Tama County

Harry F. Shefchik




Harry F. Shefchik was born 10 Dec 1911 in Osage, Iowa. Harry's parents were Frank Ed and Lurena "Rena" (Pierce) Shefchik. I think Rena may have been part Native American, but I'm not sure which tribe. Frank's parents and siblings spelled the name Sevcik, which is close to the Czech spelling (there should be a "Czech-mark" above the S). However, Shefchik is closer to the Czech pronunciation, which may be why Frank changed his name.

Harry enlisted in the Army on 17 Nov 1942, and went overseas in March, 1943, with the 3rd Infantry Division of Lt. Gen. A.M. Patch's 7th Army. He participated in Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Argo, southern France, Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns. He was awarded many medals and citations, among which are a silver battle star, two bronze battle stars, Fifteenth Infantry first bronze oak leaf cluster, and the Croix de Guerre with palm. His job was clearing mines.

At some point, Harry was promoted to Sergeant, and transferred to the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry. His honorable discharge came on 17 Sep 1945. He worked at the Tama Paper Mill in Tama County, Iowa, before and after the war. He was married, before or during the war, to a woman named Dorothy. Harry passed away on 6 Oct 1972, at the age of 61, in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

This letter written home by Harry appeared in an article in the Tama News-Herald, Tama, Iowa, on 14 Dec 1944:

Just the usual few lines to let you know that I’m O.K. in every way and hope you folks can and do say the same. I can’t think of a thing to write about so maybe this will be a good time to give you a partial description of my travels in France. We’re allowed to tell of our experiences up to and including Oct. 9th so here it is.

I first saw France through a haze of smoke layed down by our artillery to screen our landing. A very welcome smoke I can assure you but one that wasn’t needed as luck would have it. The beach had been protected by under water obstacles and barb wire but our bombers and supporting ships had blasted all of this to bits so our landing craft took us right up to the beach. None of us knew what to expect as the landing ramp of our boat was dropped and all said a prayer to himself, or anyway I did. No hail of fire met us and we all made a rush to get to the beach and the cover that was about 75 yards farther on. The first few fellows hit the water but as luck would have it our boat stopped at the lip of a bomb crater and the first few men went in over their heads in the oily water. No one was lost tho and we reached our protective cover without mishap. Sounds simple and like it might have been fun but don’t let it fool you because all of us lost a pound or two “sweating it out” as we say in the army. This was my introduction to France. If I ever visit this country again I’ll take a bus. So much for our landing.

Part two and my first glimpse of the surrounding country. It was more or less just a hasty glance because a few “booby traps” had been sighted and it was one of our jobs to clear these out. This proved to be quite simple and within a few hours we had established a firm beach head. We started moving inland and taking in the surrounding territory. At first I was rather disappointed because all we could see were vineyards and sand, but as we advanced inland the country flattened out and a few stone houses with red tiled roofs could be seen in the distance. Not unlike the houses in Italy but still different.

We met the first civilians a few minutes later and gave them cigarettes and candy in exchange for water and wine. At first they couldn’t believe we were Americans but after we convinced them they sure were a happy bunch of people. It didn’t take the news of our landing long to travel ahead and soon the free French with F.F.I. bands on their arms started bringing in German prisoners. Given a chance to fight this band, or rather army of gallant French, really proved to be a big help, as you all probably know.

The next few days were a nightmare as we traveled night and day to take as much territory as we could before the Germans launched a counter attack. This attack never materialized till nearly a month later but by then we were several hundred miles into France. Our supplies had a hard time keeping pace with us but the supply officers and crew managed to keep us in supplies by working 24 hours per day. Only people fighting for what we were fighting for could have accomplished this job and even now no one can truthfully say how it was done. In fact, it would give a railroad or well established truck line a headache just to think of a job of that kind. Well, that is all past history so I’ll give you an idea of how the French people live and our treatment of them.

At first we were making forced marches and it was then that the French people really showed how much they appreciated our coming. Soon as we were sighted coming up the road … diet of C rations. When we were lucky enough to stop for a few minutes in any of the cities we were virtually swamped by the people. I never could get used to the idea of some old granddad sneaking up on you and kissing you on both cheeks but evidently this is one of their customs. Now, if it had been a girl that would have been different. The older people were the ones who made us feel that our coming was worthwhile. They were the ones who suffered most and many of the old women were crying because they were so overcome with emotion. Most of them couldn’t believe they were freed from the Nazi yoke of virtual slavery. I could go on all night describing the different customs of the people in the different sectors we’ve been thru but I haven’t the time to do so. I’ll now try to give a slight idea of our first meeting with the Jerries.

This was at a certain town that I’ll have to omit for military reasons. It sure was a blow to the Germans and they lost enough equipment to supply an army. An entire convoy was caught by our air force and artillery. It was jammed two and three vehicles abreast for a distance of three miles or more along the highway and what wasn’t destroyed by the fire was given to the French. Very few of the Germans in this convoy escaped and it kept us busy rounding up the prisoners. I’ve a few souvenirs from this convoy and they are ones I’ll always treasure. I’m not sure if this brings this letter up to Oct. 9th or not but I’ll have to sign off anyway.


Source: The above article about Harry Shefchik was written by his first cousin, once removed--Bill Haloupek. Permission to repost on this website given by Bill Haloupek.