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January 23, 2011

Personal remembrances

Library home to first-hand accounts from WWII vets

The Logansport-Cass County Public Library now houses two firsthand accounts of Cass County soldiers who fought in World War II.

The library acquired the two books through a series of events that began when Elizabeth McQuinn volunteered to assist the Cass County Veterans Council distribute the 4,200 or so nameplates from the Roll of Honor currently undergoing renovations.

McQuinn has spent well over a year giving the nameplates to the veterans or their families. Along the way, she spoke to Leroy Rehwald and the widow of W. Clifford Wray.

Rehwald, a former Cass County resident now living in Pennsylvania, wanted his nameplate as well as the ones for his three deceased brothers.

Wray’s wife, Phyllis, requested that her husband’s name be added to the Roll of Honor, something they had reportedly been trying to do for more than 60 years.

During the discussions, McQuinn learned of the writings by Rehwald and Wray. After reviewing the materials, she knew they should be made available.

“These need to be made available to high school students, to the public,” McQuinn said. “It doesn’t get any better than this — a first-hand account of our World War II veterans from Cass County.”

McQuinn contacted library director David Ivey. He gladly accepted the books, which are displayed in a bookcase behind the second-floor reference desk.

Ivey mentioned that due to the rapid pace in which veterans are dying, there is a small window of opportunity for these accounts to be documented if someone has not already done so.

The director welcomed the first-hand accounts and encouraged people to submit more World War II stories. He also offered space for locally-written family histories.

Wray graduated from Twelve Mile High School in May 1942. He chose to enlist in the U.S. Army rather than be drafted.

In his 110-age account — written before his death in July 2002 — Wray detailed his encounters with Germans while crossing Europe before the Battle of the Bulge.

Along the way, he witnessed the deaths of many fellow soldiers, dug numerous foxholes and took a bullet to the chest.

“Suddenly, I was hit and what a shock it was!” Wray wrote of that moment in Jan. 31, 1945.

In the book dedicated to his family, Wray wrote about the nature of the injury that left him partially disabled for the rest of his life.

“A bullet had entered my chest to the right of the sternum between two ribs, punctured the upper right lung, exited at the armpit, and entered the upper right arm and lodged against the arm bone,” he wrote.

Wray was discharged on Jan. 22, 1946. He went on to raise a family.

In Rehwald’s 28-page account, he described his time in the South Pacific with the Navy. Rehwald served from Feb. 18, 1943, to April 15, 1946.

After caring for his wife who had Alzheimer’s, Rehwald realized he, too, could lose his memory. That, he told McQuinn, was when he decided to write down his experiences The Rehwald family seemed destined for war. His dad fought in World War I and his three brother also fought in World War II.

The 1941 Logansport High School graduate said he plans to return to Logansport in September to celebrate his 70-year high school reunion.

McQuinn will also be giving a copy of each account to the Cass County Historical Society.

As for getting Wray on the new Roll of Honor, McQuinn assured his widow that her husband’s name would be among those etched in marble.

• Kevin Lilly is news editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or kevin.lilly@pharostribune.com.

 

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