Buena Vista County, IA
Hayes Memorial Field
In 1946, The Hayes Alumni Association undertook a project to establish a memorial to two former graduates of the school: Harold Vernon Foell, the son of Carl L. and Vernice A Foell, and Wilbur Ira Oatman, the son of William B. and Essil E. Oatman, both casualties of World War II. Harold was on born 26 August 1919 and Wilbur on 9 April 1916.
Records indicate that Harold enlisted as a private in the Coast Artillery Corps at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, on 21 January 1941 for a period of one year. At some point during his training, he was assigned to the 43d Infantry Division, which first trained at Camp Blanding, Florida. It was supposed to be only a one-year stint, but December 7, 1941, changed all of that. The 43d was now in for the duration of the war. After completing advanced training in Mississippi and large scale maneuvers in Louisiana and the Carolinas, the 43d shipped out of Fort Ord, California, in October of 1942. It took the transport ships almost three weeks to reach New Zealand. Stationed first in New Zealand, the 43d Division island hopped its way up the Pacific chain. Operations were conducted on many islands, some well-known, others never before heard of: Guadalcanal; the Russell Islands; New Georgia, where the 43d took heavy casualties taking Munda airfield, the Drinimour River in New Guinea, and Luzon and Manila in the Philippines. For their actions in the Philippines, the 43d was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. Unfortunately, Harold was killed in action on the Island of Luzon. He was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest award for valor during combat. Members of the 43d Infantry Division were awarded 2 Medals of Honor, 40 Distinguished Service Crosses, 2 Distinguished Service Medals, 736 Silver Stars and 2496 Bronze Stars. Harold was buried in The United States Armed Forces Cemetery, Manila, Philippines.
Wilbur Ira Oatman probably entered the Military in 1943 and was assigned to I Company, 254th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division, which was activated on 15 June 1943, at Camp Blanding, Florida. Shortly thereafter, it removed to Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi, to prepare for deployment to Europe. On three occasions during the next seventeen months, the division trained recruits only to have them cross-leveled to other divisions heading for the theater.
The first elements of the division, anxious to get in the fight, finally arrived in Europe in December 1944 and were joined by the rest of the division in January 1945. The division was made up of three infantry regiments: the 253rd Infantry Regiment, the 254th Infantry Regiment, and the 255th Infantry Regiment. The Divisional artillery was provided by the 718th Field Artillery Battalion, the 861st Field Artillery Battalion, the 862d Field Artillery Battalion, and the 863d Field Artillery Battalion. Other attached units were the 263d Engineer Battalion and the 363d Medical Battalion.
Three regiments of the 63d Infantry Division arrived in Marseille, France, on 8 December 1944, trained at Haguenau and, under the designation Task Force Harris, protected the east flank of the Seventh Army along the Rhine River. The task force fought defensively from 22 to 30 December 1944. On 30 December 44 while the 253d Inf Regt was attached to the 44th Inf Div and the 255th Inf Regt was attached to the 100th Inf Div, the 254th Inf Regt was moved to the Colmar area of France where it was attached to the 3d Inf Div (Lt Audie L Murphy‘s unit, the most decorated soldier of World War II, when he was awarded the Medal Of Honor) which was at the time a part of the First French Army. The Infantry Regiments remained with their attachments until early February 1945. The rest of the division arrived at Marseilles, 14 January 1945, and moved to Willerwald on 2 February where it was joined by the advance elements on 6 February. On 7th, the 63d conducted local raids and patrols, then pushed forward, crossing the Saar River on 17 February, and mopping up the enemy in the Muhlen Woods. After bitter fighting at Güdingen early in March, the division drove at the Siegfried Line on the 15th at Saarbrücken, Germany, taking Ormesheim and finally breaching the line at Sankt Ingbert and Hassel on 20 March. Hard fighting still lay ahead, but the Siegfried Line was Germany's last attempt to defend its prewar boundaries along the western front; this was a significant moment in the 63rd Infantry's history. Before resting on 23 March, the 63d took Spiesen-Elversberg, Neunkirchen and Erbach. From then until the end of the war, the 63rd Division carved a path of “blood and fire” from Sarreguemines through Germany. On 28 March, the division crossed the Rhine at Lampertheim, moved to Viernheim and captured Heidelberg on 30th. Continuing the advance, the 63d crossed the Neckar River near Mosbach and the Jagst River. Heavy resistance slowed the attack on Adelsheim, Möckmühl, and Bad Wimpfen. The Division switched to the southeast, capturing Lampoldshausen and clearing the Hardthauser Woods on 7 April. A bridgehead was secured over the Kocher River near Weißbach on 8 April, and Schwäbisch Hall fell on 17 April.
Tech Sergeant Wilbur Ira Oatman was killed in battle on 8 April 1945, one day before his 29th birthday. He was buried 10 April 1945 in Bensheim, Germany.
Advance elements crossed the Rems River and rushed to the Danube. That river was crossed on 25 April, and Leipheim fell before the division was withdrawn from the line on 28 April, and assigned security duty from the Rhine to Darmstadt and Würzburg on a line to Stuttgart and Speyer. The 63d began leaving for home on 21 August 1945, and was deactivated on 27 September 1945.
Unit Honors and Staticics (63rd Infantry Division):
The Alumni Association collected over $1600.00 and purchased 2.6 acres of land north of the Hayes School Building from the three Newell sisters that owned the farm land. The land was plowed and seeded and made into an athletic field where baseball games were played. A granite monument was erected in honor of Harold and Wilbur and the field was named "Hayes Memorial Field". When the school building was sold to private enterprise, the monument was relocated to the corner of Flindt Drive and East Fourth Street, Storm Lake, Iowa, where it stands today.
Submitted by Ray Staples.
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