind-the-scenes look at what happens on an Honor Flight:

“I met Bob on October 23, 2013 for Honor Flight 11 out of Fort Wayne. We at WANE-TV had recently partnered with Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana. My boss and I went as guardians. I was assigned to Bob Foster.

“Who’s he?” “Oh, you’ll like Bob. He’s a Purple Heart veteran with a couple of Bronze Stars.” “Wow!” I said.

That day he told me how his wife Phyllis, who had died in 2013, and others at their church had prayed him through the worst days of World War II and the war in Europe.  Afterward, he came home to raise a family and work for the USPS.

Bob Foster was a spiritual man. I was, too. We were kindred spirits.  Lovers of God, lovers of His Son, lovers of God’s people, lovers of the Word. Bob loved Psalm 84:11, “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.”

I knew I’d stay in touch with Bob Foster.  Not every day, not even every month, but when we did talk, he’d mention how wonderful Honor Flight was and how good of care I took of him that day.

I just read this week Isaiah 40, verse 8: “The grass withers and the flowers fall (that’s Bob today), but the word of our God endures forever.”

Bob struck me as a classic World War II veteran who insisted on doing his duty. He ended up in some incredibly dangerous, life-threatening situations in the European Theatre.

He survived to return to his wife in Indiana, work and support his family, and center his life around his God.

He never lost his God-given pride for all of that and his good nature, but he never let any of it get the best of him or make him vain, at least not in the 21 precious months that I had the privilege of knowing this fine man.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak about a hero of mine, Bob Foster.

**

Every day World War II vets are dying. In today’s newspaper I read of another vet who died this week and whom I interviewed last year for a local newspaper. Another vet also died this week from my area whom I didn’t know and didn’t get to interview. I consider that a loss for our American heritage.

Our World War II vets are our nation’s oldest vets. I’m trying to interview as many of them as possible to preserve our heritage. I can’t do it alone. Please, if you know a veteran of any era, ask him/her to tell the story of their life and record it. You’ll be glad you did.

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.