Local veteran tells story of fights and forgiveness

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Tribune News Director

(Editor's Note: The following is the second in a series of stories about local veterans and their experiences, during the time of war.")

For most 20 to 21 year old college students today, many of them are thinking about getting their education and building their life and family for the future. Imagine being a 20-year old being sent to Europe during the heaviest battles of World War II.

That is the story of Lepanto resident H.C. Bradford. Bradford's story begins in 1943 as a junior at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. In March of that year, Bradford and his entire junior class at the school were inducted into the United States Army and sent to fight the scourge of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe during World War II.

After going to Basic Training in Fort Benning, Ga., Bradford joined the 84th Infantry Division, known as the Railsplitters and went to the German-Netherlands border in Oct. 1943. He was a second lieutenant at the time, who had studied engineering in college back in Texas. His group, along with others who served in the European theater fought many battles during the war, including the famous Battle of the Bulge.

That battle, which started on Dec. 16, 1943 in Belgium, was intensified when the Germans attacked the Ardennes. Bradford told his story, leading up to the battle to the Tri-City Tribune, "We were on offense and they were on defense. We had to take out their pillboxes. There were several tank battles with the U.S. and British forces fighting the Germans. We fought Panzers in the dirt and mud in October and November of that year. The main objective was to control the Autobon to Berlin and whoever controlled it had a strong advantage." The battle concluded on Jan. 16, 1944, with Dec. 22, 23, 24 and 25 serving as the toughest days of the battle. Bradford stated that the American people were upbeat at the time, going through D-Day and defeating Rommel in Germany. For his efforts in the United States Army, Bradford received several medals, including the Bronze Star and the Battle of the Bulge medal, among others.

Bradford told the Tri-City Tribune that his group were selected as a group to fight and that his ROTC training was in the infantry. Bradford added, "We were selected as a group and inducted as a group. We were paid $50 per month and after training, I drew Lieutenant's pay." After the war, Bradford went back to Texas A&M and got his degree in engineering in 1947.

As for staying in contact with other veterans of World War II, Bradford told the Tri-City Tribune that he has maintained contact with the unit that he served with, as well as the civilians in the village where the battle was fought. Bradford has toured the battlefield and developed a friendship with the German general (who has since died) who led the forces against Allied troops in the battle. Of that, Bradford said, "The malice is gone, but we are happy today."

Bradford has lived in the Lepanto area for many years, with his wife, Judy. They have four children, ranging in age from 47 to 54 years old and five grandchildren, who range in age from 15 to 21 years of age.

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