Exerpts from part two of the interview with Willie Bader – WWII – US Army – 5th Infantry Division – 2nd Infantry Regiment
“One experience that I had [he chuckles] was very scary. Our company — our battalion, was told to take a certain town, a middle-sized town. This attack was after the Bulge. We went to the place, but there were no Germans there in the town – no Germans at all.
“So the captain called regiment, ‘No enemy is in the town there.’
[Regiment says,] “‘Go down there and take that little dairy town that’s about two miles away.’
“I think the town’s name was Schwarzenborn. [in Germany]
“So our company was in the middle, Baker company on the left, Charlie company on the right spread out about a half a mile or so, about one o’clock in the afternoon. Now you‘re gonna wonder what relevance the time has. The Germans are very smart in their ability to set traps and all that.
“So we sent out patrols. We had our columns on the blacktop. The patrols never came back. Sent out another patrol and they didn’t come back. We’re walking in a westerly direction, the sun is setting down, [so] we’re walking into the sun. … [The other companies] are spread way out. We don’t have visual contact with them.
“There was a big dairy barn about 50 yards in front of us.There was a meadow on the right and left. The barn was made out of cement blocks. It was a big barn. And they had windows about 4 feet up. But they were little cubby-hole windows about 1’ x 2’ windows. No glass, just plain openings in the barn.
“We got about 20 yards from the dairy barn and all of a sudden the Germans started shooting at us from the back. They had a tiger tank about two hundred yards away in one direction. And most of us in that patrol ran into the barn. Could have been about 50 or 60 people in the barn. It was a big barn. And we returned the fire. After prolonged fighting, we figured we were in a losing battle here.
“So one of the sergeants says, ‘Willie, I need you over here with the machine gun. Bring the medic with you and the radio man.’
“Prior to that he had given the radio man orders to call regiment.
“‘And tell them we needed cannon fire here,’ because we were three-sided covered by Germans.
“And regiment asked him, ‘We need the coordinates.’
“But you can’t give coordinates because you don’t have a map in front of you and it’s getting dark.
“The barn was burning a little bit at the roof and it wasn’t quite dark yet. You could still see smoke. We told regiment to hit that smoke stack you see about a mile and a half to two miles down the road. My distance may not be right, but it was the orders we gave them to hit the smoke stack.
“The radio man said, ‘We are.’
“’Well, we may kill some of you.’
“’Yeah, but you’ll kill the Germans around us.’ That was the exact words.
“So that was the orders we gave regiment. In the meantime, Sgt. Campo asked us to come…and we started across the barn.
“And if you know anything about Holstein cows, they’re pretty high up [lifts his hands to the height of his head] – pretty big.
“So we started across the barn – Darton Eisley and Crow and myself — I was in the middle — we got stuck in between these cows. And we weren’t more than an inch apart from each other. And a shell hits the roof.
“And Eisley falls forward, dead. I know he’s dead because there was no more movement after the shell hit. And Crow gets hit in the arm, or the back, and I get shrapnel in my shoulder, and the two cows fall sideways, dead.
“So, that ends our communication with Sgt. Campo. He’s no more with us, you see. And so the barn is in pretty bad shape.
“And this other sergeant, Tony Galgano,…he calls me and says, ‘Willie, I’m hurt.
“I says, ‘Where are you, Tony?’
“He says, ‘Against the wall over here.’
“So I walked in the direction of his voice. And he’s sitting down. How do I know he’s sitting down? He told me he was sitting down — so maybe not visual.
“So I sat by him and said, ‘Where’re you hurt?’
“He says, ‘My leg is hurt and my arm.’
“I felt of his leg. If you took a football and cut it the long way, that would be the size of the gash on his leg. So every G.I. has a first aid kit – a pack – about a 2 by 4 inch pack, about an inch or two inches in depth. It attached to your belt. So I got my penicillin, a little tube, spread it on my hand and rubbed it over his leg. Then I got his [penicillin] and rubbed it over his arm. They were big gashes.
“And that’s when I told him, ‘Tony, I’m gonna try to get you outta here.’
“Believe it or not, I said, I don’t know to this day how I got him out of there. But, I believe in angels. He weighed close to 185 and heavier because he has equipment on. At that time I was 135. I’m 25 pounds heavier now than I was.
“Now, I knew what door to go out. I thought I knew. As soon as we opened that door, there was a tiger tank shooting at shadows, that was crossing the road. It was a black top road. So how him and I got across the road — I think I either dragged him, or he helped me drag himself across the road with me.
“Luckily, once we were across the road, there was a tree line. So we crossed the road and about 150 yards, there was a jeep that far away. I got up to the jeep. I said get him out of here, he’s hurt real bad.
“’Well, you jump on too.’
“I says, ‘No, I got metal in my back, but I’m alright. Just get him outta here.’
“I said there was about 15 left in the barn. Or not that many. I’m going back in the barn.
“…we fought a little while longer…two or three hours. You don’t think about time when you’re fighting.
“Then the question comes out, which way out? There’s about seven of us left in the barn – six or seven. And I stick my hand out and say, “That door over there.”
I do not know what door I took Tony out on. And that wouldn’t have been a good door anyways. The Tiger tank would have gotten us…I wasn’t recalling where that door was.
“The sun is starting to come up. See, there’s a big lapse of time in the fighting. And there’s seven of us left after this engagement. So we get out this door and there’s a blacktop road to the left of it and we start running down the blacktop road. We can’t go back the way we originally got into the barn because that’s where the trap was. We walked in that way. They were shooting to our backs.
“So we saw two Germans washing in the brook. They had their metal helmet and a towel and they must have just got up…They ran one direction, we ran the opposite direction.
“And we ran down that hill.
“We got to the bottom of the hill and one of the fellows had a bullet hole in his cheek — where the bullet had gone in his mouth and out the cheek.
“And one of them said, ‘Willie, you okay?’
“I said, ‘Yeah, I got metal in my back, but I’m alright.’
“’How ‘bout your head?’
“’Look at your helmet.’
“There was a bullet hole in the back of my metal helmet the size of a quarter, and there was a hole in the front. Now, the law of physics says when you have an inanimate object in the air and something hits it, you’re gonna knock it some place. The steel helmet is about ¼” thick. Could be 3/8”, but that’s how thick it is. Then I have the plastic helmet underneath that. And if you say my helmet was bouncing up and down and that bullet puts that size of a hole in it? It’s gonna knock it off — there’s no way that it’s not gonna knock it off. This is how I think I have angels. As long as I live, I’ll believe that.
“So we finally got to the bottom of the hill and there was a little town there further into Germany. We find a German person there. [chuckles] We captured him. Seven of us captured one old man [chuckles again].
“We said, ‘Where are gun emplacements?’
“‘And he says, ‘This way.’
“We said, ‘You’re gonna take us that way or we’re going to kill you.’ Just like that. We said, ‘You better not be lying.’
“So he start taking us back to our heavy weapons emplacement. We knew he was telling the truth because of the sound of the shell coming over would verify where our emplacements are. They’re different from the Germans. You know, the direction. So you knew he was telling the truth.
“When we got to the emplacement, the headquarters there, they took him and put him in prison someplace. I don’t know what they did with him.
“And I went to the hospital.
“And the girl says, ‘Sorry, you can’t have your helmet.’
“I says, ‘Why? I want to keep the helmet.’
“’No, when you get back on the front lines, they said you’ve got to have a clean helmet, a new helmet. You can’t have one that’s broken.’ [He chuckles]
“And so that’s how you received your Purple Heart.
“So your Bronze Star was given for…?”
“For taking out a machine gun nest. A buddy and I volunteered. We were pinned down. And he asked for volunteers and we [he circles his hand in the air around his head] circumvented the problem and went all the way around.
“Wow…and the Silver Star was for…?”
” …saving the sergeant’s life.
In the final installment of this interview with Willie Bader, he shares the story of his brother’s fate in the downed bomber, the “Concho Clipper,” and he explains the significance of each medal he earned in WWII, in “I can do it, Skipper.” (Part 3)