WWII veteran celebrates Memorial Day with Sabers

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- World War II veteran 1st Lt. Frank Towers clears F-16s from the 23rd Fighter Squadron to drop ordnance on the Baumholder Training Range in Baumholder, Germany, May 25. Maj. Doug Malone, Joint Fires Center of Excellence Director of Operations, directs Mr. Towers on procedures for calling in air strikes. Maj. Mike Lay, 23rd FS, (not pictured here) was flight lead for the F-16s. Mr. Towers spoke at Bitburg High School and at Spangdahlem's Willkommen Center May 24. (US Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry Kellogg)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- World War II veteran 1st Lt. Frank Towers clears F-16s from the 23rd Fighter Squadron to drop ordnance on the Baumholder Training Range in Baumholder, Germany, May 25. Maj. Doug Malone, Joint Fires Center of Excellence Director of Operations, directs Mr. Towers on procedures for calling in air strikes. Maj. Mike Lay, 23rd FS, (not pictured here) was flight lead for the F-16s. Mr. Towers spoke at Bitburg High School and at Spangdahlem's Willkommen Center May 24. (US Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Larry Kellogg)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- World War II veteran 1st Lt. Frank Towers and grandson Duane King, an active-duty U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant stationed in Louisiana, discuss the A-10’s weapons systems and differences between World War II’s Air Force and today’s Air Force with Tech. Sgt. Justin Fair, 52nd Maintenance Operations Squadron weapons loading standardization crew member, May 24. Mr. Towers and his grandson, who is a member of the Marine Corps Band, toured the hangar where Sergeant Fair works as part of their visit to Spangdahlem Air Base. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. George King)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- World War II veteran 1st Lt. Frank Towers and grandson Duane King, an active-duty U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sergeant stationed in Louisiana, discuss the A-10’s weapons systems and differences between World War II’s Air Force and today’s Air Force with Tech. Sgt. Justin Fair, 52nd Maintenance Operations Squadron weapons loading standardization crew member, May 24. Mr. Towers and his grandson, who is a member of the Marine Corps Band, toured the hangar where Sergeant Fair works as part of their visit to Spangdahlem Air Base. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. George King)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- World War II veteran 1st Lt. Frank Towers holds a World War II-era 30-caliber machine gun that Roger Feller donated to the European Military History Group. The group hopes the machine gun will be the first of many guns added to their artifacts. Mr. Feller discovered the machine gun at an old farm house in Luxembourg May 21. Mr. Towers and Mr. Feller both spoke to Team Eifel May 24. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. George King)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- World War II veteran 1st Lt. Frank Towers holds a World War II-era 30-caliber machine gun that Roger Feller donated to the European Military History Group. The group hopes the machine gun will be the first of many guns added to their artifacts. Mr. Feller discovered the machine gun at an old farm house in Luxembourg May 21. Mr. Towers and Mr. Feller both spoke to Team Eifel May 24. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. George King)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- During a visit to Spangdahlem May 24, Roger Feller discusses his life as a young boy, living under Hitler’s dictatorship in Luxembourg, and how life changed after Americans liberated his town. Mr. Feller’s first pair of shoes were given to him by American Soldiers. Mr. Feller owns and operates the 385th Bomb Group Museum in Perle, Luxembourg. People can view some of his donated items in the Wing display case in the 52nd Fighter Wing headquarters building. Mr. Feller served at Bitburg’s French Kaserne as part of his mandatory military service. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. George King)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- During a visit to Spangdahlem May 24, Roger Feller discusses his life as a young boy, living under Hitler’s dictatorship in Luxembourg, and how life changed after Americans liberated his town. Mr. Feller’s first pair of shoes were given to him by American Soldiers. Mr. Feller owns and operates the 385th Bomb Group Museum in Perle, Luxembourg. People can view some of his donated items in the Wing display case in the 52nd Fighter Wing headquarters building. Mr. Feller served at Bitburg’s French Kaserne as part of his mandatory military service. (US Air Force photo/Master Sgt. George King)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- Memorial Day weekend is not just for barbecues. This year, Spangdahlem hosted a distinguished visitor to help kick-off the spirit of the weekend. 

World War II veteran 1st Lt. Frank Towers spoke to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps members at Bitburg High School, and then to the public and a First Term Airman Class at the Willkommen Center May 24. 

"Memorial weekend is a weekend to commemorate Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines," said Chief Warrant Officer Third Heath Hielsberg, who is a member of the European Military History Group and responsible for putting the event together. 

Mr. Towers held a presentation open to the public in the afternoon. Era-inspired music accompanied a slideshow of war images before the presentation began, welcoming those interested in hearing Mr. Towers' stories. Mr. Towers was tapping his feet to the familiar songs as he gazed at the images of his past. 

As a part of the 30th Infantry Division, Mr. Towers was involved in several of the noted events in World War II. He has vivid recollections of the invasion of Normandy. 

"We heard a thunderous roar and we knew the invasion was on," Mr. Towers said about hearing the planes carrying paratroopers to Normandy flying overhead. 

His battalion was intended to land at Omaha Beach, but through a fluke, sailed to Utah Beach. Once there, they were ordered to leave. 

"We had the dubious honor of being the only battalion to land on both beaches during combat," Mr. Towers said. "The reason I remember so many details is because that was my birthday." 

Throughout the war, supplies became scarce on both sides. Mr. Towers remembered a German convoy using cattle and other farm animals to tow their vehicles that had run out of gas. There were two columns in the road and a plane spotted them. The pilot flattened the group, and many of the German soldiers and animals died. The native Belgians began to cut up the animals for food since they had been living in poverty under Nazi control. 

Mr. Towers said that they did not have anything to do with that, but they were happy for the Belgians for getting something to eat. 

Mr. Towers was also in the Battle of the Bulge, and saw Berlin fall. He recalled that they were ordered for political reasons not to advance on Berlin even though they could have walked there easily without firing a shot. He said that they had to sit and wait and then watch the Russians come in and take Berlin. 

The 30th Infantry Division was deactivated in November 1945. 

Mr. Towers was joined in the presentation by Roger Feller, who was a boy when Mr. Towers' battalion liberated his town in Luxembourg. 

Mr. Feller told many stories of his liberation, mainly about the new foods he was given by the Americans. He told a story about his first slice of American-style loaves of bread. 

"He gave me a slice, and I tried it," Mr. Eller said. "Well, I ate it in a few seconds because I was so hungry. I ran home to my mother and said, 'The Americans don't have bread. They only have cake,' because it was sweet, soft and white. We had bread, but you could use it as a weapon. I had never had anything like that before." 

Mr. Feller spoke with the bright eyes and excitement of the eight-year-old boy who was liberated as he thanked Mr. Towers and everyone in the room. 

"Thank you for what you did, and for what you are doing in Iraq," Mr. Feller said. 

"I had a wonderful life because of what you did," he said to his hero, Mr. Towers. 

Even now, after 63 years, Mr. Towers is still receiving thanks from people he knows, and from complete strangers, even those who speak a different language.