ANSLEY - - Eugene Raphael Chartraw was still in high school when he registered for the U.S. Army, and enlisted right out of high school in 1944. During the next two years he experienced hand-to-hand combat, was listed as Missing In Action, and was a guard at the Nuremberg Trials. But the last thing he considers himself is a hero.
Chartraw had been classified as farm deferment, but he didn’t take it. Instead he enlisted, prepared to do whatever he was called upon to do in defense of our country and our freedoms.
He was inducted at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and completed basic training at Camp Roberts, Calif. After four months of training he was flown to Fort Meade, Maryland.
There he boarded a French troop carrier, and one week later, Jan. 7, 1945, landed at Southampton, England. He spent one night in a tent camp before crossing the English Channel by boat and landing at LeHavre, France.
In France, Chartraw joined the 80th Division, 317th Infantry, Company K at Diekirck, Luxembourg. He says he fought with this unit through Luxembourg, Bastogne, Germany and Austria.
February 5, 1945, he and five other men in his company were accidentally separated from their unit during the Battle of the Bulge.
“My parents received a letter saying I was officially declared Missing In Action,” says Chartraw.
He says the men lived in a fox hole for four or five days, sneaking out at night to try and find the rest of their men. He describes the fox hole as “L-shaped” with the latrine on one end and their sleeping quarters on the other.
“Keep in mind there were six of us, so this was no small hole in the ground,” he adds. “Being part of the infantry, we were used to living in fox holes. That was the best protection anyhow!”
He says the men knew the enemy was on one side of them and their unit was on the other, they just weren’t sure where. When they finally made their way back to their outfit, the company was in position a mile and half north of Enzen, Germany.
After the war ended and the treaty was signed, Chartraw was assigned to 1st Division. His new duties included serving as a guard for U.S. Justice Jackson, judge for the Nuremberg Trials, as well as the Germans on trial.
In July 1946, Chartraw returned to the United States on a merchant ship, Chapel Hill. He disembarked in New York City and was discharged at Fort Leavenworth.
Shortly after returning home he married his sweetheart he had left behind when he went to war, Francis Schmid of Mason City. Chartraw had lived all his life near Mason City, and he and Francis continued to make their home there farming and raising cattle.
He recalls his early days of farming, using horses and a two-row planter. He says that was what he used for the first two or three years he farmed, before he got his first tractor.
He has lost Francis, but continued to live on the farm until just a few months ago when he moved into Husker Homes in Ansley for the winter. After suffering a heart attack a year and a half ago and getting a pacemaker, Chartraw has decided that “maybe this is the best place for me.”
“I always felt the military was a good experience for every man,” Chartraw says. “You hate to see them have to go off to war, but being in the service makes you grow up pretty fast.”
Chartraw will be heading to Washington, D.C., today with the Central Nebraska Regional Hero Flight, where he will be accompanied by his son, Mike.
“I think he (Mike) is even more excited about the trip than I am,” Chartraw laughs.
Highlights of the trip will include a visit to the World War II Memorial, and Arlington Cemetery.
“I am grateful to the committee for making this trip possible,” he says, “otherwise i might have never got there.”