Posts Tagged With: World War II

Honoring Our Family’s Veterans | Foutz & Johnson Gallery

Johnson Floyd Foutz Donn 1987

Great Uncle Floyd Johnson, left, and Uncle Donn Foutz at a family reunion in 1987. Floyd served in the Air Force in the Korean War.

Foutz & Johnson Veterans | Places of Rest & Remembrance #8

This post concludes our week-long look at our family’s veterans with a review of Foutz and Johnson relatives who served.

Earlier this week we visited the final resting places of:

* Third-Great Grandfather and Civil War soldier James Burkey, a relative on the Johnson side

* Great Uncle Bill Johnson, an airborne infantryman in World War II who participated in the rescue of more than 2,000 POWs from a Japanese prison

In our family’s history, military service on the Johnson side is extensive, including that of Great Uncle Floyd Johnson in Korea, great great uncles Norman, Adrian and Dwight Johnson, three sons of Clement Johnson’s who served in World War II and World War I, respectively; and several Palmers in Harrison County for whom I haven’t yet established a connection (but that connection is likely).

On the Foutz side, recognized here are Great Uncle Wayne Waddington and second-cousin, once-removed Larry Zeigler, who served in Vietnam.As

As we look forward to Thanksgiving, I know I am thankful for the gift of time and time with my family, and for those in our family who served.

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Honoring Our Family’s Veterans | Ley & Weible Gallery

Weible Bill TR1973

A 1973 Times-Reporter staff pic of Great Uncle Bill Weible. Following his service in World War II, Bill joined the Dover Daily Reporter in May 1948 and worked at the Times-Reporter for several decades, managing various advertising departments, among other duties.

Ley & Weible Family Veterans – Places of Rest & Remembrance #7

In the last week following Veteran’s Day, we’ve paid tribute in this space to our family’s veterans. Today and tomorrow, I’ll conclude this series with galleries of relatives who served — uncles, cousins, brothers; all family.

On the Ley & Weible side, our series has so far included:

* Great Uncle Robert Colt Weible, who served in the Naval Reserves in World War II and went on to become a Naval commander

* Great-Grandpa Robert Earl Ley Sr., who served in World War I

* Grandpa Robert Earl Ley Jr., a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II

* Fifth Great-Grandfather Jacob Crites, a Ley ancestor on the Fisher side, which we’ll cover more in today’s gallery

* an earlier post detailed Revolutionary War drummer and Fifth Great-Grandfather Frederick Metzger, who was among those at Valley Forge. He’s a Weible ancestor.

Today we visit the final resting places of Great Uncle Bill Weible; Olin Abbuhl Jr. and Earl Fisher, cousins of Grandpa Robert Earl Ley Jr.; and Grandpa’s Ley’s uncle Olin Abbuhl Sr. To navigate the gallery, click on an individual image and use the arrows to scroll through the collection. When finished, hit the ESCAPE key to go back to this blog post.

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Honoring Our Family’s Veterans | William Dean Johnson

Johnson Bill Jeanne 1987

Great Uncle Bill Johnson and wife Jeanne in 1987. As an airborne infantryman in World War II, Bill helped rescue 2,170 POWs from a Japanese prison in the Philippines the same day as the famed Iwo Jima flag planting atop Mount Suribachi.

Bill Johnson – Philippines POW Rescue | World War II

Kids of my generation — maybe yours, too — should have been accustomed to growing up surrounded by heroes.

Any trip to the comic books store, any guitar lesson, any after-school detention, any spirited soccer practice, any average hello-and-smile from the dude with the cane who liked to watch the pigeons — we were mostly unaware of how many people in our communities had contributed to sustaining our country’s freedoms, had fought for liberty in places far from home.

Of course, any average family reunion would be full of those ex-soldiers, now fathers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins-such-and-such removed.

My Great-Uncle Bill Johnson was one of those. A genuine hero.

Bill was one of my grandma Erma (Johnson) Foutz’s younger brothers, born in November 1924,  eighth in a family of 10 kids.

That Viola (Palmer) and Charles Johnson’s family had been unfairly decimated by tragedy in the 1930s — three brothers on either side of my grandma and Bill died in separate water-related accidents — may have made Bill’s enlistment when he was just out of his teens particularly harrowing for his parents. But then, it was duty. He went.

And returned to New Philadelphia as one of 140 men in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment credited with rescuing 2,170 internees from a Japanese prison.

Airborne-Led Escape from Luzon, Philippines Prison

On Feb. 23, 1945, same day as the famous Iwo Jima flag-planting photograph on Mount Suribachi, Bill Johnson and 139 others parachuted 25 miles behind enemy lines. Their destination was Los Banos prison, where more than 2,000 POWs had been held the last 3.5 years.

According to an article in the Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio Times-Reporter, it was the first time in military history that airborne parachute units rescued U.S. citizens behind enemy lines.

In early February 1945, Bill Johnson and his cousin Ken Weber, both of New Philadelphia, and Eugene Brady of Columbia were with U.S. troops as they assaulted Ft. McKinley outside Manila in the Philippines.

One night the units were recalled from that action and told they were to participate in the rescue operation. Johnson and Brady were two of the 140 parachutists who dropped at a low altitude from nine planes in effort to surprise the Japanese.

Weber was a sergeant in the communications section who drove an Amtrac that fateful night.

“We will always remember it as something good we did during the war,” Weber said. “Instead of killing people, we saved people. You cannot imagine the good feeling it gave us all.”

The surprised Japanese guarding the prisoners offered “minimal resistance,” according to Johnson and “were eliminated.” The most trouble came from the internees themselves.

Most were missionaries and businessmen, but not all were Americans and British. There were Australians, Canadians, Netherlanders, Norwegians, Polish, Italians, Nicaraguans and French. The non-Americans and “neutrals” believed the war was the Americans’ and not theirs.

“We were told the reason for the raid was that the prisoners were scheduled to be lined up and shot very soon,” Johnson said. “Later the prisoners told us the Japs had been getting more severe as they realized the Americans were getting closer.”

As Johnson and the other parachutists dropped, arms fire broke out, and most of the POWs headed for the barracks. “The non-Americans either refused to leave or spent valuable time searching for things to take with them,” he said.

The Americans knew speed was essential. Some 9,000 Japanese troops were in the hills nearby, and the evacuation had to be accomplished before they returned. There was very little allied air cover.

In order to get the evacuees moving, Johnson and other paratroopers — using only Zippo cigarette lighters in some cases — deliberately set fire to the barracks, which forced the allied prisoners back out on the parade grounds.

There they anxiously awaited the arrival of the 54 (Allied landing craft)… usually used to assault enemy beachheads. The prisoners were loaded onto the Amtracs and left the prison camp under enemy fire. Three trips back and forth had to be made.

The convoy sped through the middle of Lake Taal as the Japanese chased them from either shore. Four people wrote books about the rescue.
You can read the full account of the Philippines prison escape and see a picture of World War II veterans Bill Johnson and Ken Weber by checking out the Times-Reporter article (by Ed DeGraw, I’m grateful to add).

As for Uncle Bill, he returned home after the war and worked in manufacturing for 35 years. He enjoyed golf, and spending time with his large family — wife Jeanne; kids Rae Anne, Guy, Allan and April; and all the in-laws and grandkids attendant a long life of peace. He passed away in August 1995 at age 70.

For my part, I’ll remember Uncle Bill for the gruff, almost-Dirty-Harry-dry sense of humor characteristic of the final quote in DeGraw’s article.

Noting that Bill Johnson had brought back a Japanese .25-.25 carbine from the war, and Weber a Japanese sword, DeGraw noted that other than photographs, neither man had kept mementos from the historic raid.

“We didn’t have time,” on that day, Uncle Bill said, smiling, “to collect souvenirs.”

Johnson crew at a 1970s get-together

Johnson siblings and spouses in the 1970s. (Roughly clockwise): Jeanne, Virginia, Bill (reclining), Nellie, Rebecca, Ernie, Lloyd, Erma, DeLoyce

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Honoring Our Family’s Veterans | Robert Earl Ley Jr.

Suzanne Abbott Weible Robert Earl Ley Jr.

This picture effectively serves as a wedding portrait for Bob Ley and Sue Weible. After their marriage on Oct. 16, 1943 in Oxford, Ohio, Bob & Sue drove to Parris Island, SC, where Bob was stationed with the U.S. Navy, awaiting deployment to the Pacific.

Robert Earl Ley Jr. | Places of Rest & Remembrance #6

There were a lot of photographs I could have used to head this post. Many of which I don’t happen to have in my possession — like my grandfather Robert Earl Ley Jr.’s Navy portrait, or the album full of photographs of chums from the service he seemed to pore over and spin tales about constantly in his final days.

But World War II really began for my grandfather, I’d guess, in the days immediately following one of the happiest days of his life.

On Oct. 16, 1943, Bob Ley married childhood sweetheart Sue Weible. That was in Oxford, Ohio, where Sue had gone to school at Miami University.

Following the ceremony, according to family legend, Bob and Sue drove southeastward, in a car Bob had bought from my grandpa Don Foutz. Sue accompanied her new husband to the base at Parris Island, S.C., where Bob was stationed with the Navy.

Now, Parris Island is well-known as the site of basic training for the U.S. Marine Corps. But there’s also a Naval hospital there, and since grandpa was a dentist, it’s sensible that he may have been assigned to that post before shipping out to the Pacific.

It’s funny — for all the times I sat at his kitchen table or in his living room, listening as he reeled off one tale or another about his time in the war, or stories of his college days at Ohio Wesleyan, or Ohio State, the details have mostly slipped away. So a lot now is conjecture.

There are some anecdotes that remain:

* how Grandpa brought back a desk and a Japanese commando knife, among other trinkets retrieved from World War II

* how he was spared an untimely and inglorious end on some wayward island stop by a buddy who took out a Jap sniper, who’d trained his sites on grandpa as he stepped outside to do the necessary

* how one trip home on leave in 1944, to see his newborn son, Robert III, for the first time, he stopped over in Olathe, Kansas, eventual home of my wife (some 44 years later), and used a pool table as a bed

But I’d guess the war really began for him in that week, when he had to say goodbye to his longtime love and new wife, teaching her to drive stick shift on the way down so she could return in the car, alone, and they could each face whatever the future had in store for them.

Ley RE Sr Jr Dentists 1950s

Robert Earl Ley Jr. (right) returned home from Navy service in World War II to rejoin his father, Robert Earl Ley Sr. (left) in their dental practice in Dover, Ohio.

World War II Service – Robert Earl Ley Jr.

Turned out the future held 63 more married years, 7 children, 14 grandchildren, and an ever-increasing brood of great-grandkids.

Nice when it works like that, huh?

Bob never forgot his time in the service, attending reunions, penning articles for trade and fraternal publications. He continued in the tradition of service to country and community in the mold his own father, Robert Earl Ley Sr., who served in World War I, and other Ley ancestors had.

Grandfather Charles had been a city councilman, school board member and treasurer of Tuscarawas County. Great-Grandfather Augustus had served as township treasurer and clerk, founded the first creamery in his county and ran a successful dry goods business on the canal in Port Washington. Second-Great Grandfather Karl Ley, an immigrant from Germany, served on the school board, in addition to supplying saddlery and tack to the Union Army during the Civil War.

Robert Earl Ley Jr. carried on in that vein. In addition to serving on the Dover City Council, he was a member of Dover Kiwanis, Dover American Legion, past president of Dover Lions Club, past exalted ruler of Dover Elks Lodge No. 975, a 32nd degree Mason, member of Dover Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite Valley of Canton, Tadmor Shrine, Royal Order of Jesters, and Chef de Gare of the 40 et 8 Voiture 117. Quite the resume.

And for nearly 50 years he carried on the dental business started by his father in the 1910s, an office first interrupted by service in World War I. Grandpa worked alongside his father for 15 years before going on alone through his 1991 retirement.

But it was his marriage to Sue Weible that brought renewed joy as the years flipped by. After she passed away in January 2007, some days it seemed Bob didn’t quite know what to do with himself. But he seemed to find comfort in those old photographs, many of Sue, many of the extended family, and a whole album of those he called friends and comrades during his time in World War II.

Bob & Sue Ley, 1987

Robert Earl Ley Jr. and Suzanne Abbott (Weible) Ley at their home in Dover, Ohio — 1987.

Ley Robert Jr. Navy Maple Grove Dover 1918-2008

Robert Earl Ley. Jr. served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. This plaque at his grave in Maple Grove Cemetery in Dover honors his service, and also features the symbol of the Moravian Church.

Ley Robert Jr Suzanne Maple Grove Dover 2007 2008

Bob Ley and Sue Weible were laid to rest in the Weible plot of her parents and grandparents in Maple Grove Cemetery, Dover.

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Honoring Our Family’s Veterans | Robert Colt Weible

Weible Robert Colt

Great-Uncle Robert Colt Weible, known in our family as Arry, proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy through three wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam. An Ohio native, he made his home in Hawaii, where was stationed. He is buried in the “Punchbowl” — National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Places of Rest & Remembrance #2 – Robert Colt Weible

Some of the more powerful moments in my family research since 2008 — what I whimsically refer to as “full-contact genealogy” — are when I’ve been able to actually get out to the places my ancestors once lived.

Their churches, their farmsites, the roads they walked and drove, the buildings they worked and ate and played in, their former homes and yes, even their gravesites — all are powerful, tangible proof that these names and faces of the old world once belonged to the physical realm as well.

In short, they lived.

Even those solemn monuments to their time here — names and dates etched in stone, families laid to rest side by side — are a reminder of the things we do that echo through time, and the death we all owe at the close of the journey.

Particularly poignant are the stars and flags and plaques laid at the graves of veterans.

In my visits to cemeteries, tracking and photographing the final resting places of our ancestors, I’ve discovered markers of service in nearly every American conflict, from the Revolutionary and Civil wars through World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

You wonder about the stories, in what circumstances relatives from long ago found themselves as the country once again sounded its call to fight for and preserve our freedom. You wonder about the extraordinary things they saw and lived — the heroic, the horrible, the mundane, the maddening, and the marvelous.

So many of these stories, of course, are forgotten. Lost in the larger fabric of history. And though I wish I was able to ask, and that they were able to answer, maybe it’s enough, even long after these family members have laid down their last, to be thankful. For their service, for their sacrifice, for the fact of their lives, devoted in measures large or small, that helped shape and secure the way of life we know today.

Throughout this month, I’ll share the names and photos and stories I’ve gathered from the deceased veterans in our family.


Robert Colt “Arry” Weible – U.S. Navy Service, 1942-1965

Starting off, my namesake great-uncle, Robert Colt Weible.

We knew him, of course, as Arry.

Oldest brother of Grandma Sue (Weible) Ley, Arry was born in Dover, Ohio to Robert O. and Beatrice (Morgan) Weible. He graduated from Dover High School sometime before 1935, when the Ohio State University yearbook records him as a pledge to Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

The 1940 census records Arry as working about 18 hours per week at the State University in Columbus. His life would change barely two years later following the United States’ entry into World War II. US Navy muster records show that Arry enlisted on Oct. 9, 1942. He became a pilot in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

From there, Ella Metsker Milligan’s 1951 supplement to her The History of Christian Metzger: Founder of an American Family, picks up the story:

He was a pilot in the Naval Air Transport Service during World War II. He was accepted in the Regular U.S. Navy in 1946. He was with the Air Wing II in the Pacific Fleet until recently. At present, he is with Operation Naval Air Station, at Key West, Florida.

By then, Arry had achieved the rank of Lieutenant. A remarkable find from this week illustrates his life of service in the 1950s.

A U.S. Navy cruisebook from the USS Greenwich Bay small seaplane tender lists Arry ninth among the vessel’s officers, and records some of his duties in 1951. Illustrated there are:

* his hosting with other command officers a visiting delegation of Arab sheikhs

* his landing a big fish while aboard with several other Navy men

Arry continued to serve with the Navy through Korea and Vietnam, retiring in 1965 having attained the rank of Commander.

He and his wife, Marge, settled down in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he enjoyed the sun and surf until his death in May 2003. One of the highlights of my honeymoon — seriously — was having the honor of visiting my great-uncle for the first time in probably 20 years, a trip made possible by his sister, my grandma Sue Ley, and brother-in-law, Grandpa Bob Ley.

Arry is buried in the famous Punchbowl crater on Oahu, in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Weible Marge Arry 1980s

A shot of Aunt Marge and Uncle Arry at home in Hawaii, probably in the 1980s.

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