This is the second part of Ralph Langenheim's oral history interview, and was recorded on August 31st, 2007.
Central Illinois World War II Stories
Ralph Langenheim served in the U.S. Navy in World War II from May 1943 to May 1946. He participated in the Normandy invasion and Operation Anvil on the French Riviera. He is a professor emeritus of geology at the University of Illinois.
John Frothingham served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He was commissioned in December 1940 and participated in the battles of Guadalcanal, New Georgia and Iwo Jima.
It was Delbert Augsburger’s boyhood dream to fly planes—and part of his dream came true when be became a crew member on an Army Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress during the latter half of World War II. Augsburger didn’t fly the plane—he was a ball turret gunner, defending his plane from enemy fire during bombing missions over Germany. Augsburger talks about his experiences—and why his pacifist Mennonite background didn’t stop him from enlisting.
His son, Don Hamm, said his dad was in the Navy and served aboard the USS Franklin. He was an engineer in the boiler room about 9 flights down in the bottom of the ship. The ship was bombed about 50 miles off the coast of Japan. It was loaded with bombs and fuel when kamikaze pilots attacked. The fuel blew, the bombs blew, and Hamm was trapped in the bottom of the ship. It was dark and water was coming in. He and some men made it out, but many men were lost. He removed duct work and crawled through the spaces to save himself.
Ralph Wagner Woolard, Veteran with the U.S. Army 36th Infantry Division 142d Regiment 3rd Battalion, served from April 1943 to October 5, 1945. He was in an intelligence squad and his highest rank at the end of the war was Staff Sergeant. Ralph Woolard was in combat for the majority of his service in Europe except for recuperation from wounds (twice). He saw action in some of the bitterest battles in Italy, France, Germany and Austria (for example Monte Cassino, Selestat, on the Siegfried Line). His decorations are two Purple Hearts with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantry Badge.