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Pfc. Lonnie Ray Preslar

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Pfc Lonnie Ray Preslar

Thomasville resident who fought in WWII's Battle of the Bulge dies

Greensboro News & Record, Oct 17, 2019 - By Harry Thetford Special to News & Record

Lonnie Ray Preslar, 95, a World War II veteran from Thomasville who drove a million miles as an over-the-road truck driver, died Wednesday.


Preslar fought in the Battle of the Bulge, after which he was hospitalized in England, recovering from frostbite. "I thought my recovery went very well, but the Army nurses kept telling me to stay in bed," he recalled in an Oct. 8 interview. "I told them I would rather be back at the front than staying in bed all the time, so they obliged me. My hospital time was more stressful to the folks back home than it was to me - the Army misplaced my records and notified my parents I was missing in action."


Not too long after returning to the front, Preslar was wounded in the face by shrapnel. "Medics covered half my face with a large white bandage, which I thought gave the enemy a nice target to shoot at," he said.


After the Battle of the Bulge, he said, "we started advancing, taking prisoners, and kept the Germans on the run." After one skirmish, Preslar was ordered to take 12 newly captured prisoners to a holding area behind the lines. "I had misgivings about that, thinking that was too many prisoners for one man to keep up with - especially given the language difference," he recalled. "I waved my rifle at them, and shouted, 'I will mow you down if you get out of line!' They knew enough English to understand that."


All eyes were on Berlin as V-E Day - marking the Allied victory in Europe in 1945 - approached, Preslar said. "We were driven to get there before the Russians, even if it meant we had to walk until our legs gave way." Preslar's 134th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division dashed 295 miles in two days to reach the Elbe River before the Russians could, military records show. Even so, permission to take Berlin was given to the Russians by higher authorities. The 35th Infantry Division switched to occupation duties and mopping-up German strongholds that had been bypassed.


With a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, three campaign stars and a combat infantryman's badge (which authorized an additional Bronze Star), Preslar had more than enough points for a speedy return to the States.


Preslar grew up on a farm in the Polkton community in Anson County with three brothers and four sisters. "We grew cotton, corn and soybeans, plus we always had a large vegetable garden," Preslar recalled. An older brother was already serving in the Army when Preslar was drafted at 19 in 1944. After the war, Preslar settled in High Point, found a job and a wife. He married Donna Sink on Nov. 15, 1947. She died in 2000 after 53 years of marriage. From this union came three daughters - Debbie, Nancy and Tammy - four grandsons and five great-grandchildren.


Preslar flew to Washington as a Flight of Honor participant in 2010. It was his first time in a plane.


Lonnie Ray Preslar

Lonnie Ray Preslar - October 8, 2019

Thanks to Mike Rushing, Pfc. Preslar's great-nephew, for this information.

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