Skip to content

A Memorial Day Post Featuring My Daddy

May 26, 2014

On this Memorial Day, I would like to feature my father, Michael Louis Schneider, Jr. (October 31, 1918 – May 10, 1980), who served in the Third Army, Seventy-first Division, from 1943 to 1946.

 

Daddy Michael L. Schneider, Jr., circa 1943. He was around 25 years old at the time. I think he was really handsome. 

 

Daddy did not tell me much about his time serving in World War II, but he was obviously proud when he said his division was under General George Patton. He also told me that he had a date once with actress Jane Russell. I later learned that Dwight Eisenhower’s son also served in the 71st.

 

US 71st Infantry Division.svg

Insignia for the Third Army, Seventy-first Division

 

I have my daddy’s army yearbook, sent to him from the US War Department around 1947. daddy yearbook The address label for my father’s army yearbook.  I have the book and the original package in which it was sent. “3225 N. Miro Street” is the New Orleans address where my father grew up.

 

daddy yearbook 2 My father, in a photo taken of him in Mississippi in 1936 (he was 18 years old); his army yearbook, and the original package in which the yearbook was mailed to him from the US War Department.

 

The yearbook is well done and details the 71st’s movements well. Since it is easier for me to reproduce, here is the Wikipedia  summary of the 71st’s combat chronicle:

The 71st Infantry Division arrived at Le HavreFrance, 6 February 1945, and trained at Camp Old Gold with headquarters atLimesy. The division moved east, relieved the 100th Infantry Division at Ratswiller and saw its first action on 11 March 1945. Their ouster of the Germans from France began 15 March. The division moved through outer belts of the Siegfried Line, captured Pirmasens, 21 March, and crossed the Rhine at Oppenheim, 30 March. The 71st continued the advance, taking Coburg without resistance, cutting the Munich-Berlin autobahn, 13 April, and capturing Bayreuth after fierce opposition on 16 April. Moving south, the Division destroyed Schönfeld, 18 April, took Rosenberg, crossed the Naab River at Kallmünz on 24 April and crossed the Danube on 26 April. Regensburg fell on the next day and Straubing on 28 April. As resistance crumbled, the division crossed the Isar on 29 April and entered Austria, 2 May.

Participated in the liberation of concentration camps including one in Austria called Gunskirchen Lager on 4 May. A pamphlet was produced by the US Army after they liberated the camp, called “The Seventy-First came to Gunskirchen Lager.” The book recounts in detail, and with very graphic photos, the tragedy they found in the camp. The complete booklet is available for free on-line.

The 71st organized and occupied defensive positions along the Enns River and contacted Russian forces east of Linz, 8 May, the day before hostilities ceased, having gone further east than any other U.S. Army unit. The division was assigned occupational duties until it left for home and inactivation 1 March 1946.

During the last several weeks of the war, the 761st Tank Battalion, an African-American unit that earned a high reputation for its effectiveness in combat, was attached to the 71st Division and fought with it. The 71st Division is also the formation in which Lt. John D. Eisenhower, General Dwight Eisenhower‘s son, served. [Emphasis added.]

Daddy kept all of the above details to himself. He did tell me that he was a master chef in his army division. He also talked of not having water to use to shave and having to do so using hot coffee.

(An amazing aside: The father of one of the faculty members at the high school where I teach was a cook with the Third Army, Seventieth Division. I learned from him that he and my father were across the Rhine River in France at the same time.)

Prior to its deployment to Europe, the 71st was in Fort Benning, Georgia. I have a photo of my father in which he is holding turkeys from a hunt with the general of the parachute school.

Daddy turkey hunting

On the back of the photo, my daddy wrote, “These are wild turkeys that were killed by the general of the parachute skool (sp.) during a hunting trip in ‘Georgia.'”

turkey words

Explanation of the turkey hunt photo, written by my father. I loved his manuscript. His formal education stopped with eighth grade and some trade school, but he mastered penmanship.

Daddy died when I was twelve. He was 61 years old; his smoking and drinking had taken their toll and led to both cirrhosis of the liver and lung cancer. My nanny (his cousin, Mercedes Stone, for whom I am named and who helped raise me) kept the wallet my father brought home with him from World War II. Once she died in 1992, my aunt Louise (my father’s younger sister) found the wallet with a note in it, written to me. My nanny earmarked the wallet to be passed on to me. It contained an ID card written in his hand, three ration coupons written in Swedish, two addresses (one for his brother, Walter, who was also a soldier), and a one-cent postage stamp attached to a piece of paper that had “gossip sinks ships” written on it.

daddy wallet My father’s wallet that he carried in World War II , and assorted contents.

 

daddy id card My father’s ID card, written in his beautiful handwriting. The emergency contact was for his aunt, Mrs. W. (Walter) (Annie Schneider) Stone. His mother died in 1922 from childbirth complications when he was not yet four. His aunt was a widow, and she and her brother (my grandfather, Michael Schneider, Sr.) combined their households.

 

daddy ration coupon

Swedish restaurant ration coupon dated June 1944.  One of three that my father brought home in 1946 from Europe.

 

And with that, I conclude my “show and tell” of my daddy’s serving his country in World War II.

 

I have one more photo to offer, the only one I own of both my father and me. It was taken on August 8, 1967. I was eight days old: Daddy and me                 My daddy holding me when I was five days old.

 

I loved my daddy and am pleased to have been able to offer my readers this posthumous tribute.

Happy Memorial Day to all.

16 Comments
  1. Harlan Underhill permalink

    Thank you, Mercedes, for sharing this with us.

  2. Monica permalink

    Just letting you know, the restaurant ration coupon is written in Swedish….my parents are Swedish so I grew up with it and can read it some. I teach high school math in upstate NY…just bought your book…. Love your blog.

    • Thank you, Monica. I will add a note about the Swedish to the post.

      I hope you enjoy my book.

  3. A beautiful tribute Mercedes. Your depth, virtue and abilities are seen in your father. What a wonderful heritage. I have two uncles who served under George Patton also. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. ColoMom permalink

    Mercedes, thank you for sharing. My brother, also a veteran, died almost 2 years ago and your post made me cry. I’ve heard you speak of your father in other interviews and your love for him shines through in this post. We are blessed to have you in this world, and like your daddy, you are a hero to many. God Bless and thank you Mercedes.

  5. Dear Mercedes: Thank you!

    I’d like to honor my father, Jack M. Thornburg, and share some “connections” as my Dad just passed this last year. He flew B-24s in WWII from FIJI through the Philippines under Gen. McArthur in the earliest period 1943 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He loved the desert in AZ and took me to visit sites where General Patton trained his tank divisions in the Mojave. It’s possibly your dad was there! Your dad may have also survived the Battle of the Bulge with my friend Robert Brown of the 761st.

    This is also to my Godfather Sgt. John Anderson, Salinas, CA who survived the Death March in Bataan and who would reassure me when my dad had to return to war to fly B-29s in Korea when I was 8.

    “Connections”, Mercedes, – your dad fought with the 761st. Wow! You wrote: During the last several weeks of the war, the 761st Tank Battalion, an African-American unit that earned a high reputation for its effectiveness in combat, was attached to the 71st Division and fought with it.
    The reason my dad took me to visit Patton’s training grounds was because of my personal work to be assured of the appropriate recognition of a “hidden” WWII, Vet from the 761st who is still alive and living in Greene County, Alabama. He is also a survivor of the “education wars” that you and I fight.

    His name is Dr. (Professor) Robert Brown and he was also the FIRST Black Superintendent of Schools post 65 Civil Rights Act. It was because of Hurricane Katrina that I came back in contact with Robert and have now worked since those days after the Hurricane to assure his recognition. I came back in contact with Robert Brown while traveling toward New Orleans to rescue my son, and Dad’s only Grandson, Sten, who still lives in New Orleans.

    Last year, 2013, I was able to give an induction speech for Robert at (UWA) the University of West Alabama to honor him into the “Black Belt Hall of Fame” alongside George Washington Carver and others at that institution where I had served under Robert Brown in the Teacher Corps in 1968.

    My induction speech used the “metaphor” of “What is PARAMOUNT in our field of Education?” as it was Robert who led a “protest” to have the name of the Black Greene County high school changed to “Paramount High School.” It had previously been named, “Greene County Training School” as were all Black County high schools in that region during Jim Crow. The name was chosen to honor MLK whose final speech that year he was killed when he spoke of “Going to the Mountain Top” in last Sermon/Speech- thus, “PARAMOUNT” was chosen.

    If you travel North on I-59 from New Orleans to Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, you’ll see the sign for “Paramount High School” just past Livingston, Alabama.

    To learn about Dr. Robert Brown’s induction and place in Education History-

    Google: Dr. Robert Brown, UWA, Black Belt Hall of Fame

    • trish permalink

      Monty, thanks for all that interesting information.

    • Monty, thank you for sharing the details on you dad and on Prof. Brown. Interesting reading that deserves to be preserved.

  6. trish permalink

    What a wonderful story! We are all blessed to have men like your father fight for our country. We are also blessed to have you fight for our public schools. Thanks for sharing.

  7. How nice and very interesting, too.

  8. Claire Landry permalink

    Thanks for sending this to me. I enjoyed reading about your father. He must have loved you very much. What a misfortune that he died so young. Claire

    ________________________________

    • Thank you, Ms. Claire. He did love me, and I am glad he was around and involved in my life for my early years.

  9. jcgrim permalink

    Mercedes, thank-you for your beautiful tribute to your Daddy. It brought back so many sweet memories of my Daddy, whom we lost to cancer in 2008. As a 17 yr old, Daddy enlisted as a Marine to fight in WWII. He spoke little about his time in the war and when we asked what he did he said simply, ‘I laid wire’. We finally learned the details of his service from his Marine buddies of Company B Signal Corp at their yearly reunions. Company B was stationed in the South Pacific and they were responsible for installing all of the communications apparatus for advancing troops. I am so grateful to have had him as a Daddy for 85 years.

  10. Old Teacher permalink

    As an old war horse myself, having a grandfather that served in Patton’s 3rd Army at the age of 65, your tribute to your father brought many memories to the front on this memorial day. Thank you for sharing this tribute.

  11. Dottie permalink

    My father was an electrician’s mate on a repair ship in the Pacific during WWII. It was hit. My father survived, but his knees were damaged. In his 60s, he had a knee replaced. He was an alcoholic and died from an infection at 72. His liver had improved after five or six years sober, but it wasn’t enough. There were times I didn’t like my Dad, but I always loved him. Thank you for sharing about your Dad.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider Offers a Memorial Day Tribute to her Daddy | Diane Ravitch's blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: