Chesterton Tribune



Manuel G. Alvarez, Sr. dies at age 95

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Manuel G. Alvarez, Sr., age 95, of St. Petersburg FL., formerly of Gary, IN, passed away Dec. 13, 2014, in Greenwood, IN.

He was born Aug. 6, 1919, in Collinsville, OK.

He was a veteran of WWII, serving with the 89th Infantry Division under the command of General George Patton. On 4-4-1945 his army division freed over 20,000 prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps. Ohrdruf was the first concentration camp liberated in WWII. He related to his family how he threw up and cried so then, after he saw inhumanity at its worst.

He was preceded in death by his father Jose Ramon, mother Benigna, his brother Joseph H. and his wife Antonia, sister-in-law Fefa, step-grandmother Maria, grandson Joseph Ramon, great-granddaughter Jenna Marie O'Rielly, his loving wife Ventura (Vicky) and the mother of his children, Josephine.

He is survived by his brother Cesar Alvarez, children Manuel and Christine Alvarez, Robert C. and Lena Alvarez, Gloria Alvarez Kuchaes and Marie A. and Karl Lofgren, stepchildren Emil Garcia, Bonnie and Bill Bosse, Joe and Joyce Garcia. 21 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, 2 great-great grandchildren, and many loving nieces and nephews who truly filled his heart with joy.

In his early years, his family was first given a taste of discrimination as three crosses were burnt in front of his fatherís house. Shortly after that incident, his mother became very ill and the doctor told him she would live longer if he would move to Cuba, the climate was far better there than in Oklahoma. Manuel lived there until he was 17 and then he came with his brother to Gary, IN.

Manuel was drafted in 1944. Discrimination in the army was high, but it actually saved his life. He was in a boat crossing a river when the captain ordered him to the back of the boat. When they were 50 feet from the shore, a mortar shell hit the seat he was ordered from and the boat reaction threw him and others in the river. He undid his backpack and let his rifle go, and helped many others do the same. They found a shack that he and his fellow soldiers occupied for three weeks, until they were resupplied and their 354th Regiment moved on, and then they rejoined their 354th Regiment.

In one of the towns in Germany, he was going house to house sweeping them of Germans, and as he was about to pass a house that was marked as swept, he heard what he thought was a scream. He opened the door and saw an American soldier, the parents tied up, and he was going to rape a girl who was a teenager. Manuel grabbed the soldier and threw him against the wall and told him to leave and not to return. At another town he was sweeping again, and a German was hiding behind a door and stabbed him with his bayonet. Manuel turned away from it and the butt of his rifle knocked it away, and he continued using the butt hitting the Germanís face knocking him down, and shot him twice. They then camped between two mountains and at about 12 a.m. the Germans opened up with artillery, mortars and machine guns with tracer bullets. He took refuge in a creek ravine as he stood against the embankment shaking and scared. He heard a splash and little while later he heard moaning. He was scared and he wasn't about to be fooled by the Germans. A little while later, he heard another splash and later, more moaning. This time, as scared as he was, he decided to investigate, so he slowly side stepped along the edge of the creek, keeping as close to the embankment as possible. He then saw a soldier in the creek and the medic in there also, so he dug with his hands until he grabbed roots and reached down and grabbed the first soldier with the help of the medic, and then he reached down and grabbed the medic. The guy was stiff and unconscious. Manuel remembered the place, they had a small heater (wood stove) where they made coffee and rolls in the morning, so he told the medic that he would carry the soldier. The medic told him he couldnít make it back. Manuel promised him he would come back for him. Waiting for the machine to pass at its longest line, he put the soldier on his shoulder and ran, zig zagging 150 yards to the shack, knocked on the door and called out whatever was the password of the night. He warmed up for a little while and then announced that he had to go get the medic, and they said to him you were very lucky one time, you have to be crazy to go through that and back again. But he looked at them and said I promised that I would return, and he did. The medic was almost unconscious but he said to him thank god you really did come back. Manuel received multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds on his legs, but not one hit a bone.

An officer was writing him up for the things he did and was told by a higher rank to throw it away, he would not have a low-life Latino who spoke broken English receive any award. Manuel didn't know who the soldier was until the war ended. He was assigned to guard German prisoners of war and he knew they were not about to escape because they were being prepared to fly back to Berlin. They were happy and Manuel was sitting next to them when Lt. Wasdell saw him dozing and slowly took his gun out of his holster and a German woke Manuel and told him what happened and Manuel said he took his gun and that he let him. Lt. Wasdell pressed court martial charges on him and a Lt. Scull told Manuel donít worry, I will defend you all the way. The charges were dismissed after Lt. Scull revealed who it was he carried to safety that day--none other than Lt. Wasdell from North Carolina. His racist attitude changed that day because he befriended Manuel from then on and begged Manuel to stay in the service, and told him that he would take care of him. He told him my family awaits me.

In the morning the 354th Reg. of the 89th Infantry Div. took out the two tanks that were camouflaged and the machine guns and moved on.

ďI hope we have done you proud Dad, Your children.Ē

Funeral services will be held Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, at 10 a.m. CST, at Burns Funeral Home, 10101 Broadway, Crown Point, IN, with Rev. Andrew Corona officiating. Entombment will be at Graceland Cemetery, Valparaiso, Ind.

Friends are invited to meet with Manuel's family on Wednesday, Dec. 17, from 2 to 8 p.m. at Burns Funeral Home.

Posted 12/17/2014