ZANE SCHLEMMER / 1924-2013Kaneohe resident honored for D-Day actions in France
Timothy Hurley / Thurley@staradvertiser.com
Zane Schlemmer was honored time and again for his heroic World War II service with the 101st Airborne Division, having jumped on D-Day into France and wounded in the weeks following June 6, 1944.
But Schlemmer, who died last summer at age 88, not only put his life on the line for his country but later devoted thousands of hours volunteering on behalf of veterans and his community in Kaneohe.
"He really gave as much as he could," said his son Brett Schlemmer.
A memorial service for the decorated soldier, former land developer and community volunteer was held last week at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.
In 1977, the French community of Picauville, Normandy, placed a bronze plaque in the field where Schlemmer landed on D-Day and named an adjacent road Rue Zane Schlemmer in his honor.
In 2009, President Barack Obama mentioned Schlemmer in a speech in Normandy commemorating the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Schlemmer, the president said, "parachuted into a dark marsh, far from his objective and his men. Lost and alone, he still managed to fight his way through the gunfire and help liberate the town in which he landed."
Later that day then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy pinned a French Legion of Honor medal to Schlemmer's chest.
The 19-year-old sergeant was wounded by friendly fire less than a month after parachuting behind enemy lines, during a battle near Le Haye de Puits. He was wounded again in the Battle of the Bulge.
With the occupation troops in Frankfurt, Germany, he served in an honor guard for Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was awarded the Bronze Star, among many other medals.
Brett Schlemmer said his dad didn't speak of the war for many years. Then in 1974 the veteran made his first trip back to Normandy.
"It was the best therapy I could have gotten. The people we liberated were so grateful," Schlemmer told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in 2004.
At least two memorial services were held for Schlemmer in France after his death, his son said.
After the war Schlemmer was recalled during the Korean War and held the position of sergeant major of the Ordnance Corps Research and Development Division, Guided Missile School, at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md.
Schlemmer was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1924. After the war he graduated from Northwestern University and worked a lengthy property development career in California and Oahu.
A longtime resident of Kaneohe, Schlemmer for many years embarked on daily walks picking up litter. Also for years he volunteered at Tripler Army Medical Center and at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe.
During the years he volunteered at the cemetery, Schlemmer put in nearly a full day, five days a week, working customer service and filling out paperwork for the Veterans Administration.
"I guess you could say it kept him alive. It gave him a purpose in life," said cemetery operations manager Willie Hirokane.
Hirokane said he used to relish hearing Schlemmer's war stories.
"It was fascinating listening to him," he said. "These were first-hand stories. It doesn't get any better than that."
Hirokane said that in a final act of loyalty to the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery, Schlemmer asked those who attended his funeral to consider donating to the Kaneohe memorial park in lieu of flowers.
In addition to his son Brett, Schlemmer is survived by another son, Douglas Schlemmer, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased