Two World War II heroes are participating in the Sept. 12 Honor Flight to visit the World War II Monument on Sept. 12 in Washington, DC.
World War II veterans from New Lenox, Albert "W" Bettenhausen, 90, and Joe Olejnik, 95, will be heading out Sept. 12 on the Honor Flight to visit the World War II Monument in Washington, DC.
Both U.S. Army veterans, the two agreed they were looking forward to the trip. Still it's bound to stir up some emotions. Bettenhausen fought the Nazis in Europe and was awarded a Purple Heart after he was injured in the Battle of Bulge in 1944 in southern Belgium.
Bettenhausen's experience in Europe
The quartermaster for the 58th Base Depot, his main job was working on the teletype. "We had to inform London what stats we had on-hand and what we needed. …We supplied a lot of things, even water, clothing and food, but the main deal at that time was oil."
Bettenhausen said he celebrated his 21st birthday in France, but the benchmark was far from a night out on the town. "We were chasing Germans."
Recalling the Nazi offensive referred to as the Battle of the Bulge, which started in late 1944 and stretched into early 1945, Bettenhausen said, "I remember it was cold, and I was what they called 'disposable.' Quartermasters don't usually go in, but I had to go. I was only in there about a week and I got hit by some shrapnel. It kind of scalped me."
Olejnik's experience in the Pacific
A sergeant in the 220th task force, Olejnik fought mostly in the Central and South Pacific and traveled too to Okinawa at the tail end of the war against the Japanese. The memories that came back immediately to Olejnik, who served on the Island of Kanton, in the Philippines and Okinawa, was the heat. While in Kanton, he said, "it was 130 degrees in the shade. It was right on the equator.'
He was injured in an ambush in a grove of coconut trees. While driving a small tank loaded with wire, Olejnik said, he was ordered into the grove. As he approached, he said, "I hollered up to the captain and told him, 'I don't like it. I don't want to go in.'"
There was a line of coconuts that had been shaved. They were obviously hollowed-out," he said, but the captain ignored his observations and ordered him in. The squad was trying to set a trap for the enemy themselves. Time and resources were not on their side, recalled Olejnik.
"The next thing I know I'm lying in a field hospital" with wounds to the right leg and face."
What to look for in the Washington
While in Washington, Olejnik said he plans to look for the names of friends who lost their lives in WW II. It'll be particularly difficult for Olejnik when he runs his fingers across the name of a particular friend, Frank Tazarra. In an interview with Patch, he immediately rattled off the name, spelling it carefully. His emotions later got the better of him, and he'd forget the name but remembered the details of his day that his buddy was killed.
On one particular mission, Olejnik said he'd gotten so tired of running. It was his turn to run a stretch between the trees to check for the enemy. Instead, "Frank went. I was there when they opened fire on him. I'll never forget it. It should have been me."
Get news alerts and Facebook updates from these Lincoln-Way Patch sites: