The American Seaman and the German SS Officer—Together

A rare pairing of World War II veterans enthralls students—and teacher—in an 'intense' hour.

They fought on opposite sides of World War II, but a German Secret Service officer and a U.S. Seaman stood next to each other recently in a Santa Margarita Catholic classroom.

The octogenarians told tales and answered questions about the war to end all wars in Scott McIntosh’s World War II class. McIntosh, who has been teaching for 11 years and at Santa Margarita for 10, called it one of the top three classes he has ever had.  “It was pretty intense,” he said.

So intense that even after the bell rang for lunch, students remained glued to their seats for another 10 minutes.

At the center of attention were Dr. Werner Langer, 85, a lieutenant in the Waffen SS, and Ernesto "Ernie" Schimmer, 85, a Seaman First Class in the American Navy. They made two halves to a unique whole in a remarkable day in the classroom.

Schimmer was a Southern California kid. He graduated from Santa Monica High in 1943 and joined the U.S. Navy. He traveled throughout the Pacific and served as a powderman on the big gun of the U.S.S. Kalinin Bay. The escort carrier was the adjacent ship, in Tokyo Bay, to the U.S.S. Missouri on which Douglas MacArthur was among those who formally accepted the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.


Langer was 15 when he met German dictator Adolf Hitler, and he was in boot camp three years later. He was in special forces that laid low during the day and killed Russians at night. He was eventually captured and taken as a prisoner of war.

Langer emphasized that he was not a member of the Nazi party. “He got a little fired up about not being a Nazi now or then, but you’re pretty much thrust into what you’re going to do,” McIntosh said.

Langer was the real attraction. He converted to Christianity in 1957. A member of Hitler youth, McIntosh said “he spoke highly of Germany but he did not speak highly of Hitler."

Students said the two men “brought to life” a part of history they had been studying in the elective course. In the first semester McIntosh teaches about the Civil War, the second semester is devoted to WWII. For four years he has had veterans speak to the class, but it’s the first time he had someone who fought for the other side.

“I would say it’s definitely one of the top three classes of my career in the sense that you see the history come alive,” McIntosh said. “The very first time I had two World War II vets come in was pretty special. It was the first time I had ever heard them speak. But this is definitely up there.”

Though he may have been fighting on behalf of Germany almost seven decades ago, Langer had some good advice for those rapt audience members.

“Be proud Americans,” he said, “and stand up for your people.”

James Schumaker June 18, 2011 at 05:13 PM
U.S. troops did summarily execute some SS troops, particularly snipers, spies (such as the Germans dressed in American uniforms during the Battle of the Bulge), and concentration camp guards. From the evidence I have seen, in almost all cases this punishment was fully merited. With regard to Mr. Langer, I do not object to debriefing a Waffen SS officcer on his experiences. I do object to the false moral equivalency that is implied when you put a U.S. sailor and a member of the Waffen SS on the stage together. To repeat, the Waffen SS was declared a criminal organization at Nuremberg, and its members do not deserve the honor normally accorded to soldiers who fight for their country.
Dan Avery August 24, 2011 at 05:01 AM
My dad served in the Navy during WWII and I bet he would have enjoyed the two soldiers. War is an awful thing and people do awful things on all sides during a war. Passions run high. I am in no way excusing the German leadership. But after 9/11 a lot of us were more than willing to toss away a lot of our freedoms; there are very active groups today that would still limit our freedoms and turn back the strides of the civil rights movement. People do stupid, stupid things in dire times. And it's always the leaders, the politicians, the power-hungry that lead people astray and make them hate "the other." If the students learned nothing but that lesson about people, Mr. McCook has truly done kids a great favor and our society a great service by giving up an hour of his class time.
Lawrence (Larry) McCook August 24, 2011 at 05:49 AM
Dan, Thank you for the nice comments. My father also served during WWII as a Corpsman in the U.S. Army and afterward in the U.S. American Legion . I have been driving WWII veterans around Orange County to speak at schools for a number of years. We lost two of these outstanding veterans last December. One was a highly decorated USAAF Major P-38 fighter pilot and the other a Master Chief in the USN who was assigned to a special mission in Africa for the OSS. I continue to miss these two true heroes tremendously. Larry
homogenius February 05, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I would take anything Werner Langer says with a grain of salt. He is a liar, a conman, and a thief. He never worked at the Crystal Cathedral--he volunteered as an usher. The IRS confiscated the proceeds from the sale of his house because he went years without paying his taxes. I have no respect for someone who comes to this country and doesn't pay his fair share. Anyone who has talked politics with him will tell you that he's still a Nazi and he defends the Nazi regime saying "they did many good things". His anti-Semitism is barely beneath the surface and he says things like "you really have to admire those Jews". He's virulently homophobic and anti-immigrant. He puts on a good show for people, but he's nothing but a washed up insurance salesman.
Andrew DuMont May 18, 2012 at 04:02 AM
I have to agree with Mr. Schumaker. If you served in the Waffen (armed) SS, you were generally an idealogue and a fanatic as a German. Later in the war their were SS units from other countries and standards were relaxed. If you were a somewhat regular guy in Germany, just following orders or protecting your homeland, there was always the regular army (Heer). To be a German in the Waffen SS meant you were the utmost commited to the nazi cause, even if you weren't a card carrying member. He should be ashamed of himself.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »