William “Bill” Mohr, thought to be the second-oldest World War II veteran in the United States, celebrated his 104th birthday late last year, surrounded by friends, family, Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, and other members of the political community. While he has enjoyed civilian life for quite some time, he still has a vivid memory of the war.
Mohr’s journey into World War II began about a week after marrying his wife Josie in 1943. Mohr boarded a boat that brought him and his fellow soldiers to North Africa at the same time when the German Gen. Erwin Rommel, “The Desert Fox,” was there.
Mohr served in the Army from 1943 to 1945, in the 45th Infantry division under Gen. Omar Bradley, moving from North Africa to Italy, France and Germany. When he was released from the Army he was a Sargeant and had won the Legion of Honor, Chevalier, a French award given to him for his role in the 1944 invasion of St. Tropez.
Mohr still remembers the fear in the pit of his stomach as he walked through the forests of Germany knowing he might soon be facing the barrel of a German tiger tank. He remembers entering the town of Dachau, where allies liberated the infamous death camp that housed, according to Mohr, anyone who opposed the German government.
He speaks of piles of bodies that he first thought were boards. “Unless you saw some of that,” he says, “you would not believe the inhumanity that man can give to another man.”
Mohr grew up in North Philadelphia, but his young life was not idyllic. In 1911, when Mohr was 2 years old, a doctor inadvertently sliced part of his throat and tongue. Penicillin had not yet been discovered, and he was sent home to die — but he lived and thrived, through it would always be difficult for him to swallow and speak.
His father died the next year after an accident; he had become entangled in the Philadelphia Inquirer printing press. Mohr’s widowed mother was forced to take him and his twin brother Joseph to an orphanage for a few years while his sister Mildred stayed with family. His mother later remarried, and the brothers went to live with her.
He eventually moved to Hatboro in 1926 and, with the sounds of horses and buggies in the background, he designed and helped build a house that he and his wife Josie still call home. They have four children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Mohr is a self-published poet and has taken up the harmonica, playing cheery renditions of “Danny Boy” and World War I songs. He is proud of the flowers blooming in his yard. After almost 70 years of marriage, wife Josie still cherishes the box of letters Mohr sent her during the war.
Of her husband, she says, “I thought he was a great man, very smart and intelligent man, and I thought that I would love him for the rest of my life.”