One of the first memories that come to his mind when Jim Forsythe looks back on D-Day is all the planes flying over the hospital camp where he was stationed in England.
They were on their way to Normandy as part of the invasion on June 6, 1944.
As the 75th anniversary of D-Day takes place this year, Forsythe, 94, a World War II U.S. Army veteran and former Crown Point mayor, looked back at his time of service.
Speaking from his home in Crown Point, Forsythe said he was 19 years old when he entered World War II in 1943. He served for three years as a dental technician at the hospital camp in England.
Forsythe said there were five, 1,000-bed hospitals in the camp. But so many wounded soldiers arrived from the Battle of the Bulge that 1,000 more beds were placed in each hospital.
The camp had 10,000 wounded.
“The winter of 1944-45 was so brutally cold, they would take our winter clothes and give them to the soldiers on the line,” Forsythe said.
In addition to dental work, Forsythe said they made artificial eyes for wounded soldiers. After the war Forsythe was sent to Camp Atterbury in southern Indiana where he was a photographer who documented the wounds of soldiers and how doctors worked to repair them. He still has several boxes of the photos he took of gravely wounded soldiers.
Forsythe, who said a lot of his friends from World War II have died, also served in the Korean War in 1950 while he was in the Army Reserves.
It was at Camp Atterbury where he met his wife, Marjorie, and the two eventually moved to Crown Point and had four children. The couple has four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Forsythe served two terms at Crown Point mayor from 1984 to 1991 (“that was a good time”). For 15 years he was the emcee for Crown Point’s annual Memorial Day ceremony but last year decided it was time for someone else to take over.
A member of the Crown Point VFW and American Legion, among other affiliations, Forsythe has been actively involved in veterans’ events and causes.
A musician, Forsythe had a dance band for 30 years.
“They all died on me,” Forsythe said of his bandmates.
For the last 15 years, however, Forsythe, who plays guitar, led a small group of musicians performing at the Crown Point Farmers Market.
“We just did it for free,” he said.
Forsythe recently found out that he will be honored for his service after being selected by the Lake Court Foundation as a 2019 Patriot Award winner.
Each year the Lake Court House Foundation celebrates the spirit of patriotism and civic duty when it launches Patriot Week in September by hosting the Patriot Brunch in the Maki Ballroom of the Historic Lake Court House.
The Patriot Brunch is an opportunity to celebrate the patriotism of a past or present Lake County resident who embodies the spirit of community, said Carrie Napoleon, managing director of the Lake Court House Foundation.
The Patriot Brunch is the largest fundraiser supporting the 141-year-old Historic Lake Court House, and will feature entertainment and a silent auction.
Tickets to this sell-out event are on sale now. VIP tickets are $150 per person; standard tickets are $100. VIP tickets include a table concierge.
CROWN POINT — James Forsythe’s memories from his time spent overseas in World War II are vivid and unforgettable.
The 94-year-old U.S. Army veteran and former Crown Point mayor describes it as an “interesting time.”
“I’m glad I got to serve,” Forsythe said recently, sitting in his Crown Point home surrounded by old war medical photographs, a guitar, his Veterans of Foreign Wars cap and medals that serve as reminders more than 75 years later.
Forsythe was drafted into the military in 1944 when he was 19 years old.
“I tried to enlist in the Navy, and they wouldn’t take me. They said I was underweight. I tried to enlist in the Merchant Marine, and they wouldn’t take me. So, I just waited,” Forsythe said. “I was a senior in high school and during the Christmas break, I got a draft notice from the U.S. Army.”
During World War II, Forsythe served three years as a dental technician at a hospital camp in England — a job that he said was given to him as a result of his shoe size being too big.
“It’s kind of a funny story,” he said.
Before officially going into service, Forsythe had to go to a reception center in Indianapolis to be given the proper clothing to join the war.
“They wanted to give you the clothes and get you out in three days — get you on a ship somewhere,” he said. “Because they couldn’t fit me with shoes, I was there for three weeks. … Shoes was a big item for me because I wear 12.5, long and narrow.”
He finally got his shoes, and the first train that was leaving at that time was going to a medical training camp to Texas. After completing his training and a couple of transfers to the Air Force, Forsythe was sent to the 119 General Hospital in England.
As a dental technician, Forsythe said he worked in a laboratory and made false teeth and glass eyes, which he said was “really different.”
“That was interesting,” he said.
One of Forsythe’s most vivid memories was the time he spent treating soldiers who arrived with graphic wounds and trauma from the Battle of the Bulge.
As planes flew over the hospital camp on their way to Normandy as part of D-Day, soldiers arrived with serious injuries.
Forsythe said there were five, 1,000-bed hospitals in the camp. When the soldiers arrived, an extra 1,000 beds needed to be placed in each camp for the more than 10,000 wounded soldiers.
“This is the winter of 1943-44, and it was one of the worst winters that they had in Europe,” Forsythe said. “Germans overran our supplies at one point at the post. We didn’t have replacement clothing and all of us that weren’t in the fighting ranks had to give up our winter clothing, which included our long underwear and winter coats. It was brutal. Really cold.
“I wasn’t too comfortable, but that was better than having to fight on the line like the other guys had to.”
After the war, Forsythe was sent to Camp Atterbury in southern Indiana where he was a medical photographer, responsible for documenting wounds of soldiers and how doctors worked to repair them with plastic surgery.
“I photographed plastic surgery patients in the operating room while doctors were doing the surgery. I still have about 200 pictures of that,” Forsythe said, showing some of the photos, including one of a burn victim who underwent extensive skin graft surgery to reconstruct his face. “A lot of people never see stuff like this.”
Forsythe, who said he never had to fight on the battlefield during World War II, reflecting back to that time, said he was “fortunate he had big feet.”
Forsythe would go on to serve in the Army Reserves in the Korean War in 1950.
Forsythe, who served two terms as Crown Point mayor from 1984 to 1991, is an active member of the Crown Point VFW and American Legion. He has been involved in numerous veterans’ events and causes over the years, including Crown Point’s annual Memorial Day ceremony.
His dedication to go above and beyond in service on military duty in the Crown Point community since his return home from war earned him the 2019 military Patriot Award.
“I was surprised,” Forsythe said of finding out he was this year’s winner. “Thankful, too.”The Lake Court House Foundation will honor Forsythe at the Patriot Brunch Sept. 8 in the Maki Ballroom of the Old Lake County Courthouse. The brunch is a part of the foundation’s Patriot Week, which celebrates the spirit of patriotism and civic duty.
This year’s winners, which includes businessman and philanthropist Richard Schweitzer, were selected from nominations submitted by the public, making this year the first time the Lake Court House Foundation has turned to the community for help in finding honorees.
“The Patriot Brunch is an opportunity to celebrate the patriotism of a past or present Lake County resident who embodies the spirit of community,” Carrie Napoleon, managing director of the Lake Court House Foundation, said in a news release.
Forsythe said he is looking forward to the celebration.
Until then, the veteran said he is proud to continue to share his story of service to anyone willing to listen.
“War is always an interesting subject. I think most people can’t relate to those in combat. They can’t relate to being shot at, hiding in foxholes and being hungry and cold. ... (Sharing stories) let’s people know what we’ve went through,” Forsythe said. “I think it is necessary to let people know that war is not fun. But, I am glad I got to serve.”
CROWN POINT — An honor held by well-known Regionites like Jerry Ross, Dean White, Frank Schilling and more is up for nominations.
The Lake Court House Foundation launches Patriot Week in September, hosting the annual Patriot Brunch in the Maki Ballroom of the historic Lake Court House. This year the Lake Court House Foundation has added a second honoree, and the committee is asking the community to help find nominees.
“The Patriot Brunch is an opportunity to celebrate the patriotism of a past or present Lake County resident who embodies the spirit of community,” said Carrie Napoleon, managing director of the Lake Court House Foundation.
White, Ross, Char and Gary Miller and Schilling were past nominees.
The two Patriot Awards will honor one past or present member of the armed forces, and the second award will honor a citizen, said Dan Klein, Patriot Brunch committee member.
“For our Patriots, we are looking for someone who went above and beyond in their life,” Klein said.
Nominations will be accepted through May 15, and people can submit nominations via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can fill out a quick form at courthouseweddings.org/patriot-nomination-2019.
To be eligible for the military honor, a nominee must be serving or have served in a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and they must be a current or former resident of Lake County. They must also be someone who has gone above and beyond in their service, either on duty or in the service to their community upon their return home, the committee said.
To be nominated for the citizen honor, someone should also be a current or former resident of Lake County and be someone whose philanthropic efforts have either individually, or through their business endeavors, contributed to the Northwest Indiana community in a significant way.
“Help us celebrate the spirit of patriotism by submitting your nomination today,” Napoleon said.
The committee said sponsors for the event also are needed and their donations will help fund the restoration and ongoing maintenance of the Lake County Courthouse.
For more information about the nomination process or the Patriot Brunch, contact the Lake Courthouse Foundation at 219-663-0660. Potential sponsors can additionally contact Napoleon by email at email@example.com