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Veterans share World War II stories

May 26, 2010 | 09:13 AM
Walworth — Frank Ontl still proudly wears his original World War II jacket, although the slim veteran jokes that he gained weight and it is now snug.

Inside of his home, the 89-year-old Ontl recently discussed his service in World War II, as he paged through documents from an era that soon only will be known in history books and films.

Ontl is one of only 15 World War II veterans who are still part of the Ingall-Koeppen American Legion Post 102. Years ago the number of World War II veterans in the legion was much higher, but as time passed those numbers have dwindled.

Today, reports vary on how many World War II veterans who live in the United States die daily, but it ranges from 800 to 1,200. With the youngest veterans in their 80s, only a few local members are still able to share their stories and experiences serving the country.

Some of their stories

Jerome Palzkill, 85, was drafted May 1943 and completed 16 weeks of basic training at Camp Watters, Mineral Point, which he referred to as "some sand hill down in Texas."

He was a member of the glider infantry and was one of the first to land in France on D-Day.

On June 24, Palzkill was nearly killed. At the time of his injury, it was assumed most of the fighting in the area was completed and he wasn't on guard.

"We were sitting there just like a bunch of kids wondering what was going on," Palzkill said. "All of a sudden, the next thing I remember is hearing a boom."

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The blast caused serious injuries to his face and jaw and those around him assumed he was killed. When a doctor came around to sign off on the dead, he informed everyone Palzkill was still alive.

He was taken to the hospital to recovery and while at the hospital he developed a fever.

A letter was sent home to his parents about his condition, which upset Palzkill because it worried his family.

He questioned the doctor's decision to send the letter. Responding to his concerns, the doctor held his thumb and index finger about an inch apart from each other and said Palzkill was that close to death.

"You should be thankful you are here talking to me," Palzkill said the doctor told him.

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He was awarded the Purple Heart.

"All the time I've known Jerry Palzkill he was never complained about his injuries," Bob Schaid said. "I think I would be a pile of complaints if I went through what he did."

Schaid, another World War II veteran, graduated from high school in 1943 and enlisted into the armed forces in July.

He tested into the Army Specialized Training Program, which he was told would put him on the fast-track to move up in the ranks.

"All of us were to be officers within six-months," Schaid said.

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He then received his basic training for the Air Force in Jefferson Barracks, Mo., then it was to the University of Missouri for aviation training.

After that, Schaid was sent Bellevue, Ill., for radio training and to Ardmore, Okla., for combat crew training.

Schaid said has be began trainings, programs were often cancelled and he moved around.

He never served overseas. However, Schaid looks back at his experience in the service fondly.

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