Reprinted from the Citrus County Chronicle (May 29, 2013)
by Nancy Kennedy
When World War II broke out, young men were notified to report for military duty by telegram.
Harold Jaeckle, now 95, was a young man in Buffalo, N.Y., when he received his notification dated Jan. 1, 1942:
“Report for duty Saturday Reveille January Third.”
Fast forward 71 years.
Jaeckle now lives at Citrus Health and Rehab in Inverness, the telegram long gone and forgotten — until James Guthrie, a nurse who takes care of Jaeckle at the nursing home, discovered it at an antiques store near Floral City.
“I’m a history buff, especially World War II, and I stopped at this antiques store one day on my day off,” Guthrie said. “I saw the framed telegram and looked at the name and said, ‘That’s got to be my patient.’”
He bought it and took it to Jaeckle.
“That was a shock to me,” Jaeckle said. “I never expected to see it again.”
Also framed with the telegram is a card signed by Jaeckle’s friends and relatives.
At 95, Jaeckle’s memory isn’t what it used to be, so he doesn’t remember what had happened to the telegram and some of his other belongings. However, he does remember being a battery gunner in the Army, serving in the Pacific.
“I was in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines,” he said. “One day we shot down six Zeros (Japanese fighter planes) in the Philippines.”
Guthrie filled in the details, saying, “They were island hopping, that’s what they called it back then. They were trying to invade Japan, but their planes were out of range, so they went from island to island until they got close enough.”
“It was wild over there,” Jaeckle said.
After he got out of the Army, Jaeckle spent 25 years with the post office in Buffalo and retired to Florida to get away from the cold.
“Over the years I’ve taken care of a lot of World War II veterans, and I’m always interested in their stories,” Guthrie said. “I teach my children about World War II, and they’ve been here and have met some of these guys. This is the ‘Greatest Generation’ and there’s not a lot of them left, so we’ve got to make sure we recognize them.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or email@example.com.