320th Glider Field Artillery, 82nd Airborne Division
Born March 13, 1925, in St. Peter, Kansas
WWII Service: 1943-1945
When Richard left behind his Kansas farm in 1943 to join the Army, the 18-year-old could not have imagined his first taste of WWII combat: riding a 12-person glider pulled by a C-140 across the English Channel, then parachuting into the Netherlands through enemy fire.
Robert learned quickly that single-minded focus on his job was a survival skill. For 33 days, his unit fought fiercely to defend a strategic bridge during Operation Market Garden and lost nine men. At night, he helped with the risky work of laying telephone lines along the front lines so units could communicate during battle. “It was just what I did,” he explained at age 74. “There was no time for overcoming fear.”
Combat in Bastogne tested Robert and his comrades to an unforgettable degree. “Our strategy was simply to keep the Germans from coming through,” Robert said decades later, recalling the suffering of enduring constant below-freezing temperatures while sleeping without tents, sometimes while standing, in a forest sprayed by hot shrapnel from German artillery.
After the war, Robert returned safely to Kansas and life as a wheat farmer without regrets: “I think someone had to stop the tyranny and we were called.”