It has been 69 years since last I saw the faces of fellow WWII soldiers Bill Erwin, Dwight Holmes and Harry Kolasa. Although they are deceased they are often in my thoughts and prayers particularly on Memorial Day. Bill and Dwight and I went into the Army from various college Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) programs and were assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). We came together when that program was suddenly ended and participants in mass were assigned to the 106h Golden Lion Infantry Division at Camp Atterberry in Franklin Indiana.

We were sick of constant training and we three who had bonded as brothers volunteered for combat. We were set to Maryland’s Fort Mc McClellan near Dwight’s home in Baltimore. After a birthday party for Dwight at his home and a night in New York City we sailed on the Queen Elizabeth to the Firth of Clyde in Great Britain. We three were still together and assigned to a replacement Depot at Salisbury England.

During the war for security reasons we were not allowed to keep a diary or any written record so dates are guesses. It was after D Day at about the time of the Allied breakout from Normandy. With no warning and only a hasty goodbye we were suddenly separated and assigned as Riflemen Infantry replacements. Dwight and I were assigned to different regiments of the Big Red One First Infantry Division and Bill was posted to another Infantry Division.

I sailed from Plymouth England on a troop ship the former Belgian passenger the Leopoldville which on the following Christmas Eve was sunk by a German Submarine with the loss of several hundred soldiers. As we approached Omaha Beach we were met by small Boats called Landing Craft Infantry. (LCI) and ordered down the Leopoldville’s side on rope ladders. We were in combat gear with gas masks and back packs. The soldier above me was impatient and his boot kept hitting my helmet. I saw the shoulder bars of the Second Lieutenant below me who was descending very cautiously. Suddenly a giant well raised the LCI several feet and crashed it against the ship side rope ladder. It crushed the Lieutenant to death and splattering me with his blood as he sunk into the sea. The LCI feel back deep in the water and started to rise again. In an instant I had to decide try to escape up the ladder or try to dive head first into the small boat. Timing was everything. It was the greatest leap of my life. With luck I landed head first just inches inside the craft just as it hit the ship’s side a second time. As we quickly separated from the Leopoldville my prayers were a thank you for being alive and for the Lieutenant. To add my war experience the LCI Sailor dropped anchor far short of Omaha Beach and dumped we survivors in water up to our waists. We spent our first night in a combats zone soaking wet from sea water and pouring rain in two- man tents in a flooded field at St Mere Eglise.
After a truck ride across France I joined the Company G of the 18th Regiment near Namure Belgium. My first action was in the attack on Aachen a proud German City famous as Charlemagne’s Capital. It was a and part of the heavily fortified German Siegfried Line. Our 16th Regiment attract to the north, our 26th regiment attack the center and my 18th the other side. .My Company captured Crucifix Hill and gained control of the major highway into the city.
After the capture of Aachen we attack the Hurtgen Forest. This was the longest continuous and bloodiest American military action in history. . It was here that I met Harry Kolas who I knew not as a close friend but as the company runner. On November 23 1944 while alone on a road block armed with a rife launch anti-tank gun I was blown unconscious into the snow by what apparently what was a small German mortar round. When I regained consciousness I realized I was hit in several places and my left hand was unrecognizable. I was in a huge pool of blood. We were under almost constant Artillery bombardment just as a new replace officer appeared. He pointed in the direction of an aid station and asked if I could make it alone. I said yes and started up along a tiny forest road under barrage from very heavy Artillery fire. There was a rather deep depression in the snow and I dove in face first. I looked up to see Harry Kolas jump in on top of me. A huge artillery shill hit the tree above and the down ward blast stunned me but killed Harry instantly. One piece of shrapnel took a chunk out of my right shoulder. But I was able to make it to an American tank column and the bottom of a blown out barn that was the aid station. It was jammed with wounded half American and half German.
My war I was over and I was off to 18 months of rehabilitation hospitals. I learned that Bill and Dwight had been killed. I did meet Bill Irwin again in Shelby Ohio when his remains where returned to his home town. I participated in his internment ceremony with my mother who had become close friends with Bill’s mother.

Memorial days typically deal with numbers like these: In WWII 112,000,000 served in the armed forces of the United States. Some 405,399 died in battle or other causes and 670,846 were wounded. By latest count only 1,462,809 of us survive at the median age of 92 years. My memorial Days are filled with the human faces that I have mentioned but also my comrades of the Golden Lion 106th Infantry which in two days suffered 8,700 casualties in the Battle of the Bulge and was disbanded.. There is a selfish reason for sharing these names of precious comrades. My belief s that if I had been killed that on Memorial Day Bill or Dwight would remember me in print as I remember them by name.

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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In an earlier Blog entry I suggested that guns should be register and regulated just as we register and regulate the motor vehicle which also can be a fatal instrument. A well informed friend points out the folly of the National Rifle Association’s response to child slaughter is to arm school personnel.


“Bernie: I read your draft blog, and I agree with you very much. Registration could be relatively simple for most weapons, but would be more thorough for automatic long guns. I think
You could also point out that gun registration is already widespread so that there is a system in place to do the registrations -- the gun sellers.

“I also think it would strengthen you case if you point out that one of the alternatives to registration, the physical guarding of schools, is really impossible. Just counting high schools, there are more than 35,000 of them, with about 7.6 million students. Most high schools sponsor many events for students, and most of these events such as sports games, club meetings, parties, concerts etc. are after hours. It is remarkable that school sports attract an extraordinary 500 million attendees each year -- more than colleges and professionals combined. Thus, physical
Guarding of students in schools is really hopeless, and if tried, would be extremely difficult and costly. School systems could never afford to hire 180,000 guards (93,000 schools using two shifts). The only option for physical guarding would be to train teachers in weapons use, and guarding techniques. I would not like to have thousands of teachers or administrators running around with guns but no training.

“Further, the people who might attack children may be unbalanced, but they may not be stupid. If attacking children in and around schools becomes high risk, they will probably find other locations where children can be found -- churches, parks, shopping malls, etc. In short, guarding of physical locations is hopeless, and this just makes your idea seem more attractive"

Highest regards, Chuck Bingman

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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The numbers are staggering. It is estimated that there are more than 310 million guns in the U.S. and 254 million registered motor vehicles. It is also estimated that by 2015 annual firearms deaths will edge our vehicle deaths at slightly more that 32,000.each. There have been more than 400 gun deaths since the December 14, 2012 Newtown massacre.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides for “a well regulated militia” which is interpreted as the right for every American to own a gun. It's not in the Constitution but individuals also have a right to own an automobile which of course like a gun can also be lethal. Automobile ownership is extremely well regulated and of course taxed. The driver must meet age, visual and health standards. The driver must demonstrate in public the ability to drive an automobile. The vehicle is identified by Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and a numbered license plate is attached to the vehicle. The driver is issued a photo identified Driver’s License and the ownership is a matter of public record. An annual tax is levied against the owner and vehicle. The driver must periodically renew the drivers license and the vehicle must periodically inspect for and public safety and pollution control.

Above all the driver must purchase liability insurance to compensate in a monetary way any damages caused by the operation of the vehicle. Both the driver and the vehicle are strictly monitored by state and local police and by specialized Traffic Courts.

These regulations are constantly revised and it is documented that they save thousands of lives and provide death benefits and medical care and compensations for the injured, their property and other loses.

The registration and safety of motor vehicles engages State, city and county governments .The national government has established anti-pollution measures; regulates the gas mileage vehicles; determines the contents of motor vehicle fuels; and establishes and enforces special regulation on Interstate Highways that are funded in large part by the federal government.

Considering the enormous destruction and loss of life from guns and an almost identical Gun Licensing System should be considered. It should be remembered that in most civilized countries and owning firearms is are forbidden or very strictly regulated. In Great Britain even the police are not armed.

Our U.S. Constitution mandates the sacredness of our homes which can not be entered by the police or anyone else without a Search Warrant. It goes without saying that we have the right to bear arms to defend our homes. Our Founding Fathers however applied Common sense in demanding that government actions be “.well regulated...”

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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On Veteran’s 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 Army’s 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 Lieutenant’s 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 Hitler’s 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 bill’s 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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On March 4, 1933 at the height of the hell of worldwide depression much more severe than this one President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his inaugural inspired our discouraged nation with a remarkable infusion of hope with his admonition “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” For the one million innocent Americans and their loved ones who daily endure the hell of CFS President Barack Obama has given fresh hope. In a detailed July 26 letter in response to a campaign query by CFS sufferer Robert Miller’s wife Courtney he reported what he has learned about CFS .His letter outlined progress to date and outlines his administration’s CFS plans for a diagnosis and cure. Above all he has shown continuing interest and invites dialogue.

Our CFS fight for a cure seems agonizingly slows. This is particularly the case for those who suffered through the early days of “Yuppie Flu” ridicule and derision and medical indifference. Historically we have seen cures for polio and smallpox and more recently remarkable progress in fighting AIDS. We can find hope in Thomas Edison’s answer to critics who derided his failure in testing 10,000 materials for a filament for his light bulb. He responded that on the contrary to failure he had the success of proving what would not work.

We can be inspired by modern technology and instant communication that constantly marshals the scientists of the entire world to find cures. Recently there has been world-wide attention to a tentative finding of some evidence that mouse leukemia retrovirus impacted CFS. NIH tested blood samples of CFS sufferers and a control group and found no evidence of the virus.
Again we salute Kimberly Mc Cleary and the CFS Association who were the pioneers in CFS research and for more than 20 years have been a research lighthouse. It is my understanding that they are funding studies in related fields to determine if some of the findings might lead to new paths to CFS success.

As President Obama’s letter points out our nation faces great financial challenges. We need to cut expenditures. However care must be given to distinguish the difference between expenditure and an investment. For example at the end of World War II Congress passed legislation offering sixteen million veterans a free college education. The consensus now is that this was not expenditure but was an investment that produced enormous national return. . Imagine the return if research expenditure now found a cure for CFS that freed 1,000,000 Americans to return to the full time work force.

We know that hope beats fear always. .At your last meeting your chairman had it right.

“You have CFS now but that does not mean you will always have it! “

Rev. Bernard F. Hillenbrand

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