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Perry Blach’s family had been ranching in the Yuma area since his grandfather

came over from Austria and homesteaded, building a two-room sod

house in 1887. His father, Ambrose, was born there in 1889. Perry starred in

sports for Yuma High School while participating in 4H and Future Farmers

of America activities.

 

In 1941, Blach went off to A&M. The next year, he was a sophomore

lineman, not starting but getting a lot of playing time, including in the loss

to Colorado.

 

Blach was called up from the Army Reserves in May 1943, but was

granted a four-month extension to help his father farm that summer. After

his September induction, he was attached to the newly formed 738th Field

Artillery Battalion. “We had eight-inch howitzers and all the trucks and

equipment that went with them,” Blach told me in his Yuma home.

“I was in firing direction. I fi gured the firing data for those guns.”

 

Blach went ashore with his unit Normandy’s Utah Beach about a month

after D-Day. “Everything was quiet at that time there, but all the wrecked

landing craft was still in that harbor,” he said. “We were on a three-quarter

ton, what we called a ‘carry-all.’ It was a big pickup and we pulled a trailer

behind that with a lot of our equipment on it.”

 

On the first night and the next day, the 738th moved 178 miles, much of

it under German shelling. “We ended up in a little town, and by that time, the

Allies had so many prisoners, they didn’t know what to do with them,” Blach

said. “Th ey pulled us off the road and gave us barbed wire. We strung barbed

wire and we guarded prisoners for fi ve or six days. You take everything away

from them. I still have some of their pocketknives down in the basement.

Then the rear echelon caught up with us and took over the prisoners. They

put us with the 4th Armored, the 80th Infantry and the 35th Infantry, and

that was in Patton’s Third Army.”

 

After about three weeks of rough going, Blach and his buddies arrived

at the Moselle River, near the German border. “Tanks were ahead of us, but

if they ran into something they couldn’t soften up, we’d pull the eight-inch

howitzers off and blast ’em and go on,” Blach said. “My job was to figure the

range and the altitude. I enjoyed that part of it because I always knew where

we were, because we had good maps. When we got to the river, we were out

of gas and out of ammunition. If the Germans had known that, they could

have walked back across that river and taken all our equipment. We drained

the gasoline out of everything but four trucks to be able to send those trucks

back to Paris for supplies.”

 

After the infantry division was pulled out to help in the Battle of the

Bulge, Blach’s group moved from Luxembourg into Germany and went all

the way across the country, including through Frankfurt, well to the south of

Berlin. Th ey were fired upon by artillery and snipers, and the closest Blach

came to getting killed was when he attempted to repair a generator in the

open and was subjected to fire from 88-caliber artillery. At one point, a muddied

and fatigued Blach was crossing a road in Germany when he heard a

jeep racing up behind him. He turned and saw stars—three stars on the jeep.

Blach saluted General George S. Patton, and as he passed by, Patton saluted

back. Th e forces moved into Czechoslovakia, where Blach was amused

to hear natives ask, “You going to fight the Russkies?” Then the Germans

surrendered. “Th e Czech people rolled out the beer every night and had big

dances to celebrate and invited the GIs to join them. They made us pull out

and turn it over to the Russians, and everybody was sick. We really felt sorry

for them.”

 

After German occupation duty, Blach was switched to the 945th Field

Artillery and had orders to go with that unit through the Suez Canal to the

Pacifi c to join in the war against Japan. “We were still in Germany when

they dropped the first bomb on Japan,” Blach said. “They put us on hold and

dropped the second bomb, and the war ended.”

 

When Blach was discharged, he bought the ranch next to his parents’

outside Yuma in 1946 but returned to school and played for the Rams again

in 1946 and 1947. “School was easier because I was older and I knew what I

wanted,” he said.

 

Blach served on the CSU alumni board for twenty-four years, became

a major financial booster for the university and the athletic department, and

renowned for his Hereford cattle. He and his wife, Teresa, had nine children.

 

Blach died in 2011.