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 October 22, 1944(1944-10-22) (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 Star
Purple Heart
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 chose to finish the task he started whatever the sacrifice. Bachenheimer, one of the most remarkable character of his division died at the age of twenty-one.

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. While the 504th was training at Fort Bragg, Bachenheimer, fluent in German, taught an intelligence class, where he would read out of a German infantry training manual.[9] Bachenheimer was granted U.S. citizenship on 23 October 1942[10] 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[11] 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. After successfully avoiding being captured by a band of German soldiers, he reorganized the Dutch underground organizations and went on to become the leader[12][note 2] (with the underground rank of Major[13]) of the Dutch resistance group in Nijmegen called K.P. (Knokploegen, or Fist-Fighters, part of the newly formed Netherlands Forces of the Interior, Prince Bernhard led as chief commander), where he gained the name of The G.I. General, his army was known as The Free Netherlands Army, a Battalion consisted of more than three hundred fighters.[14] His partisans dubbed him Kommandant, Bachenheimers's HQ was set up in a steel factory.

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.[15] Finally Bachenheimer agreed to a battlefield commission as a second Lieutenant.[16]

On the night of 11–12 October,[17] he volunteered to accompany British intelligence officer Captain Peter Baker across the Waal river at Tiel[18] to contact the Ebbens family[note 3], the IS 9's mission, the last under the command of James Langley,[21] was to deploy Operation codenamed the Windmill Line[note 4] on site (The Ebbens’s family farm, near the village of Drumpt), bringing back British paratroopers hidden by Dutch resistance in the Arnhem area (Ede, Netherlands) safely to the Allied lines using guides. Bachenheimer was also determined to establish telephone contact between areas of Germany and Holland opposite his divisional front.[23] But both men disobeyed a written order[note 5] from Major Airey Neave[25] (codenamed Saturday[26]) to remain in military uniform and not leave the safe house in daylight. They went for a walk in plain clothes and were spotted[note 6] by German troops passing nearby.[24][29] Operation Windmill might have been used by the British Secret Intelligence Service as a justification for a Covert operation. In addition to Bachenheimer and Baker, the other boarders at Ebbens's house were a group of young Dutchmen, a Jewish family, a wounded British paratrooper, Staff-Sergeant Alan Kettley of the Glider Pilot Regiment and Canadian officer, Lieutenant Leo Jack Heaps (1922-1995). Heaps would be involved with Operation Pegasus, he would be later raised to the rank of Captain and awarded the Military Cross, his son is Canadian politician, Adrian Heaps.

Bachenheimer's memorial monument

On the night of 16 October, three days after glider pilot Kettley left, the Ebbens’s farm was raided by the Wehrmacht, two German soldiers were killed[30] and during their search, the Germans found a stock of arms and some papers. On the same night, Ebbens had a meeting with the Resistance leader for the Betuwe region.[28] Bachenheimer and Baker were brought to a local school where they were interrogated for some hours, but they remained unmolested. 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.[25] Therefore, Bachenheimer and Baker were deported by train as prisoners of war to Stalag XI-B, Fallingbostel, Baker would reach the camp in the night on 26 October, (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.[24]). 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:[31]

and as for the Ebbens, they were moved on 14 November[28] to Renswoude where they shot by firing squad in retaliation for terrorist activity, Ebbens was incriminated for having ordered to blow up a railway and his farm was burned to the ground.

The intrepid Bachenheimer managed to escape at night (20–21 October) from his boxcar with three other British soldiers[32] but on 22 October, he was recaptured for the last time by the Germans near the village of 't Harde while laying a telephone wire[33][34] possibly trying to reestablish contact with his Resistance force. His body was recovered the next day with two gunshot wounds, and a memorial monument marks the spot where he was shot dead.

Bachenheimer was due to be given the rank of lieutenant within a month.[35]

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

Heaps's book[edit]

Canadian officer Leo Heaps set the date of his arrival at Ebbens's farm (in company of Kettley) on 3 October, Bachenheimer and Baker were already there. Heaps dated his departure on 5 October, putting Kettley in charge of securing the property. Heaps's The Grey Goose of Arnhem contradicts Neave's version of the story, published at a later date causing some doubts on the entire chronology of events.

It seems to me that these young boys who paid with their lives are forgotten very soon. But i have not forgotten and i never will.[12]
– Katherina Bachenheimer, Letter to the Quartermaster General of the Memorial Division, 12 March 1947

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[note 7] for distinguished and brave conduct against the enemy.

Bachenheimer is eligible[36][37] for the award of the Medal of Honor for his outstanding leadership, gallantry and exceptional devotion to duty during World War II and for reburial in Arlington National Cemetery.

In popular culture[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. ^ Bacheimer's predecessors were either killed by the Gestapo or sent to a Concentration camp.
  3. ^ Ebbens's address[19] had been given by Dignus Kragt (1917-2008) also known as Frans Hals, Kragt was a member of the SAS Belgian Regt of Operation Fabian (16 Sept 1944-14 March 1945).Operation Fabian was to collect intelligence concerning enemy concentrations in northwest Holland and to locate V-2 rocket launch sites.[20] Belgian born Gilbert Sadi-Kirschen (codenamed Captain Fabian King) was head of Operation Fabian, Sadi-Kirschen and his team were dropped in Holland 48 hours before Operation Market-Garden would begin, King's unit became part of Operation Pegasus.On 23 July 1948, Captain Dignus Kragt of the Intelligence Corps (345755) was awarded the Medal of Freedom with gold palm and on 15 February 1952 the Bronze Lion.Kragt assisted fellow officer, Brigadier John Hackett in his escape.
  4. ^ The Windmill incident was the subject of a post-war enquiry.[22]
  5. ^ On 6 October, Neave asked IS9's Langley (codenamed P15) the permission to send Baker across enemy lines, Langley agreed on condition that Baker remained in uniform at all times.[24]
  6. ^ Baker gives a slightly different version of the story and says that the Ebbens were already under suspicion,[27] presumably, he and Bachenheimer were denounced by one of the four young Dutchmen who were living with the Ebbens avoiding German conscription. Heaps's book untitled The Grey Goose of Arnhem (The Evaders) stated that an informer told the Gestapo that Jewish people were hiding in Ebbens's house.[28]
  7. ^ Dutch counterpart of the British Distinguished Service Order.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Baker (1946), p.152.
  2. ^ a b 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. ^ "The Final Curtain". The Billboard. 20 November 1948. p. 53. 
  7. ^ "Chicago Stagebill Yearbook", 1947
  8. ^ "United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946"
  9. ^ Tyler Fox inverview of Baldino, Fred J. Corp. Co. A, 504th Para. Inf. Feb. 15, 2013.
  10. ^ "Georgia, Naturalization Records, 1793-1991"
  11. ^ "North Carolina, County Marriages 1762-1979"
  12. ^ a b Van Lunteren (2014)
  13. ^ Baker (1946), p.140.
  14. ^ Gavin (1978)
  15. ^ Nordyke (2008)
  16. ^ Breuer, William B. Daring Missions of World War II. John Wiley & Sons. 
  17. ^ Neave (1969)
  18. ^ Foot, M.R.D.; Langley, James (1979). MI9: The British Secret Service That Fostered Escape and Evasion 1939-1945, and its American Counterpart. London. p. 223. 
  19. ^ Foot, Langley (1979)
  20. ^ Davies (1998)
  21. ^ Routledge (2002), p.153.
  22. ^ Routledge (2002), p.152.
  23. ^ Baker (1946)
  24. ^ a b c Routledge (2002).
  25. ^ a b Neave, Airey (1969). The Escape Room. Doubleday. p. 305. 
  26. ^ Neave (2010).
  27. ^ Baker (1946), p.164
  28. ^ a b c Heaps (1976)
  29. ^ Baker (1955), p.136.
  30. ^ Neave (1969), p.308.
  31. ^ Baker (1955), p.150.
  32. ^ Baker (1955), pp.151–152.
  33. ^ "The Jewish Veteran, volume 16, 1946"
  34. ^ Bowman (2013)
  35. ^ Baker (1946), p.156
  36. ^ 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. 
  37. ^ Dalessandro, Robert J. Army Officer's Guide. Stackpole Books. 
Bibliography
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  • 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]. 
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  • 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. 
  • Neave, Airey (1969). The escape room. Doubleday. 
  • Heaps, Leo (1976). The Evaders. New York: Morrow. 
  • Gavin, James M. (1978). On to Berlin. New York: Viking Press. 
  • Foot, M.R.D; Langley, J.M (1979). MI 9 the British Secret Service That Fostered Escape and Evasion, 1939-1945 and its American Counterpart. London. 
  • Davies, Barry (1998). The Complete Encyclopedia of the SAS. Virgin Publishing. 
  • 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. 
  • Van Lunteren, Frank (2014). The Battle of the Bridges The 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment in Operation Market Garden. Casemate Publishers. 

External links[edit]