WWII Committee Member Wartime Biographies

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World War II Memorial Committee Members
Ed Achziger
Tom Heaton (Chairman)
Malcolm Komitor
Ray Martinez
Irv Obermeyer
Julie and Alan Stewart
Sally Stiffler


Ed AchzigerEd Achziger

Ed Achziger served in the United States Navy from November 1943 to May 1946. He went to boot camp in Farragut, Idaho eight weeks, then to the USS Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70) CASU #6. He received these ribbons and citations: Asiatic Pacific Medal with three stars, American Theater Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal with one star, and the Presidential Unit Citation for the USS Fanshaw Bay, an escort carrier.

Ed's ship was awarded a Presidential citation "for extraordinary heroism in action against powerful units of the Japanese Fleet during the battle off Samar, Philippines, October 25, 1944 ... in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service." The Philippine government also issued a unit citation to his task force, whose action opened the door to the invasion of Leyte, Philippine Islands.

Ed remembers: "The day before the Japanese encounter, working with aircraft maintenance and as a member of the aircraft landing crew, I got up at 2 p.m. and worked all night because of the multiple repairs needed by many aircraft, then stayed up to land aircraft after General Quarters, which wasn't called until midnight, October 25, 1944. During this long day, first the ship encountered the Japanese naval force, then Japanese suicide (kamikaze) planes, one of which our gunners shot down just before it hit the ship."

"During the Japanese task force early encounter, I was sent to repair a tailhook assembly on a fighter plane, without parachute or life vest or jacket, because of close quarters. While I was inside the plane, orders were given to launch all aircraft regardless of needed repairs, and the plane I was repairing was put on the elevator, then placed on the aircraft launching catapult. Fortunately, my machinist mate 1st class opened the back hatch for me to get out; as soon as we were in the clear, the plane took off."

Thomas R. HeatonThomas R. Heaton

Thomas R. Heaton (Chairman of Coordinating Committee) enlisted in the Army November 27, 1942; called to active duty May 20, 1943; discharged November 25, 1945. Tom served as a sergeant, light machine-gun squad leader in Company G, 222nd Infantry, 42nd Division. He entered combat with German Panzer Division elements (SS, Wehrmacht) on December 25, 1944; he was wounded April 3, 1945. He fought in northern Alsace in the battle of the Rhineland and the Battle of Ardennes, and in Germany in the battle of Central Europe. His service areas included the American Theater and the European-African-Middle East Theater. His decorations included Combat Infantry Badge; Silver Star Medal; Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster (denoting second medal); Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster (denoting second medal); American Theater Service Medal; African-European-Middle East Service Medal with three battle stars; Good Conduct Medal; World War II Victory Medal.

Malcolm KomitorMalcolm Komitor

"I was a third-year student, majoring in chemical engineering at the University of Cincinnati when I enlisted in the Army. The Army needed engineers; we were told we could continue our studies after we joined. On April 22, 1943, I reported to Camp Upton, NY, thence to Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training. After six months, we were sent to Ohio State University to continue our engineering under the Army Specialized Training Program. The program was ended in about six months, and I was assigned to the 14th Armored Battalion at Camp Campbell, Kentucky, thence to Fort Ord, California to form the 788th Amphibious Tank Battalion. I was assigned radio operator and assistant driver of an LVT (Landing Vehicle, Tank); we were attached to the 96th Infantry Division ordered to take the island of Yap. However, Yap was bypassed, and we invaded Leyte, Philippine Islands, in October 1944." (Malcolm pictured, on right side, in Leyte)

"Then we prepared for the invasion of Okinawa, attached to the 96th Infantry Division as the 780th Amphibious Tank Battalion. As we had in Leyte, we were the first units ashore on April 1, 1945, to overcome any beach weapons with our 75-mm howitzer, and 50 and 30-caliber machine guns. Luckily for us, many Navy and Air Force planes bombarded the beaches, and the Japanese retreated inland to the mountains."

"Then we went to Luzon to prepare for the invasion of the Japanese homeland. Later intelligence reports indicated that the beach on which we were assigned to land was heavily fortified, and if it had not been for the use of the atom bomb, Japan might not have ended the war, and I might not be writing this account of my service in World War II. We finally returned home on the converted liner, the SS Brazil, from Manila, landing in San Francisco January 1, 1946. After discharge, I returned to the University of Cincinnati to finish my degree under the GI Bill."

Medals awarded include: World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two bronze stars, Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon with two bronze stars and bronze arrowhead, American Theater Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal.

Ray Martinez

Ray Martinez enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 1945 under the "1945 Armed Forces Voluntary Recruitment Act." He served in the Sixth Marines, First Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, serving with the occupation and security forces of the Pacific Fleet. He returned to Camp Pendleton, California as a Sergeant in G-2 Intelligence. At that time, Intelligence needed draftsmen to make maps, overlays, and beach studies to track the Chinese situation. Ray graduated from Military Drafting School first in his class, with a score of 98.5. In 1949, after completion of Officers Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia, Ray rejoined the Sixth Marines as a platoon leader. He resigned in January 1950 to attend college.

Ribbons include: Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, China Service. Awards include: World War II Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Certificate of Satisfactory Service, and Honorable and Satisfactory Service in World War II.

Irvin C. ObermeyerIrvin C. Obermeyer

Irvin C. Obermeyer ATC USN (RET) enlisted in the U.S. Navy on March 13, 1940, and retired after twenty years on April 8, 1960. All of Irvin's overseas duty was in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. He was a radioman on a submarine and destroyer escort during World War II. In 1946, he changed his rate to Aviation Electronics and was in Naval aviation the last fourteen years of his navy career, serving on several carriers, Naval Aviation Squadrons VC-35, VP-22, and three years on the Admiral's staff at Alameda, California.

He was in a total of thirteen battles in the Pacific, including the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Battle of Midway, the Battle of Coral Sea, the Defense of the Philippines, and the battle at Leyte for the liberation of the Philippines, the battle at Okinawa, and the Korean War.

He was issued the following medals: Purple Heart Medal, Good Conduct Medal with three Bronze Stars, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, Philippine Defense with Bronze Star, the Philippine Liberation Medal, the Philippine Independence Medal, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation and the Pearl Harbor Medal.

Alan M. StewartAlan M. Stewart

Alan M. Stewart, Major, US Marine Corps, was commissioned a 2nd Lt. USMCR in June 1942 and married Julie (his college sweetheart) one week later in the Post Chapel, Quantico, Virginia. "I went to the South Pacific Theater December 2, 1942, and served in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and aboard USS Mt. McKinley and several LSTs (landing-ship tank). Fought in the battles of Bougainville and the Central Solomon Islands; landed on D-Day on Green Island in the Treasury Islands, and on Pelelieu in the Central Pacific. Transferred from the USS Ancon in January 1945 to San Francisco Marine Corps Depot of Supplies, where I was in charge of loading ships for the Pacific War; was there on V-J Day."

"After the war was over, I was a rifle company commander in the Second Marine Regiment; then I commanded the Marine Detachment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea, CV47, which was part of the European occupation forces in the Mediterranean Sea."

"After occupation duty, I returned to the Second Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina as the Division Legal Officer. When the war in Korea started, I was transferred to the Infantry Training Command at Camp Pendleton, California, where I made Major in the regular Marine Corps and served as Infantry Battalion Operations Officer. I was discharged in June 1953 for a service-connected disability."

"I received the following medals: Navy Unit Citation with star (for second award) for service on USS Philippine Sea; Asiatic- Pacific Medal with four battle stars; American Theater Medal, World War II Victory Medal; European Occupation Medal; Korean Service Medal; expert rifle and pistol badges."

Julie M. StewartJulie M. Stewart

Julie M. Stewart represents the typical civilian Home Front in the American Theater. Married to Alan at Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia, June 20,1942; married 5 1/2 months living on five different Marine Posts, when Alan went overseas for 25 months. "Returned to St. Louis to my parents' home to get a wartime job, save money for Alan, and to write V-mail letters to Al in the South Pacific. I worked for the St. Louis Ordnance District as an ordnance inspector 6-7 days each week. On Sundays, I drove for the American Red Cross (in uniform), toting young servicemen to USO dances; to "gedunks" at the airport, where we fed them grilled Spam and cheese sandwiches as they slept on the couches, flying standby on military flights; to blood centers where we all gave blood regularly. One night each week, my parents and I packed POW food packages in an old shoe-assembly plant. All you could wear was underwear and a Red Cross smock, no jewelry except a wedding ring, so nothing contraband could slip into a package and give the enemy an excuse for stopping the shipments. No air-conditioning existed yet, and since St. Louis has very hot summers, we were better off stripped down. When the Women Marines first started and I enlisted, they sent me home when they found out Al was in combat!"

"Home to tend the Victory Garden, to pore over news broadcasts or newsreels, or to pick up the piles of metal trash for the local drive, to sell war bonds at local theaters, or to mend the irreplaceable clothes so they'd last, or save rationing coupons to buy a new suit for Al's return. When he did return in early 1945, we bought his first car--the biggest used convertible he could find (there were no new cars) and drove to Coronado, California, to the USS Ancon. We were in San Francisco when V-J Day came! The city was bedlam-everyone on the streets, everyone kissing, everyone shooting fireworks-the war was over! "

Sally StifflerSally Stiffler tells her story:

"Sally Burke, born 1920 on a farm in Iowa, one of seven children, mother a teacher, father a farmer. College in Chicago, Loyola University; graduated 1941. A friend was killed on the Arizona in Pearl Harbor. Joined Army Nurse Corps as 2nd Lt., February 1942. Basic training at Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. Sent to open a hospital in August 1942 at Camp Moxey, Texas. Infantry and tank destroyers, 350,000 men trained there. Worked in operating rooms. Gave some of the first penicillin shots when it was released to the military in 1943."

"January 1944, married to First Lt. Charles A. Kelly; we were both sent to England in March 1944. I was promoted to First Lt. in England; entered France June 22, 1944. Charles Kelly was killed in France August 1944."

"Served in 182nd Evacuation Hospital June 1944 to May 1945 in tents, through the worst winter Europe had ever had. When the war was over in Europe, the unit was sent to the South Pacific by way of the Panama Canal. In New Guinea and the Philippine Islands, got dengue fever and malaria. When the war ended, we all waited to go home. Arrived San Diego November 1945. Discharged December 1945. A hell of along time."

Sally didn't work as a nurse for seventeen years after the war, suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, and then only went back because of necessity. Sally married a widower with two little girls. They, Charlie Stiffler and Sally raised those two little girls and had three more, then five boys.

Her ribbons include: European Theater, American Theater, Asiatic-Pacific Theater, Philippine Liberation Medal, World War II Victory Medal.

WWII Memorial Committee

Left to right: Ed, Irv, Sally, Tom, Malcolm, Ray