Hennepin 4th of July Celebration

War Stories Published

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While his friends went off to training before making their way to the conflict in Korea, Darrell Alleman took the train back to Ottawa alone.

Alleman, who was drafted three times, was kept out of the war by ailments including a heart murmur left over from a bout of rheumatic fever and diabetes, but he reported to Chicago each time and had many Illinois Valley peers who did serve.

“Everyone’s cards was yellow, and mine was blue with an F on it,” he recalled. “I always felt bad about it. I lived in Tonica, and each time I’d go with four or five guys my age to the city, and they’d take them into training, and I’d come back alone. I think that’s why I want to tell stories of those great people.”

Alleman, a freelance writer from Granville, channeled that desire into a book, “Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue,” containing 317 stories from veterans — mostly from the Illinois Valley.

“Grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to read about their relatives,” he said. “Otherwise these stories might be lost.”

A book more than a decade in the making

Alleman started writing veterans’ stories in 2005, when he decided to write about Jerry Masini for a Veterans Day article after hearing Masini speak at a Rotary Club luncheon.

Masini, who lives in Mark, entered the U.S. Army as a military police officer after being drafted in 1961, but quickly transitioned into broadcasting, which had been his desired post since being drafted.

“If there wasn’t an armed forces radio over there, I was going to make sure it happened,” he said.

There was already an armed forces radio, but after being transferred from a 12-man tent to a hotel room in downtown Saigon, Masini was present for some of the radio station’s earliest days.

“They had gone on the air in August, and I got there in September,” he said. “I was transferred there as an engineer, but they were so short on people, I said I could help with some of the DJ work. They put me on the air, and it worked out pretty well.”

Masini had already accrued five years of experience working for the TV 35 Station in Tonica rather than armed forces radio training, and he said it positively affected his work.

“I did it stateside commercial radio style,” he recalled.

Masini said he’s thrilled and humbled to be included in the book.

“I’m just one story on page 100-something,” he said. “Darrell’s done a fabulous job, and I hope people enjoy his book.”

After Alleman wrote about Masini, suggestions began to trickle in prodding Alleman to talk to and write about other veterans.

“After I did that, they would say, ‘You should talk to so and so,’ and before long that’s about all I was doing,” Alleman said.

Hundreds of vets and hundreds of stories

He wound up talking to all sorts of veterans.

Most were local men, but Alleman also talked to hall of fame pitcher Bob Feller and included his story in the book.

He said the abundance of nearby veterans was unsurprising.

“I read once that country boys from small towns made up a lot of the armed forces,” Alleman said.

There are stories in the book of service from local veterans such as his second cousin, Wendell “Pike” Alleman of Oglesby, and Jack Brandstatter of Hennepin.

“Brandstatter won a Distinguished Flying Cross,” Alleman said. “He flew with General Doolittle. That was in Europe. He bombed Berlin. He made 32 or 33 trips, and when he got home, he wasn’t old enough to vote because you had to be 21 back then.”

Wendell Alleman kept company with a famous general too.

He followed Gen. George “Blood and Guts” Patton in Europe and was present for the ghastly discoveries at Nazi concentration camps.

Patton encouraged his soldiers to observe and document the atrocities, which included emaciated people and a lampshade made out of human skin, Alleman said.

“General Patton said years from now, people will say this never happened,” Alleman said.

About 200 yellow writing pads were filled with veterans’ stories in preparation for the book.

“I didn’t do any filing either, so sometimes I’d need to look at my notes and wouldn’t be able to find it,” Alleman said.

Eventually, he was able to cobble everything together and wound up with 300 copies of a hardcover book with a patriotic cover.

“They tried to talk me into paperback, but it’s not about the money,” Alleman said. “It’s about the work and pride in my work.”

Source: News Tribune