Town Square

Post a New Topic

Memorial service today for Robert Lee Vannatter Jr., 91, WWII paratrooper

Original post made on Oct 5, 2012

Robert Lee Vannatter Jr., 91, who parachuted into Europe with the 507th Paratrooper Infantry Regiment, died Aug. 27, and his life is being celebrated from 1-4 p.m. today at the Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Pleasanton.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 4, 2012, 1:29 PM

Comments (5)

3 people like this
Posted by Grateful
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Having been to Normandy and walked along Omaha Beach, I can so appreciate Mr. Vannatter's courage. It is humbling and awe-inspiring to be there even 65 years later. Being present in the earliest hours of the Normandy invasion meant that he was actually there for the real ordeal, as portrayed in Saving Private Ryan. And then to have to fight on to the Battle of the Bulge...amazing. Heroic.

Certainly, his family must be proud of such a fine man who recovered from the War and went on to college, raising a family and an engineering career. I did not know him but, as an American, I find his example very inspiring.

1 person likes this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Oct 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm



Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Thank you for your service. Rest In Peace.

5 people like this
Posted by John Gearing
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2015 at 12:27 pm

It was my great privilege to work with "Van" in the 1980's. We were in the same group and his desk was just around the corner from mine. He was a fine, fine engineer with tremendous, unshakable integrity. He would regularly embarrass us "young guys" by dropping down and doing a set of 20 one-handed pushups! Amazing! Van did not often speak of himself or his family, or the war. However, he did tell us one day how his unit had parachuted into France (I'm assuming on D-Day). Van was what Jerry Seinfeld would have called "a slow talker." Van said that after he (as jumpmaster) got all of his guys out of the airplane, he paused to wish the pilots luck getting home. But that conversation took long enough that when Van jumped he was no longer over the drop zone. Instead, he came down in German-held territory. And worse yet, his 'chute hung up on some tree branches, leaving Van hanging high off the ground. He was worried that if a German solder saw him he was an easy target. And sure enough, along came a German soldier....and just at that point the branch broke and Van dropped toward the ground....only to have the chute hang up again leaving him dangling 3 feet in the air. As the German was turning toward him, Van got his rifle aimed (holding his hand over the empty magazine well so the German wouldn't realize it was unloaded. Paratroopers never jumped with loaded firearms.) Still hanging from the tree, Van took the German prisoner and made him disarm himself. Then Van calmly loaded his rifle. The German shook his head and smiled a rueful smile. But then the release button on Van's parachute harness became jammed and he could not get down. Eventually, with much sign language, Van had the German use his bayonet to cut him free, all the time keeping his rifle on him as best he could. Because the Americans had been told to destroy enemy weapons, Van picked up the German's rifle and prepared to smash the buttstock against a tree. But the German stopped him, took the rifle, and removed the cartridge from the chamber, then handed it back to Van. With the rifle loaded and cocked, given the way Van was holding it, it probably would have fired and shot him when he smashed it. Van figured this German was actually a pretty decent guy.

Van began to march his prisoner back toward the American position, but the German kept stopping every dozen yards and looking back to Van for direction. Van found this frustrating and slow and eventually told the German "just follow me" and took off at a brisk clip. Every so often he looked back over his shoulder and every time the German was right behind him. When he reached his unit, one of the guys almost shot the "Jerry" he mistakenly thought was chasing Van, but Van called out "don't shoot him, he's MY German." Van figured the fellow must have realized the war effort was doomed and that it was better to be a live POW than a dead warrior. We asked Van whatever happened to this German fellow and he told us that he left him in the custody of a US Army Captain who was lying in a shell hole with a broken ankle but that later in the day he'd seen the guy helping US troops load artillery ammunition.

If anyone should read this, I hope you enjoyed it and that it shed a little light on the sort of fellow Van was. For my own part, I'm sorry I fell out of touch with him decades ago but the company went through big changes and we were all scattered to the winds. Van, you richly deserved every award you received and a lot more you didn't receive.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Ridgeview Commons

on May 28, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Salami, Salami … Baloney
By Tom Cushing | 25 comments | 588 views

Time for new collaboration between city and school district
By Tim Hunt | 2 comments | 461 views