In 1945, Allen G. Peltz stood 100 feet from the casket of deceased President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Washington D.C. It was a long way from home for Allen, a farm boy born and raised in Belle Plaine, Minn., during the depression.
He was drafted into the service in 1942 and later joined the 772nd MP (Military Police) Battalion, Company C, serving stateside during WWII.
In 1945, the final year of the war, Roosevelt died suddenly on April 12 from a cerebral hemorrhage. The following day, spectators lined Washington’s sidewalks to bid him a final farewell. Allen and his fellow MP served as the president’s honorary guard.
“We backed right up to the front door of the White House,” said Allen. “We gave him a big parade that day. It just never ended. I was on the end of it, and I could never see the front.”
From coast to coast
Allen was employed making butter at the Belle Plaine creamery in 1942 when he was called into military service during the height of WWII.
After a fall induction ceremony at Fort Snelling, Allen (pictured with his wife, Lillian) was assigned to guard Japanese-American youth at Camp Savage, Minn., while they trained to serve as wartime interpreters. Come spring, Allen applied to military school in Fort Omaha, Neb., and completed 16 weeks of training there before joining the Military Police.
His first assignment as an MP was guarding a key bridge that crossed the Columbia River near Longview, Wash. Meanwhile, a Japanese submarine surfaced and shelled a light plant on the mouth of the Columbia near Astoria, Ore., then disappeared into the ocean. Allen’s unit was put on alert because of its proximity. He wasn’t nervous, but “ready to go” if Japanese troops materialized. They never did, and Allen moved on to guarding Portland and the surrounding towns.
When a new War Relocation Authority (WRA) camp opened at Tule Lake, Calif., in May 1942, Allen was sent there. Roosevelt created the camps to detain persons of Japanese descent.
Despite the hardships of war, life went on, and there were happy times too: “I went home on furlough from Portland and got married to Lillian, and then I brought her back out to there with me,” Allen said.
The couple was married in September in Young America, with a reception at Lillian’s sister’s home. Lillian— who had rarely traveled outside her hometown of Hamburg as a girl — went to Washington, Oregon and Pennsylvania with Allen during his service.
Following training at Fort Lewis in Washington, Allen went to the East Coast and spent about a year transporting prisoners of war (POW). When the POW arrived on American soil from Europe and Asia, they were deloused and loaded on trains, Allen said.
“We transferred them all over the United States,” he said, noting he's visited 41 states.
Celebrating war's end
From Fort Devens, Mass., Allen was transferred to Philadelphia. It was during his tenure there he escorted FDR’s casket. He was back in Portland when Victory in Europe Day arrived. To celebrate success, major generals rode in victory parades in the U.S., Allen said. His unit was detailed to protect General Omar Bradley during the Returning Heroes Parade on June 4, 1945, in Philadelphia. Spectators lined the roads and school children waved American flags.
Allen was also on duty when the president of the Philippines requested a tour of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
“I was his special driver for his visit, along with my first sargent,” Allen said.
Each new place the couple was stationed, Lillian found a different job.
“I worked in two furniture factories, a suitcase factory and a place they made false teeth,” said Lillian. “That was an experience.”
In Philadelphia, Lilly became pregnant with Gary (pictured), the eldest of the couple’s three children, and flew home to be with family. The war ended. Gary arrived. Allen was discharged. The year was 1946.
“On March 10 the military gave me $100 and $7 for transportation and sent me home. I got home March 13, on my birthday. I went up to Hamburg to see my son. He was three months old,” Allen said. “He’ll be 70 next year. That’s as long as the war’s been over.”
Now 94 years old, Allen still lives with Lillian in the home they bought in 1956. Lillian, who will soon be 94, had short stay at The Lutheran Home: Belle Plaine for a fractured hip last year, but otherwise the Peltzs remain in good health.