Martin E. Wappler
Biography: Martin Ewald Wappler was born on February 6, 1920, in Zschorlau, Germany. He was the son of Gustav E. Wappler and Anna Minna Wappler. He arrived in the U.S. at New York with his parents on May 13, 1926. The 1930 U.S. Census shows the family was living in Columbus, Oregon. The 1940 census show him working at a furniture factory and that document, along with his enlistment record indicate he had completed 4 years of high school.
On January 4, 1942, Martin married the former Phyllis C. Sherman who was born in Portland, Oregon, and was the daughter of Donald M. Sherman and Ethel R. Willard. The new couple had two children, Martin S. and Ronald.
Service Time: Martin entered the Army on March 14, 1942 at the Presidio of Monterey, California. He was assigned to, and joined, Company D of the 607th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which was stationed at Fort Ord, CA, on March 20th. He was promoted to Private First Class on May 25, 1942. He trained with the unit at a number of locations including: Fort Ord, Camp San Luis Obispo, Hunter Liggett Military Reservation and the Desert Training Center, all in California, along with Camp Hood, Texas and Camp Cooke, CA. Company D was redesignated Reconnaissance Company on July 22, 1942.
On December 12th, he was sent to the Tank Destroyer School for 12 weeks of automotive service training. While they originally trained with M10 tank destroyers, the unit was converted to a towed battalion, utilizing the M5 3” gun, on December 15, 1943. Sometime in the 2nd half of 1943, Martin was transferred to Headquarters Company and became a member of the personnel section. Coming from a German family, he was fluent in the language and would serve as an interpreter at times after they reached the continent.
Arriving at Liverpool, England, on April 21, 1944, they continued training. Company B landed at Utah Beach, Normandy, France on June 23rd and supported the advance on Cherbourg, fighting along the Seves River in July. They joined the drive to Le Mans and envelopment of the Falaise Pocket in August, advancing to the Moselle River in September and supporting operations against Metz through November. The unit converted to a self-propelled battalion equipped with M36 tank destroyers in time for the final assault on Metz. Continuing the drive toward the Saar River, they participated in the attack on Saarlautern, Germany, followed by the subsequent fight against the Siegfried Line in December.
The unit was deployed to the Ardennes sector in January, 1945 and again committed against the Siegfried Line in February in the Schnee Eifel. Supporting the capture of Koblenz, Germany in mid-March, they crossed the Rhine River at Boppard on March 25.
On April 12th, PFC Wappler was driving Capt. Richard D. Joy (607th TD Bn) and Lt. Leigh J. Tobin (312th ECB) scouting ahead of Task Force Sundt and looking for an intact bridge in Stadtilm, Germany. They found one but it had been wired for demolition by the enemy. Martin, ignoring the enemy fire, quickly pulled the charges off two large bombs, thereby saving the bridge from destruction and enabling the Task Force to cross the Ilm River.
The 607th continued to drive east through Hessen and Thüringen reached the Czechoslovak border near Plauen by mid-April. Thereafter, they remained in defensive positions until VE Day. On July 12, 1945, Martin, along with numerous other men, was transferred to the 602nd Tank Destroyer Battalion. On September 10th, he was transferred back to the 607th with most of the same men. This was all related to the points system used by the military to determine when a soldier was eligible to return home. He was awarded the Good Conduct, American Theater Service and World War II Victory medals along with the EAME medal and credit for the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. He was discharged on November 2, 1945, at the rank of Technician Grade 5 at Camp Beale, CA.
Martin returned to his home and family after leaving the Army. The 1950 Census shows he was employed as a carpenter for the local school district in Multnomah County, OR. At some point over the years, Martin and Phyllis separated. On March 8, 1952, he married the former Doris Oakley Roberts. They later separated and on November 21, 1967, he married the former Margaret P. Wood in Clark County, Washington.
Martin passed away on June 10, 1986. Thank you to Kenneth Gantz for use of the photos in this tribute.