Later this month, Laurence Schober will enjoy his 96th birthday, a landmark that the Destrehan man quipped will punctuate a month of celebration thanks to his family.
But when Schober was just 17 years old, he left his Milwaukee home to help ultimately shape history and keep his country free.
Schober is a proud veteran of World War II, where he served as an engineer with the U.S. Navy. The war would end when he was just 21, and he had experienced more in those four years than many will in a lifetime.
“I didn’t see much of the (battle) action as an engineer,” said Schober, who was tasked with keeping his ship, the USS Thomas E. Frazier, moving and working properly. “It was exciting. It was a big experience for such a young fella … just imagine yourself going through something like that and being … I think I was 21 at the time.”
Schober’s ship was involved in the Battle of Iwo Jima and the Battle of Okinawa, as the U.S. Armed Forces made their push to Japan. The latter fight was indeed an Allied victory and a critical one, but was also considered among the most costly, resulting in a high death toll on both sides.
Approximately two months after the conclusion of the nearly three month Battle of Okinawa, the Japanese surrendered in August of 1945. The USS Frazier was the first ship to arrive in Tokyo.
“We were pretty close to the Battleship Missouri where they signed the peace treaty,” Silver said.
Schober’s son, Larry Jr., said it was a profound experience for his father.
“He could see the ships and everything where the ceremony was going on,” Larry Jr. said. “We’re all incredibly proud of him. A lot of people … I was a teacher for 30 years, and I know a lot of these kids don’t have a grasp at all on what these veterans went through to keep our country free.
“If they didn’t answer the challenge, we might be controlled by the Japanese and the Germans today. History would be completely different.”
Schober was not only a second generation veteran, but a second generation World War veteran. His father, Edward, fought in World War I.
While both events changed the world, the course of the Schober family’s own history would have been completely altered if not for a bit of great fortune.
“I’ve seen my grandfather’s helmet that had a bullet hole in it,” Larry Jr. said. “That was before he had my dad and before my dad had me. So that one event could have changed history … a lot of events could have, at least for our family, certainly.”
There was another harrowing instance in battle where a Marine friend of Schober was fighting on an island while Frazier launched bombs upon it.
“That was kind of interesting, talking to his buddy after,” Larry Jr. said.
Another saw kamikaze pilots attempting to hit the Frazier among many U.S. ships during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“That’s just how it was sometimes for them. Survive and attack,” Larry Jr. said. “I had a number of family members (who are veterans), they all came home safely. We were blessed. We were lucky. Many, many people weren’t as lucky and paid for our freedom with their lives. I can’t tell you how grateful we are.”
Schober has managed to live right and healthy since his days at war, and it’s showing as he prepares to cross another birthday off the calendar.
“I don’t feel bad at all for this age,” Schober said. “I’ve got my family, we’re enjoying ourselves and I’m doing pretty good.”