William Delbert Paschal – 2002 Inductee

William Delbert Paschal’s Life Story

by Bill Paschal

 William Delbert Paschal was born in his parent’s farmhouse in the Vincent Community of Valley Township, southern Osborne County, Kansas, near Luray on October 7,1925.  His parents were Walter A. Paschal and Evangeline (Morse) Paschal.  Delbert (as he is generally known) was the third of four children in the family. Vincent Addison Paschal and Wilma Jean (Paschal) Hamel were older.  Priscilla Ruth (Paschal) Sumearll was born six years later.  Delbert, his siblings, his Paschal cousins and neighboring children all attended the one-room rural Vincent School, District #54.  He became a member of the Vincent Methodist Church.  This was during the Great Depression, the dust storms, the great drought and the crop failures of the early 1930s.  When Delbert graduated from the eighth grade from Vincent grade school he was the high point boy, academically, for Osborne County Schools in 1939.  Delbert attended Osborne High School where he took college preparatory courses of math, science, and Latin.  He was on the high school debate team for three years and in 1943 was the captain of the debate team.

As a senior in high school at the age of seventeen Delbert took a test administered by the Army.  He was the only boy of the Osborne school to pass the test and one of twenty in the state of Kansas who successfully passed the test in 1943This admitted him to the Army Specialized Training Program (the ASTP) in which the Army sent young men to college on a year round basis, graduating them in 30 months with a college degree and a commission in the army.  At this time according to Army regulations he became known as William D. Paschal.  He attended Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa, during the fall semester of 1943 on this program.  At the end of the semester, the army announced the ending of this program and sent all of the ASTP boys to infantry basic training.  In April of 1944 he was assigned to the 100th Infantry Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  There he received training as an Army First Scout and learned to read maps, plot courses on land and lead patrols into and out of unknown wilderness areas.  He was also taught to lead infantry assaults and to evaluate and report on enemy equipment and troop dispositions.  He arrived in France in October 1944 and served as first scout in the Vosges Mountains campaign.  He participated in severe battles in the mountains, around Bitche, France and around the Maginot and Siegfried Lines.

On Christmas Day, 1944, William volunteered to become a company aid man medic. On January 8, 1945, he became one of seven survivors of the Second Platoon, E Company, 397th Regiment of the 100th Division and was captured by the German 17th SS Panzer Division.  While a prisoner he survived two bombing-strafing runs by the U.S. Air Force.  He was sent to a commando camp for forced labor in German soft coal mines.

Black Bread Recipe

Former prisoners of war of Nazi Germany may be interested in this recipe for World War II Black Bread. This recipe comes from the official record from the Food Providing Ministry published as Top Secret Berlin 24.Xl-1941 from the Director of Ministry Herr Mansfeld and Herr Moritz. It was agreed that the best mixture to bake black bread was:

50% bruised rye grain

20% sliced sugar beets

20% tree flour (saw dust)

10% minced leaves and straw

From our own experiences with black bread, we also saw bits of glass and sand.  Someone was cheating on the recipe! – William Delbert Paschal.

“About 9 a.m. on the morning of April 13, 1945 the tanks and motorized infantry of Patton’s Third Army swept into the small enclosed farmyard in eastern Germany to free 87 American prisoners of war from the Germans.  I had been sent in a contingent of 90 prisoners in February 1945 to a commando or work camp to mine soft coal for the German war machine.  This was about 40 miles south of Leipzig.

“On April 11, 1945 we were rousted off our straw mattresses at 3 a.m. and put on a forced march to the north and west to be farther away from the sound of the Russian guns which were east of the Elbe River— not too far away.  On the second day of our march, we could hear the sounds of American tanks and their cannon fire from the west.  The guards changed our direction of march to go to the north and to the east so we would not be liberated prematurely.  On the night of the 12th we were herded into an enclosed courtyard of several stone farm homes and locked into a barn.  We prisoners judged the American lines to be about 4 miles away as night fell. 

“When morning came we were lined up in the courtyard to be counted again—some miscreant might have hidden himself away.  A brief melee erupted, a change of command was enforced and the prisoners had the weapons while the guards became prisoners.  The corporal of the guards furnished me with his 44-caliber revolver and his backpack.  My army shoe-paks which had carried me across the French Vosges Mountains were now ripped and torn from sliding up and down the rocky ridges of the Vosges.  In one of the stables I spied a pair of stable boots and appropriated them.  They looked good, but felt terrible for walking.  Later in the day at the nearest German village I acquired a pair of German black leather boots.  I switched to the officer’s boots but carried the wooden soled boots with me, stuffed in the backpack that the corporal of guards had given me.  By the end of the day I had also acquired a P-38 automatic, a .32 caliber automatic, a .25 caliber revolver, a dress sword, a chrome dress bayonet and other souvenirs.

“I thought that our liberators would give us a ride but they had strict orders to go quick time to the east.  For the next three days our group of liberated prisoners walked 45 miles westward before we could get back into the U.S. Army.” – William Delbert Paschal.

During his 25 months of active service, William received a total of 18 awards and decorations.  Among them are the Silver Star, a Bronze Star with the ‘V’ Device for Valor, two more Bronze Stars, the Prisoner of War Medal, and the Purple Heart.  He also received from the government of France the Le Medaille de la France Librerèe, the Le Croix du la Combattant Voluntaire, and the le Croix du la Combattant Voluntaire de la Resistance.

After liberation in April 1945 William returned home and married his high school sweetheart, Marjorie Green, on June 17, 1945.  Their marriage produced four children: Nancy Charlotte Thomas, Jan Paschal Fitzgibbons, Alan Paschal, and Ronald Paschal. William attended college on the G.I. Bill and became a bacteriologist.  He was a milk sanitarian for the city of Lawrence, Kansas, and later was the bacteriologist for the Kansas State Board of Agriculture in Topeka, Kansas.  William was in charge of testing all of the dairy products sold in the state of Kansas.  In 1957 he resigned from the state of Kansas and went to dental school in Kansas City, Missouri.  While attending dental school he worked evenings and weekends in the Kansas City, Kansas head department laboratory.

In 1961 William and his family moved to Hoisington, Kansas, and practiced there for four years.  While there he was active in the Chamber of Commerce, was president of the Kiwanis Club, and commander of the American Legion Post #286.  William and Marjorie became members of the Hoisington Methodist Church where William served on the board.

In 1965 the Paschals moved to Wichita and William practiced for several months in the office of classmate Dr. Virgil Palmer.  In 1966 William opened his own home-office dental practice in Wichita.  He was a member of the Society for Dental Analgesia, the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis, the Wichita District Dental Society, the Kansas Dental Association, and the American Dental Association.  William was a member of an informal group, the Thursday Night Motorcycle Riders, as well as the Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion.  He was a member of the Air Capital Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War and served as its treasurer for over a decade.  William has been a prolific public speaker and has delivered speeches on Memorial Day for over 30 years at cemeteries in Osborne County, Kansas as well as numerous veterans’ events in Wichita.  He was the featured speaker on POW/MIA Day at McConnell Air Force Base for three years.  William wrote articles and historical sketches that appeared in the National Ex-Prisoner of War Magazine and the Air Capital Chapter Newsletter.

In 1998 William created the Dr. William D. Paschal World War Two historical collection at Fort Hays State University.  This collection started with a donation of 437 books about World War Two, many of which are rare or out-of-print books; over 200 magazines concerning prisoners of war; and copies of speeches, articles, and letters to and from William by World War Two veterans.

William was named a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 2006 by the president of France, Jacques Chirac. It was the highest distinction France could bestow, thanking him for his service during World War II. In 2013 William released A Country Boy From Kansas Goes to War, his memoir of his World War II service and experiences as a prisoner of war. For many years William and Marjorie called Wichita their home. On August 11, 2017, William passed away in Wichita at the age of 91.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Osborne County Farmer

(Thursday, March 13, 1997)

Paschal gets belated Purple Heart

By Sandra Trail

Delbert Paschal, a 1943 graduate of Osborne High School, has just received the Purple Heart medal from the War Department for wounds and injuries sustained shortly after his capture in Germany in 1945.

Paschal was captured by the SS and was injured during an interrogation and sustained other injuries during captivity. He was sent to a commando camp where American prisoners of war mined soft coal for the German war machine.

At the time of Paschal’s release from the prison camp, he received the Silver Star Medal, three Bronze Star Medals and the Prisoner Of War Medal. He was not awarded the Purple Heart because there were no external visible scars or wounds to prove that he had been injured.

“I had been hit severely in the shoulder by prison guards, but by the time we were released, there weren’t any bruises remaining,” explained Paschal. ‘If you weren’t under the direct control of the United States armed forces, you had to show a wound or bruises to prove an injury for the Purple Heart. I complained about pain in my left shoulder, but nothing appeared on the X-rays at that time.

“I also had a lot of stomach problems and they didn’t find anything then either, but since then, they found I have a peptic ulcer which they say was diet and stress induced while in prison camp.

“I developed what they call traumatic osteoarthritis in my left shoulder and can only raise my arm about shoulder high, so they ran more x-rays and this time it showed an old break in that shoul­der. As a result, [more than 50 years later] I was awarded the Purple Heart.”

Paschal’s ailments didn’t slow him down, however. After the war, he went to school on the G.I. Bill and became a bacteriologist for the state. Then, at the age of 32, married and the father of two children, he decided to go to dental school.

For four years Dr. Paschal had a dental practice in Hoisington, then he relocated to Wichita where he and his wife, the former Marjorie Green, an OHS classmate, still reside.”

*  *  *  *  *

 (The following speech was given by Dr. William Delbert Paschal at the dedication ceremony of the Osborne County Veterans Memorial, held in the Osborne County Courthouse in Osborne, Kansas on November 11, 2000.)                                                               

“At the age of 17 the 1943 captain of the Osborne High School debate team began training for war, days after graduating OHS.  This skinny kid entered combat in Europe as an infantry scout.  This same skinnier kid was liberated from a German prison camp six months before his 20th birthday.  I was there when this kid hitchhiked from Smith Center to Osborne in May 1945.  Believe me – Osborne County is beautiful.

When we part the curtains of time to peer into our past, we often find that the names and faces are fading away.  To compile the names of our veterans and to erect a memorial requires vision, energy and determination.  This occasion is the result of patient research, much work and effort.  I applaud the devotion of the Osborne County Veterans Memorial Committee.  As a veteran I thank you for your efforts and compassion.

Today we meet to honor the young men and women who are now serving or have served this country in the armed services.  While this hour and day marked the signing of the armistice of World War I we now use this opportunity to honor all service personnel current and past.  While we have benefited from the United Nations and many organizations devoted to talking our way to peace we have learned that we must have an armed force to keep the peace and to halt brutality of nations or regimes in this world of ours.  Our citizen warriors have restored freedom to nations or peoples who have lost it and more importantly they have kept the scenes of war from being enacted in our own and in the past century.  If we had done less we night have lived in cellars while battles were being fought over our heads.

Because of my own participation, I will speak in the context of World War II.  Most of us have never realized that our country was a golden target coveted by Japan and Germany in World War II.  After disposing of their neighbors enslaving defeated populations to labor for their war industries after seizing all of the goods and output of defeated nations both Japan and Germany had plans to enter the North American continent.  The Japanese plan to attack Pearl Harbor was a standard military exercise practiced in the Imperial War College by the Japanese Navy since the early 1900s.  This plan was patterned after a successful Japanese attack on the Russian Navy in 1903.  This was done without a declaration of war.  In l942, Admiral Yamamoto boasted that he would stride into the White House and with the point of his sword force President Roosevelt to his knees in surrender.  After 1941, on three occasions Japanese submarines surfaced to shell oil refineries on the coast of California.  A Japanese seaplane dropped bombs in Oregon.  Paper balloons carrying explosives were launched from Japan and carried on the prevailing winds to start fires in the forests of our Northwest.  In 1899 the German admiralty staff drew up a comprehensive plan for the invasion of the United States.  This was a training exercise only but in 1937 Adolf Hitler resurrected the plan.  In 1941 he proposed to invade the Azores in the Atlantic and from there bomb and invade the U.S.  His plan specified invasions from Boston to New York to Norfolk, Virginia.  The Germans did develop a 4-engine bomber, the Messerschmidt 264, capable of flying 9,000 miles non-stop.  This plane carried a 4,000-pound bomb load.  This bomber was called the “the Amerika Bomber” and first flew in the fall of 1942.  Fortunately only one was ever built.

World War II had an official casualty count of 22 million people.  The Russians insist that the figure is closer to 55 million when counting their civilian dead.  The Germans advanced over 1,000 miles into Russia, and when they were finally driven out, entire civilian populations of villages, farms and cities had disappeared.  Most of these were found later in many, many mass graves.  I have seen the devastated ruins of the villages of France, and I have seen the inhabitants, poorly clothed and malnourished-scarred and abused by years of German occupation.  The Japanese occupied land ranging from Aitu Island of Alaska to several thousand miles south to New Guinea—less than an hour’s flying time from Australia.  Their record of cruelty is worse than that of the Germans.

These madmen were stopped, stopped by the British, the Russians, and our many other allies.  Mostly important to us, they were stopped by the Armed Forces of the United States.  These men and women of World War II were your fathers or grandfathers, your aunts, or grandmothers.   They were and are your brothers or your uncles.  They came from all our states, from Kansas, and from Osborne County.  They gave up their jobs, their chance for education, and the freedom to live peacefully at home.  They sacrificed their comforts to restore freedom, peace and sanity to the world.  Many gave their lives;some lost their own freedom when they were captured.

To those that returned, the words “freedom and peace” have a real meaning.  They are spelled in bold, capital letters.  Every combat service man carries memories with them forever.  The sights and sounds of war are indelible and cannot be erased from the human mind.  These citizen soldiers have kept the bombs from our country, and they kept the enemy soldiers from our streets.  It is right, it is just, that we gratefully remember their service, this memorial and this register remind us of those who were willing to give their lives for us if need be. – Dr. William Delbert Paschal.”

*  *  *  *  *

 (The following story ran in the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle newspaper on January 2, 2000)

A Letter of Hope to the Future From the Past

By Roy Wentzl

 Dear great-great-grandkids,

Greetings from the beyond.  I hope you’re doing well and that mankind’s sense of humor has survived into your age.

I am writing on the first day of 2000 and have asked you to wait a full century to read this, to give you the full flavor of how quaint and how scared, how wise or how clueless were the souls of some of your ances­tors on this day, 100 years ago.

This letter tells what five souls thought of life in Wichita, Kansas, on this day, a century in your past.

The first three souls belong to your past, and our future:  To you they are old people, but to me they are the three sleepy teens I met just after today’s pink sunrise.  And they told a tale dark with foreboding.  Anger, pessimism, loneliness, fear.  I hope you can read this now and say that none of their pre­dictions ever came true. (But we know human nature — don’t we —you and I?)

The last soul quoted, however, belongs to a living hero; living in my age, not yours.  For you he’s long gone, but today he’s 74 years old on this first day of 2000, recovering from two summer heart attacks, and his soul and his bones ache with the jagged edges of wounds suffered during dark hours of your ancient history; a shoulder broken by his German interrogators; visions of friends dying in his arms, l56 years ago in your past.

And yet it is his voice that sounds the note of hope.

Why? I have a theory, or rather he has a theory.

But first, meet three teens with a decidedly dark view of their future, your past.

Nicole Bingham, 16

Emily Rader, 15

James Stephens, 15

North High School [Wichita]

Perhaps they are your great-grandparents in your time: gray of hair, slow of step, fat of belly and soft in brain.  But on this day of January 1, 2000, they are the future of Wichita, three wasp-waisted young­sters, adult children just awakened from blankets tossed on floors at a friend’s house in Bel Aire, they slept through the first morning of the year 2000. And they are awake now and talkative, teasing each other, flirting, throwing stuffed dolls at each other’s heads. They make plans to go “shopping” at “the mall” today, the mall being that ancient marketplace of storehouses —you may have read about them in your history technologies. They want to go to the mall and shop without money. Do you use money in your time? In my time, these kids “have no money,” mean­ing they can acquire nothing at the mall but daydreams. Which I hope are still free.

What do young people think of their elders, I asked them.  And they rolled their eyes. Adults mistrust us, they said. Adults assume we are always wrong. To them we are nuisances. They pick us out of crowds. They kick us out of places. Adults in the home do not want us at home because we are nuisances, and those outside our homes want us to go home, where they say we belong, because we are nuisances.

I ask:  Are these your own parents you’re talking about?

No, they said, it’s adults in general. James tells of a day at school a month or two past; how he wore a black coat and the teacher denounced him as a wanna-be ter­rorist, and he had to go see the school administrators because he wore his Dad’s hand-me-downcoat to school to keep warm. (We had kids shooting kids in schools at the end of the 1900s. And some wore black coats, or so the story goes.) And James said the administrators told him he was not a terrorist, and that the teacher should not discrimi­nate against a boy who wore his Dad’s coat.

And James said he went back to class, and the teacher yelled at him again, and back he had to go to the office. (Do clothes mean a lot in the 22nd Century?)

Emily and Nicole said there will be more school shootings in 2000. And in the years beyond. And they said many kids in Wichita schools are so stressed and bugged out about their lives that if parents real­ly knew what was going on in their heads, there surely would be a lot more doctors dispensing a lot more drugs.  Everywhere, depressed kids.  Kids in gangs.  School is an ordeal; some teachers care, and some don’t, they said.  Emily wants to be a vet­erinarian, but can she learn enough?  And in the early months of every school year, kids don’t learn anything because the schools lack air conditioning and all you do in class is swear, and sweat, and sleep­walk.

Perhaps our grandkids will not be so stupid, Nicole said.

And perhaps there will be a lot more idiots among our grandkids than among kids in our time, Emily said.

What do you think about the future, I asked.

And they rolled their eyes. Technology will be incredible, James said. But it will be used to take jobs from everyone, and so more people will have less money and no jobs. And the government will get more corrupt, he said.

It can’t be more corrupt than now, Emily said. With the corrupt presi­dent we now have.

We’ll continue to have one stupid president after another, Nicole said. Along line of stupid presidents, one following another.

Chisholm Creek Park

As you might expect, this talk was hard to take, in part because I knew the lives of these kids were not all bleakness and woe.  I’ve seen them laugh, as they look at each other; I’ve heard laughter rolling out of the room where they’ve slept.  And the day had started beautiful­ly, this Jan. 1, 2000; the crescent moon stood high in a pale blue sky when dawn crept upon us.

Little shreds of white clouds in the east suddenly turned luminescent pink.

I walked through Chisholm Creek Park, looking for deer; a muskrat tumbled into the creek.  Geese honked overhead. I saw a man, gray jacket and binoculars.  Bird-watch­ing? I asked.

Oh yes, and Happy New Year, he said. He hurried on to see the first birds of 2000.  I called out:  Any good birds here?  Oh yes, he said, good warblers over there.

He pointed to the trees to the west. And he said he had nearly had the first heart attack of the century a few minutes ago, when a covey of quail exploded into the air at his feet.  He turned away, to find war­blers.

I know now that that bird-watching man was more true to real life than life portrayed by the kids. The bird­-watching man, taking pleasure in a simple of everyday life.  I hope you have birds in your century, great-grandkids. And bird-watchers, too.

Later in the morning, after the teens had depressed me, I called the old hero.  I wanted to give you his take on the future.  Your past.

The Silver Star

He said he was thrilled to be alive in a new century.  The heart attacks had nearly killed him, but the triple bypass at St. Francis hospital had fixed that, he said.

What do you think of the future, I asked him.

I think It’s going to be wonderful, Bill Paschal said. The things we can do now! Do you know that when I was a kid, the only light we had at night came from a kerosene lamp?  And we had outhouses to go to in the cold of winter.  It’s just amazing, how good things have become.

And I told him what he already knew, that he had lived through the darkest hours of our time.

How many pounds did you weigh when you overpowered the German prison guards?  I asked.  Ninety-five, he said.

But you know, he said, that taught me several things — that I should never take things for granted.  One day in the prison camp I took out a double-edged razor I’d hidden from the Germans, and I was fiddling around trying to shave three weeks of beard with a dull razor and barely a drop of water from my helmet.

And one of the other guys said, look, you’d better not do that, if you cut yourself, you’re so weak from not eating that you don’t have any immunities. You could die from shaving, and it’s not worth it.

You learn perspective, Bill said. I reminded him that he’d been beaten during interrogation.  And he had won the Silver Star for gallantry.  And that his friend had died in his arms. And I told him about the kids I’d met in the morning, and what they had said.  I asked him why is it that kids who have never endured starvation and war are the pessimists, and you at age 74 seem so happy?

And he said that those young people will be fine.

He said they are only voicing the fears that kids of l5 and 16 feel.  As time goes on, he said, and as they encounter the challenges of life, they will grow stronger.  And will over­come all their challenges.

He said he hoped they would never face what he faced.

He said he hoped the world has learned more sense.

I understood all the fears and worries those young people could ever feel, he said.

But you faced the worst, I said.  And you were only 19.  You used to charge machine gun nests.  The bullets went right past your ears.

Yes, he said. But when I was their age, it could very well be that I was afraid of the dark.

(Roy Wenzl, if alive, will be 144 years old if you read this at the dawn of the 22nd Century.) 

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