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November 21, 2012

D-Day veteran remembers

Trips bring back memories for local Army veteran Teffertiller

McLEANSBORO — As a young man, Bert Teffertiller was managing a clothing store in Herrin when he decided to sign up for military service.

It was 1942, not long after the United States had entered World War II.

“The owner of the store told me he could keep me out (of military service) for six months because I was a manager,” Teffertiller recalls. “I said, ‘No, others are going; it’s my time to go.’”

Teffertiller was among about 100 veterans to take part in the Central Illinois Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in September. CIHF offers free trips to the memorials in the nation’s capital to World War II veterans.

The 90-year-old Army veteran of D-Day — the Allied invasion of Europe — also attended a recent gathering of World War II veterans in Mt. Vernon.

“It brought back a lot of memories,” he said. “I was the only D-Day representative there.”

Teffertiller served overseas in England, making the trip across the Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary, he said. Ships carrying U.S. troops would have to “zig and zag” every so often because of enemy submarines, he recalls.

“At that time, German subs were trying to sink those ships,” he said. “Every so often I would see a missile go by.”

In England, Teffertiller and his fellow troops were initially housed in a 53-room manor house — a castle — before being moved to the southern coast, he said. The harbor there — filled with Allied LST (landing ship tank) boats — was a frequent target of German bombing missions, he said.

“On the first day, we had to dig foxholes,” he said. “On the second day, we dug deeper.”

In the Army, Teffertiller was in charge of an ordnance unit of 112 men, he said. The unit maintained vehicles and supplied everything from food and clothing to ammunition, he said.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, “they had me down wading in the English Channel up to my waist, loading troops, tanks, jeeps ... onto LST boats,” Teffertiller said.

Originally, he said, the invasion was to take place June 4, “but the water in the channel was too rough to load anything.” Finally, at 4 p.m. June 6, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower gave the word “Go!”

“It seems now like that sky was black with our planes and paratroopers,” Teffertiller said.

He returned from service in January 1946 with a bad back, a result of sleeping in foxholes, he said. He looked into having surgery but was refused twice, and so has had to live with it — with the help of painkillers — ever since, he said.

Originally from Christopher, Teffertiller in 1947 settled in McLeansboro, where he started a string of successful businesses, including a clothing store and car dealership.

During World War II, he recalled, life was hard for civilians as well as military personnel.

“I remember that even before I left (for service), everything was rationed,” Teffertiller said. “I grew up on a farm and we raised everything, so Dad could trade what we grew. So we had everything we needed.”

 

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