Frohwein recalls time of service in 1945

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS State Center’s Raymond Frohwein was in the European Theater of World War II when the conflict was drawing to a close. He and his division got within 50 miles of the German capital of Berlin before being told another American division was taking up the fight.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles profiling those who have ever served in the U.S. military, be it overseas or stateside. Every Thursday, a new profile will be published in the T-R.

STATE CENTER — It’s been over seven decades since State Center resident Raymond Frohwein was in the United States Army, and he remembers being in Europe as the war in that theater came to a close.

“I wish I had had a deal to see how many miles I walked,” the 92-year-old former army rifleman said.

Frohwein was drafted into service during the last days of World War II in Europe, not long after he was married.

“My wife and I got married Jan. 9, 1944 and lived together eight months,” he said. “Then I was drafted.”

Suddenly, Frohwein found himself in training, moving from Fort Snelling in Minnesota to Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Little Rock, Ark. His wife, Ruth, lived with him on the military base.

“All of the sudden, the sergeant says “I just got a call, guys. We’re going in, you’re going overseas … just like that,” he said.

In a rush, he and Ruth made their way back home, and Frohwein almost immediately had to leave for Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. It was New Year’s Day, 1945.

During training, Frohwein had a run-in with some kind of plant that caused blisters on his hands.

“Frohwein, what’s wrong with your hands?!” he recalled his sergeant saying. After a doctor inspected him, he said it would be best for Frohwein to get medical treatment.

That wasn’t exactly what the sergeant had in mind, however.

“No he’s not, because his orders are on the ship,” the sergeant said.

The lesions were instead lanced, and Frohwein had his hands bandaged up.

“I was bandaged up for 21 days on the ship … I couldn’t change clothes,” he said.

After the transatlantic journey on the ship, the group docked in Liverpool, England before making a journey across the narrow English Channel to France.

“We had to go across the English Channel, and that was one of the roughest 26 miles I’ve ever been on,” Frohwein said. Once in France, he came down with pneumonia and was out of action for a few days.

He didn’t want to leave his fellow soldiers, so he made sure to get out as soon as possible to join his company.

“I got to the 30th Division, that’s when we saw some rough times,” Frohwein said. “The first river we crossed was the Rhine, in France, and we started hitting Germans right there.”

Once past the river, the division went through Belgium, and he said he saw horrific scenes from past battles in the war. Before entering Germany, Frohwein recalled seeing a fellow Central Iowan gunned down in battle.

“Before we got way up into Germany … we saw Dean “Bubba” Froning, one of our buddies who lived west of Marshalltown … we were less that 50 feet from him when he got it,” he said. “I was going to run over there and see if I could help, (Wallace) Daffy grabbed me and says ‘You’d be right in the line of fire, you’d be laying with Froning.'”

Went night fell over the battlefield, several Germans troops in nearby buildings surrendered themselves, but not the ones in the machine gun nest who had killed Froning. Under cover of darkness, the American division moved on, and Frohwein saw the people manning the machine gun.

“We walked 10 feet past them,” he said. “Somebody got ’em later.”

It was when Frohwein’s division hit Magdeburg, Germany, that the group was slowed by difficulties crossing the Elb River. An enemy plane had flown in and damaged a nearby bridge. On a second pass, he said he got a good look at the pilot.

“I could almost see what color eyes he had … brown,” he said. Somebody must’ve got him, because we never saw him again.”

The 2nd Armored Division soon arrived to help get the troops across the river, and they were only 50 miles from the German capital of Berlin when a commanding officer announced news that sent a wave of relief through Frohwein’s being.

“The 74th division will be relieving you,” the officer told the troops.

Frohwein was happy to be off the front line.

“I could care less if I’d seen Berlin,” he said with a laugh. “After May 5 (Victory in Europe Day) they sent us back on the edge of Holland.”

There Frohwein did routine patrols and worked at bases stateside until his parents sent a letter saying he was needed on their farm north of State Center. He was discharged in February 1946.


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