Son learns about dad through WWII reunions

CLAYTON, Mo. - Time was turned back just shortly after noon in Clayton.

St. Louisan Norm Richards helped 89-year-old Bob Levine from New Jersey go through the pages of his own history. Richards has compiled thousands of records about the US Army's 90th Infantry Division from World War II.

"I've accumulated about 20,000 documents on the 90th," Richards said.

Though he never served in the military, Richards has become the division's historian. Every year at the reunion, like the one in Clayton this week, his research helps the past become present.

"What's important about it is, he provides every 90th Infantry veteran with the records that show their service in World War II," explained photographer Alan Twisselman.

Men from the 90th were among the first to land on Utah Beach on D-Day in June 1944. They fought the Germans for 53 consecutive days and helped win the war, braving heavy fire with an epic crossing of the Moselle River, while under the command of General George Patton.

"Patton called the 90th division's crossing of the Moselle the most significant, greatest accomplishment of any unit under his command during World War II," Richards said.

The 90th's insignia is a blood-red TO which stands for Tough Hombres without the H.

Over the years, at his own expense Richards has not only collected records and reports but pictures and even letters home from wounded soldiers.

"Don't worry about me," Richards read through tears from an old letter. "I'm getting the best of care and I'm sure in the end I'll be alright."

It can get emotional when you're reading a decades old letter written by your father.

Clyde Richards did make it home but not before being wounded twice. He didn't talk much about the war and never attended a reunion but after he died in 1990, his son Norm started going in his honor.

"Whatever I could do at this point in my life to help others in the name of my dad was what I wanted to do," said an emotional Richards.

In fact, he recently went back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day and took a veteran with him.

We lose 1,000 World War II veterans every day, and only 18 members of the 90th have made it here for this years reunion, which makes what Norm Richards does even more important.

"It's extremely important," said Twisselman. "Because it does preserve the history of this unit. Without people like Norm who are actually engaged in finding the history, researching the history. It would not exist."

One man, in honor of his father, saving the history of the men who saved the world.

"It's been the most rewarding part of my life," said Richards.


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