Carroll County Times

History Project: Veteran's journey brings him back to Carroll County

World War II veteran David Schaeffer is proud to say he has been a part of Carroll County since he was born June 9, 1920.
As a young adult, Schaeffer attended high school at Mercersburg Academy and graduated in 1937. Upon graduation, Schaeffer attended Gettysburg College, where he was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and also an active in the advanced ROTC program.
After graduating from Gettysburg in 1941, he was certain his ROTC training was going to come into use when Hitler invaded Poland. A week after graduation, Schaeffer received his letter, which called him to duty as a quartermaster since he was a business major in college.
Ironically, Schaeffer never served a day in the quartermaster department and went straight to platoon leader in Virginia, where they conducted basic training. After training at multiple camps, Schaeffer reached the level of a captain. Soon after, he was promoted to assistant division quartermaster at the Van Doren Camp in Baton Rouge, La. His primary tasks were to be responsible for the food, all clothing and clothing supplies and all motor vehicles and their fuel.
"We supplied the division with everything, but the ammunition and weapons," Schaeffer said.
He was promoted to major in the 63rd division in San Houston, and then he traveled to Okinawa. After being promoted to lieutenant colonial class 1 quartermaster department, his time spent in Okinawa was stressful and difficult. Luckily, after a lot of casualties, combat and destruction, "Truman gave the word to drop the bombs, the Japanese saw they couldn't do anything else and surrendered."
Schaeffer reflects on what he had to do after the surrender.
"Headquarters gave me an assignment to go to the islands north of Okinawa and the south as a quartermaster to collect the Japanese that surrendered," he said. "We had to take inventory of all the supplies left on these islands."
He was in charge of the foods, which consisted of dried seaweed, rice and dried fish.
When the Japanese surrendered, everyone back home was left wondering when the men were going to be returning.
Schaeffer explained the discharge process.
"The military made a point system ... for those who had served the longest, you made the most points, you could be on the first ships back," he said.
Schaeffer came back on an aircraft carrier and was considered very lucky since he got to come home before Christmas. His wife Bobbi, whom he met in Baton Rouge before deployment and married before departing to Japan, welcomed him back with a baby girl named Diane.
"I had been a father for almost a year, my baby girl was born back in late April of '45, so I had never seen her," he said. "So I was anxious to get back to Baton Rouge."
Luckily Schaeffer came back to a job.
"I was asked to accept a regular army commission, but during the war my dad was able to acquire a former lumber and supply yard in Westminster, so he bought that for me and my brother," he said.
His grandmother owned a house in Westminster that she gave to Schaeffer and his family. Although Schaeffer was working during the depression, he found his job selling lumber to be quite successful. "As it turned out, all these guys coming back from the service ... they were going to have to find a place to live ... so housing had to be built."
Schaeffer even helped furnish some of the materials for the temporary quarters built for soldiers coming back.
When he returned to Westminster in 1946, Schaeffer joined the local American Legion. Schaeffer was honored as soon as he returned. "Mathias Memorials put a big memorial at the forks of the roads and started having annual memorial days," he said.
Although he retired his commission, Schaeffer still felt a sense of pride and unity within his community.
"A lot of us reserve officers that came back, we didn't have a particular unit here, but we marched in the local parade."