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Cheektowaga veteran of World War II recalls breakthrough to victory in Europe

Albert G. Dorer, 92

Hometown and residence: Cheektowaga

Branch: Army

Rank: Private first class

War zone: Europe

Years of service: 1943-45

Most prominent honor: European-African- Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with six battle stars

Specialty: Light-truck driver

By Lou Michel

News Staff Reporter

At age 18, Albert G. Dorer started at the DuPont plant on River Road in the Town of Tonawanda, assisting in the production of cellophane, but his good fortune to have a job ultimately ended in a layoff.

“I was told I was being laid off because there was a shortage of wood pulp. That’s what they use to make the cellophane,” the 92-year-old Dorer recalls.

But unemployment did not plague him for long. World War II was raging, and Dorer’s services were needed, according to a draft notice he received.

“I didn’t think anything of it. After I had my physical, I raised my hand and I was sworn into the Army,” the lifelong resident of Cheektowaga says. “I left the United States on Sept. 12, 1943, for England. I remember the date because it’s my sister Olive’s birthday. She’s now 94 years old.”

Seven days later, he and several thousand other U.S. troops arrived in England, but his journey continued on to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where as a member of the 294th Quartermaster Salvage Repair Company, he assisted in the hardly glamorous but vitally necessary work of making sure the military was properly clothed.

“I drove a truck there for seven months,” he says. “I would go to a laundry and pick up uniforms that had been repaired and pressed, and then I’d take it to be shipped back out to Africa or wherever the war zone was.”

But with plans for the Allies to cross the English Channel and take the ground fight to the European mainland, it was time for the salvage company to return to England in preparation for what would be the biggest amphibious assault in history.

“During the day, we’d go down to the beach, and we’d board ships, practicing how to get on and off,” he remembers. “It was preparation for D-Day.”

And though Dorer and his buddies were not part of the initial waves of troops landing on June 6, 1944, at Normandy in northern France, they arrived several days later at Utah Beach and scrambled up into the hedgerows to get into the fight.

“They were having a heck of a time at the Battle of Saint-Lô; the Germans were embedded there quite heavily,” he says. “But when our troops broke through, we moved on, and I think we went right up through Paris. The city was just like the day it was made. It was beautiful. There was no damage. I remember standing under the Eiffel Tower.”

Sightseeing didn’t last very long.

The Germans were planning a major offensive, and by December, Dorer and his unit were in the thick of the Battle of the Bulge.

“We were in this field, and our trucks were transporting jerrycans filled with gasoline, and the Germans were firing over us with what we called ‘screaming mimis.’ A sergeant said to us, ‘You know what will happen if one of those tracers hits your gasoline … ?’ He didn’t have to say any more. I said to him, ‘Get us the hell out of here,’ and we got out of there.”

Dorer also remembers that bitter winter.

“It was cold, icy, and quite a bit of snow,” he says. “Our air force had trouble taking off because of the weather.”

At one point, Dorer says, he was ordered to drive a high-ranking officer to Brussels away from the front lines.

“It was a clear day, the sky was blue, but the Germans were firing artillery shells,” he says. “They were aiming for a quartermaster’s depot, but they never got it. We had some close calls as I was driving the jeep with the colonel in it.”

Later, when the Germans were on the run and the war was ending, Dorer says, his unit traveled to Düren and Cologne in Germany, where he got a taste of luxury.

“I spent about a week in a castle by the Rhine River and slept in a room that was all blue,” he says. “I called it the ‘blue room.’ The war had just ended.”

Dorer was later stationed at Camp Lucky Strike near Le Havre, France, while preparations were made to ship the 294th to the war in the Pacific.

“We had all new equipment and new officers, but then they dropped the atom bombs, and that ended the war and they shipped us to the Riviera,” Dorer recalls. “I was there from August 1945 to November 1945 and arrived home the day after Thanksgiving.”

Returning to civilian life, he married Virginia Leising, and they raised a daughter.

“I still live in the house where my wife was born and died. We were married 66 years,” Dorer said. His wife died in 2012.

Dorer supported his family working in the powerhouse at FMC’s plant on Sawyer Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda, and, after 31 years, he retired in January 1985.

“When I retired, the plant manager commented on how I never took a sick day,” he says. “Even in the Blizzard of ’77, I got there every day. I got a certificate for that. I was a faithful worker.”

As for his patriotic duty, Dorer says, “I was faithful to the Army, and I’m very proud of my service. A lot of people have thanked me for my service in World War II.”