Staff Sergeant Robert D. Schindler

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Grouping: Staff Sergeant Robert D. Schindler (ASN: 16088240)

Robert “Bob” Duane Schindler was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on August 26, 1919. He attended the Harding School in Kalamazoo and had graduated from Central High School in 1938. His hobby was ball games, both football and baseball. In the fall of 1937, while a student in Central High School, he played right guard on the All Star Football team. Bob was also a good swimmer and he went deer hunting several seasons. He liked classical music, good literature and was a good student. After graduating high school, he was employed by the Sutherland Paper Company in the ink room until he enlisted in the United States Army on November 21, 1942. After four days at Fort Custer Bob was sent for training to Camp Maxey, Texas. Then he was transferred to Schreveport, Louisiana, and to Camp Swift, Texas, after which he was sent in July 1944, to Camp Dix. In august 1944, he was given a twelve day furlough to spend with his parents and friends. Upon his return to Camp Dix he was sent overseas around September 1944 and landed in Cherbourg, France, to serve with the 327th Engineer Combat Battalion in Company C, of the 102nd Infantry Division.

In the first days of November 1944, the battalion was in and around Spaubeek, Holland. This town is located about 13 miles north-east of Maastricht. About a couple of weeks later, the battalion moved to Germany, just across the border. During this month, the unit spent much time training (Infantry squad and platoon tactics for example), and did various engineer missions, such as: gravel hauling for the Division Headquarters and the ODQM (office of the division quartermaster) parking areas, road maintenance from Palenberg to Waurichen in Germany, and laying and clearing minefields. During their advance from Ubach, Germany up to the general line Gereonsweiler-Puffendorf-Setterich the Battalion encountered large enemy minefields. Between this line and the Roer river, the enemy had scattered mines along the roads and small anti-tank mine road blocks. In the town of Welz, the unit also found some booby traps. The enemy had placed extensive anti-tank ditches and concrete field fortifications throughout the entire area.[1]

In December 1944, the battalion continued to operate in the same area, in a radius of 30 miles, between Übach-Palenberg and Linnich. Much of the time, the battalion was engaged in mine clearing and repairing roads. One of their jobs was to provide a safe passage for vehicles, and personnel. During the early days of December, the battalion was also busy with planning and reconnaissance work, in preparation for the crossing of the Roer river. On December 15, while in Ederen, Germany Company C received instructions to move to a training area. The next day they arrived at Heugen, Holland where they prepared to participate in a river crossing demonstration. The next couple of days, Bob’s company was still continuing river training, and on December 20 they returned to its former location at Ederen. There the Company bulldozer was digging gun positions for the 771st Tank Destroyer battalion, and the company had been laying and burying mines in the defensive sectors occupied by the 407th Infantry Regiment and the 11th Cavalry Group. A total of approximately 2000 anti-tank mines were laid, 80% of which were buried. At the end of the month, the company blew up several pillboxes, and the 3rd platoon investigated and checked ‘friendly’ mine fields.[2]

Robert received the Bronze Star Medal posthumously with the following citation:
“For heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy on 24 December 1944. Staff Sergeant Schindler successfully directed and led a platoon in the completion of a forward mine field without any casualties from heavy and harassing enemy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire to which they were subjected. After completing this task, he led his platoon to a mine dump nearby and directed them in the helping of other platoons to expedite their work. Throughout the entire action, he moved freely and calmly through the area, supervising, suggesting, and giving valuable assistance to the members of his platoon with a cool and unflinching attitude. The leadership, courage, and superior knowledge shown by Staff Sergeant Schindler reflect great credit upon himself and the military service.”

On January 1, 1945 Company C was still at Ederen, Germany and remained in support of the 11th Cavalry Group. The 1st platoon demolished ten concrete fortifications, and prepared eight more for demolition. The 2nd platoon patrolled roads and dumped dirt on the icy surfaces, and Bob’s 3rd platoon investigated areas suspected of being enemy minefields. They all continued to do this work for the next couple of days. On January 5, work shifted and the company laid twelve sections of deliberate minefields, buried one section thereof and installed fences around the site of the work. The 3rd platoon prepared a road block, and investigated a suspected enemy mine area. They blew ten sections of Bangalore at the suspected area, but with negative result. They also experimented in the use of the radar mine detector. Other tasks of the unit were; road patrolling and repairing, investigating, laying and clearing of both American and enemy minefields, installing and repairing fences around mine areas, demolition of disabled vehicles, creating and checking of road blocks, and I am sure I forgot some other tasks of the Company.

Then on January 10, 1945 the third platoon had sent three trucks and a twelve men detail to the Battalion Supply officer to haul mines. In the afternoon the platoon prepared to activate mines in a previously laid belt, two casualties were sustained by the reconnaissance party which were following the boundaries of an anti-tank minefield.[3] In the process of making a visual inspection Bob probably stepped on a multiple mine. During this tragic event, Staff Sergeant Robert Duane Schindler was killed.[4]

Ten days before he was killed he wrote to the editor of “Home Front News” and the following is an excerpt:
“Just a few lines of appreciation from a pre-war employee to his employer for the welcome Christmas package of cigarettes. As there is a shortage of cigarettes, they were more than welcome. Being as I am a non-smoker, I was able to pass the good feeling along by giving them out to the boys.”

Bob was very orderly in his habits. He had a place for everything and kept everything in its place. The code by which he lived was to make the most of his life and to help others. His men did things for him that they might not have done so cheerfully for anyone else. They idolized him because he carefully looked after their comfort. He liked to cook and when he had a chance he would prepare a home cooked meal for his men.

He was thoughtful, kind and considerate, was slow to give his friendship, but was warm in comradeship to those whom he gave his loyalty. He was true to his convictions as to what is right and what is wrong and trusted in his maker. He attended Sunday school and morning services as a boy and attended chapel while in the armed services. He was good to his parents. The last letter they received from him was dated January 1, 1945.

The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Robert G. Page, 1st Lt., Company C, 327th Engineers, Battalion CC, regarding Schindler:
“He was an excellent non-commissioned officer, a leader who could fit himself to any situation and one who could be trusted with the most responsible missions. Your son and I have been together for well over a year. We were together not as just officer and sergeant, it was much deeper than that, but as friends in a job together. I know him as one of the most loyal, resourceful and ambitious boys I have ever known. The men in Sgt. Schindler’s platoon will always remember him as the best Sergeant they ever had. I will remember him not only as an excellent leader, but even more so as one of my closest friends. I want to tell you that our Protestant Chaplain officiated at your son’s funeral, which took place at an American cemetery in Holland.”

Staff Sergeant Robert Duane Schindler was killed in action at Ederen, Germany, at 3 P.M., January 10, 1945. He is buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands, in Limburg Province, Grave 4, Row 9, Plot F, approximately twelve miles northwest of Aachen, Germany.

[1] Unit after action report, November 1944
[2] Unit after action report, December 1944
[3] Unit after action report, January 1945 (p. 6)
[4] Letter from 1st Lt. George B. Hammer, Company C, 327th Engineer Combat Battalion