Veteran Salute: WWII vet says bullet went in one cheek and out the other

Veteran Salute

A Hutchinson WWII veteran said he was just 22-years-old and was working at Cessna Aircraft, when he got a letter from the President.

It stated he was needed in the military and he said in no time he was boarding a bus.

Olen Mitchell, 97, would then spend nearly thirty days on a ship, where they couldn’t even light a match.

He said they even had to wait until night to dump garbage overboard, so they would have plenty of time to get away from it before sunrise.

He said the enemy had their sights set on the fleet, headed overseas.

“The Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Bronze Star, those are earned decorations,” WWII combat infantryman Olen Mitchell said.

Mitchell earned every one of them, although he’s most proud of his Combat Rifleman medal.

“That indicates every thing I did,” Mitchell said.

He said the voyage to WWII wasn’t easy.

“We wound up in a convoy, in the Atlantic of 110 ships,” Mitchell said.

He said the enemy was watching their every move.

“We had a number of submarine attacks, going over they sunk one ship,” Mitchell said.

The troops eventually made it to Italy and Mitchell said within no time they were on the front lines.

“You don’t know if you are going to be alive 15 minutes from now, or in the morning,” Mitchell said.

He said as infantry members they had to carry everything they had on their backs, including tons of ammunition.

“I was in the 85th Division, 337th Infantry, Company L,” Mitchell said.

He said they had no beds, no barracks and there were many occupational hazards.

“You’d be going down the road and the Germans would have a piano wire stretched across from one tree to another, that was just right to cut your head off,” Mitchell said.

He said while attempting to take a railroad tunnel from the Germans, they met a lot of resistance.

“I got hit by a German rifle bullet, went in one cheek and came out the other and it took everything pretty much with it,” Mitchell said.

Even though he was severely wounded, he tried to get a message back to the medic.

“For him not to come up, because if he did, they would just get him the way they did me, but faithful as he was, he came up,” Mitchell said.

A telegram arrived in Kansas letting the love of his life know he had been wounded.

After another long trip aboard a ship and many months of recovery he finally made it home.

“I came home, I was very, very fortunate and I had a great and wonderful life,” Mitchell said.

When he returned from the war zone, he was given a choice to be a Medic or an MP.

He said becoming military police was the best decision he ever made.

In his retirement, Mitchell now enjoys woodworking and his collection of classic cars.

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