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Erv Wegscheid, who served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1955, shows a display at the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum in Perham. Photo by Ashley Bergen.
Erv Wegscheid, who served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1955, shows a display at the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum in Perham. Photo by Ashley Bergen.

Cold War era veteran remembers his service

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local Perham, 56573

Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

Most of the days that a then-teenage Erv Wegscheid spent in Germany during the Cold War were uneventful.

Wegscheid of Dent reminisced about his 19 months overseas while serving in the U.S. Army from 1953-1955.

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Wegscheid enlisted in the Army right after graduating from high school in 1952. He completed basic training at Fort Riley in Kansas, and then went to Ft. Knox in Kentucky for tank training.

"I went home, and then went overseas from there," he said, remembering the three buses that left Perham in 1952.

The 18-year-old was stationed in Nuremberg, Amberg and Ansbach, Germany.

Most of his company's time was spent training, such as learning to use weapons such as 105 mm M2A1 howitzers, or the standard light field howitzer for the United States during World War II.

"We were in the field training from morning to night," he said. "We were on alert most of the time."

On alert means that at any time the company could be called to an area in the middle of the country, about 20 miles of camp.

"We'd have a call to alert at about 2 o'clock in the morning," he said. "We didn't know if it was real or training."

Once a call was made, the men had about 10 minutes to get up and get ready to go, he said.

"Most of... actually all of the time it was training," he said.

His company was made up of men from all over the United States. His best friend was from Camden, N.J.

Wegscheid talked openly about his time serving overseas, with the exception of one day.

"There is one day I don't want to talk about," he said quietly. "A lot of guys were hurt."

He paused.

"Most days were uneventful," he said.

There were also fun times for the Army sergeant overseas. He was able to travel to England, France and all around Germany.

"I enjoyed it in Europe. I got to travel all over," he said. "When you're 18, you're not scared, you're adventurous. You want to see the world."

People in post-World War II Germany were kind to American soldiers, Wegscheid said. He spent his free time travelling around Europe and visiting relatives in Germany.

"The people were not hostile to us," he said. "They were tired of Hitler's regime. They were glad it was over. It was the time to get back on their feet and raise their families."

Visions of post-World War II Europe also stick out in Wegscheid's mind.

"Nuremberg was about half rebuilt when I was there, eight years after World War II ended," he said. "There were blocks and blocks that had been bombed and hadn't been rebuilt yet."

After getting out of the service at age 21, he married and had four children. He is proud to have served his country and now volunteers at the ITOW Museum.

"I'm proud of serving in the Armed Forces and proud of what the museum is trying to do," he said.

The museum, which features video interviews with other veterans, is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-4 p.m. General admission is $4, and is free on Veterans Day for all entrants. Veterans receive free admission every day. For more information, visit www.historymuseumeot.com/itow/ or call 218-346-7678.

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