GREENVILLE —As the Greenville VFW gets ready to celebrate its 75th Anniversary this Saturday, July 17, a new detail about the group’s earliest beginnings has come to light, allowing residents to honor the memory of those who served as part of the “Greatest Generation.”
Returning home to civilian life after World War II, local servicemen desired to form a group to meet and gather after spending time in military life and service. Many desired a place to talk about and share their experiences about life on the battlefronts of Europe and the Pacific. In Greenville, a few returning WWII vets, including John Engelken, Morris Mote, Bob Slonaker and Kurt Von Wihl met at Mid’s Cocktail Bar, on Broadway near Fifth Street, to discuss forming a new VFW Post in Greenville. The earliest meetings took place in the upper room of Mid’s and then moved to Klepinger’s on Wayne Avenue and Front Street.
A father of four, Von Wihl served as an enlisted member of the 3042d Quartermaster’s Grave Registration Company, whose primary duties were to assist in evacuation and burial operations at the Blosville American Military Cemetery in Normandy, France. Three miles south of Ste-Mère-Eglise, the site was filled with crashed gliders strewn everywhere, hundreds of parachutes hanging from hedges, trees and farm buildings, and many dead bodies of American and German personnel. Following the D-Day assault landings, companies were sent to build temporary cemeteries to begin the collection of bodies and the digging of graves.
Von Wihl served on one of the eight teams of three men traveling in ¾-ton Weapons Carriers and 1-ton Trailers which evacuated the dead from the Bastogne area to the American Cemetery located at Grand-Failly, France, on Christmas Eve 1944. Most of the company’s equipment, including individual clothing, was lost in combat during the Battle of the Bulge (which took place Dec. 16, 1944 to Jan. 25, 1945). Fortunately, the vehicles were not damaged, so that the company could operate successfully.
A letter written by Von Wihl to the family of a Darke County fallen soldier during his time in the 3042 QM GR Co, along with other artifacts and testimonies from WWII veterans, can be found in the Greenville Veterans Memorial Park and Digital Library.
For more information on the Greenville VFW’s 75th Anniversary, or the Veterans Memorial Park and Digital Library, stop by Post 7262, located at 219 N. Ohio, in Greenville, this Saturday, July 17, or call the Post at 937-548-4004.