WWII vet recalls returning home
Hortonville Legion honors longest serving members
By John Faucher
Hortonville American Legion Hammond-Schmidt Post 55 recently honored two of its longest serving members Robert and Ann Schneider with a special presentation at the Hortonville Opera House on April 10.
Legion Post 55 Commander Robert Ziegert presented Robert Schneider with a certificate of National recognition for 75 years of continuous membership in The American Legion.
Schneider’s wife Ann of 65 years was also awarded a National certificate of recognition for 64 years of service in the American Legion Auxiliary Hammond-Schmidt Unit 55.
Auxiliary President Lynn Ziegert presented the award before an audience of family members, news media and fellow Legion members.
“They’ve both been long time members and we really appreciate all that they have done for us and the American Legion,” said Post 55 Commander Robert Ziegert.
Robert Schneider graduated from Hortonville High School and was drafted shortly after in 1942. Once he finished his training, Schneider served in the 11th Armored Division under General Patton’s 3rd Army during WWII.
He was 19 at the time and was assigned to drive a supply truck in the European front.
He recalled hauling many things including gasoline in what they called “Jerry cans” near the front lines.
Schneider would not admit it himself, but hauling gasoline on the front lines could become a very dangerous job.
“The only reason I’m probably alive is because we had a marvelous defense,” he said of the 3rd Army.
“I was never in bad trouble,” said Schneider, although there were a number of times they had to jump from the trucks and run for the fields.
He recalled they always traveled countryside roads and the Germans would often lob off mortar rounds hoping to hit something.
“They were either lousy aimers or they didn’t know exactly where the road was,” said Schneider with a chuckle.
He remembered “plumes hitting here or there, every now and then,” but said most of the time they would just keep going.
Schneider’s travels would take him through Europe, beneath the Arch of Triumph in Paris, through Belgium to the Battle of the Bulge and eventually to Hitler’s bombed out bunker in Austria.
Schneider’s group was preparing to enter the Pacific theater against the Japanese when the war ended. He was discharged in 1945.
Thanks to his service and the GI Bill, Schneider resumed his college education after the war.
“So it was a pretty good deal for me,” said Schneider. “I enjoyed the service, I really did. I didn’t get into any big trouble and I’m still here,” he said.
After the war he returned to Hortonville and finished his education at Lawrence College.
“I remember when I came back to Hortonville,” said Schneider.
A handful of active old timers in the Legion were after him to join the American Legion.
He smiled and said, “I didn’t hardly get back and I was in the Legion.”
Ann Schneider said after the couple was married in 1956, she experienced a similar recruitment process with the Auxiliary.
“When we got back from our honeymoon there were two women at the door encouraging me to sign up with the Auxiliary,” she said.
Robert chimed in with a chuckle.
“And I hope the command stays that way when they latch on to these new members,” he said as the room burst into laughter.
Regaining a more serious tone, Schneider told the audience, “It’s been a great deal to be in the Legion. I’m not picking on any of the other organizations but, you could always count on the Legion,” he said.
“I always wanted Hortonville to progress and be as progressive as they could be and I’ve always thought to myself, the Legion is always there. It’s a wonderful organization,” said Schneider.
Ann said the same of the Auxiliary.
“It’s been a pleasure to be part of this organization.”
After graduating from Lawrence College Robert Schneider started working at his family’s feed mill in Hortonville and eventually took over the business.
Around that time he recalled a couple of farm friends known as the “Hansen twins” coming into the feed mill. One of them said, “Well, you didn’t use your education did you?”
Schneider smiled and said he’s always remembered that, and laughs about it to this day.
“I’ve had a wonderful life. I’ve done a lot of stuff. I was on the village board. I was on the Legion of course and so many things I was active in. I was always active and always had a job.
I’ve had an awfully good life and it’s going good yet,” he said, proudly describing himself as a “Towney.”
Schneider who is 97 years old, partially blind and partially deaf said, “I’m the luckiest guy of this age there is. I feel very fortunate.”
Robert and Ann Schneider have two sons, five grandchildren and one great grandson. Two of the couple’s grandsons currently serve in the Wisconsin National Guard.