On Veteranís day and many other days in nearly 70 years I have specials reverence for my entire WWII band of brothers and sisters but with special prayers for four of my closest brothers. They are part of the 400,000 who gave everything.

The first two were like birth brothers .They are Bill Irwin of Shelby Ohio and Dwight Holmes of Baltimore, Maryland. The three of us had been in the Armyís Reserve Officers Training Corp (ROTC) in our respective colleges. By competition each of us were admitted to the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). After basic training in Ft. Mc Cleland, Anniston, Alabama we came together at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) .We studied Army Engineering with the idea that when the Army needed engineers we would be commissioned and assigned to combat. As the war progressed ASTP was abruptly cancelled. We were all transferred as rifleman and assigned to the 106 Golden Lion Division at Camp Atterberry in Franklin, Indiana. The three of us soon volunteered to be assigned of a combat unit and were quickly moved to Ft Mead, Maryland. After a weekend visit to New York City and a Birthday Party for Dwight at his home in Baltimore we sailed for England on the Queen Elizabeth. . We had additional training in Litchfield England we were suddenly separated. Dwight and I were sent to separate regiments of the First (Big Red One) Infantry Division and Bill to the 9th Infantry.

.Both men were killed in combat.

The third comrade was a complete stranger. I never even saw his face only the top of his steel helmet. It was at the time of the Normandy breakout We were off Omaha Beach on the troop ship Leopoldville (later sunk on Christmas Eve with loss of 500 soldiers) We were ascending to the landing craft by rope latter. . The soldier above was pushing down on me. Below I could see the Second Lieutenantís gold shoulder bar inches from my boots. With no warning a sudden shift of wind jammed the Landing Craft crashing against the ships side. It crushed the Lieutenant against the ship. As looked down my boots were covered with blood as his dead body slid into the sea. I was terrified as I dived head first into the LCI just as it hit bottom and as it stated to rise again.

The fourth person is our Company G 18th Regiment Runner Private Harry Kolasa. It was early November 23, 1944 in the Hurtgen Forest near Eisweiler Germany. I spent the nigh as a rifle anti tank gunner at a road block. At dawn I was alone when what probably was a German motor shell hit and I was blown unconscious into the snow. When I came to it looked like my left hand was a goner. I was bleeding profusely. A Lieutenant arrived and told we where the neatest aid station. He asked me if could make it alone and I told him I thought I could. There was constant shelling. . As I moved up the hill I dived into a deep depression in the snow underneath a large tree. I glance up just as Harry Kolas jumped in on top of me. A very large shell hit the tree and a huge blast instantly killed Harry and left me with only a large chunk out of my right shoulder. My combat war was over. I spent 18 months in nine hospitals here and abroad recovering.

The Golden Lion Division later came to Belgium .As a raw division it was assigned to a huge stretch of quiet front. It was overwhelmed by Hitlerís massive secret attack in the Battle of the Bulge. . In one day some 7,800 of my former state side comrades were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The division was dispended. My mother and billís mother became close friends. When they brought Bill home after the war my mother was with me as I was honored to be a part of his burial ceremony.

As long as I live these four will be lovingly be remembered by name in my thoughts and prayers.

Rev Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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