Heroes: the Army
"...At the end of WWII there had been 16 million in uniform, 405,399 had died and 78,773 were missing in action. They left behind wives, and approximately 183,000 children were left fatherless. We were designated "war orphans" by the Veterans Administration..."
Aloysius "Al" Stanek
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. L., 405th Regiment, 102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942-1944
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC, Purple Heart
- Birth Year: 1925
- KIA: 29 November 1944, Near Linnich
- Entered Service: Chicago, IN
The American WWII Orphans Network
by Dave Stanek, only son of Aloysius (Al) Stanek,
405-L, KIA 11/29/44 near Linnich
AWON began in 1991. It was established by Ann Bennet Mix to provide support to American WWII orphans who wanted to know others who had shared their experiences and were searching for information about their fathers.
At the end of WWII there had been 16 million in uniform, 405,399 had died and 78,773 were missing in action. They left behind wives, and approximately 183,000 children were left fatherless. We were designated "war orphans" by the Veterans Administration.
AWON provides a place for war orphans to share and talk about growing up fatherless. As a child I was not to talk about Dad or that Mom had been married before. My stepdad, who also happened to be my uncle, was a wonderful parent.
But this wasn't always the case for many of us. Some were despised by their stepparents, some were taken advantage of, others grew up without a father because he was their mother's first and only love. Some mothers went insane and resented their own children, and some of us were raised by grandparents or aunts and uncles. As an orphan that stayed with my father's family I fared the best, yet very little was ever said about Dad. I was told that when I got older I could write the Army and they would tell me what happened.
After my stepdad died, I had a chance to go to Washington, DC for the dedication of a marker dedicated to the "War Orphans," There were honor guards from each country that has a cemetery with United States soldiers buried in it. When the
Honor for the Netherlands presented the flag, I began to sob. Dad had been buried in Margraten until 1947, and then brought home.
It was the first time I talked with another war orphan and realized that most of us never talked of our dads and when given the chance, did not know what to say!
This was about the time AWON started: as a mater of fact Ann Mix was there handing out applications for AWON and I joined without asking any questions. When I got home I thought I had Just wasted $20 on some big city scam!
I attended my first conference in 1996 and it has been a journey of discovery ever since. Through AWON I have been able to do research at the Archives in College Park, MD, been through the records in St. Louis - at least what is left! It was there I found out that Dad was killed on Nov. 29, not Dec. 7 as the telegram stated. He was MIA, according to the morning reports, on Nov. 29 which was the time of the major battle for the Undern to Linnich road. I have been to the War College in Carlisle, PA where I found information from an Ozark who just happened to know Dad. One of my big finds was the 102nd Infantry Division Association.
My first 102nd reunion was in Cherry Hill in 1999. I did not know how I would be accepted but the men I met there welcomed me with open arms. Through them I was able to get to "know" my father. Dad was killed two months before I was born. He had been married for about two years but in the service for all but about two months, so mom never really got to know him that well. They spent whatever time the could together, but with the duties of a soldier and Mom living in the Midwest while Dad was in Texas, their time together was limited.
The Ozarks that I talked with in person and by phone helped me find my father. Many men called and told me that they knew my Dad and I even talked to the man who was with him when he was killed. I talked to many men who didn't know Dad but were in the battle for Linnich and told me what it was like; for some it wasn't easy, but they shared a real gift with me.
I since have been to the Hubertus Cross on two separate occasions, both times with the 102nd. The most recent was this past September where I was able to present to the Hubertus Cross Association, a cross in memory of my Dad.
Through all this I have found out that I am a lot like Dad and have many of his traits. And along the way I've met many wonderful, helpful people and many of the call themselves Ozarks.
----- Dave Stanek
Mr. Aloysius "Al" Stanek
29 November 1944
Co. L., 407th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
World War II Veteran
United States Army
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "The American WWII Orphans Network", by Dave Stanek, only son of Aloysius (Al) Stanek, 405-L, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 57, No. 3, April/June 2005, pp. 14-15.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 27 June 2005.
Story added to website on 28 June 2005.
September 5, 2002.
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