Our WW II Vets Honored for Their Service
Pictured are (front row, from left) Clair McEwen, U.S. Navy, 1944-1946; Alvin Kemble, U.S. Navy, 1942-1945; George Lewis, U.S. Army, 1944-1946; Donald Rhine, U.S. Army, 1940-1947. (Back row, from left) Col. Christopher Dutton; Rep. Ron Marsico; Harold Hollenbach, U.S. Army, 1943-1946; Walter Hoops, U.S. Army, 1943-1946; Donald Dennis, U.S. Army Air Corps, 1944-1946; Rep. John Payne.
The “Greatest Generation” is slipping away, now in their 80s and 90s, and we are giving them the honor they deserve for fighting for our freedom.
Honors were given to World War II veterans who are part of the Hershey Free Church during a recent dinner at the church. The 193rd Special Operations Wing (SOW) Association hosted the dinner, and joining the military in recognizing the service of the veterans were members of the Pa. House of Representatives and the Salvation Army.
Colonel Christopher Dutton, commander of the mission support group of the 193rd SOW, Pa. Air National Guard, based at Harrisburg International Airport, was joined by retired Command Chief Master Sergeant William Shupp, Rep. John Payne, Rep. Ron Marsico and David Burgmayer, director of the service extension department of the Salvation Army, in presenting citations to the men.
The 193rd Association is made up of active and retired Air Force personnel who served with the 193rd SOW. It gives assistance to the families of active-duty 193rd SOW personnel. It works closely with the Compassion Ministries of the Hershey Free Church to provide material needs and financial counseling to the families.
Each veteran wrote a description of their time in the service and these were read aloud during the dinner. Here are their stories.
Navy Seabee Clair McEwen
WWII – 1944 – 1946 – Saipan and Okinawa
Korean War – 1952 – 1954
Served in Atlantic fleet on APA 31 (amphibious personal attack) USS Monrovia.
Clair recalls an exciting night on Okinawa in April 1945.
I was posted on guard duty at our food supply area from dusk till dawn.
The Japanese were being pushed hard to the southern end of the Island and their food supply was gone. So they would sneak back through the lines at night and try to steel from us.
This one night about 2 a.m., one of our guys saw a Japanese soldier go from a clearing to a heavy bush area so he fired a round. The farmers on the island planted trees and heavy brush around their houses for protection from the typhoons that came every year. Knowing the soldier was there, we had to flush him out.
It was a full moon and we could see pretty well, but so could he, and he was under cover. I told the guys to spread out and we started down the slope toward the bush. We had lots of fire power, my BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) a “grease gun” (.45 caliber automatic) and three M1 carbines. The ground was soft because the women had just plowed it.
About four steps down the slope I saw a flash out of the darkest part of the hedgerow and the dirt flew up about 2 feet in front of me. He was looking for a fight so we gave him one. The quiet night was shattered by about 80 rounds of ammo going his direction.
He broke out of his hiding place and took off over the rise. Just as he broke out, I ran out of ammo.
We woke up the camp, but my guess is he is still running. How we missed him I’ll never know.
I calculate if that guy would have raised his rifle two more degrees I would have been a hurting cowboy.
But, as always, God was faithful to my dad’s prayers.
Seaman 1st Class Alvin Kemble
Served in the Navy: 1942 – 1945
Atlantic and Pacific
Alvin Kemble was an excited, 18-year-old who was determined to help his country in World War II. In 1942, he left his family, home and fiancé to join the Navy. He was assigned to a branch of the Navy called the Armed Guard. These were Navy personnel who served as gunners aboard Merchant Marine cargo ships – the Liberty Ships.
The first year of his service was quiet and peaceful, but in April 1943 an attack on his cargo ship changed the scene. The ship he was on, the SS James W Denver, was hit by two torpedoes from a German U-boat. This was a day Alvin will never forget. It seems impossible that he and 45 of his shipmates endured the next 34 days in open life rafts, in freezing cold North Atlantic waters, with only pieces of raw fish and a couple ounces of water per day. But with an attitude of “NEVER GIVE UP,” and a desire to fight for their country, they made it through, and Alvin gives all the glory to God!
August 3, 1944 – November 30, 1946
I reported to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for basic training. After training, most of the men he was with were sent overseas, but I was among a group sent to Camp Maxey in Paris, Texas, for field artillery training. At first, we trained on regular artillery then on rocket launchers, which were to be used for the invasion of Japan. Fortunately, the Japanese surrendered before we were sent to the Pacific.
At the end of the war I reenlisted for a year and was assigned to counter-intelligence school at Holabird Signal Depot in Maryland. I was in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, at that time, and it took the Army six months to move me to Maryland. When I arrived, I was told I didn’t have enough time left in my enlistment to complete the training. I was sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, until my enlistment ran out. I was discharged from Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Major Donald Rhine
1940 – 1947
I was there not because I wanted to be there, but because God wanted me there. I was one of the youngest men in my outfit at 23 years old. I was surrounded by men in their 40’s. It wasn’t easy for a young kid, as they reminded me often, to be training grown men. We all managed and we gave it our all, and our BEST!
I remember lots of rain and we prayed for it to stop. When the rain finally stopped we moved out of our area and proceeded to our destination in France to complete our mission. It was a rough war, but we fought hard for the freedoms we have today. God bless all the men, alive and dead, who fought for the freedoms we all have today.
Sgt. Harold Hollenbach
August 1943 – March 1946
European Theater: France, Germany, Austria
The 572nd AAA battalion was composed of about 90 percent Pennsylvanians. Our basic training was at Camp Edwards, Cape Cod, Mass. Upon arriving in Europe we were attached to the 12th Armored Div., 7th Army. We had many interesting experiences, but the worst was enduring the coldest winter in Europe in many years. We saw action in France, Germany and Austria.
After the war the 572nd battalion had 60 annual reunions. I am still in contact with one of my best friends. I got to see him last year. It was a great reunion!
Sgt. Walter Hoops
1943 – 1946
I was part of a Cavalry reconnaissance unit, attached to the 81st Infantry Division, serving in the South Pacific for the years 1943 through 1946. We were involved in the taking of Palau Islands, cleaning-up Leyte, in the Philippines, and occupying the northern section of Honshu Islands in Japan after the Japanese surrendered.
Corporal Donald Dennis
U.S. Army Air Corps
August 29, 1944 – December 28, 1946
US and Panama (France Field)
When I enlisted in the Army Air Corps I went from a sheltered lifestyle to a whole new one. I was told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. My vocabulary was limited to, “Yes, Sir” and “No, Sir.” I was given a bed, clothing and education, and I am proud and honored to have served my country.
Not present for the dinner, but submitting a story about his service, was
SSGT. Robert Gustafson
U.S. Army Air Corps
October 1942 – December 1945
China, Burma, India
I had an experience that shows the philosophy and religion that pervades the Indian culture.
I foolishly picked up a snake by the tail. Later I learned it was poisonous. I spun it around over my head two or three times then slammed it against a stone wall.
As we left the area, a national fell to his knees, held the snake in his hands blew his air into the face of the snake, a demonstration of his belief in reincarnation.
Mildred, my wife, was not with me, but God was present! We saw his hand in selecting the route I took in serving our country. I was scheduled to in be in one field when I was suddenly pulled out and placed in a group on its way to Assam. India. I spent very little time in the slit trench because the Japanese only “visited” once.