rye honors hills soldiers at world war II memorial
Hills native Glenn Rye and his daughter, Ramona Perkins, recently traveled via an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to view the World War II memorial.
In light of the Hills 125th anniversary celebrations, Rye asked the Hills Crescent to share information about World War II veterans from Hills who sacrificed in service to their country.
Rye is a brother of the late Opal (Rye) Nelson (Mrs. Elmer Nelson) and uncle of Carol (Nelson) Ehde, Roger Nelson and the late Duane (and Marilyn) Nelson, all originally of Hills. Rye has many grandnieces and great-grandnieces and nephews living in Hills and Rock County.
Rye, who now lives in Arizona, made the Honor Flight trip on May 26.
“Spending time with 26 World War II veterans in Washington, D.C., at their memorial was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity,” Perkins said of the May 26 trip with her father.
“These men and women are truly the greatest generation, and their sacrifices can never be repaid.”
Rye said he enjoyed visiting the monument for his own reasons, but he said he made the trip to specifically honor several people from his hometown of Hills and the surrounding area.
For example, he mentions a Hills couple, Edwin and Hannah Pederson, who had all five of their sons enlisted in the military.
One of those Pederson sons, George Pederson, an Army Air Corp sergeant, was a side gunner in a Flying Fortress plane that got shot down over Germany on April 17, 1943. He was a prisoner of war until May 3, 1945.
By the time he had been captured, Pederson had already been awarded an air medal for meritorious service and an Oak Leaf cluster for his many trips over enemy territory.
With only a month of combat duty remaining before he was due for a rest period, Pederson fell into enemy hands.
When he was liberated, Pederson shared with media what had happened.
“The plan was burning when the six men ‘hit the silk’ at about 26,000 feet altitude. It required about 25 minutes to descend. S/Sgt. Pederson said he made a ‘beautiful’ landing right in the middle of a pasture. Civilians surrounded him almost as soon as he hit the ground, and within 15 minutes, the German soldiers had him in custody.”
When he jumped, he was over Holland, but due to wind currents, he came to earth in Germany near the town of Oldenburg.
In Pederson’s words, “They put us in small cells, about four by eight feet, and literally tried to ‘sweat’ information out of us. … We were in solitary confinement for two days. Each cell had a small electric heater in it. They would turn up the heat when we wouldn’t talk, but it did not do them any good.”
He described the small bunks in the cells as “far from comfortable because the mattresses were filled with bedbugs and fleas.”
Pederson credits the Red Cross YMCA with making life at the prison camp endurable, as the organization made regular deliveries of food packages. “Had it not been for this, many would have starved to death,” Pederson said.
Hills resident George Lund, was also a prisoner of war. He had been captured in southern France and had been liberated from a German camp and had spent time in recovering from injuries in a German hospital.
Lund was among the soldiers Rye honored during his Honor Flight trip, in addition to Delmar Larson, who fought at the Battle of the Bulge with the 82nd Airborne.
Finally, Rye honored his cousin, Rhody M. Bentson, who grew up in the Hills area. Bentson’s plane went down over Kiel, Germany, in 1944, and he was lost.
Pederson, Lund, Larson and Bentson were all soldiers from Hills.
Rye also honored an Arizona friend, Leonard Brice, who fought in World War II and was a prisoner of war in Germany, and Joe Foss, who lived not far from Hills across the South Dakota border. Foss shot down 23 Japanese Zeros, earning him the title of Ace.
Rye’s personal military experience was in the Army, where he served as a prison guard in California for military prisoners. He was preparing to be shipped overseas when U.S. forces dropped the atomic bomb, essentially ending the war.