Metro-East News

Veterans honored at annual Belle-Scott dinner

World War II veteran Norman Becherer of Belleville shows a photograph of himself that was taken during World War II. Becherer was one of the veterans honored during the 66th annual Belle-Scott Dinner at Fischer's in Belleville on Thursday evening.
World War II veteran Norman Becherer of Belleville shows a photograph of himself that was taken during World War II. Becherer was one of the veterans honored during the 66th annual Belle-Scott Dinner at Fischer's in Belleville on Thursday evening. znizami@bnd.com

Three WWII veterans and a Vietnam War veteran were recognized for their service Thursday night during the 66th annual Belle-Scott Enlisted Dinner.

The dinner and program was held at Fischer’s Banquet Center in Belleville.

The veterans honored were WWII artillery Corporal C. Barney Metz, WWII tank commander Carl Grumley, WWII medic Norman Becherer and Vietnam War 2nd Lieutenant and prisoner of war Richard Anshus.

C. Barney Metz - WWII

Metz was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 18 in 1943, reporting to Jefferson Barracks. After 17 weeks of basic training at Camp Roberts, California, he attended artillery training and desert training at Camp Iron Mountain, California. He also received jungle training at Fort Polk, Louisiana and finally ended up at Camp Miles Standish located on the east coast near Boston.

Metz shipped out for Europe in July 1944 with his artillery unit, first landing in northern Wales. That’s where he had his first experience with a German buzz bomb. He remembers hearing their engines as they approached overhead and when the engines stopped they would fall silently out of the sky, exploding on impact with devastating effect.

Metz’s unit later joined up with Patton’s 3rd Army, foughting across Northern France, Central Europe, the Ardennes and the Rhineland.

Metz was part of an 11-man gun section. The men worked in shifts 12-hour shifts: Half manned the gun while half ate and slept. Metz still hates cold, rainy whether because he remembers living in a slit trench filled with straw where the soldiers stored their gear and slept.

Metz recalls that one day, when everyone was tired of being wet and cold, one soldier took off all his clothes. The unit got orders to fire and that soldier came out naked wearing only his helmet. Metz recalls the soldier being big and hairy and when they fired the first round, the back blast hit him and he fell screaming to the ground. He said it felt like all the hair on his body had been pulled out.

Metz’s unit had one break when they were pulled off the front to refit and refurbish. They got a hot shower in a big tent and were issued clean uniforms. After a short 3 day rest they were back at the front.

When the war finally ended, Metz recalls the constant stream of German prisoners of war that didn’t want to be taken by Russian soldiers. There were so many that some were turned back.

With the end of the war, Metz did not have enough points to return to the states so he was transferred to an infantry outfit. He stayed with them until he was shipped back to England and then boarded a troop ship to return to the United States.

Metz met his older brother in Germany after the war had ended. He was changing the guard at a bridge and recognized his brother driving a Jeep. He had not seen his brother during the duration of the war. They were able to spend some time together and toured the local area.

When Metz entered the Army he made $50 a month. On his promotion to PFC he earned $54 a month. And when he made Corporal he brought in $88 a month. His travel pay when he was released from service was $18.75.

Metz departed for the United States on Dec. 29, 1945 and arrived in the states on Jan. 3, 1946. He was separated from the service on Jan. 7, 1946 at Camp Grant, Ill.

Metz’s decorations include 3 Overseas Service Bars, European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon with 4 Bronze Battle Stars, Good Conduct Medal and the Victory Medal World War II.

Carl Grumley - WWII

Grumley was 18 years old when he was drafted in February of 1943. He took basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. and was then assigned to the 701st Tank Battalion, which relocated to Fort Knox, Ky. for additional tank training. In December of 1943 the battalion was sent to Camp Bouse, Az. The camp was a secret camp which was established in 1942 by General George Patton as one of 11 bases of his “Desert Training Centers.”

At this secret base, the men of the 701st Tank Battalion were introduced to the Grant Tank, tank designed during WWI that had a 13 million candlepower light known as “The Gizmo” mounted on its turret. The lights were used for night fighting against enemy tanks and infantry. Although the lights produced a tremendous amount of light which blinded anything in front of it, the lights, to Grumley’s knowledge, were never used in combat.

Grumley and the 701st left for England in March of 1944 on an unescorted troop ship arriving at Liverpool England in May. The 701st received additional training in Wales and their Grant tanks were replaced with Sherman tanks.

The Sherman tank was named after the Civil War Union General Sherman. It was a medium tank that weighed 66,600 lbs., was more than 19 feet long, eight and a half feet wide and nine feet tall. Its five-man crew consisted of a commander, gunner, loader, driver and co-driver. The Sherman had a 75 or 76mm main gun and 1.50 cal. and 2.30 cal. machine guns. The Sherman was very reliable, cheap to produce and almost 50,000 were produced during the war.

Carl and the 701st left Wales and landed on Utah Beach, Normandy, France in August of 1944. The 701st was attached to whichever units needed them the most, supporting combat operations with the 102nd Infantry and also the 75th Infantry Divisions.

The 701st moved north through France and Belgium and, in December of 1944, moved out of Holland and into Germany. After crossing the Rhine River the 701st pushed farther into Germany, arriving at Gardelegen.

At Gardelegen, the 701st discovered the scene of a war crime: 1,016 prisoners of war and political prisoners had been murdered by the Germans. The prisoners had been locked in a barn and the barn was set on fire. Those who tried to escape were shot. Grumley remembers the bodies of those in the barn were piled up at the doors where they suffocated trying to get out.

As the war was nearing its end the 701st stopped 50 miles short of Berlin, Germany.

Grumley served as a gunner and then as a tank commander during his time with the 701st. During that time he lost two tanks, both to antitank mines. When his first tank was immobilized he realized the tank was being bracketed by enemy artillery fire. Grumley and his crew bailed out and caught a ride on top of a tank in the second wave. After losing his second tank, Grumley had to ride three days in an ammunition truck.

Norman Becherer - World War II

Becherer lived on Lebanon Avenue in Belleville. He was 17 when he entered active duty on Nov. 18, 1944. Becherer completed basic training at Camp Robinson in Little Rock, Ark. He was trained as a medic and was sent to Europe by ship arriving two weeks before the war ended. After docking in France, Norman was transported by truck to Camp Mauthausen, a forced labor concentration camp in Austria near Linz, where Adolf Hitler spent most of their youth.

The Mauthausen concentration camp operated from early 1938 until the end of the war. The camp became one of the largest forced labor camp complexes with four main sub-camps and nearly 100 smaller sub-camps. In January 1945 there were approximately 85,000 prisoners. The total death toll is unknown because file cards noting prisoner information were reused after a prisoner’s death. It is estimated that there were somewhere between 122,000 and 320,000 prisoner deaths.

The Mauthausen camp was the first massive concentration camp and the last to be liberated by Allied forces. At one time almost 20 percent of the prisoners at the camp were children.

The prisoners were over-crowded, sometimes housed four to a bed, deprived of even the most basic facilities and worked to total exhaustion. Many starved to death or were just murdered.

On May 5, 1945, U.S. Army soldiers of the 41st Reconnaissance Squadron of the 11th Armored Division, 3rd U.S. Army liberated the camp.

Becherer arrived to see open graves filled with prisoners’ bodies and remembers the overpowering stench.

Becherer spoke some German, so he was assigned to communicate with the former prisoners and to try to get them headed for home. He remembers many were so weak from malnutrition they were fed broth to regain their strength so they could finally be given solid food.

In September 1945, Becherer’s unit turned the camp over to the Russian soldiers in accordance with post-war Allied agreements. Becherer remembered hopping on a U.S. Army flatbed truck with fellow Americans and had three days to reach the Rhine River and American-held territory, a journey of almost 500 miles. During the trip Becherer and his fellow soldiers endured sniper fire—from Russian snipers.

After serving almost 16 months, Norman finally got to go home, departing on Aug. 6, 1946 and arriving Aug. 17, 1946. He was separated from the service on Aug. 23, 1946 at Fort Sheridan, Ill. Norman was awarded the Victory Medal, European African Middle Eastern Theater Ribbon, 2 Overseas Service Bars, Army of Occupation Medal Germany and the Good Conduct Medal.

Richard Anshus - Vietnam

Anshus attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry in the U.S. Army on June 4, 1969. Anshus also completed Airborne School, Jumpmaster School, Ranger School and the Infantry Officer Basic Course. He served as a Platoon Leader with the 3rd Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, N.C. In August of 1970, Richard deployed to Fort William Davis in the Panama Canal Zone for two weeks of training.

In September of 1970, Anshus arrived in Vietnam and served as a Platoon Leader with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, then Company Commander of A Company and later D Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry until February 1971. He then served as Assistant S-3 for the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment of the 23rd Infantry Division.

On March 8, 1971, while serving as an observer in a Light Observation Helicopter (LOH), the OH-6 helicopter Anshus was in was shot down by AK-47 fire three minutes after takeoff. The damaged aircraft crashed into the middle of a company of North Vietnamese. In the ensuing firefight, Anshus, armed only with his .45 caliber pistol, shot a North Vietnamese soldier only 15 feet away, striking him in the head. Anshus himself was shot in the chest and captured.

Anshus walked for a night and a day and then was trucked for another night and day. He was eventually flown to Hanoi and underwent 9 days of interrogation at a location call the Zoo. He was one of only five U.S. prisoners ever flown to Hanoi. He spent the majority of his captivity at a POW camp known as Plantation Gardens. Prisoners were held in rooms with up to five other men. The rooms had 14-inch thick walls, no windows and no ventilation. The smallest room he occupied was six feet long and so narrow that his elbows touched the side walls when he did pushups.

Anshus describes life as a POW as long periods of extreme boredom and periods of stark terror. He was a POW for 21 months at the Plantation and his final 3 months were in the “Las Vegas” section of the famed “Hanoi Hilton.”

Anshus’s chest wound was operated on twice, both times without any anesthesia. It was six months before the wound closed, nine months before he could lift his arm to shoulder level and a year before he could lift it above his head.

Most POWs in the camp, including Anshus, were listed as missing in action; no information about their fates reached their families. To occupy their time, Anshus and his fellow prisoners did mental games. They designed and built houses, keeping track of every nail, brick and board foot of lumber, mentally putting everything into place and figuring its cost. They remembered Bible verses, engineering or chemistry formulas and tried to remember everyone’s name in their third grade class.

After spending 751 days in captivity Anshus was released during Operation Homecoming on March 27, 1973. Upon his return, he was hospitalized to recover from his injuries.

During his military career, Anshus held a wide array of positions, attending the Command and General Staff College and participating in operations during Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada in 1983. He retired from the U.S. Army on July 1, 1997.

Some of Anshus’s decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Prisoner of War Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist and Pathfinder Badges and the Ranger Tab.

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