Monthly Archives: December 2012

THE LAST BATTLE – FELIX SPARKS V THE NRA

 

HOW FELIX SPARKS BEAT THE NRA

Sparks’ pistol, which he carried during 500 days at war, photographed in Denver, Colorado November 2012. His wife Mary is shown on the butt.

 THE LAST BATTLE

“The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, what you do – is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny….it is the light that guides your way.”[i]

Heraclitus

 

Denver, Colorado, 15 March 1993.

 

THE 15-YEAR-OLD pulled out a 9mm semi-automatic and then pulled the trigger, aiming at a car full of teenagers. [ii]  One of the bullets went through a rear window and hit 16-year-old Lee Pumroy in the back of the head. Lee’s twin brother was beside him in the backseat and held him as he died in his arms. The shooter, it was later reported, had been intent on hitting John Vigil, a 16-year-old passenger in Pumroy’s car, but had ended up killing Felix Sparks’ grandson instead.

It was a shattering blow to an old man who had already experienced far too much death and tragedy. Indeed, Lee Pumroy’s killing wounded Sparks more than any other loss, both during the war and in the almost fifty years since the guns had fallen silent in Europe.[iii]His twin grandsons had, in fact, lived for a while with Sparks after their mother Kim, one of Sparks’ three children, had divorced. Sparks’ eldest son Kirk had only seen his father cry once before, when his mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which thankfully she had survived.[iv]Sparks had once scolded Kirk himself for crying in public.[v]But now the tears came in torrents. According to grandson, Blair Lee Sparks, a Denver police officer, the killing opened a floodgate of suppressed grief. The heartache at losing so many men, suppressed for over fifty years, and now the pain of losing a loved one to the gun, was finally too much for any man to bear.

The grief could have easily killed Sparks. He was in fact recovering from his third heart operation when he learned his grandson had been killed. Incredibly, he had been in Miami, Arizona, attending his 95-year-old mother’s funeral, when he was told of the fatal shooting. At least he had been spared having to break the news to her. Days later, at his grandson’s funeral, he told mourners it was just not right that grandparents should outlive their grandchildren and began to weep once more.[vi]

The only other time grandson Blair had seen Sparks lose his composure was when a burglar had broken into Blair’s home. Sparks had heard about the burglary, strapped on his Colt .45, the same pistol he’d fired at Dachau, and turned up late at night in his pajamas. No one was going to hurt his family. The Denver police had finally managed to calm him down. “They were like: “Who’s this old guy from WWII in pajamas with a .45 strapped on?””[vii]

Not long after the funeral, Sparks wrote to his friend Jack Hallowell who now lived close by in Denver: “May God bless you for thinking of us in our time of grief and tragedy. Friends like you help us bear the pain of our broken hearts. While the funeral for our beloved grandson is over, the battle has just begun in hopes of sparing others from similar grief and tragedy. It will be my last battle.”[viii]

76-year-old Sparks was not content to mourn and grieve. As was in his nature, he would strike back. He was determined to stop the senseless slaughter of children on American streets by changing the law. At the ensuing trial, the teenage shooter, 16-year-old Phillip Trujillo, was convicted of murder.[ix]Sparks then stepped up his campaign to change the gun laws in Colorado. “I’m not the type to sit back and grieve, though we grieve a lot,” he said.[x]Yet he was surely fighting an impossible battle in Colorado where the right to carry a gun, whatever one’s age, had been considered a birth right since the state had been admitted to the Union in 1876.

Sparks formed a pressure group comprised of others who had lost loved ones. “Elect me your president,” he told one meeting of bereaved Denver parents. “I’ll put in $50,000, or whatever is required. I’ll work full time.”[xi]Sparks duly became the leader of PUNCH: People United No Children’s Handguns. To fight his case in the courts, he got himself readmitted to the bar in Colorado. Soon, the story of a highly decorated combat veteran railing against gun violence started to draw state and then nationwide attention. “It’s difficult to talk about this but I have to for the other kids,” Sparks told one reporter. “It was the other grandson who got me started because he was threatening to get everybody who had anything to do with it. I told him he couldn’t do that and he said: “Grandpa, I can get a gun anywhere.””[xii]

In the same interview, Sparks admitted that it wasn’t until he had started attending reunions in the Seventies that he had been able to talk about his time in combat. “The thing about war is it can give you a pretty low opinion of mankind,” Sparks added. “I don’t have a low opinion of mankind, but sometimes we sure do some stupid things.”[xiii]

Sparks called on friends on both sides of the political divide in Colorado and other influential figures to lend their support, distributed leaflets and placed ads in newspapers. At the height of his campaign, he told one reporter, his phone rang off the hook. Others provided almost $10,000 to support his cause. Among his backers were 132 men who had served with him in the 157th Infantry Regiment in WW11.[xiv]“Just within the past few weeks,” Sparks informed them on 30 June 1993, “several children have died or been seriously wounded by handguns in the hands of other children in the Denver area, including the deaths of two young boys who were in the 7th grade. A ten-month-old baby and a five year old were also shot.”[xv]

Sparks now encountered an enemy just as determined and canny as any he had faced in Europe – the NRA. “They figure everybody should be carrying a gun,” he declared. As he tried to rally support for a change in gun laws, he discovered how the NRA had quietly bought the support of politicians in Colorado and across America.[xvi] Sparks decided to do some lobbying of his own. He was a former Supreme Court Justice. He had commanded the Army National Guard in Colorado. After re-establishing the Colorado National Guard in the Forties, Sparks had continued his service, returning to active duty in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and becoming Commanding General for ten years before retiring as a brigadier general in 1977.[xvii]

Eventually, the governor of Colorado, Roy Romer, agreed to a special session of the legislature, which would only consider what the Governor placed on the call – legislation that Sparks had written banning handgun possession for minors.[xviii]Sparks was not religious. He had not seen much evidence of God at work during the war.[xix]Nevertheless, he organized a prayer vigil the night before the legislature met to vote on his proposed law. He also called for a rally on the steps of the Capitol the day of the vote. Among those who attended was permanently disabled Jim Brady, the press secretary who had been wounded by a handgun during the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981.[xx]Sparks’ followers turned out in force and crowded into the Capitol’s galleries. The “God damn NRA” had relentlessly fought Sparks and his efforts “every step of the way” and had given money to no less than 35 Colorado legislators.[xxi]But Sparks’ proposed law passed all the same, such was the public mood and outcry over children killing other children with guns.[xxii] The law banned anyone under the age of eighteen from carrying a handgun. It remains on the books to this day. Before its was passed, a sixth-grader could walk into a classroom with a handgun in a backpack and nobody could do anything about it.

“We rolled right over that NRA,” said a victorious Sparks. “They didn’t know what hit them.”[xxiii]

As Sparks left the Capitol in Denver to go celebrate victory in his last battle, the mother of two teenage boys called out to him:

“Mr. Sparks.”

Sparks turned to her.

“I have two teenage boys,” said the woman. “I’ve been up here just watching. I know some of the things you’ve done, but I think this might be the most important job you’ve had.”

“It’s not finished yet,” he answered. “Just call me Felix.”[xxiv]

Indeed, the anguish was far from over. It was reported that although Phillip Tujillo had been incarcerated, some of Tujillo’s friends were threatening to murder the surviving twin grandson, Steve. They had even driven past Steve’s home, brandishing guns. According to Sparks, the threats had sent Steve crazy and he had been admitted to a psychiatric unit.[xxv]

Sparks’ efforts and those of many others across the US saw a steady decline in teenage homicide from handguns through the Nineties. But Friday night specials and other cheap handguns were no longer the only threats. Six years later, on 20 April 1999, between 11am and noon, just a few miles from where Lee Pumroy was gunned down, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold used pump-action shotguns and submachine guns, more powerful than those used by Sparks and his men in combat, to slaughter thirteen classmates and injure twenty-four others at Columbine High School. Sparks’ calls for far stricter gun laws had been tragically vindicated.

To the end of his life, Sparks would continue to decry the easy access to guns in America, which have claimed far more lives than all the wars fought by Americans throughout the nation’s history. More young Americans had died from gun violence in the year his grandson was shot than had died under his command throughout the Second World War – when death was a daily occurrence. “We’ve got nuts and plenty of weapons,” said Sparks. “This business of letting everybody carry a concealed weapon is a form of insanity.”[xxvi]



[i] David Grossman, On Combat, p. 364.

[ii] Denver Post, 12 January 1994.

[iii] Blair Lee Sparks, interview with author.

[iv] Kirk Sparks, interview with author.

[v] Kirk Sparks, interview with author.

[vi] Blair Lee Sparks, Déjà Vu, Author House, Indiana, 2008, p.178

[vii] Blair Lee Sparks, interview with author.

[viii] Felix Sparks to Jack Hallowell, from Jack Hallowell’s private correspondence. Quoted courtesy of Jack Hallowell.

[ix] Denver Post, 12 January 1994.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Chicago Sun Times, 12 December 2003.

[xii] Rocky Mountain News, 14 September 1993.

[xiii] Rocky Mountain News, 14 September 1993.

[xiv] Chicago Sun Times, 12 December 1993.

[xv] Felix Sparks, 157th Infantry Association newsletter, 30 June 1993.

[xvi] Felix Sparks, Regis University interview.

[xvii] The Colorado Lawyer, October 1998, Vol. 27, No.10.

[xviii] Felix Sparks, Regis University interview.

[xix] Felix Sparks, interview with author.

[xx] Chicago Sun-Times, 12 December 1993.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Chicago Sun Times, 12 December 1993.

[xxiii] Felix Sparks, Regis University interview.

[xxiv] Rocky Mountain News, September 14, 1993.

[xxv] Chicago Sun Times, 12 December 1993.

[xxvi] Felix Sparks, Regis University interview.

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THE MALMEDY MASSACRE

 

THE FATAL CROSSROADS

EXTRACT FROM THE LONGEST WINTER

While Major Kriz made his last-ditch attempt to find Lieutenant Bouck and his men, Jochen Peiper and his point tanks stormed through the Baugnez crossroads, headed toward the village of Stavelot where they would need to cross their first major physical obstacle—the Ambleve River.

Around the same time, a convoy of some thirty trucks carrying Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion left the village of Baugnez in the direction of Malmedy.

Suddenly, the convoy was spotted by men in Peiper’s point tanks who then quickly opened fire. Shells exploded all around as the Americans abandoned their vehicles and ran for cover. When the firing stopped, they were taken prisoner by a group of Panzergrenadier commanded by a Major Josef Diefenthal, one of Peiper’s most trusted officers.

Peiper was several miles past Baugnez when Diefenthal’s men herded Company B supply sergeant Bill Merricken and 130 other men into a field about a hundred yards south of the Baugnez road junction. Other than Company B men, the group of POWs comprised several medics from different units and some MPs who had earlier been directing traffic in the village.

Merricken and his compatriots, hands above their heads, were hustled into eight rows about sixty feet from the road. The ground was muddy, with the occasional patch of snow. The Germans were SS, but Merricken and the other Americans were not unduly afraid. They were obviously going to stand in the field until arrangements could be made to remove them to the rear.

Then a German officer, thought to be Major Werner Poetschke, the commander of the 1st SS Panzer Battalion, halted two Mark IV tanks. They were to cover the prisoners with their machine guns.
Suddenly, Poetschke ordered one of the tank commanders to open fire.

Sergeant Bill Merricken saw a German officer aim his pistol at three of his fellow prisoners. The officer fired, killing a jeep driver and then a medic.

An American officer shouted “Hold fast!” so the Germans would not have an excuse to shoot escaping prisoners. Merricken and the men around him didn’t need to be told the obvious. They were already trying their best to stay calm.

The Germans didn’t need an excuse.

“Machen alle kaput!” (Kill them all!)

The tanks’ machine guns roared.

Men flung themselves to the ground, burying their faces in the mud and under their riddled comrades. There were screams followed by what sounded to one eyewitness like the lowing of slaughtered livestock. Merricken was shot twice in the back but not killed. The machine gun raked back and forth for around fifteen minutes. Then the tanks pulled away.

There was a haunting silence, broken only by the groans of dying men. Diefenthal’s SS men had moved on. But the nightmare for Merricken was far from over. Suddenly, more vehicles pulled up. Merricken dared not move as he heard engineers of the 3rd SS Pioneer Company enter the field. The engineers began to finish off men whose bodies still twitched. One lay above Merricken.

“The fellow on top of me was completely out of his head,” recalled Merricken almost sixty years later. “I was trying to keep still, [trying] not to make any noise. But he was in such extreme pain that he started rolling over. I was face down, so I couldn’t see what was going on. But he rolled over the back side of my legs, drawing the attention of two German soldiers. They came over. I sensed they were right over us. Then they shot him with a pistol. The bullet went through him into my right knee. He didn’t move anymore. I kept perfectly still. I don’t know how I did it. But I did. Then I lost all sense of time. I was flat down, my head turned to the left and my left arm covering my eyes and head and face.

“It was so cold that day, just fifteen degrees. If your mouth was exposed, the Germans would see the vapor and they’d know you were alive. So I lay perfectly still. I heard the Germans smashing men’s heads with the butts of their guns. They kicked men to see whether or not they were alive or not. They would ask if men needed medical help. Some of the wounded would answer only to be shot.”

For two hours, Merricken lay under his dead compatriot as German tanks and half-tracks in Peiper’s ten-mile-long column passed the field. Every now and again, some of the vehicles fired into the field of corpses.

When the rumble of trucks finally ended, Merricken pulled himself free of the dead man above him and then, accompanied by a Company B comrade who had miraculously not been hit, crawled two miles to a farmhouse where an old Belgian woman would hide him in her attic and then help him get back to American lines. Merricken’s buddies from Company B would lay frozen stiff, buried beneath deepening snow, for two more months before being discovered.

News of the massacre spread like a frigid gust throughout the Ardennes, brought by a handful of other survivors who reached American lines less than an hour after the mass execution. When President Roosevelt eventually learned of the most notorious massacre of American soldiers of the entire Second World War, he reportedly responded: “Well now the average GI will hate the Germans just as much as do the Jews.” Robert Lambert heard about the massacre an hour or so after it happened. “Somehow during combat news such as that travels throughout the troops with lightning-like speed,” he explained. “It is believed by some people that the massacre at Malmedy could have resulted from frustrations of SS Lieutenant Colonel Peiper’s troops over delays to their timetable caused by the Lanzerath defensive action of the 394th I&R platoon on the prior day.”

THE LIBERATED

 

THE LIBERATOR

ANDREW MCKEEVER

POSTED: 12/06/2012 01:00:00 AM EST
Thursday December 6, 2012MANCHESTER — On April 29, 1945, units from the 157th Regiment of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division entered the now-infamous Dachau concentration camp, one of the many that made up Hitler’s Nazi gulag.

More than 30,000 prisoners were still held captive there that morning, amid thousands of other corpses who had already perished and were jammed tightly into railroad boxcars.

The “Thunderbirds,” as the men of the 45th Division were known, stared directly into the face of evil that day, and some of them, already weakened by too many days and months of direct front line combat, broke under the strain.

“Several of the dead had open eyes,” Alex Kershaw a British-born author and historian currently living in Williamstown, Mass., writes in his masterful new book, “The Liberator.” “Their last moments of agony were etched on their faces. It was as if others were staring at the Thunderbirds, remembered one scout, with accusing looks asking:

‘What took you so long?’”

Kershaw recounts in excruciating detail the events of that day, but it is only a part of a larger and sweeping narrative that chronicles a story centered around one of the officers of the 157th, Felix Sparks. He rose from a second lieutenant in 1940 to command one of the regiment’s battalions by 1945, and was decorated for his valor and leadership more than once along that journey.

Kershaw will be discussing his latest book — his eighth and the most recent in a long line of books about World War II that have included such New York Times bestsellers as “The Bedford Boys” and “The Longest Winter” — at the Northshire Bookstore Friday, Dec. 7. His talk will start at 7 p.m. His long running interest in writing about World War II stems from the fact that it remains the seminal event of recent modern history.

What we are today, and the type of world in which we we live, derive from the fact that, however imperfect, at that moment in time the forces of freedom defeated the forces of tyranny.

“World War II was the biggest event in history — it defines us, it’s why we’re able to vote — it’s the defining narrative of our time,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “If you don’t know about it, if you don’t honor and remember the true sacrifice, the true suffering of the people who preserved the world’s freedoms, then we don’t know ourselves.”

Kershaw describes how on that April morning in 1945, as the scope and scale of the horror of Dachau became apparent, one group of U.S. soldiers in Sparks’ battalion lined up about 75 captured German SS prison guards and started shooting them, killing at least 17 and wounding many more. When he realized what was going on, Sparks ran to the concentration camp’s coalyard, where the shooting was taking place, raised his pistol into the air, fired several rounds, and brought control to the situation.

“It defines a moment in that guy’s life that completely captures his humanity,” Kershaw said. “He had every reason to wipe the SS guards off the face of the Earth, but he didn’t.”

But it wasn’t until nearly 50 years later that Sparks was fully vindicated from all suspicion that somehow he had been responsible for the atrocity. He narrowly avoided a court martial in the weeks immediately after the war, and it was only through a flukish discovery of some film footage shot that spring morning in 1945 that his true role was proven beyond a doubt. This was in the wake of more than 500 days of combat, which included all the campaigns the regiment endured from the invasion of Sicily in July, 1943, through the brutal slog up the Italian peninsula, the bloodbath of a botched invasion at Anzio, the long march through southern France, the Vosges mountains and into the German homeland in the spring of 1945.

As riveting as the account of the liberation of Dachau is, it is but one part of a larger narrative. “The Liberator” tells one soldier’s story in the global drama that was World War II, mostly from the frontline soldier’s often grim perspective. And it is in the psychological toll war extracts from those who do the actual fighting that elevates “The Liberator” from being one more book about one of the most exhaustively mined chapters of modern history to one that offers a fresh perspective on the true butcher’s bill of combat. It’s one that will have relevance for new generations of Americans, as many of the thousands of returning veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have to adjust after undergoing the same transformations that Sparks and his fellow Thunderbirds did 70 years ago during World War II.

“… I think it’s time we stopped talking about the ‘greatest generation’ and look at what these guys actually suffered — how painful it was and how damaged they were,” Kershaw said. “There was no such thing as an unbroken combat veteran; it changes, alters and damages you. In the same way, when you fire and kill the people who are firing at you, and people around you are being killed, you are changed and damaged.”

“My book shows that — it’s in your face, the nature of the killing and the violence,” he added. “It doesn’t matter which war you’re going to, you’re going to be affected by different things in the same way.”

Sparks’ story is told from his birth in 1917 in a faded Arizona mining boom town through his survival of the Depression, his drive to better himself by going to college and his aspirations to become a lawyer, through his courtship and marriage. He and his wife, Mary Sparks, had a son that Sparks did not see until the child was more than two years old, when he finally returned to the United States. The central core of the book tells the tale of the long march from the shores off Sicily into the German heartland, studded with numerous major battles and firefights. Along with the shock and trauma of frontline combat, there is another theme — the burden of command. Sparks, as he is promoted from a company commander to a battalion leader, must learn to cope and deal with the stunning number of casualties, many fatal, suffered by the men he orders into combat. Almost 1,450 soldiers who served in the 157th Regiment were killed in combat over that less than two-year stretch. By war’s end, few of the members of the regiment were left from the group that waded ashore in Sicily.

Though damaged inside, Sparks held it together under the strain of command, and went on to have a highly successful legal career after the war, which included serving a term as a state supreme court justice in Colorado. But in 1994, one of his grandsons was shot to death in a drive-by shooting. Although in his late 70’s by then, led a state-wide campaign to make obtaining the type of handgun used in the slaying of his grandson more difficult. The effort met powerful opposition from the National Rifle Association — the NRA, which feared encroachment on second amendment freedoms. Due in large part to Sparks’ military career and service record, as well as his standing as a former commandant of the Colorado National Guard, he was able to get the legislation passed. It banned everyone under the age of 18 from carrying a handgun.

But the death of his grandson also blew the lid off long buried memories as well, Kershaw said.

“All the years of repressed grief and denial were blown away,” he said. “All that suppressed grief came back — it was not just his grandson but all the men he had lost under his command.”

Sparks died in 2007, a few months after Kershaw had gotten out to Denver to interview him.

With each passing day, there are fewer and fewer veterans of the war around to tell their stories, which is another factor in Kershaw’s long term interest in the epic clash of World War II. Somehow, he seems to keep finding fresh ways and fresh stories to tell of this event, merging the personal, human scale narrative with the bigger picture of global conflict. He’s already at work on his next one, which will look at France under the German occupation of 1940-44, he said.

For more information about Kershaw’s appearance at the Northshire Bookstore Friday, Dec. 7 — by coincidence the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor which catapulted the U.S. into active combat in a war that had already been raging for more than two years — call 802-362-2200, or visit www.northshire.com.

ROBERT FREDERICK – THE LIBERATOR

 

A MAJOR CHARACTER IN THE LIBERATOR

 

Robert Frederick, General of 45th Infantry Division.

 

 

 

“Robert T. Frederick was born on March 14, 1907 in San Francisco, California and died on November 29, 1970 in Stanford, California. He attended Staunton Military Academy from 1923 to 1924 and the United States Military Academy at West Point from 1924 to 1928. Upon graduation from West Point, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Coast Artillery. He graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1939.

In 1942, as a staff officer serving in the War Department, then-Lieutenant Colonel Frederick was tacked with raising the joint U.S.-Canadian force which became the 1st Special Service Force. The unit, activated on July 9, 1942 at Fort William Harrison, Montana, was originally intended for commando operations in Norway, and trained extensively in winter and mountain warfare, as well as hand-to-hand combat and other infantry skills. In April 1943, the unit moved to Vermont for training, first at Camp Bradford and then at Fort Ethan Allen. The Norway mission was cancelled, however, and the 1st Special Service Force was sent instead to the Aleutian Islands in July 1943. It returned to the continental United States in September, and then left in October for the European theater.

Frederick’s men arrived in Casablanca in French Algeria in November 1943 and quickly moved to the Italian front. Landing at Naples on November 19, 1943, the 1st Special Service Force went into the line. In December 1943 and January 1944, the 1st Special Service Force conducted a series of operations at Monte la Difensa, Monte la Remetanea, Monte Sammucro (Hill 720) and Monte Vischiataro. Frederick was promoted to brigadier general in January 1944. On February 2, 1944, Frederick’s men landed at Anzio and went into action along the Mussolini Canal. They were the first Allied troops to enter Rome on June 4, 1944. For valor with the 1st Special Service Force in Italy, Brigadier General Frederick was twice decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. Army’s second highest valor award. The first award was for actions on January 10-13, 1944 and the second for actions on June 4, 1944. While at Anzio he was wounded a number of times, including two separate wounds on a single day.

On June 23, 1944, Brigadier General Frederick announced he was leaving the unit. He was to be promoted to major general and given command of an ad hoc division-sized airborne formation, the 1st Airborne Task Force, for the invasion of Southern France (Operation Dragoon). The task force, formed that July, consisted of the British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade and the U.S. 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team, 550th Glider Infantry Battalion, 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion and 460th and 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalions, along with various support units.

Under the code name Rugby Force, the unit jumped on August 15, 1944 into the Argens Valley between Le Luc and Le Muy, behind the Massif des Maures, a key piece of terrain which overlooked the Allied landing beaches near St. Tropez and St. Raphaël. Having successfully blocked German forces from reaching the invasion beaches, the 1st Airborne Task Force linked up with the 36th Infantry Division on August 17, 1944. It then moved up the French Riviera coastline, taking Cannes unopposed on August 24, 1944 and linking up with Frederick’s old unit, the 1st Special Service Force. The 1st Special Service Force had initially been tasked to seize several small islands off the French Riviera and then moved onshore, where it was attached to the 1st Airborne Task Force on August 22 (replacing the British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade). The task force then fought on to the French-Italian border, where it took up defensive positions. The task force was dissolved on November 23, 1944 (and the 1st Special Service Force was disbanded on December 5).

Major General Frederick was given command of the 45th Infantry Division in December 1944, and led the division through the end of the war. The 45th saw heavy combat in French Alsace from December 1944 through February 1945, and was pulled from the line to rehabilitate on February 17. In mid-March, it was assigned to XV Corps for the drive into Germany. The division crossed the Rhine and advanced to the Main. Moving along the Main into Bavaria, the division participated in heavy fighting in Aschaffenburg from March 28 to April 3 and then drove to Nuremberg, taken in heavy fighting from April 16-20. Moving south, the division crossed the Danube on April 26, and opened up the path for the 20th Armored Division to drive on Munich. Reaching Munich on April 29, the division shifted from combat to occupation.

After a period of occupation duty, the 45th Infantry Division prepared to return to the United States and Major General Frederick relinquished command in September 1945. After a period of staff duty and recuperation (he had been wounded eight times), Major General Frederick was assigned to Allied occupation forces in Austria, commanding the U.S. Sector, of the Vienna Inter-Allied Command in 1948. From February 28, 1949 to October 10, 1950, Major General Frederick commanded the 4th Infantry Division, which had been reactivated as a training division at Fort Ord, California in 1947. In October 1950, the division was redesignated the 6th Infantry Division, and Major General Frederick continued as its commanding general until 1951.

Shortly after the war, General Frederick was approached by a civilian police officer, who demanded identification. The police officer did not believe that the youthful Frederick was really a Major General. Frederick produced his identification card, which the police officer read and then deliberately dropped on the ground. When he declined to pick it up, Frederick knocked him out with a single punch.

In 1951, Major General Frederick returned to Europe to take command of the Joint U.S. Military Aid Group, Greece (JUSMAG Greece). He retired on disability in March 1952.

Major General Frederick’s awards and decorations include:

Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster Silver Star Medal Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster Air Medal Purple Heart with seven oak leaf clusters Legion of Honor (Légion d’honneur) in the grade of Officer (France) Croix de guerre with Palm (France) Distinguished Service Order (United Kingdom) Order of St. Charles in the grade of Grand Officer (Monaco) King Haakon VII’s Freedom Medal (Haakon VIIs frihetsmedalje) (Norway).

In the 1965 film The Devil’s Brigade, which chronicled the formation, training and combat in Italy of the 1st Special Service Force, Robert T. Frederick was played by actor William Holden, also with Dr. Ben Casey on early sixties TV.”

 

 

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