ANTHON, Iowa (KCAU) — Like many servicemen during that time, Ralph Diamond was drafted into World War II in 1944 just months before graduating from then-Anthon High School.
Within moments, he went from being a standout basketball player to basic training in Texas. He was then shipped out to Belgium and placed into the 35th Division, 137th Infantry. His task: to be a replacement soldier for the thousands lost in the Battle of the Bulge that took place just days before his arrival in Metz, France.
“We was all replacements and we hadn’t trained together so we went through Germany. It didn’t take long to learn but you know one mistake is the final,” said Diamond.
Diamond was seconds away from committing that fatal mistake as after the Germans surrendered, his group was tasked with clearing houses with remaining Nazi resistors. One night, he came around the corner of a home and encountered three armed enemies just a few feet away, catching Ralph by surprise.
“So I didn’t really have a chance to pull my rifle up but at the same time, my BR man and his ammunition carrier, the two of them shot the three Germans. If it hadn’t been for them, the Germans had their rifles out, pointed at me…(They) saved my life,” said Diamond.
Diamond said the 35th crossed the Rhine River in late March 1945 after capturing Ossenberg, Germany, essentially ending the Nazi reign.
Another memorable moment was marching in front of what’s known as the “Big Three”: Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin when they were all at the airport in Brussels, Belgium.
“I walked within here to that window in front of Roosevelt, Churchill,” said Diamond.
Diamond’s squad pushed all the way to the Elbe river west of Berlin where Soviets held the other side, and Diamond said many Germans ran for their lives to surrender on the Americans’ side rather than Russia.