Voices of the Battle of the Bulge: 'I didn't want to let my comrades down'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth installment of a 10-part series about asking the same five questions to 10 World War II veterans who served during the Battle of the Bulge Dec. 16, 1944, through Jan. 25, 1945. The veterans returned to Europe for 70th anniversary observances of the battle in Belgium and Luxembourg, Dec. 9-18, 2014. 


Fred Gordon
9th Armored Division, 3rd Field Artillery Battalion, C Battery

Born in Emerson, Nebraska, July 14, 1918, Gordon entered military service as a second lieutenant in Des Moines, Iowa, in January 1942. Reporting to the 2nd Cavalry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, he was assigned directly to the 3rd Field Artillery Battalion, which still used horses at the time. Departing for Europe from New York aboard the Queen Mary Aug. 26, 1944, he landed at Utah Beach September 26. Serving with the 9th Armored Division through the Bulge to their capture of the Remagen Bridge, he was in Czechoslovakia at war's end. Awarded a Presidential Unit Citation and Bronze Star, Gordon headed back to the states in late 1945. Called back into service during the Korean conflict, he served with the Iowa and Minnesota National Guards, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. Working in the dairy industry, he retired in 1979 after 25 years with the U.S.  Department of Agriculture. He is currently a resident of Delano, Minnesota, with Cheryl, his wife of 34 years.

Where were you during the Battle of the Bulge?

We were in Haller, Luxembourg. That was our first position. I was the C-Battery executive officer, in other words I was in charge of the six 105s that we had. Six 105mm mounted on M-7 tanks. I was in charge of them - telling where to shoot and how high to shoot and so forth. That was in Haller. That was in a real good position in an apple orchard. We had had time to dig the six guns in, and my fire direction center was across the road from Haller to Savelborn, and my fire direction center was in this fruit cellar that the people who lived in this property had dug years and years ago. It made a beautiful fire direction center. It was dug way down in the ground and offered a lot of protection.

How does it feel to be back 70 years later?

It's been nostalgic, interesting and enjoyable. The weather could have helped a little bit, but it was fine. These people are so enthusiastic, and so appreciative for what we've done, especially the kids. It's great when the kids come out and wave their flags and just being kids. It's been a great experience. When we go back, I'll be taking a message back to our town just about this. The Belgian and Luxembourg people really appreciate for what we've done over the past years. Not only appreciative, but they've shown it through all these monuments. You can go almost any place in Luxembourg, if you go through a little town, there'll be a monument there some place. It's been very gratifying.

'The Greatest Victory'

What was the proudest moment of your military career?

When we received the presidential unit citation--that's probably the proudest medal that I've gotten. The Presidential Unit Citation is only given to a group--it's not an individual award; it's a group award. In my case, it was combat command A of the 9th Armored Division which is about 5,000 men. We received a message for our action during the Battle of the Bulge. I also got the Bronze Star medal for my individual actions during the Battle of the Bulge. I think the main reason I got it was that Combat Command A was surrounded in Bastogne, and I was with Combat Command B. I was picked for a task force to go through the ring and help release our comrades in Combat Command B.

What got you through some of the toughest of times?

The reason I'd been able to do, and I've had a few experiences where it's kind of dangerous, but mainly it was because I didn't want to let my comrades down. It wasn't I was so brave or anything, but I didn't want to let them down.

I'd been very lucky during the war--I don't know why. I was in, I'd figured, four situations where I could've been killed, but I wasn't, because of little things here and there. Why, I don't know. But I was very lucky.

'The Greatest Victory'

What advice do you have for the men and women in uniform today?

Do their duty. If they're given an order, take it, do it, carry it out. But I wouldn't advise to look for things--they'll come to you. And when they tell you 'you go take that machine gun and do this,' you do it. But there are a lot of people out there who are not the Audie Murphy-type - they don't volunteer to do this. But if they're ordered to do it, they've got to do it. War is hell, and they've heard that before, but it is hell. But stay out of it, if you possibly can.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gordon's biography provided by the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge.
Video by Senior Airman Rusty Frank.
Photos by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden and Senior Airman Rusty Frank.