Wesley Towers Veteran Featured on KSN

A Hutchinson WWII veteran said he was just 22-years-old and was working at Cessna Aircraft, when he got a letter from the President.

It stated that he was needed in the military and he said in no time he was boarding a bus. Olen Mitchell, 97, would then spend nearly thirty days on a ship, where they couldn't even light a match. He said they even had to wait until night to dump garbage overboard, so they would have plenty of time to get away from it before sunrise. He said the enemy had their sights set on the fleet, headed overseas.

"The Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Bronze Star, those are earned decorations," WWII combat infantryman Olen Mitchell said. Mitchell earned every one of them, although he's most proud of his Combat Rifleman medal. "That indicates everything I did," he said the voyage to WWII wasn't easy. "We would up in a convoy, in the Atlantic of 110 ships," Mitchell said. He said the enemy was watching their every move. "We had a number of submarine attacks, going over they sunk one ship".

The troops eventually made it to Italy and Mitchell said within no time they were on the front lines. "You don't know if you are going to be alive 15 minutes from now, or in the morning," Mitchell said. As infantry members, they had to carry everything they had on their backs, including tons of ammunition. "I was in the 85th Division, 337th Infantry, Company L," there were many occupational hazards as they also had no beds and no barracks to sleep in.

"You'd be going down the road and the Germans would have a piano wire stretched across from one tree to another, that was just right to cut your head off," Mitchell said. He said while attempting to take a railroad tunnel from the Germans, they met a lot of resistance. "I got hit by a German rifle bullet, went in one cheek and came out the other and it took everything pretty much with it," Olen stated. Even though he was severely wounded, he tried to get a message back to the medic. "For him to not come up because if he did, they would just get him the way they did me, but faithful as he was, he came up," Mitchell said.

A telegram arrived in Kansas letting the love of his life know he had been wounded. After another long trip aboard a ship and many months of recovery, he finally made it home. "I came home, I was very, very fortunate and I had a great and wonderful life". When he returned from the war zone, he was given a choice to be a Medic or Military Police (MP). He said becoming MP was the best decision he ever made!

In his retirement, Olen Mitchell now enjoys woodworking and his collection of classic cars.

Credit: KSN News for the interview and story. To view the video clip online, click here.

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