What a Year!

Posted: December 30, 2014 in Men of the 111th Ordnance Company

What a year 2014 has been! It’s safe to say Ed and I will never have another one like it. At this time last year, just a month or so into our search, we had found five survivors and children of 19 of the men of the 111th. Since then, we have found families of another 30 or so of the men. It has been an adventure like no other. Now we finally know what our dads did in the war.

We are thankful that so many people responded to our queries and shared their fathers’ stories and photos with us. A few even found us, through the wonder of Google searches and this blog.

In fact, our very first “find” was one of the surviving soldiers: John Raisler, now 94 years old. He contacted us via this blog in early November 2013. (“I’m John Raisler, a member of the 111th Ordnance Company, if you’d like to chat EMAIL me.”) Over the past year, John and I have exchanged more than 100 emails. Among other things, John has been my “go-to” guy for war photo IDs—the man’s memory is incredible!

John Raisler

John Raisler

John Raisler in WWII

John Raisler in WWII

We finally got to meet John last month. We sat down together with our book and began going through the photos and stories, and pretty soon we were listening to new stories and enjoying some good laughs; unfortunately, I didn’t have a tape recorder going.

John and Andrea share a laugh

John and Andrea share a laugh

Here’s one I recall, about the day in 1943 when Lt. Perry Witt saved John’s bacon: While they were at Ft. Dix, the men were subjected to an inspection by Army higher-ups. John was lined up with the other men when an officer stopped in front of him and asked him to name the first U.S. Secretary of War. Well, for once John’s memory failed him, and as he was panicking he happened to notice that Lt. Witt was standing behind the officer making an odd signal that only John could see—a fist knocking against the palm of his other hand. Always quick on his toes, John answered “Knox,” and the officer moved on to his next victim.

John gets along pretty well for a man his age. He has a quicker wit than just about anyone we know. He lives by himself in the house he and his wife built in 1954, with the help of regular visits from his son, Jim, who lives nearby. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren aren’t too far away. When his wife of 60 years passed away a few years ago, John learned how to use a computer, to keep himself occupied. His biggest health problem has been a bad back. As he told me in one of his first emails, “If it wasn’t for a cracked vertebrae, I’d probably be out kayaking today.” We’re still not sure if that was meant to be a joke. Thanks for everything, John!

With the end of this year also comes the end of our active search for 111th family members and unit history details—Ed and I think we have now found everything we are going to find. As such, we expect that this blog will go into “sleep” mode for a while. But it will remain online, hoping that others with a connection to the 111th will find us. If that happens, we will let you know. Happy New Year!

  1. StephieD says:

    Another great accomplishment by the greatest couple I know! Congratulations on your success and I know it took you much farther than you had ever imagined. You’ve changed so many peoples’ lives by your hard work and dedication. Thank you for everything!

  2. Tom Sedlacek says:

    Hi guys, nice article.. Please have a safe and happy new year.

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