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The Suburbanite
  • WW II: Then and Now: Helping the wounded

  • Earl Roth didn’t dwell on the men whose lives he saved. It was the men he lost who haunted him.

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  • As a medic at the front lines of the Battle of the Bulge, Earl Roth didn’t dwell on the men whose lives he saved. It was the men he lost who haunted him.
    Sometimes, he was the last person to talk to the wounded soldiers on the battlefield. His voice was a calming one.
    “I’d talk to them like a mother. Or like a father. I’d tell them, ‘Take it easy, you’re going to be OK,’ even when I knew they were going to die.”
    Roth was in his early 20s and trained in “a little more than first aid.” At 89, the memories remain with him.
    “When I think of it,” he said, “sometimes I just want to bawl.”
    GETTING DRAFTED
    Roth had graduated from Greentown High School before he was drafted into the Army. He was inducted in February 1943 and placed in the infantry. During training, he volunteered to become a medic.
    “I was glad I was in the infantry first,” he recalled. “They were trained to crawl on their bellies. I had to crawl out many a time under fire.”
    He was sent to the front lines in France in time for the Battle of the Bulge.
    “It was exciting at first, going across the Atlantic and taking trucks and trains to the front,” he recalled. “But, I was scared to death when I first heard the shells.”
    He remembers his first experience under fire.
    “I was down in a foxhole and I heard somebody shout, ‘Medic!’ I thought, ‘Uh-oh.’ I knew I had to get out of my foxhole and shells were exploding all around us. But, I got to him and sent him back to the aid station.”
    Working in combat, with shells and bullets flying around him, became routine.
    “You’d think you’d be scared, but I wasn’t,” Roth said. “I think it was because you knew you had to get to these guys. I fixed up a lot of the men like that. Heard bullets whizzing, but I never got hit. The Lord was with me. Although I think I kind of helped Him out a bit by jumping into foxholes.”
    Roth recalls carrying a soldier on a stretcher two miles to get him medical help.
    “He was shot and I tried to get him to a hospital. I got the ambulance driver to help — the ambulance was stuck in the mud and we carried him. He was heavy. But, he survived, I guess.”
    Although Roth was never wounded, he did suffer from a lung condition that sent him to a French hospital, and then back to medical facilities in the U.S. He ended up in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where late in the war he was given a chance to visit President Truman at the White House.
    Page 2 of 2 - AFTER THE WAR
    Following his discharge in 1945, Roth returned to Stark County. He worked in a bank, as security for department stores, driving trucks.
    Roth and his wife, Louise were married 19 years ago after the passing of both their spouses.
    As with most of those who served in World War II, life became routine — except for the memories.
    “I had nightmares,” he recalled. “I soaked it all in and when I got home it had to come out. Some of my best friends got it.”
    Roth’s voice faltered.
    “My brother was killed in Italy.”
    Donald Roth lost his life in December 1944, according to a telegram his parents received the day after Christmas that year.
    “The last letter I got from him said ‘I’m more worried about you than I am about myself.’ He was in artillery and was behind the lines a little.”
    But, an enemy shell found him there.
    “I got mail from my folks telling me he was killed. It was a long time ago. Seems like yesterday.”