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School assignment shares story of dad's WWII experience

Richard Donald Frey, Third Army Ordinance. Special to The Forum1 / 3
Richard Donald Frey, right, is shown on his last day of driving. He is pictured with Fred Kennedy, Fargo bus depot manager. Special to The Forum2 / 3
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist3 / 3

While he was attending Moorhead South Junior High School years ago, James "Jim" Frey interviewed his father, Richard Donald Frey, about his military experiences and wrote about him as a class assignment.

Last year, Jim's mother Joan Frey, Moorhead, found her son's paper among some memorabilia and sent it to Neighbors. She sent it close to Veterans Day, thinking its appearance in this column would bring back some memories for World War II veterans or their families.

Well, Neighbors already had other items scheduled for the Veterans Day week, so it couldn't get it in the paper at the time. However, this coming Saturday, May 19, is Armed Forces Day, so Neighbors is running Jim's school paper today, thinking that some of you may remember the days he wrote about, as his mom suggests.

So here is an edited version of young Jim's story of his father, who went by Donald in his early days, just as Jim wrote it:

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, many men from America were drafted into the war. This is a short account of a man named Donald who went into service June 1942 and got out January of 1946.

Donald lived in Glyndon, Minn., and was working when he heard about the attack upon Pearl Harbor. He was the oldest boy in a family of 12, and adjusted easily to the new military life in the Army.

While serving, he lived a year and a half in the states and two and a half years in Europe. In the states, he had training at Camp Shelby for basic training, went to Detroit where he learned mechanics for tanks and to Fort Hood, Baltimore and Aberdeen Proving Ground. While in training, he met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was able to take in a football bowl game.

Donald was one of the first 20-year-old men from Clay County to be drafted. He didn't mind being drafted and he thinks every man should have a year of military service.

After his training, he went to Europe as staff sergeant on ETO or European Theater of Operations, and was in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. He was in a combat zone and in Normandy five days after the invasion of the beaches there.

Being a staff sergeant, he had some men under him. He was a mechanic of war vehicles, especially tanks. While in Germany, he met up with the Russians on the Elbe River.

He remembers feeling glad when he heard of the atomic bomb and thought it would shorten the war in the long run. He met a lot of men from other countries, and they all thought a lot of Americans, including Russians.

Germany to him was more civilized and like home to him, and the canals and windmills of Holland he really liked. Because of the damage, he didn't get to enjoy too many big cities.

He was glad when Harry Truman became president since Roosevelt was getting sickly and had been in office so long before he died. Of all the generals, he thought Patton was the biggest showoff, but everyone wanted one thing in common: to end the war. He returned in January of 1946 after they had finished completely.

Joan writes that after the war, Donald, who went by Rich, came home and drove Greyhound buses for 36 years. During that time, he drove 3 million miles, and never had an accident.

He died of cancer in 1986. His son Jim died in 2005.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.

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