The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Larry Nelson
For The Sun-Telegraph 

Bahr provided valiant service to country – Veteran's History Project: John W. Bahr


Ryan Hermens / The Sun-Telegraph

Bahr's children pose for a portrait with his medals and a past newspaper story about his military career. From left, Jo Houser, John Bahr, Lori Borchert and Donna Bahr.

John W. Bahr


U.S. Army

1942 to 1945

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is one of many American Veteran accounts published in The Sidney Sun-Telegraph. The writer, who is from Sidney, is conducting the interviews as part of the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.

john W. Bahr found work in Hawaii in late 1941. After the horrific bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was employed as a civilian working to repair the damage to the piers and docks that were destroyed as a result of the blasts by the Japanese torpedoes and bombs. Soon after the attack, John made a life-changing decision to return to his home farm near Lodgepole. Two days later, he was drafted into service in the U.S. Army.

He went from Sidney to Fort Logan, Colo., to take the physical examination and further testing. Once he completed both, the Army sent him directly to basic training as a member of the infantry. Once his basic training and additional training was completed, he was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division (3rd ID). Historically this is called the "Rock of Marne" fighting unit.

The Third Infantry Division was absolutely involved in the European fight aimed at ending the rule of Hitler and the Nazi regime. The earlier part of American involvement in this war was fought in northern Africa where our forces would have to grind it out with the Germans. When our soldiers figured out their mission, the were able to push the Germans out of Africa through Tunisia, to Sicily, and into Italy. The plan from the high command was to go through the belly of the beast.

The Third Infantry Division became involved in Operation Husky. This entailed amphibious assault landings on the island of Sicily on 10 Jul 1943. The 3rd ID was charged with establishing a beachhead then fight its way north and east across the rugged, mountainous terrain. They crossed at Messina and arrived on Italian soil. Still pushing the German armies north, the 3rd ID linked up with British troops that had landed at Salerno.

The fighting here was slow-going as well as lethal. However, because of our Naval bombardment onto Italy and the ground troops inching ahead, the 3rd ID and an Armored Brigade destroyed the Germans' 65th Division.

As the Germans made their way north, they took advantage of their knowledge of the terrain. They blew up bridges, highways and any other item that would slow down Allied forces, allowing them a more hasty retreat. On the Allied side, every soldier was required to pursue by climbing, fighting, and getting in a better position.

In Operation Shingle, American and British forces arrived near Anzio, Italy. It was in January 1944. Allied forces needed to prevent the Germans from using artillery gunfire to hit the re-enforcements as they landed. When this continued, the Germans applied all their forces in the area to split up the forces on the beachhead. In mid-February, Allied forces were in a jam. The men of the 3rd ID dug in. They courageously and skillfully fought off the Germans. Corporal John Bahr was part of this battle.

Written by his then-commander, "movement in the daylight was all but impossible. Moving in the darkness during battle is very dangerous even with a guide...We heard movement and saw dark silhouettes of soldiers who moved when the flares died out. The flashes of gunfire determined where the front line was. Our movement was restricted by German mortar and artillery fire and combat patrols that kept trying to penetrate our lines. We made our way to a machine gunner who continued to fire from one position. The soldier manning the machine gun was half under water in a gun pit. He had been there firing for four hours. He was barely able to whisper. I called for the medics and the man was taken out and hailed about 600 yards back to a medic tent. When his parka was removed in the emergency tent, he went into shock and shook violently. The nurses wrapped him in blankets and tried to calm him. It was then that I learned that soldier was John Bahr.

John Bahr was awarded the Silver Star for his courageous actions. Not much after recovering from hypothermia he was back into the fight. The 3rd ID was a part of the next Operation (Dragoon). They were an amphibious assault unit again, landing on the south coast of France. This was the fourth amphibious assault landing that Corporal Bahr had taken part in. Surviving that number of assaults was unheard of.

The units John was assigned to continued northward into France and onward to Northern France where the Battle of the Bulge was being fought. Again the 3rd ID was instrumental in this effort as well. John Bahr was in the 15th Regiment of the 3rd ID. It was one of the few units that was in combat continuously from the start to the end of the American involvement and even ended up in Germany at the end of World War II.

Corporal John Bahr was finally discharged from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., less than a month after the end of hostilities. He returned to the Lodgepole area. He later moved to Sidney where he and his wife, Leona, raised five children.

John Bahr was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with the V (Valor) Device and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Theater Medal, the Europe/African Medal and the Victory Medal. In addition, he earned the Combat Infantry Badge, a Presidential Unit Award and the "Ruptured Duck." In all, he said that he was "satisfied just getting home."

Corporal John Bahr passed away in 2004. Again from LTC DeLyle Seda, "He saw the face of terror, felt the stinging cold of fear, and warmed to the touch of love. He hoped, pained and cried, but most of all lived in the times others would say were best forgotten. At the very least he was able to say with great pride that he was a SOLDIER."

Thanking this man for his service doesn't seem enough.


Reader Comments

johouser writes:

Larry, thank you so much for writing my dad's story. It was told in amazing detail. Ryan, thank you for taking the time out of your day to photograph my dad's medals and previous article. His story brings tears to my eyes when I think of the actions he took to preserve our freedom. He was a true hero.


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