Two soldiers, two wars recounted
World War II
Some might say of those 18 years of age are mere boys; however, it had been a time to register for military draft. Clarence LeRoy Houseknecht would be off to see the world viewing the devastation wrought by World War II.
Born March 17, 1925 in Penn Township to Clyde and Muriel (Bartlow) Houseknecht, the same township his Houseknecht ancestors are listed as early residents.
At the time of registration, Clarence was a student working on his parent’s farm. Recorded as an identifying mark was a “scar on right side of chin.”
Among military medals earned were Diesel Mechanic badges and bars, and the Army of Occupation in Europe.
Transferred to various divisions, the PFC was a replacement soldier trading his time between the use of tools and rifle as he was listed as an expert marksman.
Assigned to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, he trained in repairing and inspecting the most advanced technological weaponry of the times. They included missiles, anti-aircraft, guns, ammunition, grenades, artillery, tanks, and vehicles including motorcycles. He also learned bomb disposal.
During the final year of the war in Europe, Houseknecht’s group set sail in early January 1945 on the USS Mariposa. Clarence received a shrapnel wound while serving with the 69th Division.
An opportunity to meet Russian soldiers occurred April 25, 1925 at the Elbe River near Torgau, about a hundred kilometers south of Berlin. This meet was historic as the American and Russian Armies had cut the German Army in two.
Following VE Day, as concentration camp survivors were liberated by American and Allied Forces, some of the soldier’s duties went beyond traditional combat roles. Examples included aiding in political, economic, financial, social, and cultural affairs. They had to combat hunger, disease, crime, preserve cultural artifacts, reestablish industry, utilities, and resolve problems involving currency, housing, education, newspapers, elections, and aiding displaced persons to repatriate.
Viet Nam Soldier
After graduating from Muncy High School in 1966, Locke Cunningham enlisted in the U. S. Air Force. Stationed at Denang Air Force Base, he’d arrived at the start of the Tet Offensive. That offensive was a coordinated attack in three phases begun by the North Vietnamese on more than 100 cities in the south.
Beginning the end of January 1968 on the country’s New Year, the campaign lasted nearly a year. Listed as the longest military campaign up to that time, it resulted in 75,000 casualties for South Vietnam, the U.S. and allies.
The son of Lynn and Jean Cunningham, Locke spent his youth playing Little League baseball and was pitcher for the Sprout Waldron team. He was a member of the Muncy Boy Scouts and had reached the level of Order of the Arrow.
The scout organization is credited with Locke’s love of history of the Pennsylvania Canal System, the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
A voracious reader, he enjoyed other books of life’s adventures. As for music, he favored the Blues, but had a wide range of musical choices.
A welder by trade, his last job was that of being part of a construction crew for Wenger’s Feed Mill on Route 405 south of Muncy. He passed away on May 9, 2004.