Last Friday morning, Heritage School teacher Todd Anton and students of the Kiwanis Builders Club, orchestrated a surprise 100th birthday party for World War II veteran Earl Schroder. In addition to receiving a birthday cake and gift bag, Don Holland, representing SBC First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood, presented Earl with a commorative fabric Silver Star from an American Flag, photocopies of his Army induction papers, and a County of San Bernardino Resolution. As Builders Club students formed a semi-circle around Anton and Schroder, he shared memories of his military life, with a sharp mind and clear voice, for a unique oral history session. Born on September 28, 1919 during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, Schroder was 22 years old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He would remain in service until he was 27. After boot camp, Earl was trained to become a Warrant Officer at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. As a Warrant Officer of the 94th Infantry, Earl was sent overseas to join up with the 1251st Engineer Troop at Camp Swift England. It was there that Earl was in charge of gathering necessary supplies and equipment for a special mission. Shortly after D Day, the 1251 and Earl were transferred to Paris France where they began assembling components of three troop transport pontoon bridges needed to cross over the Rhine River. As Warrant Officer, Earl was honored to be invited to a dinner the night before U.S. troops were to use his bridges to cross the river in pursuit of retreating German troops. Much to his surprise, General Eisenhower made an appearance and had dinner with those in attendance. On the following day, U.S. troops led by Eisenhower crossed the Rhine River and entered Germany. At one point during the war in 1944/1945, Schroder and his unit discovered a brewery and distillery in Monchengladbach Germany, which was liberated, and the seized brandy was emptied into beer barrels that were distributed to the 1251st troop’s ranks for an end-of-WWII celebration. Earl Schroder was the last elected president of the West Coast/California Chapter of the 1251st Engineer Troop and was the last surviving member when it was disbanded. In 2013, Schroder was aboard an “Honor Flight” to Washington D.C. where he was recognized by Senator Robert Dole and his wife Elizabeth. Earl remembered vividly when, “Elizabeth approached and gave me a big hug.” When the Honor Flight returned to California, there was a hero’s welcome at the airport with a water cannon salute on the taxiway and cheering at the terminal. At the conclusion of his birthday party on Friday, everyone in attendance sang “Happy Birthday” as Earl blew out the candles with a beaming smile, glad to be remembered and glad to be 100.
Serving Wrightwood, Phelan, Pinon HIlls and West Cajon Valley Since 1961