WW2 veteran: Dale and Maybelle Kriens celebrating 65th wedding anniversary
A local World War II veteran, Corporal Dale Kriens, 95, of Akeley, will celebrate 65 years of marriage to his wife, Maybelle Winkelhorst Kriens, on Wednesday, June 7.
The Kriens' wedding anniversary falls on the day after the anniversary of the Normandy landings, termed D-Day, which occurred on June 6, 1944.
Dale Kriens was raised in Spencer, Iowa. His parents bought a farm in Akeley while Dale remained in Iowa with his grandparents to finish high school. After graduation, he moved to Akeley to be closer to his parents.
Shortly after high school, Dale volunteered for the draft. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in February 1943 and completed basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
"If you volunteered to serve you could pick where you wanted to go," Maybelle explained.
Dale was then sent to Fort Benning, Georgia where he completed his training for the 82nd Airborne Division. There, he became a certified parachutist and was later stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina before he was sent to Oberhausen, Germany to serve in the European Theater where his division specialized in parachute assault operations into denied areas.
Throughout his time in the Army, Dale successfully completed 16 parachute jumps in France, Belgium and Germany.
While recalling his first jump Dale said, "We were just egging the guy on in front of us, 'Don't stop or else I will.' It all happened so quick that you hardly realize what's going on. You step out that door and it's pretty windy falling a 100-some miles per hour. Two seconds later, bang, you've got the chute hanging there."
When asked if he was ever scared to jump, Dale responded, "Oh yeah, I'm sure I was, but not enough."
A particular memory that Dale could recall happened after one of his jumps. He had jumped in the early morning hours while it was still dark and landed in a tree where he became tangled in the branches.
"I hung there for a long time in the dark. I didn't dare drop, I didn't know how far from the ground I was," Dale said, adding that he had to stay quiet and couldn't call for help. "It was starting to get to be daylight and I couldn't see anything. Pretty soon someone ran into me. I was six feet from the ground. The guy that ran into me said, 'What are you doing here?' It was a buddy I had jumped with. He couldn't figure out what I was doing hanging there in the middle of the air."
A lot of his jumps occurred at night along a tree line to prevent the parachutists from being seen and to provide them with cover if they were seen.
"You'd get dumped out into some of the damndest places and there always seemed to be a grove of trees. You never knew where you were going until you feel branches and you knew where you were going then," Dale joked. "You get slapped in the face a few times and eventually you stop and think, 'Well, I must be in the trees.'"
When reflecting back on his time in the service Dale fondly said, "There were a million things that happened."
He said that during combat everything was always over so quick, hardly time to realize what had happened and often times those are the memories a soldier tries to forget.
"Things were always calm with us there. You point the gun and they'd run away quick. They knew that you were the boss man so there was never any question about what went on there," Dale said about his personal interaction with German soldiers. "It kind of amazed me that they acted like they did. I figured they'd try to do something, but they didn't."
Dale explained that the majority of German civilians were often happy to be liberated and in his experience treated the American soldiers with respect.
"When we were in Germany you treated everyone like a human being and they appreciated that. They liked the idea of us treating them like they were regular people. It was hard for them, that's for sure," he said. "I was surprised that they would treat us as good as they did."
Dale also recalled being issued his daily K-ration, which was introduced by the U.S. Army during World War II, originally intended as a daily ration to individuals in airborne troops and other mobile forces for short durations.
"I bet you could ask 90 percent of the guys what they had in those boxes and they couldn't tell you, but they ate it though," he said. "That's all there was, a box of junk, but you ate it."
Dale was discharged from the Army in March 1946. He returned to Minnesota and took to logging and milling during the winters and during the summer he worked in concrete construction throughout the Midwest.
In the fall of 1951, Maybelle and her mom were out in the field with the car and they got stuck in the mud. Dale came to their rescue and pulled them out of the mud with his truck. On the evening of Thanksgiving Day they had their first date.
"That was the beginning of everything," Maybelle said, adding that by June 1952, they were married.
"She kept me going," Dale said.
The couple got married at the Methodist church in Akeley.
"We lasted longer than the church did," Maybelle said, adding that the congregation still exists but the original building is no longer there.
The Kriens had their first of six children in 1953. Now, they have 13 grandchildren, three of which served in Iraq and returned home safely and 16 great grandchildren, with more on the way.
In October 2015, Dale took an Honor Flight out of Fargo, escorted by the Kriens' oldest son David.
They left for Washington D.C. early on a Sunday morning and returned on Monday night.
"I don't think we missed a thing," Dale said. "It's a good thing I went. I never ran into anyone I knew. I couldn't believe it. The 82nd Airborne was pretty well known."
Dale and Maybelle had traveled to Washington D.C. years ago but at that time the WWII Memorial hadn't yet been built.
"It's amazing what they do with that Honor Flight," Maybelle said. "It's a wonderful thing that they do."
"It's a well-organized thing," Dale said, adding that he was honored to have gotten the chance to see the memorial.
According to Dale, he enjoyed his time in the service. When asked if he could still jump out of an airplane now, he said, "I think I could, yeah. It doesn't last long, a few seconds and it's over. But I'd have trouble getting her to come along," he said, looking at Maybelle and added that he passed all of that stuff up very long ago.