E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One

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.

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.