Arthur Countryman had a ‘wandering spirit’ and yearned to be a soldier

WWII Army veteran laid to rest in Plainfield 77 years after he’s killed

Editor’s note: This is the second of a six-part story.

On June 15, Brian Papesh of Joliet received a call from the Army Repatriation Division.

The remains of his grandfather, Arthur Countryman, were just positively identified. Countryman was deemed missing in action in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest during World War II.

Papesh said the Countryman family were among the first families to settle in Plainfield.

“In fact, several historic family members are servicemen going back to Joseph Countryman who fought with the 100th Illinois Infantry in the American Civil War,” Papesh wrote in an email, later adding, “He lost an eye, but he still made it back to Plainfield. And he lived to be 80.”

Joseph Countryman died in 1921.

Like his ancestors, Arthur yearned to be a soldier, too, and had a wandering spirit, Papesh said.

Arthur’s parents were Charles Lee Countryman and Emma Countryman. His siblings, all deceased, were Leona Fraenckel, Clara Siddon, Gertrude Jungles, Rhoda Weber, Charles “Chuck” Countryman and Lester Countryman.

He belonged to Sharon Evangelical Church, now Sharon United Methodist Church.

“My grandmother used to tell me how she had to tie him to the pole on the front porch with rope so she could get something done,” Donisch said. “Otherwise he was always running away from home. When my grandfather was on the police department, they’d get calls – ‘Art’s out again; better come get him’ – and they’d go get him.”

As a boy, Arthur always talked about the Army or “played” Army. In his teens, he ran away while his father was at work, all the way to Naval Station Great Lakes to join the Navy, Donisch said.

“Grandpa got a call in the middle of the night,’” Donisch said. “The man said, ‘Are you Charles Countryman?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you have a son named Arthur?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, he’s sitting across from me.’ Grandpa said, ‘Fine. You can have him. At least I’ll know where he’s at for the next four years.’”

Donisch said Arthur officially joined the Navy in 1924 and remained until 1928. In an email, Brian said Arthur served on the USS Arizona, “before it was modernized and bombed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.”

After his honorable discharge, he married Loretta Hamilton. They had four children: Eleanor Yedinak (deceased), Mary Papesh, Arthur Earl Countryman (deceased) and Georgia Donisch.

For a time, Arthur did some work as a residential painter, Brian said. Eventually, Arthur joined the National Guard in Joliet. He was sent to Europe in 1944 for combat duty and was assigned to Company F, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, according to his obituary.

“Grandpa was a German man,” Papesh said. “He was fighting his own countrymen in his own heritage. It had to be a conflict for him.”

Arthur’s unit was engaged in battle with German forces near Hürtgen, Germany, in the Hürtgen Forest, when he was reported killed in action on Nov. 20, 1944, his obituary said.

Following the battle, Arthur’s body was not recovered, according to a news release from the U. S. Army Human Resources Command Public Affairs Office. He was 37 years old.

Denise  Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.