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Diane Boit: WWII Prisoners of war return home, 1945

Diane Boit: WWII Prisoners of war return home, 1945


25 Years Ago – 1995

The Blenders, a 20-something, four-piece vocal group from Fargo, gave a concert this past week to an enthusiastic young crowd at the Mandan High School gymnasium. The popular a cappella group sang 11 songs from their album that was released in music stores this past week. The group, originating from the Fargo area, received the Contemporary Artist of the Year award from National Association of Campus Attractions in 1994 and 1995 and have also made appearances on the Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall television shows.

Temps recorded Monday, Sept. 11: a high of 78 degrees; 56 degrees for the low.

50 Years Ago – 1970

Syndicate school in south Mandan will be renamed Mary Stark Grade School as a result of recent action by the Mandan School Board. A petition signed by parents living in the Syndicate area requested the change to honor the late Mary Stark who had taught all of her adult life in Mandan, most of these at the syndicate school.

Mandan High won its initial football game of the year by shutting out Aberdeen Roncalli, 20-0. Quarterback Jim Gronowski and half back Kevin Lee scored on long, electrifying runs during the first two quarters for a 12-0 halftime lead. The final touchdown by Chris Assel in the fourth quarter, followed by Gronowski’s two-point conversion run, secured the victory.

It’s the second week of celebrating the grand opening of the new, improved and expanded Jumbo’s Drive-In, 1000 E Main St. This week’s specials: Fish sandwich, 39 cents; Sloppy joes, 19 cents; two quarter pieces of fried chicken, $1.50; and all gallon drinks, with jug, 50 cents.

 The Star-Lite outdoor theater will end its summer season this week with a “Buck Nite” promotion. Only $1 will pay for a car full of people (include those riding in the trunk) who will be entitled to see “Prudence and the Pill” starring David Niven; followed by “Support Your Local Sheriff” starring James Garner, Walter Brennan and Joan Hackett.

William G. Engelter Jr., has announced the opening of his new law office in Mandan at 110 Second Ave. N.W., site of the former Morning Pioneer building. The Mandan native graduated from Mandan High School in 1962 and from UND, 1966, with a major in accounting; and from the UND Law School in 1969 and was admitted to practice law in July, 1969. During 1969-70, Engelter did research for the Supreme Court of North Dakota.

Preliminary figures released by the U. S. Bureau of Census shows Mandan’s population increased by 4.8% since 1960 and is now at 11,025. West Fargo’s population gained 53% during the past decade, making it the fastest-growing city in North Dakota. Tioga had the largest percentage decrease, 22.6.

75 Years Ago – 1945

Thousands of prisoners of war from German and Japanese camps are being returned to the United States and are arriving to joyous reunions in their hometowns, including:

Cpl. George Wenger, son of Mrs. Barbara Wenger, Mandan, a prisoner of the Germans for six months; Pvt. Wilbur Wanstrom, Almont vicinity, a prisoner of the Germans since July, 1944; Lt. William Broderick, son of Judge and Mrs. L. C. Broderick of Mandan, a German war prisoner for two years; Sgt. Ronald De La Barre, son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank De La Barre, Mandan, released after 25 months in German prisoner camps; Pvt. Daniel J. Matz, son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Matz, Mandan, liberated after 27 months in a German prison camp; Cpl. Herbert Reeff, Glen Ullin, released after 13 months in a Japanese prison camp; Pfc. Harry Hunke Jr., son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hunke, Mandan, also liberated from a Japanese camp; and

Pfc. Frank Kopp, son of Mr. and Mrs. Emil J. Kopp of Raleigh, who was captured during last winter’s Battle of the Bulge and was among 2,300 American prisoners in his camp, along with hundreds of British, Russian and French men. Food was scare there and disease rampant. Pvt. Kopp disembarked at the Mandan train depot, 40 pounds lighter, and felt lucky to have survived. Kopp entered the service in October 1943. Another brother Alois, was reported missing in action by the Navy three years ago. A third brother, Celles, is currently in the Navy.

And then there’s the story of Pvt. Henry Schmidt of Mandan who was captured one morning by German SS troops and rescued by the 12th corps troops later the same day. Pvt. Schmidt was one of the 15 truck drivers moving an evacuation hospital from one headquarters to another when the convoy was ambushed by the Germans who shot the Red Cross flag off the lead jeep and proceeded to riddle the trucks, destroying 250 pints of precious plasma and 17,500 units of penicillin. The 12th corps artillery, however, pinned the Germans down, destroyed their arms, and then rescued Pvt. Schmidt and his 14 comrades.

More appreciative than ever of the things this country has to offer and the American way of life is Lt. Ruth Bandel, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Bandel of Hebron. She recently arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary, after serving 18 months in U.S. hospitals in England. “I’ll never forget seeing the Statue of Liberty; all of us wept for joy at the image,” she said.

100 Years Ago – 1920

“The Mandan Public Schools opened on Monday, Sept. 6, with record-breaking enrollment and overcrowded rooms at the Central, Custer and Dilloway school buildings as well as at the high school. According to Supt. C. L. Love, there was a total of 208 high school students last year, and it’s expected 250, including 75 from the rural areas, will be enrolled before the middle of the year. All 14 teacher positions in the high school have been filled.

“C.S. Fritz has resigned his position as manager of the City Drug store and will leave Monday for a similar position in Dickinson. F. P. Homan has arrived from Wing, N D., to assume management.

“Martin, the 13-year old son of Henry Knoll, received severe injuries this week while driving a disc machine in the field near his St. Anthony home. It is thought that the four horses he was driving became unmanageable, resulting in the boy being thrown to the ground, and, as the disc passed over him, Martin received a long cut on the right side of his body extending halfway around, exposing several of his ribs. The lad showed more grit than many a strong man would, by then walking more than a half mile to a road where he was picked up and taken to his home and then brought to the Deaconess hospital in Mandan for further treatment. Since his injury, young Martin has not lost consciousness. It is hoped his young age will aid in his recovery.

“A month after its opening on Aug. 2, the Mandan Beverage company is doing booming business. The company, incorporated early in the summer by local men, leased and remodeled the Gill building on East Main St. The office occupies the southwest corner of the building, while the bottling, carbonating, cleaning and shipping departments are contained in the remainder. The most complete piece of machinery is the bottler, which is all but human. It takes a case of 24 bottles, puts in the flavor and carbonated water, caps the bottle and labels them- all within one minute’s time. According to H. H. Williams, president, the company has taken the name of Blue Thunder, the famous Sioux Indian of the Standing Rock Reservation, as the leading name on its products.”

125 Years Ago – 1895    

“On Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 2:30 p.m., the thermometer recorded 75 degrees above zero.

“Everybody is busy.

“Only 17 more days to the opening of the Morton County fair.

“Secretary Timmerman is busy sending out the fair premium lists to area residents.

“Migratory birds are mapping their various routes to more sunny climes.

“A sign of the times: overcoats and winter wraps are being displayed in stores.

“Farmer Fred Fredericks reports 22 bushels of flax per acre on 8 acres; his oats went 89 bushels.

“The public school will open on Monday, the 16th. Teachers are ready; children are not.

“One of the sufferers by prairie fire near New Salem on Saturday was Adolph Teal who lost a newly-erected barn, some chickens and a lot of grain.

“The Bismarck Tribune hints that a ‘dark horse’ from across the river is coming to Mandan to capture the big money in the running races at the fair.

“There will be a roping contest for a purse of $50 on the last day of next month’s fair. Those who have never seen a man lasso, throw and tie a steer in about half a minute, unaided by anyone, will be interested in this event.”

Diane Boit can be reached at


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