WASHINGTON, Nov. 10, 2004 -- Not only is Walter R. Bieder
, 83, a true American hero, he's
one of the luckiest men alive.
World War II D-Day veteran Walter R. Bieder
, 83, poses with framed copies of his
two Silver Star Medals (top left), two Bronze Star Medals (top right) for gallantry in combat, and other badges and medals.
A combatant in several hard-fought, bloody battles of World War II, Bieder
earned two Silver Star Medals and two Bronze Star Medals for heroism without even getting a scratch.
"God was looking out for me," said Bieder
, a retired Parma, Ohio, police officer who now lives in Woodbridge, Va.
An Army private first class when he
hit Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, Bieder
was later decorated with the Silver Star Medal "for gallantry in action in the vicinity of Colleville-sur Mer in Normandy, France," according to the award citation.
The citation states, "Acting solely on his
own initiative, Sergeant Bieder crossed a dense minefield under heavy fire and captured a number of enemy snipers.After delivering his
captives to the command post, he
section and led a successful assault on the well-fortified machine gun placement."
Bieder recalls slipping a hand grenade onto the launcher of his
M1 rifle and firing the grenade at a machine gun nest."It went right in front of them," said Bieder
, who later turned down a battlefield commission to lieutenant because he
would have had to leave his
unit."So I quickly put another one on, brought her
up a little bit, and boom -- I got him."
About three weeks later, he
was cited for gallantry in combat the second time.This time he
was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with V device for valor during ground combat in Belgium in September 1944.He
was recommended for a second Bronze Star on New Year's Day 1945 for valor in action near Czechoslovakia.But, it was more than 20 years before he
was presented his
second Bronze Star Medal because of a paperwork mixup.It was mailed to him in January 1964. Bieder earned his second Silver Star, the nation's third highest decoration for valor, while serving with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, during the Battle of Hurtgen Forest.He
was cited for gallantry in action in the vicinity of Weisweiler, Germany, on Nov. 26, 1944, when his
company was "impeded by intense enemy fire from numerous camp placements concealed in the thick of foliage of the Hurtgen Forest."
The Battle of Hurtgen Forest was fought from September 1944 to February 1945 south and east of Aachen, Germany.
The decoration's citation states in part, "Sergeant Bieder fearlessly exposed himself to a barrage of enemy fire.He
men and bravely landed a successful attack against the foe." Bieder started his trek across the battlefields of World War II when he joined the Army's 1st Infantry Division when the unit was bivouacked outside of Oran, Africa.
On July 10, 1943, he
fought in the invasion of Sicily."It took us more than a month to capture Sicily," he
noted."Then we bivouacked outside of a town called Licata, Sicily, where we stayed until the war ended in Sicily in August."
In early November 1943, the unit sailed from Sicily to England to prepare for the D- Day Invasion.
"All hell broke loose when we hit Omaha Beach," Bieder
noted."The tide was out, so we had a long beach to cross with a lot of obstacles, including land mines.Only four guys from one of our landing craft got out of the landing craft alive.
"When they dropped the ramp of the landing craft, the Germans cross-fired right into it," Bieder
"There wasn't many of us left," Bieder
said he'd never forget the tears flowing down his
company commander's face on D-Day night."He
cried because he
said they lied to us," Bieder
said."The beach was supposed to be full of bomb craters, and we were counting on them being there, but there were not any around to use as foxholes."
According to Bieder
commander cried because there were only 60 men left out of a reinforced company of more than 200 troops."We were so battered that we couldn't even take our first objective," the combat hero said, adding that all the unit's tanks had sunk in the surf "the guys and all."
Reinforcements and equipment arrived in about a week to kick off the push through France.The Army Air Corps
paved the way through France with wave after wave of bombers.
"It was quite a site to see -- the sky was black with bombers," Bieder
doubts anyone who claims he
wasn't scared on D-Day."Nobody can tell me they wasn't scared," he
recalled the night he
and four other soldiers crawled to the edge of a pillbox where they heard German voices."I hollered out in German to come out, surrender, or I'm going to kill all of you," said Bieder
, whose grandmother taught him to speak German."Fourteen of them come out of there.
"I felt so sorry for an older German who grabbed me and pleaded with me not shoot him," he
said."I told him I wasn't going to shoot him.We marched them back to our areas and sent them to a (prisoner-of-war) compound." Bieder
went through "hell" during the war, but one of his
unforgettable memories was Thanksgiving dinner in 1944.
"I'll never forget Thanksgiving in '44," he
Reflecting over the affect of his
combat experiences on his
said, "I had a little rough time sometimes.My mother said shortly after I was home, I used wake her
up hollering and screaming, 'Watch out!Get that!'"
After the nightmares subsided, Bieder
was closemouthed about his
wartime experiences."I just didn't talk about it," said Bieder, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7916 in Occoquan, Va. "A lot of people would ask me questions, and I'd just say, 'I don't want to talk about it.' The only time I ever talked was if I knew it was somebody that understood.
"I never even said much to my kids about it," said the father of six girls and five boys. Bieder
said there's now a book out about his platoon's exploits called "Until the Victory is Won," written by David Allender.