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Veterans’ stories shared, preserved

Veterans’ stories shared, preserved
Veterans’ stories shared, preserved
Navy veteran Wesley (Woody) Woodlock speaks with a representative of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly's office Thursday afternoon as part of the Veterans History Project. The project oversees the compiling of veterans' stories from their military service and preserves them in the Library of Congress. Photo by Ross Schulz

With the help of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s office, stories shared by Harrison County veterans about their time in service will forever be preserved in the world’s largest library as part of the Veterans History Project.
Donnelly’s staff visited Cedar Court in Corydon Thursday afternoon to interview veterans who live at the assisted living community and any others who wanted to share their story.
One resident, 94-year-old Edmund Rainbolt, a veteran of World War II, has a case full of medals, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, from his time fighting in the European Theatre.
Rainbolt served with and under really good fighting men, he said, especially Sgt. Buck Hendricks from North Carolina.
‘He wasn’t afraid of nothing,’ he said.
Rainbolt said his company consisted of 230 men, none of whom were college educated.
‘Half of them weren’t high school educated,’ he said. ‘We were all country boys from around here (Harrison County and Brandenburg).’
Rainbolt said he, like most boys, had his own gun at the age of 10 and was an avid hunter.
‘We knew more about guns than our officers did,’ he said.
Rainbolt fought on the front lines in France as part of the Army’s 30th Infantry. Not long after he arrived, both his legs were broken and he had to be transported to a hospital in England.
‘They shipped me back to the front lines,’ he said. ‘And we fought our way through Germany.’
Rainbolt said they made it all the way to the Elbe River, where they were to meet Russians.
One day, however, while carrying an M1 rifle, he came across six Germans.
‘I said, ‘Good morning … Who’s going to be prisoners here?’ ‘
Rainbolt said two of the Germans could speak English as well as he could and had some unexpected news for him.
‘They said, ‘You’re going to lose the war; your president died yesterday’.’
Rainbolt said the Germans knew before the American soldiers that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died (April 12, 1945).
The Germans were not only wrong about the war, but they ended up coming back with Rainbolt as prisoners.
Rainbolt credits his longevity to ‘country living and country eating.’
Lambert Elbert of Corydon, also a World War II veteran, said he landed in France with his tank unit about two days after the initial D-Day invasion.
Elbert said he was catching some sleep in his tank when they came across the enemy, and he was awakened by an officer saying to bail out. Startled from sleep, Elbert jumped out of the tank amid gunfire.
The officer actually meant for the tank to get off the road, he said, not for Elbert to bail out.
‘I managed to get to the other side and get back in,’ he said, although the hatch was locked at first. ‘It was close.’
Elbert said, that later in the war, they came upon a group of Germans who were sick and wanted to surrender.
When he went to move his tank, a couple of the enemy soldiers stood in front of it with their hands up in a ‘X’ signal meaning to stop.
‘I was backing up into a minefield,’ he said. ‘They (Germans) went and got a detector and removed the mines. That was really nice of them.’
Elbert said 900 Germans surrendered that day.
‘They were sick, dying, in bad shape,’ he said. ‘The Red Cross moved in and hauled them away … What’d we do? Moved on to another battle.’
Another veteran, Wesley (Woody) Woodlock, spoke of his time in the Navy during the Korean War.
‘I loved the Navy, all except going to Korea,’ he said. ‘It was so cold it was unbelievable.’
Woodlock said they were told to prepare for extreme cold at night, with a Siberian clipper ushering in approximate temperatures of 68 degrees below zero.
Serving on the USS Missouri, Woodlock said they circled the globe twice during his time with the Navy.
He said he came across very few people whom he disliked, which made him appreciate the good company. Although, he said with a chuckle, he got tired of looking at sailors.
If anyone’s up for a game of checkers, Woodlock, who lives at Cedar Court, would be more than willing to play. Just don’t expect to win; he was runner-up in a tournament on his ship.
Wilford (Arkie) Blank, an Air Force veteran from the late ’40s and early ’50s, said he never regretted his time in the service and pretty well agrees with what the military does.
While stationed in Alabama, Blank often crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., made famous by the Civil Rights marches in the southern Alabama town and featured in the movie ‘Selma.’
A carpenter all of his life, Blank spends his time at Cedar Court building replicas of area structures with toothpicks. He’s constructed miniature versions of the nine historic buildings in the town of Corydon that were around during the state capitol period (1816 to 1825) and plans to donate them to the Historical Society of Harrison County for display in the Posey House (which is one of the nine buildings) for Indiana’s bicentennial next year.
He also has created a number of other replica structures, such as the Sherman Minton bridge, which he built while the real structure was under renovation a couple years ago, and St. John’s Lutheran Church near Lanesville. The church is so detailed it includes benches that are near the entrance, where, Blank said, he remembered from his childhood days an old man would sit on them and tell everyone what the weather would be like for the upcoming week.
The Veterans History Project was created in 2000 to collect, preserve and make available the personal stories of American veterans. These oral histories are kept in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, one of the world’s most respected research and cultural institutions. Scholars, students, authors, filmmakers and history buffs can access the collection to hear individual accounts of soldiers’ service.
Donnelly’s staff said they host one of the Veterans History Project events each month throughout the state.
Harrison County Veteran Service Officer Desley Miller-Snyder helped coordinate the event and also interviewed veterans.