World WAr II European Theater



Carl Frederick Zeidler, at the time, was mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, After a year in office, Zeidler came to believe he could best help the war effort by enlisting; he resigned his position as mayor and accepted a Naval Reserve commission on April 8, 1942.

He asked for the most dangerous job on ship and became officer in charge of a gun battery on board the merchant ship SS La Salle.

On Nov. 4,1944, the La Salle was torpedoed, causing her cargo of ammunition to explode, sinking her with the loss of all 60 crew in the South Atlantic, 350 nautical miles south east of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa by the German U-Boat U-159.

Zeidler was officially listed as MIA and presumed dead November 7, 1944. A gravestone marks his plot at Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.



Port Washington native Joe “Every Day is a Bonus” Demler was captured in December 1944 by the German army during the Battle of the Bulge. Demler had turned 19 on Dec. 7, 1944, and his unit, K Company, 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, was sent to fight in the Bulge the day after Christmas.

For Demler, the Battle of the Bulge came to an end on the night of Jan. 4 when a German Panzer IV tank fired a shot through a stone building where he was acting as a lookout on the second floor. The impact launched Demler from the floor into the ceiling. Two companies of American soldiers, more than 300 including Demler, were captured, interrogated, and packed into train cars to a prisoner of war camp. The Germans took Demler’s weapon, ammunition, and rations. His overcoat, the one thing that had kept him alive during the bitter cold, was burned at his POW camp because of lice.

Each day, 10 men shared one pound of cheese and a loaf of German rye bread made mostly of sawdust. Demler rapidly lost weight. Demler and other POWs were forced to march many miles during the cold winter of 1944-45 and repair railroad tracks while being bombed and strafed by Allied planes. As more American POWs arrived, Demler learned the war would likely end soon. When he was liberated more than four months later, he had lost 90 pounds from his 5-foot-7, 160-pound frame.

A Life photographer embedded with liberation troops snapped Demler’s photo, published a short time later in the popular magazine. Doctors estimated he would have likely died within three days had the war not ended when it did.