WWII vets share war experiences

November 01, 2000

WWII vets share war experiences


World War II Army veteran Fred Kramer still thinks about the war almost every day.


He often dwells on a close call he had in Italy. He and a friend had just left a foxhole and, as they walked away, a bomb fell nearby and destroyed the foxhole.

"If we hadn't left I wouldn't be here and have my lovely wife, kids and grandkids," said Kramer.

Kramer and fellow veterans Don Horan, Alan Powell, and Atlee Kepler shared their war experiences with the public Wednesday evening during Hagerstown Community College's final installment in the four-lecture symposium series about World War II "What Did You Do in the War Grandpa/Grandma?"

Before the lecture began, the 200 people attending listened to marches and Big Band music performed by the New Horizons Band under the direction of Kate Levy.


Although Kramer had never seen a mule while growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., he volunteered to become a "mule skinner" while stationed in Italy.

Mules were used as pack animals to carry supplies and the injured and the dead up and down the mountains, he said.

It was Kramer's job to care for the animals.

He told the audience about a time when he hid under a mule to avoid being hit by shrapnel and was reprimanded by a superior officer who said it was his job to protect the animal.

"My mom and dad want me to come home, not the mules," Kramer said he told the sergeant.

Kramer said it was a moving experience to travel through Rome after pushing out the enemy forces.

"We were riding down Main Street in Rome and people were kissing me and thanking me," he said.

Hagerstown native Allan Powell was one of 10 children who grew up in poverty during the Depression. He and several of his siblings saw the military as way of improving their lot in life.

"We joined to get away from the excruciating poverty but we had a sense that we were fighting a good war - fighting evil," said Powell.

After entering the service, Powell said, he ate three meals a day for the first time in his life.

"The service opened up doors for my family, he said.

Powell trained as gunner, and used bombs, guns and pyrotechnics against the enemy. It was his job to arm 400-pound bombs that would be dropped from airplanes to sink submarines.

Although life was hard in the military he felt he benefited from it by using the GI bill to further his education.

"It was the first war where people who did the fighting got some rewards from the victory," he said.

As a technical sergeant in the Air Force Don Horan flew more than 30 missions during World War II and was a member of the "Flying Horseman" squadron, he said.

He said he experienced fighting so horrible, "the worst atheist in the world would talk to the man upstairs."

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