“It’s just too much, and it’s all so wonderful,” said Percy Platte with a tear welling up in her eye.
She is referring to her whirlwind day on the Old Glory Honor Flight that took her and dozens of other World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to see their memorial.
As she recalls the events of Aug. 31, she starts from the beginning. Arriving at the Appleton airport at 6 a.m. with fellow Veteran Dell Otis and his son, she met her Honor Flight Guardian, Sandy, for the first time. It was Sandy’s second flight as a guardian. Other veterans from New London included Oral Schuelke and Don Quaintance.
Tony and Lorraine Van Kampen, of the McDonald’s in New London, were also guardians on this flight. With three generations of Veterans in their family, they could not pass up the opportunity to spend time with these Veterans.
Platte was impressed by the Honor Guard that stood at attention until they left the runway. Once in the air, they watched a documentary about the World War II Memorial.
When they cleared the reception area at the D.C. airport, they were loaded onto three buses: one red, one white and one blue. “They took us all around the city for a tour of the monuments. We went to Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Everything was orchestrated so well. If we needed help we had our guardians. Our (World War II) memorial is breathtaking. We received a huge reception everywhere we went.”
On the flight home there was more in store for the Veterans, as Mail Call was announced. Each Veteran received letters from the “home front”, those of family and friends who expressed their feelings to the Veterans. “That really got us all,” said Platte. “It was so nice to get this appreciation.”
Among the large crowd at the return reception was Chris Gregory of New London Police Department, waiting with his family to see his grandfather, Harold Urban of Neenah come off the plane. “It’s great to see so many people here,” said Gregory.
Great Lakes Navy Nurse
Frances Priscilla Platte, or Percy as most people know her, was born in New London to Gladys and Clifford Rossey, who owned a dairy farm near the old Don’s Supper Club (now The Tree Stand). At the age of six her family moved to Oshkosh and she knew by the sixth grade that she wanted to be a nurse. Her cousin, who was in nursing school, would come to the house in her uniform and Percy knew she would one day wear one.
“I had to work for my grades, though, learning did not come easy to me,” she recalls. “My homeroom teacher told me I needed a B average to go to nursing school, so I set to getting those grades and did a lot of extra credit.”
In 1941 Percy entered nursing school and when she graduated in 1944 the Navy was looking for nurses. “I applied for a commission in 1945 and got one. I wanted to go overseas, but each time I was passed over.”
Platte served in the US Navy Nurses Corp, and, as she refers to it, ‘fought the battle of the Great Lakes.’
She was in the Tuberculosis ward for a time, operated a blood bank, and served time in the POW ward. “There I had my hands full. They let POWs have more privileges than other patients and I needed to stay on my toes.” If the patients were healthy enough, they were expected to help with cleaning and preparation for inspections. “If I didn’t pass inspection I didn’t receive liberty, and there were times I asked them to help. They usually did.”
In 1946 she returned home and spent time with her good friend, Pat Moriarty. They attended the very first Oshkosh All Stars basketball game together. Then, she met her future husband, Hermie Platte, at a 25th anniversary party for her parents. In 1952 she received a call instructing her to report to duty for the Korean War. “I was married and wanted a family and was told to call and resign my commission in order to stay in the states. That’s what I did.”
Platte worked for 40 years as a nurse in New London. She was employed by Dr. Dernbach (over Pichelmeyer’s store downtown) for 17 years. She was also a nurse in recovery at the New London Community Hospital. She recalls Kay Harriet and Judy Barrington were surgical nurses and Everett Klotzbucher of Manawa was a nurse, too. “He could do anything,” she commented. “We all worked hard and I loved being a nurse.”
Look for upcoming stories about World War II Veterans in the County Post East. A hub for the Greater Fox River Valley area, Old Glory Honor Flight is based in Appleton. For more information visit their website at http://www.oldgloryhonorflight.org or call Drew MacDonald 888-6-FLY-VET (888-635-9838).