E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One

David J Hindlemann was 26 when he enlisted in the army at Ft. Logan, Colorado on November 14, 1942. He was sent to Camp Adair, Oregon for his basic training. From there he went to Ft Sill, Oklahoma for Officer Candidate School.  He became a 2nd Lieutenant September 2, 1943. At Ft. Sill, he became a field artillery instructor. He was assigned to the 80th Blue Ridge Division. It was there that he became acquainted with General Searby who asked him to  become his aide-de-camp.

In late June 1944 the 80th Division boarded the Queen Mary for Scotland. In August they landed in Normandy, and fought their way across France. The 80th became part of the 3rd Army under Patton. During a major offensive on the Moselle River, General Searby and 2nd Lt. Hindlemann joined the infantry to take the strategic high ground of Mousson Hill. Dave was beside General Searby when he was killed on Mousson Hill. Dave took over the FA duties. He was awarded a battlefield promotion and became a 1st Lieutenant. General MacKelvie replaced General Searby and Dave became his aide-de-camp. Dave was awarded two Bronze Stars

The 80th Division defended the city of Luxembourg, broke through the Maginot and Siegfried lines, and continued across Germany. Late in the spring of 1945 the 80th entered Austria and met the Russian army when the 6th German army surrendered in May 1945. Dave was promoted to Captain.

After VE Day he was released as General MacKelvie’s aide and assigned to 80th Division Headquarters. He was directed to take over a German uniform factory to manufacture clothing for the thousands of displaced persons living in the DP camps. In December 1945 he returned to the United States on the USS Mt. Vernon and was discharged in January 1946. Dave was born in 1916 and died in 2006 at the age of 90.

This blog is lovingly created by his son-in-law Edward Berger and his daughter Jo Hindlemann Berger to document his story and share his numerous photos. Dave was an avid photographer and fortunately many of his photographs were labeled with locations and dates.  Others are not.  We have posted a number of photos we cannot specifically identify on the ‘Help Identify Photos’ page. If you can identify any of these people, places, and a date that would be GREAT! Thank you to the many veterans who have given their service. Ed and Jo Berger

Arrayed south of the Seille River in October and early November, 1944, the 80th had time to identify targets and sight artillery prior to the battle for Luxemburg and the Battle of the Bulge. Major General McBride noted that new methods of identifying targets over the horizon with the use of reconnaissance planes and oblique photography, and sighting artillery effectively, were being employed for perhaps the first time in combat. Two officers of the 80th Field Artillery proved the effectiveness of this method of using gridded oblique photographs while dealing with complications imposed by limited equipment in the field. Dave Hindlemann, Aide to Brig General MacKelvie, Headquarters, Field Artillery, was one of the officers singled out for a Bronze Star for his work.

CITATION TO ACCOMPANY GENERAL ORDERS.

A Bronze Star Medal is awarded to 1st Lt David Jay Hindlemann, 01105058, Field Artillery, Army of the United States, for meritorious achievement in France during the period 24 October, to 8 November 1944, in connection with military operations against and enemy of the United States.

During the period from 24 October 1944 to 8 November 1944, 1st Lt Hindlemann, assisted by a fellow officer, undertook the difficult tasks of assembling the necessary materials and equipment to enable his organization to photograph, develop, and print gridded oblique photographs. 1st Lt Hindlemann has also, through his technical knowledge and skill in photograph, contributed materially to the high degree of success obtained thus far, under additional complications imposed by operating with limited equipment in the field. The zealousness, tireless energy and devotion to duty displayed by Lt Hindlemann are commensurate with the highest traditions of the armed forces of the United States.

Major General McBride

Most probably due to the combat death of a General, which was not advertised, Dave’s Bronze Star for his service on Mousson Hill was not awarded until 1945. Thus, as his Bronze Star mentioned above was awarded first, the second was an Oak Leaf cluster on the Bronze Star.

Dave arrived in France in August. Won a Bronze Star and his 1st Lt. status by October 1st, for actions September 14, 1944, and a Bronze Star awarded on the 22 of November 1944 for achievements October 24 – Nov 8, 1944.

An Insight into General Searby and Dave’s Account

of The Battle of Mousson Hill.

(Oral history August 2006)

Crossing France as part of the 3rd Army under General Patton:

…the General [Searby] used to go on reconnaissance so we’d get in the Jeep – he had to see the lay of the land so he could determine in advance where we were going to set up the artillery. So the three of us, the driver, the General, and … I used to sit in the back. We had a 50 caliber machine gun. And we’d go riding up to where the infantry was. In some cases we rode up and got ahead of the infantry. And the General, who was a very capable man, but he had a lousy sense of direction sometimes. And we’d go up a road and I’d say, General we’re on the wrong [unclear]. No! No! No!  I said, we’re ahead of the troops – and then we went over the top of a hill and there was a German tank there with 8 or 10 guys sitting around. He saw and I saw we were only about 75 yards away. So I took the machine gun and started firing at them. And they thought they were being attacked by a division so they held up their arms and they surrendered. So we turned around and we escorted the tank back with the prisoners to the front. But we had several other incidents where we were in the wrong place – and he was that kind of a guy.

The General’s need to get out in front with the troops and scout sites for the FA placed the two of them across the Moselle River on September 12, 1944.

We got on the other side and they established a circumference there so right away the General said we got to go over there. Ah approximately ½ mile back from the river there was a high hill like a small mountain called Mt. Mousson. There had been a castle up at the top and it was the only high piece of ground around there and it was about a half a mile past the river. And the infantry was making an assault on the hill. The General wanted to get up there because from there you could see miles in every direction. So he says, “We’ll go up with the infantry.”  I says, General we don’t have a rifle, we don’t have any guns. I had a 45 caliber pistol they gave you. He says, “That’s okay, we won’t need them.” So we went up with the infantry. Along the way I picked up a rifle from some soldier that was killed. We got up to the top and there was an area up there of approximately 3 acres. There was a wall approximately uh 46” high that had been the foundation of the castle years ago.  So it was just the entire top of the hill almost was walled in. There was 100 or 110 infantry men when we got up to the top and there was a Lieutenant of the infantry and there was supposed to be a forward observer for the artillery, but he never showed up. We never did find whether he got killed or whether he just got …couldn’t make it. So, once we got up there, it was like being in an airplane. You could see all the different troops, you could see their tanks, you could see their troops, you could see everything. So the General said, “Come on we gotta start firing.” So he was picking out the targets and I was giving the coordinates to the guns .. .you know the map coordinates – farthest – farthest, and we destroyed maybe 20 – 25 tanks that got set on fire and we got [caused] a lot of casualties because of the infantry and stuff. But then they counter attacked from the north and the south and they cut us off. They got in between us and the river. All we had up there was 100 men.  So we couldn’t get back. So they forced our troops down there back across the river.  So we were up there 3 days and what I did, I took every possible approach to the top of the mountain … there was one road coming up where the tanks would go. Where there were ravines where troops would come up, I fired a single gun until I hit the ravine … left, right, forward, back … and then I gave it a position like #1 and they [FA across the River] took the coordinates from about 12 areas where they [the Germans] could access the hill. So we had 12 targets – so as soon as somebody would hear troops coming they’d tell me if it was this particular hill I would tell [radio] …target so and so… 5 round, 3 rounds depending on how many people there were. Then we were able to protect…and we had to be careful ‘cause if they got close to the top and the round was higher it would come and hit us…come over the top. We were there firing and were able to maintain our position [So were you in contact with the guns….?] We had radio [Back of the line you could command that fire?] Yeah by radio and uh we could command the fire to the guns.  And of course, on the other side of the river they wanted to know what the hell was going on.  So then, the 2nd day, a tank got up to the top.  We knocked the wheels off it, but it was still above the parapet and they were firing their machine guns at us. So Searby he got frustrated and said, “I’m gonna get that son of a bitch!” and he took a rifle….we were down behind the wall…..and he stands up like he was shootin’ targets and he aims at the guy and a machine gun just literally cut him in half. He was dead before he dropped down beside me to the ground. So that left me in charge of the artillery up there and in the meantime I was firing and when I saw troops I would fire 2 or 3 battalions….12-14-24 guns….I fired one round and made sure I hit the target and then all the other guns are lined up and they are all…when you put the guns, they are not all in a row…they are spaced separate. Well the General was killed instantly and I was the contact with the HQ of the artillery on the other side of the river and I tried to let ‘em know what happened.  Course they told us you are not supposed to reveal information over the telephone or the radio because they will pick it up. So I said, He [Searby] is sick. “Who the hell is this?” I said this is his [Searby’s] little helper. (laughs) It just stuck in my mind that I shouldn’t mention the name. So finally they got the Div. Asst. Commander who was a pretty good guy, he was an older man and I spoke to him and he understood…and he said…you know…  He gave me all the help I could have. So we kept firing from time to time and then, the following day, we had a large group of tanks coming up.  I had 5 or 6 battalions concentrated to fire on them because you are…. [These are German tanks coming….Static?] So somebody at the other end said, “You’re wasting a lot of shots,” he says, “for Christ’s sake we’re low on ammunition.”  I said…. This is what he tells me over the phone… I said, I don’t know who you are but you’re full of crap. I said, Just fire what I asked you to fire and don’t give me any argument. And it turned out later that the guy that I was talking to was a Division Commander. So anyway, late that day, they were able to reinstate their position and they broke through and got up to the top and relieved us and we came back and I was pretty well exhausted because I was up almost continuously. So soon as I got back, I took some, went and took some (unclear) …hell they inquired about it and I told them and then I went to sleep.  When I woke up they handed me a first lieutenant’s bars and told me I had made a battlefield promotion and I was a first lieutenant so that was that.

We helped Dave as he tried, without luck, to recover his service records. All we knew about his military service was what he told us. No recorded oral history was taken until August 2006, a few weeks before he died.  Jo and I were in Denver visiting him and we asked him to give us a complete oral history. Dave shared many parts of his story. His memory was clear. At 90, he had remarkable recall of events that took place more than 60 years before. In this excerpt, in his words, is the story of how he became a member of the 80th Field Artillery and Aide to Brigadier General Edmund J. Searby.

…I was called into the office and I was told that I was being transferred to the 80th Infantry Division and desert maneuvers near Iron Mountain, California and they were getting ready to take their test for overseas efficiency and their efficiency test on firing was below 50% – very poor – and I was supposed to go there and get them up to a passing grade. So I arrived at the camp and they put me in with the Headquarters Company which was the General and the staff officers of/for the artillery: S1, S2, S3, S4. S3 was operations, S2 was transportation, S1 was strategy or something, I forget. So every day I would go out with the crews and work with them. First we’d worked with a transit – I had to teach them how to read it, how to handle it, how to set it up, and how to locate a position relative to a map – we had to have a point on the map to start with that we could identify on the ground and from that point on we would locate the position of the guns. So we worked on transit. We finally got three or four crews that could do it. You see there is in the artillery – there were four battalions of guns. Each battalion had twelve guns. So each battalion had to be complete in itself as far as being able to function properly. So we worked with them and most of these kids had never been through high school or they never took math – they took the lines of least resistance so it was almost impossible to teach them how to do – algebra, calculus -  or anything related to math. So I created charts which gave them the question and the answer so they could take these in waterproof covering to the gun and in a certain elevation and a certain distance the answer was on the chart where to elevate and so forth and that worked pretty good! So we gradually worked with them and after 60 days we had a test and we got them up to about 75%. So eventually, after 5 months we were up to 95% which made us ready to go overseas.

In the meantime every night we used to play volleyball and Gen Searby was my height. As a West Pointer he was in charge – he was commanding officer of the artillery, a one star Gen, so he always teamed up with me. He picked me, so we were constantly beating all the other men because we were the two tallest guys so we’d take turns – one would stand at the net and fork it over…  So we got along fine and I had a lot of freedom because I used to take the crews out in jeeps. We’d go out on a problem we’d pick a spot and we would set up the guns and we’d pick another spot which was gonna be the target and we’d run a program where they would have to set up the guns and I would be the observer. And it was testing them the way they would be tested.

So, after we passed the tests they were told make ready and they moved us to Ft. Dix which was the point of embarkation for overseas. [Where was that?] New Jersey. So the General [Searby] called me into his tent there and he said you’re really not a part of the division here because you were sent here as an instructor on loan. But he said, if I send you back you won’t go back to the school you’ll go to an officer’s pool and you’ll probably be put into some infantry division as a forward observer. He says, the only thing I can do if you’d like to stay and go overseas with us – and I’d like to have you – is I would appoint you my second aide. My first aide is a 1st Lt. and my second is a 2nd Lt. so you would become my second aide. I says okay I’ll become your aide.

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The Challenge of Research

Working in our Prescott, Arizona home on a cold January day in 2010, some of the photos and documents fell from the brittle folders. Captain David Jay Hindlemann had carefully placed them in a satchel after World War II. Luckily, many photos had dates or captions written on them. Others cried for their place in the story we wanted to recover for our family. It is the story of a young artillery officer and the slogging, suffering, brutal path his Generals carved across war-torn Europe in 1944 and 1945.

How will it be possible to do justice to the man, his times, and the powerful experiences that shaped him? We knew the challenges ahead, but had no idea unraveling his story would require so much enjoyable time and energy. We knew Dave well. He was reluctant to speak in depth of his wartime experiences. At 90, when he left us in 2006, the parts of him formed in those war years were his strength and the modifying factors that regulated his life. “I never feared death after those times,” he commented only months before he died. “I learned to deal with it then. I’m not afraid now.” Perhaps that is one of the important keys to understanding David Jay Hindlemann.

Like millions of other young men he was yanked from the comforts of his life. He left Denver, Colorado where he was a popular, fun, bright guy in his mid-twenties who, with a disarming smile, at 6’ 4”, in business for himself, had a good handle on life. All of that changed forever. In November 1942 he was sent to Camp Adair, Oregon for basic training. He was rapidly promoted to corporal and then to sergeant. Honorably discharged as a non-commissioned officer, he was then assigned to the Officer Training School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He spent 1943 and 7 months in 1944, first as a student in the Officer’s Training program and the artillery school, then as an instructor.

Dave first started relaying his military history to us in bits and small vignettes about 1995. Many years later, when Dave was 86 (2002), he decided to record a more complete history. To do that he needed his military records. His daughter Jo and I worked with him to try to recover them. At the time, in fact until his death, he believed that the file of photos and papers he kept had been destroyed or stolen. During a move, his uniform and medals were taken and have never been recovered.* He could not recall his service number (dog tag number). The Army’s central depository for military records near St. Louis, of which his records were evidently a part, burned in 1973 and uncounted soldiers lost their places in history.** We were told that the only way to rebuild his record was to write it and then get another survivor of the 80th Headquarters Division, Field Artillery who served with him to verify the story. Checking, we couldn’t find another survivor of the Headquarters Division.

We were seeking to record history within official history. What is recorded and easy to locate identifies those officers in charge, the geographical locations where they served, and the battles they led. What we were having a difficult time obtaining were the personal and battle records of two Generals – Searby and MacKelvie. Dave was assigned to their personal staff as Aide-de-Camp. He was with them through it all, their records are necessary for information about him.

* After his death in 2006, Dave’s photographs and documents were found in the back of an old file cabinet.

**On July 12, 1973, a disastrous fire at NPRC (MPR) destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files.

The affected record collections are described below:

Branch
Army

Personnel and Period Affected
Personnel discharged Nov 1 1912 – Jan 1 1960

Estimated Loss
80%

No duplicate copies of the records that were destroyed in the fire were maintained, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced. There were no indexes created prior to the fire.  In addition, millions of documents had been lent to the Department of Veterans Affairs before the fire occurred. Therefore, a complete listing of the records that were lost is not available.

We tried every way we could think of to find records of Dave’s service and to help him verify his accounts.  We contacted the Veterans Association through their “free” web sites, but even after paying the fees we could not find a record of a David Jay Hindlemann who served in the United States Army.  We wondered if Dave’s lost records were somehow unique. We searched for the records of Brigadier General E.W. Searby.  Nothing. We called Ft. Sill Oklahoma and they searched for records of the General. A week or so later, a soldier called and reported that Ft. Sill had a General Searby Ballroom, but that no one there at the time knew who he was or could find a record of him. (We learned later that the publication of the 80th Division history was available at the time, but the people we spoke with at Ft. Sill didn’t seem to know about it. This was before Google).

Frustrated and concerned, we talked to Dave and got more information. It seemed to us at that time that only his recollections would be available to tell his story.