Fred Wible’s Blessed Life
Editor’s Note: The following story is the second in a series about Fulton County veterans who fought in World War II that will be published each week in the “News” through Veterans Day.
“We’ve been blessed,” says New Grenada resident Fred Wible of the life he and wife Dorothy have shared since meeting at church well over 66 years ago.
Growing up in a time where people married young, and often their high school sweethearts, Fred and Dorothy have survived many obstacles together. The unexpected death of their son, Dick, personal illness and even Wible’s stint overseas where he served as an infantryman for the United States Army.
Born in Blair County, Fred actually lived a stone’s throw from the county line in neighboring Huntingdon County when he received a letter from the Army draft board dated March 14, 1945. Recalling details of the letter’s contents, Fred said the standard form letter said his friends and neighbors had chosen him to serve their country.
Referencing that era as a different time when patriotism ran high, Fred said there was no burning of draft cards back then. Doing his duty and knowing the enemy had to be defeated, he and fellow military “pulled together to get it done.”
At age 19, Fred departed Huntingdon County and headed south to Camp Blanding located outside of St. Augustine, Fla. It would be his first and last trip to Florida, but while there he and fellow recruits studied physical fitness as well as the “ordinary things” an infantryman would need in the line of duty.
His travels across the United States would take him to Camp Rucker in Alabama before traveling by train cross-country to Ford Ord, Calif. With newspapers plastered over the train’s windows, the infantrymen were literally kept in the dark about their ultimate destination. Fred, 87, pointed out the secrecy was a means of keeping the enemy out of the loop.
Boarding a ship at Fort Ord, Fred and fellow soldiers were greeted by the tune, “Sentimental Journey.” For their farewell meal, the 7,000 troops aboard were treated to hot dogs and sauerkraut. Ironically, they awoke the next morning to discover they had never left port but the rocking sensation was sufficient that many a solider had trouble keeping down their final supper.
Fred spent nearly 30 days at sea passing away the time playing poker and shooting craps with his shipmates. The Army kept the men up-to-date on the happenings of the war and while aboard the ship they learned about the Japanese surrender, also known as V-J Day, on August 15, 1945. The surrender document wouldn’t be signed until weeks later on September 2.
“We had been scheduled for the invasion of Japan. Thank goodness that didn’t happen, but at that point they didn’t know what to do with us,” stated Fred, who in turn got off the ship in Manila, the capital of the largest Philippine island known as Luzon. With the Allied victory behind them, the infantry was sent to Korea to begin the occupational efforts that also marked the division of North and South Korea. At that time, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to temporarily occupy the country as a trusteeship with the zone of control denoted along what would be known as the 38th parallel.
Of course, as Fred points out, some Japanese soldiers, especially those in the smaller South Pacific islands, were not yet aware of the Allies’ victory. As a result, much caution had to be used as troops searched the Japanese soldier training grounds and supply depots established in Korea. Any Japanese soldiers located were taken down to the lower peninsula, Fred said, placed on a ship and sent home. Meanwhile, the troops took refuge wherever they could set up camp, sometimes in old schoolhouses and at times constructing their own quonset huts.
Fred remained in Korea for a little over a year and for his efforts earned a variety of ribbons and medals, including a Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal and Japanese Clasp, Expert Infantryman Badge, Honorable Service Lapel Button and a Marksman Badge and Rifle Bar. Those mementos, representing a different time and place, are lovingly displayed in a shadow box that also denotes his discharge on December 25, 1946.
Anxiously awaiting him at home was high school sweetheart Dorothy Greenland, who penned a letter every day in Fred’s absence. With troops moving around frequently, Fred said sometimes he would have a stack of letters waiting for his attention. Dorothy said it was difficult to worry when she knew so little of his whereabouts and activities, although she recalls never receiving a letter that had required censoring by the military. He adds without today’s technology and amenities like e-mail and telephones, there was no daily contact and only letters from home to rely on.
The two married on March 29, 1947, only several months after Fred returned home. They would move over the county line in 1959 to their current home on Gracey Road, located in the small village of New Grenada, where they raised their three children, Sharon Boynton, Carol Wible and the late Dick Wible.
The Wibles have truly enjoyed a blessed life not straying far from their northern Fulton County home that holds more than 66 years of memories as well as a majestic, mountainside view from their back porch. A true patriot to this day, Fred says he’s never regretted serving his nation even though it meant being apart from Dorothy and his family and friends.
“It (time in the military) was as good as a college education to us,” he said.