When Charles Mentzer moved his family from the Kenton OH area to Xenia OH, the Army lost track of him, so he never received the awards he was due. How they located him again in 1999 remains a mystery, so he was surprised one day when a package arrived in the mail containing his medals for service in World War II.
The local recruiters and a reporter from the Xenia Daily Gazette came to his home on Veterans Day 1999, and formally presented him with the Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII Veterans Medal, Infantryman’s Badge, and the European-American-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three stars to show he had been in three major engagements, along with several qualifying badges and lapel buttons.
He told the reporter how his first night on the line was “the most miserable night of my life.” The ground was hard and they could only dig shallow foxholes, so he sat with his knees under his chin and barely kept his head under cover.
The 99th was a relatively new division and went straight into battle during Germany’s last offensive at the Battle of the Bulge. It was during his first combat that Mentzer earned his Bronze Star. He was proud of his service but wasn’t the kind to brag, so we don’t know to this day what he did to merit the award. If you asked him if he was in action much, he’d just smile and say, “Oh, I saw a bit.”
H/395, his company, crossed the Remagen Bridge when the remains of the German Air Force were still trying to knock it down and the Army kept up a constant smoke screen. He said they were cut off more than once for a brief time, but managed to hold on. The time he spent in the service left him with memories and a sense of pride in his country. “It was an experience I wouldn’t take a million dollars for, but I wouldn’t want to do it again,” he concluded.
Pfc. Charles Mentzer died Sept. 27, 2012, at his home in Xenia OH.