On Tuesday morning, Feb. 25, a dear friend to the Topinka family and American Legion Post #488 passed away. His name was John Storcel.
John was born in what is now Slovakia, formerly part of the now dissolved Czechoslovakia and immigrated with his family to the United States. The family settled in Chicago when he was 6 years old. He had four siblings, but one sadly died at only 18 months old shortly after the family arrived.
His father served in the Austria-Hungarian Army during World War I, an experience he didn’t discuss with his children. Storcel’s father was badly injured in the war and forbade the discussion of war at the family’s tavern. Unfortunately, Storcel’s father died at 49 in 1940, leaving him to help his mother run the family business.
Despite being the breadwinner of the family, supporting his mother and contributing to the war effort building valves for Navy ships, Storcel was drafted in 1943. He was sent to Fort Custer in Michigan for basic training and later to Pine Camp, where they conducted mock battles and trained officers. He performed several other duties stateside, including traffic control, evening patrol and controlling other service members while on night leave.
During and after D-Day, Storcel performed various duties, but none more gruesome than collecting dead soldiers at Normandy beach, Saint-Lo%u0302 and the Battle of the Bulge. To ensure fallen soldiers in body bags could be identified, John and his fellow military police (MPs) members would leave one dog tag with the body and another on top of the body bag. Often, though, the bodies were missing limbs. John and the other MPs would have to find the dead soldiers to which the body parts belonged and place the body parts in their respective soldiers’ body bags.
John was blunt, and his stories about D-Day caught the attention of his fellow American Legion members who nagged and nagged (and nagged) him to be interviewed by the Pritzker Military Museum and Library (PMML). The complete interview is pending, but the link below is an excerpt used for the D-Day exhibit at the PMML: bit.ly/39cjlXb
John’s stories and his life will live on for our post and our youth. To the Storcel family, American Legion Post #488 and Sons of the American Legion (SAL) Squadron #0488 are here for you during this time of sorrow.
Our final salute to John Storcel. We will miss you John.
Joseph Baar Topinka, commander
Jason Hinsley, vice commander
Riverside American Legion Post #488