22 April 2014

WWII Vet Joe Boitnott, 92, Conducts Final 'Attack!'

2011 photo by Army Staff Sgt. Ashlee Lolkus
One of the remaining 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division veterans of World War II, Monty Joe Boitnott, 92, died on April 12, 2014, at the VA hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. Tomorrow, April 23, would have been his 93rd birthday.

Boitnott was a welcoming and lively presence at the annual 34th Infantry Division Association reunion and dine-out. Fellow veterans and "Red Bull" family members—young and old—looked forward to seeing him wearing in his Red Bull blazer, and hearing him share his stories.

Boinott grew up in Maxwell, pop. 811, where his mother ran a restaurant. His father was the town postmaster, and owned a jewelry and optical repair shop in the front of the restaurant.

Boinott joined the Iowa National Guard's 168th Infantry Regiment while he was still attending North High School, Des Moines. He started the war as as infantryman, and made three amphibious landings in North Africa and Italy. In September 1944, he transferred to the Army Air Force and served as as a tail-gunner on B-17 "Flying Fortress" bombers, serving until victory in Europe. He continued to serve throughout the Korean War, and retired from the United States Air Force in 1972 at the rank of master sergeant. In total, Boinott served in uniform nearly 30 years.

A full obituary and other funeral details are posted here.

In addition to participating in memorials, museum displays, and television documentaries, Boitnott wrote a short memoir that is available for reading on-line here. (Caution: Music plays as webpage loads, but does not repeat.)

Boitnott was present during some of the "Red Bull" division's greatest milestones, including place-names as Algiers, Salerno, and Monte Cassino. An excerpt from his on-line memoir shows how he could bring history to life:
After Christmas, our unit relieved the 36th Division at San Pietro near the Rapido River at the entrance to Cassino dominated by Mount Troccio, two miles from the town.The river was icy cold. The Germans had the opposite banks loaded with land mines. Plus they blew some ditches and flooded the low area to the rolling hills from the Rapido tributaries of water. My unit's objective was some old Italian military barracks that had shelter from sleet and snow we were encountering.

It took us four days to cross the river due to heavy fighting with the Germans. Finally we reached our objective, and here my squad went close to 70 hours without rations and water.

Our losses were staggering. I really don't know the head count but my unit alone was down less than half strength in manpower. My unit never did reach the town of Monte Cassino, but units of our other regiment, the 133rd, was engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the town.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to be directed to:
The 34th Division Association
c/o The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum
7105 N.W. 70th Avenue
Johnston, Iowa 50131
Visitation will be held today, Tues., April 22, 2014 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Hamilton's Funeral Home, Westown Parkway, 3601 Westown Parkway, West Des Moines.

Burial with military honors will be held on Wed., April 23 at 2 p.m.Iowa Veterans Cemetery, Van Meter, Iowa.

On-line condolences may be expressed here.

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