This month’s featured veteran is Private Lester Frances Ueberrhein who is considered to be Sarpy County’s first loss of life during World War II. He was only 21 years old when he died. When war broke out, Lester was a relatively new resident of Sarpy County. He spent much of his young life with his nine siblings near Mead in Saunders County, Nebraska. In the early 1940s, the family moved to near Gretna here in Sarpy County.
Lester’s service in the military was brief. He joined the military in January 1942. After receiving his initial training in the United States, he was sent to Ireland to receive additional training. In late October of 1942, he was transferred again, this time for a brief stay in England.
On November 8, 1942 the United States and Great Britain launched Operation Torch, their first major joint combat operation. The goal of Operation Torch was to push back the Axis Powers troops in North Africa and limit the Axis Powers access to the Mediterranean. The operation was also designed to increase the Allies ability to launch offensives into Southern Europe. Allied troops landed at three points along the African coastline at Casablanca, Oran, and Algiers. The offensive lasted until November 11, 1942 and succeeded in pushing Axis troops back. Allied troops pushed Axis troops completely out of North Africa by May of 1943.
Private Ueberrhein was one of 480 Allied troops killed during Operation Torch. He was awarded the Purple Heart and was laid to rest at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.