Veterans Day Celebration 2003
From the event brochure, November 11, 2003
Display of Military Memorabilia: Douglas H. Armstrong entered the United States Army in 1950 at the outbreak of the Korean War. He attended the Non-Commissioned Officers School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Officers Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He served as an Infantry platoon leader in Korea from August 1952 until August 1953 with the 7th Regiment of the 3rd Division. Douglas Armstrong received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He taught at the University of Maryland before coming to Ithaca College where he taught for 27 years. He retired from Ithaca College in 1995. The committee wishes to extend special thanks to Douglas Armstrong for organizing the display of the Military memorabilia.
Guest Speaker: Dusty Bredbenner ’50 was among the first group in the Class of 1950 to graduate from Ithaca College’s newly established four-year program in Business. After graduation he began a banking career and ultimately became vice president and controller of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Rochester until his retirement in 1982. Bredbenner served in the United States Army with distinction during World War II and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. He was recognized for his valor with several Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, four battle stars, a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, as well as the Presidential Distinguished Service Award (Bastogne). He continues to be active in the U.S. Army’s 80th Division Veterans Association. Bredbenner has remained involved with Ithaca College and has met all seven of the College’s presidents. He helped found the Alumni Council- now the Alumni Association- in 1951 and served on the board until 1995, when he became an honorary member of the Board of Directors. Bredbenner received the Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award in 1983, was elected to the Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1995.
Guest Speaker: Willard Ticknor Daetsch entered military service in the spring of 1943. In 1944 the 97th Infantry Division, with which he had trained for amphibious landings in the Pacific, was suddenly sent to Europe because the Battle of the Bulge brought a need for far more troops in Europe. In the spring of 1945 he participated in battles in the Rhine-Ruhr area and through Bavaria into the Czechoslovakia. His division was one of the last units to arrive in Europe before the end of the war in Europe, and it was one of the first to be deployed on to the action in the Pacific. From the fall of 1945 until he was mustered out in the spring of 1946 with the rank of sergeant, he was part of the Occupation Forces in Japan. Dr. Daetsch received his Ph.D from the University of North Carolina and taught at Ithaca College from 1965 until his retirement in 1995 as professor of German and Linguistics. He also held positions of Director of the Center for Individual and Interdisciplinary Studies and Chair of the Faculty Council. He was one of the first two faculty members elected to the Board of Trustees. Daetsch also held the position of Dana Fellow and Visiting Faculty at Carnegie Mellon University for four years.
Presentation of Citation Flags: Charles H. Tilton served as a captain with the Army Security Agency and Naval Reserve Security Group from May 1967 to April 2003. Early in his career, Captain Tilton was appointed as Assistant S-3 for Plans and Training at the United States Army Security Agency Headquarter Southern Command, Canal Zone. Based on his electronic engineering background, he was assigned as the only Target Exploration Officer for all of the Southern Command. Army Captain Tilton, USAR, transferred to the Naval Reserve Security Group in November 1973 as Lieutenant Tilton, USNR. Charles Tilton retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2003 and International Business Machines (IBM) in 1997. Mr. Tilton has been employed at Ithaca College since 1997 as an Equipment and Laboratory Specialist within the Physics Department of the Ithaca College Observatory.
Pledge of Allegiance: Louis M. Withiam served in the United States Marine Corps from 1951 until his retirement as a Lt. Colonel in 1981. He served as both a regular Marine and reservist during this time. He was active duty from 1955 to 1959. Mr. Withiam remains active in many veteran associstions, including the Marine Corps Reserves Officers Association, Marine Corps League, Marine Corps Mustang Association, Reserve Officer Association of the United States, Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, and VAVS Representative for the Bath VA Hospital. Mr. Withiam was employed at Ithaca College from 1970 until 1989 when he retired from his position of Director of Safety and Security. He has been active in Tompkins County by providing chairmanship to the E911 Operations Committee, and also through being a lecturer on Disaster Preparedness. Mr. Withiam was awarded the 1968 Citizen of the Year Award from the City of Ithaca, as well as the 2000 Moravia Central School Hall of Achievement Award.
Text of the remarks presented by Edgar ‘Dusty’ Bredbenner
When WW I ended on the 11th day, of the 11th hour of the 11th month (11:00 a.m., November 11, 1918), this was called Armistice Day. I can remember the pride of the WW I soldiers and their many parades and gatherings. In the nineteen fifties this was changed to Veterans’ Day, to honor all the servicemen and women, who served in the many wars. I grew up in Ithaca during the depression and very few had much in the way of luxuries. Food and jobs were in short supply and folks struggled to survive. I can remember the start of the C.C.C. programs. (Civilian Conservation Corps) Men joined up and received $30.00 per month. $25.00 was sent home and they could keep $5.00 for personal use. Many camps were located in our area. These men worked on the many gorge trails, built park pavilions, did stone work as well as making tables and benches. All of our nearby state parks show the wonderful work of their labors. During the day the men worked for the CCC, and at night the army took over. hey did military training and had good food. This also was a great source of manpower for the army during WW II. In 1940, the boy scouts looked for scrap metal and old tires for the war effort. I used to spot airplanes at night. Rationing came into effect and you needed coupons to buy tires, meat, coffee, sugar, cars, gas and shoes. All for the war effort.
While I was in high school I worked for the Lehigh Railroad as a traveling mailand baggage clerk. This had me in excellent physical condition when I went into the army. I trained at Camp Wheeler, Macon, Ga. in the hear of the summer. It was hot and humid and was in excellent shape and I trained in combat intelligence. I was sent overseas late summer of 1944, to join the 80th infantry division, one of General Patton’s favorite divisions, a part of the famous U.S. Third Army. I was sent to Co. B, 318th infantry regiment nd ws given the bazooka, a rocket used to knock German tanks. I had a few major problems at the time. The bazooka was not heavy enough to knock out the heavy Tiger and Panther German tanks. I also had never seen a bazooka before and had no training on this weapon. I was also informed that I was the 9th bazooka man in 10 days! Some smart guy had to tell me that. I asked him if he knew so much about the weapon why didn’t he take over the honors. After the first day in combat, I had to use the weapon, after a sergeant showed me the operation. I realized the problem was my assistant so I got rid of him and kept the weapon for a few months.
The 80th was one of the five “Work Horse division for General Patton”. So called since we were at all times in his Third Army. The 80th had 129 straight days of combat. Our casualties were very heavy, one had no relief, not much food and few showers. We attacked every day and were wet and cold most of the time. We lived like animals in the ground and very rarely got in out of the cold and rain. Most of us had trench foot from wet feet and socks since it rained most of the time until it turned to snow. Our foxholes usually had a foot or two of water in them. You lived in the ground or got shot to pieces from the enemy’s well aimed artillery, mortars and rockets, as well as by their snipers. The division, as well as myself, fought in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and ended up in Czechoslovakia. We were a very close knit unit and would do most anything for each other. Many men lost their lives helping out their comrades. We had what was called, “Esprit de Corps.” (Closeness and unity) Most of us were wounded many times, patched up and sent right back into combat. No rotation of troops, bu many hopes and prayers.
One short, but very long battle for me was the Battle of the Bulge. (Ardennes) After our short rest we were ready to go back into battle in mid December. Ourplans were changed and we were alerted for a move up north to help out the First U.S. Army after heavy German attacks in Luxembourg and Belgium. We were packed into open trucks, no blankets, no overcoats and the weather was near zero. After a two-day-and-night ride [during] which we did not stop, we arrived north of Luxembourg City on December 21, 1944. Early the next morning we attacked and battled into the village of Ettelbruck, Luxembourg, now called the Patton town. We were able to fight our way into a few houses in the southern part of town. We fought there for three days with the street fighting going back and forth. We had 220 men when we started the attack and lost many men there. On Christmas Eve we were alerted to move again. We were again packed into open trucks without any protection and very cold. We were to join the U.S. 4th Armored Division, one of Patton’s favorites, for the attack into Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne Division surrounded and under heavy attack. Early Christmas morning we were deployed on the flanks, deep in the woods. Terrible fighting, terrible weather with much snow, wind and cold. We were able to move forward capturing some small villages. We, as well as the Germans, wanted these villages for protection from the cold. Villages were our only hope of survival. We had no overcoats, blankets, no camouflage clothing, no buildings and no fires to keep warm. Our company never did get to Bastogne, but was relieved by the 35th Infantry Division on December 28th. The company now was down to 20 men left from our original 220 men. We had moved north in 19 trucks and the company returned to Luxembourg in one truck. A PFC was our acting company commander. Two days later the company was back into combat with many new replacements. My story was shorter. On Christmas day I was wounded in the neck and in the back, and was seriously wounded in the left thigh by shrapnel. Our company medics patched me up and gave me some morphine and said, “The medics are not getting through because of the heavy enemy action and the deep snows. (This was before helicopters,) “You will have to hike back to the aid station or stay and freeze to death. Take your rifles and amo because of snipers.” Three of us hiked back five miles and finally reached safety. We had a few fire fights with the elite German 5th Paratrooper Division. With my thigh wound, one man with his heel shot off and another hit in the back and none of us were bleeding because of the cold. If you could not walk out of the area you froze to death. When the spring thaws came thousands of American and German bodies littered the Ardennes area.
I was told I was to be air evacuated to England and the USA. Sounded great to me. [We] flew on a C-47 medical plane in terrible weather. About 500 feet up we were hit by German fighters. The plane, on fire, was able to circle and land. Two nurses and some of the men were killed. Both pilots were wounded, but landed the plane. Very rough, but we were down. I was taken back to the Evac, hospital, sat in a chair and a doctor gave me seven shots of Novocain and opened my thigh to the bone. I was bandaged up and sent to a hospital in France for 3 months and then right back into combat. You did not get out of combat unless you had a “million dollar wound”. I will not go into that. I was later made an, “Honorary Citizen,” of Ettelbruck, where I returned many times.
After serving as our national commander I am now the national historian.Many I.C. grads served their country in WWI, WWII and since. Very few know that [in] one of the major battles in the Pacific, Iwo Jima, one of the assault battalions [was] led by three I.C. grads. These three were classmates and joined the Marines and were captains leading this attack.
Most of the divisions sent overseas had about two years training. We younger and later replacements usually had about 16 weeks training. During the Battle of the Bulge some young men had just a few weeks training and many were killed in combat after 9-10 weeks in the army. Every boy in my high school class went into service. Many girls also joined up to help out.
You are very fortunate to live in the USA. We have a volunteer army and we live a very good life. We are somewhat safe and secure in the USA. Be proud of your country and the members of the military that serve us.I like to quote some of our military leader that I believe did explain some of the hardships that men went through in combat.
[The following note is by by Willard Ticknor Daetsch who also spoke at the IC Veterans Day observance in 2003. Dusty and I shared ideas before the event. I knew that he would be giving a very graphic account of the horrors of war so built my speech on that knowledge. Dusty gave me a draft of his speech and it appears that this draft may be the only record of what he said. I have taken the liberty of editing a little bit to correct a few small mistakes but thereby have in no way changed the meaning his remarks.)
Talk delivered at Veterans Day observance at Ithaca College - Tuesday, November 11, 2003 - Willard Ticknor Daetsch, Ithaca College Faculty, 1965-95.
The entire observance was completed in just about one hour between noon and 1 p.m. Each of the two talks took approximately eight minutes. Dusty Bredbenner, Ithaca College ‘50 gave the first followed by a musical interlude and then I gave the second. I have tried to put in this version the few things I added while delivering the talk. - Willard - Tuesday night - 11/11/03
Greetings to fellow veterans and all gathered to celebrate Veterans Day. I chose to wear my uniform today, not to show that it still fits, but to emphasize the fact that when I wore this uniform in active duty I was about the same age as those of you who are upperclassmen. I am honored to be with Dusty Bredbenner, Doug Armstrong, Lou Withiam and Charlie Tilton representing the millions of men and women who have served and are serving in the US armed forces.
Dusty has presented a clear picture of the horror of war - especially foot soldiering. I too was in the infantry, the 97th Division, which was in Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1945. We had trained for amphibious landings on Pacific islands (I once knew how to waterproof a jeep, drop into three feet of water and drive ashore.) But we were fighting in Europe because the December, 1944 Battle of the Bulge, which Dusty has described, had shown an urgent need for more men.
I was a “foot soldier” in name but a jeep driver by assignment and also an unofficial translator. Jeep driving was frequently exhausting but was also a blessing because it left me few waking hours to worry about what might happen next or even much time to grieve for wounded and dead comrades. Because I had studied German at college and in the Army Specialized Training Program I was able to obtain some insights into what Germans were thinking when I was interrogating prisoners or clearing housing for our troops.
Our 97th Division, one of the last major units to join combat in Europe, was one of the first to be rushed back through the United States and then shipped out through Seattle for battle in the South Pacific. After a few days at sea the fighting in the East stopped, so instead of island-hopping towards an invasion of Japan we were the first occupation troops there. A courageous Japanese man came to our unit and invited American servicemen to participate in a church choir for Christmas services (the first time I sang the Hallelujah chorus). Because of numerous rehearsals and later visits to his home I came to know one Japanese family quite well and a friendship developed which has endured for fifty eight years.
Now that I’ve established my credentials as a veteran, I want to give my early views of veterans and war. As a little boy growing up in Western New York my clearest impression of veterans came on May 30 when the Decoration Day parade passed our home - a glorious and thrilling sight with marching bands, veterans, scouts, and women’s auxiliaries all led by a few old men riding in cars. They were veterans of the Civil War. I knew one of them, but I never asked him any questions. What a loss for me! The parade went on a short distance to the cemetery where graves were decorated, volleys shot and taps played; I saw the festivities but did not understand the causes. We school kids were living in a time when “the War to End All Wars” had been fought and we believed that title. I remember one playmate saying: “I hope there is never another war but if there is I hope I can be in it” - a telling comment on our youthful perceptions. War seemed pretty glamorous to some of us. I knew many WWI veterans but cannot remember ever hearing anything about the horror of war. Not until the end of high school, shortly before so many of us were in yet another World War, did anyone ever talk to us about the horrors of war. A lone man using a cane crossed the school stage, sat down and began: “I am going to tell you things which you probably have never heard from your fathers or your uncles.” A sobering, eye-opening experience followed.
Probably none of you young people grew up with the idea that the “War to End All Wars” had been fought. Unfortunately you have heard constantly about war, the threat of war, or the necessity of war. You’ve seen movies, TV shows, news reports about wartime, and have played games in which war is a major part. But I wonder how many of you have talked, really talked personally with someone who has experienced war first hand. You know much from films like “Saving Private Ryan” and” Pearl Harbor”, but have such media events taken the place of a first hand discussion? I’m sure, however, that many of you have lost some family member to war, and you may know what the aftermath of war can bring - personal suffering from injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder - to say nothing of family lives torn apart. My own brother died while serving during the Korean War.
Well, what do we do with such memories? How do we honor veterans? Memorial events are important, but my vision of the best tribute to veterans is striving for the best our country can be. Some ways may seem obvious, but do we know their effectiveness? Do we vote in every election for which we are eligible? To do less is like saying that what others did to preserve this country really wasn’t very important. Do we enter into serious discussion about problems - especially the major national and international problems? Or are we satisfied to be “entertained” by the shouting talk shows and the vilifications which the media feature? Do we read and read critically a really good newspaper? Do we listen to views different from our own and try to give the holders of such views a real chance to speak? Do we take the responsibility of sharing our own views? Do we use some of our time to improve the community in which we live?
When you engage veterans in conversation do so not just to get an old soldier’s story but to test your own views. Don’t expect veterans to speak with one voice. I hope that all of us veterans are proud of our service, proud of our country. This was certainly true of the WWII veterans I know (including my sister who was in the WAVES). I also hope that you will learn that we have many views, many different views about how we can serve our families and our country best.
Dusty told how close knit his unit was, how the men would do almost anything for each other. I had the same experience. He also talked about the Civilian Conservation Corps and what it meant in the 1930’s to people out of work and to the projects they completed. I would promote the honoring of veterans through similar experiences by instituting universal service - not just in the military - service which would enable young people to work together, to meet people from backgrounds very different from their own and to come away with a good feeling about themselves and about the people with whom they worked.
An army friend sent me e-mail only last night to state his conviction that the universal service was a country-unifying factor of great significance. I would follow that service with free higher education - based on the length of service. From personal experience I consider the GI Bill, that enabled veterans to acquire good educations, to be one of the most brilliant and nation-enriching pieces of legislation passed in the 20th century.
Thanks for participating in this observance of Veterans Day. I conclude with the fervent hope that your knowledge of war will remain secondhand.