Logo

Bookmark and Share


4



04 Heritage 2012: Military November 9, 2012 www.plaintalk.net Honor Flight recognizes service of local WWII veterans ZBY TRAVIS GULBRANDSON travis.gulbrandson@plaintalk.net In November 2009, it was announced that area World War II veterans Orvin Oien, Volin, and Gerald Jepsen of rural Meckling, would be among the participants in an Honor Flight in Washington, DC. Before the scheduled flight, they discussed their experiences overseas. The men served in different parts of the world during the war, Jepsen in the South Pacific and Oien in Europe. Jepsen, who passed away in 2010, served on a troop transport. On his first trip, troops were unloaded at Okinawa, and several thousand Japanese prisoners of war were brought on. They were then transported to Pearl Harbor. “I think the next time we were headed out to sea we ended up in the middle Pacific, and we ran into the tail-end of a typhoon that lasted 2 ½ days,” Jepsen said. All of the ship’s water-tight doors had to be closed, and luckily it didn’t sink. However, there were problems with objects on board jarring loose during the storm. One of these was a refrigerator. Jepsen, who was at that time serving as a metalsmith, said, “A buddy and I rigged a line down into that area there, and when the thing got to standing up where it belonged, I welded it down. … We opened the door, and somehow, nothing was broken.” On another part of the ship, a piano broke loose. “It was down in the mess hall, (moving) 50 feet from one side of the ship to another,” Jepsen said. “Some guys carried it up on one deck and threw it in the ocean. Thank God that was the only thing that happened.” Oien served as a frontline mechanic with the 90th Infantry Division, along with his friend Merrill DeWald of Wagner. Oien said, “Some people have asked me, ‘How many people did you shoot?’ I didn’t shoot anybody. I was working on trucks.” That may be true, but the trucks he was working on happened to be in the middle of some major battles. In all, Oien received five Bronze Stars serving in five major battles, along with a Bronze Arrowhead for spearheading. “We had 96 percent turnover due to death,” he said. “That’s a lot – secondlargest in all the divisions that were over there.” One of Oien’s duties was to prepare military vehicles for the 1944 D-Day invasion. “We had to get (them) ready so they’d run under water,” he said. They were successful in this task, he said. “(They) put the ramps down, and they drove off into the water, and the jeeps out there were about completely covered with water,” Oien said. “I had a maintenance ?3 3 ??????333???? ? 3 ?????????37????3??????? 6 ?????9????? ??3?3????? 3 3 ??????? 3 ??3?3?? 3 5????39???????3??3???38?????????3 3 9??????3?3 ??39???????3????? 3 ??3 ??????? 3 6 3 ??3 34?3 Brunick Furniture ???3?3???3???3???3?3???????? 3 ????3?36?????3???3???????3?3???????? 3 World War II veteran Orvin Oien, Volin, displays some of the medals he received for service to his country. (Photo by Kelly Hertz/P&D) truck … and I was in water up to my waist. We didn’t lose any – luckily we didn’t fall in a shell hole.” Once everything got up on the shore, it took two days before the vehicle could be driven on land again. “We had everything waterproofed, and we had to get all that off,” Oien said. “The engines would run too hot with all that stuff on them.” One of the things Oien remembers most vividly about the D-Day invasion of France is the planes. “Boy, there were a lot of them,” he said. “They just droned when they went over. They were dropping bombs there behind us. They weren’t very far from us.” After D-Day, the 90th moved on to Metz, France, once encountering a “Big Bertha,” a heavy-duty howitzer used by Germany. It was fired only once on them, as the Germans were afraid they would be seen by air if it was fired more. “Shrapnel didn’t land too far from where I was standing,” Oien said. “Shrapnel was flying all over – some of it I’d hear buzz right by me. All you do is just stand there. You don’t know what to do. I stood there and it hit the ground – plop – there in the mud.” They also saw the battle at Falaise Gap, which resulted in more than 10,000 German casualties. But during that battle, friendly fire was just as much of a concern for Oien. Two American planes opened fire on him when he was driving an ammunition truck. Oien said he could see the bullets hit the ground beside the truck. “One of them came down, the other one stayed up,” he said. “We had an anti-aircraft gun behind us, and they were firing on them, but they couldn’t reach them. That guy must have gotten hit or something, because he crashed.” Oien said the plane went down just 10 feet above his truck. “He missed the next truck, but he got the one up ahead of it,” Oien said. “It killed five guys up there. I think they were just trying to jump out, and they got hit. It wasn’t the gunfire. The plane hit these people.” Oien said he stayed with his vehicle, “but the friend I was with, he ran up there. One of them was laying under the truck. I don’t know how he got under there. My friend picked him up and held him in his lap. He said, ‘Help me, help me,’ and he didn’t have nothing inside of him. His insides were all gone, and he was still talking. That didn’t last long.” Into the fall and winter, the 90th went to the Battle of the Bulge, following Gen. George S. Patton. Oien said the cold posed one of the biggest threats to the troops, who had to sleep outside in eight inches of snow and a temperature of 10 below zero. “A lot of people froze to death,” he said. “They just hauled them out of there by truckloads.” That Christmas, Oien remembers another near-miss when a German plane began circling overhead dropping hand-bombs by the kitchen trucks. “Somebody must have (shot it down), because it crashed not even a block away from where I was standing,” he said. “It hit this tree right at the base, so that’s a definite stop. And then of course it broke out in flames. Shells started going off.” Not far away stood a house, out of which ran a woman who wanted to help the pilot get out of the plane. “My buddy that could speak a little bit of German told her to get back to the house and stay there so she wouldn’t get hurt,” Oien said. “Those bullets were flying all over. That was a Christmas dinner I’ll never forget.” Eventually, Oien ended up in Czechoslovakia. Shortly after arriving, he was listening to the radio in his truck. “There was this lady who had a house not too far from where I had my truck parked,” Oien said. “She came out of the house and was listening to that radio I had on. I was going to change stations because I couldn’t understand it, but she (motioned) that she didn’t want me to change it. … Finally, she got the word to us that the war had ended.” After spending 28 days in Paris recuperating from back injuries, Oien was sent back to the United States. “I got a ticket to Sioux City, IA, because that was the closest to home. After I got five Bronze Stars when I was in the service, a Bronze Arrowhead, I had to hitchhike from Sioux City,” he said, laughing. “I didn’t think it was quite right, but I got home.” Oien still has his Bronze Stars, but he seems most proud of a medal he received a few years ago which was presented to DDay veterans by Normandy, France. “They wanted to do something for the veterans,” he said. “I had to go out to Fort Meade National Cemetery to get that. John Thune presented that to me.” Oien said the presentation was “real impressive.” “I felt kind of honored, I guess,” he said.
Weather

Fair 59.0 F
Click For More
Conditions:Fair
Temperature:59.0 F
Humidity:46
Wind:West at 16.1 MPH (14 KT)
Dewpoint:37.9 F (3.3 C)
Heat Index:
Windchill:56 F (13 C)


Shopper Issues
April 23, 2019
April 23, 2019
Published On
04-23-2019

April 16, 2019
April 16, 2019
Published On
04-16-2019

April 9, 2019
April 9, 2019
Published On
04-09-2019

April 2, 2019
April 2, 2019
Published On
04-02-2019