116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - On May 22, 1945, Asher Schroeder touched down on U.S. soil after having been injured and held as a prisoner of war in World War II.
During his 141 days as a prisoner, Schroeder lost more than 80 pounds and often faced poor sanitary conditions and went with little food. He was moved from camp to camp in an effort by the Germans to evade Allied Forces, one of those camps being the infamous Stalag IX-B.
He was liberated by U.S. forces on April 2, 1945, but would soon receive terrible news.
'My happiest day became my worst day of all,” Schroeder said Monday while addressing a joint meeting of area Rotary clubs at the DoubleTree hotel and convention center in downtown Cedar Rapids - the 72nd anniversary of his return home.
Schroeder's homecoming that day was overshadowed by news that his father, Maquoketa Mayor LeRoy Schroeder, had died while he was overseas.
Schroeder, 92, of Maquoketa, shared his story of service and survival as part of a special Rotary meeting held in conjunction with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.
'We thought it would be great to have him join us today in recognition of all those who have served and it's our honor to have him tell his story,” said Dennis Jordan, president of the Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary Club. 'Too many times we wait until it's too late to allow gentlemen such as Asher to talk about their experiences.”
Schroeder was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 18 in 1943. A year later, on June 13, 1944, he crossed the English Chanel and landed at Utah Beach, just days after D-Day.
On August 24, 1944, he marched into Paris with Allied Forces to assist in the liberation of the French capital.
'Everybody was in a state of high exuberance. Men, women and children of all ages gathered all seemingly dressed in their best. They had flowers, wine and homemade American flags and French flags. They sang and cheered as we progressed up the streets and through the avenues. There was literally a thunderous sound all around, block after block, mile after mile,” Schroeder said. 'Words really don't come to mind to describe this, but it does remain in my mind as one of the bright memories of my entire lifetime.”
The joy felt that day didn't last, however, as Schroeder and his company went back to the foxholes for the push into Germany. They ended up in Hurtgen Forest, where - on Nov. 13, 1944 - Schroeder was injured when shrapnel hit his foot. He was captured and taken as a prisoner of war.
'We walked into a very forbidding forest that looked like something out of a horror movie under first impression and remained that way during the time I was around,” Schroeder said during his presentation.
Upon his return to the United States, Schroeder came back to Iowa, married his late wife Catherine, and started a family. He then attended law school at the University of Iowa and served three terms as the Jackson County attorney.
Later, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Schroeder the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, where he continued to work as an assistant until he retired in 1987.
Schroeder remains a member of the Maquoketa Rotary Club.
'I felt privileged to have been able to be in the service and be hopefully of some use,” Schroeder said, 'I have the feeling to this day that I probably still owe a lot more than I've ever returned.
'I'm very happy to not only have survived but to have been able to enjoy all the wonderful things that happened and go on in this country.”
He said Memorial Day for him is significant.
'There is a lot of history there,” he said. 'It's a historical holiday where we acknowledge those who did serve, that they are veterans and that they did provide some valuable service to this country.”
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