Sunday, December 21, 2008

More on Dick's Bronze Star

Received the following response from Abigail Bethke, Dick's 3rd daughter:

Hi everyone,
When I was a sophomore at Michigan I took a class on the history of World War II.  For the required 15 page paper (typed on a typewriter! -- hard to believe), I interviewed Dick about his war experience.  I taped him on Grandma's little tape recorder.  I sure wish I still had that tape.  I do have the paper, though, and here is the part about the Bronze Star. 
A few days later Dad and two other men were involved in a caper (that's what he called it) that earned them bronze stars.  These are awarded to men who distinguish themselves by heroic action in combat against the enemy.  One morning the kitchen truck had finally caught up and made pancakes.  Dad was just about to eat his when a first lieutenant came running in and said he needed a radio operator.  The Germans evidently were counterattacking in the classic form that the officers were continually talking about -- a counterattack consisting of about 100 Germans and three tanks.  Dad said he'd go, but  first he gobbled down his pancakes.  Dad, the first lieutenant, and a truck driver went out to look for the Gerrmans.  Suddenly, artillery fire was landing all around them.  The driver drove the truck into the ditch beside the road and they jumped out and scrambled up the bank.  Dad pulled a couple of boards off a picket fence in their way and they ran into a farm house.  The officer told Dad to go back to the truck to get the radio when there was a break in the firing.  So, Dad lay on the kitchen floor downstairs and waited for three or four shells to go off and ran out to the truck.  He figured he could get out there and back before another batch of shells went off.  He was back in the kitchen on the floor when the next artillery fire came.  He shoved the radio outside through the door, put up the antenna, took the microphone, and got back in the kitchen.  The truck driver positioned himself on the stairway to tell Dad what the lieutenant said.  The officer called down fire mission and Dad relayed it.  At one break in the artillery fire Dad heard a noise behind him.  He looked around to see a German civilian holding a bicycle pump, which, at first glance, Dad thought was a gun.  Dad thought he was going to kill him.  Just as Dad was about to grab his gun, he realized it was just a pump.
When they got back to camp after the batallion had brought down excessive artillery on the counterattack, the fire direction center men said they had been worried because Dad's voice had been so shaky on the radio.  It turned out that the Germans had been firing artillery to try to destroy a section of a canal down the road under which the road passed.  They did not succeed and the outfit moved on without delay.
No mention of the manure pile.  Maybe Dick did mention it and I left it out -- I don't remember. 

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