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Kloeppel remembers D-Day PDF Print E-mail
Friday, June 13, 2014 8:00 PM

BY HELEN KAVERMAN

DHI Media Correspondent

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DELPHOS – On June 6, the free world commemorated and celebrated the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy during World War II. This was a turning point in the war but many brave men gave their lives for that cause.

Melvin Kloeppel of Delphos was one of those brave men who landed on Omaha Beach. Kloeppel and his wife, Alma, live on their farm north of Delphos. Melvin will celebrate his 94th birthday on June 19. Alma turned 91 in March.

Kloeppel saw 11 different countries while he was serving during World War II. He went across Europe from France to Lenz, Austria — all the way in combat. He served in Pattons’s Army and the Battle of the Bulge and ended up in Lenz, Austria, two days before the war ended. He was awarded the highest award, The Bronze Star. He was injured during combat and the medic treated him for the burn on his neck.

“The medic told me if I went to the officer’s tent to be treated, I would have been awarded the Purple Heart,” Kloeppel recalled. “I preferred to stay right where I was, rather than risk being hit by a bullet going from one place to another.”

Before D-Day, most of the soldiers had been stationed across the channel in the United Kingdom. They boarded the ships the night before the invasion.

“We didn’t know what to expect but in the morning, we were told to eat a good hot breakfast because it might be the last one for awhile,” Kloeppel said. “That was also the last warm bed for months. Many times we slept in the snow.”

 

 

The troops disembarked the ships to the amphibious craft and had to wade through water to get to the beach and then climb up the cliffs while under fire. From there it was months of combat.

“When we reached the top of the cliffs, we saw dead bodies all over,” Kloeppel said.

This would later become the Omaha (or Normandy) cemetery, which many have seen on television.

Prior to the actual invasion, the bombers came over and knocked out strategic areas and radar, etc. Then shortly after midnight the paratroopers were dropped. Many of them were killed in the process. Delphos native, the late Dutch Nagel, was one of those paratroopers who landed and survived. Next the gliders came in carrying heavy equipment, such as the half tract, etc. The troops started to land on the beach at 6:30 a.m. The landing location was a 50 mile stretch, divided into 5 sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. Causalities were heaviest at Omaha, with the high cliffs. Allied casualties on D-Day were at least 12,000 with 4,414 confirmed dead.

The US Navy also suffered causalities. Allied losses to mines included USS Corry off Utah Beach and USS PC – 1261, a 173-foot patrol boat In addition, many landing craft were lost.

The invasion was so massive the numbers are mind boggling. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-D with 875,000 men disembarking by the end of June. The Allied divisions taking part came from Britain, USA, Canada, Polish and French. The French Resistance (underground) covered the sabotage, destroying railroads and bridges. The invasion fleet was drawn from eight different Navies, comprising 6,939 vessels.

Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, after he managed to convert many of his countrymen over the Third Reich or Nazism. By the time of the Normandy Invasion, Hitler and his Nazi Army had overrun most of Europe. The United States of America got into the war after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. Thus we were fighting a war against Japan in the Pacific and a war against Hitler and Mussolini in Europe and North Africa.

Hitler started World War II for the deliberate purpose of subjugating Europe and establishing eventual world rule of his “master race.” The ruination of Germany by the Nazis was one of the bleakest pages in history. Hitler declared war on all political opposition. The procedure was arrest, secret and unexplained by the Gestapo or SS and trial in secret, without defense. Victims were put in protective custody in concentration camps.

I have a 91 year old aunt, Christine (Mrs. Ralph) Grothouse, who now lives near Nashville, Indiana. She grew up in Germany during those years when Hitler was coming to power. As a teenager, she was forced to work in the so called “work camps”. The kids lived together in the camps but were sent out on jobs, since much of the work force had been sent off to fight in the war. Christine said she, at least, had a good job on a farm, where she helped take care of the farm animals. Christine was part Jewish. Her father was one of those sent off to the concentration camp……..they never heard from him again. She said we should learn by what happened in Germany and Austria and never let it happen in our beloved United States of America.

Austria was the first country to fall prey to the Nazi conspirators. On 12 March 1938, the rape of Austria was in full swing. All Austrians between the ages of 17 and 50 were forced into the German Army. The events in Austria between the two World Wars presented a textbook of the pattern by which Fascism and Nazism worked out their successful campaigns. The first step of the totalitarian invasion is to tackle the political atmosphere. Our brave young men and women have fought for our freedom …”Freedom of Religion” – “Freedom of Speech”, etc. We must be careful not to let sneaky adversaries, slowly take away our freedom. For instance the radical Muslims are trying to get rid of all infidels, as we Christians and Jews are referred to. Look at Iraq now.

After the “conversion” of Austrian leaders, Czechoslovakia fell victim to the Nazi rule in March, 1939. More than 250,000 were sent to concentration camps and nearly two million were taken into slavery More than 60,000 liberty loving Czechs were executed by Nazi terrorists.

The Germans invaded Poland in 1939. In Poland Hitler began to persecute the Jews, sending them off to concentration camps never to return.

One by one, the countries of Europe were taken over by Hitler’s troops. The Germans invaded the Netherlands on 14 May 1940. The invaders overrun the Netherlands in only five days. The Dutch commander and chief called for their troops to lay down their arms to prevent further bloodshed. Belgium was on the German list too. A great number of Belgian pilots made it out to join the RAF. Almost the entire Belgian merchant marine escaped from Belgium and was employed in convoy work across the Atlantic.

France was overrun by the German Nazi rulers but many Frenchmen operated in the underground resistance movement.

Italy was not a part of the Allies, since Benito Mussolini was the Prime Minister of Italy.

All through his younger years Mussolini led a life of crime and terror. He wanted to convert the world to Fascism and Socialism and wanted the power for himself. He eventually was put to death by a firing squad. After France and Italy were freed by the Allies, Mussolini became a hunted man. He was discovered trying to escape to a neutral country, but his caravan was discovered He was executed by some of his countrymen, the Partisans.

Last Updated on Friday, June 13, 2014 7:37 PM
 

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