The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

June 12, 2014

Trapshoot: WWII veteran still shoots with best of them

ELYSBURG — During a recent interview with 90-year-old Jack Plotts, of Milton, at the Pennsylvania State Trapshoot, the World War II veteran gestured to his disfigured right hand — the result of a grenade attack during the D-Day invasion more than seven decades ago.

“This made it hard to get a job when I got back from the war,” he said. “But Uncle Sam took care of us. He made sure we got work.”

But put a shotgun in those combat-altered hands and they come to life.  They dust target after target in rapid succession.

Out of a hundred shots during Sunday’s Colonial Classic event, Plotts hit 75, and would have hit more, he said, if he wasn’t readjusting to his gun which was recently in the shop. In 2004, he won the 2004 Eastern Zone shoot with 99 out of 100 on the first-day handicap.

The seeds for his shooting success were planted when he was a teenager.

“I was 13 or 14 when I got into trap. I got paid to help run the machines and enjoyed the extra spending money. That was before Roosevelt took office,” he said. “If I could make a couple dollars on a Sunday afternoon, that was good.”

Plotts entered the military in 1942 at the age of 18 and wound up parachuting into France during the D-Day invasion.

“The pilots were young. They didn’t have a lot of experience and then they were under fire. I wound up jumping out 10 miles off target and landing in an apple tree to help break the fall,” he said. “Before trying to get back to the others who survived the initial invasion, I hid in an old farmhouse. I had just settled down to rest with my rifle across my lap when the door flew open and a rifle poked in. Fortunately, they were from the French Underground.”

A demolitions expert, Plotts eventually rejoined the remaining paratroopers and did what he could to hold off the German forces near the Cherbourg Peninsula.

“I always had three or four pounds of explosives on me. I had a good time blowing things up,” he recalled.

During the ensuing battle, a grenade took off the inside of his right leg and damaged his face and hand. He was hospitalized for nearly six months for severe injuries including multiple shrapnel wounds and he needed several skin grafts, including on his face.

After returning to the area and regaining his job with ACF Industries in Milton, Plotts was eventually drawn back to trapshooting in the early 1960s.

“I came here in 1965 or ’66 and have been back every year since,” he said. “I like to shoot and I am very competitive, but it is the people who keep drawing me back. The shooter fraternity is very close-knit. They are friendly and fun to be around.”

What does Plotts suggest to those who want to get involved in trapshooting?

“Get a good mentor, otherwise you’ll learn one way to shoot and have to do it all over in a couple years when that doesn’t work. Local clubs and youth groups are a good place to start,” he said. “I know for me there was a lot of trial and error. I can stand behind someone when they shoot and can tell what they did wrong — but if I go out there to try to show them, there’s a good chance I’ll go out and make the same mistake.”

And why is the state shoot so successful?

“We have the best facilities here, hands down. It is well-kept and very professional,” Plotts said. “Chuck (Fritzges) is a good shoot manager. He runs a tight ship.”

For his time served in World War II, Plotts earned two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the Combat Infantry Badge and two battle stars. Since then, he has earned quite a lot of hardware for his shooting skills, including belt buckles, plaques and trophies.

But Plotts remains very humble.

“It isn’t about the awards or things. I hear you can’t take any of that with you when you’re gone,” he said. “It comes down to choices. Doing what’s right and making the most of each choice you have.”

Email comments to jzaktansky@dailyitem.com

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