Sergeant Theodore William Edward Herrmann
– Company H, 39th Infantry Regiment –
Theodore William Edward Herrmann was born the only child of Max and Barbara Herrmann, German immigrants to the US, on March 31st, 1915. He and his family lived in the small village of Ravena, New York, just south of the state capital at Albany. Theodore, the Herrmann’s only son, attended school locally and graduated in 1933 from Ravena High School, where he was a well-liked and active member of the community: among other activities, Theodore was Treasurer of the Athletic Association, President of the Library Club, and Sports Editor of the school paper. Outside of school, he was a member of the Boy Scouts of America, ultimately attaining the rank of Life Scout. After graduation, Theodore spent time as President of the Ravena Alumni Association, and was an active member of the Ravena Hose Company. Lastly, he was fascinated with stamps, and founded the Ravena Stamp Club, where he served as President as the club grew until it was eventually folded into a larger organization.
Into the US Army.
At 25 years old, Theodore was drafted into the United States Army in January 1941 as part of the new Selective Service Act. He followed training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Here he was assigned to the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division as a part of H Company, a heavy weapons section. Theodore spent more than two years overseas in combat zones, landing with the 9th Infantry Division in North – Africa in 1942 and eventually entering Germany in early 1945.
Theodore makes it into the newspaper
After the liberation of Cherbourg, a crucial deep-water port in France, an Associated Press photographer snapped an image of a grinning Theodore, trench knife in hand, cutting down a propaganda poster in the city. The photo was circulated in newspapers throughout the US; from a small town of less than 3,000, Theodore’s name and grin now in the eyes of thousands of hopeful Americans on the home front.
In late February 1945, as his unit pushed deeper into Germany, Theodore was struck by an artillery shell from a German self-propelled weapon, which injured his head and jaw. With less than three months remaining in the European war, Theodore died from his wounds on March 1st, 1945 – just four weeks shy of his 30th birthday.
When Theodore’s body was returned to the states and reinterred in Chestnut Lawn Cemetery in New Baltimore, NY, he received the “largest funeral procession ever to enter the gates of Chestnut Lawn” – a testament to his impact on the community.
Unfortunately, however, as decades have gone on, Herrmann’s story has been forgotten. With his parents passing, there remained no local family members. The lone street sign that now stands in town to memorialize local soldiers killed in action even misspells his name – “Herman” instead of “Herrmann.”
The reemergence of this Cherbourg AP photo after more than 75 years, however, not only helps reignite Theodore’s story, but also suggests its preservation for years to come.
One more thing that will help to preserve Theodore’s story, is a young man named Zachary Clouse, currently living in Coeymans, New York. A senior communications student at Siena College (Loudonville, NY), he has a passion for telling stories. He grew up fascinated with history, particularly military history of the Second World War, and was fortunate enough to have family serve and survive. It’s his family that have fueled his passion. Having missed the opportunity to ask WWII veteran family members of their service, Zach looks to capture and preserve those stories that he can before they are all gone. (You can follow Zach’s work at @VestigeMedia on Instagram).
A few months ago, Zach contacted me through my website, asking for more information in regards to Theodore Herrmann. For me, it was one of the many requests that I get every week. I always find each request as important as the other, and these men deserve our time and respect. I provided a picture and all the information about Theodore that I could find, and wished Zach good luck with his project. He was working on a short film documentary about Theodore. He went on and produced “Herrmann” a piece which originated as a class assignment on a local service-member whose photo was published in newspapers across the country during WWII. It has been an honor for Zach to research and present Herrmann’s story once again to the world.
“Herrman” premiered online on May 22nd, 2021 at the Catskill International Film Festival where it won Audience Choice Best Picture and Best Documentary.
You can watch “Herrmann” below.
We must never forget this young man from Ravena. Theodore Herrmann.