Jack Amberg has not been in Washington, D.C. except for a brief stint during his last days in the Army. That was 74 years ago when he was 20-years-old. He will soon take a lasting visit to tour the nation’s capital.
His reservation aboard Kansas Honor Flight #74 for September 4-6 is confirmed. He will be one of 56 veterans and guardians departing out of Eisenhower Airport at 6:25 a.m. on Southwest Airlines Flight #313.
Amberg grew up in Wellington. He was in high school when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and like millions of other young men of service age, he enlisted in the Armed Forces and entered World War II. His induction took place in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas in May of 1943 and went through basic training at Fort Sill Army Base in Lawton, Oklahoma.
“I landed in Ireland first, then France, then Germany and Luxembourg,” Amberg said, while sitting in the recreation room of the apartment complex where he lives in Wellington.
Amberg was a radio operator, part of the 8th Infantry Division Spearhead, 56th Field Artillery Battery A 105 Howitzer. He became adept as a marksman, but said he did not want to get to good.
“You got too good, they’d make a sniper out of you and you wouldn’t last long,” Amberg said. “Snipers didn’t have long lives.”
Staying alive, getting to come home was a huge motivator for Amberg, but he could never be sure, as he lived from day to day, if that would happen. He could talk to a fellow soldier one day and the next day that man would be gone.
Amberg was in four major battles - in Normandy, Rhineland, Northern France and Central Europe. He was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Bronze Service Star.
He received the Bronze Star for saving the life of an officer. “He got panicky and got shell- shocked. I don’t know why I did it, but I grabbed him.”
A younger person is more likely to take chances, Amberg said. “That’s why they wanted us young bucks,” he said. “They say go, you go, but the older boys, they’ll stop and think it over.”
He was awarded the Purple Heart after getting hit by shrapnel during the night.
“Night war isn’t meant to be ‘cuz you don’t know who’s who,” Amberg said. “You’ll shoot at anything.”
After being hit, he spent three months in a Paris Hospital. Then the Germans surrendered and the war in Europe was over. A few months later, the planned invasion in the Pacific was canceled after the atomic bomb was dropped and Japan surrendered.
“The best news I heard was ‘Get ready. We’re coming home.’ When they used that word, ‘hell’ - that’s what it was. War is hell.”
Amberg was discharged from the Army at Ft. Francis in Warren, Wyoming in October of 1945. Upon returning home, he got a job with the Wellington Police Department, which he stayed with for a few years before taking a job working security for Boeing in Wichita.
He and his first wife, Doris, had two daughters, Robin, who still lives in Wellington, and Jackie, who is no longer living. After his first wife died, he married his current wife, Margaret, who is now in a nursing home.
Amberg will have a guardian, Eric Ryker, who will stay with him from the time he departs Eisenhower Airport in Wichita, throughout his D.C. trip and will arrive back home with him.
On the trip, Amberg will tour such sites as the National Archives, the World War II Memorial, the Korean Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Wall and Memorial, the Air Force, Navy and Marine Memorials and the Tomb of the Unkowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
“I think I’d be interested in Arlington Cemetery,” he said. “The 8th Infantry Division, I think we have a stone dedicated there.”
Ryker said the veterans will be honored all day and night.
Amberg said, “I’m glad to be home. The veterans appreciate all the help we get. We are thankful.”