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Latter-day Saint who fought in WWII’s Battle of the Bulge set to celebrate his 100th birthday

‘I don’t know why I was so fortunate to survive. I certainly never thought I would live to be 100 years old,’ says Wayne Ursenbach

On Christmas Day 1944, Wayne Ursenbach was in Belgium fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive campaign on the western front during World War II.

The Latter-day Saint soldier from Utah said he was in the process of delivering ammunition to fellow soldiers when heavy enemy machine gun fire forced him to drop to the ground. Ursenbach remembers the sound of bullets whizzing over his head, followed by the explosions of mortar shells all around him. Eventually he made it to safety, although one of the lenses from his glasses was somehow covered with blood.

Wayne Ursenbach in his Army uniform as a young man.
Wayne Ursenbach in his Army uniform as a young man. Ursenbach, a Latter-day Saint, fought in World War II and will turn 100 years old on Dec. 4, 2023. | Provided by Ursenbach family

Ursenbach left the frigid, snowy combat zone with frozen feet less than a month later on Jan. 20. He was one of only 42 in his company of 178 men that survived.

“I don’t know why I was so fortunate to survive,” he said. “I certainly never thought I would live to be 100 years old.”

Ursenbach, a resident of a senior living community in South Jordan, Utah, will celebrate his 100th birthday Dec. 4.

On Saturday, Nov. 11, the 99-year-old observed Veterans Day.

“Every Veterans Day I’m always grateful to still be alive and celebrate,” he said with a smile.

Ursenbach was drafted into the Army on Nov. 6, 1943. He served in the 289th Infantry Battalion, a unit of the 75th Infantry Division that played a role in the Battle of the Bulge.

Wayne married his sweetheart, Nettie Bernice Ohlin, in the Logan Utah Temple during an Army furlough on July 27, 1944, before he shipped off to Europe. He was honorably discharged May 22, 1946.

Wayne and Bernice Ursenbach were married for 77 years and raised seven children before her death on June 29, 2021.

Wayne Ursenbach earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Brigham Young University. He conducted explosives research with a team from the University of Utah and later led innovations in the open-pit copper mining industry. As head of the university’s research institute, he was also a consultant and expert witness specializing in cases related to fires and explosions in industrial settings, a role he pursued into his late 70s.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ursenbach served in a variety of leadership callings, including bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, stake president, patriarch, sealer in the Salt Lake Temple and president of the Laie Hawaii Temple.

“My faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ has meant everything to me,” Ursenbach said.

“Love your family” and “always do good for others” are among the important life lessons Ursenbach wants to pass along to loved ones.

“I always taught my family to live your life in such a way that the Lord knows you have done your best,” he said.

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