World War II: Long ago but not a faint memory for local veteran
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2011 00:11
Dec. 8, 1941: World War II was declared in the United States. The Miami Student front page "extra" edition gave details of President Franklin Roosevelt's plan, but it also highlighted something more.
"Student Poll Taken on War" read, "A sizeable majority of 85.55 percent of 83 representative Miami men contacted in a hurried poll taken late last night by The Miami Student were in full accord with the government in the belief that the United States should declare war on Japan immediately."
Students embraced that World War II would be a challenge, but a necessary challenge to defeat America's enemies and stand by America's allies. Over the course of the war, 5,000 Miamians would serve in the armed forces.
But for Andy Wasmuth, this was only the beginning.
World War II was a flash in Allan "Andy" Wasmuth's life. After graduating from Miami University in 1941 with a degree in accounting, the draft stole him away from his family in Huntington, Ind. But in July 1943, this young man who never experienced firing a gun, let alone holding one left willingly to serve his country.
Wasmuth started his military career as a private in the army but after graduating from Officer Candidate School (OCS), he moved up the ranks to become a 2nd Lieutenant. During the war, Wasmuth was a field artillery man with the 3rd Division of the Seventh Army in France and Germany. His division fought in France and Germany after the notorious Battle of the Bulge, which was said to be the largest and bloodiest battle fought on the American side during the war.
"Field artillery was directing fire from the big guns in the back," Wasmuth said. "It was interesting, it really was."
But it was Wasmuth's "magnificent courage and gallantry" during an attack near Neider Steinach, Germany that awarded him the army's third highest decoration, the Silver Star.
In an excerpt from the Indiana Herald in Aug. 13, 1945, his gallantry was described:
"April 1, the company to which he was attached was met with intense small arms and machine gun fire. [Wasmuth] found it necessary to rush across open terrain under this heavy fire to establish an observation post and in the act was wounded in the legs by machine fire. As an aid man was tending his wounds, he directed his men in the installation of the radio and the ensuing fire missions, handled by his forward sergeant, enabled the infantry to advance and successfully capture their objective."
Wasmuth also received a Purple Heart for the bullet wound he incurred from the machine gun fire. It was this attack that ended his stint abroad. He spent the remainder of 1945 in a hospital in France.
The war was a pivotal experience for Wasmuth. Yet, once the war ended he lost contact with his infantrymen.
"There was an amazing spirit in the people," Wasmuth said. "Everyone seemed to get along and cooperate. It was wonderful."
He currently resides in Oxford, Ohio with his wife of more than 60 years, Eleanor. At Miami, Wasmuth was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity and the business honors fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. He met his wife following the war and the two moved to Dayton, Ohio. But it is Wasmuth's heroic actions that are cause for honor, as the citation accompanying his Silver Star reads, "The intrepidity with which he performed this heroic act was an inspiration to all those who witnessed his action."