BERNE, Ind. (WANE) – It is estimated by the National World War II that less than 400,000 of the 16 million Americans who fought in World War II are still living in 2019. WANE 15’s Britt Salay sat down with a 100-year-old army veteran in Berne to hear his story ahead of Veterans Day.
New Jersey native George Buhler was drafted into the army in 1941. He was sent to Fort Jackson, South Caroline where he was assigned to be military police.
“We trained with a broomstick for a rifle, we didn’t have rifles,” said Buhler. “But then they wanted to know if they had any motorcycle riders that they could use in the M.P.’s. So, I signed up.”
Buhler’s unit trained in Ireland for three months before they were sent to fight in the Battle of Normandy, also known as D-Day.
“Come the month of June, they packed us on big ships in all our gear and sent us to the beach.”
His unit landed on Utah Beach. He described it as a frightening experience that he will never forget.
“I was scared and don’t let anybody tell you that they weren’t scared,” said Buhler. “When they hit the beach, they were firing everything they could at us . It wasn’t easy but, listen, you had to do it so you might as well do it. You couldn’t get away from it. You just don’t have any kind of feeling for life. You just think about the next day and knowing you’re going to be there the next day.”
He was there the day after D-Day, but never once has he thought that making it through was some kind of heroic accomplishment on his part.
“You didn’t feel that way. You went into the army, you didn’t feel like you was going to do anything heroic because there was thousands of other guys doing the same thing. The only thing you felt was how can I keep safe and get back home. That’s all you was worried about, getting back home.”
Buhler said that in the past, he has dwelled on why he made it home when others did not. He often wonders how the men in his unit ended up, and if are even still alive.
“Well, I’ll tell you what I think about a lot. When I get in bed at night, I think of that hard, dirt ground we slept on for a year and a half and how soft the bed is right now.”
He also thinks about the life he has had since.
“I was fortunate that I never got hit. I’ve never received any wounds or anything. From there on, I met my wife, had Lauretta and Wayne and from there on the family grew.”
WANE 15 will air a one-hour special, called Veterans’ Voices. We will highlight veterans from around northeast Indiana – and across the country. Veterans’ Voices airs at 7 pm on Veterans Day, November 11.