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Remembering their time of service

November 12, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Both Art VanMoorlehem and Rieber Moe were born in South Dakota and then went on to serve in the military with the U.S. Army.

They took separate paths - VanMoorlehem was part of the Army's infantry during World War II and Moe was in the Army Medical Corps in the mid-1950s.

The two now live at Boulder Estates in Marshall, and each has his own story of service.

Article Photos

Photo by Cindy Votruba
Art VanMoorlehem pages through a journal he kept during his time in a prisoner of war camp in Germany.

VanMoorlehem doesn't mind sharing his story as he's done it several times in the past. He still has a scrapbook filled with mementos, letters, telegrams and photos from that time. Moe said he was just 19 when he decided to join at the military. It was 1953 and the draft was still going on.

"I wanted to get it over with," Moe said.

VanMoorlehem was 22 and already had gotten a couple of deferments from the draft as he worked for a defense plant in Chicago. Instead of going for a third deferment, he reported to Fort Sheridan, Ill. to be inducted into the U.S. Army. His wife, Lucille, stayed in Chicago with their two sons and worked at the defense plant.

Moe served from 1953 to 1955.

"I was in the 1st Guided Missile Battalion, it was the start of the missiles going to the moon," he said. He did his basic training in Fort Bliss, Calif. before going to El Paso, Texas.

Moe also spent some time in White Sands, N.M. where there was atomic bomb testing. As part of the Army Medical Corps, he would treat the wounded.

"I administered medicine," he said. "We were available for first aid."

Those who worked with the testing were heavily protected, Moe said. But he remembers treating them for other things.

"We got scorpion bites and snake bites," Moe said.

VanMoorlehem was assigned to the 423rd Infantry Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division. On Dec. 16, 1944, he and his regiment fought in the Battle of the Bulge against the Germans. The regiment was cut off from the rest of the Allied army and the colonel eventually surrendered to the German army to get help for the wounded soldiers. VanMoorlehem was taken as a prisoner of war. It was Christmas Day 1944 when he arrived at the POW camp.

VanMoorlehem remembered the food at the POW camp, which was located near Bad Orb, Germany. The soldiers picked the worms out of soup, he said.

"We shut our eyes and ate it," he said.

VanMoorlehem kept a small-sized journal of sorts during his time in the camp. All that was taken from him when he entered the POW camp was his wristwatch and a pair of socks.

"I wrote down all the guys' names and what happened," he said.

VanMoorlehem also wrote down some of the foods he and fellow POWs thought about eating.

"You can't believe the new dishes we talked about," he said, like fried onions and date rolls. It was a far cry from reality, he said. "That's what really got you."

VanMoorlehem also had four brothers in the service around that time.

"My mother said a lot of rosaries," VanMoorlehem said.

When the camp was liberated in April 1945, VanMoorlehem made his way home to Chicago from Frankfurt, Germany. He took a streetcar to his neighborhood, saw a woman that looked like his wife get off another streetcar and he called to her. It was Lucille.

"Seven thousand miles, and we met in the middle of Chicago at midnight," he said.

Moe also served some of his time in Mainz, Germany.

"We shared the autobahn with the Russians," Moe said. "We were spied on by the Russians."

After his service, VanMoorlehem and his family went to live in Minneota. Moe went onto college in California, studying mortuary science.

Both men said Veterans Day is an important one to remember.

"Young kids, they don't know what real misery is," VanMoorlehem said, referring to his time in the POW camp.

"I think you got so many rights and everything," Moe said. "I think that a strong military helps keep the peace."



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