Gerald Yaxley served in the Army in Europe with the 4th Mechanized Reconnaissance Regiment and the 104th Infantry Division.
Central Illinois World War II Stories
Joseph McCormick served in the Army in Europe in the quartermaster corps supplying the front lines. He spoke excellent French and acted as an interpreter with the Free French.
More than 200 people attended a community conversation September 6, 2007 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Memorial Library in Springfield, IL about the impact of WWII on residents of central Illinois. Speaking were George Cordier, a veteran of the Guam landing; Dorothy Cordier, Mr. Cordier’s wife; Ruth Lockhart Whittington, who talked about her experiences working as a riveter; and Sandy Wheeler who was a four-year-old child when her father was drafted into WWII. The event was co-sponsored by WILL and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Memorial Library and Museum. The panel and audience discussion were moderated by Mark DuPue of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Memorial Library.
Earl R. Swanson was a farm boy from East Lynn, Ill., when he enrolled in Advanced ROTC as a freshman at the University of Illinois in 1939. Upon graduation in 1943, he trained with the 592nd Field Artillery Battalion attached to the 106th Infantry in Camp Atterbury, Ind. When the 106th was being deployed to Europe, they had a surplus of F.A. officers, so Swanson was sent to infantry school in Camp Blanding, Fla. In July of 1945, he became a replacement officer in Cannon Company of the 161st Regiment of the 25th Division, the “Tropic Lightning” Division, in the Philippines. Their mission was to “clean up” in the Philippines and prepare for the invasion of Japan. After Japan’s surrender, Capt. Swanson served in the occupation of Japan until returning to the States in May 1946. He remained in the reserves, and served his country again in Washington, D.C., during the Korean War, 1952-53.
Clarence Berbaum was drafted into the U.S. Army in February of 1942. He served in Europe with the 100th infantry, famous for being the only fighting unit ever to capture the Voges Mountains in France. Berbaum served as a radio repairman, usually a few miles behind the front lines. His prior experience in radio repair, he explains, saved him from having to fight in the front lines and probably saved his life. He also took video footage of day-to-day life in the Army. Berbaum talks about the overwhelming feeling of depression that affected him and many others throughout the war. He also talks about the dehumanizing effect that war has on soldiers.
This is the second part of Ralph Langenheim's oral history interview, and was recorded on August 31st, 2007.
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.