Cpl. William Reinhart, who lived many years in Masury and Brookfield, was inducted into the Aerial Delivery and Field Services Department (ADFSD) Parachute Rigger Hall of Fame on Feb. 28 at the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Va.
Reinhart, who lived from 1919 to 2001, packed parachutes for the 323rd Bomb Group/455th Bomb Squadron in England and France from 1943 to 1945, according to a Fort Lee spokesman. He was part of a two-man team that prepared parachutes for the 455th’s B-26 Marauder medium bomber air crews.
Reinhart earned the Good Conduct Medal and the European African Middle Eastern Service Medal with six Bronze Stars during his service.
Reinhart’s grandson, Robert DelBane, of Chesterfield, W.Va., prepared the nomination information with help from his mom, Sue Mesaros; his stepdad, John Mesaros, a retired master sergeant; and his uncle, William Rinehart.
DelBane, who grew up in Hubbard and Hermitage, said he learned of the hall of fame while working as a technical writer at Fort Lee on parachute rigger aerial delivery manuals.
“So, I’m working with a lot of riggers and former riggers,” DelBane said. “They were telling me about the hall of fame. I said, ‘Oh, well my grandfather did that in the war.’ They were like, ‘Oh, yeah, you should totally nominate him.’”
Although Reinhart did not meet a lot of the induction criteria – he did not graduate from the school at Fort Lee, which was created after World War II, and did not make a career of the military – he likely was chosen because DelBane was able to document that his grandfather’s work saved lives. Three separate Marauders were shot down in 1944 in France and all or most of the crewmen who bailed out survived.
“There were a few dozen people who made it home to their families because he did his job,” DelBane said.
Reinhart, the son of Kenneth and Marie Reinhart, was born in Farrell, grew up in Masury, and played football for Brookfield High. He was trained as a carpenter before joining the Army Air Force in 1942.
Reinhart was stationed in England – billeting with a family in Colchester – and prepared parachutes for the Normandy invasion. After D-Day, he moved to France and supported missions across France and into Germany, including the Battle of the Bulge.
“He supported the big moments in the war,” said DelBane.
Reinhart got out in October 1945, and settled in Brookfield with the former Martha Christine Runyon. They had married Sept. 16, 1942, in Tampa while he was stationed at MacDill Field, where he trained as a parachute rigger and repairman. The couple had two children, William and Suzann, and the elder William Reinhart was a welder at General American Transportation Corp. in Masury for many years, retiring in the ’80s.
“When the war was over, he came back to the area and never really left,” DelBane said. “He didn’t travel much. He was very content to work at General American and go camping when he could. He enjoyed fishing and that was pretty much it. He was not an adventurer.”
Reinhart did not talk about his service very much with his family, but he kept in touch with some of the men he had served with, went to reunions when he could, and enjoyed air shows and Veterans of Foreign Wars fish fries.
“Cpl. Reinhart, Willy, to his friends, was never boastful about his service, but he was certainly proud,” DelBane said in his acceptance speech, which can be seen on the ADFSD Facebook page. “I know that he would be proud to be counted amongst today’s distinguished honorees.”
When DelBane enlisted in the Air Force, his grandfather offered one bit of advice: “Don’t volunteer for anything,’” DelBane said.
DelBane said he enjoyed the process of collecting information about his grandfather in preparation for the nomination.
“It definitely deepened my admiration, because I have a clearer idea of what he went through,” DelBane said.