ANDERSON, Ind. —
Every day starts a new story. This one had us both laughing and in solemn reverence.
Maj. Dan Brinduse is a combat veteran of World War II, with two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star. If you think that paints the picture of a Rambo warrior you’d be wrong.
A little on the small side, deeply reverent and full of good humor, this truly good man comes off as anything but a combat hero. Yet both sides are true, making Dan Brinduse one of the most interesting men we have interviewed.
Last time I told the story of how we had been able to link Dan’s interview to the inquiries of Fred Bard’s family. Being able to link the family of a fallen hero to the living veteran who held him as he died is like being struck by lightning after winning the lottery. For that alone we are grateful Dan recorded his story, but there is so much more.
I mentioned laughter and I wasn’t kidding. Young Dan Brinduse was painfully shy. He took a job in a shoe store right out of high school. In those days the customer sat in a chair while the salesman knelt before them to measure their feet and fit the shoes on the customer’s foot. Dan could handle the male customers, but the thought of kneeling in front of a woman’s skirt mortified him. He gravitated toward the book work till the manager finally pushed Dan onto the sales floor where he gave Dan his baptism of fire.
Dan was assigned to fit a beautiful woman who was also a well-known prostitute in Anderson. He was beyond nervous and embarrassed, and she insisted on buying shoes that were a size too small. At one point the shoe horn was wedged so tight that he couldn’t get it out. He finally gave it a desperate yank, and I’ll let you guess where the physics of the moment sent his hand and the shoe horn.
Then there were the serious moments. The 44th Division landed on Utah Beach in late August 1944. Within a week, Dan suffered a minor wound, “Welcome to the war.”
On Nov. 16, 1944, Dan’s squad was in a thick forest when an artillery barrage killed 10 of their 11 men. Wounded in the foot and the battle raging, they sent Dan back on his own power for treatment. They also gave him a teenage German prisoner to escort to Battalion HQ. Dan was angry over the loss of all of his friends. The German walked in front. Losing blood and growing weak, Dan raised his weapon and began to squeeze the trigger, knowing that the German would kill him if he fainted. Three times he tried to pull the trigger, three times something stopped him. Dan counts it as a miracle that they made it back to HQ and that he didn’t kill that boy.
If you’re looking for laughter, or honor, look no further than Dan Brinduse’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 firstname.lastname@example.org and www.nvharchive.org.