POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Two World World II [WWII] veterans, John Wardell and Fred Nungesser, who have lived just miles from each other in Point Pleasant all their lives, met for the first time on Veterans Day.
With their families and caretakers, the two 98-year old U.S. Army veterans were treated to a meal at the Shrimp Box in Point Beach, organized by Michael Malone, a police officer in Wall Township who serves as volunteer director of veterans affairs for the nonprofit Best Defense Foundation [BDF].
“I have met with both of them, learning about their service,” Mr. Malone said. “And getting to know them over the past few months, I realized that they did not know of each other and they happen to live about a mile or two from each other.”
Mr. Wardell grew up in Point Pleasant and attended Point Pleasant Beach High. Mr. Nungesser grew up in Union City and settled in the Point Pleasant area 50 years ago.
Mr. Wardell belonged to E Company in the 2nd Ranger Battalion and landed in Normandy in the weeks following D-Day. He had been drafted into the service at age 18 and within a month of being deployed in Europe, was wounded in combat by shrapnel that penetrated his helmet.
He was hospitalized for about another month.
“I had a hard head,” Mr. Wardell said.
Mr. Nungesser, 98, was part of M Company in the 334th Regiment 84th Infantry Division. He landed in France in January of 1945.
He had enlisted right out of high school and, following basic infantry training in Georgia, served briefly in Belgium and Holland before becoming part of the Rhine River crossing in Germany in March 1945. The Rhine was the last major barrier to the Allies’ advance from the west and the crossing was the last major hurdle to enter into Germany, on both a physical and psychological level.
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