On Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country – those who laid down their lives to protect our freedoms or the freedoms of others around the world.
As PPL celebrates its 100th anniversary, we look back in history to World War II, when employee sacrifices transformed the company’s workforce. By 1944, more than 1,000 male and female employees of PPL – then called Pennsylvania Power & Light Company – had served in war-time efforts. Before the war ended in 1945, more than 20 percent of the company’s pre-war workforce had performed military duties.
Seven lost their lives in battle.
This Memorial Day, we’re shinning a spotlight on one of those soldiers killed in action – Harold Lonzer of Hazleton.
Lonzer, a PP&L clerk, entered military service in September 1943 and after stateside training, arrived in England in April 1944. Two months later, he was bound for France.
A member of Company G of the Army’s 330th Infantry Regiment, 83rd Infantry Division, he and the rest of his company boarded a tank landing ship on June 20, 1944, at Southampton, England. Aboard for three days, they set off from Calshot, England traveling about a hundred miles across the channel before landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy late that afternoon. The Company G morning report for June 23 noted: “At sea aboard US LST#1. Left Calshot anchorage at 0200. Destination unknown. Morale excellent. Arrived at Omaha Beach at 1600.”
It was now about 2 ½ weeks after D-Day. The 330th moved about 20 miles into the front lines southeast of the small crossroads town of Carentan to relieve soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division.
Normandy was a muddy mess in early July 1944. Heavy rains flooded streams and rivers and created sloppy conditions that made walking tough and vehicle travel even tougher. Lonzer was among the troops of the 83rd tasked with making their way through a narrow corridor to attack elite German troops.
About two months short of his 37th birthday, Lonzer was killed as his unit attacked heavily defended German troops in the hedgerows in the pre-dawn hours of July 4, 1944, most likely near Méautis. In a company morning report of July 7, 1944, the bespectacled Lonzer was among a group of men listed as missing in action three days earlier, a designation that changed days later to killed in action.
As the regiment’s commander, Col. R.T. Foster noted in “The Story of the 330th Infantry Across Europe,” July 4, 1944 “was no holiday for the infantrymen of the 330th.” They attacked that day and every day for 23 days from dawn until dark, according to the book.
The youngest of three siblings, Harold Lonzer worked for PP&L for 20 years in Hazleton. At that time, PP&L had an office on East Broad Street. His wife, Alma, also worked for PP&L at that time and eventually retired from the company as a secretary/bookkeeper. She died in 1995. Census records show the couple, who had no children, lived on West First Street in Hazleton in 1940. Harold Lonzer was active at Christ Lutheran Church in Hazleton, where he served on the church council.
Six other PP&L employees also gave their lives fighting in WWII: Henry A. Brosious, John Evetuschik, John J. Flanagan, James M. Kline, Ray E. Luckenbill Jr. and John S. Walbert.
“There is a strong tradition of service among PPL employees throughout the company’s history. Harold Lonzer and others personify that dedication,” said Rob Lessard, a senior technology translator for PPL Electric Utilities and a Navy veteran who serves as president of PPLVets, an employee business resource group that supports veterans and their families.
“On Memorial Day this year, and every year, we pay tribute to the Harold Lonzers of the world, those who answered the call and gave their lives in service to our nation,” Lessard said.