• Last modified 6678 days ago (March 8, 2006)
  • Return to Checkerboard

Liberty magazine printed 99th soldier's photo years ago

Just before Christmas, Janet Waite mailed the Checkerboard a copy of an ad from a 1945 Liberty Magazine for Bethlehem Steel Co. which featured a picture of John Weikel taken while attending LSU as an ASTP student prior to being assigned to K/394, 99th Infantry Division in the summer of 1944. She provides additional information in the letter, below. Weikel's father was a vice president of Bethlehem Steel and served as a "dollar-a-year man" for FDR during the war. The family lived at Arlington VA, during the war. John attended the Episcopal school in Washington, D.C. They returned to Bethlehem PA, after the war. Ed Waite shared a foxhole with Weikel. When Ed went to get chow the foxhole suffered a direct mortar hit. John died in a hospital in France.

I believe I heard that there is a Bell Tower at the Moravian Church in Bethlehem PA, dedicated to John Weikel.

There was no USO in Baton Rouge in 1943, but Kitty Smith, a local woman, started what was called "The Military Maids" and held dances for any military men in the area. She also befriended many of them, taking them to her house, where they slept on the floor, on their first Christmas away from home.

When Kitty saw the ad in Liberty Magazine in April 1945, she recognized the GI as John Weikel and called John's father. He informed her of John's death and said that the photo had been on his desk and someone from Bethlehem Steel's advertising department saw it and asked to use it for a company ad. At the time, John was still alive but when he died, the company decided to use it as you see it.

That picture was taken at LSU as a joke, making John look like the battle-hardened GI he always wanted to be.

Kitty Smith became lifelong friends with the Weikels. She also gave the same friendship to my husband Ed, Bob Wilkenson, and Dave Weimer, all of the 99th.

Her kindness was felt by MANY other young men stationed in the area. Her daughter, Ellen, married Richard Fox who was at the Air Force base.

Every Christmas Dave Weimer sent Kitty four Moravian candles which were used by her in a mantle decoration in honor of her soldier boys from Pennsylvania.

She was an extraordinary woman all of her life, giving of herself in volunteer work to many organizations. She just died a year or so ago at age 99.

Thanks for your interest in John, whose memory is always with Ed and I'm sure many others in the 99th who knew him.

Janet Waite

Fort Washington PA