Syracuse awards degree to Lyndonville native who received Medal of Honor in WWII

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 November 2015 at 12:00 am

(Includes reporting from Syracuse University)

After war, Forrest Vosler attended classes at Syracuse

Provided photos, Syracuse University – Technical Sergeant Forrest Lee Vosler was born on July 29, 1923, in Lyndonville. He was presented the Medal of Honor on Aug. 31, 1944 in a ceremony in the Oval Office with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

SYRACUSE – A Lyndonville native who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his valor in World War II has another accomplishment: a college degree.

Forrest Vosler was posthumously awarded the degree during a ceremony at Syracuse University on Friday. Vosler attended classes at Syracuse following the war.

Vosler, a technical sergeant and U.S. Army Air Force radio operator, sustained serious injuries to his eyes, legs, and arms when the plane he was in was shot down and crashed in the North Sea.

Vosler was unable to complete his baccalaureate degree due to his combat injuries. He persisted for 17 years, dropping in and out of school, trying to earn the degree he dearly wanted, said Ray Toenniessen, an Albion native who is managing director of Development and External Relations for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.

“Despite being named the Army Air Force’s ‘Greatest Hero’ of World War II, Vosler’s combat injuries to his eyes made it difficult for him to study,” Toenniessen said. “He had trouble reading because he could only see shapes and shades, and required additional surgeries.”

Vosler died on Feb. 17, 1992 with his dream of a college degree not fulfilled. On Friday he joined Syracuse University’s Class of 2015.

Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud presents a diploma to Steve Vosler, son of Forrest Vosler, during a special Degree Conferral Ceremony on Friday. Dr. Karin Ruhlandt (left), dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Dr. Mike Haynie, Vice Chancellor for Veteran and Military Affairs also were part of the ceremony.

A committee through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families reviewed Vosler’s transcript and military service. The committee recommended the university award him an Associate of Arts Degree in Liberal Arts. On Friday, Chancellor Kent Syverud presented the degree to Vosler’s son, Steve Vosler.

Forrest Vosler also was recognized as this week’s “Hometown Hero” for Syracuse University and Steve and his wife Karen were recognized on the field at the football game.

Vosler was born on July 29, 1923, in Lyndonville. After graduating from Livonia High School, he enlisted in the Army Air Force where he became a radio operator. Vosler was assigned to the 358th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force, in England. He was a crewmember of a B-17 Flying Fortress called the “Jersey Bounce, Jr.”

Provided photo – This World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. includes the name of Lyndonville native, Forrest L. Vosler, a technical sergeant who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt awarded the Medal of Honor to Vosler in the Oval Office on August 31, 1944, for his actions over Bremen, Germany.

Vosler was hit twice by 20 mm shrapnel after taking the place of one of the plane’s gunners. Despite many injuries to his legs, arms and eyes, he managed to tend to the wounded tail gunner, repair the damaged radio equipment, and send a distress signal before the aircraft crashed into the North Sea, Syracuse University said.

Vosler was discharged from the Army Air Force following numerous surgeries and extended stays in nine hospitals. He matriculated at Syracuse University in the spring of 1945. While at Syracuse, he met and married his wife, Virginia Slacka Kappa Delta and a Liberal Arts graduate of the Class of 1945. They raised four children in Central New York: two sonsStephen and Jeffrey, and two daughters Sondra Fields-England and Susan Snow Bass.

Steve and Karen Vosler, center, were recognized during Saturday’s football game in Syracuse.