Theodore Bachenheimer

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Theodore Herman Bachenheimer
TheodoreBachenheimer.jpg
Nickname(s) The G.I. General
Born (1923-04-23)April 23, 1923
Braunschweig, Germany
Died November 22, 1944(1944-11-22) (aged 21)
't Harde, The Netherlands
Buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1942–1944
Rank Private first class
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Silver Star
Bronze Cross
Relations Theodore Bachenheimer (uncle)
Klaus Gautmann Bachenheimer (brother)

Theodore Herman Bachenheimer aka Theodor Storm,[1][2] (23 April 1923 – 22 October 1944), was an American soldier. In just three years, he achieved legendary status as one of the war’s most daring reconnaissance scouts, he was better known as the The Legendary Paratrooper or The G.I. General and was befriended by Martha Gellhorn.[note 1][3]

Private Bachenheimer had an extraordinary talent for war, but, in reality was a man of peace. ‘In principle I am against any war,’ he would say, ‘I simply cannot hate anyone'.[4] He died aged 21.

Biography[edit]

He was born in Braunschweig, Germany, the eldest of two, his younger brother Klaus Gautmann (1926-1996) went to became one of the top executives at Southwest Gas Corporation.[5] His father William (1892-1942) was a musician of Jewish descent who served in the German Army during World War I (1914–16) and was once voice teacher and coach of actress Joan Blondell. His mother Katherina Boetticher (1899-1985) was an actress, his uncle and namesake (1888-1948), was a producer of light opera based in Hollywood,[6] The Merry Widow and The Waltz King are among the works he either directed or produced.[7]

Following Hitler's rise to power, the Bachenheimers moved, firstly to Prague and afterwards to Vienna, sometime in September 1934 they boarded the Majestic in Cherbourg, France, and sailed for America, arriving in New York on 19 September and finally settled in California. Because of his family background, Bachenheimer registered aged 18 years old as an arts student at the Los Angeles City College.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for military service (13 December 1941[8]), and in May 1942 he was allocated to the 504th after successfully obtaining his parachuting certificate. In August 1942, he was transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina together with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment which was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. Bachenheimer was granted U.S. citizenship on 23 October 1942[9] by the United States district court of Atlanta, Georgia, his petition for naturalization described him as a 5 ft 10, 160 lbs white male with brown hair and brown eyes, ruddy complexion, exhibiting a small scar on the tip of the chin.On 23 March 1943[10] in Fayetteville, Cumberland County, North Carolina, he married Ethel Lou Murfield, whom he called Penny, from Fullerton, California who at the time was working for the Douglas Aircraft Company as a timekeeper.

Bachenheimer took part in Operation Husky, fought in the battles for Salerno and Anzio, where his bravery behind enemy lines made him a legend in the 82nd Airborne Division, earning him the nickname of ‘’The Legendary Paratrooper’’. From 1942 to 1944, Bachenheimer was the subject of articles in newspapers such as Star and Stripes, Collier’s Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, and some of his exploits were broadcast in radio dispatches.

In action during Operation Market Garden, he landed near Grave, the Netherlands, on 17 September 1944, where he organized the Dutch underground and went on to become the leader (with the underground rank of Major[11]) of the local Dutch resistance group in Nijmegen, where he gained the name of The G.I. General, his army was known as The Free Netherlands Army.

For his heroic actions in Nijmegen, Bachenheimer was recommended for a battlefield commission and was directed to report to division for an interview by a board of officers, on his way to his interview he picked up an helmet with a first lieutenant’s bar on it instead of his own helmet, he was sent back for reconsideration.[12] Finally Bachenheimer agreed to a battlefield commission as a second Lieutenant.[13]

On the night of 11–12 October, he volunteered to accompany British officer Captain Peter Baker across the Waal river at Tiel[14] to contact the Ebbens family, the mission was to deploy Operation Windmill[note 2] on site (The Ebbens’s family farm[note 3]), bringing back British paratroopers hidden by Dutch resistance in the Arnhem area (Ede, Netherlands) safely to the Allied lines. Both men disobeyed a written order[note 4] from Major Airey Neave[17] (codenamed Saturday[18]) to remain in military uniform and not leave the safe house in daylight. They went for a walk in plain clothes and were spotted by German troops passing nearby.[19][20]

On the night of 16 October, the Ebbens’s farm was raided by SS troops, and during their search, the Germans found a stock of arms and some papers. Bachenheimer and Baker were questioned for a full day, but they managed to establish a false identity and said they were cut off from their units and had lost their way in a no man's land between the Waal and the Rhine.[17] Bachenheimer and Baker were deported by train as prisoners of war to Stalag XI-B, Fallingbostel, (when news that both men had been arrested, the "Windmill line" was abandoned, the other escape route via Renkum codenamed Operation Pegasus went ahead as scheduled.[21]). During the transport, the two men were put into different boxcars, and Bachenheimer and Baker, gave each other messages for friends hoping one day to meet again in Los Angeles,[22] Maybe we can do business together, we could start a Californian branch of your firm and call it The Musketeers said Bachenheimer to Baker[note 5] and as for the Ebbens, they were executed in retaliation for terrorist activity. Bachenheimer managed to escape with three other British soldiers[23] on 22 October, but he was recaptured for the last time by the Germans near the village of 't Harde while laying a telephone wire.[24]His body was recovered the next day with two gunshot wounds, and a memorial monument marks the spot where he was shot dead.

Bachenheimer's body was later reburied in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.

Military decorations[edit]

On 14 June 1944, Bachenheimer was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action demonstrated during the fighting for Anzio, and on 7 January 1952 (by Royal Decree n°24, signed by her HRH Queen Juliana of the Netherlands), the Bronze Cross for distinguished and brave conduct against the enemy.

Bachenheimer is eligible[25][26] for the award of the Medal of Honor for his outstanding leadership, gallantry and devotion to duty during World War II.

In other media[edit]

Bachenheimer was featured in the Real Life comics issue n°25, published 1 September 1945, as the character of the G.I. General.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gellhorn met Bachenheimer via Baker.
  2. ^ The Windmill incident was the subject of a post-war enquiry.[15]
  3. ^ Bringing back the British paratroopers in small parties from Ede to Tiel using guides.
  4. ^ On 6 October, Neave asked IS9's Langley (codenamed P15) the permission to send Baker accross enemy lines, Langlay agreed on condition that Baker remained in uniform at all times.[16]
  5. ^ Bachenheimer used to call himself D’artagnan, see Baker’s My Testament.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Baker (1946), p.152.
  2. ^ Baker (1955)
  3. ^ Baker (1946), p.141.
  4. ^ Gellhorn, Martha (December 2, 1944). "Rough and Tumble". Collier's Weekly: 70. 
  5. ^ Fletcher, Russel Holmes. Who’s Who in California. Vol.I (1942-43). Who’s Who Co. 
  6. ^ Billboard. 20 November 1948. 
  7. ^ "Chicago Stagebill Yearbook", 1947
  8. ^ "United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946"
  9. ^ "Georgia, Naturalization Records, 1793-1991"
  10. ^ "North Carolina, County Marriages 1762-1979"
  11. ^ Baker (1946), p.140.
  12. ^ Nordyke (2008)
  13. ^ Breuer, William B. Daring Missions of World War II. John Wiley & Sons. 
  14. ^ Foot, M.R.D.; Langley, James (1979). MI9: The British Secret Service That Fostered Escape and Evasion 1939-1945, and its American Counterpart. Futura. p. 223. 
  15. ^ Routledge (2002), p.153.
  16. ^ Routledge (2002).
  17. ^ a b Neave, Airey (1969). The Escape Room. Doubleday. p. 305. 
  18. ^ Neave (2010).
  19. ^ Baker (1955), p.136.
  20. ^ Routledge (2002).
  21. ^ Routledge (2002).
  22. ^ Baker (1955), p.150.
  23. ^ Baker (1955), pp.151–152.
  24. ^ Bowman (2013)
  25. ^ Thompson, James G. (September 2003). Complete Guide to United States Marine Corps Medals, Badges and Insignia: World War II to Present. Medals of America Press. 
  26. ^ Dalessandro, Robert J. Army Officer's Guide. Stackpole Books. 
Bibliography
  • Baker, Peter (1946). Confession of Faith. Falcon Press. 
  • Baker, Peter (1955). My Testament. London: John Calder. 
  • Baldino, Fred (2001). "Odyssey of the PFC General". The Airborne Quarterly. 
  • Carter, Ross S. (1996). Those Devils in Baggy Pants. Buccaneer Books. 
  • De Groot, Norbert A. (1977). Als Sterren Van De Hernel [Like Stars from Heaven]. 
  • François, Bill (1961). "The Legendary Paratrooper". Veterans of Foreign Wars. 
  • Lofaro, Guy. The Sword of St. Michael: The 82nd Airborne Division in World War II. Da Capo Press. 
  • Loomis, William Raymond (1958). Fighting Firsts. Vantage Press. 
  • Nordyke, Phil (2008). More Than Courage: Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe: Combat History of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II. Zenith Press. 
  • Routledge, Paul (2002). Public Servant, Secret Agent: The Elusive Life and Violent Death of Airey Neave. Fourth Estate. 
  • Neave, Airey (2010). Saturday at M.i.9: The Classic Account of the Ww2 Allied Escape Organisation. Pen & Sword Military. 
  • Bowman, Martin W. (2013). The Shrinking Perimeter. Pen & Sword Aviation. 

External links[edit]