By Don McAllister
For The Herald Bulletin
Every day starts a new story and this one borders on miraculous.
Last time I spoke of heroes and emphasized that true heroes were the ones who didn’t return, never experiencing life or growing old like the veterans before us. There’s a special tone when they tell of buddies who fell by their side and, in many cases, in their place. PFC John Speheger spoke of the day he jumped into a shell hole for cover and discovered the body of a young Marine who had died a few hours before. The name tag said, “Stiranski.” For a moment, time and the war froze. John looked at the fair-haired corpse and contemplated how sad it was that this young man would never live his intended life. The spell broke, the savage battle for Okinawa resumed, and the young Marine’s body was decimated by the resumption of the shelling, but he did not die unmourned. I wish I could contact Stiranski’s family and let them know that story.
We’ve received many emails from families trying to find out more about their loved one’s service. A recent one was from Mary Ann Kurey, the niece of Fred Bard. Fred entered World War II from Pennsylvania. From his family’s memories it’s clear Fred is a man to remember. He was the all-American boy, a good-looking, red-haired, 6-foot-4-inch baseball player who made friends easily. When I saw his photo I thought he looked like a kindhearted fellow. His family confirmed my impression.
Fred lost his father and became the man of the family while still a teenager. In Depression times that was an even heavier load. His then-10-year-old sister remembers that he purchased some gifts for his siblings and mother just before he shipped out. He gave his sister a “beautiful velvet and taffeta dress.” Imagine a 20-year-old soldier in a dress shop. Now that’s love.
I now knew how he lived. His family wanted to know how he died. With the information Mary Ann gave me I was able to find that Fred was a PFC in the 44th Division. I took a look at our list on the odd chance that we had interviewed someone from that division. That’s when lightning struck. For the first time in 13 years we were able to link a family, not only to a man who knew PFC Bard, but to the soldier who carried him from the field and held Fred as he died.
Dan Brinduse was with Fred in a thick forest when an artillery barrage killed 10 of the 11 men in their squad. Although wounded, Dan tried his best to save Fred, whose own wound was so deep that the bandage sunk into the hole. Dan and another soldier rigged a stretcher from Fred’s raincoat and their rifles. They carried Fred 200 yards to a recently captured German aid station, where Fred died about 45 minutes later.
Thank you, Dan, for keeping alive and honoring Fred Bard’s story.
Don McAllister directs the National Veteran’s Historical Archive. His column appears the second Sunday of each month. He can be reached at email@example.com and www.nvharchive.org.