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Members of National Timberwolf Association, Ohio Chapter, tour local company during visit to Bradford

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Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2008 12:00 am

The spry 80-year-old veterans of the National Timberwolf Association, Ohio Chapter, shuffled into a seminar room at W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. Tuesday morning after touring the facility.

The Timberwolves, an association of World War II veterans of the 104th Infantry Division, reunited for a 63rd year during their tour of Case. Each year since 1945 the veterans hold two reunions, one local and one national. The national reunion combines all the chapters from around the country and will be held in Washington this year.

As the Timberwolves sat in the Case seminar room discussing their favorite aspects of the tour, the relevance of their motto - nothing in hell can stop the Timberwolves - became clear. That motto reflects the vigor of the soldiers that fought under its emblem during World War II. A vigor that is still present after 63 years.

The silver timberwolf on their green jackets was quite appropriate as some of the more intense members howled their political views for all to hear; political views that were shared by a majority of the room, emphasizing the bond between the soldiers.

"The bond is the division itself," Timberwolf member Mike Turjanica said. "Many of us did not know each other during the war, but the Timberwolves bonds us all."

This bond was forged in 1942 with the creation of the 104th. Originally created to replace existing U.S. troops in the European Theater, the 104th played integral roles in the capture of Cologne, Germany, and the clearing of more than 8,000-square-miles of German military presence from Holland and Germany. The Timberwolves battled for 195 consecutive days in 1944 and 1945, losing 1,447 soldiers while 4,776 soldiers were wounded.

Those casualties could have been exponentially greater without U.S. nuclear force, said Dale Muskopf, Timberwolf soldier.

"Thank God for the A-bomb," he said. "We got back to the states on July 8, 1945, and we were scheduled for deployment to the Pacific Theater on Nov. 7."

The dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima, Japan, and Nagasaki, Japan, in August of 1945 quickly ended the war, initiating celebrations within the Timberwolves. But as Turjanica revealed, those celebrations were delayed for a few soldiers.

"We were on a train headed for California to get deployed," he said. "We were in a little town in Nevada when we heard the news that the war was over, so all the soldiers jumped off the train looking to get a drink. It turns out the train had stopped in a "dry" town."

But not all the stories and nostalgia were pleasant.

The 104th freed Norhausen, a city used by the Germans as a slave labor camp. Al Abarca, a 104th soldier, said that conditions were so bad that the troops were not allowed to see the prisoners after they had been freed.

Steve Jeziorski, another 104th veteran, described Norhausen with a brief statement.

"Once the prisoners were taken into the cave where they were forced to work, they never saw the light of day," he said.

Stories like the freeing of Norhausen cemented the bond of the Timberwolf patriotism. They reflected on American patriotism during World War II and looked sourly on the patriotism that exists today.

"It's not like it should be," said Lillian Turjanica, wife of Mike Turjanica. "Back then everyone made sacrifices and I'm not even going to talk about rationing. Sacrifices saved the country."

There are only two scheduled reunions left for the Timberwolves. Membership and support has been declining ever since it peaked in the mid-1990s.

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