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WWII vet was proud of serving his country

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, May 30, 2011, at 12:07 a.m.

Ted Tracy lived with shrapnel buried in his left side, just above his hip, but rarely spoke of how it got there.

The stories of war didn't spill easily out of Mr. Tracy.

But the World War II veteran — and there are so few of them left this Memorial Day — endured the horrors of what it takes to earn five Bronze Stars and five Purple Hearts.

A Wichita resident, Mr. Tracy died Tuesday at his home. He had just celebrated his 93rd birthday May 19, one of his sons, Greg Tracy, said Sunday.

Mr. Tracy was born in 1918 near Argonia. When he was 16 or 17, he moved to Udall, where he met his first wife, Nina Irene Nugen, who died in 1998.

In September 1941, he enlisted in the Army. After some time in England, "he was in on D-Day, at Utah Beach," his son said. "Of course that was pretty traumatic. And he fought the Battle of the Bulge and survived."

Mr. Tracy was so eager to come home to the United States, his son said, that "he left two of his Purple Hearts over there. Growing up as a kid, I'd ask him stuff but he'd just kind of brush it off."

The Army discharged Mr. Tracy on Nov. 10, 1945. He married four days later in Arkansas City.

Mr. Tracy and his wife moved to California, where they lived for several years and where he worked as a carpenter until they moved to Wichita.

Mr. Tracy worked as a carpenter until he was 80 years old. After retiring, he taught the trade for the Carpenters Union, Local 201.

"He didn't sign up for Social Security until he was 80," Greg Tracy said of his father. "He said he didn't need it because he was working."

Greg Tracy said he grew up in the late '60s, when war "was not very popular with us."

He said he knew his father had served during World War II, but "I had no idea he was a war hero. I think in the '70s I started awakening about it."

Mr. Tracy traveled to France in 1990 and 1995 for the 45th and 50th anniversaries of the invasion of Normandy.

He told someone there "the last time I was here they were speaking German," his son said.

While Mr. Tracy, a staff sergeant, was mostly silent about his experiences in war, "he was very, very proud of serving the country," Greg Tracy said. "He had a lot of friends who didn't make it back."

Mr. Tracy had a strong will to live, despite the asbestos that clogged his lungs later in life, his son said.

"That will to live is what got him through situations like World War II," he said. "Those guys were tough."

In an interview in 1989, Mr. Tracy told The Eagle about watching a Nazi soldier swing a baby against a wall.

"The things the SS did to those people," Mr. Tracy recalled.

He said then that his memories reinforced the lesson he wanted the world to know: "It makes you want to think a second time before having a war."

Military services for Mr. Tracy were Friday and included a 21-gun salute and taps.

Survivors include his wife, Rosella Marie Struebing Tracy, of the home; sons Greg and Gary, both of Wichita; stepdaughters Karen Martin of Tucson, Ariz., and Anita Bailey of Betendorf, Iowa; sister Sarah Radekin of Wichita; and brother Galen Tracy of Rock.

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