I am sending you our story because today is Veteran’s Day (November 11). This story has evolved over 75 years and now I feel it is time to celebrate. My dad, Edwin Pochert served in the Army during WWII as a platoon Sergeant.
I will tell his story first:
At age 20, (1942) my father joined the Army to fight for our freedom. He quickly climbed the ranks to Corporal then becoming a Sergeant E5. While deployed to Germany, this is his written account of what happened in 1945.
“I, Edwin O. Pochert, Sergeant- 4th Platoon – 60 mm. Mortar Section – 407th Infantry – Company “F” – 102 Division wish to state the following facts:
Approximately the first of March (1945), Officers and No Com’s were informed by the Battalion Commanders, that the Germans were planning to drop Parachutist behind our lines. We were warned to challenge any suspicious action, or soldiers, and take severe precautions.
I was placed in charge of an observation post, and I informed the men I was in charge of: the situation that existed according to Battalion information. One of my men observed two suspicious soldiers, in front of him. He fired shots over their heads, to bring them closer to him; that he might recognize them. Lo and Behold, it was two Battalion Officers.
Captain Earl W. Sockel of Company “f” 407th Infantry, immediately notified me of the incident. He said he would have to take away my Stripes, to appease the so- called officers; but would restore them as soon as possible.
On March 31, 1945, I was wounded by shrapnel from a shell burst and left the 407th Infantry; never to return to the unit.
Leonard W. Acker was given my stripes. Ackers was Killed in Action. I felt sorry for my friend, Leonard, but thought how lucky I was that events happened as they did.
Years later, studying genealogy, I started to wonder what my children would think: when they saw stripes on my uniform in snap shots and pictures, and discover my rank was private when I was discharged from the service. It’s embarrassing and insulting because two Battalion Officers were challenged to reveal their identity that my Sergeant stripes were removed. We were obeying Battalion orders…”
My dad was honorably discharged PFC after suffering shrapnel wounds to his leg. These shrapnel pieces remained lodged in his leg forever. He received the Purple Heart for Bravery for his service. (The Purple Heart is the oldest Military award still given to U.S. military members.)
Year later, after being married and having children and those children having children, my dad became interest in genealogy. He researched his ancestors and wrote letters to anyone and everyone to get more information when the path went cold. It was then that he realized his own legacy and military honor was now a tainted history. He began to wonder what his grandchildren and great grandchildren would think as they research his military career, only to find that he was demounted to PFC.
This is where my story starts:
My dad passed away in April 2012, six months after my mom. I know he died of a broken heart as they had been married nearly 66 years. It was a difficult time as many know, to lose your dad. He was my rock, a true gentleman, and a man with a quick sense of humor and a heart of gold.
I was in charge of the estate…which meant going through tons of paperwork. My dad had 2 or more copies of everything from bills to jokes. He saved his father’s letters to his mother from 1914. He had letters he wrote during boot camp to his mom and uncle. Tons of copies of the same pictures. But I stumbled upon a few letters that stopped me in my tracks.
1991: An informal information reply was received from the Army National Personnel Records Center, stating that the records needed to answer the inquiry was not in the files. If the records were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in an area that suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed. Obviously a response to a request by my dad.
1999: Letter written again stating the incident in Germany 1945
July 2004: Letter received from National Personnel Records Center in St, Louis, Missouri restating the fire damage of 1973 and according to Final Payroll Voucher shows rank of PFC.
April 2005: Response from 102nd Infantry Division Association “The Ozarks” suggesting contacting the National Archives and Records Admin. in Maryland.
April 2005: Letter written to the National Archives and Records Admin. trying to find records and stating again the incident in Germany 1945 when he lost his Sergeant stripes.
The realization that my dad had fought for 15 years to right a wrong weighed heavy on my heart and mind, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I picked up the torch my dad had lit so many years earlier fighting to restore his honor and legacy.
When I applied for a military Marker for my dad’s headstone, I requested a Bonze niche with “Sergeant” rank. I was informed that because he was discharged as a PFC, the only niche inscription would be PFC. That lit the torch!
I contacted Stephen R. Young, Accredited, Director at Huron County Dept of Veteran Affairs in Bad Axe Michigan. Steve was my life line. He told me it was a long shot, but he would help in any way possible. He helped with filling out and submitting paperwork to the Army Review Board. (bc if you don’t cross a T or dot a i, your paperwork may not be reviewed).
It took over two years to finally get a correspondence from the Army Review Board on my Father’s rank change review. In May of 2019, (on my birthday) I received the official document that informed me that the Army had reinstated my dad’s sergeant rank and changed the record’s to reflect this rank.
This year on my dad’s 90th birthday June 2, my 3 daughters and grandson, visit my father’s grave site to view the newly added Bronze Niche. An honorable man has his stripes returned after 75 years posthumously.
Sergeant Edwin O Pochert
US Army WWll / Purple Heart
Beloved Husband Father and Grandfather
Terry Fritche, Lakeville