My name is Del Bordner from Toledo,
Ohio. I was in company C the 328th
Regiment of the 26th Infantry Division. I was in the ASTP. When they
closed those units I went to Boston
College. We had a troop
train that was made up of fellas from Harvard, University
of Maine, Northeastern
University, and Boston College.
We ended up with the 26th infantry division who were on maneuvers in
March of 1944. (Bordner shows some pictures) This picture is of me in Luxembourg in December of 1944 before the Battle of the Bulge
What type of truck is that that you’re standing by?
Those trucks were used to put pontoon bridges across rivers. This was my mortar
squad. I picked all of these fellas up in December just before the Battle of the Bulge
because I had lost my entire squad. Some were killed, one had battle fatigue
and there was a lot of trench foot.
How many men were typically in a mortar squad?
Five men, four men and a sergeant. This was a 60 mm squad. We were attached to
an infantry company. We had three 60 mm mortars and two light machineguns.
Company D was what they called heavy weapons. They had 81 mm mortars and heavy
machineguns. They were generally further back, but we were always pretty much attached
to the infantry company. This picture here, this fellow here was my squad
leader; he got a battlefield commission. This is Floyd Brown, he and I were
room mates at Boston College and of course we ended up in the same company but
I was in one mortar squad and he was in another. We were all Sergeants, Marty Rebb was my Sergeant. Floyd Brown and I were both wounded
on the same day, on January 9. I was lucky. I was hospitalized for two months.
I was shot in the neck. I remember that the surgeon who operated on me said,
“Young man, you’re quite lucky.” I said, “How’s that?” He said, “Because the
bullet missed your spinal chord by about a half an inch.” Floyd Brown was
injured latter that day, January 9, 1945. He was hospitalized for about two and
a half years. He had to have his leg rebuilt. My sergeant was Teddy Witowsky.
At this time he was a Second Lieutenant. I became the Sergeant of his squad
when he got that battlefield commission. This is my mortar section. This is
Dave Verdugo. He came in just before the Battle
of the Bulge. He went to Normandy
on D-day +4 as a combat engineer. He got himself into some trouble along the
way and was either going to get a court marshal or be transferred into the
infantry. They figured that going into the infantry scares the devil out of
you, but he said, “Hell, there’s a war going on. I’m going into the infantry.”
He was a Pfc. when I left Europe. I didn’t see
him again until 1999. I had lost complete track of him. In 1999 the 26th
division was dedicating a plaque to him. My wife and I went down to Ft.
Jackson, South Carolina.
And low and behold this fellow was there. He is deceased now. He had cancer and
died the day before 9/11. I asked him what he did and he said that he had taken
his discharge from the army and then reenlisted and entered the Army Air Corps.
He went to OCS and made a career in the Air Force and was a retired Lt.
Colonel. I always had a camera with me even though I wasn’t supposed to. I
tried to take as many pictures as I could. When this picture was taken the
Germans were just two blocks over in another section of the town. When I got
out of the hospital the first thing Captain Paul Moize told me, “Del I’m going to keep
you out of the war for three months.” I said, “How’re you going to do that?” he
said, “I’m going to send you to OCS back in Paris.” I said, “Well the war’s going to be
over in three months and I’m going to be stuck in the Army. No thanks. I’m
going to take my chances.” He said, “Well we’ve still got to cross the Rhine River.”
It worked out though. In this picture you can see these shell canisters.
Sometimes we got into places where we had an unlimited supply of ammunition and
this was one of the times. Other times the men had to carry the ammo. This
picture is from Merzig, Germany. These building were
bombed. There were no floors in there, it was just walls and the roofs
collapsed in. When the war was over I went fishing with a hand grenade. I threw
a grenade into a stream and caught a pike. The Battle of the Bulge started on December 16,
1944. My wife and I were married exactly one year latter. We went back to Boston on our honeymoon and Floyd was still at the Army
hospital out at Ft.
Debbons, so we went out
to see him.
When the men would travel did you travel by foot?
Well, if you were changing sectors, we would move by six-by sixes, trucks.
Those guys only got so close to the action so you’d have to get out and walk. A
friend of mine at Boston
College took basic
training with me. About a year ago there was an inquiry in our Yankee Division
paper, if anyone knew a Keith Ruppel and how he earned his Bronze Star. I wrote
to this fellow and said, “I don’t know how he got his Bronze Star, but he was
one of my best friends at Boston
College.” We both went
into the infantry but he was in another battalion. I said, “I haven’t seen him
since 1945.” We got in touch with one another. He lives in Elkhart,
Indiana and I live in Toledo, Ohio.
Last August we got together. My wife and I met him and his wife and we had a
reunion for the first time in 61 years. This is a picture of him and me in
September of 1945. We hadn’t seen one another again until August 7, 2006. He
has Macular Degeneration and he can’t see very far. He’s legally blind. I’m
going to stop on the way home and see him. This is a picture of German POWs in Linz, Austria.
When we went into Austria
I was riding on a tank. That was a day or so before the war ended. I was able
to get my squad up there so we didn’t have to walk and I took this picture from
on top of the tank.
How did they communicate to you on where to fire?
We had a forward observer that would call back and give us the range on where
they wanted the fire put in. After we put one down we could pretty well adjust
to that. It wasn’t done over radio. As a rule it was a telephone line that was
run back. This is a picture from when I went down to Ft. Jackson
in 1996. The army barracks now look like a Taj Mahall compared to what we had.
The headquarters is exactly the same though. It’s the same as when we were
training there. I was talking to a major and I told him that I needed to get my
camera to take a picture of the mess hall. He said, “Sir, these are no longer
called mess halls. We call them dining facilities.” My wife and I were out
there in the field when the troops were training and we came back and ate with
them. Those guys are in basic training and they were eating beef and chicken,
they had all kinds of entrees, salads and desserts. So they feed them real
well. This is a picture of me at the firing range with an M-16 rifle. I didn’t
fire it though. These are two girl recruits that were taking basic training the
same as the men there. This is a picture of Floyd Brown’s son. He also put an
inquiry into the papers asking about his dad. I contacted him and told him that
I knew him well and that we were roommates at Boston College.
He and his wife came to visit us a couple times. Floyd Brown designed and built
a windmill in Williamsburg from an engineering
firm out of Boston.
This man named Richard Davis wrote to me one time asking me if I knew his
father. His father was in my company and he got killed. Davis was a bad name to have in my company.
We had three Davises
and they all got killed. I wrote him back and sent him information about Rownboch
where his father got killed. I told him that I didn’t know him but I knew the
other two Davises
that got killed. He also sent me a picture of him and his dad. He was about 9
years old at the time. The picture was probably taken just before he went overseas.
He came in as a replacement so I suppose he had only been in the Army for a few
months. I made a scrapbook about the 26th Division during the war.
It’s in chronological order. This is some invasion money that was issued to us.
Would the French citizens use this money too?
It was issued to American troops, but it was probably issued to the French
after we invaded. Here are some German photos that I picked up in a house.
There’s a German officer’s insignia. Here’s a Christmas card that I sent to my
wife on the Christmas of 1944. By the way on that Christmas during the Battle of the Bulge we were spending that day fighting for
the town of Arsdarf, Belgium. We had the town cleaned
out by noon on Christmas day. I was wounded on January 9, 1945. This is a
chronological scrapbook of the 26th Division’s exploits until the
end of the war. It starts back in October when we were added to the 3rd
Army. Andrew Tolley was a war correspondent and his relatives cut everything
out about the 26th Division from the Boston newspapers and sent them to him.
Did you see Patton over there?
saw him alright. This is from the local Toledo
paper about when I was wounded.
Were you rewarded the Purple Heart when you were wounded?
Yes. It was given to me the very next day. I must have sent it home because
otherwise I couldn’t have carried that thing with me. They always had the
“Honor Role” in the paper and so I showed up as wounded in action. These are
Stars and Stripes. It was an Army newspaper. This picture here of this guy… the
day that I was wounded I saw this guy laying there. He was a Colonel. I was a
walking casualty. I was able to walk. When I was in the hospital probably a
month after I was wounded, my parents had a copy of the Toledo paper sent to me. I cut this picture
out and sent it home. I told them I saw this guy the day I was wounded. When I
was wounded, the best way I can describe what it felt like was like taking a
red hot poker and smashing it across the back of someone’s neck. This is from
the June issue of the 26th Division paper. It’s about Al Wilson who
got the Congressional Medal of Honor. Those things have to go through the
channels so it takes a while to get the award. The nation’s highest award went
to a 328th medic. This headline says that the Japs were tougher than
the Germans. The only thing I can say is that I’m glad that I was in Europe instead of the South Pacific. Because the Germans
had enough sense to surrender but the Japs didn’t. That’s why so many of them
got killed. If they had had sense enough to surrender then they wouldn’t have
had to worry about getting the bomb dropped on them. If Harry Truman did
anything good in his lifetime it was when he gave the permission to drop the
bomb, as far as I’m concerned.
So what happened when you were wounded? What were you doing that day?
We were in the Ardennes Forrest. To fire a mortar you have to have a line of fire
when you don’t fire up though trees because if you fire up though trees the
shells are going to explode and come down and kill you. It was a highly
forested area so captain Moize said, “the mortars aren’t going to be any good
on this operation today so you mortar people are going to be put on bazooka
teams.” Dave Verdugo and I had a little experience with a bazooka. The rest of
the guys in my squad had no experience but they could carry ammunition. Our
regimental history book says that on January 9 the Battalion advanced 1,000
meters against stubborn resistance. I don’t know because I didn’t get out there
over 25 or 30 meters when I got a bullet in the neck. Then a medic gave me
first aid. He cut away my clothing. By the way we didn’t have winter clothing.
The Germans did. That’s the reason we had so many guys freeze to death. He
bandaged me up. Fortunately I could walk. Many of the guys that got wounded
froze to death because it was below zero that day. I went back through a series
of aid stations and finally got back to a general hospital, probably around the
mess area. That’s where the doctor
performed the surgery on me. That’s when he told me, “You’re lucky young man,
because the bullet missed your spine by a half an inch.” The bullet passed
right on through my neck. It didn’t break any bone or anything, just flesh.
How’d that impact your ability to talk?
No problem. I could talk. Penicillin was just coming in. I think I got a
penicillin shot about every three hours for a week. And now I’m allergic to
penicillin. After the war when I got out of the Army, if I got a sinus attack
I’d get a shot of penicillin and it would do a pretty good job. One day I got a
shot and I had a severe reaction and the doctor said, “No more.” All my medical
records today say that that’s one medication that I’m allergic to because they
don’t want to take a chance. They really loaded me up with penicillin that
first week I was wounded.
Were you drafted?
But you were in college at the time?
No. I graduated from high school in June 1941. By the end of June I went to
work for the National Supply Company in Toledo,
Ohio that made oil well
equipment. I worked there until I got my, I always say, my letter of greeting from
the president saying that I was going to be drafted. That was in January. I was
inducted on January 25, 1943. They sent me home for a week. Then I reported
back on February 1st. I was down at Camp
Curahee, that was a camp about 30 miles from Toledo. Then I was put on a troop train
heading east. I ended up at Camp Edwards at Cape
Cod, Massachusetts. I
took basic training there. While I was taking basic training they started
giving me a series of interviews and tests. That was when they were starting
this ASTP program, Army Specialized Training Program. By the time I was done
with basic training I got assigned an ASTP and they sent me to the University of New Hampshire. I was down there being
tested to be reassigned. Sometime in July of that year I got transferred to Boston College.
You weren’t married until 1945, but did you know her then?
Yes. We went to high school together. We graduated the same year, but we never
dated all that time. December 7, 1941 my wife and I were at a basketball game,
well she was my girlfriend then. At halftime they made the announcement that
some place I had never heard of, Pearl Harbor,
had been bombed. I figured that the writing was on the wall that some day I was
going to be in the service. That was 1941, and it was early 1943 that I joined
Were you in Toledo when you heard about Pear Harbor?
Did she correspond with you during the war?
think she wrote to me every day I was in the service. Some guys never got a
letter. My mother and grandmother wrote to me, but my wife never missed a day
that she didn’t write to me which is astounding. When I got discharged I got
home on December 1, 1945. When I left Europe I
went through all the cigarette camps, you know the Lucky Strikes camp. And now
cigarettes are verboten you know. I got home on December 1. I got discharged
from Indian Town, Pennsylvania. One of the first things she
said to me was, “I’ve got all the arrangements made. We’re going to be married
on December 16.” So we got married. December 16 didn’t mean a darn thing. That
was one year after the Battle
of the Bulge. I never knew when it stared until years latter when they were
talking about it. Now I have no trouble remembering our anniversary. Now we’ve
been married for 61 years.
Did you think that you would have to go fight in Japan?
Well, yes. The writing was pretty well on the wall that we were going. The 26th
division was actually scheduled to go to the Pacific in November of 1945. Then
thank God Harry Truman had the bombs dropped, in August, which changed
Where were you when you heard that the bombs were dropped?
was still in the Linz, Austria area. I think there was as
much elation then as there was when the war was over in Europe.
Was there much delay about announcing that they used the atomic bomb?
really don’t know. I do remember them talking about it, but I had no idea what
it was. At the end of the war, Germans and Hungarians were falling all over
themselves to surrender to us because the Russians were coming from the other
side. If they were going to get captured they wanted to be captured by us, not
the Russians. This one day my Captain, Paul Moize, called me and said, “There’s
a Hungarian here who says that he has some guys who want to surrender. He said
take a couple of guys and see what it’s all about.” It was getting along
towards dark. Hungary
was in the war, but they were on the German’s side. A lot of people don’t know
that. So I took these two fellows with me and we went into this compound where
there were some buildings. There were about 100-120 of these guys fully armed
with their rifles and everything. There was a Hungarian Major there with them.
He didn’t speak any English and we didn’t speak any Hungarian. They had an
interpreter and he saluted me and I saluted him. He offered his pistol for
surrender. I said, “It’s getting dark. So we’re going to stay here overnight.”
I look back on it now and I think how dumb could you be. I told them to keep
their weapons in case some stupid fanatic German comes by. It was a quiet
night. In the morning at daybreak, I said, “Leave your weapons here.” I and the
two guys that were with me marched 120 prisoners up to the place where they
took them to the prisoner work camp. I said, “That went smoothly, it could have
been a disaster.” Well that’s why they have young people fight wars; they don’t
have old people fight them.
Were there any times when you felt like you were in a close encounter with the
Well I remember one time when we were getting shelled. I was lying on the
ground. The ground was really wet. A big fragment of an artillery shell landed
right next to me. It sizzled and stuff as went into the ground. It probably
would have cut me in two, but it missed me. A friend of mine said that an
artillery shell landed within five feet of him and it didn’t go off, because it
was a dud. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw.
Did you have to dig a lot of fox holes?
We dug a lot of them but we always tried to take over foxholes that the Germans
had already dug. During the Battle
of the Bulge we tried to get pine branches and stuff to put over them. We
couldn’t dig any fox holes because the ground was frozen. You never know what
spot you’re going to be in anyway. We were in one spot; this is something I
think about a lot. We were dug in and there was this fellow who’s last name was
Smith. We were in our fox holes and this guy was outside of his fox hole, I
have no idea why. I had really good eye sight then and I could see a mortar
shell coming in. Some German mortar shells started coming in and I thought,
“For crying out loud, get back in your fox hole.” I saw this one shell coming
down and I said, “My God, that thing’s going to hit this guy.” And it did. It
hit him midsection and exploded, killing him instantly. Another time we were
moving along the road and there was a field that was going to be a staging area
for some trucks. There was a weapons carrier truck that came in not far from
where we were walking. The engineers were supposed to have this cleared. Then
all the sudden there was the explosion and this weapons carrier was blown up.
There was a driver, a guy beside him and 4 or 5 guys in the back. I had a hunch
that they were all killed, but I don’t know. Somebody missed a mine that was in
that field and the truck hit it. Another thing that a lot of people don’t know
is that when we got to Europe they took away
our gas masks. We always had a gas mask, but they took them away and said that
the Germans aren’t wearing gas masks, so they won’t use gas. During the Battle of the Bulge there
were a lot of Germans in American uniforms. I don’t know how wide spread this
was, but in our battalion they issued us these gas mask canisters to us. That
was a means of identification. They ordered us that if you saw somebody without
one, shoot him.
Did you guys have codes and questions with passwords?
Yes. They did have the passwords. If you got challenged you had to give a
password and then a caller’s sign. There were stories where you’d have to
answer who won the pennant at such and such time. It probably happened.