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Rohatsch, Eugene F. (823rd)

 Eugene F. Rohatsch

Biography: Eugene Fabian Rohatsch was born on June 24, 1913, in Humphrey, Nebraska. He was the son of Juseph F. Rohatsch and Jessie I. Comstock and attended local Platte County schools. A 1940 City Directory for Council Bluffs, IA, lists him as employed at the Pinecrest Dairy but his draft card, dated October 16, 1940, indicates he is working for the Union Pacific Railroad Company in Dix, NE.

Service Time: Eugene joined the Army on October 8, 1936, for three years, and was stationed at Ft. Crook, Nebraska. We do not have any other information regarding this period of his service. He was called back into the Army on May 2, 1942, when WWII broke out. In September of that year, he was a Corporal in the 11th Regiment (possibly a basic training unit at the Infantry Replacement Training Center) at Camp Robinson, Arkansas. He was eventually assigned to Company B of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, likely one of the 250 men shipped to the unit from Camp Robinson in October, 1942. Eugene was promoted to Sergeant in March, 1943. The 823rd trained at a number of military bases including Camps Bowie and Hood, Texas, and Camp Clairborne, Louisiana, where they were located prior to participating in the Louisiana maneuvers.

The unit boarded trains on March 9, 1944. enroute to Camp Myles Standish, and the Boston port, where they arrived on the 12th to begin their final preparations for the trip overseas. On April 6th, they loaded on the U.S.S. Sea Porpoise and sailed for England, arriving in Newport, Wales, on the 17th after an uneventful trip. After some additional training and a delay, they boarded three LSTs and landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, on June 24, 1944. They were equipped with 3″ towed guns and went into action within 24 hours of their arrival. Supporting the drive on St. Lô, they fought at Mortain in August. Now a Staff Sergeant, Eugene earned a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service on August 23rd. The citation reads as follows:

“S/Sgt. Eugene F. Rohatsch, Field Artillery, is awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious conduct in combat on August 23, 1944, in France. Sergeant Rohatsch was assigned to a tank destroyer organization engaged in action supporting an infantry force. As car commander and second in command of a detail leading the attack into a strongly fortified town, Sergeant Rohatsch was continually exposed to grenade, machine gun and rifle fire as he directed the firing of the weapons with which his vehicle was armed. Despite the extremely dangerous nature of his duties, he performed them outstandingly, displaying great personal courage and fortitude. As a result of his efforts, more than a score of the enemy were killed and the organization succeeded in reaching its objective. The devotion to duty exhibited by Sergeant Rohatsch reflects great credit upon himself and the armed forces.”    

Passing through Belgium and Holland, they entered Germany on September 17th. Fighting along the Siegfried Line in October, which included the encirclement of Aachen, the 823rd converted to M10 tank destroyers beginning in November, and shifted to the Ardennes in late December, fighting to eliminate the Bulge in January, 1945. Eugene was awarded a battlefield commission as a 2nd Lieutenant on December 8, 1944 and eventually became a Platoon Commander in Company B. They crossed the Roer River on February 24th. Crossing the Rhine River on March 24th, the unit raced eastward to the Elbe River, at Magdeburg, in April and finally began military occupation duties on April 21st. On April 11th, Eugene was seriously wounded by artillery fire, near Ufingen, Germany, and evacuated. He did not return to the unit and was in the hospital when the war ended. In addition to the Bronze Star, he was awarded the Purple Heart medal, with Oak Leaf Cluster, for wounds received, the EAME medal, with credit for the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe, and the Good Conduct, American Defense Service and WWII Victory medals. He was also eligible to wear the Distinguished Unit Citation ribbon which was awarded to Company B. Eugene left the service on November 4, 1945, at the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

Eugene returned home and on March 24, 1946, he married the former Paula J. Gertsch in Council Bluffs, NE. She was born in Monroe, NE and was the daughter of Paul E. Gertsch and Claire A. Dress. They had a son, Paul and a daughter, Faye. The family made their home in Monroe, NE and the 1950 U.S. Census shows Eugene was the Town Marshall. He was a member of the Evangelical United Brethren Church. In September, 1950, he was stricken with polio and completely paralyzed. A newspaper article stated, “While still badly crippled, he accepted the position of Campaign Chairman for the polio drive in Platte County and his unselfish devotion to the cause was an inspiration to his assistants in every part of Platte County and through his efforts, a record collection was made.”

Eugene recovered enough he was able to do some farm work. Sadly, on September 13, 1954, he was driving his tractor on a local county road when it overturned and he died as a result of the accident.  As a testament to the high esteem which his friends and family held for Eugene, his church was filled to overflowing for the funeral and he was buried with full military honors in the Roselawn Memorial Park in Columbus, NE. Thank you to Kay Cynova, Eugene’s niece-in-law, for providing the main personal photo and grave marker photo along with additional information used in this tribute.