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Grand Island's witnesses to history: World War II Part one: Charles DeGlopper

Sat, Oct 22nd 2022 07:00 am

By Alice Gerard

Shortly before D-Day, approximately half a million members of the U.S. military were training for the invasion in England. While there, Charles N. DeGlopper and his lifelong friend, Harold “Bud” Long, had a chance to catch up with each other.

According to Long, DeGlopper sensed his upcoming mission would be his last: “When we met there, maybe for a day or so, he said, ‘Bud, I’m not going to make it home.’ I said, ‘Charlie, we only have one more to go and we’re going to be home.’ ”

On June 7, DeGlopper arrived with others in Company C, first battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, 325th infantry regiment, via glider in France.

“When the invasion came, they flew down into Normandy and started trying to liberate the country,” said Joe Synakowski, a World War II veteran, who also served in the 82nd Airborne Division. “The town where they were was Sainte-Mère-Église. There was a little town next to it, La Fiere. La Fiere was (a small stone bridge over le Merderet River). That bridge was important because, if we held it, the enemy couldn’t get across to help at the beaches. It did turn a couple times, back and forth. Right next to that bridge, just up the road about 450-500 feet, there was a town called Cauquigny. There is a chapel there. Right near that area, Charles met his fate.”

In France, Company C, first battalion, was under attack and had been cut off from the rest of the battalion. DeGlopper stood up and began to fire his Browning automatic rifle at the attacking Germans. The enemy focused their attention on DeGlopper, and he was shot repeatedly before he was killed. As he was firing, the rest of the company was able to rejoin their battalion.

For his actions, which resulted in his death, DeGlopper was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1948.

After DeGlopper’s death, Long was left with a lifetime of memories of his friend. Native Islanders, they attended two one-room schoolhouses (numbers 5 and 9) on the Island before going off Island to attend high school in Tonawanda.

Long described Charles as a “quiet kid.”

“I was a year ahead of him all the time. He would have never gone for all this celebrating,” Long said. “I’m glad they did it, because it’s an honor to have it done. He was a big kid (about 6’6”). He never got into trouble. He was just an average kid. He never played any sports. I played basketball and football. I played hardball until I went into the service. I played hardball in the service, too. He was just a quiet kid, but he got along with us.”

One of DeGlopper’s friends, Long said, was a boy named Lester who Long described as being about 5’1” or 5’2”. The two were pictured in the high school yearbook together.

“When I was a senior and he was a junior, we joined a bachelors’ club for cooking and sewing,” Long said. “We had a great time. The teacher always said, ‘We’ve got to teach you sewing.’ But we wanted to cook. That’s how I got to know Charlie. His dad had a big old Buick with a jump seat. So, we all piled in on Saturday night. We’d go to a movie or go over to the mainland. We’d ride around town or go to a movie or stop into a hot dog stand on Sheridan (Brinson’s Red Hots).”

During World War II, DeGlopper and Long entered the military together.

“They didn’t have an outfit to fit him,” Long recalled. “He had a size 13 or 14 shoe. They didn’t have shoes to fit him. We were at (the) Fort Niagara recruiting place to get our clothes and to get the heck out to go someplace else. After three days, I had my whole uniform. We sent my civilian clothes home. On the third day, they shipped me out to St. Petersburg, Florida. (DeGlopper) was still there with his civilian clothes on.”

Long joined the combat engineers after he left the recruiting station.

“Charles was a big boy,” Synakowski said. “He had a lot of friends. He was a friendly fellow, a good guy to know. A friend of his was in the pup tent with him. When they went to bed at night in the pup tent, his feet stuck out of the pup tent a foot and a half. So, he asked his friend, who was from Niagara Falls, by the way, if he would cover his feet because he couldn’t do it.”

After DeGlopper received his uniform, “he trained in the United States, and they went overseas,” Synakowski said. “They went to North Africa. I don’t know exactly how much action they saw in North Africa, but they were training to invade Sicily. When they invaded Sicily, they took over Sicily, and they had an accident. The Navy wasn’t informed that the gliders were going to come over to Sicily to invade. They shot some of them down. It was a disaster. Charles was OK, and he went through the Italian campaign. After the campaign was pretty much cleaned up, they shipped the unit (325) to England. By then, it was 1944.”

Meanwhile, Long’s military service took him on a different route. “There were 12 of us in my outfit, all of us mechanics. Our main outfit came in (to Normandy) about four or five days (after D-Day). We stayed together for the whole war.”

Next week: Harold “Bud” Long’s story.

Author's note: I spent a few hours late in August interviewing Bud Long, who kindly and very generously shared with me the stories of his military service, as well as of his long life. Bud passed away on Oct. 7, with his family at his bedside in Dansville Hospital. He was 101 years old.

A celebration of Bud's life will be held from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at the Nunda Fire Department on State Street in Nunda, in Livingston County.

We are losing our World War II veterans at the rate of 234 per day. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 167,284 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2022.

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