Born: Dec. 5, 1924
Coventry Meadows Assisted Living
Gordon Schaefer does not talk much about his experiences during World War II. The memories are painful. They are etched in his mind forever.
He was an infantryman in the U.S. Army, a 19-year-old just out of high school in Northern Indiana. One day stands out from the rest of those days Mr. Schaefer spent in foxholes. It was Nov. 18, 1944. His unit was part of a mission to take a German town occupied by the enemy. To get inside the town, the troops had to walk across a wide beet field. Halfway across, they were ambushed. Many Americans were killed or injured.
“I had a small radio shot out of my hand. A bullet went through my pack. After that, I just played dead. And after dark, I tried to help some of the wounded get back where we came from,” said Mr. Schaefer.
The following day, “we got hit with everything. That’s when I got hit with a piece of shrapnel. I crawled into a foxhole and tried to bandage my leg. But I wasn’t successful.”
Two German prisoners who were being held by Americans helped carry Mr. Schaefer to safety. He was transported to a hospital in Holland, then to a hospital in Belgium. He underwent multiple surgeries.
“I still have the shrapnel they took out of my leg,’’ said Mr. Schaefer.
After recovering, he was assigned to an office job in Germany. For his meritorious service, Mr. Schaefer received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, but he is modest about the achievement.
“I don’t think my service was any more meritorious than anyone else’s service,” he said.
Back in the U.S. after the war, he returned to Andrews, Ind., located west of Huntington. “It was the same as when I left, but I wasn’t the same,” he said.
Mr. Schaefer was admitted to Ball State University and majored in social studies and physical education. After graduating, he landed a position teaching social studies to 7th and 8th graders. He also coached basketball and baseball.
Wanting to change his profession, Mr. Schaefer became postmaster of Andrews, a position he held for 27 years. He and his wife had three children. He also has five grandchildren and several great grandchildren. He loves music and played drums at venues throughout Northeast Indiana.
“To this day, I don’t know why I’m alive,’’ said Mr. Schaefer. “I had every chance, every day not to be here today. No one can tell you what you should feel or what this was really like. It was war.”