Bob Batchelder served as a medic during Battle of the Bulge
It’s the start of a new year and I’m excited about the possibilities! My husband and I plan to go to Normandy in June to see many sites I’ve only heard about from the more than 150 World War II veterans I’ve interviewed.
In each post I’ll feature one of the dozens of World War II vets I’ve interviewed.
Since this is the time of year we recognize vets who fought in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-February 1945), here’s an excerpt from a story in my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans. It highlights a soldier who had already fought at D-Day in June 1944 and now faced another momentous conflict six months later:
“… During winter 1944-1945, Robert ‘Bob’ Batchelder of Fort Wayne served as a medic in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. “It was a horrendous experience,” he said. “We slept in foxholes in freezing weather and lots of snow. We lost more troops to frostbite and gangrene than gun shots.”
The troops endured for six days with no air support until the clouds finally broke and Allied fighters and bombers arrived.
By the end of the battle in February, approximately 89,000 soldiers had been wounded and 19,000 killed, making the Battle of the Bulge one of the largest and bloodiest battles fought by the U.S. during the war.
Not everything was a gruesome task for Batchelder. In May 1945 he was standing guard duty outside a tent in an Allied camp in Germany when a German male civilian approached him. The German spoke English to Batchelder: “I would like to surrender.”
Batchelder took the civilian to his commanding officer in the officer’s tent, then resumed his post. Batchelder found out later the man was Wernher von Braun, Germany’s top rocket scientist.
“He wanted to leave Germany because he didn’t want to give information about the V-2 missile to Hitler,” said Batchelder. The V-2 rocket was a short-range ballistic missile developed during WWII in Germany. It was designed to target London. Von Braun was smuggled out of Germany to England and then taken to the U.S.
Batchelder’s war experiences continued until he was discharged in January 1946. He had spent a year and a half overseas, fighting his way through some of the biggest battles in Germany, England, France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. He was never injured.
After the war, Batchelder worked in the wholesale candy business before retiring in 1985. He and his wife Edna Sell married in 1947. They were parents to one son. The son and Edna are deceased.
Batchelder is prosaic about his military experience. “It was a difficult time, but I was glad to serve my country in World War II,” he said.”
Note: Mr. Batchelder has since passed away. I was glad to capture his story before it was gone.
Would you like to read more stories about American GIs? My book—World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans is available on Amazon.
More news: My husband and I attended a WWII Roundtable meeting with a group of people who recognize the sacrifices made by our troops during this time period. It’s nice to talk with others who have the same passion for recognizing our vets!
I’m still interviewing and writing stories about World War II. The News-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Wayne Indiana carries my stories. You can read them here.
Please remember to find a veteran and thank him/her for their service! It means a lot!