Saturday, August 1, 2009

Around Town: A bit of a mystery (Harold E. Lotze)

Harold E. Lotze is a bit of a mystery.

His parents were immigrants. His father, William, had been born in Germany. His mother, Irma, was born in Poland. His older sister, Louise, was born in Germany in 1916.

By 1918, perhaps after Armistice Day on Nov. 11, the Lotze family emigrated to the United States. Their first stop was Arizona, where young Harold was born. He was followed by a little sister, Elsie.

By 1921, the family moved to Inglewood, where his father worked as a dental technician. In California, the youngest sister, named Selma or Saima, was born, according to the nearly-illegible yet indispensable 1930 census.

By 1940, the Lotzes had moved to La Cañada. They lived in a fine house in the 4600 block of Lasheart, our town’s “Street of Heroes.” That year, a Los Angeles Times photographer snapped a candid shot of 21-year-old Harold. In the photo, Harold’s hair is dark, his stride is purposeful and his demeanor is intent.

On Nov. 17, 1941 young Harold enlisted in the United States Army. He was 23 years old. He was 6 feet tall and weighed 134 lbs. His civilian occupation? Laboratory technician.

Harold enlisted as a “warrant officer,” a rank above the enlisted grades and below commissioned officer grades.

We do not know how he spent the first three years of the war, but by 1944, he was assigned to the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, initially assigned to 13th Airborne Division and then reassigned to the 17th Airborne Division on March 10, 1944.

Harold Lotze and his unit arrived in Europe by August of 1944.

He survived the Battle of the Bulge in December and by February of 1945, the focus was on Operation Varsity, the Airborne Assault on the Rhine.

Operation Varsity would be the last full scale airborne drop of World War II and the first combat jump for the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment. According to the 513th’s unit history:

As General Eisenhower watched the operation from a church tower on the west side of the Rhine the 513th had the misfortune of flying over a concentration of German antiaircraft weapons. Two-thirds of the C-46’s were either damaged or in flames. The pilots remained with the aircrafts until the troopers jumped. However, the 513th landed in the wrong area in the midst of the heavily fortified town of Hamminkeln. Irregardless [sic], the 513th began conducting frontal assaults on the heavily entrenched German positions as British gliders started to land practically on top of them.

In a few months, the war in Europe would be over and TEC4 Harold E. Lotze, United States Army, would be awarded the Silver Star, the third highest medal that can be awarded to a soldier.

Harold E. Lotze was killed in action on March 31, 1945. He is buried, with his comrades, at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margarten, Netherlands. Plot C. Row 11. Grave 2.

Next year, we hope to unveil his name on a plaque in Memorial Park.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at

Published Thursday, July 30, 2009 4:11 AM PDT

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