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 Mike Aleo, left, pictured with a swastika flag he came across toward the end of World War II. He found the flag at a German command post in Royon, France. May 8 marks the 75th anniversary of V-E Day.

Mike Aleo, left, pictured with a swastika flag he came across toward the end of World War II. He found the flag at a German command post in Royon, France. May 8 marks the 75th anniversary of V-E Day.

Photo provided by Mike Aleo


WWII veteran discusses V-E Day for 75th anniversary

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published May 7, 2020

 World War II veteran Mike Aleo, of Clinton Township, was in France on V-E Day, May, 8, 1945, when Germany announced its surrender, officially ending the European phase of the war.

World War II veteran Mike Aleo, of Clinton Township, was in France on V-E Day, May, 8, 1945, when Germany announced its surrender, officially ending the European phase of the war.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

“Freedom is worth fighting for.”

Mike Aleo, World War II veteran

METRO DETROIT — In April 1945, a couple months after the Battle of the Bulge, Mike Aleo’s battalion was ready to cross the Rhine River, when it received orders to pull out and go west to Royon, France.  

“When we got there, the Germans wouldn’t surrender. It was a do or die deal,” Aleo said.

The battalion supported the French 2nd Army Infantry led by Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who reviewed Aleo’s battalion on April 22. In late April, German resistance collapsed. 

For the 75th anniversary of V-E Day — May, 8, 1945 when Germany announced its surrender, officially ending the European phase of the war — C&G Newspapers sat down with the 97-year-old Aleo, of Clinton Township. The interview was previously conducted in January. 

Aleo spent nearly three years in the Army, from February 1943 to January 1946. He and around 300 other men from Michigan served in a new battalion, the 257th Field Artillery. 

When asked if he gives much thought toward him playing a part in the Allied liberation of European countries, Aleo said he does, especially when he received the Legion of Honor Medal in March 2019 from the French Consulate.   

“I thought I did my part,” he said with a smile.  

Aleo said that after the German surrender, his unit’s responsibility shifted to operating as occupational troops until new troops came in. 

Once the surrender was official, he remembers coming across a young girl named Gretchen in Alerheim, Germany.

“She was the same age as my little sister, around 6, a cute little kid,” he said. “When the war first ended, they feared that people wouldn’t come out of their homes because they were scared. Kids would come out and we’d give them candy.”

Aleo said Gretchen’s father was a prisoner held in Russia, and believes he died in Russia.

“We treated them real well and when we left, her mother cried,” he said.    

Aleo’s overseas work during the war began in October 1944 when he arrived in England. His two clear memories from the war are the Battle of the Bulge and his time in Royon.

As a field wire chief in the Battle of the Bulge, Aleo remembers “all hell breaking loose. I don’t know how I wound up in an ambulance. I felt my arms and legs to make sure I was all together, which I was.”

He said he wasn’t sure if he experienced battle fatigue or what caused him to be in the ambulance.  

Aleo explained that when a wire broke, he had to get out and patch it up.

“They didn’t like to use radio, because of counter battery fire. They wanted to keep wire repaired all the time. I went out to repair it on foot, and for some reason, I ended up in the hospital,” Aleo said.  

He would run communication wires from the guns to the switchboard, then from the switchboard to battalion headquarters.

What Aleo wants younger generations to know about World War II is how much is required to keep America a free country.

“Look at these third-world countries and what’s going on in this world. We’re the only ones who are as free as we are,” he commented. “Freedom is worth fighting for.” 

Aleo has three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife Catherine died in 2014. He worked 25 years as a plasterer apprentice and another 15 years as a carpenter before retiring in 1984.