MONTVILLE, NJ – When five police officers appear at your birthday party, things might have gotten too wild. But Herbert Terner’s birthday party wasn’t any ordinary birthday party – it was his 98th, and the officers were there to thank him for his service as a World War II Army pathfinder.
Terner enlisted in July of 1942 “because that was every American’s duty,” he wrote in a memoir of his life. As a pathfinder and radio expert, he parachuted out of C47s before and during the invasions of WWII, notifying the troops of viable landing positions, and then engaging in combat. He was with the 101st Airborne Unit, known as the Screaming Eagles, and the Army’s Special Forces unit was born from this division. The 101st held an important role in the D-Day landings in 1944 and Normandy, Operation Market Garden, the liberation of the Netherlands, and the Battle of the Bulge. Terner traveled throughout Belgium, Austria and France on his tour of duty.
“In flight, when we got to the open door of the plane, we hooked up to jump and if you hesitated, the commander booted you out the door and into battle,” Terner wrote. “I was a radio expert and mechanic and would call the directions of where to go in battle once I landed.
“We were first shipped into England, and then flew to France to begin Operation Overlord. I parachuted into Cherbourg, France and then on to Normandy, where we called in the troops onto Utah beach during the invasion on DDay. We lost a lot of parachuters in that drop. There were 28,000 men in total… 15,000 landed and 13,000 died. It was difficult to gather the men after they landed in their drop zones because of the shortage of radios and the hard-to-reach terrain.
“After Normandy, we marched through southern France to northern France and central Europe. In the south of France, we met with the 82nd Airborne Division at Saint-Mere-Eglise. We were one of the companies that liberated Paris and Baron Rothschild opened up his estate on the Champs Elysee to the American troops for sleeping and eating. I remember sitting on his veranda and looking up the Champs Elysee and watching the sunset on the Arc de Triomphe,” Terner wrote.
Terner recalled the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium being difficult due to the snow and lack of ammunition, food or medicine. It was cold and the soldiers’ clothing was insufficient for the temperatures, he wrote. Approximately 19,000 died in that battle, he said.
He also recalled the horrors of liberating the prisoners from the Nazi extermination camps.
“It was a heart-wrenching scene to witness, and people should never forget that cruelty,” he wrote.
Terner came home to his family in Brooklyn in September of 1945 and rejoined the family glass bottle business, supplying bottles to the winery and food industry.
At the March 12 Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5481 meeting, of which Terner is a member, the members honored Terner. Then at the March 20 Montville Chase board meeting, Terner, who lives in the complex with his daughter, Carole, was honored by the residents, police, and a special letter from Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill.
Police officers Sergeant Ian Jacobsen, Corporal Robert Blasi, and Patrolmen Jason Blustein, David Chieppa and Robert Jeanette thanked Terner for his service, presented him with a plaque, and saluted him.
Montville Chase board president Vin Kaminsky, who was in the Army and Army Reserve having served in the Vietnam War, made a presentation on Terner’s life to Chase residents, said, “He parachuted into enemy territory in darkness, with no backup, trying to give locations to the troops of safe areas to land, as best as he could, and then he would join the group and fight. The radios were not very sophisticated. Being in battle is extremely confusing, and pathfinders added organization.”
Chase resident Shari Seffer said, “Most normal Americans don’t understand the sacrifices and true patriotism of these military members and their family members, and the true devotion to their country that they have.”
Terner’s daughter, Carole Krupnick said, “He says this is the greatest country in the world. He loves America and he says this country has afforded so many people so many opportunities, and if people don’t realize that, let them leave. He went all through Europe and people everywhere were asking Americans for help.”
Terner has two daughters and a son, plus eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
To read more about the veterans of Montville Township, see:
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