Lorel Wayne Roestel, age 95, passed away on February 28, 2020 in Spokane surrounded by his loving family.
He was born August 13, 1924 in Spokane to Lorel and Ethel (Matson) Roestel. He married Beverly Watkins in 1947 and started a family raising seven children on a farm out on the Palouse. In 1962 they moved to Snoqualmie Valley, they returned again to Spokane in 2013 until his passing.
His life revolved around his love for his family and his faith in his Creator Jehovah God. Grandpa loved spending time with his family of 7 children, 27 grandchildren, 37 1/2 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren!!
He is survived by his sons Larry, Terry & David Roestel; his daughters, Sheryl Ripley, Mollee Raney and Pam Hillemann. He is preceded in death by his wife Beverly H. Roestel and by his son Garry J. Roestel.
For Veterans Day – In 1944 my Dad was 18 years old and a 2nd Lieutenant in the 76th Division. On Veterans Day the Division was shipped out of Camp McCoy, Wisconsin bound for Europe. My Dad turned 19 en route. There was hopes of the War being over by Christmas, but those hopes were dashed in mid-December with the German counteroffensive (which became the Battle of the Bulge). The 76th Division became part of Patton’s Third Army and was placed on the Siegfried line for the final push into Germany.
Can’t help but think what I was doing at age 19 in comparison.
Mr. Neggia served with my Dad in Company I – 304th Infantry Regiment – 76th Division. Part of Patton’s 3rd Army.
They were both only 18 years old when they started training at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin in the summer of 1944 (now Fort McCoy).
The following picture is from Schmölln, Germany in the spring of 1945. It’s the First Platoon of Company I – and in the front row is Private 1st Class John Neggia. (Click on the image to see larger.)
1st Platoon was led by 2nd Lt. Steve Galanes, who is pictured just to the left of the Company I flag (and one to the right of Private 1st Class John Neggia).
Mr. Neggia told me the following story regarding this picture.
John Neggia and his friend Pfc. Tobias Gutierrez (sitting to the right of Galanas) had no intention of sitting for this picture so they went and hid, but Lt. Galanes found them. Galanes then marched them over to have their pic taken with the Platoon – and had them sit on either side of him.
Neggia was annoyed at the time, but grateful now after all these years to have a photo where he’s pictured with his Platoon.
John Neggia keeps active in part by sharing his remembrances of the War at memorial services and other gatherings saluting our Veterans. Here are just a few of the most recent.
“I crossed the Saar at Echternach and drove to Bitburg…it showed the tremendous difficulties overcome by the 76th Division in forcing the Siegfried line.
”From one point on the road along which the 76th Division had successfully advanced, fifteen pillboxes were visible in addition to dragon’s teeth and anti-tank ditches. Yet this relatively green division went through them.”
Frank Mucedola (1921-2007) served as a Tech Sergeant in I-304-76. A musician in civilian life, he established the Frank Mucedola Accordian School in Auburn, New York and has toured with the world-renowned Mantovani Orchestra.
The following article originally ran in The Auburn Citizen August 24, 2003.
The 76th Infantry Division received its “Baptism of Fire” during the battle of the Bulge.
After crossing into Germany from Belgium and Luxembourg, the division was the spearhead of General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army final drive across central Germany and were among the first troops to make contact with the Soviet Red Army in the vicinity of Chemnitz, Germany, in May 1945.
The 76th Division had gone further east into Germany than any other American unit.
When Germany was divided into East and West, the 76th Division found itself in the East and was subsequently pulled back into the Western Zone.
However, between May and August 1945, when the Russians arrived, the 76th Division was on occupation duty in Schmolln, Thuringen, Germany.
From August 1945 until the Berlin wall fell, schools in occupied East Germany were required to teach students that Germany had been liberated from the Nazis by “The Glorious Red Army.”
The pre-1945 generation knew better, but kept silent out of fear of reprisals.
When the 76th Division was relieved of its occupation duties in August 1945, it was deactivated and its troops were reassigned to other units slated for the invasion of Japan which, for a brief time, was still at war with the United States.
Fortunately, that assignment never materialized as the atomic bomb ended the war and the troops were sent home.
Many years later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the people of Schmolln in the former East Germany wanted to correct what they knew was a historical lie. They were not liberated from the Nazis by the Soviet Army, but by the 76th Infantry Division of the United States Army.
On April 13, 2003, the people of Schmolln erected a memorial to the 76th Division to show their appreciation.
I am one of the nine Auburnians who served in the 76th Infantry Division during World War II and am grateful that the people of Schmolln have honored us with their thoughtfulness.
Auburnians who served in the 76th Division in WWII
George P. Diehl Paul J. DiFabion Ronald P. Hart Robert T. Mott Frank Mucedola James Napoli George T Ryan James Smith Paul A. Tripociano
Pictures from a 2003 Veterans Tour that included Schmölln.
Inscription on plaque:
THIS PLAQUE RESPECTFULLY PRESENTED TO THE PEOPLE OF SCHMOLLN, THURINGEN, GERMANY BY THE 76TH INFANTRY DIVISION AND COMPANY I, 304TH INFANTRY REGIMENT
UNITED STATES ARMY WHO SERVED IN THIS CITY FROM MAY TO JULY 1945 “THANK YOU FOR REMEMBERING US” 76TH INFANTRY DIVISION ASSOCIATION APRIL 13, 2003
In 2010 David Keefe, a US Marine and grandson to Richard Keefe (I-304-76), visited Schmölln to honor his Grandfather’s service in the War and to see the plaque firsthand. Here’s the video he took.