Tagged: veteran

I just ‘did what I had to do’

This was one of the happiest days of my life,” Dean Lanphere recalled, looking at his self portrait taken 71 years ago.

The photograph was taken just a few minutes after Lanphere’s wife, Geneva, pinned his wings on his U.S. Army Air Corps uniform. It was May 15, 1943.

“I thought I was the hottest thing on earth on that day,” he said with a grin. “That was a long time ago. I was so young and a hot rod back then.”

Shortly after the picture was taken, Lanphere was deployed to Sydney, Australia.

The newly minted bomber pilot arrived with swagger.

“I remember a major telling me when I arrived there, ‘Hey, fly boy. You think you are the greatest on earth?’ ” he said.

Lanphere, who was then 23 years old then, walked quietly away from the Air Corps major and did not say a word. He would let his actions speak for him — 58 times over enemy territory.

A small town boy

As a child, Lanphere was raised by his grandparents in Lyndon, Ill., a small town about 80 miles north of Peoria.

He moved in with his grandparents after his parents got divorced. His dad was an alcoholic. His mom contracted tuberculosis when he was 4 1/2 years old and put into a Springfield, Ill., hospital.

Lanphere continued to live with his grandparents even after his mom was healed and remarried.

His grandfather was employed as a section foreman with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, he recalled. His grandmother stayed at home.

Lanphere graduated from Lyndon High School.

“There were eight girls and five boys in my graduating class,” he said.

While in high school, he met his future wife, Geneva, who lived in a nearby town along the Rock River.

“I guess you can say we were high school sweethearts,” he said and smiled.

After graduating from high school in 1940, Lanphere moved to Washington, D.C., and took a civil service job, which had a $1,440 annual salary. After he worked there six months, he received a $180 pay raise.

“That was good money back then,” he said.

He and Geneva got married in 1941 and moved to Chicago.

Pearl Harbor

On Dec. 7, 1941, he and Geneva were watching Andy Devine perform at the Oriental Theater in downtown Chicago.

After Devine’s act, it was announced Pearl Harbor had been attacked, Lanphere recalled. It was a day he will never forget.

“I can still hardly believe it happened,” he said. “It was a very, very bad deal.”

Signing up

Lanphere enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps a day after reading a Jan. 20, 1942 article in theChicago Tribune. The article stated a married man with a high school education could now become a pilot. Up to that time, the Air Corps required all pilots to have a college degree.

Lanphere didn’t hesitate to sign up.

“Ever since I was a young kid, I wanted to become a pilot,” he said.

Shortly after earning his wings, Lanphere was sent to the South Pacific.

The War

Lanphere said he and his crewmates had to fight two enemies — the Japanese and the weather. The U.S. air base in New Guinea was located 2 degrees south of the equator, he said.

“During one mission I could not even see my wing tips for 3 1/2 hours,” Lanphere said.“And we had equatorial storms every damn day.”

Lanphere flew 58 missions before he was discharged from the service on Sept. 15, 1944.

Lanphere said his bombing unit was the only unit in U.S. World War II to fly B-26, B-25 and B-24 airplanes.

“It’s really amazing what happened (to me),” he said. “…But I was lucky. I was able to come home before (Japan) started the kamikaze stuff.”

Coming home

After serving 15 months in the South Pacific, Lanphere said he requested and was granted his discharge.

“I wanted to see my 1-year-old daughter really badly,” he said. “I still can hear my commanding officer grant my request. But he also informed me at the time, if I agreed to stay in, he would promote me to captain in three more weeks.”

Lanphere did not reconsider his decision. He boarded a ship and headed to San Francisco.

It took 21 days for the ship to make the journey. A week after arriving stateside, he took a train to Chicago. He then took a train to Sterling, Ill., where his wife and daughter, Denise, were waiting. Shortly after Lanphere got off the train, he recalled his wife asking him to hold their baby.

“I asked her how,” he said and laughed. “I never held a baby before.”

He and and Geneva, had another daughter, Jodeane, born a couple years later.

‘What I had to do’

Lanphere, who is now 95, often wonders what would have ever happened in his life if he didn’t enlist.

He also wonders what would have ever happened if World War II had a different ending.

In August 1945, Lanphere was living in Sterling, with his wife and daughter, when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I’ve heard from a number of people over the years saying the U.S. should have not dropped those bombs,” he said. “But, I believe if we would have not done that, we would have lost a bunch of serviceman in Japan. They were a bunch of real fanatics.”

Lanphere said he does not consider himself a hero.

“Am I a hero, no… I just did what I had to do,” he said. “And the rest of my crew did the same thing. It was our job to save our country.”

A good life

Lanphere worked as an air traffic controller in Chicago for a number of years after he retired from the military.

After Geneva passed away, Lanphere would find love twice more.

He and his second wife, Kay, were married for about 20 years before she succumbed to breast cancer.

He later met Gladys Lampe of Highland. They were married in 2001. She died in June after battling pneumonia, he said.

“My days with Gladys were some of the happiest times of my life,” he said. “We shared a lot of things in common. We both loved to travel.”

Looking back at his life, Lanphere said he does not have any regrets. He said he has lived a good life.

He said he also enjoyed his time in the military. He said seeing the U.S. flag today means everything in the world to him.

“I’m proud of it,” he said and started to cry.

Lanphere is also proud to have served.

“…And I’d be happy to serve our country again, if I could,” he said and smiled.

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Former big league pitcher in exclusive club

The Koenigsmark family, from left front row, are, Minnie, Jacob, Dorothea, Alyda and Amanda.
Back row: Alois, Conrad, Morris, Robert and Willis. Willis later pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals
in 1919.

By Mark Hodapp

Perhaps one of the rarest

feats has been accomplished by

only a handful of pitchers in

Major League Baseball. Former

Waterloo, Ill. native, the late Willis

Koenigsmark, was one of them.

Their ERAs are INF, also

known as “infinity.”

Koenigsmark is one of 13

big league pitchers who each

appeared in only one Major

League game in his career, gave

up at least one run but never

recorded an out, according to

David Smith at Project Retrosheet.

Surely it must have been

frustrating for Koenigsmark to

have earned a big league cup of

coffee, but never to have

achieved what every pitcher desires

most — an out.

Koenigsmark’s debut

On Sept. 10, 1919, St. Louis

Cardinals manager Branch

Rickey brought in right-hander

Koenigsmark to pitch against

the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Koenigsmark faced only

three Dodgers batters without

recording an out in his first and

only big league game.

Two of the batters scored,

giving Koenigsmark the dreaded

INF ERA.

Koenigsmark never pitched

in another big league game after

that.

He later made his living selling

seed corn in Waterloo, Ill., recalled

his niece Jean Stogner,

who still lives in Waterloo.

A World War I veteran, Koenigsmark

died July 1, 1972.

He was buried at Waterloo

City Cemetery.

Local baseball historian Rich

Fisher recalled meeting Koenigsmark

a couple weeks after

Fisher was discharged from the

service in 1967. He remembers

Koenigsmark asking him if

he’d be interested in starting

another baseball team in Waterloo

to compete in the Mon-Clair

League.

“He didn’t care how good or

bad of a team it was,” Fisher

said. “He just wanted to have

another team to compete against

another guy in town.”

That other guy was Waterloo

Millers manager Vern Moehrs.

Fisher told Koenigsmark

he’d need a couple of days to

think about it.

But he said he never heard

from Koenigsmark again.

Koenigsmark’s legacy

The Koenigsmark family has

a deep heritage and legacy in

Waterloo.

Willis was the grandson of

Thomas Koenigsmark, who

died Jan. 14, 1911, in Waterloo.

Thomas Koenigsmark for more

than a quarter of a century devoted

his energies to advancing

the interests of Waterloo.

A self-made man, Thomas

Koenigsmark came to the United

States as a poor immigrant

boy, without money or friends.

In time, he became a power

in the commercial world and

the organizer and promoter of

vast industries which made Waterloo

an important milling center.

Thomas Koenigsmark was

born at Merklin, Bohemia, and

as a youth heard of the wonderful

fortunes to be made in the

U.S.

When he was 13 years old,

he succeeded in accumulating

enough money to pay his passage

to New Orleans.

Thomas Koenigsmark made

the journey alone and arrived in

that city when it was in the grip

of a yellow fever epidemic.

“My mother (Alyda Koenigsmark)

said he came to the

United States with 50 cents in

his pocket and a violin,” Stogner

said.

In 1855, Thomas Koenigsmark

moved to St. Louis, but

subsequently settled at Columbia,Ill.,

where he was first employed

as a clerk in Beaird’s

store.

Later, Thomas Koenigsmark

followed the trade of tailor for a

short time, and worked in the

brick business for another short

period, owning a yard where the

Columbia, Ill. depot once stood prior

to the building of the Mobile

and Ohio Railroad.

In 1863, Thomas Koenigsmark

entered the mercantile

field as the proprietor of a store,

and successfully conducted it

until he purchased Gardner Mill

in Columbia. When the Chouteau

and Edwards Mill, in Waterloo,

was completely destroyed

by fire in 1884, the citizens

of this city asked him to

build a new mill, and this he did

in 1886, erecting the Koenigsmark

Mill.

Thomas Koenigsmark was

progressive in all things, and

was a firm believer in using the

most modern machinery and

methods.

During the 36 years that he

was engaged in milling, he saw

many changes in milling methods,

and was ever abreast of the

times.

While Thomas Koenigsmark’s

business career kept his

time well occupied, he found

leisure to enjoy those pleasures

that made his home life beautiful.

He was a great lover of music, the violin being his favorite

instrument, and in his younger

days showed considerable talent

as a performer.

Successful himself, Thomas

Koenigsmark enjoyed the success

of others, and was ever

ready to lend a helping hand to

those in need of assistance.

Thomas Koenigsmark retired

in 1899 and moved to St.

Louis, where he later died.

When Thomas Koenigsmark

retired, he signed over the mills

to his sons, John and Jacob

Koenigsmark.

Willis was the youngest of

Jacob and Dorothea Koenigsmark’s

eight children. The other

children were Minnie, Alyda,

Amanda, Alois Conrad, Morris

and Robert.

John Koenigsmark was the

grandfather of Virginia Sweet,

who still lives in Waterloo.

It’s not known how Willis

got his start in baseball.

“But I have been told he was

the athlete in his family,” Stogner

said.

It’s also not known what

happened to Thomas Koenigsmark’s

violin after it was sold in

a family auction in 1989.

But Stogner was able to find

and acquire the violin’s case

several years ago.