Veteran publishes memoirs from World War II
By Jeremiah Tucker, Sauk Prairie Eagle
Bill Wenzel remembers the years he served in World War II as one of the best times of his life.
"I enjoyed it," Wenzel said. "I liked everything about it except getting shot at."
Wenzel's fondness for that time comes through in his new memoir "A Time to Remember: A Combat Medic Looks Back." At times the self-published book reads like a college student recalling his marvelous year abroad - all be it in war-time Europe.
He recounts his time living with a German family who operated a small inn in the idyllic village of Hadamar in the chapter "Living With the Enemy."
Hunting with the men, and living like another member of the family was Wenzel's favorite part of his time in the war, but he doesn't shy away from the bad times, either.
He witnessed the carnage of the Battle of the Bulge, and suffered the almost banal miseries of soldier life.
In one passage he describes his Christmas Eve 1944 in a small Belgian village so close to the front he could see the night sky red with artillery fire.
I lay shivering in the pasture that night, feeling the snow melt as it hit my face. I was thirsty and I licked my lips to get a little of it. I covered my face as best I could with my helmet and tried to doze off but the sound of exploding shells made sleep all but impossible even though I was dog tired. My hands were cold and my feet were soaking wet. Trickles of ice cold water soaked into my shirt collar. I had two pairs of socks on but the leather combat boots we'd been issued weren't waterproof and my feet were wet.
Shortly after that miserable night Wenzel tells stories of being fired upon by a German SS tank and having his helmet shot off by the flying shrapnel; of a platoon sergeant suffering psychosomatic blindness from the horrors he'd witnessed; and his injury in a horrific German artillery attack.
While Wenzel saw some gruesome violence in the war, he writes about it like a man who hasn't dwelled on it - either then or in the years since. �
Sitting in his kitchen nearly 63 years after the war, Wenzel said during his time at the front, he focused on his job. �
"I didn't have any overwhelming fear," Wenzel said. "You either die or you don't. I saw a lot of people dying, and you get hardened to it."
Bill Wenzel, Jr. said what's interesting about his dad's account of the war is that it's told from the perspective of an ordinary man.
"It's just the pure and unvarnished truth," Wenzel Jr. said.
Wenzel said he decided to write down his recollections of his time in the war after all these years at the urging of his sons.
"It was something the boys said I should put down in print - my experiences, thoughts and impressions," Wenzel said.
Wenzel, Jr. said his father's ancestors were part of the Prussian army, and his mother had relatives who marched in Napoleon's army all the way to Russia, but no relatives wrote down their experiences for posterity: "I said don't end up like that, pa."
Wenzel's heritage is German. He grew up in Menomonee Falls speaking the German language.
Wenzel, Jr. said he thinks the reason his father became a medic in the war was because his relatives didn't want him killing Germans.
Wenzel said his heritage didn't present any problems in the war with his fellow soldiers, and he had no reservations about serving his country.
"We knew what Hitler was like," Wenzel said.
World War II book is available Nov. 20
• A copy of "A Time to Remember: A Combat Medic Looks Back" will be available at the Sauk City and Prairie du Sac libraries beginning Nov. 20.
• Anyone can purchase a copy by writing a check for $22 to Eagle Cove Press and mailing it to Dr. Wenzel at 675 Grand Ave. Prairie du Sac, WI 53578�