World War II vet tells about his war experiences

Langrehr was guest of John Deere Classic

Henry Langrehr of Clinton, Iowa, tells about some of his experiences during World War II on Saturday, July 6, at the John Deere Classic. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

Henry Langrehr still gets emotional when he remembers the day his friend was killed by Nazis soldiers.

It was shortly after the D-Day invasion in 1944 during World War II. Mr.  Langrehr’s friend, whom he calls Bill, was shot during a battle in a French village. The mortally wounded man uttered “The Lord’s Prayer” as he died next to Mr. Langrehr.

“We lost a lot of good men. … (Winning the war) took the stamina of a lot of young men and a lot of blood,” said Mr. Langrehr, 99, a World War II and D-Day veteran who has lived in Clinton, Iowa, for most of his life.

The Clinton man told about some of his war experiences during a news conference on Saturday, July 6, at the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run. Mr. Langrehr was a special guest of the JDC as part of the tournament’s effort to honor military members and their families.

Other military-related events at the JDC included John Deere and the USO announcing a new partnership on Thursday, July 4. Among its programs is one that will assist military service members in transitioning to new careers, including with Deere & Co. Also, JDC partnered with the Folds of Honor, a leading nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships for children of fallen or disabled American military service members and first responders.

That tribute to veterans and the military included Mr. Langrehr sharing his experiences in the war.

The Clinton man was among thousands of soldiers who parachuted into occupied France during the D-Day invasion. Surviving heavy anti-aircraft fire, he crashed through the glass roof of a greenhouse in Sainte-Mère-Église, France. While many of the soldiers in his unit died, he and other surviving troops battled enemy tanks to a standstill. Then, on June 29, Henry was captured by the Nazis.

The Clinton man also told his stories of those war days in his recent book “Whatever It Took,” co-written by Jim DeFelice. (Mr. DeFelice is a best-selling author, also known for the top-selling book “American Sniper” he wrote with Chris Kyle.)

But during Saturday’s news conference, Mr. Langrehr said he never had the goal of writing a book or telling stories from the war.

When he returned from World War II, like many men from his generation, he said nothing about the war. He was more interested in living his life. He got married, started a family and started a successful construction company. Life was good and business was good. In fact, he said business was so good that he didn’t have to go out to find customers. The customers came to him with construction projects.

But his silence on the war years ended around the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994. During that time, Mr. Langrehr’s family asked him about his experiences during the war. Also, as part of the 50th anniversary of  D-Day, he was contacted by area newspapers, civic groups and schools who wanted to know about the war years.

He decided to start telling people about the war years, in part, to educate students about the era. “(I was told) that in schools, they weren’t teaching too much about World War II,” he added.

In addition to telling his stories during the 50th anniversary of D-Day, the Clinton man also recently returned to France for the 80th anniversary celebrations of the famous battle. He even returned to that greenhouse in Sainte-Mère-Église that he crashed through during the invasion in 1944. Amazingly, that greenhouse is still in place and “it looks pretty much the same today,” he said.

But many of Mr. Langrehr’s messages on Saturday focused on today’s world. He said today’s citizens need to remember the sacrifices made by people from his generation, and cherish the freedoms they have.

 “We take for granted what we have in this country. … We are so blessed in this nation,” he added.

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