Archive for February, 2014

Tom Sedlacek has sent us photos of his father, 111th member Joe Sedlacek, taken from a photo album his family has kept. If you recall, Tom also sent us the panorama photo of the 111th that we posted a few weeks ago. Thanks again, Tom!

The men at Camp Bowie, Texas, 1942

The men at Camp Bowie, Texas, 1942

Joe Sedlacek

Joe Sedlacek

Illinois boys--Lavergne Stanhous, John Raisler, Joe Sedlacek, Lawrence Durree, on the Empire State Building, New York City, Nov. 1943

Illinois boys–Lavergne Stanhaus, John Raisler, Joe Sedlacek, Lawrence Durree, on the Empire State Building, New York City, Nov. 1943

John Raisler, Frank Sossi, Gene Karl, Joe Sedlacek, Matt Ottea, at Times Square, New York City, Nov. 1943

John Raisler, Frank Sossi, Gene Karl, Joe Sedlacek, Matt Ottea, at Times Square, New York City, Nov. 1943

Leaving Camp Shiloh, Canada, 1943

Leaving Camp Shiloh, Canada, 1943

Sedlacek in Canada

Sedlacek in Canada

The 111th at Camp Shiloh, Canada, 1943

The 111th at Camp Shiloh, Canada, 1943

Tom more Canada truck men Tom Canada working

Joe Sedlacek with the axe, Camp Shiloh

Joe Sedlacek with the axe, Camp Shiloh

Leo DeLaGarza, Frank Gomez, Matt Ottea at Camp Shiloh

Leo DeLaGarza, Frank Gomez, Matt Ottea at Camp Shiloh

We have struck up an online friendship with a fellow in Wales, Glenn Booker, who spends much of his time gathering information and stories of U.S. GIs in South Wales during WWII. For several years now, he has been putting out a magazine about the thousands of Americans who spent time in the area during the war years, and he is now building a website so he can share and learn more–along the lines of what we are doing with this blog. Here is a link to his site: https://sites.google.com/site/usmilitaryinsouthwales/

The men of the 111th Ordnance Company spent several weeks near Barry in late 1943, before they headed up to Albro Castle, in St. Dogmaels, Wales. If any of you have questions or know of a U.S. soldier stationed in South Wales during WWII, you can contact Glenn through his website. He has been great in spreading the word about this blog, which may account for the increase in visits to it by people in the UK recently. Thanks, Glenn! Together we will continue to remember and honor those wonderful men.

Glenn Booker at a 2013 WWII reenactment, Margam Abbey

Glenn Booker at a 2013 WWII reenactment, Margam Abbey

We had the pleasure of receiving a nice note and a few photos from Pauline Marro, widow of 111th member Joe Marro, yesterday. Joe, originally from Stamford, Connecticut, was with the small arms repair unit; he passed away in 2004. You may have read about him in Roland Unangst’s memoir on this site. Roland’s daughter, Linda Campbell, telephoned Pauline a couple of weeks ago, and they both enjoyed sharing memories of the two men and their war years. They plan to keep in touch.

Joe Marro, at Conde Nast Gardens, Oct. 1943

Joe Marro, at Conde Nast Gardens, Oct. 1943

Joe Marro, Germany, July 20, 1945

Joe Marro, Germany, July 20, 1945

If anyone can identify the men with Joe in the photos below, please let us know.

Joe Marro, left, with buddy, Germany July 20, 1945

Joe Marro, right, with buddy, Germany July 20, 1945

Joe Marro (left) with two buddies

Joe Marro (left) with two buddies

Pauline shared a few memories of Joe with us: she recalled Joe telling her how he once delivered a pair of binoculars to General Eisenhower on the front lines; and how a German shoemaker made him a pair of shoes in exchange for some coffee, which Joe managed to get for the man while on KP duty one day.

In other news, we thought you might be interested to know that this blog, as of today, has received more than 5,500 page views since we started it last fall; “page views” mean how many times each page has been viewed, not the number of individual viewers. That number is about 800.

We are even more amazed at its reach: While most of the views have been from people in the United States, we have had 359 from the United Kingdom, 162 from Finland, 62 from Belgium, 60 from Australia, 37 from Germany, 33 from France, 21 from Italy, 20 from Poland, and 13 from Canada. Other countries with a handful each include Ireland, Brazil, Singapore, Argentina, Spain, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. It seems that most people have found this blog via Internet search engine searches; however, we usually do not know the search terms used. Much of this blog’s content does come up in Google and other searches, though.

We received a packet of about 60 photos in the mail the other day from 111th surviving member John Raisler. John is 93 and lives in Florida; he is originally from Clarendon Hills, Illinois. We have enjoyed talking to him many times since the blog began–he was our first “find,” although it must be said that he found us back in November when he asked his granddaughter to Google “111th Ordnance Company.”

John Raisler in Hawaii a few years ago

John Raisler in Hawaii a few years ago

Last week, John enjoyed a great conversation with his former commanding officer, Art Brooks.  Art told John that he didn’t have to call him “Captain” any more. They talked about their Normandy landing experiences, and although they were in different LCTs, they had very similar experiences. Raisler recalls how Brooks described how “he checked the water depth, it was too deep, so they moved and then came in, where he was the first jeep off [with another of the 111th survivors as his driver, Roger Rickon] with no trouble. My experience was very similar. First we were too deep so we moved, and my assistant and I went off into the water that was too deep for a jeep, but we floated long enough for the churning wheels to get caught [in the sand] and we pulled right out. The MPs guided us to a large field, where we all assembled. Then we moved to Cerisy Forest. I think we were all there until St. Lo opened up.”

Several of the photos were taken in October 1945, as a group of about 15 of the 111th headed to LeHavre, France, for the ship journey home to the States. John says he will always remember the date he got home: October 17, 1945. He married the girl who waited four years for him exactly one month to the day later.

Aboard the LCT headed toward Omaha. John R was on lead boat

Aboard the LCT headed toward Omaha Beach, Normandy. John Raisler was on the lead boat.

Here are some of the photos; thankfully, John wrote names and places on the backs so we know who and where they are. We will  also place them on the “photos” pages at the top of the blog.

Pyaday at Canp Shiloh, Canada: L to R: First Sgt. Mayo,  Sgt. Nelson, Lt. Brooks, Cpt. Malsberry

Payday at Canp Shiloh, Canada: L to R: First Sgt. Mayo, Sgt. Nelson, Lt. Brooks, Cpt. Malsbury

Going home. sign at port in Le Havre, France

Going home sign at port in Le Havre, France

Going home, convoy break on way to port

Going home, October 1945, convoy break on way to port

John Raisler at German pub

John Raisler at German pub

John Raisler  Apt in Fridenhorst, Germany, last stop on way home

John Raisler at their apartment in Fridenhorst, Germany, last stop on way home

Just before crossing Rhine, Driver Matt Ottea, Ass't Frank Sossi, backseat L- Sedlacek, R -  Raisler, standing 1Sgt Mayo and company clerk

Just before crossing Rhine, driver Matt Ottea, Ass’t Frank Sossi, backseat L- Sedlacek, R – Raisler, standing First Sgt Mayo and company clerk

Gun is German 88, L to R Raisler, Goerges (section chief), Lt from 83rd Div, We fired against Germans with this gun, Along the Rhine

Gun is German 88, L to R Raisler, Goerges (section chief), a Lt from 83rd Div. We fired against Germans with this gun, along the Rhine

While in quarantine, we got beer. L-R unknown, 2 . Stanhouse, 3. Railser, 4 Ray Ludwigson

While in quarantine, we got beer. L-R 1. unknown, 2 . Stanhouse, 3. Raisler, 4 Ray Ludwigson

Matt Ottea in his foxhole in Normandy

Matt Ottea in his foxhole in Normandy

John Raisler, Munchen-Gladbach GE

John Raisler, Munchen-Gladbach, Germany

Focker Wolf 190 at Salzwedel Airport, their location on V-E Day. Cliffie Graham, John Andrews, E De La Garza

Focker Wolf 190 at Salzwedel Airport, Germany, their location on V-E Day. Cliffie Graham, John Andrews, Leo De La Garza

Swimming at pool in Brake, GE. Occupation time after V-E Day

Swimming at pool in Brake, Germany, near Bremen. Occupation time after V-E Day

Chow break in Belgium

Chow break in Belgium

Leroy Faehling, (John Raisler and Leroy went to Brussels together)

Leroy Faehling enjoying the pool at Brake, Germany, summer 1945 (John Raisler and Leroy went to Brussels together)

Barracks 17, Room 2 Rear Row - Webber, Gomez, Clawson, Kent, Goerges. Front row Vaughn, Raisler, Tyler, Boufford, Savage

Barracks 17, Room 2. Rear Row – Webber, Gomez, Clauson, Kent, Goerges. Front row: Vaughn, Raisler, Tyler, Boufford, Savage

With pipe Matt Ottea from Instrumentation section, drilling is John Andrews, 3rd guy is Bob Hammer  Gun is 105 Howitzer, Munchen-Gladbach GE

With pipe, Matt Ottea from instrumentation section, drilling is John Andrews, man on right is Bob Hammer. Gun is 105 Howitzer, Munchen-Gladbach, Germany

Showering in Cerisy Forest - John Raisler at pump, Louie Soutier showering

Showering in Cerisy Forest, Normandy: John Raisler at pump, Louie Soutier showering

105 Howitzer torn down - guys from the section

105 Howitzer torn down – guys from the section

L-R Sgt Nelson, Cpl Raisler, Sgt Ottea, Kneeling. Sgt Sedlacek

L-R: Sgt Robert Nelson, Cpl John Raisler, Sgt Matthew Ottea, Kneeling. Sgt Joe Sedlacek

John Raisler crawling into ME109. Salzwedel Airport GE around V-E Day

John Raisler crawling into ME109. Salzwedel Airport, Germany, around V-E Day

Half track combat vehicle with 75 mm howitzer. That is a 155mm howitzer in front of it.

Half track combat vehicle with 75 mm howitzer. That is a 155mm howitzer in front of it.

Farmer getting in the way in France

Farmer getting in the way in France

German wrecked tanks in Falaise Gap FR

German wrecked tanks in Falaise Gap, France, August 1945

Pete Patrick in foxhole, Normandy

Pete Patrick in foxhole, Normandy

John Raisler in unfinished German Submarine

John Raisler in unfinished German submarine

Street Scene, Munchen-Gladbach Germany, 1945

Street scene, Munchen-Gladbach Germany, early 1945

Wrecked vehicles, Heerlen, Holland, winter 1944-45

Wrecked vehicles, Heerlen, Holland, winter 1944-45

8 inch railway gun, they really roar when they go off

8 inch railway gun; they really roar when they go off

Bus used to carry German soldiers, now kaput, France

Bus used to carry German soldiers, now kaput, France

Over the past couple of weeks, several more family members of the men of the 111th have contacted us. A quick round-up follows. But first, I would like to direct your attention to a new link at the top of the home page: “Memories of Perry Witt.” Lt. Witt’s daughter has allowed us to post his memories of the war. He was with the unit from the time it was a National Guard unit in San Antonio and remained with it the entire war. Interestingly, Roland Unangst (our other memoir writer) typed up Witt’s handwritten memories for him in June 1945, and we first received this document from his daughter, Linda Campbell. There is a lot to be learned in both sets of memoirs, for which we are very grateful.

Lt. Perry Witt, San Antonio, TX, and Baltimore, MD, probably Normandy, 1944.

Lt. Perry Witt

Then we found and talked to Maria Crossman, widow of 111th member Bill Crossman. He was the CO when the men were at Camp Bowie but transferred to the 69th Ordnance Company before the men left for Canada in 1942. Maria, who is 85 and living in Texas, called us after receiving our letter in late January. Captain Crossman was from San Antonio and had been with the 111th since the late 1930s, when it was a National Guard Unit. He met Maria—“I took one look and said ‘She’s the girl for me!’”—in the late 1940s, when he was again serving in Germany as a lieutenant colonel and she was a translator in Augsberg. Bill is fondly remembered by Art Brooks, the 111th’s last CO during the war. Bill died in 1998. Maria promised to send us photos.

The next day we received a note from another widow of one of the men—Pauline Marro, whose husband was Joe Marro, from Connecticut. We called her and learned that Joe had four brothers in WWII, one of whom is still alive; Joe died in 2004. She recalls how she lived with Joe’s mother while the men were in Europe and what a scary time it was; there was a two-month period when they received no mail at all. Joe did weapons repair and was a good buddy of Roland Unangst. Joe is mentioned several times in Unangst’s memories of the war, which you can read by clicking the link for his story at the top of this website. A few days later after we talked to Pauline, Linda Campbell, Unangst’s daughter, called her and they had a nice chat.

We called Carmen Lewenthal, the daughter-in-law of 111th Lieutenant Gene Lewenthal, who died in San Antonio in 1976. Carmen told us her family had received our letter back in December, when her grown children looked at the blog and were excited to learn about their grandfather’s service during WWII. She also has promised to look for photos and send them to us. Although Gene was from San Antonio, he was not with the 111th in Texas but joined up with the unit at some later date.

Lt. Eugene Lewenthal

Lt. Eugene Lewenthal

Then we had a letter from the son of Bill Bleyerveld, who told us his dad joined up with the 111th just before D-Day and was with the unit during their entire time in Europe, until September 1945, when it seems most of the unit were sent home. He will send more information later.

Finally, last week we received an email from Patty Saucier-Aubert, whose dad was Murvel Saucier, better known to the guys of the 111th as “Frenchy.” Originally from Louisiana, Murvel spoke French and served as an interpreter for the unit while also working as a mechanic on jeeps and tanks. He lived in Houston, spending his entire career with Hughes Tool. He married Patty’s mom, Vera Faye, in 1946—Vera was a welder during the war years—“a real Rosie the Riveter,” Patty says! Sergeant Saucier died in 1998. Patty scanned and emailed many photos, and from those we have a better collection of images from the various U.S. camps the men were in before they left for Europe. Thanks, Patty!

"French" Saucier

“Frenchy” Saucier

Sgt Murvel Saucier

Sgt Murvel Saucier

Sgt. Saucier at Camp Shiloh, Canada, 1942

Sgt. Saucier at Camp Shiloh, Canada, 1942

We have been in touch with Tom Sedlacek, son of 111th member Joe Sedlacek recently, and he sent us a copy of a panoramic photo he has of the men, taken when they were 103 strong at Fort Dix, NJ, in June 1943. Thrilling! We scanned the large image–it was about 8’x32′–and created a stitched panorama to show all of you. It looks small here, but if you click on the image, it will enlarge and fill your screen–then if you click on the little magnifying glass, you can make it even larger. Use the scroll bar at the bottom to move across the photo. Let us know if you see your father, and let us know where he is.

The 111th Men at Fort Dix, NJ, June 1945         CLICK to enlarge

The 111th Men at Fort Dix, NJ, June 1943

Art Brooks has identified the officers and a few of the men in the center front row. Find the four men in front center wearing the darker jackets with belts; then move to the second man to the left of the first officer on the left to start the identifications: the large man is Tech Sergeant James Roush; First Sergeant Bill Mayo; Lt. Dante Vezzoli (who soon left the 111th to go to Army Intelligence because he knew Italian; he retired a full colonel); Cpt. Lionel Malsbury, the CO at the time; Lt. Art Brooks; Lt. Perry Witt; Master Sergeant Frank Gomez, and Sgt. Harold Goerges. My dad, Edward “Pinky” Johnson is in the front row, ninth from the right, and on his left is his buddy John Andrews. On the back row, third man to the right of the man holding flag–only the flag stick shows (and counting the man holding the flag) is John Raisler, and to his immediate right is his buddy, Joe Sedlacek. To Sedlacek’s right is Leroy Faehling. Also on the back row, 20th man from the left, is Severt “Sy” Stroberg.

Here are a couple of other IDs: Constantino F. Navarra is in the back row, third man from the right; and Charles Whisenhunt is also in the back row, 8th man from the left.  Let us know if you see your dad or grandfather in the photo.