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March 24, 2009     The Ortonville Independent
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March 24, 2009

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4 tol which fired multi-colored flares that check, the GI was already trying to fig- Memorials for could be fired to signal other friendly ure out a shortcut or somehow to make aircraft that you were Americans. The it work faster!" Rice Hospice reason for this was that the Germans After being discharged, Dwight had refurbished downed B- 17 s and never flew again. "I had an offer to fly The following memorials and do- used them to join American formations for Northwest Airlines, but turned it nations were received by Rice Hospice to determine the altitude they were fly- "down. Velma's father was a railroad - Ortonville Hospice for the months of ing at, and once they had that informa- conductor and he was away from home December 2008 through January 2009. tion, they would radio the altitude to much of the time. That wasn t good In memory of Art Henkelman: Flak gunners on the ground. On one and I didn't want to be away from Gr, Kimberly and Mark Muenchow, ftD ~dtOh!SkOn ~tkP~.SSd~pn~ h~tnntd Y mar ~!! ~t~ed ~!s~t ~a~12!t o m n~e ~frotr~ ~ mission the co-pilot got fed up with the Velma like that, so I decided to find Peter and Pam Steinke. "A red dSI--ou?--e~vc-u~au~umto~:umoatanuneatner'Knew German fighters attacking their other work." In memory of Robert Larson: squadron and grabbed the Verey pistol, "When I got back home, Velma and Janet Kirschbaum, Donald and VELMA and Dwight Olson. Dwight graduated from high school at Clinton in 1940 and continued his education at Glenwood, where, at the time, they had a technical school set up under a program to train workers for the anticipated war effort. He trained to be a machinist and took a welding class to round out his resume. On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Dwight and several of his friends went to Glen- wood for a church gathering. After the meeting Dwight and several of the boys from Clinton decided to go to the movies. "We took up a whole row in the theater and there were a bunch of girls from Glenwood sitting in front of us. Well, boys being boys and girls being girls, we started talking back and forth and I noticed one pretty gel in their group. We talked a bit and then the movie started, so that was that. Somewhere in the main feature they stopped the movie and a guy came out on stage and told us the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. We were going to be at war! I didn't know what to think." It was, to be sure, a terrible day, but one good thing came out of it. The girl Dwight had spotted was Velma B0dine from Glenwood. They were married two years later and spent the next 59 years as husband and wife. Dwight went to the Twin Cities to find work and landed a job at Wards where he was given the job of count- ing curtains. He earned 40 cents an hour and it was very boring work, so he looked around for a job where he could use the machinist skills he had mastered at school in Glenwood. The first good prospect turned him down, saying, "There's no sense for us to hire you, you'll be drafted in a couple of months." - Not the encouragement Dwight was looking for. But he did find a shop that took him on, even if he would be there a short time. "They didn't put me on the line, but they gave me a job in the back room and,it was better than counting curtains." "About a month later I went down to the courthouse across from the Mil- waukee Depot in Minneapolis and told the recruiter I'd like to get into pilot training. He asked me, 'do you have two years of college?' I told him 'No, I just graduated from High school.' He said, 'Well, if you want to get into pilot training there is a two year college equality exam that is eight hours long and if you can pass that, I can get you into pilot training.' I took the exam and just barely passed it. I spent the next 17 months in the pilot training program which included five months at the University of Missouri. They gave us a year's schooling in five months - they really crammed the work at us." "After schooling, I told them I wanted to be a fighter pilot, but they told me I was too big -if I wanted to be a pilot, I'd have to be a bomber pilot. At first, I didn't like the idea of being a bomber pilot, but after I got into com- bat I decided it was a good idea. I liked having someone along with me when we flew out on a mission." Dwight was then sent to Bruce Field near Ballanger, TX, where he re- ceived primary pilot training. There, on Dec. 18, 1943, he and Velma de- cided to get married. They had known each other for two years. Dwight went to the Major and asked his permission to get married. It may seem strange to the reader that a grown man and woman had to get permission from the commanding officer to get married, but this was a requirement during war time. The military officials were keenly aware that young men in their rush to romance might enter into a "convenience" marriage or, perhaps, marry someone they really didn't know very well at all. "He asked me a few questions and finally said, 'OK'. I asked him for an o'clock Saturday evening. He thenthe other was on the same Ship. They said, 'You don't have to be back until would both be assigned to the 301st 11 p.m. Saturday night. That should be Bomb Group and stationed at Foggia, time enough to get married.'" Italy. Dwight was assigned to the Needless to say, Dwight had differ- 353rd Bomb Squadron and Vincent the ent ideas about that. Later that day he 32nd. Fifty years later they met at an was telling one of his buddies that the 8th Air Force meeting in Minneapolis Major had granted him a four hour and discovered the common ground honeymoon and he was more than a lit- they shared during WW II. tle upset. His buddy then told him that "There was nothing special about he had heard that the Major had el- my first mission - I don't even re- ready left for the weekend and that he member where we went. Well, there had flown to Amarillo to see his girl- was one thing special. It was on De- friend and wouldn't be back until cember 18, 1944. Velma and I had sometime Sunday. been married exactly one year before. Dwight went to the second in com- I spent my first anniversary in the mend and told him the sad story and he cockpit of a B-17 over Europe." nodded and said, "I agree with you, but "If you were to ask an airman if he if you don't get back to base by 7 a.m. was superstitious, he would say, 'Of Sunday we both are going to be in a course not!', but there were certain jackpot of trouble!" Dwight persisted things he would not do. One of them and the officer granted him the ex- was that it was considered bad luck to tended time of eight hours so that he turn back from the first mission." could return Sunday morning rather "The first time a green crew went than Saturday night, into combat, they would always send a It was no formal military wedding veteran pilot to ride as co-pilot. I rode affair like we see in the movies -just with a green crew one day and going Dwight and Velma, the minister, and down the runway on take off, our in- witnesses. Their wedding album con- verter burned out. This meant we had sisted of four Kodak box-camera pic- no superchargers and there we were tures, with a full load of bombs! I can still Velma was staying in a small apart- see the plowed field at the end of the ment building and word had gotten runway, but we managed to get air- around about the wedding and how borne and stay up by the grace of the Dwight would be in trouble if he didn't almighty! I called the tower and told get back to base by 7 a.m. Sunday them what had happened and they said morning so they devised a 'fail safe' we had two choices. We could take our pulled back the side window, and hold- ing it in both hands, fired it at the Ger- man fighters. "That night, when they debriefed us on the mission, one of the officers said that the German fighter 'pilots had reported that B-17s had fired rockets at them. We laughed and told the officer that it was just Pete and his Verey pistol!" Dwight's story would not be com- plete without telling about the hero in his crew, Sator (Sandy) Sanchez, a Mexican American from Joliet, IL. As they were getting ready to leave New- think the red seat was so great." port News for Italy, the tail gunner in,Dwight noted that for almost 50 Dwight's crew slashed his wrists - ev- ~ ears he was unable to talk about his idently the thought of going into com- ~xperiences in WWII. It wasn't until bat was too much for him. He [after he had joined the 8th Air Force survived, but he was taken off the Historical Society that he was able to crew. After they had settled in at Fog- recall and talk about the things he had gia, they were joined by their replace- ment tail gunner, Sandy Sanchez, who, as described by Dwight, was "A good natured guy who was always smiling." Sandy had volunteered to be their tail gunner even though his normal posi- tion was engineer. "We didn't know much about what Sandy had done until after the war. All we were told was that he had already done two tours with the 8th Air Force in England. Now thiswas quite un- usual because the statistics are that only about 20 percent of the airmen made it through ONE tour, back in thosd earlier days." I bought a house that had a very small bathroom, so to brighten it up, I painted the two sections radiator red. Well, I thought that looked nice, but it needed something more, so I painted the toilet seat red also. I thought that looked pretty nice until I got a visit from a buddy who had been in the Navy. When he saw the red toilet seat, he about flipped and he told me why. He said that in the Navy they always had one toilet seat painted red for the guys who had VD! After that I didn't seen or hatt happened to him. At first he was able only to talk in groups of people. Later he put it down on paper. He tried mostly not to dwell on the bad parts and work on the lighter parts. This attribute shines brightly in his per- sonality. At the end of the interview he said, "Please put in there that the Lord was with me and His guardian angels took care of me." We are fortunate,indeed, to have had such men on our side in that great War. Corinne Tiegs. In memory of Elmer Madsen: Bernice Madsen. In memory of Hilda McCormick: Harris and Maryls Selvig. In memory of Willard Reinke: Ardis Brehmer, Joan Jurgens, Janet Kirschbaum, Mel and Betty Reinke. In memory of Roland Samuelson: Frances Fridgen. In memory of Scott Streed: Don- ald and Shirley Botker. In memory of Delores Strobeh Ardis Brehmer. In memory of Gordon Strobel: Ardis Brehmer. In memory of Mary Worrall: Ardis Brehmer. In memory of Viola Wronski: Robert and Collette Barton. In memory of Marie Zehringer: Janis S. Selling. Gifts given by: Clinton Combined Fund Drive, First English Lutheran Church, Malta Township Combined Fund, Thrivent Financial for Luther- ans, Trinity Lutheran Church WELCA and Trinity Lutheran Church Women Rice Hospice - Appleton, Benson, Dawson, Graceville, Granite Falls, Montevideo, Ortonville, Paynesville, Wiilmar wishes to express their gratitude for these memorials and donations. PILOT DWIGHT OLSON is shown in back row, second from right, with t system for the newlyweds, chances and continue with the spare in- They delivered two Big Ben dou- verter the engineer had already in- ble-belled alarm clocks and two dish- stalled or we could take our bombs out pans with instructions to set each alarm and dump them in the Adriatic Sea and on a dishpan and set the wake-up time come back. Now, if we continued, this plenty early, meant we had no spare since the spare The following May, Dwight gradu- had already been installed. I called ated as a pilot and received his com- each crewmember, and to a man, they mission as 2nd Lieutenant. Velma said go to the target." pinned his wings and bar on his uni- In all, Dwight would fly 34 mis- form that day. sions. They bombed targets from But there's a story that comes be- Berlin to the Balkans and from Vienna, fore that day and it is about the day Austria to Ploesti, Romania. "We had Dwight did his solo flight. "Before I flak holes in our ship about 50 percent soloed I had watched a lot of the guys of the time when we returned. We come in for their first landing and get even took a direct hit by the number cold feet. They would circle around three engine once, but we made it back and around and it seemed they would OK." have to shoot them down to get them The missions over Ploesti, Rome- back on the ground again. I made up nia, were particularly hazardous. The my mind that I was going to land on oil fields and refineries there provided the first approach, and I did just that. Hitler's war machine with almost all its However, I came in a little too fast, so fuel and the target was heavily de- I had to use the brakes at the end of the fended. "I remember that we went in runway. My instructor came racing at 32,000 feet and the fires from the down in his jeep and jumped up on the burning oil were up to around 25,000 wing and said, 'I thought a Swede feet, so when we went over the target, could do better than that, so take her the updraft boosted up several thou- around and show me a good one!'" sand feet. The flak was very heavy." Of course, the second one was just Vince Parker, Peter Hansen, and Victor fine. Dwight would get a little more Carlson remembered Ploesti, too, and training and then be on his way to war. not with fond memories, either. On one training mission Dwight On Feb. 14, 1945, Dwight's came very close to meeting his end. squadron had bombed its target and "We were doing night landings and was on their way home. Dwight was they had the runway lights hooded with flying co-pilot that day, so, after they a small tube so that you could see them had made their run over the target, he only ate certain altitude and distance grabbed the plane's camera and took from the runway. This was done so pictures of the flak they were flying that enemy aircraft couldn't see our through. The B-17 just ahead of them landing strip. I came in and had just took a direct hit, tearing a hole in the pulled back the throttles when I looked waist. "The pilot called for someone out my side window and in the moon- to give him a damage report. I told light I could see I was setting down on him to fly it as long as he could be- another plane which was landing with cause we were over an area where they no lights. I jammed the throttles for- killed you if you bailed out." ward and the engines caught just as we The pilot, Lt. Butts, flew the plane ran into his prop wash! We really did 400 miles back and landed it without a dance, but managed to pull up. Later breaking the tail off. One of the waist we found out that the other plane had gunners, Robert Koch, was killed by lost his electrical system and besides the flakand the other waist gunner, no lights, he had no radio he decided who was only six feet away, was not to take a chance landing. I know my hit. It was the first mission for both. guardian angel was sitting on my Butts stayed in the Air Force after the shoulder that night." war and attained the rank of colonel. Dwight crossed the Atlantic in the Dwight and Lt. Butts maintained close Athos II. the same ship Vince Parker correspondence over the years until was on. Two young men, one a pilot Butts' passing in 2008. and the other a tail gunner, who had Every bomber carded a Verey pis- ION J his flight crew. "We found out after the war that he had earned every medal except the Congressional Medal of Honor, in- cluding two purple hearts. He was also the only enlisted man to have an air- plane named after him - you know, like on the nose art." "Sandy was never one to sit around and if our crew wasn't scheduled for the next day, he'd always volunteer to go with another plane that needed a re- placement, Most guys would be thank- ful they didn't have to go, but Sandy always went. One of the volunteer flays, it was his 66th mission, he didn't ~ome back. His plane was shot down ~nd we didn't get much information. ! ~aad to write his grandmother and ex- plain to her that I didn t know if he was dead or alive. You know, that was the hardest letter I ever had to write." "They never found his body. Even after the war, several of us visited Ger- many in an attempt to locate Sandy, but he never was found. Someone had talked to the German residents near where his plane went down and they said an airman had been buried by the locals, but then the body was moved and they didn't know where to. They did find the tail section of the plane with the serial number on it and they brought it back to Joliet where it was put in the museum there. They have a section dedicated to Sandy." Dwight, like so many, many ser- vicemen during the war had lost a good friend. But he had found another - a best friend from his high school days at Clinton. Dwight learned through letters from home that Ted Nelson was in the Army in Italy, about 40 miles south of him. So, one day, Dwight found his way southward and found Ted. Two best friends from high school were reunited 5000 miles from home. In their meeting, they both had found a little bit of home in Italy and "that would be the next best thing to ac- tually going home. There is much more to Dwight's story. Each mission is a story in itself, but space does not permit recounting them. "One thing about missions," Dwight said, "is that the faster they came, the better. If you got a day or two or three off, you had time to think about the danger and that wasn't good. We didn't like laying around at all." The war in Europe ended and Dwight had made it through safely. He would returri to his wife, Velma, and they would build a life together back in Minnesota. Before that, there was a tour of occupation duty in Japan where he was placed in charge of a supply section of airplane parts. There he learned through experience with Japan- ese workers that they were very good at following instructions to the letter. "I would explain the cardex system to the Japanese and they would follow it perfectly, but when I explained it to a GI and come back in a few hours to By Richard Johnson who: The Office Hours for the Big Stone Servedduring a wartime period Veterans Service Office are as follows: and the body is unclaimed; or Tuesdays - 8- Was in receipt of compensation or 4:30 p.m. pension; or Wednesdays - 8 Would have been entitled to re- 4:30 p.m. ceive compensatiori or pension but for If there is receipt of military retired pay; or emergency of any Was discharged from service be- sort I can be ,cause of a disability incurred or aggra- reached at my vated in the line of duty (whether or not home at (320) service connection was ever estab- 568-2448. lished by VA for that condition); or I do have voice Was properly hospitalized by VA mail at the Office. or at VA expense. Leave your name And who is taot buried in a NA- and number and IRichard Johnson TIONAL CEMETERY. will get back to Under certain conditions VA will you as soon as possible. Also, you can also pay an allowance for the costs of call me at home at the above number. I transporting the veteran's body from do have an answering machine at the place of death to the place of burial home. My office phone number is or internment: If the veteran died on or (320) 839-6398. after September 11,2001 and the death DEATH BENEFITS ~ ~is ,service :connected, the burial el- The Department of Veterans Affairs ,lowance payable is the total cost of the will pay a burial allowance on behalf funeral, burial and transportation of the of any deceased veteran who dies as a veteran's body from the place of death result of a service related disability. If to the place or burial or internment, or the veteran's death is not related to $2000, whichever is less. service or to a service-connected dis- If the Veteran's death is not service- ability, VA will pay a lesser amount for connected, the basic burial allowance a veteran who meets any of the follow- is $300. If the veteran meets the re- ing requirements: quirements for the plot or internment The veteran was in receipt of com- allowance and the death occurred on or pensation or pension, or would have after Dec. !, 2001, the plot allowance been entitled to receive corfipensation is $300. or pension but for receipt of military When the death is not service-con- retired pay; or nected, under certain conditions' VA At the time of death, the veteran will also pay for the costs of transport- had a claim pending for compensation ing the veteran's body from the place or pension which would have entitled of death to the place of burial or in- him or her to a payment but for his or ternment. If the veteran is to be buried her death; or in a National Cemetery and was either The veteran served during a in receipt of compensation, or would wartime period and the body is un- have been entitled to receive compen- claimed; or sation but for the receipt of military re- . The veteran died while hospital- tired pay or disability pension (as a ized by VA, or while receiving care at .greater benefit), the cost of transport- a non-VA facility under VA contract, or mg the veteran's body to the nearest The veteran died while traveling National Cemetery having space is under VA authorization and expense to payable. or from a specified place for examine- If the veteran dies while hospital- ' tion, treatment, or care; orized by VA or at VA expense, or dies The veteran died while a patient at while traveling under VA authorize- an approved State Nursing Home. tion, or dies in an approved state nurs- If the death is not service-con- ing home, the cost of transporting the nected, veterans who first entered serv- veteran's body from the place of death ice after Sept. 1980 (enlisted) or Oct. to place of burial or Internment may 1981 (Officers) are subject to a mini- also be paid. mum active duty service requirement. Stay tuned for next week for more A plot or internment allowance may on Death Benefits and its importance also be payable for a veteran whose to report a Veterans death to your death is not service-connected and County Veteran's Service Officer. service unty veterans ce to move The "Big Stone County is Veterans Service Office is moving, starting Thursday, March 19th and not sure when I will be completely moved. I ask for your patience during this time, "says Richard Johnson. "I will be moving across the street to the Big Stone County Government Building on Main Street across from the Court House. Not sure if my mail- ing address will change at this time. The telephone number should remain ~he same, (320) 839-6398. "My office hours will remain the me. Tuesdays and Wednesdays every eek from 8-4:30 p.m. My office will temporarily locatd in what is now Baskets requested for The families and friends of Charlie Co. 1-151 National Guard Soldiers are requesting donations of gift baskets to be auctioned off at the soldier's farewell pa~y to be held Saturday, March 28 at the Big Stone American Legion. The proceeds from the auction will be used to help with expenses be- fore and during the soldier's deploy- ment. the conference room at the back of the building. "Extension and two employees from Family Services are also located in the building. "Their office hours are in the after- noon. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays the front door will be open all day. When you come to see me, please come through the front door and pro- ceed to the back of the building. "I am not sure if I will be able to have my computer hooked up by Tues- day, March 24, but if you need to see me I will make notes and assist you as soon as possible. Guard benefit auction If you would like to donate a basket, you may leave them at The Flower Box or Star Bank in Graceville, Clinton State Bank in Clinton, Pro Image Part- ners in Ortonville or Hurley and Asso- ciates in Wheaton by Friday, March 27th. If you have any questions, you may contact Jill Hennessy at 320-748-7434 or 320-748-7380 (home). Page 8 INDEPENDENT Tuesday, March 24, 2009