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Photo by Frank Prager
Pete Kochersperger of Alton served in the Philippines during World War II.
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Kochersperger served as a ship fitter first class on a base that served as a supply station for seaplanes in the combat zone.
Pete Kochersperger is one of this area’s hometown heroes.
Born and raised in Alton, he graduated from Alton High School during World War II and did not wait for military service to find him. He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and soon found himself deployed in the conflict in the Philippine Islands.
Kochersperger, now 92, recounts his arrival in the Pacific Theater.
“The morning after we pulled into the harbor over there, we woke up to the sound of bombs and gunfire,” he says.
He ultimately was stationed on a base that served as a supply station for seaplanes going in and out of the combat zone. He was a ship fitter first class.
“Anything that went wrong, it was my job to fix,” Kochersperger said. “Anything from welding to plumbing.”
The base was near the island of Leyte and he remembers hearing bombing raids taking place on that island every morning and evening. Kochersperger was discharged when the war ended and managed to make it home for Thanksgiving in 1945.
Friendly and energetic, Kochersperger still lives independently and is regularly on the go. When asked the secret to his longevity, he explains simply that he has been active his entire life. He said he did a lot of hiking in his younger days.
Married to his wife, Arline, for 65 years before she passed away, Kochersperger has a son and a daughter. A truck driver for a Phillips 66 distributor for 32 years, he retired in 1981. He explains that he and his wife did a lot of camping. They traveled across the United States and often camped in state and national parks.
Kochersperger has long been interested in genealogy and has done extensive research on his family’s background, traveling to places like Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and even the country of France researching his family’s background. He says exploring cemeteries provides much of the information he uses to track his family’s history.
He characterizes his current activities as “hanging out with buddies,” but he is still amazingly active. He works out regularly and is a member of Healthy Body, Healthy Minds at Senior Services Plus in Alton. He spends a lot of time with his good friend Bob Mortland. A fellow veteran, Mortland and Kochersperger work out four days a week together.
“I hang out with Bob a lot,” Kochersperger says.
He met Mortland at the church they both attend, the Evangelical United Church Of Christ in Godfrey, and has known him for years.
In March, Kochersperger participated in the Veterans Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. The flight honors veterans by taking them to visit the monuments in that city honoring the military as well as seeing historic sites. His great-niece Cathy Johnson served as his guardian for the flight.
On the mail call conducted during the return flight home that evening, Kochersperger received 150 letters from schoolchildren expressing gratitude for his service. The flight was particularly special for Kochersperger because his friend Bob Mortland participated in the same flight.
World War II veterans fought in the largest conflict in history, and the nation remains free today because of their efforts. Pete Kochersperger is one of the heroes from that war to whom Alton and the entire nation owe a debt of gratitude.