York Town Square

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Part 8: Nazis murdered downed WWII airman from York, Pa.

For years, York, Pa.’s Robert W. Zercher’s name was misspelled on this monument in Apeldoorn in Holland. It was changed from “Zurcher” to its proper spelling in September 2006. The York native was executed at the hands of the Germans late in the war. Previously, in this series: Nazis murdered downed WWII airman from York, Part I, Zercher, Part II, Zercher, Part III and Zercher, Part IV and Zercher, Part V. and Zercher, Part VI.

I re-told the story of Sgt. Robert W. Zercher in my York Sunday News column (3/27/11), York County war hero’s story is told on the Web, an adaption from a yorktownsquare.com blog post.
The retelling came from the point of view of a fellow Flying Fortress crew member who observed Sgt. Zercher’s body on public display after his execution.
Here are some column notes that tie into this heroic York native’s sacrifice:

– Robert W. Zercher was born in 1907 in Hallam, the son of Frank and Ella Zercher. He had a twin sister, Pauline. He graduated from William Penn High School and Penn State University before enlisting in the Army after eight years as a test engineer for York Corporation.
While he was in uniform, his mother, Ella, died. Then his brother, Harold W. Zercher, a civilian inspector, died in an airplane crash in August, 1943, at Homestead Field in Florida.
Such is the terrible cost of war.
– Coincidentally, not long after Scott Brener’s email arrived detailing how the Dutch resistance aided Zercher and other “Karen B” crew members, an exhibit telling how brother and sister Sophie and Hans Scholl organized a movement opposing Adolf Hitler opened at York Suburban High School.
These resistance members also were executed for their opposition to the Nazis.
According to a news release, the Scholls operated under the name of the “Weisse Rose” or White Rose. A news story said it’s just coincidental that this White Rose group is being honored in York, the White Rose City.
– A York County Heritage Trust exhibit, “Front Porch to Front Lines: York County Goes to War,” observes those who served in World War II, as well as World War I, the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“The men and women of York County who served their nation during wartime never considered themselves heroes. However, that does not mean their service and sacrifice was not heroic,” a description for the exhibit states.
It opens June 14.
– Much that is known about Robert W. Zercher’s time in Holland comes from the essay “The Adventures of Sergeant Bob Zercher and the other crew members of the ‘Karen B,'” written by Jelle Reitsma.
The essay and other information about Sgt. Zercher is posted on the “heroes” section of my blog, yorktownsquare.com
– Credit goes to Jim Marsteller, a York County resident, for sparking interest in Bob Zercher’s story. Now, it’s up to others in York County to recognize this hero in a meaningful manner.
– York City School Board members recently talked about publicizing their successful graduates. Bob Zercher’s name should be added to that list.
– It’s about time the York County community recognizes Robert W. Zercher, as an example of the 570 men who lost their lives in World War II.
If a military man died in today’s wars by a firing squad and his body pinned with the word ‘Terrorist,” that would make international news.
And deservedly so.
Also of interest:
York County historical war deaths top 1,000, York County Vietnam marker funding at half-way mark; looking for more and Neglect, racism undid all-black 24th in Korean War
To view a wealth of other stories detailing York County in World War II, see this blog’s World War II archive.
All York Town Square posts from the start. Then use “find” function on browser to search for keywords.
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, when you search for yorktownsquare and York Corporation, you get this.