World War II veteran Vernon Medaugh poses with his medals and patches. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
World War II veteran Vernon Medaugh poses with his medals and patches. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – Ninety-four-year-old Vernon Medaugh can still recall memories from his time as a soldier in World War II like they happened yesterday. Medaugh was drafted in 1943, though he had wanted to join anyway.

Medaugh, born Feb. 28, 1924, wanted to join the Air Corps after graduating from Van Wert High School. He and a couple of guys he graduated with had plans to join but were told that people were being drafted and to wait until their numbers were called.

When their numbers were called, they were taken to Indianapolis, and Medaugh and another guy were sent to Georgia. Upon arrival, he found out he was set to be infantry in the Army.

Medaugh was in the 3rd Infantry Division and went in June of 1943 and came out around 28 months later. He took his basic training in Georgia and was deployed Nov. 1, 1943, to Casablanca, North Africa. From there, he was placed in Iran and then made his way into places like Italy with combat engineers.

“We didn’t know where we were going and they loaded us up in trucks and took us up, and we invaded Anzio which was about halfway between Naples and Rome,” said Medaugh. “We were there until almost April until we cruised on into Rome. They told us in Rome we could go into Reserves and we would never have to run into combat again. They took us into Naples, and about a month later we invaded Southern France and went clear into Germany.”

Though Medaugh was told he wouldn’t see combat again, he indeed did and was injured multiple times during his time in World War II. Medaugh recalled the time he took a gunshot to the shoulder.

“We were down in a field, and we were following up to go up a hill,” he said. “The Sargent told me and the BAR man to get on top of the hill. So, we started up, and a machine gunner opened up and hit a guy in the legs. I hit the ground, and he opened again. It hit me right [in the shoulder] and came out my back.”

Medaugh made it over the hill with a Lieutenant and artillery. In the process, many men were killed right before his eyes.

Medaugh said that often history books neglect to talk about some of the worst fighting. He stated that thousands of men were lost in the invasion of Anzio.

“During the whole war our division lost more men than any division that went to war,” said Medaugh. “We had some of the worst battles in Italy and North Africa. We were losing, and they didn’t want to report what was happening. We just kept fighting and fighting and when the Italians surrendered that was a big help.”

Medaugh recalled a time when a BAR man, himself, and another man were up on a hill when their outfit was getting ready to move out. They walked up the hill and spotted an enemy convoy. Medaugh ran back down the hill to tell the Lieutenant who told him to make sure he wasn’t spotted. The Captain was notified of the convoy, and he called to the battalion who said they would bring the artillery.

“It wasn’t too long and here came the Lieutenant with an artillery observer, and he and I went back up to the top of the hill,” said Medaugh. “He started calling artillery, and they started throwing artillery on it. They came in the front with aircrafts and bombs, and they wiped the whole convoy out.”

Medaugh said that many back home didn’t realize the full magnitude of what was going on in the East.

“My folks didn’t have radio back then, they only knew what the neighbors told them through newspapers,” said Medaugh. “They had no idea what the war was like.”

Medaugh said even he didn’t realize how bad it was until he was there.

“A lot of times I wondered what we were doing over there until we got up into France and I saw the first concentration camp,” said Medaugh. “Then you didn’t have to ask what you were doing there. After it was all over, I’m glad we went over there and did what we did. I hated that we had to but after you saw what you were doing…”

Medaugh said that had he known how bad war was, he probably would have reconsidered wanting to join.

“After I found out what really was going on, I’m glad I did go,” said Medaugh.

When the news came that the war was over, Medaugh was already on his way back home.

“I had 23 months, you had to have 24 months to go home, but I had been hospitalized because I got hit across the face by a piece of shrapnel, and I was in twice for concussions,” said Medaugh. “So they started me on the way home when the war ended. Individual troops couldn’t get home, so they’d put you with an outfit. They sent me back through the Air Corps and sent a guy to take my place in the front.”

When Medaugh got back to the United States, he found that the military had no records of his service. His records were lost sometime when he was transferred from the infantry to the Air Corps. Medaugh said he was to be discharged but ran into issues while doing so because the only record they had of him serving was two months with the Air Corps.

“They said, ‘We’ll just give you a temporary discharge, and you can go home until your records catch up with you,’” said Medaugh. “Well, they never did catch up with me. So, as far as the VA is concerned, I only have two months’ service.”

Medaugh said records were eventually found showing that he was in the hospital three times in France, but no records were discovered of him being in Italy or North Africa.

The last time Medaugh remembers seeing his records was in Africa.

“They would take you to a psychologist before they would take you back to the outfit and this guy asked me all kinds of questions, and I said something to him that he didn’t like,” said Medaugh. “He said, ‘See that road out there? I want you on the next truck going back to your outfit.’ He handed me my records. So, I took the records back to the outfit and went to the Service Company, and the Sargent said, ‘My gosh, you’ve got your records to get out of here; you’re free to go,’ and I said, ‘They’ll find me someplace.’ And so I laid the records up on the file cabinet, and that’s the last time I saw them.”

Medaugh was injured three times during the war including a gunshot wound to the shoulder, a piece of shrapnel through the hand, and a piece of shrapnel in the face. His injuries gained him the Purple Heart Medal.

Other medals and patches that Medaugh has on display include a Combat Injury Badge, a Bronze Star, a Good Combat Medal, an American Defense Medal, a Victory Medal, European Theatre Medal, Rifle and Carbine badges, and a 3rd Infantry Division patch.

Medaugh also has a German patch that was torn off a Nazi uniform.

“We used to tear them off of their uniforms,” said Medaugh. “That’s how we kept score to see how many prisoners we got, but we did it to aggravate them more than anything else.”

“We’d take prisoners, and they’d be just as scared and didn’t want to fight any more than we did,” said Medaugh who said that he believes many of them were just following orders. “But we didn’t like Hitler or the Nazi organization.”

After the war, Medaugh worked with his uncle for a few years at a service station and then at Aeroquip for 25 years until he retired.

Medaugh was in the 7the Infantry Regiment which was part of the 3rd Infantry Division. He keeps a book by John C. McManus titled, “7th Infantry Regiment: American Courage, American Carnage,” which includes his name and stories of the regiment.