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The following is an article from the The Yorktown Crier.
From the Yorktown Crier
Three Men and a flag
By Tlna Eshleman
Two years ago, Eddie Ruple of Yorktown got a curious telephone call from a man in Dover, De.
"I've found something of interest," the man said. "Do you ever remember signing a Nazi flag?"
Surprised, Ruple asked, "How in the world did you get my name?"
Ruple, now a retired Army veteran, was one of 29 soldiers in the 34th Division of Infantry, Company A, who celebrated the end of World War II in Bologna, Italy, about 40 years ago, by signing their names on a captured Nazi flag.
"We were all drinking vino, just social drinking, having a party and 29 of us signed the flag," Ruple said. "Everybody knew the war was coming to an end. The Germans were on the run. That was the last phase of the war. It was all downill from then."
While Ruple keeps in touch with a number of his old Company A buddies, he had lost track of the flag - and Al Bames, the person who clamied it originally - until just recently.
Thanks to the help of Michael Gray of Delaware, who bought the Nazi flag at a Pennsylvania flea market for $20, Ruple can now tell the flag's story.
When Al Barnes, the flag's owner, died, Somebody probably sold it to a flea market. I don't think anybody who had a family would have let go of something like that," Ruple said.
Somehow the flag made its way from Cleveland, Ohio, where Barnes lived, to Reading, Pa. There it was discovered by Gray, a collector of war relics. When Gray realized the flag was decorated with signatures, he began a search to locate the soldiers -- not an easy task considering their frequent geographic moves.
Luckily, one of the signers, Paul Howse of Louisiana, had written an address in addition to his name. Cray called Howse, who directed him to the Tri-State Chapter of the 34th Division in Toledo, Ohio.
Through the chapter's secretary, Gray was able to obtain a roster of members who belonged to the TriState reunion. Of these, Ed Ruple was the only person whose name was on the flag.
When Gray telephoned Ruple in Yorktown and started reading the names on the flag, Ruple said he remembered 19 of the names, and told Gray that two of his old friends were coming to see him soon for their 18th reunion.
Glad for a chance to meet the veterans, Gray offered to bring the flag to their reunion and surprise Ruple's friends, Ben Mitchell of Sumper, S.C., and Roman Hicks of Eatonton, Ga.
Soon the three men and flag of triumph were reunited on Ruple's front lawn.
"I was so excited, I didn't think about calling a reporter," Ruple said. "All afternoon we talked about the war, the past and this flag."
With the help of operators, Gray located half a dozen more soldier then called Ruple and gave him their addresses -- "Now we all correspond with each other," Ruple said.
Now, when visitors come to his home, Ruple likes to get out his photo album which shows smiling young soldiers holding a Nazi flag after World War II. ON another page, some of the same men are pictures - some 40 years later - holding the same flag.
Talking about the war, Ruple's expression turns more serious. "It's something you got used to," he explains. "You lived in the ground, in a hole or in an old bombed building. You washed out of your helmet, took a bath out of your helmet. Once every two or three weeks, you got clean clothes and a shower."
For most of his time during war, Ruple served on the kitchen crew, cooking and delivering K-rations to battalion headquarters at nighttime -- ham and eggs, hard tack, chocolate, cigarettes - mostly dehydrated food.
Being a cook during the war meant being resourceful. Ruple remembers one morning when the troops got off the line and their Sergeant said there was nothing to feed them. There was flour, but no yeast or baking powder to make pancakes, and there was no syrup.
What there was, however, was a large supply of Lion's toothpowder and rock candy. Ruple, being the creative cook he is, mixed up a batch of hotcakes substituting toothpowder for baking powder and melted the rock candy for syrup.
"I made hot cakes for five hours and they kept eating and eating," he said.
These days, Ruple stays busy keeping in touch with his Army friends and his culinary skills have not been lost. After finishing his story, Ruple walked over and checked on a turkey roasting in a large black cast iron cooker.
And at least once a year, the boy scouts of York County get to enjoy Ruple's cooking during their annual spaghetti dinner.