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1st Sergeant Erich Bauch
Battery B, 328th Field Artillery
85th 'Custer' Division
The following biography was written by Sgt. Bauch's son, Charles with a few comments added by me.
Sergeant Bauch grew up in the farming/ranching area of South Texas, at Mathis, where he spent his boyhood and early adulthood "cowboying" at home and on neighboring ranches. Dad grew up in a family where German was his first language, Spanish his second, and English his third, all before beginning the first grade. All three languages served him well during the war in Italy. (For those who have never been to Texas, there are some parts of Texas that were settled by Germans and many of the people still spoke German before 1940's.)
Growing up in the time of World War I, the "Roaring Twenties" and into the Depression, he had the normal "adventures" of any other kid of that era. He grew up with a rifle in one hand and a grubbing hoe in the other and was equally adept with either tool. He picked cotton, hoed fields, milked cows, and the other various things to help make a farm/ranch run. When not working, he found time to get into, shall we say, "mischief". Things like.....roping the wooden frame of a hamburger stand just to see if he could, then having his horse shy and pull the hamburger stand over, causing it to catch fire and burn up. His father built the owner a new, much better one. School pranks.....like sneaking the superintendent’s milk cow into the auditorium and leaving her there overnight.....taking a buggy apart and lifting it, piece by piece, up to the roof of the school building where it was re-assembled and left. Harmless stuff......
However, some of his adventures bordered on the edge of danger. His mother related to him that on one occasion, when he was very small, the family slept underneath their house with weapons ready, because rumors were out that "Pancho" Villa was going to raid up in that area. He never appeared, though. On another occasion, he was riding his horse from home to a nearby ranch. As he came into a clearing, he saw a car with three people around it, two men and one small light-haired woman. They acted rather reticent, but asked about which towns were located where in the area. After informing them, dad rode away, but came back a few minutes later to watch through the trees. The car and occupants were gone. Based on photos he saw later, Dad believes he had a close encounter with Bonnie and Clyde.
Enlisted in the Army
During the height of the depression, on 15 Aug 1935, he enlisted in the US Army and was sent to Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio for basic training. When asked by the recruiter why he wanted to enlist, his reply was, "Breakfast, lunch, and supper." He was paid the magnificent sum of $21.00 a month. After serving at Ft. Sam he was transferred to Scofield Barracks, Hawaii, and was there about two years. He rotated home in 1940. In 1941 he was sent to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for Artillery training.
In 1942, he was one of many who were assigned to the cadre forming the 85th Inf. Div. at Camp Shelby. His duties included traveling to other locations and escorting newly-assigned recruits back to Shelby. After the stint at Shelby, the "field maneuvers" of Louisiana, and desert warfare training in California, he, along with the rest of the outfit, went to Ft. Dix, preparatory for shipment overseas and into combat.
(I was listening to a recording of "Don’t Fence Me In" one day when dad walked by and told me that song was the theme song of the 85th Inf. Div.)
Before shipping overseas, he married Dixie Dale Hart at Alice, Texas on 27 Nov 1942. They were blessed with three children, Lynn, Keith, and Charles(me), seven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Mom passed away in June 1998 while she and Dad lived in Schulenburg, Texas.
Sergeant Bauch at Fort Dix just
before leaving for Italy
Throughout the war Dad was assigned to the 328th Field Artillery, Battery B, where he was the unit 1st Sergeant, overseeing a four-gun battery. Two men became his best friends and remained so for many years after the war......Sergeant Karl Strube and Sergeant Ira "Tab" Slaughter. The three would get together often after the war and swap stories that I never grew tired of listening to. Most of the stories, however, were of the humorous variety and seldom did I hear of any killing that took place.
Dad told of having one of his guns 'lined up' on the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which the Germans were using for directing artillery in on our guys. Just before the fire command came in, one of the Lieutenants noticed the barrel pointed "somewhat awry" of the others and, realizing what was about to happen, ordered Dad to re-align the gun properly and that the ‘krauts‘ would be removed by other means. On another occasion, he and Sgt. Strube (also a German-speaker) were escorting two prisoners back to Intelligence. During the jeep ride the two Germans began talking with each other regarding there respective troop placements, strengths, etc. After dropping them off and telling Intelligence what they’d overheard, Dad and Strube went over to the two Germans and, in perfect German, thanked them for the information they’d provided and stated that it would be helpful to the allied war effort. They left two very surprised Germans behind and had a story they laughed about for many years.
Dad said that some of the best food they ate came from the fields and farms of Italians. They would raid a corn field or a potato patch, and occasionally a hen house or two. Once they found a half-grown calf in the field between our lines and the Germans. Dad shot it and crawled out with a length of telephone wire. He tied the calf’s leg with the wire and gave the wire a tug. He said the number of men pulling on the telephone wire caused that dead calf to beat him back. When dad got there one of the men, who’d been a butcher in New York, had the calf up and was dressing him out. They ate very well that night. However the wind was blowing the smell of the fresh cooked beef over to the German lines. Bet they cussed about that!!
Dad had some other "adventures" while overseas, mostly when there was no fire mission and he was, as my mom put it, "messing around with the Infantry where he had no business being." While in one more nameless town in Italy, he turned a corner and found himself looking at a German soldier who had just turned the opposite corner. Reacting, both soldiers raised their sidearms and took aim at each other, only to have both weapons misfire. Both men then ducked for cover!! They were able to get away from each other, and I’ve often wondered what happened to that German soldier. I’d bet he still remembers it, too. Dad, along with many others in the outfit, saw Mussolini, et al, hanging from a pole, dead as hammers. (Sgt. Cole also saw Mussolini's body in Milan. See biography of Sgt Cole.)
When the war ended, Dad said he was at Brenner Pass in Austria, about twenty miles north of Italy. By the war’s end he had earned a Bronze Star Medal, American Defense Medal, National Defense Medal, WWII Victory Medal, North Africa-Italy Campaign Medal with three stars for the major campaigns of Rome-Arno, Po Valley, and Northern Appeninnes, along with the Good Conduct Medal.
An Army Career After the War
After the war ended, Dad shipped home on the "William Rawl". "Creep and crawl on the William Rawl" dad would remark when telling of the ride. He tried to get aboard the Queen Mary but was unsuccessful. "Mary" passed them three times before they arrived in New York. After being out of the service for about 90 days, Dad decided to make a career of it and re-enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was stationed a Chanute Field, Illinois when the USAF came into it’s own. He retired from active duty in Dec. 1958, his last duty assignment as Recruiter, assigned to Beeville, Texas. He retired as a Master Sergeant having served almost 23 years active duty.
After retiring from the military, he began his "second career" as a police officer for the city of Mathis, Texas, the same town in which he’d been raised. After serving there as patrolman, Police Chief, and Deputy Sheriff in San Patricio, Live Oak, and Fayette Counties of Texas, he retired from full-time law enforcement in 1981, but kept on part-time until the end of 1992. After mom passed away, my wife and I had decided to move to the Nashville, Tenn. area where she works for Dell. Dad asked if he could move up with us and we readily agreed. We moved here in October of 2000.
On the Internet
On a whim one day, I began to research the history of the 85th Division when I stumbled onto the Battery B website that Steve started. I asked Dad if he knew a Sergeant Newton Cole. His response was, "Newt Cole?!? I sure do!" I told him how I’d found him and that he (Dad) was now on the internet, along with the rest of Battery B. I, along with the rest of my family, and most especially 1st Sgt. Erich Bauch, would like to thank Steve for his effort, time, and devotion to the men who served in the 328th F.A. And I would like to thank the soldiers, in peace and war, for their service to our country. Without their tenacity, determination, and sacrifice, we would not be enjoying the freedoms we sometimes take for granted today.
by Charles D. Bauch
Erich Bauch playing with his great-grandbaby.
Other info on the 328th Field Artillery Battalion:
Group Photo of Battery B of 328th FA with roster.
Group Photo of Battery HQ of 328th FA.
Biography of Sgt. Newton F. Cole, Battery B .
Biography of Private Clarence Mills, HQ Battery.
Go to Group Photo of Company D, 337th Regiment.
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