Warren Dettmer

Served, deserved
World War II veteran honored with medals in family ceremony
Staff photo by Shane Opatz

Augusta resident, Warren Dettmer, 84, received the Bronze Star and a Rifleman's Award for his service in World War II at a ceremony Saturday in Augusta.

After the brief ceremony, relatives thanked Dettmer for his service.

Dettmer's daughter, Joan Coonprom of Colorado, said the recognition was important to the family. "It was a special day for us," she said.

By Scott Wente
Leader-Telegram staff

AUGUSTA Warren Dettmer was one of only two soldiers in his U.S. Army platoon to survive the battle of Anzio during World War II. He returned from the war with horrific memories, having been an eyewitness to a battle that claimed 96,000 Americans.

Dettmer earned a Bronze Star for his heroism and service, but he never was recognized until Saturday. Dettmer, 84, of Augusta Nursing Home, received the Bronze Star and the Rifleman's Award during a ceremony organized by his children.

"We feel he served and he deserves these medals," said Pam Lowe of Colorado, Dettmer's eldest daughter. "We needed to honor Dad, and the kids and grandkids need to know the price of freedom."

Dettmer's ex-wife, six children, and grandchildren also attended the low-key ceremony. "I was so surprised," Dettmer said. The ceremony was a surprise because Dettmer suffers from emotional anxiety and survivor's guilt, a condition that affects people who survived a traumatic experience. "We wanted to keep it simple," said Dettmer's daughter, Sandy Gorka of Boyd.

Dettmer was frank about why he avoided service recognition for 60 years. "I wasn't interested in medals," he said. "I was trying to stay alive."

Dettmer also was honored at a Veterans Day parade in 2000. He rode in a restored Army jeep with another World War II veteran. With them was the author of  The Rock of Anzio, a book about the battle Dettmer fought. "I didn't read it; I lived it," Dettmer said of the book.

Dettmer served for 18 months in the Third Battalion of the 157th Regiment beginning in 1943. He was in Company M, a heavy weapons unit.

Clif Sorenson, Eau Claire County veteran services officer, said veterans often don't pursue awards or recognition. "If you see a reluctant veteran, don't be surprised," he said.

Sorenson said 1,600 World War II veterans die each day. Many never receive medals, he said.