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John Coates

508th Parachute Infantry Regiment Medic, 82nd Airborne Division
Born January 4, 1925, in Alexandria, Virginia
WWII Service: 1943-1945

John Coates

As an Army-trained medic assigned to a Georgia hospital, John said he could have “sat out the war stateside.” But it was 1943 and that’s not what he wanted to do: “I feel that even at that young age, I owed the country something. We can all be patriots if we really want to be.”

John signed up for grueling paratrooper training and parachuted into the Netherlands in Operation Market Garden. Upon landing, he treated his first of many wartime injuries: setting a fellow paratrooper’s broken femur.

But it was combat in Bastogne that tested John the most: “Everything about the Bulge was worse, including the weather.” As a valuable medic, John traveled at the rear of his unit, yet he still faced sniper fire, mortar attacks, and serious injuries while caring for the wounded—once after soldiers ventured into a minefield. John even narrowly escaped capture while helping his company guard 80 German prisoners when a German patrol ambushed them, capturing several comrades.

While John returned home to a career working on radar systems, the war continued to define his life. He traveled frequently to Europe to mark WWII anniversaries and once said, “If I had to do it over again, I’d do the same thing.”