For a story of the military service of a veteran to survive over the decades, it often takes a channel through which to share it. Loretta Raithel, of Russellville, suspected the death of her brother-in-law, Virgil O. Shikles, at the age of 55, followed by the death of her son in 2004 and that of his wife a few years later. . preserve his service heritage in the Second World War.

"When my sister died in 2012, the military archives and the photographs could easily have been thrown away, but I hung them to preserve the memory of what he had done during the war," Raithel told reporters. sift papers. related to the military service of his brother-in-law.

Virgil Shikles was born October 27, 1913 and grew up near the rural community of Enon, the second oldest of a family of six children. The records indicate that the 26-year-old man signed up for military conscription on October 16, 1940 in Washington, Missouri, more than a year before the Pearl Harbor attack.

According to the National Archives and Archives Administration, "President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Training Act and its Service, creating the country's first peacetime project and formally instituting the service system. selective". The law required all men between the ages of 21 and 36 to register at the first registration registration held on October 16, 1940, the date shown on the Shikles registration document.

At the time of registration, he was working for the former Missouri Pacific Railroad, headquartered in St. Louis. As a "track walker", he was responsible for the sections of the railroad system in order to examine the condition of the joints, rails and sleepers, ensuring that no damage would occur. can cause a train accident.

According to statistics from the National Museum of the Second World War, "By the end of the war in 1945, 50 million men aged 18 to 45 years had registered for the draft and 10 million had been inducted in the army. " Shikles received his own appeal in early 1942, about six weeks after the US declared war.

Shikles' "Separation Report and Separation Report" shows that he was inducted into the US Army at the Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis on January 21, 1942, marking the beginning of the war. a period of military service of almost four years.

Over the weeks, Shikles was posted to the 401st Coast Artillery (CA) and began training at Camp Haan, California – a military reserve established in 1940 to serve as a training center for aircraft replacement. Coastal artillery. In April 1942, the 401st AC was renamed the 401st AAA (Anti-Aircraft) Fire Battalion.

Mainly armed with M1 90mm anti-aircraft guns towed behind vehicles, Shikles followed a radar crew training for the battalion, learning to assemble and disassemble the battalion's mobile radar equipment, in addition to the Exploit to detect and locate any air threats. The battalion would also participate in desert maneuvers at Camp Young, California.

Shikles and the 401st AAA Battalion train at Camp Pickett, Virginia, before "boarding an LST in April 1943 for an unknown destination abroad," reports the Folsom Telegraph (Folsom, California) July 21, 1944. The newspaper further noted that the battalion had landed in Arzew – a port city of Algeria – where they were attached to the Fifth Army.

After a short training period, the battalion boarded Landing Ship Tanks early in August 1943 bound for Tunisia, met a convoy of American troops and set off for Sicily. A few weeks later, they were sent to the Italian front, where they began to defend supply depots, roads, bridges, airfields and critical military installations.

The battalion continued to move with the front lines and, in May 1944, "the whole Italian front exploded and the great record for Rome was engaged," noted the November-December 1946 edition of the Coast Artillery Journal.

The paper also listed the challenges faced by US forces during this campaign: "Enemy aircraft were flying very low from several directions to attack points, making 90mm shots extremely difficult. unsatisfactory due to field interferences and large quantities of (glitter) abandoned by the Germans ".

At the end of the war in Europe, on May 8, 1945, Shikles received five bronze stars for his participation in five major campaigns in Italy. The 401st AAA battalion remained overseas until boarding ships bound for the United States in October 1945.

A few days after his return, Shikles took a train to Jefferson Barracks, where he left the US Army and was released on November 6, 1945, after serving for more than three years and nine months in military uniform.

"After returning home, he married my sister Evelyn Scott in February 1946," said Loretta Raithel. "They then moved to Kansas City, Kansas, and raised a son, Gary." She added, "He then went to work for General Motors until he became so sick with Parkinson's disease that he was no longer able to keep his job."

The veteran of the Second World War died on August 12, 1969 at the age of 55. His son Gary, who later served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, also died of a Parkinson's disease complication in 2004; he was 56 years old and had no children. Like his father, he rests at Enloe Cemetery, near Russellville.

"All of my brother-in-law's records went to my sister and when she passed away in 2012, I made sure to keep them because they would have disappeared because her family left," Raithel said.

She continued, "These guys from the Second World War have never really talked about their service, at least of those I knew.It is important to safeguard their stories and those of other veterans of the World War II. World War II so that others can enjoy what they experienced during the war. "

Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.