Born in 1928, Andrew Boehmer of Rich Fountain was little more than a year old when his mother unexpectedly passed away, leaving their father with six children to raise. Difficult years would follow as the Stock Market Crash of 1929 brought about a lean time known as the Great Depression and farmers in Osage County joined scores of their counterparts nationwide struggling to extract a living from their land.
The youngest of six children, Boehmer grew up to witness his three older brothers depart for military service because of World War II—one of whom, Stephen, died in 1944 after drowning off the coast of Italy while serving with the U.S. Army.
“As I understand it, my father was basically raised on the farm by his older sister, Catherine,” said Gene, the oldest of Boehmer’s children.
His son further explained that little information exists regarding his father’s early years and his subsequent military service because of a fire decades ago that destroyed many of the family records and mementos. Like his siblings, Boehmer attended Freeburg High School. The young farmhand also followed in the footsteps of his older brothers when he traveled to the courthouse in Linn, Missouri, on March 15, 1946—his eighteenth birthday—to register with his local draft board as required by the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940.
He returned briefly to his work in “self employed farming,” as noted on his draft registration card, while his older brother Sylvester remained in the Navy until April 1946 followed by his brother Louis, who did not receive his discharge from the Army until October 1946. The call to service that had come for his three older brothers arrived for the youngest Boehmer on July 5, 1946, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army at Scott Field, Illinois—a U.S. Army Air Corps training site that became Scott Air Force Base on January 13, 1948.
“By the onset of World War II, Scott Field was well on its way to earning the title of Communications University of the Army Air Forces and adopted the slogan, ‘The best damn radio operators in the world,’” according to a fact sheet available on the official website of Scott Air Force Base.
An article appearing in the September 19, 2018 edition of the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Illinois), reported that by the close of World War II, “Scott Field Radio School had produced an astonishing 77,370 radio operators/mechanics for the war effort, including Allied nations, such as France, China, the Netherlands, and several Latin American nations.”
For several weeks, Boehmer remained at Scott Field to complete communications training and went on to earn the designation as a “Message Center Clerk.” In early October 1946, after only three months in the U.S. Army, he was sent to the West Coast to board a troop ship bound for service overseas. Arriving in Japan on November 4, 1946, he was assigned to the 25th Signal Company under the 25th Infantry Division. Following the example of his older brother Louis, who had served as a military policeman in Japan months earlier, Boehmer became a soldier in the Army of Occupation.
The 25th Infantry Division had participated in a number of bloody battles of World War II including campaigns in the Central Pacific, Northern Solomons, Guadalcanal and the Philippine island of Luzon. The division was sent to Japan in October 1945, a year prior to Boehmer’s arrival. At the time of Boehmer’s arrival, the 25th Signal Company was located in the Japanese city of Osaka—an area that “had suffered several bombing damages, but a number of large, modern buildings remained,” which were secured for use by the occupational forces, noted the book The 25th Division and World War 2.
Throughout the next several months, Boehmer and the soldiers of the 25th Signal Company provided communication support to the military organizations under the command of the 25th Infantry Division scattered across Japan. In early October 1947, after spending a year overseas, a 19-year-old Boehmer received orders to return to the United States. Receiving his discharge as a technician fifth grade (tech corporal) at Fort Lawton, Washington, on October 29, 1947, he returned to Rich Fountain, married and became father to six children.
“He lived in Freeburg for awhile and had a shop where he did mechanic and body work,” said Boehmer’s oldest son, Gene. “We later moved to Jefferson City and he worked a number of years for McKay Buick.”
As Gene recalled, his father was later employed as part of a crew that traveled throughout the United States painting bridges but in the early 1960s, he moved to the state of California to perform bodywork at a Buick dealership. He eventually settled in Iowa, where he passed on August 31, 1977, when only 49 years old. His body was returned to Missouri and interred in the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Rich Fountain.
In the years since his passing, his son has come to realize that the fire that consumed many important records was a contributing factor to little information remaining of his father’s military experience.
“I don’t know anything about what he did while he was in the service and my siblings don’t know either,” Gene Boehmer said. “He never talked about his Army service while we were growing up, and because of the fire and his death at such a young age, he was never able to give us any insight about what he experienced. It’s a relief to know that we can learn a little bit about him through other sources,” he added.
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
‘He never talked about it’ - Osage County veteran served with occupational forces in Japan after WWII
Louis Boehmer was not yet three years old when his mother passed away in 1929. Years later, he joined his three brothers and two sisters in helping their father work the family farm near Rich Fountain, watching as one of his older brothers, Stephen, was drafted into the U.S. Army, later deploying overseas and writing home about his experiences in Italy.
On January 17, 1944, an 18-year-old Boehmer traveled to the courthouse in Linn, Missouri, to register for the draft. Nine days later, his older brother drowned off the coast of Italy after the military vessel he was aboard hit a mine. The family had little time to mourn his loss since Sylvester—Louis’ other older brother—received his draft notice in December 1944 and went on to serve in Guam with the U.S. Navy.
“In papers that I have,” said Betty Dickneite, one of Louis Boehmer’s daughters, “it indicates that our father was scheduled to report for his pre-induction military physical at the Linn County Courthouse on January 4, 1945.”
While his older brother continued to serve in the U.S. Navy, Louis Boehmer was inducted into the U.S. Army at Jefferson Barracks on April 19, 1945, leaving only one of the four Boehmer brothers, Andrew, back home.
Betty Dickneite went on to explain, “My father was first sent to Camp Livingston in Louisiana, where he completed his basic infantry training followed by the instruction to become a military policeman with Company A, 140th Battalion of the 35th Regiment.”
Named in honor of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, the individual who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Camp Livingston became an infantry replacement training center during World War II and was the site of training for more than 500,000 troops on its sprawling 47,000 acres.
Spending a little more than five months at the Louisiana post, World War II ended approximately a month before Boehmer received orders to deploy to Japan to serve as a military policeman with the occupational forces. Shortly after his arrival overseas in late October 1945, he was assigned to the 237th Military Police Battalion.
As an article from the National World War II Museum explained, “The military occupation of Japan by the Allied Powers lasted from 1945-1952. Supposedly a joint occupation by international powers, it was primarily carried out by U.S. forces under the command of General Douglas MacArthur.”
During this transitional and uncertain post-war period, a strong military presence was maintained while trials were conducted for Japanese leaders of the war followed by the demolition of factories that had produced weapons and munitions for the war effort.
“Documents in my father’s military records show that he served for six months in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater,” said Bonnie Higdon, another of the veteran’s daughters. “They also note that part of his duties were patrolling roads and assisting in enforcing military rules and regulations governing traffic and military personnel.”
His daughter went on to explain that their father was also responsible for performing a host of additional law enforcement activities including assisting the civilian police in maintaining order, apprehending law breakers and receiving and escorting prisoners to their places of confinement.
While in Japan, Boehmer’s father fell ill and the soldier was unable to return home prior to his passing from colon cancer on February 5, 1946. However, he was eventually transferred back to the United States in mid-March 1946 but had to remain in the Army until receiving his discharge at Ft. Riley, Kansas, on October 23, 1946. By the time he received his discharge from the Army, Boehmer’s older brother, Sylvester, was already out of the Navy but their youngest brother, Andrew, had received his draft notice and was inducted into the U.S. Army in July 1946.
“He and my mother, Marie Elizabeth Haller, were married in February 1948,” said Betty Dickneite, when speaking about her father. “I’m sure they knew one another before the war because they didn’t grow up too far apart.”
In the years following his overseas service, Boehmer and his wife settled in Freeburg and went on to raise three daughters. He was later employed by Quaker Windows & Doors, becoming a foreman for the company. Sadly, the 50-year-old veteran died from a massive heart attack on August 11, 1976 and was laid to rest in Holy Family Cemetery in Freeburg.
Betty Dickneite explained that although her father was hesitant to share many details about the time he spent with the U.S. Army in post-war Japan, he remained proud of his military police service and, like many veterans, maintained a collection of mementos to remind him of those experiences.
“He was a member of the American Legion and my mom was a member of the auxiliary,” said Dickneite. “Although he never talked about it—it just wasn’t something he discussed around the house—he had pictures from his Army days hanging on the front wall of the living room.” She added, “We didn’t fully realize how important it was to him until years later when we decided to do a little redecorating and took the pictures off the wall and put them in the box in the shed.” With somber pause, she concluded, “Although he never said anything to us about it, we could sense how much that collection of military items meant to him.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
The years prior to World War II extracted a heavy price on the Boehmer family as they toiled to maintain a farm near the community of Rich Fountain. Sylvester Boehmer, one of six children, mourned the loss of his mother who passed when he was only ten years old and was later only able to finish the fifth grade since he was needed to help his father work their farm.
Tragedy again struck in January 1944 when Sylvester’s younger brother, Stephen, drowned after the vessel he was aboard struck a mine and sunk off the coast of Italy while he was serving with the U.S. Army. This loss remained fresh in the family’s thoughts when Sylvester received his draft notice months later and was assigned to the military branch whose primary mission was on the seas that had taken his brother’s life.
“My father entered active service with the U.S. Navy on December 6, 1944,” explained Mary Kay Hager, one of Sylvester Boehmer’s two children. “He entered the service from St. Louis,” she added.
The 25-year-old recruit was sent to the U.S. Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois, spending the next several weeks undergoing the basic training requirements to earn the revered title of “sailor.” He was then sent to Camp Peary, Virginia, which at the time was surging with recruits who would serve in naval construction battalions known as “Seabees.” Shortly after his arrival on the East Coast, documents maintained by Boehmer’s family indicate his temporary transfer to the West Coast and subsequent orders that would lead to an overseas deployment.
“We know some of what was going on from letters my father wrote home during the war,” Mary Kay Hager said. “He wasn’t engaged to my mother, Alvina Pope, at the time, but he would write to her and also to his father and sisters.”
In a written summary, Sylvester’s son, Stephen (named in honor of his uncle who died at sea in WWII), noted that on April 2, 1945, his father wrote from San Bruno, California and “talk(ed) about being a guard for a WAVES barracks, bank and post office.” He added, “In his May 22, 1945 letter, he says he is ‘somewhere in the Pacific.’”
Correspondence received by family the following month established that Boehmer was assigned to Naval Supply Depot 926 on the island of Guam. According to an article on the Naval History and Heritage Command website, Guam had to be “captured from the enemy and cleared of debris before construction could begin.”
In his book Guam 1941 & 1944: Loss and Reconquest, Gordon L. Rottman explains, “The seizure of Guam in December 1941 was one of the Imperial Japanese armed forces’ first victories in the Pacific War…. The July 1944 battle followed on the heels of the American assault on Saipan and the Battle of the Philippines Sea, which advanced the U.S. forces into the heart of Japan’s pre-war territories.”
As the book related, Guam was considered a critical military objective and the subsequent supply depot built there became one of fifteen scattered throughout the Pacific during the war. Additionally, it was “capable of supporting one-third of the Pacific fleet” and possessed “the replenishment storage necessary to restock every type of vessel with fuel, ammunition, and consumable supplies...”
“We remember (Sylvester) telling us that he served in Guam on a small shuttle boat that helped transfer supplies from the larger ships in the harbor to the unloading facilities located on shore,” recalled his daughter, Mary Kay Hager.
Boehmer wrote to his family on September 15, 1945, approximately two weeks following the surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. He said that he had what his fellow sailors referred to as “the best job on the island of Guam,” learning to operate small boats under the guidance of the “Cox” (coxswain)—the sailor in charge of the craft. He would again write in January 3, 1946, advising he was still stationed on the island but looked forward to returning home. Less than a month later, his sister wrote a letter to the War Department pleading for Boehmer to be released from service since their father, Frank, was very ill and hospitalized.
Although there were four brothers in the family, Stephen had died in the service in early 1944 and Louis was stationed in Japan with the U.S. Army, which left only their youngest brother, Andrew, to assist with the farm responsibilities.
Sadly, their father passed away from colon cancer on February 5, 1946 and Sylvester did not receive his discharge until April 23, 1946. Less than three months after Sylvester’s return home, Andrew was drafted into the service and Louis did not receive his discharge from the Army until October 1946.
“The letters my father wrote back to my mother have been lost,” Mary Kay Hager sadly noted. “But it wasn’t long after he was discharged that they were married … on June 15, 1946.”
In addition to becoming the father to two children, Boehmer eventually moved his family to Jefferson City. He later became a mechanic and worked a number of years at the former McKay Buick, from which he retired. An active member of the American Legion and VFW, he passed away July 20, 2000 and was laid to rest in Resurrection Cemetery.
“My father and his siblings had a rough upbringing in losing their mother, the death of a brother in the service and then their father, but I know that he was quite proud of his service,” said Mary Kay Hager. “I can remember he saved his uniform and had a display made for his medals.” She added, “And even though he never spoke about his service much to me, I think it is an interesting story of four brothers who had to serve and a family that was greatly impacted by war.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.