MAGNOLIA − David O. Morckel never strayed far from home, but he got to see part of the world as he helped save it.
Minerva-born, the former small-town boy who served in Europe during World War II will celebrate his 102nd birthday with a special lunch at 11 a.m. Sunday at Mission BBQ at 4490 Dressler Road NW in Jackson Township.
The birthday of Morckel, one of Stark County’s oldest military veterans, is part of the restaurant’s ongoing efforts to honor those who served.
“They really are the greatest generation,” said Allison Dudley, Community Ambassador for Mission BBQ. “You can’t tell me you can send a 17 or 18 year old now and have them do what these men did. I couldn’t imagine doing what they did at my age.”
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Dudley said that when talking to World War II veterans, she was often amazed at how well they still remembered the names of the men they served with and those who did not return home.
Morckel is a reminder of history that often gets lost.
“I didn’t realize there were a lot of people (recruited) who were turned down because of the Great Depression because they had poor diets,” daughter-in-law Pat Morckel said.
Who is David O. Morckel?
The son of a World War I veteran injured by mustard gas, Morckel was drafted at the age of 24.
After basic training in Tennessee, his division was shipped to Europe on the Queen Mary because it was the fastest passenger ship that could outrun Nazi submarines.
Morckel slept on deck en route to Glasgow, Scotland, the only place that had a harbor large enough to accommodate the ship. He was sent to North London as a “Diamond T” freight truck driver and bulldozer operator, helping to build bridges in Belgium, France and Germany.
Morckel said he also participated in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last major counter-offensive on the Western Front. The six-week battle took place in Germany between December 16, 1944 and January 25, 1945.
Before that, he was on the beaches of France on June 7, 1944, the second day of D-Day.
“I try to tell my kids that they make it so easy,” Pat Morckrel said. “There were still bodies floating in the water as he passed.”
Morckel said he and his younger brother, Paul, who served in the same theater, crossed paths in Germany. Both were lucky to return home unscathed, although Morckel had a few close calls.
Once, while driving through a small village, he ran over some German soldiers who were sitting on a wall.
He got out of there as fast as he could, backwards.
Morckel was still in Europe on VE Day when Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945.
After the war, Morckel, who married his high school sweetheart before he left, returned to the Magnolia area where he took a job with his stepfather Henry Aultfather, digging water wells. He also worked as a truck driver.
Morckel was survived by five wives, his brother and two of his three children and one grandchild.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, only about 10%, or 167,284, are still alive.
Contact Charita at 330-580-8313 or [email protected]
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP