Remembering the man Otto Unzicker, a godly Army* man during World War II in Antwerp, Belgium

Above photo: Otto Unzicker – Palm Sunday, 1945

Lead article photo: No. 75 at the end of the line, just beyond is the Holland border, we were in northern Belgium.
May 13, 1945   Otto Unzicker, left.  Louie Plank, center. Al Goth, right.

Sept. 1, 2020 Love For His People ministry in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Published for the first time: Otto Unzicker’s article to Guidepost Feb. 11, 1992

*Otto Unzicker was in the Army and worked on naval ships. He wanted to be in the Navy but was color blind so unable to.

On Feb. 11, 1992, my father-in-law Otto Unzicker, married to Lorraine Unzicker and father to three daughters, Linda, Judy, and my good wife Laura Jean (Laurie), wrote the following letter, followed by his article on his World War II experience, to Mrs. McGarrity of Guidepost magazine.

Though it was not published at that time, we are now publishing it after Laurie discovered the 28-year-old pages in a box we had stored in our home after Otto’s passing onto glory, 14 years ago. Jesus received Otto when he walked through heaven’s gate to his eternal reward on Sept. 5, 2006.

I share this in honor of him and the life he led, for his family and now mine. May His good Lord and ours bless and encourage you as you read his work giving testimony to the Lord, exactly as he wrote it.

Ahava and shalom,

Steve Martin, Founder/President, Love For His People ministry

P.S. Otto was a very good painter, doing a special painting each winter in his Perul, Illinois home basement. One of my favorites was his “Bell of Bethlehem”, completed after his one and only trip to Israel, which hangs in our home today. See this related article: https://loveforhispeople.blogspot.com/2015/12/behtlehem-bell-painting-by-otto-unzicker.html

Otto Unzicker – Palm Sunday, 1945 on top of Luchtbal Barracks

Feb. 11, 1992

Dear Mrs. McGarrity,

For many years I have read your amazing little magazine Guidepost and have always been lifted up in faith by other folk’s testimonies. Hid away in one of our desk drawers was an almost complete story of an army experience in Antwerp, Belgium during World War II, 1945. Like so many people it just never got completed, however, this winter I decided to try and write to your staff and see if it would be worthy of reading. There are a multitude of light-hearted incidents and some deep religious moments to tell, but it would take a book to tell of them.

If you accept my story you may rewrite and delete to suit the scene. I have no idea how many words to write and what your procedure would be. Enclosed you will find some ancient photos back in 1945 by which you can get a perspective of the locale.

Seems like only last week my friends and I were thrown into this strange nightmare. Hope you can find a use for it.

Many, many years I have admired Rev. and Mrs. Peale even unto his latest sermon on Rev. Robert Schuller’s TV Sunday morning worship from the Glass Cathedral.

We are Lutherans from E.L.C.A. and remain very active in choir and all auxiliary affairs.

Thank you for letting me write to your God praising work. We love you and may the good Lord bless you real good.

Sincerely then in Jesus’ Name,

Otto H. Unzicker

1721 11th Street

Peru, Illinois 61354

“A howling wind tore at the riggings of our north Atlantic troop ship as she first plunged and then mounted great white-capped waves. Our course was set to zig-zag to elude German submarines.

Ray Fye from Trego, Wisconsin, and I had decided to take our blankets and go top-side, it was to elude the pungent odors from the three tiered bunks. This gigantic farm boy was accustomed to blizzards blowing in the north door and on down to our town of Peru, Illinois.

Like David and Jonathan, we made vows unto God surrendering our lives to the Savior as our faith was being tried by this great storm. And, yet to our amazement, dolphins raced the ship – a sign of God making the trip one of trust and not of fear.

Having been called late into World War II, we had spent months together in Texas and Florida doing basic training until the great lords of the technical divisions assigned us to a specialized company – the 105th Fort Marine Maintenance Company of the U.S. Army.

My buddies were Louis Frank, ex-cowboy and machinist, Ray the farm boy, pipe fitter, Joe Mayer, the Chicago boy who assisted Ray, Ralph Blaukampf, army medic, Holland, Michigan and many others. This company of 200 men was experienced in all the basic trades for maintaining ocean going tug boats, landing crafts, floating cranes, to keep the harbor crafts of any good sized military marine port functioning.

Perhaps our officers knew our destination, but the rest of us would wait months to learn it would be Antwerp, Belgium. New friendships were formed as we made our way to the British Isles. The Lord was so good to us during those Autumn days in the picturesque port town of Falmouth, England, doing technical training.

In several months we would be saying good-byes to these new friends, relishing those dips in the icy waters of the English Channel. In our memories will always remain the Christian hospitality and of the lovely seaside billets in England.

While in Falmouth I broke a cartilage in my knee. The Army was ill equipped to operate overseas. The normal stability of the knee was critically weakened and plagued me ceaselessly during the months ahead. The operation would have to be done in the states and it would be a year before I arrived home for the surgery.

In the meantime, it was on to Europe. We shared the mess hall and barber shop with serious-faced infantry men. They, the most highly skilled in ground warfare, would be pitted against the dreaded Vermacht and Panzor Divisions. On a troop jammed freighter we crossed the Channel to the battered side of La Harve, France.

Those once lovely sea-side hotels and homes were buttressed with massive German gun emplacements which were devasted by incessant Allied air and naval bombardment.

Yet God has His protective hand upon us. Moving through the dark night, packed into cattle cars, we finally arrived in the eerie quiet of Antwerp. This seaport city was a place for unloading mountains of supplies and war machines.

This was our destiny, a non-combatant outfit.

Within the year 1945, General Von Rudenstadt would make Hitler’s last dash for Liege, Belgium and on to the great seaport city of Antwerp. The Battle of the Bulge was being master-minded and rear echelons were piling up supplies.

Oh that we could have seen the master plan of God, as the forces of the satanic foe would mee the Omnipotent dispelling hand of God in an unusual way.

The Canadian First Army had previously chased the Germans into Holland. Our new home was the Luchtbal Barracks, a massive three-story brick compound surrounding a drill-yard. Winter was coming, and there was very little heat.

We were then informed that we were in the epicenter of the flying bombs – the notorious V-I’s and V-2’s. Here was state-of-the-art rocketry by the very ingenious German Scientists.

On the first day we were alerted to an incoming V-1. These monsters were gyro controlled; the fuel injection calculated to cut off by logistic officers at the firing ramps. A horrifying roaring engine, fire flashing from it’s jet propulsion tail, like a run-away plane it suddenly ceased it’s flying and made a terrifying swan dive like a lead balloon.

It exploded violently on detonation, keeping its deadly rendezvous with an apartment house, a ship in the harbor, a troop installation, a strategic warehouse – anywhere it could do it’s devilish damage.

Some bombs were shot down by anti-aircraft guns, some by the death-defying British aviators heroically flying in with their wing tips under the bomb’s wings. With a sudden flip they would throw them off course to an unknown landing in the countryside or the English Channel. Some had their fuel set to scourer British cities.

At first we run to the top of our barracks to see the fireworks. It was very dramatic and we pointed to each arriving bomb like school kids on the Fourth of July. We were on the receiving end of a blitz.

Several of the men in our company who had actual infantry combat experience, however, ran the other way – into the air raid shelters.

As days turn into weeks, it was a continuous nightmare looking up to see those monsters of devastation gliding 1000 feet above, then the silence as their fuel was shut off. Down they would come, sometimes landing in open country and leaving a 35-foot-wide crater.

Night was the most terrifying as we nestled into woolen olive-green bed sheets. Then the roar would begin followed by the ominous silence, then the explosion.

We had our flashlights on an overhead shelf for reading, and from our Scriptures we found the comforting truth in Psalm 91:7, “A thousand may fall at your side, then thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you.” Our friend, Louis Flank, hastily used his rosary.

Buttressing our faith, a small circle of friends soon found their prayer bones a good place to be. Each night we would take over the chapel and pray extemporaneously. Each of us included in our petitions the safety of this complex barracks, the civilian and army personnel, and the greatest desire of all – to be home with family.

One weekday while we were out in the dry dock area working, a V-1 landed next to a maintenance garage right next to our barracks. Two Army men and seven civilians were killed.

 Then the greater bomb, the V-2 was fired like a hideous rocket high into the atmosphere and at the speed of Mach 6 descended. It landed on civilian apartments and the dock area. Compounding the horror of the physical devastation was the psychological wrench of driving the terrified civilian work force out of the work area. The destruction and killing were horrendous.

After six months of seeing Antwerp pulverized and the V-1s heading across the Channel to devastate England, the war suddenly came to an in-glorious halt. German Panzor tanks ran out of much needed petrol and the Battle of the Bulge caused the enemy to surrender.

Gathering our company into the mess-hall, our commanding officer, Captain Doran, displayed a map of the arroundizment of the City of Antwerp. Where each bomb had dropped was marked with a white-headed pin. He stated that 5,000 of all kinds of bombs had hit the area.

His final chilling words were that the Germans would have needed only six months more and they could have hit New York City. In the subsequent 45 years we have seen the massive advances in rocketry and the Persian Gulf War solemnized that. Forebodings of Armageddon terrorize us as we see nations rise against nations. Revelation 19:15-16, “From His mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Judgment is a finality so speaks the Lord in Psalm 46:6-7. “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters His voice, the earth melts, The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

And I can report that my knee was repaired and these many years later, with our grandchildren we go ice skating every winter.

It was the persistent prayer to our Almighty God that delivered us all.

Otto Unzicker

V-1 descending photographer was killed taking picture. Also called buzz bomb. Antwerp, Belgium 1945
No. 75 at the end of the line, just beyond is the Holland border, we were in northern Belgium.
May 13, 1945   Otto Unzicker, left.  Louie Plank, center. Al Goth, right.
Otto with granddaughter Hannah. Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 1989.
Otto Unzicker painting, “Bethlehem Bell”
Otto’s daughters and spouses (Linda, Judy, Laurie)

Steve Martin

STEVE & LAURIE MARTIN - LOVE FOR HIS PEOPLE FOUNDERS My good wife Laurie and I (43 years in October 2020!), through the ministry of Love For His People we founded in 2010, give love and support for our friends in Israel and in other nations with friendship, humanitarian aid, and social media support, along with Steve's NOW THINK ON THIS messages, and our Ahava Adventures annual trips to Israel. Steve has also authored and published 31 books. We live in the Charlotte, NC area, along with four adult children, spouses, and eight grandkids.

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