Today I had the distinct honor to sit down & hang out with Fred Bahlau. Fred was a member of the 506th PIR 101st Abn and jumped into both Normandy & Holland. He jumped into Normandy as a SSG and by the time the war was over, he had been promoted all the way up to 1SG before receiving a battlefield commission and ended the war as a 1LT. He showed me a copy of the letter telling him he was being recommended for a battlefield commission and it spoke to his "tremendous laziness, natural leadership, & gallantry in battle." Those were the finest qualities an officer could have the author of the letter had written. The author went on to mention how he conveniently decided to leave out how while on leave in Paris, Fred and his men destroyed not only an entire bar, but somehow an entire train car as well!
He was awarded 2 Silver Stars & 2 Bronze Stars for actions during the war. One Silver Star were for his actions on D-Day. Following the jump, Fred rallied the couple men he could find before leading them to assault one of their objectives, a large bridge. His second Silver Star was during the Battle of the Bulge. Some of the details may be a little off as I was trying to listen to him tell his stories while reading the piles of award citations and photos he kept pushing my way. Never-the-less, one of his commanders(Battalion or Brigade I believe) had been ambushed and his jeep overturned. While the commander was able to escape, he left behind incredibly important documents in the jeep. Fred volunteered to lead a group of men back in to retrieve the papers. Not only did they recover all of the documents, but they managed to capture 13 Germans while they were at it. At Bastogne, his frostbite became so bad in all the toes on his, if I remember correctly, right foot, that he was forced to amputate them himself using only piano wire. He would go on to help secure the Eagle's Nest with his unit, even taking one of Hermann Goering’s cars for a spin. He also participated in the liberation of at least 3 Concentration camps, but it may have been 4.
Fred is a true-to-life badass & I definitely plan on going to see & listen to him many more times.
2/2 SCR 06-09
“There is a savage beast in every man, and when you hand that man a sword or spear and send him forth to war, the beast stirs.”
-George R.R. Martin