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WWII Veterans: Northeast Wisconsin and the Philippines

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By: Bob Boyer

 

My annual November column recognizes the Northeastern Wisconsin veterans of WWII in the Philippines. The fi ve veterans remembered here died since November 1, 2018. The main source of information is the “Green Bay Press Gazette” obituaries,” supplemented by google searches. All quotations are from the obituaries.

Brian “Barney” Abraham Farah, April 20, 1925-November 23, 2018. Barney Farah joined the Navy at the age of 17. He served as a hospital corpsman with the Marines in New Caledonia (South Pacific) and then in the Philippines. He was proud of “his ability to make people feel better through medicine and food.” New Caledonia was the principal US Navy base after the fall of the Philippines. From there the Aircraft Carrier Fleet met and finally halted the Japanese carriers at the Coral Sea.

Barney returned to Green Bay and became a food and real estate entrepreneur. He and his wife joined the family business, then went into the fast-food industry (he purchased the A&W franchise) and later into commercial real estate. He hunted and fi shed, and was a family man, philanthropist, and protector of the environment.

Donald E. “Don” Vandermus, August 8, 1926-April 2, 2019. Don, a Green Bay native, enlisted in the US Army, the 86th Division, in 1944, just in time for its deployment to the Philippines. The 86th arrived there toward the end of the war and had the task of guarding Japanese prisoners and rounding up some of the holdouts, not an easy task. The 86th quite possibly helped guard prisoners on Corregidor Island, “The Rock” in Manila Harbor, where the Americans and Filipinos held out to the last before surrendering to the Japanes in 1943. The Japanese fi ercely resisted the returning American forces, particularly in Manila, including “The Rock,” in 1945.

Don returned to Green Bay after the war and remained in the reserves. He was definitely a Wisconsinite. He worked for 44 years for a paper mill, sang in the church choir, and became a Boy Scout leader; he was a golfer and a dancer—becoming an officer in the Whirlaways Square Dance Club.

Donald Cameron Mueller, November 27, 1922-May 30, 2019. Mr. Mueller served in the US Army 1943-1946 in New Guinea, The Philippines, and Japan. Those dates and places indicate that he saw action during MacArthur’s famed “return” to the Philippines: stopping the Japanese advance at New Guinea, “island-hopping” from there to Leyte Gulf and then on to the Battle of Manila. MacArthur then was military governor during the occupation of Japan. Don rose to the rank of sergeant, serving with the 3rd ESB (Engineer Special Brigade) as a medic. Army engineers had a prominent role in the Philippines, given its many islands and the dense jungles. They remained a close-knit group. He is listed on the website of the 3rd ESB 263rd Medical Brigade Co. A.

Back in Green Bay Don operated Mueller’s Tavern and then for over thirty years Mueller’s TV. He enjoyed golfi ng, skiing, and cheering for the Packers (one of his “fondest/coldest memories”). And he enjoyed hunting with his nephews.

Robert John “Bob” Schuchart, October 5, 1925-June 21, 2019. Bob Schuchart saw extensive active duty, similar to Don Mueller’s (above), from the recapture of New Guinea and the Southern Philippines to Leyte Gulf. His Army Field Hospital unit was awarded the Meritorious Unit Award during the “Leyte Island, Philippine invasion.”

After returning to Green Bay, Bob earned degrees from St. Norbert and UW Madison and enjoyed a 37-year teaching career in the Biological Sciences at Marinette High School. He received the Outstanding Biology Teaching Award for the State of Wisconsin. He was active in the community and somehow found time for hunting, fi shing, camping, family reunions and Packer and Badger (UW) games.

William H. “Bill” Payant, 1924-July 19, 2019. In 1943 Bill joined the newly formed US Army Tenth Mountain Division, a ski-division (he grew up in Iron Mountain, Michigan). He was commissioned a second lieutenant. His obituary gives no other clues about his two-year service in the Philippines, where there is little snow, and he may have transferred to a different branch. He was recalled and saw combat in the Korean War.

After WWII Bill returned to St. Norbert, fi nished his degree, and earned an MBA at the University of Michigan. He and his wife settled in Green Bay, her home town, and Bill became a stock broker with Citizens Securities Co. He was an avid traveler, often adventure-travels, into his later years. He celebrated his 95th birthday on a cruise on Puget Sound a month before he died. He and his family established the Payant Family Foundation for scholarships at Notre Dame High School in Green Bay.

Bob Boyer welcomes your comments at Robert.boyer@snc.edu.

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