The Price of Freedom: World War II Veteran Herman Finnell
World War II Veteran Herman Finnell saw things most of us will never see. He served from 1944 to 1946. He spent twenty of those months fighting through France, Germany, and Austria. In 1944 he was in Jump School in Fort Benning, Georgia when he got word that he would not get a chance to finish that training. He went home and married his childhood sweetheart. He then shipped off to war
Thursday, June 5 2014, 06:36 AM EDT
"Born within 2 miles of one another," Finnell said. "I used to save her a seat on the school bus."
He fought in France for two weeks until he lost his vision due to powder burns in his eyes. He recovered, and as he was leaving the hospital a chaplin gave him some tough news.
"I was telling him I'm going back to my outfit," Finnell told us. "He said no you don't want to go back now. He said they're gonna push off into Germany."
He joined his unit, and on the next day they left for Germany. He spent the last two months of the war on the front lines.
"We never got off the lines," Finnell said. "We never had a hot meal all that time. I never had a hot meal. Didn't have a change of clothes."
The Army's 3rd Infantry Division pushed across Germany and into Austria as the war was ending.
"You talk about a bunch of rugged guys," Finnell said. "We were rugged."
Herman Finnell was awarded a Bronze Star for fighting in Germany. After the war Herman came back to East Tennessee. He worked in Oak Ridge for years and is now retired in Harrison. Herman's son Randy has heard his father's stories through the years. Last year he was with his father in Nashville when he recieved the French Legion Medal of Honor for those two weeks he spent in France. It's the highest honor France awards people who are not citizens of that country.
"You know we're so proud of dad. You know we just appreciate what he's done," Randy Finnell told us. "We love him so much not only for that, but just being dad."
Herman Finnell has a decorated combat record, and a family who couldn't be prouder. This story got even more interesting when he mentioned something at the end of our conversation.
"One of the best things I remember more than anything, I was the first guy in Hitler's summer home," Finnell told us.
Adolf Hitler spent more time at Berghof than anywhere else during World War II. Other people have made the claim to be the first in the home after the war, but Herman says at the time President Harry Truman gave he and his ammo man the credit of being the first two people in Hitler's Summer Home.
"The RAF had bombed it," Herman Finnell told us. "There was nothing left but just junk, but I went in and walked around."
By the time American Troops got there SS troops had set the home on fire. It was aslo hit by at least two bombs,
Herman is still married to the young woman Herman married right before he shipped off to war. In January, Herman and Jo Finnell will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.
By Josh Roe