Bill Muns, left. director of the Beaver County Veterans Affairs office, reads the Silver Star honor for veteran Elmer Fred Reese.

The Times / Brian McDermott from The Beaver County Times / Allegheny Times

24 February 2004

Article by Larissa Theodore / Times Staff

NEW BRIGHTON – Elmer Fred Reese received the Silver and Bronze Stars as a result of his heroics during World War II. The 79-year-old Patterson Township resident said he knew about the bronze, but until last year, he had no idea about the silver medal.

“I was really surprised when I heard about getting it,” he said. “A gentleman wrote me a letter wanting to know if I knew his great-uncle. Then he called me one night” and said, “Congratulations on your Silver Star.” I didn’t know I had received it.”

After a bit of research, Reese learned he indeed had received the star, one of the highest honors a soldier can receive, and in November, he got it in the mail.

The New Brighton Lions Club honored Reese’s accomplishments Monday night, recognizing him for the Bronze Star he earned for his “heroic achievements” in Belgium on Sept. 3, 1944, when, while pushing toward Germany, he had to fire his weapon at hostile vehicles at an exposed vantage point. The silver medal came for his actions on March 30,1945, in Wilgersdorf, Germany, when the then-20-year-old sergeant led his soldiers who had already endured the Battle of the Bulge across perilous terrain and into hostile confrontation with the Germans.

The Battle of the Bulge, which lasted from Dec. 16,1944, to Jan. 28, 1945, was the largest land battle in World War II, wherein Germany made its last offensive attack, aiming to divide the Americans and the British by creating a “bulge.” The Germans were eventually defeated.

During a fight after that battle, Reese was shot twice, when the enemy saw him moving. Two of his soldiers had been wounded and one was killed. After the fighting calmed, Reese staggered behind a garage only to come face to face with two German soldiers, who were peering at him and holding rifles, he said. “I slumped down and they put their rifles against the garages, put their hands up and surrendered,” he said. “I still remember because I got shot on Good Friday… I was in the Battle of the Bulge all the way through and never got a scratch until that day. Then the war was over in May. I almost made it.”

Reese, a former Lions Club member of eight years, was honored alongside Lions member Ralph Ours of New Brighton, who also earned a Bronze Star in the war. About 30 members and guests, along with Reese’s wife, Marguerite, were present “I appreciate everything,” Reese said as Bill Muns, director of the Beaver County Veterans Affairs office, pinned on his silver medal. “But I would like to say tomorrow (Tuesday) is my wedding anniversary, and I think my wife should have the medal instead of me.”