Old Photo of a Young Soldier

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I came across an old photo while we were cleaning out files to prepare to move the newspaper office. The sepia-toned print is of a nice looking young man in an Army dress uniform. His tie is tucked into the shirt, cap on his head, and a slight smile on his face. Someone had written below on the cardboard frame, “Staff Sgt. Lee H.C.

An inscription, likely from Lee is on the flap of the frame, which seemed to have served as a protective envelope for mailing. It is torn now, but the barely legible inscription reads: To Momma and Auntie.

The photo was accompanied by a typewritten piece of blue paper with the logo of Company B, 38th Infantry at top. It is titled “A Beautiful Story,” and it explains why the newspaper came to possess this photo. The piece was written in 1994 by Kenneth M. Bender and published at some point in the Tribune.  It is the story of Hollis C. Lee of Mount Pleasant and how he once saved a fellow soldier’s life. Here is an abridged version of what Bender wrote:

“Hollis C. Lee, now of Mount Pleasant, served in the U.S. Army during World War II, in Company B, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, as a rifleman.

“Edgar Pfiefer of Douglassville, Pennsylvania, also served in Company B as a member of a 60mm mortar squad.”

In September 1994 Company B had a reunion in San Antonio — 50 years after the invasion of Normandy, France — D Day. Bender writes, “On June 7, 1944, on D Day plus 1, en route to Omaha Beach, in Normandy, France, the Navy Ensign stopped his landing craft infantry boat, with all of B Company aboard, some 80 yards from the shore. The outspoken company commander of B Company, Kenneth Bender (who wrote this piece) of Eureka, South Dakota, had harsh words with the Navy officer, stating in effect that many of his men would drown, because of deep water, unless the boat was brought closer to the beach. After a heated discussion, to put it mildly, the boat moved forward, and stopped some 40 yards from shore.

“The men of B Company jumped over the front and the sides of the boat. The depth was approximately 6 feet. Ed Pfiefer also jumped overboard, but with his height of 5 feet, 5 inches, plus the extra weight of his weapon, ammunition and food, this brave soldier was swept under the boat. Pfiefer struggled to reach the water level but was unsuccessful. Ed Pfiefer thought in his mind that he was a goner.

“Enter Hollis C. Lee, a tall Texan, 6 feet, 2 inches tall. Lee analyzed the situation, swam under the landing craft and rescued his fellow soldier, Ed Pfiefer.

“And now in 1994, many years later, at the B Company reunion, for the first time Lee discovered that Pfiefer was the man he rescued, and Pfiefer learned that Lee saved his life. It was a great B Company reunion. And this is a beautiful true story.”

The events described are now 70 years in the past; the ranks of World War II veterans are rapidly thinning as the years fly by. I tried to find out if Hollis Lee was still alive by asking around but didn’t have any luck. If alive, he would be pushing 90 — if not older — by now. Since I am a relative newcomer, Lee might be known to folks who have been here a while. If anyone knows what might have happened to Lee, or if any of his family is still around, please holler at me. I would like to get the photo back to someone to whom it might have special meaning. If I don’t hear from anybody, I will add it to the Tribune photo archives that we recently donated to the library and museum.

Hollis C. Lee was a member of what television newsman Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.”  He was one of the fortunate veterans who came home. Thanks to him, Ed Pfeifer was able to return home as well.


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