Archive for the ‘Men of the 111th Ordnance Company’ Category

Arthur T. Brooks, the young Army captain who led the 160 men of the 111th from war-torn Holland into war-torn Germany in the final months of WWII, will be celebrating his 100th birthday on October 29. This posting is a call to encourage the families of the 111th men and other blog followers to send him birthday wishes in October. (Details below.) I believe we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his leadership and for getting our fathers home safely. Not a single 111th soldier was lost during the war.

Last weekend, Ed and I drove up to New York State to pay a pre-birthday visit to Art and his family—Judy, his wife of 71 years, and their daughters, Lori and Louise.  Art is one of only two surviving members of the unit. (The other is Osborne Eastwood, age 98, in Arkansas.)

Brooks family photo sept 2017

Art, daughter Lori, Judy, daughter Louise, Andrea and Ed

Art and Judy recently decided that the time had come to move into an assisted living community, where, among other benefits, they are only a half-hour away from their daughters. On Saturday, I gave a short talk and slideshow about Art and the 111th to the residents there, as a way to introduce them to their new neighbor. It went well—and it turned out that five of the men in the audience were also WWII veterans! Art took over after my talk and regaled the audience with some war stories of his own—it was a memorable afternoon. Brooks Sept 2017 1

Art joined the 111th as a lieutenant in 1942, when he came to Camp Bowie, in Brownwood (middle of nowhere), Texas, from the Ordnance School in Aberdeen, Maryland. He was 24 years old. I’m sure you can imagine how well a Yankee officer was received by a bunch of Texas privates and sergeants, my dad included. But he soon won their trust and admiration. During his remarks last Saturday, he praised the hard work and dedication of those Texas soldiers. He added that when the unit was stationed in Germany for four months after V-E Day, he took a lot of heat from his superior officer for being too lax. “The men had just made it through many months of war and were ready to go home. I wasn’t going to be hard on them at that point,” he said. He then recalled how every week he sent a couple of men and a truck 80 miles to Dortmund to pick up kegs of beer for the unit.

So let’s all send Art our best wishes for a wonderful birthday and another year of good health! And don’t forget to tell him who your father or grandfather or other relative was.

To mail a card, use this address:

Mr. Arthur T. Brooks
Apt. 220
The Ambassador
9 Saxon Wood Rd.
White Plains, NY 10605

To send best wishes by email, please write to me at sutcliff@shentel.net, and I will forward your email to the Brooks family. You may also use the “Leave a Reply” feature below and I will send along your comments to the family.

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Some sad news

Posted: February 12, 2017 in Men of the 111th Ordnance Company

We are sad to have to tell you that John Raisler, one of the three surviving 111th veterans, passed away last Sunday. He was 96.

John was the very first 111th veteran we found, more than three years ago. Actually, he found us, when he asked his granddaughter, Hilary, to search for his old Army unit on the Internet. Ed and I were lucky enough to spend time with him on two occasions in Florida, days we will never forget. We also spoke many times by phone with him and sent and received dozens of emails. He told us so many war stories and helped us identify the men and the places, from Canada to Germany. His memory was phenomenal.

John had a wonderful sense of humor and a positive outlook on life. We will miss him so much. To his son, Jim, and the rest of the Raisler family, please accept our deepest sympathy. John was such a great guy.

 

 

We have received a new batch of photos from Pat Macchiarolo, daughter of 111th soldier Bob Raymer, whose big friendly smile we’ve seen in previous posts. A while back, Pat’s sister discovered more of their dad’s old photos and negatives. Pat had the negatives developed and scanned and sent everything along to us. Some of the photos show men who weren’t named. If anyone can identify a father or grandfather here, please write to the blog and let us know, and we will add the name.

(Try clicking on the photo to see a larger version–this used to work, but it didn’t work for me just now; write to me if you’d like to see a larger image.)

Thanks very much, Pat!

bob-raymer

Bob Raymer

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Abner Boyd, Joe MacDonald, William J Quinn and Joe Wolfe, Camp Sully, Wales 1944

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Victor Jones and Bob Nelson at Camp Sully, Wales

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Pappy Patton, Doc Mason and Rubin Lee Koehl, Camp Sully, 1944

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Robert Pinkston and bride

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Harold Packebush and Bob Raymer

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Bob Raymer

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George Weiderhold

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Roy “Pop” Bowers

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Lt. Perry Witt, third from right; Bob Raymer, second from right; rest unknown

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Woodrow Corn, Camp Sully, Wales, 1944

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Floyd Wetterburg and Bill Strickland

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Bob Hax, Bill Stadler, Julius Turner

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Basil Dixon, Camp Sully

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Bob Nelson, Camp Sully, Wales

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Bob Raymer and Roger Rickon

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Roger Rickon

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Blankenship, Muehle, Stadler, Camp Sully, Wales 1944

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John Vargo and friend

We are sad to report that we have lost another of our original group of five 111th survivors: Ray Cross of Michigan. His son Terry Cross shared the news with us a few days ago; Ray’s funeral was this past Saturday, with burial with military honors following. Ray was 97 years old. Ray shared many great stories of the 111th with us (in particular the video interviews that Terry conducted with him) over the past three years. Ed posted three of those interviews (Wales, France, and Holland) on YouTube, where you can watch them today. For the first one, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7woMLN8ImM

Ray Cross WWII Army

Ray Cross during the war

Still with us, thankfully, are 111th veterans Art Brooks, John Raisler, and Osborne Eastwood. Roger Rickon passed away in 2014.

Ray was originally with the 66th Ordnance Company when the war began, serving as a light truck mechanic with the U.S. Army in Iceland for nearly two years. He was transferred to the 111th when it moved to Wales in the winter of 1944. His rank was T-3, and he was a platoon sergeant in the section that repaired light trucks and jeeps. During the Normandy invasion, he drove a half-track off one of the LCTs onto Omaha beach in early June 1944.

After the war, Ray returned to Michigan and married Margaret Stockwell in June 1946. Margaret passed away in 2014; they were married for 67 years.

Ray was a farmer while their four children grew up, and he later started his own logging company, retiring in 1981. Back in the the 1920s when he was a boy in rural Michigan, Ray went to school in a one-room schoolhouse; however, he made sure his four children all went to college. Today, three of them have doctoral degrees and all work in the education field.

We send our sympathy and condolences to the Cross family. We will miss him.

 

Ed and I made a quick trip to Florida last week to visit  two of our four 111th survivors, John Raisler and Art Brooks. (You may recall that Art was one of five of the 111th’s officers beginning in 1942 and became company commander in January 1945, as they entered Germany.)

We are happy to report that both men are doing very well. John turned 96 in late March; Art will be 99 this October. Art’s wife of nearly 70 years, Judy, is also doing very well. It was great seeing everyone again and catching up.

Art, judy Louise april 2016

Art Brooks with wife Judy and daughter Louise

Raisler and Andrea

John Raisler with Andrea

Both men still live happily in their own homes, and both are very fortunate that their children are around to provide loving help and support. In John’s case, son Jim comes by often to take John to appointments and the grocery store, as well as cook meals for him and maintain the house and yard. In Art’s and Judy’s case, daughter Louise is with them most of the time, taking care of everything they need help with.

When we got home, I wondered how our other two survivors were doing. Incredibly, the very next morning I received a comment on this blog from Osborne Eastwood’s niece, Carolyn. Her timing was perfect! She said that she had been with Osborne on his 95th birthday last Wednesday: “I read to him [from “Only the Best”] for two hours yesterday and watched as he remembered a different time and place. Thank you so much for the information and for keeping it alive for others to have a visual!”

Osborne Eastwood with wife 2016

Eva and Osborne Eastwood

She later wrote to me and said, “In August 2015, he married Eva, his caregiver of fifteen years and sister-in-law to [his deceased wife] Vera. At that time, they moved to assisted living. They now live happily in Hot Springs, Arkansas, thanks in large part to the Center for Elder Veterans Rights. They enjoy their friends, family, and sitting on the patio in their favorite swing.  Eva says, “He is going to live to be 107.”  He says, “That is too long and just not natural.” People who know him contribute his long life: first to his love for God, second the care Eva has given him in the later years, and last clean living and his kind heart.”

And last but certainly not least, Ray Cross celebrated his 97th birthday last month in Michigan.Ray Cross DVD cover larger If you recall, Ray’s son Terry recorded several wonderful interviews with him a couple of years ago about his time in WWII with the 111th, which Ed posted on YouTube. We showed a video of one of the interviews at a reception in St. Dogmaels, Wales, in June 2014 at an event marking the 70th D-Day anniversary. That was where the men were billeted in the months before they left for Normandy. The local people loved hearing Ray remember the good times the men spent in their village.

We are all so blessed that these four men—friends and comrades of our fathers—are still with us today. To all four, we wish continued happiness and good health!

Before we begin, we want to share the good news that another family of a 111th soldier has found us via this blog: Tiffany Euler wrote us a while back to say that her grandfather was Charles Euler of Wathena, Kansas. Welcome, Tiffany and family! We hope you’ll find some photos of your grandfather’s time with the unit to share with us.

Dan Turner, son of 111th soldier Frank Turner, asked us a good question the other day. “Did the 111th ever have its own patch or insignia (official or unofficial) while attached to the different divisions during the war?”

The simple answer is no. Since it was only a company-size unit, the 111th never had its own patch. But the men’s photos and my father’s collection of shoulder patches led us to the next question: What patches were the men wearing?

Originally, the 111th was part of the Army’s 36th Infantry Division, a Texas National Guard unit, and they wore the patch of the 36th. At some point after the unit was federalized in November 1940, the 111th left the 36th and spent time in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and Camp Shilo, Canada. We think that during that time the men wore the patch of the U.S. Army Ground Forces. In February 1942, the Army created the Army Service Forces, comprising several technical services, including the Ordnance Corps. The patch of the Army Service Forces is seen in some photos and was in the memorabilia of some of the men. Therefore, it is likely that the men of the 111th wore this patch while training in the United Sates before leaving for Europe.

36th Infantry Division

36th Infantry Division

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Army Ground Forces

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Army Service Forces

 

 

 

 

 

ETO patch

European Theater of Operations

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Seventh Army

Upon arrival in Great Britain, they probably wore the patch of the European Theater of Operations. In February 1944, a few months after arriving in Wales, they were assigned to the First U.S. Army, and we have seen the First Army patch in some of their photos. Because of the high-end maintenance skills of the men of the 111th, they were never assigned to an Infantry or Armored Division. The 111th was an Army-level resource that was assigned as needed.

There were five U.S. Field Armies (First, Third, Seventh, Ninth, and Fifteenth) in Europe during the war. The 111th was initially under the command of the First Army, then later under the command of the Ninth Army. Soon after VE Day, the 111th was assigned to the Seventh Army (which is still located in Germany today), and the men may have worn the Seventh Army patch until they returned to the States for discharge in late 1945.

The strange coincidences that have marked our 111th journey from the start continue to occur.

Ed and I took a spur-of-the-moment day trip over the mountains a couple of weeks ago. While poking around an antiques/gift shop in a little town in West Virginia, two old books caught my eye. There were only four books in the entire shop. I walked over for a closer look, and this is what I saw:two wwii books

They were published in the 1960s. Of course, we bought both.

Although the 111th isn’t mentioned by name in these books, the ordnance battalions they were assigned to are noted. It was truly an orphan unit, belonging at various times in 1944 and 1945 to the 48th, the 177th, the 320th, the 185th, the 187th, and the 54th and 55th.

One chapter in the second volume is very interesting: “On the Far Shore in Normandy.” We learned that several ordnance units landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day and more continued to come ashore in the following days and weeks, including, of course, the 111th on D+5 (which left Southampton for Omaha Beach on the night of June 10) and D+6.

On page 244, we read a paragraph that sent a chill down our spine:

“Shortly after midnight on 11 June, the headquarters of the 177th Ordnance Battalion…was ashore at Dog Green Beach [eastern side of Omaha]. When the commanding officer was able to get in touch with the command posts of V Corps and First Army Ordnance, he learned that he had lost an entire medium automotive maintenance company, the 342nd, and twenty-seven men of Detachment B of the 526th Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) when LST 1006 was sunk in the English Channel by a German torpedo in the early hours of June 9.”

As most of you have told me, our fathers did not talk much about the war. My own father, when I asked about the dangers he faced, told me he had a desk job behind the lines and was never really worried. Of course, we have since learned that they had quite a few close calls during their time in Europe. But the unit never lost a man until the week after V-E Day, in May 1945, when two young enlisted men drowned in a boat accident on the Weser River in Germany.

This holiday season, let’s think about that for a minute and thank our lucky stars that our fathers made it safely through that horrible war. In fact, most of the men were finally back home in the States by 70 years ago this month. How thankful and happy they must have been.

Note: I just did a little research and learned that from December 1941 through December 1946, the Army Ordnance Department had 214 battle casualties (including 101 deaths) among its officers, and 3,030 battle casualties (including 1,121 deaths) among its enlisted men. (http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/ref/Casualties/Casualties-1.html#month) This was out of a total of 24,000 officers and 325,000 enlisted men in the Ordnance Department in that period. (http://www.goordnance.army.mil/history/ORDhistory.html)