Teletype man used information as ammunition in war – USA TODAY

Hundreds of photographs, documents and other mementos marking Richard Straub’s service as a teletype operator during World War II fill a large box in his apartment — memories of a time he vividly remembers 70 years later.

Straub served in what is now the Army’s 311th Signal Command and went ashore behind the infantry at Utah Beach on June 6, 1944.

“There were 3,000 of us in my battalion, and from the time we hit the water and walked up on the beach, no one said a word,” says Straub, now 91. “It was a feeling like no other. None of us knew what to expect. You could hear the guns in the distance.”

When he enlisted at age 19, Straub had no idea where the Army would put him. His father was an avid hunter, and Straub was familiar with guns, but he was also a good typist — he took classes in high school in Louisville. “They liked that I could type pretty quick and put me in the Signal Corps,” he recalls.

From 1942 through the end of the war, Straub played a role in many major battles, earning five Bronze Stars, among other honors. During the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium in the winter of 1944-45, Straub says, his group processed more than 60,000 messages.

“We were often in a special place and did not see the blood and guts like the infantry saw,” Straub says, pausing to tell a story of a time he explored a fighting hole with artillery pieces in it. He was 40 yards away when the hole was bombed, and five soldiers died.

“But our role was important,” he continues. “We were the main source of communication among the various forces and headquarters.”

Among Straub’s mementos is a copy of a teletype from the spring of 1945, a message he was one of the first to see. It is a lengthy communication signed by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, announcing that the Germans had surrendered.

“It was a very special feeling,” he says. “We all screamed and hollered, because we knew after all those years fighting, that the war was about to be over.”

Straub was discharged at the end of World War II, but he later served in the Korean War. Today, he is retired from pharmaceutical sales. He has also worked part time for the AARP helping low-income seniors find jobs.

Konz also reports for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal.

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