Memorial to a brother in arms

Sign is tribute to Hagerstown native killed in WWII

Sign is tribute to Hagerstown native killed in WWII

May 18, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


Sixty years evaporated Wednesday in Hagerstown's North End.

World War II veterans Wayne Kiser, 81, and Asher Edelman, 82, stood at the intersection of Forest Drive and Park Lane and recalled their war exploits.

They remembered fellow Hagerstown native Bill Altenderfer Jr., a friend killed in action.

Above them was a small black sign, newly affixed atop the green Park Lane road sign, across the street from where Altenderfer grew up.

The Washington County Joint Veterans Council put up the sign Wednesday as part of an ongoing project that started about 20 years ago, council member Pete Callas said.


Council members also put up a sign at 3rd Street and Pope Avenue on the outskirts of Hagerstown to remember Cpl. Vernon Mulligan, who was killed in the Korean War.

Finally, council members gave the Clear Spring American Legion Post a plaque in memory of Cpl. John W. Wagner, a Medal of Honor winner for his service during the Civil War Battle of Vicksburg.

The Altenderfer sign was the first one dedicated with people who served with the person being remembered, Callas said.

Kiser, who now lives near Williamsport, said he, Edelman and Altenderfer were among the Hagerstonians sent overseas in 1944.

Kiser said he and Edelman were machine gunners in the U.S. Army's 101st Infantry Regiment in the 26th Infantry Division.

"Do you remember going out and probing for mines on the beach?" Kiser asked.

"No, I never got that job," said Edelman, who lives in Waynesboro, Pa.

Kiser said three things happened within a few days in November 1944: Edelman was injured, Hagerstonian Robert Wallace was captured and Altenderfer was killed.

The story on Altenderfer's death, as it reached Kiser, was that he had captured someone and had a white surrender flag when he was killed.

"He was a rifleman and he was kind of a daring soul," Kiser said. "He was a great guy to go to town with when we were back here in the states."

"He was always happy ...," Edelman said. "He always wanted to get into things."

A key detail that got foggy over time is Altenderfer's given name.

A newspaper account of his acceptance into the service calls him William. An account of his death calls him Willis, son of Mr. and Mrs. Willis L. Altenderfer.

Kiser thought he was William, but conceded that Willis might be right.

Either way, the sign erected Wednesday had the wrong first initial and year of death. It reads "PFC M.L. Altenderfer Jr., US Army, 1924-1945."

Anthony Pruchniewski of the Joint Veterans Council said the Army provided incorrect information and the sign will be replaced.

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