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Veterans have learned to share their stories

Published: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 2:42 p.m. CDT
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(DEBBIE BEHRENDS | dbehrends@shawmedia.com)
World War II veterans Wayne "Buck" Borchsenius, left, and Bob Sebby are getting better at sharing their war-time experiences.

NORWAY — World War II veterans Bob Sebby and Wayne “Buck” Borchsenius, like so many others, are learning to share their experiences, stories of their time spent in harm’s way.

Borchsenius, a Coast Guard veteran, trained at Manhattan Beach, N.Y. and participated in 28 missions delivering equipment, supplies and personnel to the beaches of France. His LST (Landing Ship Tank) was among those delivering troops to Utah Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

On his 10th mission, Borchsenius said his ship was disabled and he had to run across the beach through landmines and weapons fire.

“I don’t think my feet touched the sand,” he said with a laugh.

Borchsenius and his family returned to that same beach earlier this year.

He said he had mixed emotions about returning. He said there was a light mist on the beach, just like on D-Day. When personnel at the nearby museum learned he was there on D-Day, they stoppedwhatever they were doing and had a small ceremony, presenting him with flags that had flown in the American cemetery there.

“Everywhere we went, he was treated like a hero,” said his daughter-in-law, Karen Borchsenius. “Complete strangers, from all over the world, would come up to him and want to shake his hand.”

As difficult as Borchsenius’ service was, Sebby spent several months as a prisoner of war in Leipzig, Germany. Captured with his unit, the 106th Division, 422nd Infantry, during the Battle of Bulge, his German captors marched him for days to Leipzig. He said they weren’t in a formal prison camp, but were forced to work each day to rebuild the railroad station the Allies bombed each night. At one point, Sebby was among soldiers being held in a rail car that was strafed by Allied planes.

“I don’t think they really knew what to do with us,” he said. Fortunately, another soldier in his unit had a basic knowledge of German, so he was able to translate orders.

He said they survived on watery turnip soup, although toward the end of their internment, a few Red Cross packages got through. “But when you’re young, you’re in pretty good shape so you can withstand more,” he said.

Like every other soldier, Sebby said he thought a lot about home – his favorite foods, the girl that would later become his wife, his parents.

“He said he used to dream about my dad’s bakery,” said Sebby’s wife, Fern.

“By the time I got home, he had sold it,” Bob Sebby said.

After about four months, near starvation, Sebby and a number of other Allied troops were liberated by Russians. “We just walked around until we found some other GIs,” he said.

“I was a skeleton, but otherwise I was OK,” he said.

After being liberated, he spent time in a variety of field hospitals. By the time he was returned to Camp Kilmer, N.J., he was diagnosed with hepatitis. But after all he had endured, spending time in the hospital was like a vacation.

“I just couldn’t believe the luxury and the cleanliness in the hospital,” Sebby said.

Sebby said he has returned to Europe, but never to the area where he fought or was held captive.

He said he’s learning to share more when people ask about his service. “My family doesn’t even know what to ask,” Sebby said.

Both men, natives of the Norway area, have enjoyed Honor Flight trips to Washington, D.C. Both also are members of the LaVerne W. Anderson American Legion Post 729 in Sheridan.

“We’re very proud of both of them,” said Borchsenius’ son, Rob, who serves as an officer at the post.

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