WAYNE, NJ – Proudly unfurled in front of the entrance to the Stonebridge at Wayne townhouse community is a new American Flag, donated by Wayne Councilwoman Fran Ritter as a way to both help the community and honor her veteran father.
"My father, Herman Ritter came to the US as a persecuted Jew in 1939 as a result of Hitler taking over Slovak territory," said Ritter. "He was fourteen.”
“He returned to Germany as a US Soldier in World War II after his brother died in battle earlier in the war," said the Wayne Councilwoman.
Herman joined the army in February of 1944 and fought in two major battles: The Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hürtgen Forest.
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was a series of hard-fought engagements in Germany near the Belgian border. It was the longest battle fought in Germany during World War II and the longest battle in US Army history.
It was in the Hüntgen forest that Herman Ritter earned a Bronze Star for “heroic achievement.”
His Bronze Star citation reads: "...for heroic achievement in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States near Grosshau, Germany, 2 December 1944. Private Ritter volunteered to cross enemy lines and locate the positions of enemy mortars and machine guns which were subjecting elements of three companies to merciless fire. Crawling under enemy crossfire, he made his way over difficult terrain through the enemy lines. Understanding German, he was able to overhear the enemy and approximate their numbers and positions. Returning under grazing fire with the information, he enabled artillery fire to be brought upon the enemy, annihilating them and their emplacements. Private Ritter's daring initiative reflects credit upon himself and the military services."
Private First-Class Ritter also earned the Distinguished Service Medal and a Purple Heart. Later in life he was a proud member of the American Legion. He died in 2017 at the age of 92.
A flag raising ceremony, administered by Donna Bielauskas, Vice-Commander of American Legion Post 174 in Wayne and other members of the Legion, was held on Saturday morning, February 15. Vice-Commander Bielauskas read the Bronze Star citation and the new flag was raised to the bugle call of “To the Color.”
“My father was one of my heroes,” said Ritter. “He served our country and fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. I’m proud that this flag now flies in his honor.”
Mark Kass, President of the Stonebridge at Wayne Homeowner’s Association, expressed gratitude to Fran Ritter for her donation, and to the American Legion for its contribution to the event.