Born in Germany on Feb 5, 1921, Hans Wex of Port Charlotte, Fla. spent the early part of his life living in Europe then he moved to Hollywood, Calif. before ending up back in Germany in 1934, the year Adolph Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany.
“When my dad came and got me in Germany in the ‘30s I was 14-years old. While a student in Germany I remember giving the Hitler salute in class and not thinking much about it,” the 96-year-old U.S. Army veteran recalled.
“My dad had a job working for a restaurant in New York City at the time. We lived in Manhattan on 47th Street, two blocks from Times Square,” he said. “It was great.”
“My mother and father separated and I went to stay with my mother, but she couldn’t afford to take care of me. So she put me in the Children’s Aide Society where we learned to milk cows and cut the heads off chickens.
“They gave me a suitcase and a pair of rubber boots and sent me to a farm in upstate New York. I decided I wanted to complete my high school education, so I went to work for another farm and attended high school at the same time.
“This was about the time the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. I tried to sign up for the Navy, but they wouldn’t take me because I wasn’t an American citizen. I had to go down to the draft board and sign up for the Army,” Wex recalled.
“I ended up in the 96th Infantry Division in 1942 at Fort Polk, La. Right about that time the Army was looking for German speaking soldiers and I was recruited,” he said. “They sent me to Camp Richie, Md. The recruiter didn’t like the way I spoke German so I spent the next 18 months in the motor pool with Army trucks.
“Some 600 G.I.s and 400 WACS were selected to be sent to England. We boarded the liner Queen Elizabeth in New York and sailed for England. We ended up in ‘Camp Lucky Strike’ in France.
“I got a job during the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials—(where most of the major Nazi offenders were tried after the war)—taking the movie footage of the trials and flying it from Germany to London where the film ended up in the hands of the news media.
“While I was in Germany my dad asked me to look up my uncle and other relatives who lived near Berlin. Because they lived in the Russian Sector of Berlin I had to take a roundabout way of reaching them,” Wex explained.
He was discharged from the Army in 1946. A short while later he decided to reup. This time he signed up for the Army’s Counter Intelligence Service. Wex went to work for the CIC whose job it was to do background checks on people.
Several years later he decided to change jobs and get in the Army’s guided missile program. After training Wex was a attached to a Nike-Hercules Missile Battalion.
“We took the first guided missile battalion overseas. Our unit was sent to Mainz, Germany,” Wex said. “I was the fire control sergeant for our unit.
“Then I transferred to a Hawk Missiles Battalion,” Wex said. “I was the communication sergeant for the unit. We were stationed in Wurzberg, Germany. We stayed there 3 1/2 years until I was transferred back to the States. After 21 years, 11 days I was finally discharged the last time from the Army.
Eventually he went to work for Sears & Roebuck. For the next 18 years he was a building engineer, in charge of the store’s air conditioning system. Wex and his wife, Dorothy, retired and moved to Port Charlotte in 1986. They have two adult sons: John and Gary.
Name: Hans Bernhard Wex
D.O.B: 4 Feb. 1921
Hometown: Berlin, Germany
Currently: Port Charlote, Fla.
Entered Service: August 1942
Discharged: October 1946
Rank: MSg (E-8)
Unit: Headquarters Battery, 4th Msl Bn, 59th Arty, Norfolk, Va.
Commendations: Good Conduct Medal (4 Awards)
Battles/Campaigns: European Theatre, World War II
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 30, 2017 and is republished with permission.
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