WWII engineer loves to talk about years of service
By Megan Maginity For The Sun January 23, 2013 6:30PM
Michael Wohead, 94, a WWII veteran, often reminisces about his time in the war and enjoys sharing his experiences with anyone who is interested. Most importantly, though, he hopes people can learn about history through the things he has donated to museum in Chicago and his two publications. Submitted
Updated: February 26, 2013 6:14AM
“My dad is the type of person that is always helping someone if he can,” said Naperville resident Veronica Porter about her 94-year-old father, Michael Wohead.
Wohead, a WWII veteran, often reminisces about his time in the war and enjoys sharing his experiences with anyone who is interested. Most importantly, though, he hopes people can learn about history through the things he has donated to a museum in Chicago and his two publications.
Upon the war, Wohead put together the publications, “Luftwasa Sword” and “Aviation Engineers in Mobile Warfare.” They are composed with artifacts he personally picked up through the war.
“I picked up a lot of material because it was legal to pick up with my position,” Wohead said. “One day after the war, I took all of it and brought it to a library in Chicago. They took most of it and I wrote a book pertaining to it.”
Wohead served five years in the Army, beginning with his draft in 1941. He was an aviation engineer, ranked as a first sergeant then later promoted to first lieutenant before D-Day.
Each day that Wohead served consisted of building airfields for fighter planes. While he spent a lot of his time in Germany and France, every 30 days the engineers would move locations to build necessary fields.
“At first we built airfields that took three to four weeks,” he said, “but we had trouble with those because they were built on farm land and hills had to be cut down. Planes had trouble taking off, so we started building with real hard material so planes could properly land.”
Later, the engineers used a system of piecing together metals so the steel would be intermixed and sturdy. Rain or shine, planes could land on the new airfields, and even big bombers could fly on it, he said.
Wohead said he also helped the local people at each place he stayed. He made sure orphans had enough food to get by when he had the opportunity to, said 54-year-old Porter.
“After the war, my father was asked to stay in Austria as the American representative for a short time,” she said. “He knows Polish and German, so he was able to help put things back in order post-war. My dad was considered very fair.”
Wohead was then recognized by the Austrian mayor and later invited to his home.
“The mayor thanked him for being so fair,” Porter said. “Unfortunately, the mayor’s son had just died in the war in Austria. He gave his son’s uniform dress sword to my dad to thank him. My dad later donated it to a museum because he felt that, even though it was given to him, it was for every person to see — that’s my dad.”
Roger Novak, a deacon at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, said Wohead always shares nice stories about his wartime when he can.
“I’ve been visiting with Michael and his wife, Ramonda, for five or six years now,” Novak said. “It has been a wonderful relationship. Michael is very proud of his past and gives out many copies of his publications.”
Michael and 85-year-old Ramonda have been married for 62 years. While working as an engineer post-war, Michael met Ramonda in Pittsburg. Together they went to dance halls during the big band era. After they wed, the couple moved to Naperville.
“My dad always told us it was a bit of a culture shock when they moved from Pittsburg to Naperville back then,” Porter said laughing.
The couple has five daughters and one son who live in Illinois, California, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Their youngest daughter is the head of Naperville Central High School’s science department.