Joseph Louis Winckler was born March 22, 1925, at St. Luke’s Hospital in Davenport, Iowa, to Joseph L. Sr. and Corrine Marie (Nordengren) Winckler. He was an only child. His father was a carpenter1 and his mother was of Swedish heritage. He graduated from Davenport High School in June 1943, along with 432 other students, in the midst of WWII. Dr. F. G. Codd, Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, warned the graduates that, “wars will be waged as long as the spirit of hatred and jealousy exists.” In his baccalaureate sermon to the students, he advised them to “help win the war-and the peace.”2
Joseph worked at the Rock Island Arsenal for a short time after high school but then enlisted in the Army on September 23, 1943, at Camp Dodge.3 In October, 29 men from Scott County Draft Area No. 1, left for the Army reception center.4 In December, Joseph became engaged to Marguerite Huntington, a well-known pianist and vocalist. He was a private and was scheduled to attend the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP).5 ASTP was a military training program instituted by the United States Army during World War II at several American universities to meet wartime demands for junior officers and soldiers with technical skills. The purpose of the program was “to provide the continuous and accelerated flow of high-grade technicians and specialists needed by the Army.”6 But due to the high casualties suffered by the Army in Africa, the training program was canceled. He was assigned to ranger training to complete his 16-week basic training. He was then sent to Camp McCain, Mississippi, and assigned to the 94th Infantry Division.7
Joseph and Marguerite were married in May 1944,8 just three months before Joseph and the 94th Infantry Division left the U.S. for Europe on August 6, 1944, sailing from New York on the Queen Elizabeth.9 The 94th initially arrived in Scotland after sailing for six days. The Division then moved to England temporarily, and then to France about one month later. Units went by motor to Southampton, Weymouth and Portland where the troops boarded Liberty ships and various other craft for the crossing of the English Channel. The 94th began to land on Utah Beach on September 6, 1944. The waters off Utah Beach was a scene of desolation and destruction with wrecks of previous landing craft and Liberty ships from D-Day.
They then moved into Brittany to take responsibility for containing 60,000 German troops besieged in the Channel ports of Lorient and St. Nazaire. Joseph went out on quite a few combat patrols to bring back German prisoners for interrogation. During that campaign, Joseph and his friend, Bob Halter, were sharing a foxhole during a heavy attack by the Germans. “They were all around us,” Joseph wrote in his first-hand account. Suddenly, they heard a Schmeisser open up behind them. The Schmeisser was a German MP40 submachine gun developed in Nazi Germany and used extensively by the Axis powers during the Second World War.10 After hearing the Schmeisser, “Bob just grunted and slumped down in the hole. I turned quickly and not over twenty feet away a German paratrooper was trying to put a new magazine into his Schmeisser.” Joseph did what he had to do in war to save his own life, utilizing his Browning Automatic Rifle. He said of that attack, “I lost a very good buddy!”
On October 8, 1944, the 94th Infantry Division passed to the control of 12th Army Group, commanded by Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley. In addition to the Northern France Campaign, the 94th participated in the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe Campaigns. Shortly after Christmas, the 94th was loaded into French boxcars enroute to the Siegfried Line.
The 302nd Infantry Regiment of the 94th Infantry Division that Joseph was a part of (G Company, 3rd Platoon), instead of going into the Siegfried Line, was designated as a strike force or combat team. They were put on “flat-bottomed, semi-trailer trucks open to the air and exposed to driving sleet and snow.” They were “transported north to an area between Sedan and Celles along the Meuse River to reinforce the 28th Division, which had been mauled in the opening days of the Ardennes Offensive.”
In January 1945, Joseph was wounded in action and spent some time in a hospital. He returned to active duty with his infantry unit after recovering on February 1. Frostbite and trench foot dogged the 94th from its initial day on the Western Front and took a toll of casualties. But during the period from January 7, 1945, when the Division took over positions in the Saar-Moselle Triangle, to February 15, 1945, the men of the 94th had practically destroyed the German’s 4l6th Infantry Division, reduced the infantry and tank strength of the 11th Panzer Division by one-half, and prevented sizable portions of enemy armor from being used elsewhere. After six months overseas, Joseph had earned his fourth battle star for his European Theater Ribbon.11 He also earned the Combat Infantry Badge.
By March 2, the Division stretched over a 10-mile front. Third Platoon had been assigned to hold the town of Kimmlerhof with just 27 men, half of whom were new replacements from the U.S., many with only two weeks basic training under their belt. On March 5, they were waiting to be replaced when a reinforced company of the 6th SS Alpine (Mountain) Division hit their platoon area. A machine gun blast ripped through the window of the upstairs building they were in. “They hit us about midnight,” Joseph told a Quad-City Times reporter around 1997.12 Joseph asked his buddy, “What the hell’s out there?” The buddy, Jim Wilson, whispered, “Half of Germany.” The two of them were fleeing down a hallway when a bazooka blast from the Germans struck nearby, the equivalent of 27 pounds of dynamite. It threw Joseph 12 feet into the air and disemboweled and killed his friend.
As day broke, the remaining soldiers tried to make a run for the last house in the village. The first man made it through the front door across the road. The second man got shot and died on the doorstep. The third man was sent along a fence and through a back window. “He was new and confused and scared, and tried to make it through the front door” instead. He also was killed. Joseph was next. He ran along the fence, with machine gun bullets kicking up gravel at his feet, and dove into the back window. The four men after him made it safely.
The Germans then began firing 88mm (Panzerschreck) tube-type rocket launchers, point blank at the house. The Americans did not have any bazookas and were running out of ammo and grenades. Joseph was then wounded by a Panzerfaust with his face and uniform being scorched. A Panzerfaust was a single shot, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high-explosive anti-tank warhead.13 When fired correctly from the crook of the arm, the Panzerfaust could penetrate the armor of any armored fighting vehicle of the period. They had to surrender. The Germans captured Joseph and made him march 280 miles to a German prisoner of war camp.
On March 6 of 1945, Joseph was reported missing in action in Germany. He was a member of General Patton’s Third Army14 and was just 20 years old. Joseph was held for about one- and one-half months. Due to his injury being infected, he was held at the Ludwigsburg Military Hospital that served Stalag 5-A, a German World War II prisoner-of-war camp (Stammlager) located on the southern outskirts of Ludwigsburg. It housed Allied POWs of various nationalities, including Poles, Belgians, Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Britons, Soviets, Italians and Americans. The camp was evacuated on the evening of Easter, April 1, 1945. Prisoners detained at the camp, at the time of evacuation, were forced to march across southern Germany.15 Joseph was flown to a hospital in Paris where he received treatment for his wounds and received the Purple Heart. The war would be over in another month but the damage to his leg was done.
In an interview with The Daily Times in May 1945, he said, “We would have starved to death if it hadn’t been for the food we received in parcels sent by the Red Cross.”16 He wrote to his parents in May informing them of his release by the advancing Allied Armies. He was on his way to the U.S. to be checked out at Schick Hospital.17 Another Davenport soldier, William “Bill” Olsen was released from the prison with Joseph. They went to basic training together, were shipped to the same division, and then were assigned to different regiments. They met again at the prison camp near Ludwigsburg.
At the end of July 1945, he finished up a 60-day furlough, spending it with his parents, before returning to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for reassignment.18 During his time at home, Marguerite filed for divorce.19 On June 16, the divorce was granted.20
Joseph was discharged from the Army in November 1945. He married Harriet White on Jan. 31, 1948, in Jefferson, Greene, Iowa. They had their first child, Joseph Paul, later that year while Joseph and Harriet were both pharmacy students at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. He did not finish that program but was employed at the University for a time. He was later employed 25 years as a program analyst and computer specialist at Rock Island Arsenal. He retired in October 1984.21 They had nine children. All five sons also served in the military – Joseph P. and Russell in the Army, Robert in the Navy, Patrick in the Marines, and Michael, who received a medical discharge after shattering his leg during basic training.22
Joseph liked to hunt and around 1997 was pressing the Scott County Conservation Board for wheelchair-bound hunters to get first crack at hunting licenses for control of the deer population near Park View, Iowa. At that time, he was also caring for, along with a hospice nurse, his wife, Harriet, who was bedridden with terminal brain cancer. She had previously been active in WWII veterans’ activities, even receiving a rare National Commander’s Citation Award for Meritorious and Conspicuous Service from the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Department of Iowa, the first person in Iowa to receive the award.23 She died in 1998.24
He was a life member of the Iowa Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and as well as a service officer for the organization.25 He was a National Service Officer for American Ex-POWs organization. He was a life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars – Bettendorf Post 9128, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, and the 94th Infantry Division Association. He was a member of the American Legion, Davenport, and Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, Ardennes. He and his close friend, Bill Bauman, were the last survivors of the 302nd Infantry Regiment.
Joseph died December 18, 1999, after a long, brave battle with heart disease, at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport.
Last Army organization he served in: 33rd HQ and Hq CDet Sp TRPS; 302nd Inf Reg 94th Division. Date of Departure for foreign service 8-6-44, date of return from foreign service 5-23-1945.
Learn more about the 95th Infantry Division at:
94th Infantry Division Historical Society Home Page, a WWII Army division (94thinfdiv.com)
1 State of Iowa Standard Certificate of Birth
2 Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 7 Jun 1943, Mon · Page 5 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 – Davenport High School to Graduate 433 Tuesday Night
4 The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 14 Oct 1943, Thu · Page 13 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022
5 Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 10 Dec 1943, Fri · Page 6 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 Engagement to Marguerite Huntington
7 From 4-page typewritten account of his military service by Joseph L. Winckler, Jr., provided by his daughter Linda Neubauer
8 The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 20 May 1944, Sat · Page 7 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 Weds Tonight
11 The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 27 Feb 1945, Tue · Page 16 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 Fourth Battle Star
12 Quad-City Times article around 1997, unknown date, provided by Joseph’s son, Russell, on June 27, 2022, about obtaining hunting licenses for wheelchair-bound hunters
14 C:\Users\sjbof\OneDrive\Documents\Joseph L Winckler\Missing__LeClaire_Soldier_The_Daily_Times_Davenport_28_Mar_1945_p2.pdfThe Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 28 Mar 1945, Wed · Page 2 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 Missing Davenport Soldier
16 The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 28 May 1945, Mon · Page 11 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 Food From Red Cross Saved Prisoners’’ Lives
17 The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 7 May 1945, Mon · Page 4 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 Joseph Winckler Well and Safe
18 The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 30 Jul 1945, Mon · Page 20 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 60-Day Furlough
19 The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 6 Jun 1945, Wed · Page 4 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 Petition for Divorce
20 The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 16 Jun 1945, Sat · Page 4 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022 Divorce Granted
22 From personal interview with son, Joseph P. Winckler, June 2022
23 Citation from the National Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart dated 9/17/1986 for Mrs. Harriet WInckler
24 Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa) · 16 Aug 1998, Sun · Page 54 Downloaded on Jun 19, 2022