BANGOR, Maine - Henry Welzel
suffered a stroke in 1998 that affected his
short- to medium-term memory, but ask him to recall his
military career in the 1940s and 1950s, and the details roll off his
And oh, the details.
, now 84 and living in Freeport, will tell his
story at the Memorial Day commemoration service held Monday at the Cole Land Transportation Museum
It begins in 1926 in Ohio, where Welzel was born to German immigrant parents who moved the family back to their homeland when he was still a boy.
In Germany in the late 1930s, Welzel joined the Hitler Youth organization even though he wasn't sold on the beliefs of the German dictator.
"As a teenage male, you didn't really have a choice," he
said recently in an interview.
trained for several years to be a soldier for Germany and, at age 17 in 1943, was first deployed.
"I was the only medic assigned to a company of about 300 people," he
didn't stay in Virginia long.
and many other prisoners of war were transferred to Fort Rucker in Alabama.
stayed about one year.
"There were still some serious Nazis there," he
"I was scum to them."
After the war ended, the U.S. instituted the Marshal Plan to rebuild a Western Europe devastated by combat.
was sent back overseas in 1948, this time to France.
remembers that time fondly.
Even though he
was still technically a prisoner, he
also was alone.
With family still in Germany, Welzel
assignment in France without authorization and planned to visit his
never got there.
At the border of France and Germany were Russian soldiers stopping everyone who wanted to get in.
That included Welzel
They searched his
"I had cigarettes, soap and [girlie] magazines," he
"They took the magazines."
found himself in captivity again, this time by the Russians.
"They tried to indoctrinate us to become communists and told us how bad Americans were," he
"But I was an American."
After another six months held captive in East Germany, Welzel
tried again to flee and visit his
This time, he
family stayed in Germany, but Welzel
wasn't safe there.
safely made his
way to an American embassy and was sent back to his
This time, he
was no longer a prisoner.
was back in the United States for less than two years before he
was drafted into the Army and sent to Fort Devens in Massachusetts.
He was bound for Korea in 1951 and served as a medic at U.S. headquarters in Seoul.
This deployment was tame by Welzel's standards.
said the worst thing that happened to him was frostbite.
returned to the U.S. for good in early 1953.
had married his
wife in 1950 before his
tour in Korea.
returned to the U.S., he
started a family and a new life.
worked in Massachusetts for many years, but always had a camp in Washington, Maine.
In 1981, his
family moved to Maine full time.
He continued to work and eventually retired from Bath Iron Works.
Over the years, his
military background faded into the background.
The Bronze Star and other accolades he
earned were the only reminders.
suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for a time but now is comfortable talking about his
often meets with other veterans and participates in historical discussions.
When Galen Cole invited Welzel
to speak on Memorial Day, Welzel