Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
A Dassel view of The Greatest Generation

June 1, 2009

By Lynda Jensen

Memories of simpler times, when Dassel little boys in bib overalls munched on bologna sandwiches – those who would eventually become part of The Greatest Generation – highlighted a speech given by Dr. Roland Dille during the Memorial Day program.

Dille started his speech by remembering the spring of 1930, when the fields turned brown in June during the Great Depression, he said.

The young friends he grew up with were unaware of the crash on Wall Street. Innocent, they led their young lives until the winds of destiny overtook them, sweeping them into World War II.

“Most of us in that class were farm boys and we ate our lunches, jelly or bologna, in our room,” Dille said.

“At noon, we argued about whether Fords or Chevys were better; which had the better funnies, the Journal or Tribune; who had murdered Banker Palmquist.”

Those boys started to grow older, and in seventh grade, read “Current Events,” which recounted the ambitions of Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and a world “full of dark shadows,” Dille said.

At high school graduation in the early 1940s, World War II was in progress, and some Dassel young men ended up as pilots flying over enemy skies.

Of them, Eugene Anderson was shot down over the Pacific, Richard Johnson was shot down over Germany, Bib Haapala and others flew over Europe, and Mr. Heuzel, biology teacher, was called up into the National Guard.

“We were about to become, not just observers of the great world, but citizens of it, with the responsibilities of citizenship.”

“We knew that we were part of something important,” he added.

When he was shot down over Germany, Dick Johnson was captured by angry towns-people, who paraded him through the street with people cursing at him, Dille said. He ended up not being hung in the village square, as he thought, but instead, put in a prisoner of war camp.

Dille alluded to a grave site in the Dassel cemetery, where the program was conducted, belonging to a Dassel man who served as butcher for the town, who kept a cane made from a branch at Gettysburg, where he served. There were also grave sites of Paul Dille and Ed Paul, both who died during World War I.

“I was wondering how to end this,” Dille said in the conclusion of his speech. Then he got a call from his son at the American Embassy in Prague.

The twosome discussed the subject, when his son told him that there was a shrine near a village in Czechoslovakia that featured pieces of a Jeep of the first Americans who reached that village to free them from the Nazis.

None of the American soldiers in the Jeep made it, since the Jeep had been struck by a German shell.

But nearly 65 years later, the villagers still kept the jagged pieces of that Jeep, he said.

“Sometimes, we all know that America has been wrong. But sometimes it has been very, very right. We stand among the graves of those who believed that,” he said.


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