With Remembrance Day this week, and in an effort to never forget, Discover Weyburn spoke with WWII Combat Veteran, Howard Schmidt.

It was September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, it was this invasion that launched the beginning of WWII.  For the next six years plus a day, the world saw unprecedented atrocities.  Young men answered the call to serve their country and prepared for combat, parents and spouses said goodbye to the young soldiers wondering if they would see their loved ones again.  

According to Veteran Affairs Canada, more than one million Canadian men and women served in uniform and more than 45,000 Canadians died serving their country in WWII.  In addition to the 45,000 deaths, another 55,000 Canadians were wounded, which is the case for Weyburn’s own Howard Schmidt. 

Schmidt was born on February 11, 1923, in South Dakota, however, his family moved to live in the Midale/Macoun area before he turned the age of one.  He joined the Canadian Army on June 21, 1943, and served with the South Saskatchewan Regiment, in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe (England, France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany).   Schmidt boarded a ship that left Debert, Nova Scotia that would take him to the coast of France, his daughter, Marlene Adderley shared the harrowing journey.   

In order to avoid enemy fire, the ship from Nova Scotia to France zig-zagged every seven minutes.  Canadian authorities knew that it took the enemy 11 minutes to target them with a torpedo, what would normally be a three-day journey took 11 days. 

Unknown to Private Schmidt, American authorities arrived at his Midale home to conscript him into the American Military, however, Schmidt was several steps ahead and had already volunteered for the Canadian Army. 

Private Schmidt was wounded on two occasions, on July 20, 1944, shrapnel hit the back of his head along the Holland border, which he recovered in Watford, England.  Schmidt returned to combat a couple of months later only to be wounded a second time. On December 16, 1944, while fighting along the Belgium and Netherlands border, Private Schmidt was struck by two bullets in both legs. The first bullet entered and exited his thigh while the second bullet hit and lodged into his other thigh.  

“I was fairly lucky when I got wounded in the leg, otherwise something else might have happened and it would have been different,” said Schmidt. “It would have made quite a bit of difference if I had gotten wounded in the chest or stomach.” 

Today at 99 years old the second bullet remains in his leg.  Even after being wounded a second-time, Private Schmidt was determined to continue to serve his country, he returned to combat in March of 1945 and fought until the end of the war.  

We asked Schmidt what he felt when he heard the war was over. 

“It made us pretty happy and then some, it’s pretty hard to describe.” 

In November of 1945, Private Schmidt returned to Halifax on the Queen Elizabeth ship, now free from enemy fire, the trip home took the regular scheduled three days.  From Halifax, he travelled by train to Weyburn and was discharged on January 5, 1946. 

Upon discharge, Private Schmidt was awarded the George VI Medal, other medals he received recognizing his outstanding bravery are the 1939 – 45 Star, France and Germany Star, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, Normandy Campaign Medal, Thank You Canada Medal from Holland, in 2004 he received the Normandy Chest Badge, WWII 75th Tribute Pin 1939 – 2014 and most recently he was awarded the French Legion of Honour Medal and he has been a member of the Weyburn Royal Canadian Legion Branch 47 for 58 years. 

During the interview, Schmidt and his daughter Marlene graciously pulled out his WWII uniform from his closet.  Immediately upon first glance, one cannot help but recognize that while Schmidt certainly fought with the strength and bravery of a man's heart, the tiny size of the uniform, not much bigger than a size 6, is a stark reminder that he was required to change from boy to man overnight.  

WWII Veteran Howard Schmidt, photo by Bernadette MullenHoward Schmidt with his WWII uniform, photo by Bernadette Mullen
Howard Schmit's WWII uniform, photo by Bernadette MullenHoward Schmidt's WWII uniform, photo by Bernadette Mullen

In 1950, Schmidt married Lauretta Miller, they farmed in the Halbrite/Ralph area and had seven children, 20 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.  

A flag honouring Schmidt's service hangs near the corner of 3rd St and Coteau Ave. in WeyburnA flag honouring Schmidt's WWII service hangs near the corner of 3rd Street and Coteau Avenue in Weyburn, SK
A flag honouring Schmid'ts WWII service hangs near the corner of 3rd Street and Coteau Avenue in Weyburn, SKA flag honouring Schmidt's WWII service hangs near the corner of 3rd Street and Coteau Avenue in Weyburn, SK

It was only four years ago that Howard and his wife Lauretta moved to a nursing home, Lauretta passed away shortly after. Howard will be 100 years old on February 11, 2023.  

Lest we forget, for the full Remembrance Day Service schedule you can go HERE.