Historical Actor John Notgrass presents “One Soldier’s Story: A Tennessean in WWII” churches, community organizations, schools and home school groups.

The presentation is part of a first-person history program about his grandfather, Wesley Notgrass, (1915-2007). Wesley joined the United States Army in 1941 and served in the medical core in the United States and Europe during World War II. Growing up, John heard him talk about his experiences and he decided that he wanted to share his story with others, so that they too could learn from history, as well as learn to be thankful for what people have done for them in the past.

John’s grandfather took a lot of photos while in the service. Based on his grandfather’s recollections, and wearing his grandfather’s uniform, John steps into character to share Wesley’s life story and his experiences during the war. The presentations are illustrated with first-hand photographs from Wesley’s collection.

Wesley Notgrass

Wesley Notgrass

Wesley Notgrass enlisted in the Army in June of 1941, before the United States officially entered the war. He expected to serve for one year and then go back to his job at the Daily Herald Newspaper in Columbia, TN. He ended up spending four years, one month, and seven days in uniform.

Although he qualified as an expert marksman, Notgrass was placed in the medical corps, which meant that he would not carry a weapon during the war. After Pearl Harbor, he was attached to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. First Army, based on Governors Island, NY. After working in an office during the day, the soldiers there had free time to explore New York City on the nights and weekends. They received free passes to musical performances and sporting events, including a 1942 World Series game between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals!

World Series Game 2 at Yankee Stadium between the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals on October 3, 1942. The Cardinals shutout the Yankees 2-0 and went on to win the series.


In 1943, Wesley Notgrass went to Great Britain with 15,000 other soldiers on the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner. They spent eight months in Bristol, England, preparing for the D-Day invasion. Notgrass was able to do some sightseeing while in England, including visiting the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He also met his future bride, Joan Kathleen May Clark, while attending church in Bristol.

Wesley Notgrass in the snow in Belgium, January 1945.

D-Day and Battle of the Bulge

Wesley Notgrass landed in France on June 7, the day after D-Day, and advanced with the First Army to Paris and then into Belgium and Germany. His primary job was typing records to keep track of wounded soldiers. He attended a USO show in St. Lo France where he got a hug from Dinah Shore, a fellow Tennessean. Notgrass was caught in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1945, before things finally started to wind down for his unit in 1945.

Audience at USO Show, St. Lo, France, 1944. For a short-time, because of supply shortages, the American soldiers lived on captured German food, which included sauerkraut, pickled pig’s feet, and green coffee. They saw many captured German soldiers, too.

Wesley Notgrass and Joan Clark were married in April 1945. Because of his length of service, Notgrass did not have to go to the Pacific Theater. He was honorably discharged on August 1, 1945, just before the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. He returned to Tennessee, where Joan joined him several months later. They had two sons, Alan and Ray.

Joan Clark in an Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform, the female branch of the British Army, c. 1943.

Redeem the time

In all his presentations, John encourages his listeners to, “Redeem the time God has given us and to live with gratitude today, because we do not know what will happen tomorrow. “We should celebrate life as a series of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” he says with enthusiasm.

Along with acting and speaking, John shares original songs while playing guitar. The songs are about the blessings of believing in God and following his ways in our families.

The life of Charles Wesley

John also presents the spiritually moving: “And Can It Be: The Life of Charles Wesley.” Charles Wesley (1707-1788) composed more than 6,000 hymns that expressed his amazement of God’s mercy. Wesley’s hymns also called God’s people to holiness. This program, told from the perspective of Charles Wesley himself, is based in large-part on his journals and hymns. It explores his life at home with his parents Samuel and Susanna, his education, his conversion, and his ministry in the context of the religious history of England.

His business

John lives in Wentzville, Mo. He was homeschooled and after graduation he and his parents began a homeschool curriculum publishing business. His parents write books and he assists, by getting them ready to send to the printer. He also manages their website and does the accounting for the business. He also owns the Homeschool Trade Association, a professional network of business and non- profit leaders that serve in the homeschool community.

Persons interested in hearing John’s full presentation, or for additional information, call or text him at 636-336-2521.