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The Daily



12-05-03: Area veteran recalls swimming with sharks in new locally-written book


ST. MARYS — Former news- paper boy and Minster native Charlie Heinl was a strong swimmer in the summer of 1943.
In August that year Heinl, now a resident of Maria Stein, decided to see how long he could swim without stopping and spent two hours doing nonstop laps. “I had a lot of confidence in my swimming and I believe the endurance test I gave myself helped to save me when my ship, The Gambier Bay, was sunk,” Heinl recalled in “A Military Memoir of World War II,” a compilation of stories of Auglaize County’s veterans as told to Katy Gilbert of St. Marys.
A year in production the book recounts the Big War from the perspective of local men and women who left the farm fields for the battlefields.
“Most veterans I interviewed had never been out of Auglaize County until they left to serve their country. Most were be-tween 17 and 21 years old. Many are still haunted by their days in battle,” Gilbert told The Daily Standard Thurs-day afternoon.
Gilbert has been interested in history for many years and serves as a trustee and newletter editor for the Auglaize County Historical Society. She’s also written for The Daily Standard and other area newspapers.
In the chapter “Heinl Survives Shark-Infested waters,” Heinl, now 77, recalls how The Gambier Bay was attacked and sunk by the largest battleship in the world, Japan’s Yamato in October 1944.
As the ship began to sink 849 people aboard the Gambier went into the ocean near the Philippines and for 45 hours battled thirst, eight-foot waves, exhaustion and sharks.
Survivors numbered 727 and Heinl remembers gratefully the bowl of tomato soup he was given after rescue by PC623 (Patrol Craft).
The book, a project to commemorate the Ohio Bicentennial in Auglaize County by historical societies in Minster, New Bremen, New Knoxville, Cridersville, Uniopolis, and the Auglaize County Historical Society with museums in St. Marys and Wapakoneta, was received from Globus Printing and Packaging in Minster just this week.
The 120-page, softbound book covers a wide range of war experiences, photos, maps and statistical information. The full-color cover was designed by St. Marys artist Mary Coons.
Cost of the book is $10 and available through each of the historical societies. Book signings are scheduled for Sunday from 1 to 2:45 p.m. at the Daniel Mooney Museum in St. Marys; Monday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the New Knoxville Library; Dec. 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the New Bremen Historical Museum; and Monday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Francis J. Stallo Memorial Library in Minster.
“I truly enjoyed listening to these veterans’ stories. I was always amazed at how young these people were when they went to war. And, 60 years later they tell their stories so humbly. The book has been my pleasure,” said Gilbert who plans to begin a second volume next year.


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The Standard Printing Company
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