Ralph G. Neppel-WWII Hero

We live in an era where social media ‘influencers’ or celebrities, who make a token gesture for the latest political hype , are seen as heroes. I find it very hard to comprehend this misguided notion. None of these people have ever done a heroic deed.

I cam across the picture above on an article titled “62 Historic Photos Of Love During Wartime”

The picture is of Jean Moore kneeling and kissing her fiancé, wheelchair-bound World War II Veteran Ralph Neppel, the picture was from 1945.At first I hadn’t noticed that Ralph was missing both of his legs. I think the smile on his face made me miss it the first time I glanced at the picture.

I then decided to do a bit of research into Ralph Neppel and I came across an amazing story of an extraordinary heroic deed.

Ralpg was a leader of a machine-gun squad defending an approach to the village of Birgel, Germany, on 14 December 1944, when an enemy tank, supported by 20 infantrymen, counterattacked. He held his fire until the Germans were within 100 yards and then raked the foot soldiers beside the tank, killing several of them. The enemy armor continued to press forward, and, at the point-blank range of 30 yards, fired a high-velocity shell into the American emplacement, wounding the entire squad. Sgt. Neppel, blown 10 yards from his gun, had one leg severed below the knee and suffered other wounds. Despite his injuries and the danger from the onrushing tank and infantry, he dragged himself back to his position on his elbows, remounted his gun, and killed the remaining enemy riflemen. Stripped of its infantry protection, the tank was forced to withdraw. By his superb courage and indomitable fighting spirit, Sgt. Neppel inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and broke a determined counterattack.

His left leg was also severely injured and had to be amputated. He was sent to England for a long series of rehab programs.

During his recovery and rehabilitation at McCloskey General Hospital in Temple, Texas, Neppel was fitted with prostheses and was promoted from sergeant to technical sergeant. He married his fiancée Jean Moore, and was discharged from the Army in 1946

Within a year he was walking on a prosthesis, playing golf, driving a car and playing baseball. He and his wife had three children. He worked his way through college earning a B.A., attended graduate school and spent 22 years working for the VA. He was a finalist for the 1969 President’s Trophy for the disabled Person of the Year and served 8 years on the Iowa Governor’s Committee for the Employment of the disabled.

He was awarded the United States military’s highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.

Medal of Honor

AWARDED FOR ACTIONS
DURING World War II
Service: Army
Division: 83d Infantry Division
GENERAL ORDERS:
War Department, General Orders No. 77, September 10, 1945

CITATION:
“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Ralph George Neppel, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company M, 329th Infantry Regiment, 83d Infantry Division. Sergeant Neppel was leader of a machinegun squad defending an approach to the village of Birgel, Germany, on 14 December 1944, when an enemy tank, supported by 20 infantrymen, counterattacked. He held his fire until the Germans were within 100 yards and then raked the foot soldiers beside the tank killing several of them. The enemy armor continued to press forward and, at the pointblank range of 30 yards, fired a high-velocity shell into the American emplacement, wounding the entire squad. Sergeant Neppel, blown ten yards from his gun, had one leg severed below the knee and suffered other wounds. Despite his injuries and the danger from the onrushing tank and infantry, he dragged himself back to his position on his elbows, remounted his gun and killed the remaining enemy riflemen. Stripped of its infantry protection, the tank was forced to withdraw. By his superb courage and indomitable fighting spirit, Sergeant Neppel inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and broke a determined counterattack.”

This to me is what a hero is.

sources

https://www.boredpanda.com/old-photos-vintage-war-couples-love-romance/

https://www.cmohs.org/recipients/ralph-g-neppel

https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/2616

Karl-Heinz Rosch-Hero without glory.

Hate is never good, it clouds judgement and mind. I am not only saying this to those who read this but more so to myself.

I have written so many pieces about World War 2,and although I have always been careful not to put all the blame on the Germans but more on the Nazis, for all the horrors. But because of the fact that my country was occupied by the Germans, and that my Grandfather was killed by them. Also only hearing bad thing about the Germans from my parents ,aunts and uncles, it is no wonder I developed a hate for the Germans.

However writing about the war and the Holocaust, and doing the research, has given me more balanced view. Over the years I have to come to admit that not all Germans were bad and not all Dutch were good.

Karl-Heinz Rosch was a young German soldier during World War II who saved the lives of two Dutch children.

Three days after Rosch’s turned 18, October 6 1944, the young German soldier, along with his platoon, was stationed in a farm in Goirle, near Tilburg in the Netherlands, when Allied forces took fire on them. He was about to hide in the basement along with his comrades when he noticed that the two children of the farmer who owned the land seemed oblivious of the danger that was on them and continued to play in the courtyard.

He ran to them, took each in his arms and brought them into the safety of the basement. He again ran outside to position himself on the other side of the courtyard when a grenade hit him right at the spot where the children were earlier. Rosch was killed instantly.

“His corpse was completely torn apart, there were body parts everywhere,” according to one who witnessed the appalling scene.

As so oft before after the war, hypocrisy ruled. There were no issues channeling Nazi war criminals to the US,UK and the USSR, under the guise of Operation Paperclip and other similar operations. Where many of them received great jobs and even had awards named after them.

However when it got to honoring this young man, who saved 2 children and as a result paid the ultimate price himself, it suddenly was a problem.

Because Rosch was a German soldier, and the enemy, his story was kept private after the war. The Dutch did not show any sympathy towards the German soldiers who had occupied their country during the war.

According to Herman van Rouwendaal, a former city councilor of the area, Karl-Heinz Rosch’s story was kept under wraps for 60 years due to the fact that he was an enemy.

“Because he was just a damn Kraut,” were his exact words.

Even his parents and grandparents did not know how Rosch died. It was not until when the rescued children gave their testimonies that the story of the young German soldier’s sacrifice was made known to the public.

But in 2008, change in how the Dutch treated the Germans became palpable that then 76-year-old Rouwendaal, along with his friends, decided to make a push that would make amends to the one-of-a-kind, historical image.

“Some Dutch are caught in a black-and-white way of thinking. The Germans were all Nazis, the Dutch were all good. That there were also unsavory characters among us, who for example betrayed Jews and robbed them, one does not like to hear,” he commented.

However the monument honoring young German soldier Karl-Heinz Rosch was not put up without a fight.

Those who supported a memorial for Karl-Heinz Rosch were met with opposition in every way.

They had to stand against the argument that it was not right to make a statue for the enemy when the five men who came from Goirle, tied in stakes and were killed by German troops as a warning to resistance fighters did not have any memorial honoring their unreasonable deaths.

They then suggested to put up a monument for the five men next to the stakes which were preserved by history museum in the locality and finally, put up Rosch’s statue nearby the five men’s monument. Through this, the two sides of the German occupation would be aptly represented – the all too common brutality and the scarcely evident show of humanity by some of the enemy soldiers.

However, after much discussion, the city council still turned down the making of Rosch’s monument saying that one in honor of a Wehrmacht soldier would still be “too socially sensitive”. Besides, they did not want to make Goirle a pilgrimage site to the German neo-Nazis. Not only was the state funding for the said statue refused, city council also refused to have the monument displayed in any public area – a resolution regarded wrong by many Dutch.

Being turned down by the government did not, however, dampen the desire of the monument’s supporters to see through to its success. They did a fundraising drive to have the needed funds for its erection.

Artist Riet van der Louw depicted Karl-Heinz Rosch as he was – a Wehrmacht soldier complete with the steel helmet many would instantly recognize and had come to hate. But it also showed the extent of compassion he extended to Jan and Toos Kilsdonk, the two children who were tucked in each of his arm as he carried them to safety.

“We will not be honoring the Wehrmacht, but rather the humanity of a young German soldier,” van Rouwendaal strongly pointed out during the drive for Karl-Heinz Rosch’s memorial.

On November 4, 2008 a bronze statue was erected on a private property in Goirle in memory of Karl-Heinz Rosch. The statue is considered to be the only monument in the world to a German World War II soldier who was part of an occupying force.

Just consider this, less then a week before saved the 2 children and was killed, Karl Heinz had still been a child himself.

Many thanks to my friend Norman Stone for drawing my attention to the story.

Source

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The Hero Gino Bartali

Gino Bartali won the Giro d’Italia 3 times, in 1936,1937 and 1946. He also won de Tour de France twice, the first time in 1938 and again in 1948. This alone would make him a sporting hero. Especially his 2nd Giro d’Italia win, when his younger brother, Giulio, died in a racing accident on 14 June.1936 Gino came close to giving up cycling.

I could fill the blog will all his efforts as a cyclist, but he also a Hero for a completely different reason. In facts, with these heroic acts he risked his life every time.

Gino Bartali was born on July 18, 1914, in Ponte a Ema, a small village south of Florence, Italy. His father, Torello, was a day laborer. His mother helped support the family by working in the fields and embroidering lace. Gino had two older sisters, Anita and Natalina, and a younger brother, Giulio, who shared his passion for cycling and racing. Gino began to work at a young age, laboring on a farm and helping his mother with embroidery work.

Bartali was a devout Catholic. The summer of 1943 was a turning point for Italy. Mussolini was overthrown in July. In September, the new government signed an armistice with the Allies. Germany invaded the northern regions of the country, including Tuscany. With the German occupation, conditions for the Jewish population grew much worse.

Also in September 1943, Italian Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa asked to meet Bartali. Dalla Costa had been secretly aiding thousands of Jews seeking refuge from other European countries. The fugitives needed falsified identity cards. Dalla Costa shared his plan with Bartali. Under the cover of his long training rides, Bartali could carry counterfeit documents and photos in the hollow frame of his bike. The plan was a nearly perfect one as Bartali knew those roads well and his need to train provided an ideal alibi.

Under the pretense of training, Bartali would set off from his hometown of Florence with life-saving, counterfeit documents hidden away in his handlebars.

These fake identity documents would be used to help Jews escape across the border, or at least help hide their Jewish ethnicity if they were ever stopped and questioned. He would often ride as far as Assisi (over 100 miles one way), where many Jews were being hidden in Franciscan convents.

By taking on this role, he put himself at huge risk. At one point he was arrested and questioned by the head of the Fascist secret police in Florence, where he lived.

The Goldenberg family had met Gino Bartali in 1941 in Fiesole. Shlomo Goldenberg-Paz, who was 9 years old at the time, told Yad Vashem that he remembered a meeting with Bartali and his relative Armando Sizzi, who was a close family friend. The two sat with Shlomo’s father and had “a discussion of adults”. He remembered the event well because the renowned cyclist had given him a bicycle and a photo with a dedication, which Goldbenberg-Paz has always kept. In 1941 the conversation with Bartali could not have dealt with illegal papers, but meeting his childhood hero became engraved in Goldenberg’s memory.

When later on, following the German occupation in 1943, the Goldenbergs went into hiding, Shlomo was first sent to a convent, but then joined his parents who were hiding in an apartment in Florence belonging to Bartali. Gino Bartali helped and supported them. Goldenberg’s cousin, Aurelio Klein also fled to Florence because he had heard that one could obtain forged papers. He stayed in the apartment with the Goldenberg family for a short while, and then fled to Switzerland with the help of forged documents. Klein told Yad Vashem that Shlomo Goldenberg’s mother had received forged papers from Bartali, and that she was the only one in the family who dared set foot outside the apartment and go shopping.

For many years after the war, Bartali did not speak about his role in saving hundreds of people, sharing just a few details with his son Andrea. It was only after his death in 2000, that Bartali’s rescue activities came to light. In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Gino Bartali with the honor of Righteous Among the Nations.

On July 7, 2013 Yad Vashem recognized Gino Bartali as Righteous Among the Nations.

He had everything to lose. His story is one of the most dramatic examples during World War Two of an Italian willing to risk his own life to save the lives of strangers. We can do with a few heroes like Gino nowadays.

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/gino-bartali

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27333310

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/righteous-sportsmen/bartali.asp

https://www.bicycling.com/news/a27483888/cycling-school-gino-bartali/

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Otto Weidt’s workshop for the blind.

Sometime you come across stories and you are amazed that they are not widely known. We all have heard about Oskar Schindler because of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” , but the story of Otto Weidt is probably just as amazing.

It is a story which is close to me due to the fact that I am half blind, and more then likely at some stage in the future I will become completely blind, I hope it will a long time into the future. At one stage I was actually blind for about 6 months, so I have an idea on how it is not being able to see.

Otto Weidt’s decreasing eyesight forced him to give up his job in wallpapering. He adapted and learned the business of brush making and broom binding.

Otto Weidt and Else Nast met in Berlin in 1931 and married five years later, on September 22, 1936. This was Otto Weidt’s third marriage; he had two sons from his first marriage.

In 1936 Otto Weidt opened a Workshop for the Blind in Kreuzberg in Berlin; Else Weidt worked there with him. Otto Weidt took great risks in trying to help his Jewish workers persecuted by the Nazis; his wife gave him constant support. After Otto Weidt died on December 22, 1947, Else Weidt took over the management of the Workshop for the Blind. She died aged 72 on June 8, 1974.

In 1936 he established a company with the name “Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind” in the basement of Großbeerenstraße 92 in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg. From 1940 on the workshop was based at Rosenthaler Straße 39 in the Mitte district, occupying the entire first floor of the side wing of the building. As one of his customers was the Wehrmacht, Weidt managed to have his business classified as vital to the war effort.

Up to 30 blind and deaf Jews were employed at his shop between the years of 1941 and 1943.When the Gestapo began to arrest and deport his Jewish employees, he fought to secure their safety by falsifying documents, bribing officers and hiding them in the back of his shop. But in February and March 1943 many were arrested and deported to concentration camps during the police raids known as “Operation Factory”.

Aside from the blind, Weidt also employed healthy Jewish workers in his office. This was strictly forbidden, as all Jewish workers had to be mediated through the labor employment office, which would ordinarily post them to forced-labor assignments. However, Weidt, managed to hire them by bribery.

The Jewish Inge Deutschkron was among the eight healthy Jews employed at the workshop. Inge and her mother were living in hiding to live , Weidt arranged an Aryan work permit for Deutschkron which he had acquired from a prostitute, who had no use for it.

Unfortunately, the permit had to be discarded three months later when the police arrested the prostitute.

One of Weidt’s most spectacular exploits involved the rescue of a Jewish girl who had been deported to the camps in Poland. In February 1943 Otto Weidt hid the Licht family in a storage room in the workshop for the blind at Neanderstraße 12 in Berlin-Mitte. The Gestapo arrested the family in October 1943 and deported them to the Theresienstadt ghetto on November 15, 1943.

There Weidt could support them with food parcels. All of 150 parcels arrived. After 6 months Alice and her parents were deported to KZ Birkenau. Alice managed to send a postcard to Weidt who promptly traveled to Auschwitz in attempt to help her.

Weidt found out that as Auschwitz was emptied, Alice was moved to the labor camp/ammunition plant Christianstadt. He hid clothes and money for her, in a nearby pension to aid her return. Through one of the civilian workers he contacted Alice and made her runaway and return to Berlin possible.

Alice eventually managed to return to Berlin in January 1945, and lived in hiding with the Weidt’s until the end of the war.

Alice’s parents both were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau

In the period from March 1943 until the end of the war there were only a few employees left in Weidt’s workshop. Apart from three non-Jewish workers, there were Jews married to non-Jews or people who had one Jewish parent, as well as several people in hiding like Inge Deutschkron, Alice Licht, Erich Frey, and Chaim and Max Horn.

Of the 33 only 7 survived.

After the war Otto Weidt supported the establishment of the Jewish Home for Children and the Aged at Moltkestraße 8-11 in the Berlin district of Niederschönhausen. After Liberation it was the first secure place for children and elderly people who escaped Nazi persecution.

All of this make Otto Weidt a hero, in my opinion. Just think of it, not only did he help Jews, he helped blind and deaf Jews. They were seen as lesser human beings in 2 categories as per the Nuremberg Laws. Otto died of heart failure in 1947, at 64 years of age.

On September 7, 1971, Yad Vashem recognized Otto Weidt as Righteous Among the Nations.

sources

https://www.museum-blindenwerkstatt.de/en/first-of-all/

https://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/weidt.html

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Happy Birthday Marcel Marceau

I did do a blog on Marcel Marceau about 2 years ago but he would have been 97 today. Therefore I thought it to be appropriate to do another tribute to this silent Hero.

He survived the Nazi occupation, and saved many children in WWII. He was regarded for his peerless style pantomime, moving audiences without uttering a single word, and was known to the World as a “master of silence.”

Marcel Marceau was born Marcel Mangel in Strasbourg, France, to a Jewish family. His father, Charles Mangel, was a kosher butcher originally from Będzin, Poland. His mother, Anne Werzberg, came from Yabluniv, present-day Ukraine.

At the beginning of the Second World War, he had to hide his Jewish origin and changed his name to Marceau, when his Jewish family was forced to flee their home. His father was deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered in 1944. Both Marceau and his brother, Alain, were in the French resistance helping children to escape to safety in neutral Switzerland. Then Marceau served as interpreter for the Free French Forces under General Charles de Gaulle, acting as liaison officer with the allied armies.

He gave his first major performance to 3,000 troops after the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

In 1947 Marceau created the character Bip the Clown, whom he first played at the Théâtre de Poche (Pocket Theatre) in Paris. In his appearance he wore a striped pullover and a battered, be-flowered silk opera hat. The outfit signified life’s fragility and Bip became his alter ego.

He died on September 22,2007 . A silent Hero who should never beforgotten.

Source

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0545131/bio

Franz Jägerstätter- Can’t be both Nazi and Catholic

The picture above is of Franz Jägerstätter and his wife Franziska Schwaninger on their wedding day Thursday April 9, 1936, the day before good Friday known as Holy Thursday.

Prior to Franz meeting his wife he had a bit of a reputation. A native of Radegund, near Salzburg. In his younger years he was regarded as a bit of a troublemaker, involved in several fights and the owner of the first motorcycle in the locality ,and even had a child out of wedlock. However he settled down after he met Franziska Schwaninger in 1935. He became a devout Catholic.

The couple did have 3 children

When German troops moved into Austria in March 1938, Jägerstätter rejected the offered position as Radegund mayor. He was the only person in the village to vote against the Anschluss in the plebiscite of 10 April 1938. Franz was also disturbed by the reports of the T4 Euthanasia program.

Three times he was called up for active service but he always refused.He became known as a conscientious objector who, for reasons of faith, refused to go fight for Hitler. He knew this could cost him his life.

In many writings, Franz told of his reasons for his actions: for him, to fight and kill people so that the godless Nazi regime could conquer and enslave ever more of the world’s peoples would mean becoming personally guilty. Franz prayed, fasted and sought advice. He also requested a talk with the Diocesan Bishop of Linz, Joseph Calasanz Fliesser.

The Bishop explained to Franz that, as the father of a family, it was not his task to decide whether the war was righteous or unrighteous. Franziska had accompanied her husband to Linz, but did not take part in his talk with the Bishop. She recalled the moment when her husband came out of the Bishop’s office: “’He was very sad, and told me: ‘They don’t dare themselves, or it’ll be their turn next:’ Franz’s main impression was that the Bishop did not dare to speak openly, because he didn’t know him – after all, Franz could have been a spy.”

In February 1943, when he received his last summons to Linz military barracks for active service with a motorised unit, he explained his intention of refusing to fight in what he regarded as an immoral war. He stated that he could not be both a Nazi and a Catholic He was promptly arrested and sent on to Berlin to stand trial before a court martial.

After two months in the Wehrmacht Prison in Linz, he was transferred to Berlin-Tegel.
There he was executed on August 9th. In one of the last letters before his death he wrote the well-known sentence: “If I write with my hands tied, it is still better than if the will were tied.” One of his last statements was “If the Church stays silent in the face of evil, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”

By all accounts Franz was a hero and if there had been more people like him, God knows how the was would have gone.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

https://www.dioezese-linz.at/site/jaegerstaetter/english/biography/article/22528.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/an-irishman-s-diary-1.369074

https://www.meinekirchenzeitung.at/salzburg-tiroler-teil-rupertusblatt/c-kirche-hier-und-anderswo/ein-verborgenes-leben_a8009

Sgt.Roddie Edmonds- We are all Jews here.

Roddie Edmonds and many of his fellow US Army mates were captured by Nazi forces on 19 December 1944, during the battle of the Bulge . Some of them were sent to Stalag IX B Edmonds was the senior noncommissioned officer (Master Sergeant), and was therefore responsible for the camp’s 1,275 American POWs.

The men of the 422nd Regiment were forced to march about 50 kilometers to Gerolstein, Germany , there they were loaded into cattle/box cars, 60 to 70 men per car, with almost no food or water. The following 7 days and nights they traveling to Stalag IXB in Bad Orb. Where they arrived on Christmas day 1945,25December. After about a month in Bad Orb, the American POWs were divided into three groups – officers, non-commissioned officers (NCOs), and enlisted men. The NCOs were taken to Stalag IXA in Ziegenhain. There were 1,000 men in this group.

Om January 25,1945-2 days before Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops- they arrived in Stalag IX A, Ziegenheim

The camp commandant ordered Edmonds to tell only the Jewish-American soldiers to present themselves at the next morning’s assembly so they could be separated from the other prisoners. Instead, Edmonds ordered all 1,275 to assemble outside their barracks. The German commandant rushed up to Edmonds in a fury, placed his pistol against Edmonds’ head and demanded that he identify the Jewish soldiers under his command. Instead, Edmonds responded “We are all Jews here,” and threatened to have the commandant investigated and prosecuted for war crimes after the conflict ended, should any of Edmonds’ men be harmed.

Luckily the camp commandant had still a bit of common sense left and took the the threat serious. Many other would not have done that and would have executed all men.

Because of this brave stand against the Nazi tyranny, Sgt Edmonds saved 200 Jewish men. But it was more then 200 he saved. These men had children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren. So this number can be multiplied several times.

Roddie Edmonds a hero who rightly awarded the recognition as a Righteous among the people by Yad Vashem.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

Left without a Father

mYERS

The US armed service often get bad press and maybe sometimes that’s warranted. but what is often forgotten nowadays and especially in Europe, we owe these brave men and women a great deal.

As a Dutch man I am so aware of the liberty that was bestowed upon me by the sacrifice of so many Fathers.

Over the end 180,000 American children were left fatherless by World War II, many of these children never even met their dads.

The children of Cpl. William H. Myers, Jr. wre left without their Father on February 3, 1945. He was killed in action.

His remains are buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery,Margraten in the Netherlands.

This is fo his children.

Your Father died so that many others could live. I and the world owe him a debt which cannot be paid. all I can say is thank you.

His death was not in vain and every time people forget about the sacrifice and his brothers in arms made, I will remind them

Because of them we are free to do what we ant and free to say theing s we feel are important to say.

I think it is extermely important to say that your Father was a Hero.

The World War 2 hero who saved my sight.

Charles

Just before Christmas 2011 I lost the sight in my right eye. The retina had become detached but after 2 operations the sight could not be saved, in fact my eye shrunk, dramatically  and I have now a glass shell with  an eye painted on it in front of the remainder of my eye.

In November 2014 the retina in my left eye also became detached, so I was facing going blind. I had to undergo an emergency operation in a Hospital in Cork which is 100 km away from my home in Limerick.

In Cork the consultant surgeon advised me he would be putting a scleral buckle in place to re-attach my retina and to save my eye and sight. The operation was a success this time and my eye was saved.

buckle

The man who pioneered this technology was Dr Charles L. Schepens. He was born in Mouscron, Belgium, in 1912  He initially studied mathematics before graduating from medical school in 1935 at State University of Ghent in Belgium.In 1937 he served as assistant to Dr. L. Hambresin in Brussels.

In 1940, he was appointed as a Captain in the Medical Corps of the Belgian Air Force, where he served until the country was invaded by the Nazis in May 1940. He escaped to France and worked with the French and Belgian resistance,  In 1942, under the nom de guerre “Jacques Pérot,” he spearheaded a secret information and evacuation pipeline in the Pyrenees, under the cover of a country lumber mill near the village of Mendive. He was arrested several times by the Gestapo.

He was first arrested by the Gestapo in October 1940 while he still was in Belgium  on false accusations  of using a bus to transport Allied pilots out of Belgium. Although he was released 10 days later, this experience turned the previously apolitical doctor into an activist, and he allowed his office to be used as a post office for underground agents, arranging for the transfer of maps and such information as troop movement.

In 1942, a spy in Gestapo headquarters alerted him that he was about to be arrested, and he escaped to Paris.

In an of the mill  effort to find  an escape route to Spain, he and a group of fellow resistance members came across  an abandoned sawmill near the town of Mandive in the Pyrenees on the Spanish border.

One of the key features was a 12-mile-long cable-car system extending up the mountain and ending near the border.

Dr. Schepens, bought the mill in July 1942 with backing from a wealthy French patriot and had it in full operation by the end of the year. The site became a functioning lumber enterprise, taking orders, delivering wood and meeting a payroll. Not to cause any suspicion Dr. Schepens(aka Jacques Perot)  developed relationships with the occupying Germans, leading his Basque neighbors to think that he was a Nazi collaborator.

Men, mainly men he helped to escape, who did manual labor around the mill could secretly ride the cable-car system to the top of the mountain and slip into Spain, often with the assistance of a shepherd named Jean Sarochar.

MILL

More than 100 Allied pilots, prisoners of war, Belgian government officials and others made their way out of France over the cable railway. The system also was used to move documents, currency, propaganda and other materials into and out of France.

Everything went according to plan until 1943: That year, a captured resistance agent exposed him. The Gestapo came for him a second time. He escaped before they could arrest him. He had told the Gestapo “it is now 10 o’clock. I have 150 workers idle, because they have not been given their orders this morning. Give me 10 minutes with them. I’ll give the orders and come back.”. He then just walked out.

He spent 16 days in the forest before reaching Spain and, eventually, England, where he resumed his medical career.

In the mean time the Nazis held Dr. Schepens wife and children as bait to lure him out of hiding. However eventually his wife and children  made their own daring escape, hiking through the mountains to reach Spain, and were reunited with Dr. Schepens nine months later in England.

After the war, Schepens resumed his medical career at Moorfields.In 1947, he immigrated to the United States and became a fellow at the Harvard Medical School.

harvard

He became famous in the ophthalmic community for his work in creating the first binocular, stereoscopic indirect ophthalmoscope (1946) and in treating retinal detachment with an encircling scleral buckle (1953).

If the Gestapo had arrested him the second time, he more then likely would have been executed. Amazing to think of what could have happened to my eye in that case.

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Sources

https://eye.hms.harvard.edu/news/charles-schepens-featured-in-eyeworld

https://eye.hms.harvard.edu/charlesschepens

Washington Post

https://www.eyeworld.org/article-ophthalmologist-who-created-vitreoretinal-subspecialty-lived-double-life-as-wwii-resistance-fighter-and

https://www.aao.org/biographies-detail/charles-schepens-md

Richard Ira Bong- WWII Hero

Richard Bong

I could do a very lengthy blog about Richard Ira Bong but I decided to stay with the facts that really matter. For everything else I urge you to look up his name, so much has already written about him.

He is credited with shooting down 40 enemy aircraft in aerial combat.

The citation on his Medal of Honor descried him best.

“The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Major (Air Corps) Richard Ira Bong (ASN: 0-433784), United States Army Air Forces, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 49th Fighter Group, V Fighter Command, Fifth Air Force, in action in the Southwest Pacific area from 10 October to 15 November 1944. Though assigned to duty as gunnery instructor and neither required nor expected to perform combat duty, Major Bong voluntarily and at his own urgent request engaged in repeated combat missions, including unusually hazardous sorties over Balikpapan, Borneo, and in the Leyte area of the Philippines. His aggressiveness and daring resulted in his shooting down eight enemy airplanes during this period.”

Ironically  though he didn’t die in combat but  he died in California while testing a jet aircraft.

But even the date of his death is significant because it was also the date that the Enola Gay dropped the “Little Boy” atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

enola

But despite that massive historic event , Richard Bong’s death was featured prominently in national newspapers,

paper

Happy Birthday Major Bong, may you rest in peace.

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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