The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois on June 6, 1994 · Page 5
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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois · Page 5

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Bloomington, Illinois
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Monday, June 6, 1994
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Page 5
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LOCAL THE PANTAGRAPH, Monday, June 6, 1994 A5 Chuck Heins, who came from Fairbury to drive a Jeep off a Landing Ship Tank on D-Day while sitting on the back of the seat, fought his way through Europe until "I got hit on the first day of the Battle of the Bulge" in December 1944. But, like a lot of soldiers, he didn't want to lose contact with his unit. It was important, he said, to keep fighting with men he knew as friends and could depend on. He was out of combat only two to three weeks, and then he returned to the same outfit "I was conscious," he said looking back over 50 years, "that we had a job to do and that was to get rid of the damn Germans." Heins was a corporal on D-Day. He was a batallion sergeant major on V-E Day. And he was preparing for another major landing when the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved him and perhaps hundreds of thousands like him from facing another DDay. Instead, he came home and enrolled in Bradley University under the GI Bill. He graduated in 1948 and opened his first insurance office in Bloomington. Norma Richard graduated from Bradley in 1949 and they married two days later. Now they have five children, Heins is semi-retired and they are on their second trip back to the beaches of Normandy, this time aboard a cruise ship. Clifford Grimwood, the Missouri farmer who now lives in Long Point, did not forget his wartime experiences easily and if he remembers them today, he does so mainly in the company of his friends from those days, for he attends reunions of his anti-aircraft battalion, but he does not speak easily of those times to outsiders. "I don't like to think much about it," he says. "I tried to put a lot of this crap out of my mind. ... It took me four or five years to get over some of that stuff." Grimwood was supposed to drive a Jeep off an LST on D-Day, but the water was too deep. He swam ashore into heavy fire from the beach and beyond, and about a fourth of his fellow soldiers fell that day. After the war, when he got back to his wife Luella, he had nightmares. He was unable to watch his father butcher a hog and once.when he and Luella went to a movie, a western, he hit the floor when the shooting started. Grimwood got a job operating a steam shovel. He farmed near Long Point for 19 years, and then he drove a grain truck until he finally retired in 1979. He and Luella had seven children. Bob Monninger, the kid from Macomb who signed up for a year in the National Guard and got out 4 12 years later, might consider himself lucky in a lot of respects. He hit Omaha Beach about 10 a.m. on D-Day, he said, in what must have been a lull in the fighting because he remembers "there was some fire, but nothing like it was before." Mostly what he remembers seeing is a beach full of discarded life jackets. That was the easy part The rest was rather bloody. Monninger fought his way battle by battle through France and Belgium and into Germany when he was felled by a recurrence of malaria he had picked up in the Africa campaign. He went to an aid station, then a hospital, then to Paris and England. "When I left the battalion in Germany," he said, "there were only 16 left out of the original 140." Monninger reached Boston Feb. 2, 1945, and married Eleanor McKee, whom he had known in high school and corresponded with throughout the war, on March 12, 1945. They have three children and an abiding interest in the landing and the fight for Normandy. He graduated from Western Illinois University on the GI Bill and came to Illinois State University in 1952 as chief engineer and superintendent of utilities. The Monningers attend Army reunions when they can and they've been back to France several times. When they get there, they go to the American-Normandy Cemetery about two miles from Colleville. He knows from memory that 9,386 Americans are buried there, that four are women, that 307 are marked unknown, that three won the Medal of Honor, that 66 are brothers and two are father and son. Those facts are important to him. "When I came home, my dad said 'Tell me about D-Day.' I said, 'All I can tell ya, Dad, is it's the longest day I ever had. It never had a start and it never had an ending.' " Not even 50 years later. After an initial success just off Omaha Beach, Dal Estes, the former meat packer from St Louis, and his outfit fought their way across Europe and helped win the war along with millions of others, but it was not without pain and discomfort The first success they had was liberating a Nazi flag from the first German bunker they encountered overlooking the beach. Estes still has the flag and hopes to give it to the mayor of St. Laurent Sur Mer when he visits there this week. After the landing and the initial excitement, the war was one battle after another with danger and ugliness everywhere. In his memoir, "Tracks Across Europe," Estes wrote that his unit was dug in one day when "my corporal and I decided to check the units on both sides of us. What we found wasn't pleasant On our west was a Collecting Company of the U.S. Army. WOW! Here it is in the heat of July and here lay a field of bodies - Germans, Americans, British, Ukrainians and civilians. What a stench!" And despite the sorrow he encountered almost daily, his wasn't over even after the war. Dal Estes and Mildred Metzger were married about a year before he was inducted. Eight months after he was mustered out she died in childbirth. It is that son, David, who is accompanying him on his modern-day 'Tracks Across Europe." Estes married Betty Mertes, a Livingston County woman, in 1951. They had five children together and now live in Pontiac. "Dad and I farmed with horses until I went into the service," said Bob Reeves, now of Washington, then of Gridley. "Then he had to buy a tractor." He waded onto Utah Beach from water up to armpits and the next morning, after a night in a wet foxhole, he and his buddies discovered the bodies of three German soldiers. That's how he happened to get a German rifle, which he still owns, and $40 in American invasion money one of the dead Germans apparently had stolen from a dead or captured GI. A few weeks later, his unit was called back to England to train for a glider landing in Holland. He did not have an opportunity to fire his weapon in France, and he wouldn't in Holland, either, because his glider crash landed Sept 19, 1944, and he became a prisoner of war for the next seven months. By April he was living in a railroad boxcar outside Munich. He had been forced to work in German railyards from sunup to sundown, every day of the week on one scant meal a day; he had bathed twice in the seven months; and had no change of clothes. Once he had to help clean out an air raid shelter that had taken a direct hit from an American bomber. Each night the German guards locked Reeves and his mates into their boxcars and each morning they rousted them out But on the evening of April 29, 1945, the guards unlocked the boxcars and disappeared. The POWs, Reeves wrote in his memoir, "Peoria to Munich - A Prisoner of War," went immediately to an air raid shelter and locked themselves in until the next morning. "We had no desire to admit an angry German soldier with a gun who might shoot all of us. This was the first time we had ever been left alone and didn't know what the enemy had planned for us ... " The POWs did not know they had been liberated. On June 10, 1945, Reeves, aboard the USS LeJeune, passed the Statue of Liberty, and the following month he married his high school sweetheart, Kay Eigsti, in Blooming-ton. They have five children, one of whom helped him write his war memoir; they still go to reunions of the 101st Airborne Division; and in 1978 they returned to Munich for another look at the place in which he survived the worst time of his life. It was nicer this time. Henry Vertrees, a pressman from Pontiac, fought through France, Belgium and Germany before the war ended and he could go home to his wife, Ruth. He remembers being under fire for the first time and realizing that "these people are trying to kill me, and they don't even know me." He remembers the Battle of the Bulge and he remembers his friend who was lined up by a German firing squad at Stavelot, Belgium, and saved himself only by playing dead. He especially remembers waking up in a ditch in Normandy, France, about 4,000 miles from home, 50 years ago tomorrow. He was alone. He looked around and he saw cows grazing in a nearby pasture. Then he saw his first German soldier. He was dead, Vertrees said. Somebody had shot the soldier during the night, and the gunfire didn't even awaken him. Henry Vertrees, age 29, American, looked into the pockets of this dead German soldier lying in a sunny pasture in Normandy the day after D-Day, found his identification, and half a century later he remembers that this one dead human being wearing a German Army uniform was named Karl Seabold. He was shot once in the left temple. He was 19 years old. "I always wished that I had taken his parents' address and written to them after the war," Vertrees said. He wanted to tell them that their son, one of 50 million people killed in that war, had died quickly. He still wants to tell them that. U.S. soldiers advanced against German positions during fighting after D-Day. JSDuO mfocQDQG fi wax 0(3 By JAMES KEERAN Pantagraph staff Navymen cannot crawl into fox holes for protection. Theirs is a precarious existence, sitting on the water, doing their duties, hoping the caprice of bombs dropped or torpedoes shot or shells lobbed from miles away favors them. Hubert Huff, John Goold, Scott Lorimor and Kenneth Mann know that and can talk about it today because they were part of the 2,700-ship armada in the English Channel on D-Day, and they came home. Goold had an idea he was com ing home one day in November 1944 when he was a crewman aboard LST-369. He was aboard the 369 in the English Channel on D-Day waiting to unload men and equipment on Omaha Beach. After that, and after the port city of Cherbourg had been liberated by the Allies, the 369 was used to ship railroad cars from England to France. The 369 made about 30 trips, Goold esti mated. "Then one day we got a load of cabooses," he said, and that was their last trip across the channel. Goold came home to Fairbury for Christmas 1944 and he got married to Mary Ellen Wink in January, before he had to report back to the Navy. This time he was on a freighter in the South Pacific, and he was stationed on Guam when the airplanes carrying the atomic bombs took off for Japan. He got home a couple of months later, and in addition to starting a farm, he and Mary Ellen started a family. They still live on the farm and they have three children. Kenneth Mann spent the remainder of the European war shuttling between England and France aboard LST-266. "We had to make trips back and forth, back and forth," he said, "taking wounded and prisoners to England and supplies and ammunition to Normandy" (GIs averaged 30 pounds of sup plies a day, Germans sometimes were down to 4). After V-E Day, the 266 was being fitted for duty in the Pacific when a fire on board put her out of commission for the duration. Mann returned to Bloomington and met Donna Heininger again. They first met when he was home on leave before going overseas. Af ter the war, they took their time. They didn't get married until 1950. Now their four daughters each has a packet of her father's war souvenirs and a copy of his memoirs, "Remembrances of War." It was a time of his life he can never forget, both bitter and sweet, but it's the sweet he smiles at today, the picture of his ship in a magazine ad for Camel cigarettes, the photographs of him and his buddies on shore leave, memories of the night in Baltimore his shipmates carried him back to the 266 after he had fallen in love with a piano player in a waterfront bar. He never saw her again, but he sees his former mates at reunions of the LST Association and of the 266 whenever he can. The German shells that de stroyed Lt j.g. Hubert H. Huffs LST off the shore of Omaha Beach on D-Day succeeded in putting him out of harm's way for a few months. It took that long for the Navy to assign him to another. In the meantime, he waited in England. Then he spent the remainder of his war service, like Kenneth Mann, shuttling supplies to France and wounded and prisoners back to England. Huff returned to Michigan State University after the war, graduated in 1947 and before he got into the insurance business in Bloomington, he met his wife-to-be while selling encyclopedias in Eureka. One day, he said, he knocked on a door, a woman answered, they chatted. She learned he'd been to Europe during the war and said her sister had some beautiful pic tures of the Continent that he might like to see. So Huff took his sales pitch to the door of Vivian Honeg. He didn't make that sale either, he said, "but I got a good wife." They later had two daughters. Huff, living in retirement in Normal, is a soft-spoken man who has thought quite a bit about the war. He is glad he went and "did my part in trying to arrest Hitler and his effort to take over the world." But he also believes that "nobody wins a war, everybody is a loser ...After you go through a war, you see that it shouldn't be a necessary thing ..." Neither ship that Scott Lorimor served on left the sea. The first, the West Cheswald, was sunk on purpose off Utah Beach to help form a breakwater. Lorimor and his shipmates stayed aboard her for another 13 days after D-Day, firing her guns at inland targets and hoping against hope that none of those inland targets, firing back, would find them. Then he was assigned to the David Caldwell to help move supplies into France. When the war ended, he said, his religious faith was shaken. "How in the world," he asked, "could anybody let that happen? But later, you realize God can't control everything like that." His wife, Elizabeth, said he didn't sleep well, for some time after he returned. She started a wartime scrapbook for him while he was away. It includes his let ters, news clips about the war, certificates, photographs and even a news story about a storm in Sep tember 1946 in which a ship named the David Caldwell broke in two and went down in the Atlantic. After the war Lorimor worked many years for Swift & Co. He retired from the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois in 1979. They settled in Arkansas, but their three children wanted them closer to them, so they moved to Bloom ington in 1991. Scott Lorimor was one of eight children. All but one are still alive. His oldest brother was killed in World War II and so was a brother-in-law, who got to see his daughter only once. He has thought about them often over the years, saddened by their deaths. But he believes that war was necessary. Sources of information for this series, in addition to the men who were there, include: Pantagraph files "Overlord" by Max Hastings "WWII, " Time-Life Books The Associated Press Scripps Howard News Service Knight-Ridder Newspapers World Book Encyclopedia Encyclopedia Americana BELOW: German prisoners of war arrive in England. Many ultimately spent the rest of the war in prison camps in the United States. m if ! ,, v V? . . I -V ' ' " !

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