WWII veteran McCauley has a unique place in history
Lawrence McCauley can confirm the humble beginnings of the story thanks to the unique role he played there. McCauley saw McConnell walk into his Ohio National Bank branch the day it all began in 1955 and immediately recognized a soul mate.
Both were hardworking men from humble beginnings who grew up during the Great Depression – McCauley as one of seven children from Lancaster, Ohio, and McConnell the son of a steelmaker from Pughtown, W.Va. Both were WWII veterans, with McCauley one of the American heroics who stormed Normandy Beach and McConnell serving on the USS Saratoga in the Pacific Theater.
They even shared a name, in a way, as the two were going to be called “Mac” given their similar last names until McConnell passed away in 2008.
In other words, it didn’t take long for McCauley that day in 1955 to make a deal with McConnell on that $ 600 loan.
“He landed in our bank parking lot,” McCauley, now 96, living at Lewis Center told BlueJackets.com. “He walked through the door and I said, ‘Come here,’ sat him down at the desk and we hit it off right away. He needed $ 600, and I loaned him the $ 600.”
The rest, as they say, is history. And for his part in our country’s history, McCauley was chosen as the Elk & Elk military salute of the Blue Jackets in the first home game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, alongside Leo Welsh for the anthem. National in Game 3 of the Tampa. Bay and then honored with a standing ovation in the arena during one of the first period media timeouts.
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Throughout the game, he was visited by fans from all over the arena, none more notable than McConnell’s son, current majority owner and Blue Jackets Governor John P. McConnell, as well as President of the team and Alternate Governor Mike Priest.
“John Jr. came over and put his arm around me,” McCauley said. “He said, ‘My old man just thought you were the best.’ It made me feel good. ”
It’s a great praise from that source, but deserved for McCauley, whose role in one of the most significant military conflicts in world history made him an American hero.
McCauley graduated from Lancaster St. Mary School in 1941 and was planning to work for the railroad when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in December of that year. Like many young men of that time, including his four brothers, he became involved in service.
“These guys were all lining up,” McCauley’s son Tom said. “I think the thought was, ‘We were going to stop this assault, but more importantly, we are going to protect Lancaster, Ohio, as well as my mom and dad.’ ‘
McCauley underwent basic training and was sent to New York to await his departure overseas when he encountered another soldier who asked him if he was related to one of his commanders, John McCauley. It was, of course, his brother, so he told the soldier to tell John that they should meet on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral the next morning at 8 a.m.
By this time, his ship was sailing close to the Statue of Liberty, as the unit had received the call to head for Britain in the middle of the night. Upon arrival in Gloucestershire, they began training for the invasion of France. Finally, it started on June 6, 1944 – D-Day.
McCauley arrived on Omaha Beach and was part of US forces who fought German opposition for days until the beach was made safe. He still remembers when he reached the top of the hill overlooking the English Channel.
“You got up, still flat on your stomach,” he said, “and I was like, ‘This is the best weed I have ever tasted in my life.'”
Of course, the fighting didn’t stop from there. McCauley and his unit continued to fight through the hedges of France, then fought against the Germans in Belgium in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.
On November 26, 1944, McCauley wrote a handwritten note which was given to the family in Lancaster. The date line read “Somewhere in Belgium” and explained how difficult it would be to get away from the family for Christmas.
“May we all be together again very soon and the world as peaceful and calm as the stalls in Bethlehem,” he wrote.
Shortly thereafter, McCauley’s unit was involved in the start of the Battle of the Bulge. As the American forces continued their fight, they finally entered Germany and advanced towards Berlin. On April 11, 1945, the US 9th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 6th Armored Division, which was part of the US Third Army with McCauley, arrived at Buchenwald Concentration Camp and freed those detained there.
Less than a month later, Germany surrendered. McCauley drove his half-track down the Champs-Élysées in Paris for Victory Day, and young French people attempted to trade locally made cognac for cigarettes with American troops, then returned to Ohio with the victory assured. After taking the train to Columbus, he needed a ride back to Lancaster and approached the driver of a coal truck heading in that direction.
“I wrapped my gym bag around his lighthouse and he said, ‘How far are you going, son?'” Recalls McCauley. “I said, ‘Lancaster’. We talked all the way down and he stopped at the house. It was 3 a.m., I took the key out of the mailbox, unlocked the door, and went straight upstairs. , son ?’ I said, ‘It’s me.’ I jumped on him and gave him a bear hug. ”
McCauley completed his military service with four campaign stripes, four bronze stars and one silver star. He attended Ohio University on the GI Bill and eventually settled in Upper Arlington with his wife MaryAnn, raising eight children.
75 years later
McCauley’s acts of heroism have not been forgotten, and it was remembered last month when he and Tom visited New Orleans for an event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.
He was greeted warmly as he wore his Eisenhower jacket at John Glenn International Airport, and then later that night at a dinner party at the Galatory on Bourbon Street, where customers offered to buy his dinner.
A one-day program at the National WWII Museum on June 6 featured speakers and a gathering of veterans. But the real treat came at lunch, where the McCauley’s sat with Jeanine and Annie, two Holocaust survivors who attended the anniversary festivities.
It turns out that Annie had been detained in Buchenwald and was one of those released by McCauley and his fellow American soldiers in April 1945. As a result, the two bonded instantly, holding hands throughout lunch. .
“This lady has the most calm and serene feel and looks like every day she’s had after (Buchenwald) was on borrowed time,” said Tom McCauley. “She was just wonderful.”
“It was very, very, very wonderful,” Lawrence said of the trip. “It was a great gathering.”
For all that McCauley has done, such recognition is surely deserved. From the battlefields of World War II to his life in central Ohio, McCauley fought for the American dream and then lived it.
The same was true of McConnell, of whom McCauley has fond memories. When he thinks of the man who brought the Blue Jackets to central Ohio, a word comes to mind.
“Determination,” McCauley said. “If he wanted to do something, he would.”
And with McCauley’s help, in the form of a $ 600 loan born out of a bond the two shared from their similar experiences, he did just that.