Veteran stories: WWII Vet recalls atrocities in Italy, Africa; now, ‘so few of us left’

Ron Bucher, WWII veteran, St. George, Utah, circa Nov. 10, 2014 | Photo by Brett Brostrom, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – For 94-year-old veteran Ron Bucher of St. George, Veterans Day is a day to reflect on his World War II service.

Born in 1920, Bucher was drafted into the Army in June 1942, and, at the age of 21, was shipped to Italy.

“My first winter in Italy was a toughie,” Bucher said. “I was 23 years old. At the time, I wondered why there was so much hurry. But we were on a time frame in Italy. Rome fell first because it was the first Axis capitol. It fell on June the 4th. On June the 6th was D-day at Normandy.”

A landing ship similar to what Bucher would have been transported on during World War II | Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

Bucher’s squad was responsible for artillery in Africa and Italy, and he said he saw combat more than once. While in Italy, Bucher said, he witnessed atrocities of war that he never thought possible.

“In Italy, those people were happy-go-lucky people,” he said. “The fight went on and the invasion of Sicily started, and they’d be on their carts and going along the road, happy as larks, singing at the top of their voice, but the Germans had land mines in the vineyards, and you’d see them just get blown up when they were working in there. War is not pleasant, no matter how you take it.”

A copy of Bucher’s discharge papers, signed by Lt. Col. Karl W. Marks, circa Feb. 20, 1946 | Image courtesy of Ron Bucher, St. George News

Among atrocities he witnessed in Africa, Bucher said, he saw men die by friendly fire one night.

“The Air Force dropped flares and lit up the beach like you were reading the newspaper,” he said. “Someone got their wires crossed and sent our paratroopers from Africa in there, and those Navy machine gunners shot (the paratroopers) to pieces. That was the first night. I saw that. That’s not pretty.”

Seven decades after his war days concluded, Bucher had the opportunity to go with other Utah veterans on the Utah Honor Flight, a special tour that transports WWII veterans to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“There are between 7,000-10,000 World War II vets in Utah,” Jennie Barnett, secretary treasurer of the Utah Honor Flight group, said. “The vets are always so emotional when they go there. It’s such a rewarding experience for everyone involved.”

Veterans welcomed home as they are helped off the bus, St. George, Utah, Oct. 2, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Veterans are helped off the bus after returning from the Utah Honor Flight, St. George, Utah, Oct. 2, 2014 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Bucher had the opportunity to go on the trip in September and said he enjoyed being with other veterans and reflecting on the experiences he had while in the Army.

“It was a different experience because I’ve never made a flight like that,” Bucher said. “There was no other veterans from the theater I was in. It was the chance of a lifetime, because I never would have been able to go and see that on my own.”

On Veterans Day, Bucher said, he will be speaking to his family and friends at The Meadows, the St. George assisted living community he currently lives in.

“Now they’re making a big fuss about the war because there is so few of us left,” Bucher said. “At the time we came home, there was no fanfare or nothing about it. This is kind of the aftermath of all of that.”

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  • Connie Childs November 11, 2014 at 6:57 am

    Mr. Bucher,
    Thank you sir for your service to this country!

  • Brad Kitchen November 11, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Great article. My father was a WW-2 veteran with several off shore landings who served his country with great pride. Hats off to all the veterans on this veterans day. We support you to the end.

  • Red Rocker November 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

    We all appreciate Mr. Bucher’s service and he can be proud of it.
    The USA went all in and helped to stop expansion by the Japanese and true evil by the Nazis. Veterans of the Vietnam era and later, didn’t have the benefit of serving in wars that were so noble and well defined.
    I went to Navy Hospital Corps school in 1965 and 16 men out of my class of 30 died in Vietnam. One was a very good friend who received the Navy Cross. I am angry to this day because I felt that they all died for nothing. I feel similar sentiment about our that followed.
    I served because it was my duty, but how long can our servicemen be asked to sacrifice for missions of doubtful necessity?
    The Government should declare war, with established goals and duration defined before asking our Citizens to die for it.

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