As Henry Langrehr recalls D-Day — and the war as a whole — it is difficult for him to grasp the immensity of it. And that's coming from someone who lived through it.

"I am amazed at the amount of material our people were able to produce in such a short period of time," the Clinton man said. Not only for American forces, but for the British and Russians as well, and America was fighting on two fronts, with the war in the Pacific as well.

He feels the total, all-out effort of the war is lost on most people living today.

Back then, one couldn't escape it; the effects were everywhere. "Almost everyone had someone in the service," he said.

Langrehr's own family had four boys in the war, as did the family of Arlene, his girlfriend, now wife.

And there were no visits home for those soldiers. Once a man was drafted, he was in the war for the duration, no matter how many years. "You won, or you died," Langrehr said.

On the homefront, Arlene was involved, too, working 12-hour shifts, often seven days a week, as a "Rosie the Riveter," in a Clinton factory that made machine gun stands.

When Langrehr finally made it home, he and Arlene decided to get married immediately, so July 1 will mark their 74th anniversary.

Because so many commodities were in short supply in 1945 because of the war and still were being rationed — tires, shoes, gasoline, sugar — Langrehr's  family did not have enough ration stamps to put together a cake.

"The neighbors chipped in, and we had a little cake," he said. "There were about 30 people. It was simple. But you know, it was good. It was good."

He founded a construction business that constructed many big projects in the area, including schools, churches and factories. He and Arlene raised four children, Dennis, Dale, Karen (Pohl) and Kay (Schnieder).

Langrehr also found faith in God, something he attributes to Arlene.

He recalls that, during the war, men of faith seemed to have peaceful deaths.

He cites two instances in which he cradled dying men's heads in his arms. In once case, the man repeated Psalm 23, the passage that begins, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." The other man said the Lord's prayer.

"Their faces were at peace," Langrehr said. "I knew they had something that I didn't have at the time.

"My wife brought me to Christ, and I am forever grateful. She had been praying for me. I know that is what brought me through.

"To God be the glory. We make a mistake when we try to do it on our own."

Langrehr has told his story numerous times, speaking at churches, clubs and schools.

It saddens him to think that so little time is spent teaching about World War II in school.

"Today, it's a page," he said.

He also feels America has lost its moral compass.

"I fear for my country," he said. "That's an old man talking."


Among those recognizing Langrehr's exceptional service are his children and the French government.

Both Langrehr and his wife have written detailed accounts of their lives, accounts that are treasured by their children. Their son Dale took it upon himself to retrace his dad's steps in Europe, walking 173 miles.

"He wanted to see," Langrehr said.

In 2007, Langrehr traveled to Washington, D.C., where he and five other men received the French Legion of Honor medal from French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The award was part of a special effort started by the French government on the 60th anniversary of D-Day to recognize the contributions of American veterans.

"He (Sarkozy) said, 'Henry, to our country, you are a great hero.' That's pretty nice of him to say that."

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