The Suburbanite
  • WWII: Then and Now: Charles Grossenbacher served in the Army in both Africa and Europe

  • Cpl. Charles Grossenbacher of Dover did a "little bit of everything" during his service in World War II.
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  • Cpl. Charles Grossenbacher of Dover did a "little bit of everything" during his service in World War II.
    Infantry. Messenger service. Radar operator.
    "Whatever they wanted," he said, smiling. Mostly he was mechanic on weapons in the artillery division. "We had a lot of heavy artillery. Big guns. They kept the Germans back."
    From delivering messages on motorcycle to making friends with a donkey and eventually the front lines of war, the four years Grossenbacher spent with the U.S. Army were anything but routine.
    Grossenbacher was 22, living in Dover and working at Republic Steel in Canton when he was inducted into the Army in September 1941 — only three months after he was married to his wife, Joy, and a few weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
    "I went up to Cleveland (for a physical) and they said 'You're in the Army.' Same day," remembered Grossenbacher.
    As American and British forces fought their way across northern Africa, and then advanced into Italy, Grossenbacher added to his expansive resume of war duties. He maintained guns, but he also worked on tank and truck engines.
    At one point he was a courier, delivering messages on motorcycles.
    "We weren't supposed to have them," he said, "but we took them anyway. We made daily runs. I rode a Harley for awhile, and I had a big, old BMW with a side coach for awhile."
    It was in Africa that he and his fellow soldiers adopted a pet donkey.
    "We kept it around for a long time.
    He was just a little baby when we got him. We took him everywhere we went. He followed us around like a dog. He liked to eat our bread. We encountered real heavy artillery one day, and he
    disappeared. Never came back."
    In Italy, Grossenbacher was among troops that landed at Anzio. When landing craft neared the beach, troops were told the water was only six feet deep. In truth, it was well over the soldiers' heads, and many of the men drowned. Grossenbacher survived by taking off his backpack and swimming to shore with only his rifle.
    Grossenbacher spent some time running the outfit's radar while in Italy. He was among men sent back to the United States for a time, before being brought back overseas to Northern Ireland and, eventually, France.
    Troops fought their way into Germany.
    "Most of it was hit and run. You sneak in and you sneak out."
    Soldiers took an abbey from the Germans at one point in the war. Later, the Americans found a wine cellar in the basement which provided beverage for a victory celebration.
    Page 2 of 2 - Grossenbacher eventually was able to celebrate victory over the Germans. "I was in Czechoslovakia when the war (in Europe) ended."
    After coming back to the U.S., he returned to his job at Republic Steel and resumed his life with his wife. Next summer, Joy and Charles Grossenbacher will have been married 73 years.
    They raised four children — daughter Sherry and sons Max, Mack, and Bob — and have several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. They lived in Strasburg from late in the 1960s until recently, when they moved to Dover.
    Following his time at Republic, Grossenbacher took lessons through the mail to do body work on vehicles.
    "He became a very good body man, he could do everything," his wife said.
    Grossenbacher worked for various shops around the area, putting years between his civilian and his military lives.
    "It was a long time ago," Grossenbacher says. "I caught a lot of hell, but learned a lot of stuff."
    Reach Gary at 330-580-8303
    On Twitter: @gbrownREP
    Technician 5th Grade
    Field artillery
    5th Army
    Northern Africa, Europe
    HONORS American
    Defense Service Medal,
    European-African-Middle Eastern Medal, American Theater Medal, Victory Medal
    AGE 95
Terms of Service

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