Part 7: Nazis murdered downed WWII airman from York, Pa.

For years, York, Pa.’s Robert W. Zercher’s name was misspelled on this monument in Apeldoorn in Holland. It was changed from “Zurcher” to its proper spelling in September 2006. The York native was executed at the hands of the Germans late in the war. Previously, in this series: Nazis murdered downed WWII airman from York, Part I, Zercher, Part II, Zercher, Part III and Zercher, Part IV and Zercher, Part V. and Zercher, Part VI.

I re-told the story of Sgt. Robert W. Zercher in my York Sunday News column (3/27/11), York County war hero’s story is told on the Web, an adaption from a yorktownsquare.com blog post.
The retelling came from the point of view of a fellow Flying Fortress crew member who observed Sgt. Zercher’s body on public display after his execution.
Here are some column notes that tie into this heroic York native’s sacrifice:


– Robert W. Zercher was born in 1907 in Hallam, the son of Frank and Ella Zercher. He had a twin sister, Pauline. He graduated from William Penn High School and Penn State University before enlisting in the Army after eight years as a test engineer for York Corporation.
While he was in uniform, his mother, Ella, died. Then his brother, Harold W. Zercher, a civilian inspector, died in an airplane crash in August, 1943, at Homestead Field in Florida.
Such is the terrible cost of war.
– Coincidentally, not long after Scott Brener’s email arrived detailing how the Dutch resistance aided Zercher and other “Karen B” crew members, an exhibit telling how brother and sister Sophie and Hans Scholl organized a movement opposing Adolf Hitler opened at York Suburban High School.
These resistance members also were executed for their opposition to the Nazis.
According to a news release, the Scholls operated under the name of the “Weisse Rose” or White Rose. A news story said it’s just coincidental that this White Rose group is being honored in York, the White Rose City.
– A York County Heritage Trust exhibit, “Front Porch to Front Lines: York County Goes to War,” observes those who served in World War II, as well as World War I, the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“The men and women of York County who served their nation during wartime never considered themselves heroes. However, that does not mean their service and sacrifice was not heroic,” a description for the exhibit states.
It opens June 14.
– Much that is known about Robert W. Zercher’s time in Holland comes from the essay “The Adventures of Sergeant Bob Zercher and the other crew members of the ‘Karen B,'” written by Jelle Reitsma.
The essay and other information about Sgt. Zercher is posted on the “heroes” section of my blog, yorktownsquare.com
– Credit goes to Jim Marsteller, a York County resident, for sparking interest in Bob Zercher’s story. Now, it’s up to others in York County to recognize this hero in a meaningful manner.
– York City School Board members recently talked about publicizing their successful graduates. Bob Zercher’s name should be added to that list.
– It’s about time the York County community recognizes Robert W. Zercher, as an example of the 570 men who lost their lives in World War II.
If a military man died in today’s wars by a firing squad and his body pinned with the word ‘Terrorist,” that would make international news.
And deservedly so.
Also of interest:
York County historical war deaths top 1,000, York County Vietnam marker funding at half-way mark; looking for more and Neglect, racism undid all-black 24th in Korean War
Also
To view a wealth of other stories detailing York County in World War II, see this blog’s World War II archive.
Archives:
All York Town Square posts from the start. Then use “find” function on browser to search for keywords.
– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, when you search for yorktownsquare and York Corporation, you get this.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Archives, all posts, Explanations/controversy, For photo fans, Heroes, Local journalism & Web, Made in York, People, War, World War II, York High achievers, Yorkco and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Part 7: Nazis murdered downed WWII airman from York, Pa.

  1. L. Reiber-Shipley says:

    Thank you for writing about my Grandmother’s twin brother. I knew bits and pieces about him and now I know it all. I will share this with my children. It’s ironic that this was published, today. I’m a teacher and we just finished the Holocaust in our history class. I will share your article with them tomorrow. I noticed that someone mentioned about no one in York coming forward about Robert. The family is scattered across the U.S. (Lancaster, PA, Dallas, TX, Winchester, VA, Illinois, California)If it wasn’t for my father who still resides in York County, I wouldn’t have seen your article. Believe me, we care. Many men and women have died serving our country and while coming to the aid of others. I’m honored that you chose Robert W. Zercher as one of your subjects. Thank You

  2. Jim McClure says:

    To: L. Reiber-Shipley,
    I’ve received lots of comments on the column.
    Honored that you would share this information.
    I’m going to try to reach you via e-mail; would like to use your comment in future York Sunday New column.
    Thanks again,
    Jim McClure

  3. louise schintz-nelson says:

    Feel free to use anything I said about the wise decision to keep Fluoride out of the good water in York pa. ! Louise.schintz.nelson55@gmail.com. 5412174614. Ps. Say hi & give the big guy a hug from me to freddy uffelman !
    Hope he is doing ok … Saw he is retiring from the paper & thought something was not quit ok with that ? I was a uffelman ! Long ago ! Thanks hope you do not promote the Fluoride … Honestly it is quite harmful ,never ment to ingested …. Read a bit moor about it ,a lot moor !

    • Jim McClure says:

      Thanks Louise. I haven’t talked to Fred for ‘a while,’ but I’m hearing through others that he is doing well. Got to disagree with you on fluoride. Too much evidence that it helps tooth disease. Sorry about to disagree./Jim

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