Gerald Myers - US Army Veteran - WWII - Lakeland, FL
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Gerald Virgil Myers
- Born: July 6, 1918 in Oregon, Missouri
- Passed Away: March 10, 2013 in Lakeland, FL
- Oak Grove, Missouri – High School Diploma – 1934 to 1937
- LaFayette High School – Set Andrew County record in Track – High Hurdles
- Oak Grove High School – Set High School records as a varsity star athlete in Basketball
- He was employed at Quaker Oats in St. Joseph, MO as a company supervisor of the cereals that were being sold to the government. Late 1930’s to 1944
- Ft Leavenworth, Kansas – Induction into US Army – May 4, 1944
Fort Hood, Texas – After 12 weeks of basic infantry training, stateside, he entered the European Theater Honorable Discharge – January 14, 1946
- After his discharge from the Army, Myers returned to work at Quaker Oats Co. in St. Joseph, MO.
- He attended night school and graduated from the Johnson Business College with a business degree.
PROFESSIONAL AND EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
Gerald “Virgil” Myers was employed at Quaker Oats in St. Joseph, MO as a company supervisor of the cereals that were being sold to the government. Late 1930’s to 1944, He joined the US Army on May 4, 1944 in Ft Leavenworth, Kansas
After 12 weeks of basic infantry training in Fort Hood, Texas, he was then shipped overseas to the European Theater, to be part of the landing at Omaha Beach.
Myers was assigned to the 80th Infantry Division. In the next 45 days, due to heavy casualties, he was selected to become the Squad Leader of a Mortar Section and promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He was in the following: the Moselle River Crossing, the liberation of the cities of France: Sainte-Genevieve, Morre, Sivry, Saint-Jean, Saint Avoid, Farebersviller and freed 200 Polish prisoners in Pont-a-Mousson.
Myers then went to Ettelbruck and Heiderscheid, Luxembourg to engage in the Battle of the Bulge, involved in vicious fighting every day, 24 hours a day. During the Bulge, 83,000 soldiers were captured or wounded and 18,000 were killed in a six week period.
Sgt. Myers was 1 of 3 American soldiers that found the Buchenwald Concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. They helped to free 26,000 starving inmates that had been held captive by the German SS.
Then the 80th Div crossed the Rhine River into Germany, where their unit went into the village of Castile. Myers and his men captured 56 Germans in a German artillery camp which had maps of all the placement of guns in the area. He received the Silver Star for that action. The Americans were then able to knock out 19 pieces of heavy artillery without any American casualties.
Honorable Discharge – January 14, 1946
After his discharge from the Army, Myers returned to work at Quaker Oats Co. in St. Joseph, MO. He attended night school and graduated from the Johnson Business College with a business degree.
He became a salesman in the Feed Division of Quaker Oats, maintaining company accounts and gaining new business within the Central Kansas region. He spent his last 23 years as the Regional Sales Manager at the St. Louis, MO regional headquarters. When he retired, he and his wife “Bobbie” moved to Lakeland, Florida.
He served for over 15 years as President of Central Florida Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and also served as “Commander” of the Florida Chapter of 80th Division Veterans Association, he was a Lifetime member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and a member of the Polk County Veterans Association.
He loved being with family and friends. He and his wife “Bobbie” were both avid golfers and embarked on extensive international travel. They traveled to every European country.
Myers will be remembered as a loving husband, father, and grandpa, and a great friend to many veterans and civilians. He is survived by his two children, Ronna Jean Myers Hayward (husband, Robert), Gary Lee Myers (wife, Sheryl), 6 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and 20 great, great, grandchildren.
ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF VETERANS:
GERALD VIRGIL MYERS LUXEMBOURG – Founder – US FRIENDS OF LUXEMBOURG and “FRIENDSHIP WEEK”
Comment by: Gilles Kintzele, Mayor ofEsch-sur-Sure, Luxembourg – March 29,2013
The people of Luxembourg will always be grateful to the US Veterans for their sacrifices during WWII. The people of Luxembourg will always remember Virgil Myers in his efforts to uphold the memory of these events. In our Christmas 2005 event, he distributed the same chocolate to our local children, that he did almost 60 years ago to their grandparents. Our children will never forget him, nor will they forget what he taught them, that today’s freedom must never be taken for granted and must always be protected.
Comment by: Captain Mark D. Anderson, USN – March 13th, 2013:
Virgil, you had a lot to share about your experiences in WWII. Your mind was so sharp and your ability to recall the specifics of battles and battlefields was a tremendous help to those of us trying to document the experiences of you and your brothers in arms. Thank you, dear friend for preserving American history.
80th INFANTRY DIVISION – Commander of the FLORIDA CHAPTER
Virgil received an Honorary Commission as a Full Colonel in the 80th Infantry Division in 2002 by Major General Douglas O. Dollar commanding General of the 80th Division, for his many accomplishments.
Comment by: Roger H Nelson – 80th Division Veterans Association – March 14th, 2013:
Through the 80th Division Veterans Association and trips to Luxembourg, I became close friends with Virgil Myers. He was an outstanding example (the consummate American Veteran) who appreciated the countries he fought to liberate 68 years ago. He not only fought there, he returned with his family on many occasions to participate in the annual celebrations. He also encouraged us younger Americans to learn how the citizens of Luxembourg and Belgium appreciate the Liberty which the US returned to them.
POLK COUNTY VETERANS COUNCIL – Member
Comment by: Mike Mason, Advisor, Polk County Veterans Council – May 14,2015
The term “Greatest Generation” is synonymous with Sgt. Myers. Virgil’s love of life and love of country was contagious to all that had the pleasure of his company.
Comment by: Gary Clark, Chairman, Polk County Veterans Council – March 11,2013
“He is representative of the veterans of World War II who did their duty and returned home and who we will never be able to repay.”
THE MILITARY ORDER OF THE PURPLE HEART – Lifetime Member
Comment by: Commander, Mike Mason – May 14,2015
There is not another Veteran of any conflict that has had the effect on me that Mr. Virgil Myers has. Virgil lived his life in service to others and he impressed that desire upon me. I am the Supervisor of Polk County Veteran Services because Virgil suggested that I might want to help Veterans with their VA benefits. He was right.
VETERANS OF THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE (VBOB) – Founder & President, Chapter 32 Virgil founded VBOB Chapter 32 as a nonprofit organization with tax exempt status and was president from 1998 until his passing in 2013. The meetings were informative, enjoyable and gave the WWII veterans of Central Florida a meeting format where they came together. Virgil literally prepared and ran all meetings and never expected anyone else to help. It has been said that he gave up his beloved golfing because, “he had more important matters to attend to”. He operated the VBOB chapter as a labor of love for his fellow veterans, friends, associates, speakers and all additional folks who attended the meetings. Without fail, Virgil began each meeting with a moment of silence for all veterans who never returned home. He represented the VBOB’s with honor and dignity, with respect and kindness, always on a mission to gather information about WWII to share with everyone.
LAKELAND HONOR FLIGHT – Founder
Polk County and Central Florida veterans began taking their Honor Flights from Lakeland Linder Airport due to Virgil’s tireless efforts to have all Polk County WWII veterans to “not be on a long waiting list”. It was because of his inspiration and determination that our WWII veterans are now able to fly from our local airport to be honored and see their memorials in Washington DC. Thank you Virgil, for yet another, act of kindness and forthright insight to begin a program that honors all of our local WWII veterans.
CIVIC ACTIVITIES AND CONTRIBUTIONS
SCHOOLS AND CIVIC GROUPS – Speaking engagements about WWII
Virgil Myer’s teaching Program: “A Special Educational Service to Students of American History”
Virgil and a few of our WWII veterans taught WWII history classes in schools and civic organizations. They shared stories about WWII from veterans who lived through the war and experienced it in person. Virgil Myers teaching programs were tailored to the curriculum of the schools and brought WWII history alive for the students. Artifacts were shown to the students. The topics of interest were about: Basic Training boot camp, uniforms during boot camp and while in combat, mail service, digging foxholes and finding shelter, survival techniques from enemy fire, fear and emotional reaction, enduring winter weather in combat (in subzero temperatures), crossing big rivers under fire, prisoner of war treatment, living conditions and the horror that was discovered in the concentration death camps.
Public Schools where Myers spoke and taught: George Jenkins HS, Lake Gibson HS, Plant City HS, Auburndale HS, Lakeland HS, Kathleen HS, Lake Region HS, Mulberry HS, Bartow HS, Eagle Lake HS, Lake Ridge HS, Lakeland Highlands Middle School, Lake Gibson Middle School, Sleepy Hill Middle School, Crystal Lake Middle School, Chain of Lakes Elementary, Blake Academy, Jewett School of the Arts, Winter Haven Academy
Comment to the Myers family – March 16th, 2013 – By Charles Hinthorne – History Teacher
You do not need me to tell you that your father was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever met. For 16 years, I taught history at Lake Gibson High School. On at least three occasions, my colleague, Susan Rudd, arranged to have your father come to speak about his experiences in World War II. Patiently, he gathered some of his memorabila and spent as much time in her classroom teaching the intracacies of World War II to youngsters who had very little insight into the individual soldierVs experiences during the war. He was informative, patient, and willing to explain the topic again in a different fashion if he sensed the youngsters had not fully understood something the first time. You had a wise, brave and thoughtful man for a father. Thank you for sharing him with us.
Civic Groups – Polk County Election Supervisor, Elks Lodge, Polk County Veteran’s Council, Kiwanis Club, 80th Division Monument Dedication, Veteran’s Day Ceremonies, Rotary Club, Shriner’s Club, United Women’s Club, Polk Board of County Commissioners, Polk County Sheriffs Office, The Military Order of the Purple Heart Usher, Fundraiser and Teacher – At the following churches: Santa Fe Catholic High School, All Saints Academy and Resurrection Catholic Church.
AWARDS AND HONORS WWII – Military Medals
Awarded the Silver Star
Sergeant Myers was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action while serving in WWII with Company G, 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division, in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States on 28 March 1945 in Germany. Deep in hostile territory, Sergeant Myers courageously charged and destroyed a hostile pillbox. Continuing with his voluntary patrol, he engaged a numerically superior force in a fierce fire fight, captured fifty- six prisoners, and obtained the enemy’s defense plans for Kassel, Germany. Sergeant Myers’ initiative and aggressiveness were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.
- The Silver Star
- 2 Bronze Star Medals
- The Good Conduct Medal The Victory Medal WWII
- 1 Purple Heart
- 2 Overseas Bars
- The Infantry Combat Badge
- 3 Bronze Campaign Stars
POST WWII – Honors, Awards and Citations:
- Congressional Record – Honored by the House of Representatives Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite – Honoring Gerald Virgil Myers – May, 19 , 2010
- Rep. Dennis Ross – Honoring Gerald Virgil Myers – March 14 , 2013
- Honorary Commission as a full Colonel in the 80th Infantry Division – 2002 By Major General Douglas Dollar commanding General of the 80th Division
- Honorary Citizen of France by the Govt, of France – June 2006
- The Legion of Honor Medal from the Government of France
- Honorary Citizen by the Government of Luxembourg – June 2005
- Honorary Guard of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
- The Medal of Honor from the Luxembourg Government
- The George S Patton Medal from the People ofEttelbruck Luxembourg
- Featured in Book: “Our Heros, The story of Polk’s WWII Veterans” – Bill Rufty – 2011 Myers was one of the featured WWII veterans in this book that is sold internationally
- German Holocaust Committee of Weimar – 65th anniversary of Buchenwald – 2010
- Myers was an honored guest for liberating prisoners of Buchenwald Concentration Camp
- Thuringia International School, Weimar, Luxembourg – Honored guest and instructor – 2010
- City of Lakeland, FL – Photos honoring Sgt. Myers and other WWII veterans on our “WWII Veterans of Polk County” city transit bus
- Honored by United States House of Representatives – Congressional Record Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite Honoring Gerald Virgil Myers May, 19th, 2010
- “Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor Gerald Virgil Myers who, on July 6 of this year, will celebrate his 92nd birthday. Mr. Myers is a dedicated father, grandfather and veteran. Today, we celebrate his life, career and this momentous occasion. Gerald Virgil Myers is part of our “Greatest Generation”; he served our country honorably in World War II earning both the silver and bronze stars for his service, as well as the Purple Heart. He served in the 80th infantry division, which was responsible for discovering and liberating the Buchenwald concentration camp. He recently returned to Germany to attend the 65th anniversary celebration honoring this occasion. He returns to Luxembourg annually to participate in the festivities marking the end of the conflict. Mr. Myers has even been named an honorary citizen of Luxembourg. In his post military career, Mr. Myers made a living as a sales manager for Quaker Oats and Allied Feeds. He retired to Lakeland, Florida where his son, Gary and daughter, Ronna live close by. He is a grandfather to literally dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren; most of whom live nearby as well. In his spare time, he does his part to keep our Nation’s history alive. He frequently visits local school groups and shares with them stories of his service to our country. He also enjoys crafting his own stained glass. Madam Speaker, please join me in congratulating Mr. Myers on the occasion of his 92nd birthday and thanking him for his dedicated service to our great Nation. ”
Rep. Dennis Ross
Honoring Gerald Virgil Myers March 14, 2013
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor a good friend and an American hero, Gerald Virgil Myers. Virgil passed away on Sunday, March 10, at 94 years old. He served our country in the Army during WWII, having fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Three American G.I.S discovered the Buchenwald Concentration camp from entering the west gate; Virgil was one of them. At the time when he entered there were 26,000 inmates in the camp. He earned many honors including the Silver Star medal, the Bronze Star medal with Valor, the Purple Heart medal, the Infantry Combat Badge medal, the Good Conduct medal, the Victory Medal WWII, received the Medal of Honor from Luxembourg Government, the Mairie Medal by French Government, was declared an Honorary Citizen of Luxembourg in 2004, and an Honorary Citizen of France in 2005. When he returned home from the war in January 1946, he was discharged from the Army. He went back to work for Quaker Oats Co. in Kansas and attended night classes at Johnson Business College. Virgil and his wife, Emma “Bobbie” Tracy Myers, retired to Lakeland, Fla. Bobbie and Virgil had celebrated their 70th anniversary before Bobbie’s passing. He loved golfing and traveling and was very involved in the community, as a member of the Polk Co. Veterans Association and a President of Central Florida Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge. We in central Florida and all across America owe a debt of gratitude to this great man and his service to our country and community. ”
CONSIDERATION REQUEST OF NOMINATION
For Gerald Virgil Myers in the FLORIDA VETERANS HALL OF FAME
Mike “Doc” Mason – US Army Combat Medic, Bronze Star for Valor, Purple Heart, Vietnam, Commander Ch. 535 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, District Director of Florida Veterans Foundation, Senior Vice President of the CVSOA of Florida:
I nominate Sgt. Gerald Virgil Myers for the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame. Virgil was a leader in wartime and peace. He never concentrated on the things he couldn’t control but he made each one of us better Americans. His leadership beyond the military is nothing, if not amazing. His passing last year devastated friends around the world. He is truly missed by all that knew and loved him. The Florida Veterans Hall of Fame would be extremely honored to hold the memory of Sgt. Gerald Virgil Myers.
VBOB member recommendations for Myer’s nomination – Florida Veterans Hall of Fame:
Robert “Bob” Bitz – US Army – WWII, Battle of the Bulge Veteran, VBOB member
I nominate Sgt. Gerald Virgil Myers for the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame. Sgt. Myers undertook the most severe tests that one can be called upon to perform. His Military records speak volumes for his courage and discipline. His conduct was above and beyond the call of duty. When speaking of his medals his response was “I was just doing my job”. His civilian recognition by Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite and Rep. Dennis Ross is a credit to this. Virgil was our dear friend and a fellow member of “The Greatest Generation”. Duty! Honor! Country!
Edward Woodson – US Army, 101st Airborne – WWII, Battle of the Bulge, VBOB member
I nominate my dear friend, Virgil Myers, for the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame. The first time I ever met Virgil, he wanted to know all about my experience in the 101st Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge. You see, Virgil knew and appreciated that it took a group effort of all military forces to win WWII. He wanted to get as much on record and make sure that every effort was appreciated. Virgil started going to Luxembourg and became instrumental in forming what became “US Veteran Friends of Luxembourg”, and then he organized yearly events which became “Friendship Week”. Virgil and 1 traveled to Luxembourg together many times. We taught classes to share our WWII experiences with students of history in Luxembourg and the US. American sacrifices for freedom, must never be forgotten.
Donna Renfroe, Hall Radio reporter/feature producer, WWII Film Program, VBOB member
I recommend Virgil Myers for the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame because of his proven leadership in military, family and statewide veteran groups. As the president of our local Battle of the Bulge, Virgil was an inspiration to our members, speakers and created meaningful programs. He encouraged everyone to travel to Luxembourg to enjoy the celebration of freedom with people of this great county. He helped to start the US Veterans Friends of Luxembourg (USVF Lux) over 20 years ago. He also initiated plans for the first Honor Flight out of Lakeland, FL for WWII veterans to travel to Washington, D.C.
Treasa Towson, Business owner, WWII Film Documentary program, VBOB member
I nominate my dear friend Gerald Virgil Myers for the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame. Virgil was a kind and gentle soul who tirelessly gave back to our veterans and community by sharing his experience during WWII. He inspired others to share their stories, he worked in leadership roles in many organizations and every step of the way, Virgil made sure that veterans were honored. He was a gentleman who treated everyone with respect and kindness. Virgil spoke at several of our Lakeshore Neighborhood Association meetings and received many standing ovations from the families in attendance. We loved his stories, he captivated our audience, and our neighborhood kids learned about the true cost of freedom. His energy was endless and his message was priceless. Please let us honor Virgil Myers, one more time, by accepting our nomination of Gerald Virgil Myers into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame.
Command Sergeant Major, Doris Wollett (Ret) US Army, Commander of the 80th Division Veterans Association: Her recommendation for Gerald Virgil Myer’s nomination into the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame:
CSM Doris Wollett, 317th, US Army (Ret), 80th Div, 80th Div Veterans Association
I nominate SGT Gerald Virgil Myers for the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame. I became very close friends, like family, with Virgil several years ago on a trip to Luxembourg. We just seemed to click. I am honored to have served in the same Regiment as did Virgil, 317th. He was in Company G and I at the Headquarters, though many, many, years apart. Virgil was a walking history book when it came to his time served in the military and especially during the Battle of the Bulge and Luxembourg. I never saw anyone who grew tired of listening to him. We all left with a better understanding of what the Soldiers went through during their time fighting the war. Virgil was always working on ways to honor fellow Veterans and with his natural leadership saw to it that fellow Veterans were honored and given the respect they deserved. He was instrumental in many Veterans being honored by the French Government and receiving the French Legion of Honor. He also was the main contact for Veterans and their Families to travel to Luxembourg yearly during Friendship Week. Virgil was invited and accepted to speak at the 80th Divisions Senior Leaders Conference as well as the New Commanders and Command Sergeants Major Workshop. While I served in Iraq, Virgil kept in contact with me and helped me maintain a positive attitude. America is a better country because of Soldiers like Virgil and he deserves to be honored with the highest and utmost dignity.
Virgil guest speaker at the dedication ceremony to the 80th Division for their part in helping save their city
CEORGE S. PATTON
Helen Patton (General Pattons’ Daughter)
A personal friend of Helens, Virgil stands with her at gravesite memorial in the Hamm Cemetary in Lux LUXEMBOURG
Virgil Myers & Rabbi Kane (bottom left)
Kane, a survivor of Buchenwald Camp, remembered Virgil when they were saved from SS during WWII.
Virgil Myers & Ed Woodson
At Ettlebrook High School in Lux, teaching students about their experiences during the Battle of the Bulge
To the US Veterans Friends of Luxembourg:
We, the surviving Veterans of WW II, Battle of the Bulge, do hereby acknowledge your gracious gifts of honor and love over these many years. America’s freedom was at risk while your freedom had already been compromised. For a people deprived of freedom by a despot and the long awaited return of that freedom, your God-given right, your actions speak loudly and clearly that you are a people worthy of our sacrifices. Our mission as “Facilitators of Freedom” has been rewarded three-fold and more.
First: by your tears of joy and expressions of love as we passed through your fields, villages and cities.
Second: by your voluntarily accepting the perpetual care of our buddies, entrusted to you by families thousands of miles away. Your tender loving care of their final resting places and grave markers, the placement of floral tributes and the many statues and markers honoring significant events in your lives and ours, have established a bond of appreciation and good will between the people of Luxembourg and the people of America.
Third: by your standing invitations, especially your Annual Celebration of Freedom, with our Veterans and companions as your guests, you show the sincerity of a people grateful for a freedom we Americans take for granted.
Therefore, on this, the 65th Anniversary of Luxembourg’s Freedom, let us here and now, by this Proclamation, ordain that a Day of Remembrance be established to Honor our two Nations, as we join hands “Across the Sea” in a solemn tribute to that Freedom. We would ask that our future generations remember on this day each year, June 23rd, the Freedom we both enjoy.
As we surviving Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge and, as President of Chapter #32; an Ambassador of Good Will and Citizen of the United States, I do hereby declare our support and love to the people of Luxembourg. May we live in peace and freedom forever. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Acceptance “Let Freedom Ring” Proclamation
US Veterans Friends of Lux Conference, President Gaergen and VP Otten-Haag at Ettelbrock, Lux “No other country has honored them like this”
£et Steedum Sling.!
Gerald Virgil Myers, President
Chesterfield County, Virginia • Your Community Newspaper Since 1995
WWII heros share their war stories
By Rich Griset—CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Retired Sgt. Gerald V. Myers reunited with others from World War Il’s 80th Infantry Division last week.
Page Dowdy—Chesterfield Observer
Their bonds were forged in war. Their brotherhood knows no rival. The actions of World War Il’s 80th Infantry Division are the stuff you read about in history books, and last week they held their annual reunion at the Sheraton on Midlothian Turn pike.
Dr. Lee Anthony of Salem was in charge of this year’s event. Though not a former member of the 80th himself, Anthony’s father fought in the 80th during World War I and was wounded in France. Where’s the story?
“They are the people who kept our nation free,” Anthony said.
Bill Futch, a Chesterfield resident who fought in Korea, became involved with the 80th through his brother Archer. Futch was a kid during World War II, and remembers when his brother went off to war.
“I keep an interest in the infantry. This is the third [function] I’ve been to,” Futch said. “These people are the greatest generation.”
Retired Sgt. Gerald V. Myers was one member of that generation in attendance.
Originally hailing from St. Joseph, Mo., Myers’ name came up for the draft three times before he finally went. He worked for Quaker Oats, and was deferred twice because he was needed for food production. After his name came up a third time, he decided to go. “You can say it’s stupid, but I had a guilty conscience,” said the 93-year-old.
After 12 weeks of basic training at Fort Hood, Texas, Myers was sent to Europe. Four months after D-Day, Myers entered France at Omaha Beach. He was assigned to the 317th Regiment of the 80th Division, and helped liberate a Polish work camp on his first day of combat. It was that day he saw his first casualty. One of the men he had travelled with from Omaha Beach lost the top of his head from shrapnel. Medics were working on the man, trying to save him. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” Myers said. “We were so naive and dumb.”
One of the earliest places he saw combat was in Sivry, France. After night fell, German forces on two mountains above the deserted village opened fire. “They fired all night long,” Myers said. “They kept firing until every house in that village was flattened to the ground.” According to Myers, 169 American troops entered the village. When they pulled out 24 hours later, they only numbered 38. Myers’ battalion pushed for two months against the Germans, only gaining 35 miles. His battalion lost 365 men and 143 tanks.
On Dec. 5, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant after seeing barely more than two months of combat. “If you lived long enough, you were bound to make sergeant. It wasn’t talent,” he said.
He soon found himself in Luxembourg for the Battle of the Bulge, the longest and bloodiest warfare the American troops saw the entire conflict. The battle began Dec. 16,1944, and ended Jan. 28,1945. “That was the beginning of the end of the Germans,” Myers said.
On March 26,1945, Myers crossed the Rhine River in a wooden boat with 12 other soldiers. The river was raging 16 feet above normal because of the spring thaw. German forces on the opposite shore fired upon the American troops using 20mm anti-aircraft. “Two men in our boat got killed, and our platoon leader got hit,” Myers said.
After crossing the Rhine, Myers ended up in Kassel, Germany. His group came across five large German barracks that had been abandoned – or so they thought. While sweeping the barracks, Myers found a man hiding in the back of the room. He ordered the man out in German. “I was damn nervous. They just kept coming out,” Myers recalls. “I captured 56 Germans. That’s how I got my silver star.” Along with Myers’ discovery, there was another surprise in the barracks: documents marking the locations of 22 anti-aircraft placements across Germany.
Myers will never forget what he saw while he was in Weimar. “We saw these guys in these black and white striped pajamas. Nobody knew where they came from.” These people were dazed and roaming around in search of food. Eventually, Myers and a few other troops realized the people were coming down from a nearby hill. The troops took a jeep up the hill to investigate, and were astonished by what they found. “We saw hundreds of people leaning against this fence.” One of them spoke English. “He said, ‘This is Buchenwald concentration camp.’”
Though portions of the camp had been liberated shortly before Myers got there, Allied troops hadn’t reached this portion yet. “We were some of the first ones there.” The prisoners had been left by fleeing Nazis, and some had gotten through the fence on their own. The troops fed them and gave them the best medical attention they could. A group of ex-prisoners had broken into the armory and were pursing the Nazis.
Last year, Myers and others were invited back to Buchenwald, including 138 former prisoners. Myers reunited with a man who was a kid when he helped free him. The man is now a rabbi in San Diego.
“We hugged and cried,” Myers said.
Liberation of BUCHENWALD
Lakeland Man to Help Celebrate Death Camp Liberation Anniversary
Virgil Myers, 91, will participate in events for town and prison’s freedom.
By Bill Ruftv—THE LEDGER—Published: Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 8:14p.m.
Sgt. Virgil Myers and his first sergeant were having trouble getting questions answered from the townspeople in Weimar, Germany. The two soldiers were members of the 80th Division, Company G, 317th Infantry, and they wanted to know about the emaciated men in striped uniforms wandering about the town, speaking neither German nor English.
The 317th had recently finished a brutal battle in Erfurt, and now, April 12,1945, they were in Weimar to help police the area. The city’s leaders had surrendered days earlier to the 319th Regiment, hoping to keep three museums dating to medieval times from being destroyed.
“The captain told me and Percy Smith, who was from Jacksonville, to go find out. Percy spoke some German,” Myers said. “We couldn’t get any thing out of the adults, but we saw some kids on the road and they pointed to just up over the hill.”
Two miles out of town, the two men found what they later would learn was Buchenwald concentration camp. The townspeople did know. Myers, 91, leaves Wednesday with his son, Gary Lee Myers, to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the camp being freed.
Virgil Myers, 91, a World War II veteran who served with Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army, will travel to Weimar, Germany, this week to attend events marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the city and the Buchenwald concentration camp.
They will be guests of the German Holocaust Committee of Weimar and the senior Myers is scheduled to speak to high school students and to sit for a question-and-answer period at a nearby college.
Buchenwald concentration camp was one of the largest on German soil, with 130 satellite camps and extension units. The name “Buchenwald” was given to the camp by Heinrich Himmler on July 28,1937.
Myers said the sight from the top of the hill will never be forgotten. He and Smith saw several barrack-like huts. There were bodies laid out in front of some, and men walking in a dazed manner. “You can’t believe the sight,” Myers said. “It was like nothing I had ever seen in all those months of combat. Everywhere were bodies and emaciated people. Two men were washing and I looked and all you could see was skin stretched over bones. “It was horrible. We went to the barracks and there were bodies stacked out in front,” he said. Smith found a Lithuanian man who could speak English. He explained it was a labor camp and the guards had fled the night before. “We stayed 20 minutes then went back to the captain. He called division. We weren’t the only ones to discover Buchenwald,” Myers said. “The camp was so vast that other units had found it on the other side. There were still about 26,000 people alive in the section where we were when we found it.”
The 6th Armored Division had reached the other side April 11, after a Polish engineer, a prisoner since 1941, contacted the 3rd Army asking for help from a radio he had made, according to histories of the event. Everywhere units were discovering sub camps of Buchenwald, which in German is “beech forest.” Although a forced labor camp and not a designated “death camp,” Myer said there were four crematoriums on the site.
“We were there 3 1/2 days. My squad spent most of the time picking up prisoners just wandering aimlessly trying to find some thing to eat. We had to take them back (to the camp) so they could receive food and medicine, but it was hard for them (the prisoners),” he said. A few days later, the soldiers were back in battle.
The 80th Division spent 289 days in combat and many historians have tried to determine what has become an almost accepted fact: the last shots of the war were fired by the soldiers of the 80th. The unit was fighting May 8 in Czechoslovakia when Gen. George Patton, commander of the 3rd Army to which the 80th was assigned, issued the cease-fire order at 8 a.m.
The 80th Division had been through a lot in the war. It had been in the Battle of the Bulge and then had to fight through German cities in ferocious urban combat, but the discovery of Buchenwald left its own kind of scars, Myers said.
Last summer, Myers’ wife of 70 years died. So, he said, he has to keep busy. Although he will turn 92 in June, he is president of the Central Florida Chapter of the Battle of the Bulge Veterans and president of the 80th Infantry Division Veterans of Florida. “You have to keep going. And keeping history alive is very important to me,” he said.
And what does Myers say to people who say the Holocaust never happened?
“I’d say, ‘Listen, you don’t have nightmares and you don’t wake up thinking about people who didn’t exist. I have those night mares,”‘ he said.
“You could see the blank stares in their eyes; they had nothing because they had no hope. That changes you. When you see some thing like that, you have to tell about it. People have to know it was certainly real,” Myers said.