Memories of Gerald (Jerry) Hoovler
by Michael T. McKibben & Nancy (Hoovler) McKibben

Co K 272nd Inf. Reg.

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July 12, 2009

We have composed a blog for family, friends and brothers in arms (click link above) about Jerry that includes a recounting of his World War II experiences with The 69th Infantry Division. He joined the long gray line on November 23, 2007. Jerry was just a foot soldier who was proud of his service with the 69th. We would see the 69th Inf. Div. Association Bulletins on his reading table. Occasionally he would make a comment about some war experience, but none of us connected the dots, perhaps because we always thought that Jerry would live forever; we would always have tomorrow to learn more. That tomorrow began several months before he died when I started reading the two bound 69th histories he had, especially the 272nd history printed in Leipzig ("History of the 272nd Infantry, The Battle Axe Regiment") and signed in the back by his platoon brothers (SCROLL DOWN TO LAST PAGE - one of whom still lives at the same family address! - Robert O. Coy (see Robert's contact information in Jerry's blog)).

Jerry's memorabilia included his honorable discharge, his 69th uniform patch, his Rhineland Campaign Medal, his Good Conduct Medal, his infantryman insignia and buttons (presumably from one of his uniforms). During the last months of his life, I quizzed him intently about the 272nd history to determine if these were his experiences or just another general history of World War II (his reading table was stacked with histories of World War II; he was a voracious reader). To my amazement, he remembered the names of the ships that left New York Harbor (MS John Ericsson and SS Santa Maria). He recalled crossing the Siegfried Line. He recalled "cleaning out" the small towns around Leipzig. He even had a picture of him and two platoon buddies sitting on several cases of beer and partaking during a break from clearing that (East)* German brewery! (This picture is in the blog.) He recalled his Company K being assigned guard duty on the road to Torgau when General Omar Bradley arrived to formally greet his Russian (Soviet) counterpart. He vividly recalled German soldiers streaming from the Eastern Front "in droves" to surrender to the American Army and avoid having to surrender to the rapidly advancing Soviet Army. He mentioned liberating a concentration camp. (We have now confirmed independently that the 69th liberated at least two concentration camps.)

* Little did Jerry and his Company K platoon band of brothers know how politically senstive their presence around Liepzig was to the Allies. Only a few months earlier Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill had agreed at The Yalta Conference to let the Soviet Union occupy that area of Germany after the war. The 69th had pushed into that area because the Soviet Army had been stalled further east. However, within days of the linkup, Gen. Eisenhower ordered the 69th to withdraw from that area so the Soviet Army could occupy it. East Germany was formed and the Cold War had begun.

At Jerry' death I googled the 69th and found the 69th website and Joe Lipsius. Joe patiently helped me fill in many details, as well as provided photos and much helpful insight into the strategies and tactics of the Rhineland Campaign from his unique vantage point as the S2 intelligence officer for the 272nd. (S2 Joe Lipsius, Hq, 272nd Inf. Rgt.). Our family is indebted to Joe for his kindness and help.

Nancy and I attended the 2008 Reunion to meet Joe and other 69ers. That was well worth doing as it helped us ground ourselves in aspects of Jerry's character about which we had known little. One thing we noticed is how accurately the stories we remembered had been conveyed by Jerry, without exaggeration. In other words, his oral history was right on. The reunion also connected us with other 69th family members who are also on similar searches for understanding and connection with events in their loved ones' lives that in most cases preceded even marriage. Most of these guys were only 18 and 19 years old!

Under the leadership of Bill Sheavly, Jr. we agreed to help start The 69th Infantry Division Next Generation Group in order to help preserve and extend the lessons and legacies of our loved ones, as well as in the memories of the young lads who did not return to build their dreams and aspirations as did fortunate soldiers like Jerry.

We share this blog with Jerry's brothers and their friends and loved ones with gratitude for what all the 69th "band of brothers" did to preserve our world from the looming ravages of fascism and tyranny. We are thankful for each and everyone one of their contributions.

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In the "Notes and Autographs" page of Jerry's copy of History of the 272nd Infantry, twelve men signed Jerry's book. These were Jerry's brothers in his Company K Rifle Squad. Col. Walter D. Buie, Regimental Commander of the 272nd "...had the uncanny wisdom to publish "The History Of The 272 Infantry," a hardback, 176-page book, and give a copy to all his men" in June 1945 in Germany before they were reassigned. The men who signed Jerry's copy of the History were:

1. Platoon Leader [T/Sgt.] Lloyd H. Mangus
2. Squad Leader [Sgt.] Robert D. Griffith
3. Squad Leader [Sgt.] Wilfred Q. Cole, Jr.
4. [Pfc.] Frederick R. Vater
5. [Pfc.] Fred E. Lott, Jr.
6. [Pfc.] Rawford E. MacIntosh
7. [Pfc.] Raymond C. Eckman
8. [Pvt.] Paul R. Cashman
9. [Pvt.] Charles E. Lintz, Jr.
10. [Pvt.] Robert O. Coy
11. [?] Rudolph Z. Nelson
12. [?] Frank Heusser
13. [Pfc.] Gerald L. Hoovler (for the record)

-- Michael & Nancy (Hoovler) McKibben

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