More than 65 years later, war veterans receive diplomas

PAT FRIDGEN
Robert Goetz, with his wife Betty, holds a model of a Martin Mariner patrol bomber. The plane is a replica of those he worked with during World War II.

Eugene "Gene" Angle and Robert Allen "Addie" Goetz never walked across the stage for high school commencement. They were busy at the time.

Angle, now 86, was already a seasoned soldier, defending the United States when his Greencastle High School classmates received their diplomas in 1942.

Goetz, now 83, was a new sailor in the middle of training when his friends donned cap and gown with the Class of 1944.

Today they are able to claim alumni status with all other Greencastle graduates, as they have been awarded diplomas through Pennsylvania's legislative mandate "Operation Recognition".

Act 73 of 2001 authorizes school boards to grant a diploma to any honorably discharged veteran who served in the United States military during World War II between Sept. 16, 1940 and Dec. 31, 1946. The Greencastle-Antrim School District school board did just that on May 6. It will include the presentation of the diplomas during the high school awards program on May 20. Angle is unable to attend, but Goetz plans to be there.

Call to duty

Angle left school during his junior year. He enlisted Dec. 16, 1940 with Chambersburg Troop E 104 Cavalry Pennsylvania National Guard. A good student and soccer player, he felt compelled to serve his country at a young age. He spent that Christmas and New Year's with his family, and in January accompanied his activated unit, Battery E 166th Field Artillery, to Camp Shelby in Mississippi. The company name changed to Battery B 939th, and Angle remained with it for the duration of the war. Most of the time his duty was as headquarters communications lineman.

By the time of his discharge on Sept. 14, 1945, Angle had traveled extensively, to Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy, France and Germany. He saw over a year and a half of continuous combat. His unit was awarded five campaign stars and Angle received the French Croix de Guerre.

He then worked for 41 years for the Western Maryland Railroad as a freight train conductor. He and his wife Karen, whom he married on a weekend pass, celebrated 67 years of marriage on Sept. 7 from their Hagerstown, Md. home.

They have one son, Lawrence, and two grandsons, Lawrence II and Peter.

An avid reader, Angle is giving the Allison-Antrim Museum a copy of his war diaries. They detail major movements of the war and his everyday life. He wrote in the diary daily, even through combat, beginning with deployment from Camp Gordon, Georgia when he was 19 years old, through his experiences in Africa and Europe.

Goetz quit school when he was 17, in January of his senior year. He was influenced by the actions of other young men doing the same thing. Though his parents tried to dissuade him, he went to the recruiting office in Hagerstown and signed up. In Baltimore for the swearing in, a lieutenant administered the oath and then told the hundreds of recruits, "'You're in the Navy now so sit down and shut up.' I'll never forget that," recalled Goetz.

They immediately went to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois. The first night he heard lots of sniffling in the barracks, and he was ovewhelmed with homesickness as well. Obviously aware of the situation, an official roused everyone at midnight and made them clean the facility top to bottom. Back in bed at 3 a.m., they slept the rest of the night.

Goetz' memories of Training Company 175 the next seven weeks are not fond. It was cold and snowy. He found some redemption as the crew went to Norfolk, Va. to receive their assignments. Half went to California. Goetz was in the other half. They went to the Caribbean.

As a member of Fleet Post Office 117 in Trinidad, he was primarily a member of the armament crew, loading bombs, machine guns and depth charges onto planes. The Seaman First was discharged May 3, 1946.

His career of over 41 years was at Letterkenny. He retired as a general foreman.

He and his wife Betty also married in 1942 and reside at 39 S. Allison St. They have two sons, Robert and Patrick, one grandson Robert, and triplet great-grandsons.

The graduates

Even after all these years, receiving a diploma in recognition of their interrupted education is meaningful to the veterans.

The document in hand, Angle said, "This is nice. This is very nice."

Goetz concurred. "It's nice to have. It completes a phase of my life."

Eugene and Karen Angle married when he had a short leave from the Army. He spent a year and a half in combat during World War II.