HONOR —Berdyll Hanrath signed up for World War II while still in the eighth grade and never went back to school.
Now 87 years old, he took his place on Sunday among 39 graduates of Frankfort High School to accept a high school diploma.
“I didn’t even throw my hat. I figured I’d have to go and pick it up,” he joked.
Hanrath left the eighth grade in 1942, but had to wait another year to enter the service at age 18. He received little training for his journey ahead — he took part in the second wave assault of the heavily defended Normandy beaches. Today marks the 69th anniversary of D-Day, one of history’s most dangerous amphibious assaults.
“I can’t hardly talk about the war,” he said. “It brings back too many memories. But I got some things wrote down. I got the Purple Heart and things like that.”
Hanrath fetched a box of medals he keeps at his neatly kept home in Honor, tucked off Platte River Road. He was an Army rifleman in the Spearhead Division and ran a 50-caliber machine gun in the turret of an armored, half-track vehicle. He was in the turret when a mortar dropped in the back of the half track. It killed a dozen soldiers, but spared him and the driver.
“After I got to England in the hospital, I never seen the driver again,” he said. “I don’t know if he made it or not. I think I was fortunate to get wounded at the time I did. My outfit, there weren’t very many that got to Germany. They died on the way.”
Hanrath was hospitalized for almost five months for a concussion. When he returned home he married, raised four children, and headed up maintenance at the Benzie County school district.