Durtschi Home
Arnold Alfred Durtschi

Arnold Durtschi
Written and copyright 2001 by
A. Mark Durtschi

          Alfred Durtschi, Arnold’s future dad, built his house in Teton Valley then went to Salt Lake City to find a wife. This was a large and modern house for the time and area, about 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. There was a bedroom and kitchen downstairs. Upstairs were two tiny bedrooms with slanted ceilings for when the children would be born. Ingeniously, it was insulated with saw-dust.1 Steep narrow stairs led to the upstairs. On the second floor there was no railing around the stairway. It is a miracle no children ever fell down through it in the dark.3
          Arnold was born 11 January 1917, followed by Isabel, Walter, and the twins, Lucy and Lucile. Arnold and Walt had the bedroom at the top of the stairs. A wall in the center of the room separated their bedroom from a smaller room their sisters slept in. In each room was a bed the children shared.6
          During the winters everyone huddled around the wood burning kitchen stove, the only source of heat.2 Before bedtime the kids got out their peach pits, and put them in the stove to heat. Sometimes Arnold heated a big rock. Then a few moments before bedtime the door to the upstairs was opened to let a bit of heat up to the bedrooms. After evening prayers the peach pits were put into bags and the children flew up the stairs, ripped off their clothes and jumped into bed with their warm bags. After the fire went out downstairs it was just as cold as if they had been outside. Inside the beds the children kept warm by the thick wool quilts their mother had made. Outside the bed frost formed on the tops of the blankets.1
          In the mornings the children scrambled into their clothes and dashed down to the kitchen to a warm fire their father had built before he went out to do chores. After warming up they each took their turns scrambling out to the two hole out house just west of the house. Isabel remembers these mad dashes in the middle of the winter as absolutely horrible. Some of those mornings when the air was moist it seemed like they got froze to the seat.1
          In the morning the children took turns doing the chores before they went to school. The cows had to be milked, and water was fetched 120 yards from the creek running behind the house. And the chamber pot had to be emptied in the outhouse, then washed out in the creek. The chamber pot stayed under the girls bed upstairs. It was passed around a certain amount but it's normal resting place was in the girls room.1 On wash days the children helped their mother wash in her new washing machine powered by a gasoline engine.2
          Alfred and Ida spoke little more than the Swiss dialect at home until after Arnold started school. Only speaking Swiss, Arnold had such a hard go of it at school they decided they must learn and speak only English at home. This worked out to their advantage after a few years. Whenever they didn't want the younger children to understand, they always reverted to Swiss. And whenever Alfred or Ida talked to their brothers or sisters they always spoke in Swiss.2,6
          Baths were taken in a small metal bath tub in the kitchen. After the big job of heating the water on the stove, the same water was used by everyone. The smallest children were bathed first, follow by the older children, then Ida and Alfred. When Alfred undressed, the girls turned their backs until he was in the tub. When everyone was finished, Alfred took the tub outside and threw it on the snow or grass.2
          In 1926 when Arnold was 9 years old Alfred became the bishop of Pratt Ward for 25 years. But through his kindness he didn't expect his children to act any different than any of the other kids.2
          Lucile recalls the family sang lots of songs around the house. She remembered, "We sang as we went out to get the cows. Then we'd sing songs after milking as we took the cows back out to the pasture. And then we'd sing more songs until it was dark and the moon was shining."2
          Later as an adult, Arnold swore that as a kid, a day didn't go by but he got a licking from his dad.6 The rest of the family say this just wasn't the case.1 But on knowing some of the things Arnold did, it is easy to understand why he felt that way.6
          On one occasion Arnold was sent to the creek to fill the tea kettle. As he came back up the trail some water splashed on him. He dropped the kettle and kicked it all over the pasture. He bent that thing every way that it was possible to bend it. His dad happened to be standing at the corner of the barn and saw it all. Payment came in the form of a three inch wide shaving strap. Alfred and Ida didn't have the means to get another tea kettle so even though it was all bent up they still used it. It was a sad looking thing sitting up there on the stove.1
          Another time when Arnold was about 10 years old they were standing above the garden on the hill. He and Isabel found a water snake. Arnold held the snake by it's tail, whipped it over his head and let it fly. The snake flew down the hill and wrapped around his mother's neck. This was such a shock to her that she fainted.1 And Alfred often went with a stick to find Arnold at the neighbors if he failed to do his work.7 However, Arnold wasn’t disciplined any more than any other child was of that era.
          When the Westons first came to America, Otto stayed with the family three or four years and slept in the bed with the boys.9 Once when Otto was in bed a bat flew in the open window. As he flew around, Otto moved fast getting under the covers. Bats always flew around, with Arnold and Walt not paying any attention to them.3
          The Christmas tree was decorated with candles which were lit three or four times during the holidays. The family spent Christmas Eve at their Aunt Elizabeth's. After the two families had visited for a while, Alfred always said he had to go out and hold Santa Claus's reindeer. Soon, a knock came on the west window. With excitement, the children all ran up to the window as Santa's robust face shone in. Then the children crowded around him at the open door. Alfred masked his voice, and talked in a high pitch. And the children never figured out that it was him. Santa brought the Christmas presents as well as candy, nuts, and sometimes an orange. Then they sang songs and ate home-made Ice cream.2 Once Fred Weston acted as Santa Claus. But his thick German accent came through clear as ever, and the kids knew right away that it was him.3
          Arnold was a very good student which one of the teachers, Fred Miller, would not let his sisters forget. It took us about 50 minutes to go to school in a covered wagon which had a stove in the middle. The wagon was completely enclosed except for a slit the driver used to guide the horses. In the early spring mornings the wagon was driven over the fields as the snow was over the tops of the fence posts.1
          On the early Spring nights when the moon was bright, the children got up at 4 am and pulled their sleighs to the top of Carlisle's Hill. It had a perfect grade with a run of a mile. Their sleighs easily got up to speeds of 30 to 40 mph.1 Arnold had a sled better than anyone else's. The runners weren't flat like most sleds, but were round. It was the fastest sleigh anyone had seen.5
          Alfred and Ida purchased a musical instrument for everyone in the family then encouraged them to practice. Arnold played the clarinet, Isabel played a Baritone Horn, Walter played the trumpet, Lucy played the clarinet and the Saxophone, and Lucile played a Baritone Horn and violin. Sometimes they would each practice in their little house at the same time.2 The kids of the neighborhood organized a little band. Ella Nola, Walter, Reed, Walter, Ray, and Arnold were in it. They went to different houses to practice.5
          The kids were teased relentlessly because of their red hair. "Red head, red head, fire in the woodshed," was often ringing. Isabel recalls, "On one occasion one of my dear friends was pestering Arnold and would not let up. I got sick of it and lit right into her. We had a real hair pulling fist throwing fight, but after it was all over she didn't badger Arnold any more and what's more, we were still friends."1
          Arnold's nick-name was Tiger Lilly. Some people called him Red, but mostly it was Tiger Lilly. Pratt Ward was the darnedest place for nick-names. It was those Jackobson guys. And Arnold was a pretty good scrapper. One day he had a fight with Elmer Johnson and gave him a pretty good whipping.5
          Alfred milked 25 to 30 cows. The cream was separated from the milk, and sent to Salt Lake. Then the pigs got the milk. It took the kids an hour in the separator room for every milking. After Kaufman's cheese factory was started, Alfred sent the milk over there.9
          When Arnold was 12 or 13, Alfred decided he was old enough to handle the horses on the farm. First Alfred put him on the bull rake. It wasn't long before he could handle those horses like an old pro.2
          During the early years the hay was cut with a scythe, raked by hand, and thrown loose on a trailer before being brought to the barn where it was put into the hay loft. After the barn was full it was stacked outside using a derrick.1 Later, instead of using a derrick to raise the hay on the stack, an overshot was built to throw the hay up on the stack. Arnold built the metal parts, and Armine built the wood parts.3
          The Burgeners were great guys to want to race horses. They always were bragging how fast their horses could run. There were races all the time.7
          The boys from all these families were always playing. Whenever they caught fish, squirrels, or birds they used the hopper from the grinder as a grill to cook them on. They placed it upside down and built a fire underneath. Then on top of the small opening they placed a grill. One Sunday they got together and went up Spring Creek fishing. There was all the rowdies: Armine, Verl, Ruel Moss, Claud Waddell, Elmer Hill, and his brothers, and Arnold. Then they came back with their fish, lit a fire under the old hopper, and started cooking them.3
          Throughout the Summers Alfred kept cattle up Spring Creek in the mountains. Higher on the mountain sheep were kept and occasionally the herders came down with news the cattle had strayed too high. It fell to Arnold to move them back down and make frequent checks on them. Armine tells us, "Going up spring creek was one of the happiest moments of our lives. Arnold and I often saddled our horses, took our dogs, and headed for the mountains. One day we happened on a lake and went there almost every time we went up into the mountains. We wondered how deep it was, and one day led our horses in. They couldn't touch the bottom which really got us nervous. We didn't know horses could swim and were sure they would drown. After their feet went off the bottom, why, here they were, just paddling around. We ran around the edges and kept them in there for a little while, just to watch them swim. We also had great fun rolling rocks. We went up on the side of the mountain, jarred a big rock loose, and let it sail. Sometimes it cut a tree off as big as a foot across."7
          The family's first car was a Model T Ford. It was a marvelous improvement over horse and wagon. Yet by today's standards it did have some problems. Going to Jackson one year they ended up literally pushing it over Teton Pass. Isabel relates, "We were behind the car pushing our very souls out trying to get that thing over the mountain. The radiator was steaming and boiling and we wondered if we were ever going to make it. Once we got to the top of the Pass we cut a tree down and tied it to the back of the car to help slow the car down as we went down the other side. When we went down the other side the brake bands were smoking. So it was hot going up and hot going down."1
          Lucile adds, "On our way to church we had no trouble going down the first big dug way, but on the way back from church, the car couldn't make it back up. Every time we all had to get out and push."2 The car could only be used in the Summers. When winter came we used the wagon and horses because the roads were so bad.7
          In 1931 when Arnold was about 14 years old, Alfred and Ida got electricity in their house.1 At the time Walter was sick, upstairs in bed. He recalls, "And while I laid there, a man came up the stairs and started drilling holes in the ceiling, floor, and wall between the bedrooms. Then he pulled some wires up through the hole from the downstairs, into the room where I was. It wasn't long before he had a wire run through the wall into the girls bedroom, and one to the center of Arnold's and my room. When he was finished stringing all his wires and stapling them down to the walls and ceiling, there was a wire dangling down in the center of each of the two upstairs bedrooms. The last thing he did was connect a light bulb socket to the bottom of each of the two sets of wires in each room, and screw in the light bulbs. I watched this with a great amount of interest. By now, I was not alone, but Isabel was paying quite a lot of attention to the activity in her room as well. When the man had finished, a light bulb hung in the center of each of our rooms with a chain and string dangling from them. By the time he went back down stairs, I had completely forgotten how sick I was. In fact, I wasn't even in bed. We played with the pull cords even before they turned on the electricity. We pulled the cord very carefully at first. Would we ever be in trouble if we broke these things! It was fun just listening to the switching sound it made as we gently pulled down on the cord time and again. Then later in the day when they actually turned the electricity on to the house we really had fun turning our lights on and off! I tell you, we gave those pull cords a real work-out the first couple of days! But the real exciting thing didn't happen until the sun went down. As it started getting dark outside, inside it stayed almost as light as it was in our room during the day. It didn't get dark! Can you believe it? There was absolutely no comparison between how much light an oil lamp gave out and our new light bulb."3
          But something that was even better than the new electric lights came shortly later when the family got water in the house. A well was dug by hand. At 28 feet they found water. Then they dug down two more feet for good measure. Alfred put an electric water pump in it. Then he ran the water pipe through the outside wall above the kitchen sink and put a faucet on the end.1
          As a teenager one year, Arnold's last day of school was spent up Teton Canyon with his class. Someone started rolling rocks, and one of them caught Arnold's right leg opening up a 31" tear along the whole back side of his calf.7,12 The bleeding was profuse and almost uncontrollable. Considering the amount of blood he lost it was surprising it did not kill him. It was so serious that after he got out of the hospital he had his leg in a cast for a couple of months during the summer. He used crutches to get around, and got so that he could run with them. He could run up or down a hill just like a deer.2 The cast kept his leg half bent. When the cast was finally taken off, his leg would not straighten out. Everyone was concerned that Arnold would be crippled for life. Alfred and Ida took Arnold to Dr. Redner's office above the bank. The doctor sat Arnold in a chair, put the foot of his bad leg on another chair, and bounced up and down on his knee. Gradually, after a lot of persistence by both the Doctor and Arnold, he finally got full movement back in his leg.6,8
          Alfred got one of the first telephones in the valley to help him as Bishop. It was the old, wooden oblong type with the crank handle, and bell-mouth mouthpiece coming out from the front of it. To make a call, Alfred picked the receiver up and turned the crank handle. A switch-board operator in Driggs answered, and connected him to whoever he wanted to speak with. Everyone was on a party line in those days, and each family had a certain ring. To avoid others from listening in Alfred spoke German.2
          As a teenager, Arnold had great fun with his friends. One of the families had a model A ford. Ruel Moss recalls, "If we could get it going down the road at 50 miles and hour, we were going at high speed." They were good kids going out to have a good time. For fun one time they put a harness on a cow. They didn't do anything destrutive.4 In the Winter after church, they got together and had a horse pull them on their skis over a jump they had made.4 And there was always some activity going on at the Pratt Ward. The Ward was always having parties and dances.5
          The family's Star automobile was the first car Arnold drove. And Arnold started driving it down to the swamps to milk the cows and to school in the fall.1
          The family used the out-house until Lucy and Isabel got off their missions.2
          At 20 years old, Arnold entered the mission home on the 10th of November, 1937. He entered the mission field with high hopes and lots of faith.11 After Arnold had been on his mission six months, Thomas E. McKay, his mission president transferred him to the very small branch in Langnau. Here, he and his companion were the Branch President, Sunday School teachers, and just about every other calling in the branch. Langnau quickly got Arnold comfortable giving talks.10
          Four months later the missionaries were moved out of Langnau and Arnold was transferred 24 Km to Burgdorf with Elder Ed Rindlisbacher. They became fast and true friends. They were busy fellows as their area included Langnau. Two times a week they rode their bikes back and fourth between Burgdorf and Langnau to the different church meetings.10
          Like most missionaries of the time, they had no kitchen or way of cooking in their room and usually ate bread, jam, and cheese. Sometimes they ate out.11
          As both Arnold and Elder Rindlisbacher's parents came from this area, they could speak the local dialect. They fell right in with the Swiss. As Arnold and his companion talked the dialect with them, the people listened. And they not only listened, but wanted to talk to the missionaries as well. Sometimes they were accused of being local boys. "No, you are not from America, you speak the Bern dialect too well," they would say.11,8
          Riding their bikes was sometimes miserable. Going to a mission conference they encountered 18 inches of snow on one of the passes and missed the conference by 10 hours. On another occasion in the Summer Elder Rindlisbacher looked back just in time to see Arnold's coat sleeve catch in the spokes of his front tire. His rear tire rose off the ground, as he began to go over front-wards. Instead of going over in one easy movement, his momentum only took him up to the balancing point. Then he teetered there for an instant as he stood up on the front of it, desperately trying to regain control. Unfortunately, he had a bit too much forward momentum. And instead of him falling back down on his tires, he toppled forward over the top of his handlebars onto the pavement with his bike falling on top of him. His bike didn't fare very well. Arnold's weight had bent the fork back so far that his front wheel wouldn't turn. They both sat on the road and put their feet together. Arnold grabbed the back wheel, and Ed had the front wheel. They pulled and pulled until the bike was just rideable again.11
          Arnold loved mountain climbing and they went on several expeditions. During one of their trips to the Matterhorn area they got up before dawn, then hurried up a mountain to it's summit. They got on top just in time to watch the sun come up on the Matterhorn.11
          Back in Burgdorf the mission president wanted to transfer them two different times. But the members found it out, and wrote to him, begging him not to do it. This happened through two different transfers.11
          The Summer of 1938 saw great turmoil in Europe. It seemed the world was literally falling apart at the seams. Often Arnold and Ed listened to Hitler talking to his people on the radio. Everyone knew there was going to be a war. Because of Switzerland's border with Germany, the threat of war created great alarm. The missionaries were told they would soon be going home.11
          Arnold wrote home to his family, "I am still in Switzerland... It won't be long before we will be leaving here, going to sea and returning to our beloved United States..."10
          After spending a year together, Ed was transferred out of the area in August, 1939.11 Henry Duersch was Arnold's new companion. Henry was Arnold's cousin and grew up with Arnold in Pratt Ward. Their mothers were sisters. Henry had been serving in Germany and by the narrowest of margins escaped before the borders with Germany were closed.18
          "On the first day of September, 1939, the Third Reich invaded Poland," Ed informs us. "Poland fought desperately, but their scabbards and calvary proved no contest for the mechanization of Germany's armor. Oh, the reports that came over the radio of the people who were losing their lives. There was an enormous number of Polish people dieing. Hitler's big army pushed his way over the top with little resistance as he literally crushed the Polish resistance."11
          That evening at 5:10 PM Arnold wrote home tenderly, "At home in Teton Valley it is now 10 minutes before seven o'clock in the morning. I wonder if you know this very minute what we know. And if you know, are you worried about me..." Later in the letter Arnold related how he learned about the start of the war. "We were almost finished with our dinner when someone came to the door and said that the war had began. We all left our dinner and went outside and in the distance we could hear the church bell ringing. ...The Swiss Army was being called to go to the border. Immediately, the man of the house got his things ready and was on his way within a half hour. All around things are humming. People are saying good-by: wives to husbands, mothers to sons, and fathers to children. Well, it has started, no one knows how long it will last."10
          The missionaries were told not to do any more missionary work. Only women, old men, and boys remained. Women asked them, 'Why aren't you in the service?' To keep from continually answering the question they stayed in their apartments.11
          About the first week of November, after Arnold had spent 2 years on his mission, Arnold and Henry's turn arrived to return to the United States. They remained companions during the journey through France and over the Atlantic.18
          President McKay counseled them to get to Bordeaux, France, the best way they could, to be careful, and then he wished them good luck.11
          The train stations in Switzerland and France were in a state of near hysteria. There were hundreds of people anxious to leave. Everyone was impatiently waiting for the train which was many hours late. At last, when it did come, it had not yet stopped when a mad scramble began. Everywhere people were pushing and crowding, trying to be some of the first to get on the train.11
          At first, as the passengers entered the cars, as many people as possible sat down. Then the single isle became crowded as the car began to be filled to overflowing with people happy just for a place to stand. The entrance and foyer near the door in the back of the car was the last part of the car to fill. This area was also quickly chucked full of people, as more people pushed, and crowded to try and get on. When no more people could get on, six or eight people hung on the steps as the train slowly started to roll out of the station.11
          As the excitement of boarding subsided somewhat, a gradual feeling of relief settled in. Everyone felt lucky just to be on the train. This scene was repeated many times as they traveled through Switzerland and France. Arnold and Henry probably stood up all day and all night for days as the train slowly moved through the country side.11
          A very solemn feeling must have come over Arnold as the train entered France. He was leaving Switzerland, never to see it again. Several times in France the train stopped in the country for no apparent reason at all. All in all, it took them three or four times longer than normal to get to Paris.11
          Bombs dropped on Paris daily. Finally the train for Bordeaux was boarded, then the ship for the United States.11 Arnold spent the last 6 months of his mission in Chicago before returning home.2
          As an interesting reflection on Arnold's mission, about 15 years after Arnold's mission, a sister missionary returned to Pratt Ward to report her mission. She said that one day she was visiting a member in Switzerland and the subject came up of where she came from. Immediately, the lady disappeared, returning with a picture she said, "I want you to see the best missionary that ever came to Switzerland." It was a picture of Arnold.8 (In the 1980's, David Edlefsen, Lucile's son, had a similar experience in a Swiss ward.6)
          During the next two years following his mission, Arnold attended Utah State in Logan, rooming with Ruel and Ray Moss, and his brother, Walter. The four took turns cooking. Always for breakfast they had oatmeal and eggs. For supper they had macaroni and cheese, and macaroni with tomatoes. When they ate macaroni and tomatoes, they cooked the macaroni, then opened a can of tomatoes and threw it in. And aside from the Rice pudding Arnold occasionally made, this was their main diet.4
          After Arnold completed his third year of college he was drafted, entering the Army on the 18th of December, 1942, at Pocatello, Idaho.12
          After Basic Training Arnold was sent to the Fire Director Computer and Radio Telephone Operator Schools.12
          And then Arnold fell into a bit of luck. There were so many soldiers in the army that all the camps were overflowing. And because the colleges were empty some of the more academically advanced soldiers were put back in college. Arnold went to the University of Pittsburgh for six months to learn Russian.16,14
          Arnold quickly found some great friends. On their off time they went to the dances with the Russian immigrant girls in the area. Arnold was a great dancer. Anna Kopka was about his height and loved dancing with him. For fun when they danced he tried to see if he could make her break step. No matter how hard he tried to send the wrong signals she would keep up with him.14
          After 24 weeks of school 12 the Army decided they needed everyone, and the army school was closed before the end of the second term. Arnold went to the 95th Infantry Division which was at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.14 and was assigned to the 358th Field Artillery Battalion, Headquarters Battery.12
          The battalion was alerted, and on the 5th of August, 1944, they boarded the SS Mariposa. Red Cross girls distributed doughnuts and coffee to the soldiers. They left the harbor on the following day.20
          The voyage was uneventful except for a submarine attack the first night out of Boston. But the ship was not hit.17 After spending three weeks in England they landed in France at Omaha Beach on the 11th of September, 1944.20
          On October the 20th, 1944, Arnold entered combat in the battle of Metz, France. During these times, Arnold acted as a forward observer, sitting in the top of a castle, directing fire.2 Arnold later wrote to one of his buddies that he had been under fire for the first time and that it wasn't as bad as he had anticipated.14
          Probably Arnold's closest brush with death happened on 15 December. They were having lunch between two old walls of some bombed out buildings. With no more warning than the whistle a falling artillery shell gives, a huge shell ripped a four foot hole in one of the walls and penetrated the ground between them, yet it didn't explode. Of course, had it exploded, there would not have been any pieces left to of them to find.17 Arnold's Patriarchal Blessing clearly stated he would be blessed during time of war.
          Arnold also worked in the Fire Control Center during his time in France, computing directions from the forward observers.17 And he also worked as a radio operator, and doing minor repairs on his buddies radios.12 As the front moved closer and then into Germany, the Battalion Commander chose Arnold to be his personal driver as he spoke fluent German.6,17 In many ways, Arnold now became one of the more indispensable men in the unit as he operated the battalion commander's vehicle and voice radio in maintaining communications between headquarters and the outposts.12 He was in and out of the communications center, but was no longer a permanent worker there.21
          The men of Arnold's outfit remembered him as the nice guy with the red, curly hair, who liked to read. Arnold didn't pal around with anyone too much. He spoke to everyone, but he kept to himself.16
          As the driver, Arnold went on reconnaissance with the officers when scouting out new areas for the battalion. When the front was moving fast, this happened almost every day.17 Arnold related that on entering a town they had just shelled, they went to open a garage door, and as they opened it, three dead Germans fell out. They had been leaning up against the inside of the door when a artillery shell landed near by. Even though they didn't have a scratch on them, they had been killed by the shock of the explosion.6
          In camp they never left anything behind that might be used by the enemy. They buried everything they used, such as tin cans, and garbage. But while in Europe they never dug a fox hole.6
          As they neared the Rhine, one of their big guns fired shells over the river all night long -- to prevent the enemy from sleeping too well at night.6
          The 358th participated in closing the Ruhr Pocket. As the liberating forces moved forward, thousands of Allied prisoners of war and deported laborers of all nationalities were liberated. Huge numbers were on the road back to France, sporting ribbons on their shirt fronts of home made miniature flags. They waved gaily at American convoys, hungry and dirty, but actively taking advantage of their liberation. Many of these, men and women alike, stopped hungrily and shyly at the battery messes. They were invited to eat, such meals as they hadn't tasted for years.20
          At this time Arnold's language skill took on real significance as an interpreter. He was kept busy interrogating suspected German soldiers who started falling into their hands in ever greater numbers.10
          As they moved inland they were met by the most terrible stench. The whole country side reeked of rotting flesh. Arnold asked the refugees coming towards them what was causing the revolting smell. They answered that they didn't know. But Arnold reasoned they must know, it being so terrible. They soon discovered it came from a prison camp.6
          Arnold's unit was tasked to help the camp that had been freed only three hours earlier. In the camp the Germans had a large open trench filled with bodies. After a count was made, it was determined there were between three and four hundred bodies of men, women, and children. They had committed no crimes but were killed to prevent them from telling their story. The bodies were laying one on top of another. Arnold's outfit figured the Germans had forced them to dig the hole first, then herded them in it, and machine-gunned them. Then the Germans poured diesel over them and set them on fire. After discovering this, they noticed a guy dressed in civilian clothes, with sympathy, holding a charred body of a little child. It was later found that he was the camp commander. He had quickly changed into civilian clothes before we got there. The US Army got all the German people in that town, and made them dig individual graves for each of these people. They didn't have coffins for them. so they were sent into the woods to pick fir boughs to line each grave with.17 No doubt, as the Battalion Commander's interpreter, Arnold was heavily involved with this operation. (And perhaps it has a great deal to do with the fact his family could never get him to talk about his war experiences.)
          German soldiers in civilian cloths were apprehended constantly. Lone infantry guards added to the general turmoil when they appeared leading long lines of prisoners.20 Mixed in with this menagerie was a constant line of civilians heading West who didn't want to end up on the Russian side.6
          These poor souls idealized the American troops. They came up to the GI's with excited smiles and cheered, "Americonish, Americonish"!17
          The one labor camp turned into many the battalion was responsible for. Often when the people were freed from those camps, they were starving for food and water. They got down in the ditch on their hands and knees and lapped up water like a dog. Then they were too weak to get up, and fell over in the water. If some of the guys hadn't helped them up, they would have drowned, because they couldn't help each other. The German people walked right by as if they weren't there.17
          Arnold was instrumental in going around to the little towns where they found the mayor or Burgermeister. He told them trucks would be in the town square the next morning. The mayor was to round up all the slave laborers in the town and on the surrounding farms and have them ready for pickup.17
          The 358th fired its last rounds in the war on the 14th of April, 1945. During the war the battalion fired a grand total of 68,273 rounds, more than any other outfit in the European theater.20
          For the following weeks Arnold was kept busy interviewing refugees coming into the American sector. On the 30th of April, Arnold was excited to discover he was interviewing a General in the German Army.14
          On the 5th of May Arnold received the Bronze Star for "heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy. It stated in part, "Technician Fourth Grade Durtschi, a radio operator, frequently accompanied his battalion commander into forward areas still under small arms and machine gun fire, performing his duties in a conspicuously superior manner despite great personal danger. His heroic, devoted service throughout an extended phase of combat contributed materially to the battle efficiency of his unit..."22
          Arnold's battalion left Germany on the 12th of June and Europe on the 22nd of June. Back in the U. S on the 29th, the battalion took a 30 day block leave before deployment to the Pacific.20 When they returned, Arnold wasn't with them. He had been permitted to pursue other plans.6
          During the 358's preparation for deployment, the Atom bomb was dropped and they were no longer needed. Inactivation was completed at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, on 12 October 1945.20
          Arnold received an early release from the Army to help his father on the farm.6 He was separated on the 5th of August, 1945, at Ft. Douglas, Utah. Arnold spent 2 years, 7 months, and 18 days in the Army. Almost 11 of those months were spent in Europe. Arnold was lucky. Physically, weighing 149 lbs, his only signs of wear were the 11 lbs he lost since joining the Army.12
          After the war, Arnold went back to Utah State in Logan where he finished his senior year and got a degree in agriculture. From there he went home to work on the farm for a couple of years, flavored with a with a bit of school teaching.6
          Arnold also spent a good deal of time at home helping with the farm. It was during this time he met Marian Heileson, a very pretty dark eyed girl from Tetonia. They were married on October the 30th, 1946, in the Idaho Falls Temple.6,8
          They lived four years in their honeymoon suite which was a small bug infested portable shack located on 120 acres of farm land his father had given them before their marriage. In the shack they shared glorious dreams. Marian had always wanted 10 children and a huge house was planned to accommodate them. Marian and Arnold designed a Swiss Chalet and determined the dimensions of the rooms. Then, Arnold turned it into professionally looking plans. They moved into it when the nursery and kitchen were finished. But everywhere else in the house the walls and ceilings were 2x4's. The main floor was finished about 1954 with the upstairs finished a few of years later. The basement really never did get finished.6,8
          Including one 6 and a half month premature birth where the baby died, ten children were born into this family. They shared a simple existence living on what the farm provided. On the farm, Arnold had a small dairy of about 20 cows. They had all the milk and cheese they wanted to eat. Every Fall, Arnold slaughtered a young steer which supplied a year of meat.6
          Arnold was skilled in many areas. He was a good welder, and carpenter. He used all the latest scientific methods in raising his crops. He really made those hay fields produce.5
          Arnold was always introducing fun of one nature or another, and knew how to get his kids involved in the ruckus. Their son Ralph states, "When I was three or four he'd come in from working and start playfully chasing Mom around the house. She'd be screaming. Bringing up the rear was a bunch of kids shouting, "GET HER! GET HER! GET HER!" We loved to watch them. He'd catch her, and with his strong arms throw her up in the air."23
          About the only annual vacation the family got was the yearly Stake campout up Teton Canyon.8 Les Henry made a bunch of canvas hammocks for the kids. There was always a friendly competition about who could get their hammock the highest in the trees. The winner was always David Durtschi. He was the biggest, and could therefore get his hammock the highest.23
          The family always went on at least one hike each year. We often went to the Wind Caves, the Ice Caves, Table Rock, and all around the Tetons. Arnold loved the mountains, and through him his children gained a love for them too.8
          "Picnics were a different matter," Ralph remembers. "We went on several every summer. And they were always in the canyons, usually up Teton Canyon, but sometimes Darby Canyon or up Jackson Pass, or Piney Pass. And every time we'd go anywhere, Dad would sing. He sang in English. After we'd get bored with that, he'd sing the same song in German. Then when we got bored with that he'd switch to "Diana Won't You Blow," or "Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone." And then he had his hiking songs such as "The Happy Wanderer".23
          Ralph continues, "On another occasion Dad was down working on the combine, again with a herd of little children following him, when a bear came around. Dad had his gun in the granary and took all us kids, got his gun, and locked us in. This really frightened us and we started crying our eyes out. We thought we were going to get eaten. He shot the bear then let us out. Dad didn't throw the bear away either, faithful to his frugality, Mom made soap with the bear fat and a rug was made from the skin. Milo Dalley got the meat.23
          "Dad's only life-long hobby was photography.8 Having no money, he built his own photographic enlarger from an old hair dryer his sister, Isabel, had given him. And this characterized his life in many ways. He was a study in resourcefulness for making due with what his own creative genius produced.23 A little later he built himself a little darkroom upstairs. Everywhere we went, Dad had his camera. When we went over Jackson Pass he always had to stop and take pictures of the Jackson Valley. Mom teamed up with dad and had him take photos of subjects for portrait artwork.8
          "Dad loved being a farmer. He joyed in hard work, and delighted in tilling the soil. He taught his sons and daughters to work very hard. In helping us to learn life's lessons, Dad gave each of his us a calf and let us raise it.8
          "Dad loved his cows. Before we had the barn, Dad carried his little stool and his bucket out into the yard where the cows were chewing their cuds in the shade. Dad gently walked up to them, sat down, and milked them right there. And standing out in the open like that they didn't move an inch. They loved him, I guess. He always told us, 'Don't holler at my cows, and don't whip them.'23
          "Dad always put our hay up loose out in the field. I think he got satisfaction out of doing it the old fashioned way. In the winter, Dad put a hay rack on his bob sleigh, hooked up the horses and headed out through the deep snow to his stack. Then we all worked, throwing hay from the stack onto the wagon. Before leaving for home, Dad built us little tunnels in the hay. We all got in there and played during the long ride home.23
          "One day as we were bringing the hay home, I held a pitch fork off the back and dragged it on the road. Dad couldn't hear it because he was on the other end driving, but the horses could. The horses started trotting, then they started galloping, then they were in a dead run. Dad wasn't trying to get them to go and couldn't figure out what was happening. Finally he looked around and saw what I was doing and he said, 'Now quit doing that, you'll run these horses to death.23
          "Dad was so fair and caring about us children," Ralph explained, "Several years later I was away working for a man. We had agreed on a certain salary. After the Summer, when it came time to pay, the guy came and talked to Dad. 'I just can't afford that much money,' He said. 'I know we agreed on it, I know I owe that much to your son, but I just can't afford it.' Dad said, 'How much can you afford?' The guy paid me that, and Dad made up the difference.23
          "He was always helpful and willing to drop what he was doing and go help someone who needed it. For many years he and his old green John Deere tractor was the wrecker for anyone running into a snow drift within a mile of the house. People came to the house, and he'd quickly go and pull them back on the road.23
          "His mode of teaching was by example," Ralph concludes, "He was just himself and let you watch. One of the most valuable things he taught any of us kids was how to work. And we never got preached to. But if we asked for advice, he would give it to us. He let us learn by our mistakes and tried to let us go and learn."23
          Arnold's typical day consisted of getting up at 6:00 and going with one of his sons down to milk the cows. Back at the house at 7:30 he helped get the family's breakfast of mush, then we had our daily family prayer kneeling beside the table. After breakfast, he rounded up his kids and went out to the farm to work. At lunch time which was usually 1:00 PM, the family had their big meal of the day. After lunch, Arnold almost always took a 15 minute nap, then back to the farm until the evening milking with another of his sons. After he came back to the house, the family shared a light supper of bread, butter, jam and fruit.6
          Around 1962 Arnold started shaking, and it didn't seem there was anything he could do to stop it. A few months later the problem was diagnosed as Parkinson's disease.6 Arnold went to the hospital. The ward did all his planting that year. Over the years there have been acts of kindness too numerous to mention displayed to Arnold and his family by Pratt Ward.6
          During the early years of Arnold's Parkinson's disease, his strength of spirit and quiet composure intensified with the passing time, as did the Lord's blessings on his head. On several occasions the Lord honored Arnold's Priesthood blessings by creating wonderful miracles in the lives of his children. It is probable that at least two of his children would not be here now if it wasn't for the Lord's blessings.6,23
          More years slipped by, and gradually, one by one, the children grew up and moved away to school and jobs. Arnold's illness progressed, and he gradually got worse and worse. Through all of these times one of Arnold's highest priorities was his children. During Heidi's mission in Hong Kong Arnold's Parkinson's disease had advanced enough that it was very difficult for him to write. Heidi states, "I'd get these little Aerograms with Dad's little tiny chicken scratch. But his thoughts were very clear. One letter in particular I could tell must have been very hard for him to write. The words went here, and then they went there. At the end of his letter he said, 'This is looking more and more like a contour map of Old Baldy. I'd better close.' He never lost his sense of humor, and those letters are treasures to me now."8
          Arnold studied the scriptures. He really studied them, he didn't just read them. Then he wrote his thoughts about what he had learned. Arnold's little library contained tablets and tablets full of his notes. Arnold ensured the family had regular Family Home Evening, and daily family prayer. He honored his priesthood, and magnified it. And he was a faithful Latter-day Saint. He just never missed his meetings, and diligently worked in his callings.23
          During these times Arnold's son, Ralph, asked him, "What is the most important thing you think I should do right now, out of everything."23
          He just said three words, "Go to church." Arnold knew when all was said and done that the Gospel was everything, and without it there was nothing.23
          Arnold was generous. Whenever his sisters went up to Alta to visit, he often gave them money for their missionaries, or if he had just butchered a cow, he gave much of it to them.2
          As the Parkinson's Disease worsened, Arnold held on to his way of life with every fiber of his strength. On most of the things he did, he tried over and over again to do it right. He'd go out on the tractor to push up the loose hay. His brittle muscles were nearly uncontrollable as he worked, and worked, and worked, and tried over and over again to do it right. He did not give up to that disease until he absolutely had to.24
          More time passed. With Arnold's muscles mostly tight and bound he seldom got out. Whenever any of his children came home they always asked, "Hi Dad, how you doin'?"24
          And he'd say, "Fine." They knew he wasn't. All his muscles were sore and ached with pain. The powerful medications he was taking was progressively clouding his mind. Yet no one ever heard him complain. He had a tradition of doing it right the first time.23
          Several times before, Marian had taken Arnold down to the Veteran's Hospital in Salt Lake City to try new medications. There was always the hope something new would help. On one occasion, about three years before his death, she took him down for another of these three day visits. This last time, as was their custom, they removed all his medication before seeing if something new would work. Three days later Marian went down to see how Arnold was doing. Because of his lack of medication each and every muscle in his body had tightened up into a strangulating knot. He could not even move to open his eyes. When Arnold heard her voice, tears freely rolled down, wetting his pillow. He must have felt such joy and relief that she was there. Marian rushed out, found the doctor and cried, "What is the matter with him?"13
          "He is dieing," he said, (as if implying, "Isn't that why you brought him here?") Arnold quickly got his medication, and Marian brought him back home. From that time until his dieing day she knew she was on her own. Medical science had laid the burden down. From that time on, Marian took complete care of him herself.13
          Arnold lived many more years than most Parkinson patients and it is because of the tender care he received from Marian. During the last few years of his life she got him up in the morning, dressed him, and fed him. Then she went to work at the Hospital. At lunch she came home, gave him his lunch, took care of his other needs, and went back to the hospital to work. In the evenings she came home, fixed him supper, and put him to bed. During the last couple of years he was mostly incoherent, yet she always loved and respected him, even though he was a total invalid. Many people suggested that she should put him in a rest home, but she would have nothing to do with putting away her mate.6
          As the end grew nearer, Marian remained dedicated to him. Months passed as she gave him drinks of water in a teaspoon as that was the quickest way he could take it. Arnold started eating less, and less. Daily, Marian fixed mush, soup, stew, and tenderly fed him a few bites, until he would eat no more.6
          On the 21st of January, 1985, Arnold slipped away, with his wife and daughter at his bedside: Arnold's death put into force a heavenly testament of a man's great faith and endurance, and his wife's eternal devotion to him. This story will no doubt live for generations in the lives of his posterity.6
          In memorial to Arnold, may we part with the following thoughts:
          Dr. Kitchener Head remembers Arnold's hands: "I bet I could close my eyes and shake hands with a hundred people and know which hand was Arnold's. He had strong hard hands, because he worked so hard, like Walter's."
          He was a friend to everyone.23 One of his greatest qualities was his love for all mankind. He had a little plaque in his room which read, "Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man." And he lived that.8
          Armine remembers, "Arnold was a power for good, regardless of where it was. At times when I was down, I would generally confide in him. He said, 'You aren't going to be a quitter, are you'? That shook me. I will be grateful for Arnold for eternity."7
          Arnold left his children with a love for the Swiss culture and Swiss heritage. Every man in life builds a monument. As Arnold's children remember their dad, they see the farm he built as his monument. But more important, Arnold has left them a legacy of great faith and endurance. Through inheritance he has given them the strength and courage to face the adversity in their own lives and enjoy a life of real happiness through good doing. And with the Lord's blessings all these things are possible.8,6


  1.  Isabel Walker (Arnold’s sister)
  2.  Lucile Edlefsen (Arnold’s sister)
  3.  Walter Durtschi (Arnold’s brother)
  4.  Ruel Moss  (Lived up Spring Creek)
  5.  Guy Nelson (Neighborhood buddy)
  6.  Mark Durtschi (Things his Dad, Arnold, told him)
  7.  Armine Durtschi (Arnold’s boy-hood chum)
  8.  Heidi Peterson (Arnold's daughter)
  9.  Otto Weston  (Married into extended family)
 10.  Arnold's writings (letters, mostly)
 11.  Edward Rindlisbacher (Arnold’s missionary companion)
 12.  U.S. Army Records
 13.  Marian Durtschi, Arnold's wife
 14.  Fred Edmundson (An army buddy)
 16.  Morice Doyl  (Officer in Dad’s company)
 17.  Archie Mahoney (Arnold’s First Sergeant in WWII)
 18.  Mrs. Henry Duersch
 19.  University of Pittsburgh Records
 20.  History of the 358th Field Artillery Battalion
 21.  Herb Otrogle (Amateur historian for 358th)
 22.  Newspaper clipping (Teton Valley News?)
 23.  Ralph Durtschi (Arnold's son)
 24.  Roger Durtschi (Arnold's son)

Durtschi.com Admin: mark@durtschi.com

Page Updated: 30 Jan 2015