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July 6, 2012

These stories are about the men and women who went to war so that we might be free. This column is dedicated to all our veterans. It will use articles taken from past issues of the OrovilIe Mercury-Register.

I recently received a scrapbook made by Ona Couris. It is full of newspaper clippings dated December 1944 through May of 1945. It begins with letters from her husband, Tom Couris and his friend, David Loehwing. Tom was an Oroville businessman for many years before and after the war Many of those mentioned in these stories came home. But as you will learn, many young Oroville men did not. They gave the ultimate sacrifice.

We are starting in the middle of World War II but in the future we will cover those wars before and after, as the information comes in. I appeal to the people of Oroville, if you have any articles that will help us in our research please contact me at 533-8147. 1 am the co-chairman, along with Bill Connelly, of the Oroville Veterans Memorial Committee. Our plans are to build a fitting memorial and park in Oroville to honor all of our veterans, past and future. Stu-2012 we’ve done a lot.
I have not changed any of the words in these letters. They are as printed in the OrovilIe Mercury-Register

November, 1944.
“I am in a fox hole. What a creation. Hand made, 6 1/2 feet long and about 4 feet wide. 'The top layer of logs taken by maliciously removing the props from a French vineyard at night.”
“On top of this is packed dirt from the hole, and on top of the hole dirt is our shelter half, and on top of this more dirt for camouflage. We are on the forward slope of a hill. Easy meat for German 88 's and mortars, if detected. So we don’t go out of our holes during the day at all.”
“At night we get our next day's rations, water, mail, ammo and what have you. If we move around during; the day, the Heinies shell Hell out of us with 88's, artillery and mortars and we lie there, cussing the guys who moved, and pray. In front of my hole is No Man's Land complete with both American and German mine fields, booby traps, trip flares and all kinds of guards against enemy advance.”

“A 'rest area' is another GI joke. We were led all over No Man's Land by a captain who couldn’t find his way from the Courthouse to the State theatre building and nearly blundered into the enemy lines several times. Finally we bedded down at 2 a.m. and at 8 o'clock they said up and ready to go back into line. What a rest. I'd rather stay in my hole."
"I'm too far front, anyway, for the brass to come and ask if I'm dressed correctly. My buddy is a Greek boy, who went through the German blitz. This war is a picnic to him and he grins all over when the Nazis come into range of our guns. I don’t think we will be bothered with prisoners with him around. The Germans lined up 75 boys in his village of military age and cut them down with machine guns, so Kamarad is a new word to him.”

Stu’s Notes: Ten years and one day ago, Lynn and I started this column. It’s hard to believe this Thermalito boy who always struggled with English (I’ve always said I speak American.) My spelling is terrible but thanks to Lynn and spell check we survived. My editors Carmen Biano and now Steve Schoonover of the Enterprise Record have never changed a word I write, or how I put it together, and I still don’t know what a dangling participle is. And a big thank you to my “Editor in chief” David Little. I am just so thankful I was given the opportunity to tell the stories of our heroes. They gave their blood, sweat and toil, so I could have the Freedom to write. We must never forget this. I must also thank Ona Couris who gave me my start. Her Husband, Tom was taken prisoner shortly after he wrote the above letter and was released at the end of the war, May 7, 1945. Ona still lives in Oroville.

We just came home from “A Concert In Red, White and Blue” Presented by the Oroville Community Chorus, under the direction of Dave Chollet and Concert Band, under the direction of Jim Christiansen.. Jim Moll did a wonderful job as Master of Ceremonies. It was nice to be included as audience members in a couple of sing-a-longs and also a whistle along. Jim Moll invited everyone to join STAGE as support for the State Theater as their main project now is installing a Theater Organ. He thanked David Dewey and asked for a round of applause. Good job David. I anxiously waited as I was sitting across from Oroville Veterans Memorial Park Committee Member Doug Krause, to see when he would stand up as they played the tribute to the Armed Services. Would he stand up for the Army or the United States Air Force? Doug is writing his story for me, but I don’t get it until later. You see Doug served in WWII in the Army Air Corp, so he could stand for both service songs, under a little urging by me he did. Doug flew in B 17’s over Europe.

The Patriotism coming off that State Theater Stage Tuesday night was literally so thick you could cut it with a knife. I’ve heard a lot from Jim Moll over the years but tonight hat to be one of his best. Thank you to all involved in the evening.