Students at Tidioute Community Charter School got a first-hand World War II history lesson from local veterans on Monday.
Eighth grade social studies students in Ryan Steffan's class spent the last couple of weeks learning about WWII and ended their discussions with presentations by Bruce Ziegler of Tidioute and Morton Williams of Sugar Grove.
"Most people have no idea what a massive buildup it took to invade Europe in World War II," Ziegler told TCCS students, adding that approximately 13 million people served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines.
Times Observer photo by Ben Klein
World War II
Pictured, from left, Anna Burke, Morton Williams, Hailie Cass, Bella Konkle, Bruce Ziegler, and Doris Svitek, Pequignot-Yeager Post 8803 Ladies Auxiliary president. Burke and Cass are dressed in clothing from the 1940s and Williams and Ziegler spoke to TCCS students on Monday about their experiences in World War II.
Times Observer photo by Ben Klein
Morton Williams, a World War II veteran from Sugar Grove, discusses his service in a tank battalion during a assembly at Tidioute Community Charter School on Monday.
The amount of supplies to sustain the war effort and the 1.5 million American servicemen who served in Europe alone was massive - 240 million pounds of potatoes, 300,000 vehicles, 4 million gallons of fuel, 20,000 railroad cars, 18,000 locomotives, 7,000 ships, 200 tanks, 60 million K-rations, 800,000 units of plasma, and 260,000 grave markers, Ziegler said.
"I was in the 66th Infantry Division and we were very fortunate because we didn't get committed until later in the war," he said, "and I was in the 262 Infantry Regiment and we were going across the channel and our ship got torpedoed. And we lost about 900 out of 1,500 people."
Ziegler was later sent to northern France to relieve divisions there to go fight in the Battle of the Bulge, he said.
"After all our training we discovered in Northern France wasn't normal fighting because they had what they called hedgerows, the people all lived in little villages...and some of these farms and villages are 300 to 400 years old and these hedgerows were two or three feet thick and maybe six to eight feet tall. There was just no way to get through them," he said.
After northern France they entered Germany and, Ziegler said, "The country was more like it is right around here."
Ziegler was later sent back to France to process troops preparing for the Pacific theater and came home with the 25th Infantry Division.
Seeing the Statue of Liberty when he came back, said Ziegler, was "A very good sight to see."
Williams told the TCCS students he was drafted and stationed in Fort Knox, KY, in the armored command and sent to England on a French liner. From there he was sent to South Africa to a French city port and from there "hurriedly sent to the front."
"I was placed in a 707 Tank Battalion which had been wiped out in the Battle of the Bulge," he said. "That was supporting a Pennsylvania infantry division, the 28th Infantry."
Williams was then he was sent to Germany in the spring of 1945 to "finish the war" and "we reached the Rhine River...our tank was the first tank to be required to cross that bridge.
"I wasn't feeling very happy about that. We made it; every tank in our battalion made it," he said. "We continued fighting across central Germany until the end of the war."
Steve Appleby of the Eldred World War II Museum brought items for students to examine and said, "It's an honor to be sitting next to these guys."
Appleby told TCCS students the museum includes a large section on women, because, "Without the women we could not of won World War II."
"We've been doing expeditionary projects on World War II for a couple weeks and we just tied it all together after a trip to the museum, they did a day where they dressed up as the 1940s, they did a food day where they each ate food rations from World War II," Steffan said.
Steffan said "seeing it first hand" helped the students grasp the local ties to history.