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Bucyrus man charged pillbox to stay alive

Mansfield News Journal

On a chilly Feb. 14, 1945, Cpl. Gerald Stoll decided he would rather fight than die.

The result was a Bronze Star.

Somewhere in Germany, Stoll’s platoon was pinned down by fire from a German pillbox.

“Why lay there and get killed?” Stoll recalls asking himself. “Do something!”

So he picked up his heavy Browning Automatic Rifle and started marching toward that pillbox. He was firing every foot of the way.

He killed one enemy soldier and took the pillbox single-handedly. As an infantry, Stoll said he knew the score.

“I knew that any second I could be dead. But I never let that take over my mind,” he said. “I’d never want to go through that again. But I’ll never be sorry that I did.”

Stoll, now 90, was a member of the 99th Infantry Division, known as “The Checkerboard Division.”

He fought from November 1944 in Belgium to May 1945 in Germany. He earned an Oak Leaf Cluster for his Bronze Star because of his outstanding combat performance during that time. He also earned the Combat Infantry Badge.

A farm bow from Carey in Wyandot County OH, Stoll said the farm was purchased by his great-great-grandfather, Daniel Hodges, in 1821.

“He was from Baltimore and came to Ohio early. He was a sheriff when he lived in Chillicothe,” Stoll said of Hodges.

Somewhere on that farm is the spot where Gen. William Crawford was burned at the stake by Wyandots in the 1790s, Stoll said.

Born in 1922, Stoll graduated from Carey High School in 1939.

He did a one-month stint of Army infantry training in 1940, but was not drafted until September 1942. The Army sent him to college at the University of Arkansas.

“It was part of an officer training program for enlisted men,” he said.

That program was abandoned after D-Day, and Pvt. Stoll was sent to the 99th Infantry Division, which sailed from Boston Harbor in the fall of 1944.

After a short bit of training at a camp near Piddlehinton, England, the unit was sent to LeHavre, and from there to the front in Belgium. Stoll was a lead scout and eventually a platoon leader.

He was the man who handled the heavy Browning Automatic Rifle and was, the records say, always volunteering for dangerous jobs.

When the war ended, Cpl. Stoll was just a few points short of going home. So he became part of the occupation, working with a quartermaster unit in Belgium.

Once he was home he left the army and traveled to Arkansas to see a girl he had met down there. Nothing came of it.

He went to work for the Swan Rubber Company plant in Carey OH. He eventually worked for that same company in Oklahoma and finally, in Bucyrus for 50 years.

He was first married in 1947, but that ended in divorce in 1949.

His second marriage, to Jacqueline Predmore of Carey, lasted 40 years, until her death in 1990.

The couple had three children, Geoffrey and Steven, both of Bucyrus OH, and Rebecca Mason of Marion OH. There are four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Stoll, a member of several veterans’ organizations, always enjoyed travel.

During a trip to Europe, he stood only 100 feet away from a foxhole he had occupied during the Battle of the Bulge.

He always enjoyed 99th reunions, but said few men were able to attend the last event in Kansas City in 2011.

“There may not be any more reunions left,” he said.

In the years after his wife’s death, he made a friend in Irma Ammons, a widow from Springmill OH. The two have traveled together for years.

Last modified Oct. 10, 2012

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