Tributes to WWII Vets Mankey, Beitler

Two World War II vets from my book have passed away recently.

WWII hat

Carl Mankey, one of the few World War II Marines I’ve interviewed and one of the 28 WWII vets whose stories are featured in my book, died on April 6, 2016. Here is a portion of his story:

In 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 with his rifle and throw grenades, hoping to disrupt the firing. Failing to hit the target, Mankey refused to give up. Later, he returned to the machine gun nest, repeating his brave actions. This time he completely destroyed it.

**

Carl was one of the first World War II vets I ever interviewed about four years ago at his home.

He had a nice small house with an American flag waving in the front yard. Someone had suggested he had a good story and I was looking for something to fill another week of my column in the Ossian Sun Riser.

Little did I know how much that story would come to mean to me.

Carl told me his story, using a lot of words I had never heard of—Tinian, Tarawa. They were islands in the Pacific. He told me he was injured once, healed and sent back to fight. I thought once a soldier was injured, he went home. First lesson.

Then he showed me his two Purple Hearts and explained they had been awarded for his two injuries. Wow! He had been injured a second time and lived to tell about it!

Carl was a small quiet man so it was hard to imagine him taking out a sniper nest, but I absolutely believed he did it if he told me he did. I got the sense he would not brag on himself.

After hearing his story, I went home and thought, “Gosh it’s too bad more people won’t have the opportunity to hear his story. It’s so amazing!”

As I began to interview more and more World War II vets, it came to me to put a book together about their stories. Carl’s story is in my first volume, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

I visited him a few times after the book was released. His family was proud of him and turned out in numbers for our book launch. A family member took him on the Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana which he loved.

Carl died in his home. Thanks, Carl, for your support. I’ll miss you.

&&

Dick Beitler passed away on April 17, 2016. He was a godly man who was forced to fight in some extreme battles with the Army in the Pacific. Here is the introduction to his story in my book:

On Leyte Island in the Philippines American soldiers reconnoitered in the Bataan Mountains. It was January 1945 and American forces were trying to recapture the Bataan peninsula from the Japanese. All was quiet until the third night. When the enemy began firing, part of my company went to high ground to fight. I stayed in the valley with other soldiers, firing all night. Many Americans were killed in what would be later called the Battle of Zig Zag Pass.

**

Dick was one of the oldest vets I’ve ever interviewed. He graduated from Berne High School in 1935, years before the US was involved with the war. He worked at a furniture store before and after the war. He and his wife raised six children and he taught Sunday School for 70 years.

At my book launch Dick volunteered to pray for our group and I was nervous and glad to hand him the microphone. He might not have needed it as his voice boomed!

These were both great fellows and I’m privileged to have their stories in my book.

 

 

Jeannette & Bruce Kenline Serving God and Country

Kenline (3).jpg

This story is the result of interviews with a couple I met while working at a retirement home. They were the first couple I had met who had both served in the military. I admire them both.  I didn’t have photos of them in uniform but the helmet is pretty awesome!

*******

Jeannette and Bruce Kenline spent their lives in service, first as American soldiers, then ministering in churches.

A native of South Bend, Jeannette was a student at Indiana University for two years, majoring in business, when she enlisted as a Navy WAVES in 1944. (WAVES stands for “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service”)

According to the Naval Historical Center, 27,000 women were recruited as WAVES within the first year of the war. By the end of the war, 80,000 WAVES were serving the US.

“You had to be 20 years old to enlist as a WAVE,” said Jeannette. Why did she want to join the Navy? “I had flown in a friend’s plane a couple of times and thought it was great,” she said. At that time the Army Air Corps, later known as the Air Force, was still in its infancy.

Unfortunately, Jeannette’s dreams of going up in a Navy plane didn’t materialize. She was stationed first at a base in Norman, Oklahoma, then at a naval station in Jacksonville, Florida, where she was assigned the duties of an Aviation Machinist Mate. As soon as she could, Jeannette transferred to an office job. “I discovered I didn’t like taking apart carburetors,” she said.

Bruce graduated from East Rockcreek High School in Markle in 1939. Following graduation, he enrolled at Indiana University as a pre-med major. When he enlisted in the Navy in 1942, his pharmaceutical training from college qualified him to serve as a medic.

Bruce participated in fighting at some of the fiercest battles of the war, including the Omaha Beach invasion at Normandy.

Between June 1940 and May 1945, Normandy was part of the German occupied zone of France. During the War, the Allies coordinated a massive build-up of troops and supplies to support a large-scale invasion of Normandy. This included amphibious landings by troops on Landing Ship Tanks (LST). “The front end extended into the water, and then dropped open, allowing soldiers easy access to the beach,” said Bruce, who rode on an LST.

His job as a medic was to mend wounded soldiers. It was a gruesome task with Germans dug into fortified locations above the beaches and shooting steadily at the Allied forces. “Bruce saw a man running without legs as they portrayed in the movie Saving Private Ryan,” said Jeannette.

Bruce survived Normandy only to be shot by a sniper at a later assignment in Okinawa. As a result of his injury, Bruce was sent home. During one of his stops to the island of Guam, he and other wounded Allied soldiers heard about the US dropping of the atom bomb on Japan in August 1945.

It was a momentous occasion for the battle-weary soldiers. “We knew the US had been working on an atom bomb,” said Bruce. “We hoped the war would end soon.”

Back in the US and honorably discharged from military service, Bruce returned to Indiana University where he met Jeannette who had been discharged in 1946. They married in 1947.

After graduating from IU with a business degree, Jeannette obtained her teaching license from the University of St Francis in Ft Wayne, later earning a Masters degree in Education from the same institution. Jeannette taught business and social studies classes at Norwell High School.

Bruce didn’t finish his pre-med degree, but began working with his father in the Ft Wayne area in a home decorating business. Following a trip to Africa 1965 with Dr. LeRoy Kinzer of the Markle Medical Center and Reverend Ernie Shoemaker, Bruce changed his vocation to that of a minister. He enrolled as a student at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and obtained his license to preach in 1970.

Bruce began preaching at the Tocsin United Methodist Church and later Greentown, IN.

Over the course of their lives the Kenlines traveled to China and Russia and raised three sons. In summing up her life in service to God and country Jeannette said, “It is full of amazing grace!”

Note: Jeannette and Bruce Kenline died in 2011 in May and November, respectively.

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips to Interviewing 100+ WWII Veterans

Vernon Byer brought home flag from Japan after serving there during the Occupation.

Vernon Byer brought home flag from Japan after serving there during the Occupation.

Sometimes people want to know what happens when I interview a World War II veteran. It’s a process and always a privilege.

First, I allot two hours for the interview. This does not include the time it takes to drive to/from the place where the veteran lives.

The two hours does include my getting set up with my tape recorder, notepad, getting both of us settled across from each other and then the actual talking. That can be quite a brain strain for the veteran! They are reaching back 70+ years for details! I recently listed the questions that I typically ask—53 minimum! Whew!

Bill Yaney also served in Japan during WWII with the Army.

Bill Yaney also served in Japan during WWII with the Army.

Then there are photos—prior to the interview I ask the veteran and/or his /her family to gather mementos, photos, souvenirs, books, cap/T-shirt from an Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana trip, medals, anything brought home from the war.

 

I’ve seen Nazi flags, Hitler Youth T-shirt, guns from many countries, Japanese shoes, Navy logbooks, uniforms, photos of locales all over the world. It’s all 70+ years old and fascinating!

I then drape these items over and around the veteran for the photos. I take several shots with my digital camera and then shoot more pics with my iPad to post online.

 

Then I ask the veteran to tell me of a brief incident that happened to him/her during the war. I tape that incident in a minute or so on the ipad.

Dick Willey brought home a Hitler Youth T-shirt from his time of service in Germany.

Dick Willey brought home a Hitler Youth T-shirt from his time of service in Germany.

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper has been publishing my World War II stories. They have sometimes used these vids on their website (News-Sentinel.com).

You can access my stories here: Kayleen Reusser WWII stories.

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

These are different stories than the 28 listed in my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans.

I use my handheld scanner to scan old photos (I always try to get one of the veteran in uniform and any others), documents for verification and even book pages.

 

Finally, I pack up my gear in a small suitcase, thank the veteran for his/her time and leave. By the end of the time, I’m tired but exhilarated. I think the veteran is probably tired too! The interview is quite a mind-numbing session, but totally worth it.

Here’s why.

Each interview means I’ve made a new friend. That’s how I see the vets and how I hope they view me.

I’m thrilled because another veteran has entrusted his/her story to me. That is a privilege.

I’m also thrilled because we have another piece of our national heritage documented. So far, I’ve interviewed 100+ vets from across Indiana.

They are not just a number. Each story is unique and precious. I record each veteran’s birthday and send them cards. I’m also going to send Christmas cards this year! When possible, I visit the vets.

Sure, I wish I had begun interviewing like this 10 years ago. But I was not ready then for the commitment it requires. I believe in ‘better late than never’.

Hey, we have 100 stories that we didn’t have a few months ago!

What are you doing to preserve our nation’s heritage?

 

WWII Radio Interview: Success!

Relaxing with Nelson Price (L) after being interviewed on his live radio show.

Relaxing with Nelson Price (L) after being interviewed on his live radio show.

 

You can tell by the expressions on our faces that World War II vets Bob Foster & Don Shady and I enjoyed our time on the air last week with talk show host Nelson Price. Nelson is the host of a long-running live history talk show —Hoosier History Live!

 

Hoosier History Live is the nation’s only live-with-call-in radio history show. It airs noon-1pm ET on WICR 88.7 Indianapolis or online. The studios are located on the campus of University of Indianapolis.

 

Nelson has written several books on the subject of Hoosier (the word ‘Hoosier’ refers to someone from Indiana, for those of you not familiar with our state’s colloquialism) history.

 

The topic of my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans, appealed to Nelson. He graciously invited me to bring two World War II vets profiled in my book to the studio for a live radio interview.

 

Talking on live radio was a new experience for Bob and Don. They did great!

Talking on live radio was a new experience for Bob and Don. They did great!

That meant driving 2 hours each way from northern Indiana where we live and where most of the vets from my book live. It was sure to be a long day, especially if weather was a problem.

 

I was thrilled when Army Air Corps pilot Don Shady and Army vet Bob Foster consented to the trip.

 

You don’t know how many prayers went up for good weather!

 

Thankfully, it was a glorious day with sunshine and clear driving conditions. My wonderful husband, John, drove us to the campus.

 

We were all a little nervous but Nelson’s professional attitude put us at ease. He had questions and a show format prepared and went over them with us before the show. The hour sped by and I was proud of Don and Bob for speaking well on the air.

 

Lunch at Santorini Greek Restaurant with owner Jeanette Sawi was fun and delicious!

Lunch at Santorini Greek Restaurant with owner Jeanette Sawi was fun and delicious!

It was a delight to meet the show’s producer, Molly Head. (That’s her peeking behind my shoulder) She and Nelson dined with us after the show at a nearby Greek restaurant. Santorini Greek Kitchen (1417 E. Prospect St, Indianapolis) was beautiful and a wonderful experience. I had never eaten Greek food except baklava and was not sure what to expect. The food was beyond our expectations.

 

This photo shows just our salads, but we later ate delicious main dishes that I have no way of pronouncing or spelling here. Suffice it to say, we left the restaurant with full, happy stomachs!

 

The restaurant owner, Jeanette Sawi, sat with us for a while and chatted with Don and Bob. I think we created lifelong memories with our visit! Thanks Jeanette and her husband, Taki, for a delicious meal and hospitality!

 

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

I’m booking speaking engagements now about my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

 

If you know of a group that would like to know what it has been like to interview 75+ World War II vets and write a book about some of their experiences, contact me. xxxkjreusser@adamswells.comxxx (remove the X’s which are there to prevent Spam). The book is available now at the Paypal button on my site’s home page at top. It would be a perfect gift for a history lover, Baby Boomer or veteran.

Take the time today to tell a vet thank you!

 

 

Vernon ‘Bun’ Affolder served at D-Day and Battle of the Bulge

Vernon 'Bun' Affolder served at D-Day and Battle of the Bulge.

Vernon ‘Bun’ Affolder served at D-Day and Battle of the Bulge.

My Vet of the Week is Vernon W. ‘Bun’ William Affolder of Decatur, IN. Mr. Affolder died on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. His birthday would have been tomorrow.

 

I interviewed him in his home three years ago. He became emotional about several parts of the war that were still very real to him. That taught me decades of time doesn’t erase memories of the horrors of war.

We need to support our vets with patience and understanding.

Thanks, Mr. Affolder, for your service. Rest in peace.

Note: This story is similar to those found 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

**

As part of the first group of soldiers who left Decatur, Indiana, to serve as soldiers in WWII, Vernon ‘Bun’ Affolder never dreamed his military career would be so eventful.

 

Affolder was born in Van Wert, Ohio. He moved with his family to Decatur in 1927, graduating from Decatur High School in 1937. He worked at a local hardware store until 1941 when he got a notice from the United States Army. “They drafted me, then told me to go home,” he said. The Army did not forget Affolder. In January 1942 he and other young men from Adams County were sworn in as American soldiers.

 

Assigned to the infantry, Affolder completed basic training at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He and thousands of other troops learned to shoot and hike through miles of poison ivy-infested weeds carrying heavy packs. Affolder was so sunburned by the time his parents visited him in 1942, they didn’t recognize him.

 

Affolder transferred to Camp Beauregard in Pineville, Louisiana, where he worked in the supply room. Thanks to his proficiency at typing due to a course in high school, he was sent to the Army surgeon’s office. “Because I worked for the Army surgeon, I wore a red band on my arm and a red cross on my helmet,” he said. “But I did not administer medical aid. My only job was to distribute supplies from the Surgeon’s office.”

 

Within months Affolder was aboard the Queen Elizabeth, along with thousands of other American soldiers, bound for Europe. “At the back of the boat were 52-gallon drums,” he said. “They hid depth bombs which were designed to go underwater and sink German submarines.”

 

Staff Sergeant Affolder spent 13 months in Bristol, England, working in the 5th Corps Headquarters. His commander was in charge of all field hospitals and aide stations. Affolder liked record keeping and working with the four officers and six enlisted men assigned to his office.

 

Living among the British was educational. “A bulletin board in the city park listed announcements about the war,” he said. “Despite the ‘loose lips sink ships’ saying, we knew if you wanted to know something about the war, ask a Brit!”

 

In June 1944, Affolder’s unit traveled to a place in France called Omaha Beach. At 0900 hours on June 6 (a day later than originally planned, due to inclement weather), thousands of Allied landing crafts dropped American and British soldiers into the waters near the edge of the shore. The intent of the Allies was to storm the beach and run off the firing Germans.

 

The Germans had placed big logs on the shore close to the edge to prevent Allied landings. “They shot big 88 shells at us,” said Affolder. Chaos reigned for hours as the Allies struggled to take the beach. Affolder and thousands of other American soldiers were thrust into a battle they had been ill-prepared for, but they fought valiantly.

 

When a shell blew off the leg of an American soldier, Affolder, standing nearby, was placed in a dilemma. As an aide to the Army surgeon, he wore an arm band indicating his connection with the medical office, but he had no authorization or training to administer aid.

 

“The other soldiers standing there thought I should try to help the wounded soldier,” he said, “but I was only a supply clerk. I had not even been issued a gun.”

 

Affolder helped load fallen soldiers to the safety of the landing crafts. “They were mostly young guys around age 21,” he said. “They lay with their eyes open and arms outspread. I still have flashbacks of that time.”

 

By the following day, the Americans had gained a foothold of Omaha Beach. After the Germans retreated, Affolder resumed his work in the surgeon’s office. There he met General and future United States president Ike Eisenhower. “He was a wonderful guy,” said Affolder. “He talked to us about our work at Omaha Beach.”

 

For Affolder the tragedies of war were not over. In December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, he and other American soldiers nearly lost their lives as part of what became known as the Malmedy Massacre. “We pulled out of Malmedy, France, on December 16, the night before a German combat unit captured 84 American soldiers and shot them,” he said. “I think that was the scariest part of the war for me.”

 

Later that spring, Affolder saw the atrocities of Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany, just weeks after its liberation in April 1945. “We saw the butcher block where German dentists had removed gold from prisoners’ teeth,” he said. “We also saw a guy with a wheelbarrow carrying the body of a dead soldier.”

 

By summer 1945, the Japanese had surrendered and the war was over. Due to the number of battles he had fought and length of time of service, Affolder was one of the first to be discharged. American soldiers were flown back to the States in C47’s planes. “There were no seats inside, but that left room for more of us GIs to get home,” he said. (Note: GI is abbreviation for ‘Government Issue’ and was a common nickname for American soldiers.)

 

Back in Decatur, Affolder resumed working at the hardware store before choosing to sell life insurance, a career he continued until age 85. He and his wife Phyllis met in 1941 while Bun was on furlough. Phyllis died in 1992. Affolder remarried Alice in 1995.

 

For his contribution to the war Affolder was issued a Bronze Star for bravery and acts of  meritorious service. It is the fourth-highest combat award of the United States Armed Forces.

 

Arrangements by Zwick & Jahn Funeral Home, Decatur, Ind. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/fortwayne/obituary.aspx?pid=169212673#sthash.CW2SFZSQ.dpuf

The End

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

Elmo Rieddle served in Army Air Corps during WWII.

I’d like to recognize a vet who passed away last year. Elmo Rieddle was drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1943. He worked two years as a mechanic for the 486th Bomb Squadron at Sudbury England. After he was discharged at the war’s end, he was a member of the Army National Guard for many years. “I was glad to have served,” he told me. “I would have hated to have not served.”

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

I get excited each time it works out for me to interview another World War II vet. At this point the total number of World War II vets I’ve interviewed over the past few years is 75.

 

I’m trying to average two per week, but the wintry weather is making it a challenge.

 

This week I’m averaging three interviews. If all goes well this weekend, I’ll interview a man who has been on an Honor Flight for Northeast Indiana but that is all I know of him. Can’t wait to pick his brain tonight!

His daughter will be there to also hear the stories.

 

Tomorrow I plan to interview a female who is 101 years old! She served as a nurse during the war. Her two children will be there to help with stories she has told them. She will be only the second person I’ve ever interviewed who is a centenarian! I’m looking forward to each of these interviews. My goal is to interview as many World War II vets as possible.

 

What are you doing to keep history alive? We all can do something!

In the same vein what are you doing to thank our nation’s vets of all ages/ eras for their service? I’ll say it again—THANK YOU! We appreciate your service on our behalf!

Tell a vet thank you today!

 

WWII Navy Vet Aided at Pearl Harbor, Attu

Seaman 2nd Class Richard Vanderwall served US Navy during WWII.

Seaman 2nd Class Richard Vanderwall was assigned to 120 Company G in the US Navy during WWII.

 

May 8, 1921-Jan 17, 2015

It is with sadness that I tell of the passing of Richard Vanderwall  whose story was included in my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans.

I met Richard Marvin Vanderwall, Sr. when my mother introduced me to him at the location where they both lived at the time. Mr. Vanderwall was one of the first World War II vets I had ever interviewed so I realize now I was not properly impressed when he told me all of his exploits as a sailor. One of his stories that I included in the book spoke of nearly being involved in the invasion of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This excerpt is from the book:

“By the time our ship reached Pearl Harbor on December 12, 1941, oil from the explosions of American ships was three inches thick on the water,” said Richard Vanderwall of Fort Wayne.

 

Vanderwall was a Seaman 2nd Class assigned to the cruiser USS Indianapolis in the U.S. Navy. His duties included keeping the ship’s log and being stationed on the bridge above two batteries of 8-inch guns. Such a position would result in permanent hearing loss in one ear.

 

The USS Indianapolis was on its way to Johnston Island, 700 miles southwest of Honolulu when the attack occurred Pearl Harbor on December 7. Upon hearing of the Japanese attack, the ship turned toward the island to aid where needed. The battle was nearly over, but the ship was not out of danger. At 1800 hours on December 12, a Japanese sub fired on the Indianapolis. Thankfully, it missed. “One of our destroyers blew him out of the water,” said Vanderwall.

**

He was also involved with the Battle of Attu in the Aleutian Islands in 1943. Vanderwall and other sailors involved in the skirmish earned a battle star for the endeavor.

 

Richard Vanderwall being presented with his copy of my book which includes his WWII story.

Richard Vanderwall being presented with his copy of my book which includes his WWII story.

It was thrilling to present Mr. Vanderwall with a copy of the book with his story in it last fall when it was printed. Here’s a photo that shows our excitement!

 

Mr. Vanderwall was always patient and had a ready smile. He was blessed with a loving family and I’m sure they miss him greatly.

 

Rest in peace, Mr. Vanderwall. You definitely blessed my life and many others.