Three Veterans’ Stories
Washtenaw County’s Honor List of the men and women who died or disappeared during World War II includes names still familiar to our communities: Hafly, Heselschwerdt, Koch, Schaible, Schneider, Salter, Van Dyken, Vetter, Vocker, Volz, Webb, and White, among hundreds of others. Every veteran fortunate enough to return brought home important, and sometimes difficult, stories. Many didn’t share them for decades.
The last veterans are in their nineties now. But they haven’t forgotten.
On Christmas Eve 1944, in Southampton, England, George Bigelow and the U.S. Army’s Sixty-Sixth Division boarded the Leopoldville, a converted Belgian cruise liner bound for France. They were rushing to reinforce depleted American forces fighting the Battle of the Bulge. But the unit, nicknamed the Black Panthers, never reached that battlefield. A German U-boat sank their ship, plunging Bigelow and 2,000 other soldiers and sailors under the icy waters of the English Channel in the middle of the night.