My dad, Harry A. Schopler (the middle initial “A.” when he joined the Navy because if you didn’t have a middle name you needed to write “(None)” so the “A” stands for his father’s first name but my dad didn’t have a middle name…another naval story!).
Harry was born Heinz Schopflocher in Fűrth, Germany in 1926 (went to school there with Henry “Heinz” Kissinger, once US Secretary of State, although Henry was a couple of year ahead of my dad). Harry immigrated to the US in 1936. In Germany, he grew up with his two cousins and Aunt living next door who stayed in Germany and they didn’t survive the Holocaust.
Harry joined the Navy immediately following high school about 1943/44 (Racine, Wisconsin) at 18 years old. With a high science/math aptitude, he was trained in radar and sonar. My dad wanted to fight in the Atlantic against Germany and was assigned on an oiler based in the Caribbean and this ship would refuel destroyers and other ships in the Atlantic. When the US Navy finally captured a German U-boat intact (Germans would sink their submarines instead of capture) they needed someone familiar with nautical equipment and technical-oriented capabilities and could speak fluent German to translate the U-boat equipment so Harry was temporarily assigned for this mission as one of a handful that was qualified for this task. After several months of translating, we was on the “test run” of the U-boat from the eastern US seaboard through the Panama Canal. My dad used to say he prayed fervently that he properly translated the “surface” or “up” button correctly! He received a special naval ribbon for his work on this project. This U-boat is now on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.
Back in Milwaukee, my mom has an album of pictures my dad took in his navy days with names of everyone pictured on the back of each picture (his fellow crew members). We also have his daily journal from his Navy adventures and he kept a separate unofficial journal of his time when translating the U-boat equipment. My dad, who was also talented in drawing, has many drawings/illustrations as well. Next time I’m back in Milwaukee, I’ll check with mom to see if I can bring some of this back for next year’s Veterans Day (no promises).
-GABE, NCJHS Office Manager