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Setting the record straight

Setting the record straight
Setting the record straight
Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill talks with A.B. Haggard Monday after presenting him with a Purple Heart and long-overdue documentation of wounds he suffered in World War II. (Photo by Randy West)

A.B. Haggard Jr.’s family knew he had been wounded at least three times in combat in Europe during World War II and had been awarded the Purple Heart, but they could find no official record of that in the U.S. Army paperwork.
On A.B.’s honorable discharge papers, in Section 34, for “wounds received in action,” it says, “None.”
A.B’s son, Steve, was determined to set the record straight, and he enlisted the aid of Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill, D-Seymour.
Hill came to Corydon Monday with the official U.S. Dept of the Army documentation that his staff had located in Washington, D.C., after months of research, and he pinned a Purple Heart on A.B.’s lapel as about 100 people, family and friends, watched.
The brief ceremony and reception was held at Walnut Creek at Corydon nursing home, where A.B. lives now. On a table, there were many old photographs of a young A.B., tall, handsome and smiling, during his Army career.
A.B. — that stands for Audley Bruce — is now 81 and suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. In the Army, he was a platoon sergeant with the 276th Infantry Regiment. He supervised men who cleared mine fields and built bridges and roads. He was also responsible for leading patrols behind enemy lines to gather information.
Exactly where A.B. served in Europe and what he did isn’t known because A.B., like many other combat veterans, didn’t want to talk about it when he got out of the service. Sometimes the memories were just too gruesome and overwhelming Steve indicated Monday.
A.B.’s discharge record said he saw combat action in the Rhineland, in Central Europe. Steve said his father was wounded in the chest near his heart, in the leg and in the head — in fact, he had a metal plate in his head. He noted that A.B. didn’t like to take pain medicine.
Harold Fisher, 76, Corydon, one of A.B.’s friends, is also an Army veteran of World War II. He said A.B. was with Co. I, the 276th Regiment, 70th Infantry Division, and he believes A.B.’s regiment was involved in the Battle of the Bulge.
Bowen McKinney, 72, Louisville, knew A.B. for more than 40 years. The two spent a lot of time together on the road and at auctions because A.B. was a cattle and hog broker, and McKinney was a buyer for Fischer Packing Co. and Dawson-Baker in Louisville. Over the years, McKinney said, he got to know A.B. well, and occasionally he would open up a bit about his war years.
McKinney said A.B. told him he had been wounded in the head and left to die on the battlefield. A.B. said he could recall three or four medics walking past him, assuming he was mortally wounded and that others needed their attention because they had a better chance of survival. However, A.B. tried to move his arms and legs to get the attention of a medic, who said, “Boys, we got to save this one, too.”
A.B. told McKinney that medic’s decision saved his life.
After the war, A.B., a native of Winchester, Ky., came to Harrison County to put up rural electric lines. He had a room at the Krause Hotel in Corydon, owned by Merle and Della Krause (located where Dr. John Mattingly has his orthodontist office). Merle and Della Krause had a daughter, Helen, and she and A.B. got to know each other, fell in love, and married on June 14, 1947.
(A.B. was fond of telling friends that he knew Helen was special when she made him a home-made “Ruthie Bottles chocolate pie” for Valentine’s Day. Ruthie Bottles was a cook at the Krause Hotel.)
Helen said A.B. never discussed his war experience. He enlisted Dec. 3, 1942, and was honorably discharged on March 13, 1946. He was given a Purple Heart, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, an Air Medal, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, and the French Croix de Guerre.