Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Had No Idea....(R.I.P. Robert E. Schultz)

My late father talked very little about his experiences in two theatres of combat during World War Two; that’s typical of a lot of the combat vets from what Tom Brokaw dubbed “The Greatest Generation.” I know dad saw a lot of really intense action, but he never talked about the medals he was awarded. When I’d ask him about such things, he’d just say “a lot of guys were doing the same things I was, and most of them didn’t make it home.”

I found out over the weekend that an old acquaintance, Bob Schultz, had passed away at age 87 in Oshkosh. Bob was somehow connected to the radio station I worked at; I was never sure how, because he didn’t actually work there, but I believe he was an investor. It was a long time ago – 35 years or so - and my memory is not clear regarding the particulars, but I sure remember Bob.

He was a friendly guy. Every time he was in the building, he’d stop by my office and chat. He had a great sense of humor and loved to tell stories. In the ten years or so that I knew Bob, and of all the stories he told, he never mentioned anything about his service to our nation. I found out in his obituary that Bob saw some of the bloodiest action during the Big War, and prior to shipping out to the Northern Solomons in the South Pacific, at one of the darkest parts of the war, Bob had a very high-profile assignment.

After his basic training, Bob quickly advanced in the Army and attained his third stripe (Sergeant) when he was only 18. His assignment was as head of security for the scientists secretly working on the A-bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He was the personal escort for Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb.” In my mind’s eye, I can imagine Bob when he was about 20 years old, acting as personal guard to one of the most famous scientists in history. I’ll bet Bob was an imposing physical presence….a big fellow, quick with a smile, but the kind of guy you would never “mess around with.” The kind of guy you could trust with your life.

The picture at the top of this post was taken in January of 1944 at the foot of Hill 260 on the island of Bougainville. The Army’s Americal Division (132nd Infantry Brigade), Bob’s combat outfit, had just relieved the Marine Amphibious Corps, and they got themselves into some of the bloodiest fighting in all the Pacific Theatre, defeating the Japanese forces that held the island. Bob’s outfit was in combat every day on Bougainville from early January until April 18th, 1944, when the last of the Japanese defenders were killed or driven off the island. If you saw any of the episodes of HBO’s series “The Pacific”, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s excellent portrayal of the war in the Pacific, you have an idea of how intense the combat was on Bougainville.

It amazes me that so many of these men who went to war in the 40’s and put their life on the line so many times, under such horrible conditions, came back and said so little about it. Men like Bob, whose service to our nation was nothing less than heroic.

Robert Edward Schultz of Oshkosh…friend…veteran….recipient of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart…rest in peace. You will not be forgotten, nor will your service to our nation.


  1. It amazes me that so many of these men who went to war in the 40’s and put their life on the line so many times, under such horrible conditions, came back and said so little about it.

    Umnnhhhh...it should not amaze you.

    These are real men who are chivalrous in the best and highest sense of the term. They don't speak of conquests, of killing or maiming others; they understand the GK Chesterton poem:

    How white their steel, how bright their eyes! I love each laughing knave,

    Cry high and bid him welcome to the banquet of the brave.

    Yea, I will bless them as they bend and love them where they lie,

    When on their skulls the sword I swing falls shattering from the sky.

    The hour when death is like a light and blood is like a rose, --

    You never loved your friends, my friends, as I shall love my foes.

    One does not speak of this. It is understood, but never elucidated. The terror of war, the friendliness with Death and his green breath, are not topics of conversation.

    It was duty done, and duty compels them not to speak.