Abraham Lincoln concluded his Gettysburg Address with these words:
“ It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.“
Today’s story is about a young man who gave his last full measure in order to preserve the freedoms we have and which we celebrate on this Fourth of July. The Fourth of July happened to also be this young man’s birthday.
Norman Martin Miesner was born on July 4, 1918 in Jacob, Illinois and baptized at Christ Lutheran Church. His parents were Martin and Ella (Schuessler) Miesner. Ella had been born in Altenburg and baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church.
With America entering World War II, Norman made the decision to enlist in the United States Army. His first stop as a soldier was at Camp Grant near Rockford, Illinois. Here are a few pictures of Camp Grant.
Norman became part of the 31st Tank Battalion, which was part of the 7th Armored Division. The 31st Tank Battalion was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia in January of 1944. On April 22, they traveled by rail to Camp Miles Standish in Massachusetts. Then on May 2, they once again traveled by rail to Camp Shanks in New York. The battalion then boarded the British ship, Queen Mary, with their next destination being Great Britain. The ship left New York on June 6, 1944, the same day the invasion of France took place which has gone down in history as D-Day. When they left America, their destination was a secret. They arrived in England on June 14th. They boarded another ship on August 8 and arrived on the coast of France on August 11th. They landed at Utah Beach Head. The 31st Tank Battalion participated in what has been designated as the Campaign of Northern France. Its mission was “To drive the German army from Northern France”.
Norman’s time in France did not last long. On August 14, records of Company D in which Norman served, say they were near Courville, Rouez, France when they met enemy resistance. I found a record for Company D’s activities on August 15, but the site says the forms are for research only, so I am hesitant to post an image of that record here. That form says that Company D made contact with the enemy west of Chartres, France. It also notes that four men died on that day. One of those who died was Sergeant Miesner. I also found out that Norman was described as DOW, not KIA. The difference between KIA (Killed in action) and DOW (Died of wounds) is that a soldier who was DOW was one who made it to an aid station before death. In a history of the 31st Tank Battalion it states that “several of our best men were left behind in this, our first battle”. Here is a list of men who lost their lives from the 31st Tank Battalion on August 15, 1944.
Three days later, on August 18, 1944, the city of Chartres was liberated from the German army. Credit for this victory should not just go to the American army. The French Resistance also fought bravely to liberate their own country. The following video has been made which contains film clips which show soldiers and civilians and their response to the liberation of Chartres on August 18, three days after Norman’s death. It’s about 7 minutes long.
The 31st Tank Battalion would go on to liberate several French towns. Then it would also participate in the Battle of the Bulge, which would lead to the end of World War II in the European Theater.
The form shown below indicates that Norman’s remains were returned to America in 1948.
Norman was then buried in the National Cemetery at Jefferson Barracks. Here is his gravestone.
Four score and one year after President Lincoln said “Four score and seven years ago”, Norman sacrificed his life for our country on foreign soil. As Lincoln said, we should devote ourselves to preserving the liberty which was first stated so well in the Declaration of Independence. Today is not only a day for German Lutherans in and around Perry County to remember Norman Miesner who was born on this day. It is a day to remember the birthday of our country. We should all pray that we maintain our independence, appreciate our freedom, and remain one nation under God.