TRIBUTE TO AN AMERICAN HERO

 

RICHARD WILLIAM HAHLBOHM

Although my father would never claim the title himself, he was an American Hero. He was a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne (“Screamin Eagles” as he would put it) and back then this group of men was the elite of armed forces we had fighting the war. If asked about any of the medals he received he would simply say, “I was just a man doing what I had to do. I guess God had my back and together we got through it ok.”


As a child I use to ask my father all about his war time stories. He really didn’t like to talk about them too much but as a curious child I kept asking until he related one just to shut me up.


There were so many it would take a whole new website just to write them all. I remembered all of them. I think the ones that captivated me the most was when he got captured in Bastogne and had to march through the snow without his boots to the P.O.W. Stalag.


As a result, he lost part of his right foot due to frostbite during that march and well as most of his hearing due to a tank firing at the wood pile he was hiding behind while taking pot shots at the turret machine gun.  My father would shot the machine gunner, the men inside would push his body out, a new guy popped up and my father would then took him out too. Until someone spotted the sniper (him) and turned the tank canon over his way, blasted the wood pile he was behind sending him flying in the air and knocking him deaf and unconscious.


He said as they were marching them to the POW camp every now and then they would take my father and the other men, line them up to execute them and just before they did a small little officer would run in yelling “ Stop! ... Interrogation! Interrogation!” They they would stop the execution and continue on.

My father was in the P.O.W. camp for almost a year until they finally ended the war and he was released. He told me because the German soldiers didn’t have much of anything (which is why the first thing they took was his boots before the march) they also did not have much in the way of food. Most of the time he said they filled the bread they gave them with saw dust as a filler to keep them alive. He said he did drink a lot of coffee and that actually saved his life.


When they were finally set free from the POW they were next to a farm and of course all the prisoners ran over to the farm to find something to eat. He said they found some biscuits and began eating them all up. Within a short time they were guys around him dropping dead from over eating (stomachs shrunk that much) but because of all the coffee he drank he was not one of those unfortunate casualties. he said the guy next to him who dropped dead only ate 1 biscuit!


This was only one in hundreds of stories my Father lived through.

Although my father passed away awhile back his memory and stories are very much alive in my heart.

He was a true hero, in my eyes as well as the nations eyes too.


Danny Hahlbohm