By Patrick YoungJune 24, 2019
Seventy-five years after returning from World War II, Theodore Lambert traveled with his wife and daughter to remember D-Day, June 6, at the 3rd Infantry Division Museum on Fort Stewart.
The day turned momentous when Lambert, a member of the greatest generation, was able to help share some wisdom with members of the latest generation.
Coincidental to Lambert's visit, more than 40 boys and girls ranging from eight to 18 years-old were visiting the museum as part of the Sky Patriot summer camp. The camp's senior instructor, Santiago Santana, said the group was on a field trip to learn about leadership, discipline and service to the nation. When the campers learned from the museum curator, John Potter, the Lamberts would be arriving at the museum their experience went from a purely visual one to an interactive experience.
After a warm reception from the campers and other museum visitors, the 97 year-old Riceboro native, Theodore and his wife, 94-year old Midway native, Ronnie Lambert were introduced to the children by Potter and Lambert's daughter, Alvera Phillips, who explained a little of their history.
Theodore grew up in the area around Fort Stewart, and helped build the installation when the land was purchased in 1940. He helped clear trees and remove tree-stumps, sometimes with dynamite. When war was declared, he traveled to Fort Benning for his initial training in the U.S. Army, with follow-on training in Alabama.
His then-girlfriend, Ronnie, was still in school when World War II was declared. But soon after, she took a job in Brunswick, shipping aircraft parts and doing her part to help the war effort.
Both opened themselves up for questions from the children and spoke about their experiences around the time of World War II.
Lambert said he was a corporal in the 162nd Chemical Smoke Generator Company during World War II, serving in Africa, Italy and later supported the invasion of Normandy, France.
"We burned a mixture of oil and water to create smoke screen, to cover the Soldiers who were trying to build a bridge and cross the river," Lambert answered when asked what his unit did in WWII. "But the wind kept shifting, and the Germans kept trying to shell the bridge."
In the final operations report, published in part at http://tothosewhoserved.org, noted the 162nd Chemical Smoke Generator Company near St. Goar, in France, in March 25-28, 1945, supported the VIII Corps as it crossed the Rhine River, between Bingen and Koblnz.
The 162nd Smoke Generator Company helped the 87th and 89th Divisions in their efforts to invade Normandy. The report indicated that part of the U.S. plan was to provide smoke screens for the 1102nd Engineer Combat Group to build a pontoon bridge, and for the 345th Infantry to assault across the river at Boppard, in the 87th Division sector. Although they took on heavy mortar and small arms fire, the effort was successful.
Through carefully thought-out answers to the children's question, the campers learned the Soldiers relied on smoke and cover for protection during the day.
"We would try and build our trenches at night - as they were often our only protection from the Germans, who were trying to shoot us," Lambert said.
When asked of his happiest moment during World War II, he smiled and said, "When we heard the war was over in Europe. We were just about to load up for Japan, but were told we could go home early."
Marshal Bramlet asked him what he did when he got home. Lambert thought carefully and after a long pause said, "Well, for six weeks, I didn't do anything. Then I started work at my old job at the gas station, got married and after nine months, moved to Newark, New Jersey."
When his wife, Ronnie, was asked by a young lady in the audience how it felt to work in what would later be termed a Rosie the Riveter job, she smiled and replied.
"I was young and working - I was excited," Ronnie said.
When asked for advice for the youngest generations, both Lamberts agreed education was the key.
"Get an education and stay in school," Ronnie said as Theodore nodded agreement.
As they concluded the education session, the new 1st Armored Brigade Combat commander, Col. Trent Upton and 1ABCT's Operations Sergeant Major, Sergeant Major Joseph Gaskin, visited with the Lamberts, thanking them for their sacrifice and service.
Community members are invited to learn more about history by visiting the 3rd ID Museum, open Tuesday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the first Saturday of every month, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or visiting online at https://home.army.mil/stewart/index.php/about/history.