By: Bob Boyer
Eleven men from Northern Wisconsin who fought in the War in the Philippines have died since my Veterans Day article a year ago. They saw lots of action, mostly in naval battles that marked the return of the Americans in 1944-1945. All of them returned to their Wisconsin hometowns, married, raised families and worked and played, most of them into their nineties.
George Joseph Hegenbart (June 30, 1920-December 4, 2016) “served . . . as a surgeon’s assistant in a fi eld hospital.” He is one of the few army veterans of the group. He was “a huge Wisconsin sports fan.” Green Bay Packers, the Wisconsin Badgers (UW-Madison), and the Milwaukee Brewers. He also was a man with a “big heart.”
Neil C. Etheridge (June 17, 1922-December 15, 2016) was a combat infantryman. Discharged in December of 1945, he returned to the town of Clintonville, not far from Green Bay. He took a job with a national fi rm and lived in various parts of the U.S. but returned to Clintonville when he retired. He was an outdoorsman and love Polka Dancing.
Kenneth F. Tagge (May 30, 1925-January 8, 2017) enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from Green Bay West HS. “He served proudly in World War II as an airplane sheet metal worker on Corsair Aircrafts in the Philippine Islands and Okinawa.” He came home in February of 1946 and became a machinist, then helped his children in their businesses.
William Pytleski (September 11, 1924-February 17, 2017). His obituary states that he “was the last survivor of his P.T. Boat Crew.” He arrived in the Philippines “as a replacement on PT-524. They had just sent troops into Leyte when I got there.” There were so many holes in the boat that there was no place secure enough to hang a hammock (John Maino, “The Pacifi c Frontlines Vol. II”). Bill returned home and farmed and was an active community member.
Edward Phelps (April 24, 1925-March 8, 2017). Served in the Philippines and then for six months in Japan after the surrender. He returned home to the town of Denmark, WI. He worked as a mechanic and then for many years as a maintenance supervisor at the UW-Green Bay. He loved “spending time at his north woods cabin near Tipler . . . hunting and fi shing.”
James J. Johnson (February 2, 1926-April 15, 2017) left Lincoln High School in Manitowoc before graduating to enlist in the Marine Corps (Lincoln High later awarded his diploma). He served “in the Philippine Islands and Okinawa until six months after World War II ended.” He loved building things, including four complete cottages for his family.
Richard P. Kordes (No birth date listed, died June 13, 2017). He was a radioman on the LST986, a tank launching ship that was in heavy action attacking, launching, and occupying territories. These incuded Lingayan Gulf in January, 1945, in northwest Luzon. He returned and devoted himself to building things, notably a Motel and a retirement home for him and his wife.
James H. Le Mieux (July 4, 1924-June 22, 2017). Le Mieux served on the storied USS Portland. It had already seen much action and been damaged. He arrived in time for the Battles of Leyte Gulf (including Surigao Strait), Lingayan Gulf, Corregidor Island, and Okinawa. He later worked mainly as a Refrigeration Engineer, but he also built homes.
Alfred H. “Al” Loritz (January 17, 1921-July 8, 2017), U.S. Navy, 1944-1946, was “stationed in the Philippines.” After the war, “he enjoyed going to his cottage up-north.” “Family meant everything to him,” including his great-grandchildren.
Robert Stadelman (1924-August 2, 2017) served on another storied ship, USS Cotten, a destroyer that fought in tandem with aircraft carriers. The legendary battles in which the Cotten engaged are too many to list but include the Philippine Sea, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Stadelman kept a journal. He and his wife lived in Pound, WI, where he had been born.
Robert J. “Bob” Ganiere (Nov. 22, 1920-Sept. 9, 2017). Ganiere is the elder of this group of veterans. He saw considerable action in the Southwest Pacifi c (1942-1945) as a sergeant in the 339th Engineer Regiment. Back home again, he was in a “Barbershop Chorus,” was “very active in his church,” and loved the outdoors.
All quotations above are from the “Green Bay Press Gazette.” Contact Bob Boyer at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org or <anamericaninmanila. com>.