In April of 1943, at the age of 18 my father, Franklin Thomas Wike, left his job as a soda jerk at a local drug store in Lebanon, PA and joined the Army. I have no idea what his expectations or fears were the day he was inducted into the Army, but the price he would pay, for our freedom would have a major effect on his life, as well as the lives of many others.
As I was growing up, I never had the chance to spend time with my father or listen to any stories about his life during the war, so the following is a result of information obtained from his service record and his brothers SSGT William Wike, who is a WW II vet also and retired from the Army after serving 20 years, and SGT Harvey Wike, who retired from the Army after serving 24 years.
He went to Fort Knox, KY for his Armor Basic Training, then was sent to Fort Meade, MD . After that, he went to N.J. and eventually was shipped out to England. He ended up serving with Patton in his 3rd Army, 10th Armored Division as part of the Tank Destroyers Unit. This was a special unit that was created during WW II and was disbanded as soon as the war was over, because it was too dangerous. Their goal was to use "half tracks" to seek out enemy tanks and destroy them. The half track was used because it had a greater speed then the tanks, however it offered very little in the way of protection if a tank tried to attack it.
In June of 1944 he was fighting in Northern France. Once that campaign was finished he was sent to fight in another battle at Ardennes, Rhineland.
He was assigned as a machine gunner, using a 50 caliber machine gun to defend his group and attack the enemy. During the Battle of the Bulge, while his crew was in Luxembourg, they parked the half-track under a tree and got out to look at a map. As they spread the map our under a tree, an artillery shell hit the half-track. The tree they were under, was also hit by an artillery shell so my father rolled into a near by ditch for safety, but shrapnel or metal from the shell hit him and severed the
muscles that connect the legs to the hips. Another piece of shrapnel also pierced his lungs. His injury was so bad, that all he could do, was lay where he was, in that ditch, all night long.
It was winter time and the cold weather, plus laying in that cold wet ditch actually saved his life. It slowed down the bleeding and numbed the pain enough that he was finally able to crawl to a first aid station, where he received medical attention.
He was eventually shipped back to the USA and was sent to the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, which was being utilized as a military hospital at the time. He remained there for treatment and rehabilitation of his legs. They were never able to remove the shrapnel from his lung, but they did work on his legs.
On October 14, 1945, at the age of 20, he was discharged from the hospital with a 100% disability.
He returned to his parents farm in Fredericksburg, PA wearing leg braces that enabled him to walk. Those braces became a constant reminder, for the remainder his life, of the price he was willing to pay for our freedom.
He eventually died as a result of complications from his injuries, but his legacy and the contribution he made to society will live on as long as his family and their decedents exist.
If you know of anyone that served in WW II and they have any photo's or stories they would be willing to share, please have them write to us at:
P.O. Box 533
Rockport, IN 47635
U S Legacies Magazine 2002