Immigrant Soldier: The American Journey of Albert J. Heim

Intro by Frank Yusko

My connection to Albert J. Heim's incredible life story is filled with many odd twists, turns and coincidences. On the first day of my freshman year of college I met Mr. Heim's granddaughter.
We had several classes together and became friends. The next year I transferred from the county college to Trenton State College with thoughts of becoming a high school history teacher.

I lost touch with the granddaughter for several years until I happened to land my first teaching job in their town of South Amboy, NJ. By further chance her cousin was in my first home room class at St. Mary High School! This reconnected us and I met Mr. Heim at gatherings at her home. As a history teacher I found his accounts of coming to America, and serving in our army in the First World War against his native Austria fascinating. The man sure could tell a good story!

Years later as a teacher at Spotswood High School in NJ I founded a History Club. Our first project was to create an Oral History Library for our school. Of course our first interview was with Albert Heim. He was 93 at the time but with a mind clear and as keen as ever. He seemed to enjoy the attention, and loved to share the accounts of his colorful life. He became a mentor of sorts to our club and we would visit with him, write him notes and stay in touch by phone.

After his death we named an annual award in his honor, arranged with the V.A. to have him awarded the 75th Anniverary of W.W.I medal posthumously (he was the only veteran of WWI to receive the medal posthumously) and placed his uniform on permanent display in our school Media Center. His metal rests there as well.

I fashioned classroom lessons using his taped stories, which I share as well as a lesson fashioned from the account of Victoria Farley, who knew him as a newly arrived lmmigrant lad in 1911 in Milltown New Jersey.

Years after the passing of Albert Heim I was surprised to discover that he had left behind an account of his story for his family. I was given a copy of this account, which I now share with you, along with the recorded interviews and classroom lessons.

Albert Heim's story is America's story. This is the story of an America which was built by individuals who possessed the courage to uproot and risk all on a land bright with great promise. We are the descedants of that courage. It is my hope that the example of those like Mr. Heim will serve to rekindle that fire and inspire us to keep that spirit alive.