Appleton, Wis. (WFRV) – Imagine celebrating your 21st birthday registering for the draft and joining the army; That’s what 99-year-old Lloyd Ellefson did in 1942.
“We didn’t really celebrate birthdays back then, not too much,” Ellefson said.
He knew his life was going to change.
“That’s the only thing that was behind your mind, you couldn’t plan your life anymore,” he said.
Ellefson never could have imagined, how the whistle of the train sounded that day; His first time leaving his family farm in Appleton to a destination unknown, in the middle of World War II.
“It was my first time leaving Appleton,” he recalls. “I think tears came to my eyes, because I knew I was going to leave (my family) and I didn’t know for how long, that’s a little bit touchy,” said Ellefson.
Ellefson was off to Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where he trained to be an auto mechanic with the 93rd Armored Field Artillery.
Then the call finally came; Ellefson was shipping overseas to fight in the Second World War.
First to Naples, Italy.
“The first night we landed in Italy, we got bombed by the German Air Force. And, that was a wake-up call that it was real,” Ellefson said.
It wasn’t all firefights for Ellifson and his outfit, though.
He saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the excavation of Pompeii, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
But perhaps his greatest memory of his time fighting in World War II — the Invasion of Southern France.
“We were there just a little early, and I remember looking across that Bay, and it was so peaceful, all the ships were out there. And then all of the sudden at 6 o’clock, everything broke loose,” Ellefson recalled.
Ellefson was the only mechanic of his outfit sent to the invasion.
It earned him and his battalion the Bronze Arrowhead.
“That was kind of a highlight day of my life too, yeah,” Ellefson said.
For Ellefson, it’s not about the memorabilia, it’s about the memories which is why he holds on to a book detailing the history of his battalion, it’s one of his most prized possessions.
“I sit here sometimes with not much else to think about,” Ellefson said. “I take the book down and read it over pretty much, it’s something material that I can have and put my hands on, just to relay on my memory.”
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