This year we recognize the 75th anniversary of the United States involvement in World War II, and for Memorial Day we remember the 14 members of First Lutheran Church that made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country during the war. Of important note, the Aeolian-Skinner Organ in the church was installed in 1950 and was dedicated to these 14 men.
1. Major George T.R. Wicker US Army
2. T Sgt Robert C. Andrews US Army Air Corps
Died: December 16, 1943
Technical Sergeant Robert C. Andrews was born
on December 14, 1920, the son of Robert C., Sr.,
and Susan E. Andrews. He was married to Mary E. Andrews.
His hometown was Altoona, Pennsylvania, and he entered
the Air Corps on August 5, 1942. While serving as a gunner with the 96th Bomb Group, 337th Bomb Squadron, his B-17 (tail #42-37739) was downed on a mission to Bremen, Germany. The aircraft crashed near Poppingawier, Holland; there were no survivors from the crew. He was buried at the US Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland.
3. 1 Major George T.R. Wicker US Army
Died: June 17, 1944
Pfc. Trotter entered the service in 1943 and
trained at Camp Croft, South Carolina, and spent
time in North Africa before being killed in action
in Italy. His father, Warren Trotter, was killed
in a tragic railroad accident in 1943.
4. Sgt. Charles K Harnish Jr. US Army Air Corps
Died: July 27, 1944
US Army Air Corps B-24 Gunner shot down over
Hungary, July 27, 1944. He was listed as MIA for a year
Before his family received word when the war was over.
5. Lt. Merle F. Bair US Army Air Corps
Died: August, 10, 1944
US Army Air Corps killed in car accident on Corsica
where he was stationed as a P-47 Thunderbolt Pilot
who had completed five successful missions over
enemy territory before the accident.
6. Lt. Ralph L. Stehley US Army
Died: August 21, 1944
Ralph was a 1941 Gettysburg College Graduate
after graduating from Altoona High School at age 16.
He earned nearly every possible award Gettysburg
College offered. Killed in action in France (Battle of Mortain)
as a member of the 30th Infantry Division. The story of the
flowers he sent for his Mom on August 25th that arrived
four days after he died has been often told to remind us of
the tragedy of war. He lost his Dad in 1936 and remained in
close contact with his Mom through his time away from home.
7. SGT John J Bell US Army
Died: October 9, 1944
Died in a hospital in England from wounds
sustained from fighting in France with the 84th
Infantry division on October 9, 1944.
8. Seaman 1 c Eugene F Waite US Navy
Died: October 20, 1944
Location: Philippines (Leyte Gulf)
Stationed aboard the USS Honolulu, a cruiser, Eugene Waite
was part of the Invasion of the Philippines and subsequent
Battle of Leyte Gulf. The USS Honolulu came under attack
from a Japanese Torpedo Bomber during the battle. Despite
evasive maneuvers, the Honolulu was struck by an aerial
torpedo on her port side and was severely damaged. It was
during this attack Seaman Waite lost his life at sea.
9. Private Richard E. Rigler US Army
Died: December 15, 1944
During the Battle of the Bulge and while
assigned to the 95th Infantry Division,
Private Rigler was engaged in house-to-house
fighting in the town of Saarlautern on the Saar
River. It was during this fighting that he lost his life.
10. Ensign George Harold Bowser US Navy
Died: January 12, 1945
Location: Pacific Ocean (USS Langley)
Ensign Bowser was a fighter pilot with Admiral
Bull Halsey’s 3rd Fleet, USS Langley, Squadron 44.
He shot down two enemy planes during the Battle
of Leyte Gulf and contributed to the destruction of
enemy surface ships prior to the loss of Ensign
Bowser and his plane in January. He was awarded
the Air Medal for his devotion to duty.
11. Pfc John B Smith US Marine Corps
Died: February 5, 1945
Location: Luzon, Philippines
Killed in action while fighting to retake the Philippine
Islands from Japanese occupation. He was employed
by the PRR prior to entering the service in 1943.
He previously saw action on New Guinea prior to the
12. Sgt. Eugene R. Ferry US Army
Died: March 24, 1945
Sergeant Ferry was assigned to the 17th Airborne, 194th Glider Regiment. During Operation Plunder, the coordinated crossing of the Rhine River by combined British and American troops, Ferry was killed in action.
13. Pfc. Edward Robert Glass US Marine Corps
Died: June 6, 1945
Robert Glass was a radio operator with the US Marine
Corps taking part in the invasion and capture of the
Island of Okinawa where he was killed in action.
14. Pfc. Clyle Edelblute US Army Air Corps
Died: November 16, 1944
Entered the service in 1942 and was declared
MIA by the Department of Army on November
16, 1944. A telegram informing his wife that
he was KIA arrived on December 4th. His father
was a veteran of the First World War.