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Reflections

A Call to Arms
Dave Woellner ’43 Recalls “Day of Infamy”

Editor’s Note: As the end of the 60th anniversary of WWII nears, Wittenberg alumni and WWII veterans are invited to share their thoughts in the pages of the magazine.

The day was a little unusual for the first of December in Springfield, Ohio. It was almost warm. The sun was shining, but it had to work its way through some high clouds and haze. Very little wind buffeted the trees whose leaves were long gone. Only a few dead and wrinkled remains clung feebly to the limbs. Those same trees a month or so earlier bore prolific growth of spectacular colors none more beautiful anywhere else. The day was, however, one to relax and to enjoy.

It was a little after lunch, a Sunday. At Wittenberg College, the semester was over but for a few exams still to be taken. A couple of us had just taken a brisk walk for a sandwich and returned to the fraternity house, reluctantly thinking about an hour or so of study. My friend suggested we might go up to the roof and spread a blanket where it would be warm enough, and the light cool breeze would keep us alert while we studied and listened to the radio. The old tin roof was warm, and the breeze very slight.

After only 30 minutes or so of reading, our radio music was interrupted by a terse standby announcement followed almost immediately by an announcer who said in a strained voice, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we regret to interrupt. The following message has just been received, ‘Massive damage has occurred and great loss of life has resulted from a series of Japanese air raids on Pearl Harbor. Few details are available.”

It was Dec. 7, 1941. (The President followed two days later with the famous message referring to the occasion as a “Day of Infamy.”)

I clearly recall a reaction completely foreign to me. My throat tightened and an unusual anxiety seemed to vibrate from one end of my body to the other. I seemed to feel catastrophe; something serious and monumental had occurred. Our study session was finished, and we returned, without a word, to our rooms.
Within seven days I had enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. For me, it was not a rash decision to sign up. An international crisis was facing us.

As I revisit my own feelings and experience of so long ago, I know I am very fortunate. I have to emphasize the great camaraderie felt at all times in the halls and walkways on the campus. It was difficult to leave. I have always known that I gave up a great deal, but in my small way I wanted to help.

A member of the class of 1943, Woellner graduated in 1952. After serving in the USAF for four decades, he retired as a Brigadier General and became a senior corporate executive and community leader. He lives with his wife, Susan, in Phoenix, Ariz.

Brigadier General Dave Woellner has had the benefit of two successful careers. He served with the United States Air Force for nearly four decades, and he has worked as a corporate executive since his military retirement.

Born in Ohio, he attended schools in that state, acquiring a bachelor’s degree at Wittenberg University. Later, he attended several graduate schools.

While in the service, he completed the Air War College, the National War College, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the Navy School of Defense Management and Utilization of Strategic Resources.

General Woellner is a commercial pilot with thousands of hours of flying time. He has a single multi-engine pilot’s license with flight instructor and instrument instructor’s ratings.

During WWII, he flew twin-engine aircraft A-20’s on surveillance missions to ascertain enemy strength including the latest flak and machine gun towers along the French Coast.

Later he flew four-engine bombers until being shot down by enemy ground fire. Fortunately, he parachuted to uncertain “safety.” He was “rescued” by German Home Guard forces when he was seriously threatened on the ground. After a long and arduous journey, he ultimately became P.O.W. at a camp on the Baltic Sea. The camp was “liberated” by the Russians at the end of the war.

During the Korean War he was director of flight training for replacement pilots for the war. During the Vietnam War he was a Command Inspector General. His numerous awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal (2) and the Meritorious Service Medal (2).

Since his retirement, General Woellner has served in challenging positions assenior executive with both “for profit” and “non-profit” organizations. He has visited many countries, including those behind the Iron Curtain and those considered “severely under-privileged.” He has seen abject poverty, starvation and persecution.

General Woellner is a frequent speaker and writer particularly on the subject of freedom and the individual’s responsibility to retain it. He lives in Phoenix with his wife, Susan. They are the proud parents of 10 children, 20 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.

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Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112


In This Issue
Around Myers Hollow
Reflections
Witt World
Tiger Sports
Alumni World
Class Notes
Last Word