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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Portsmouth Township man receives Purple Heart 65 years after being wounded in World War II battle

Yesterday my family celebrated my grandfather's 85th birthday. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be there to celebrate with them. However, this morning, the local Bay City Times ran a story about my grandfather's regiment that he served in 65 years ago in World War II. My grandfather received his medals just a couple of week ago.

Medals Albert Caspers, my grandfather received, for serving in WWII
While growing up I knew my grandfather fought in WWII. Occasionally, he would mention it or tell some story, but generally speaking he was silent about his service and what he saw. I don't think any of us realized that he was in a unit that singlehandedly stopped the German advance in their sector during a snow storm in December 1944. Quite proud of my grandfather. Besides his service to his country, my grandfather is largely the reason I am a Lutheran today.

The original Bay City Times story, just in time for Veterans Day, can be found here. It is reproduced below.

By Tim Younkman  |  For The Bay City Times

Michael Randolph | The Bay City Times. Albert Caspers, 85, recently received his World War II medals. He has two purple hearts, a bronze star for bravery and  3 battle stars. His division, the 99th Infantry, was in the Battle of the Bulge among others.

PORTSMOUTH TWP. — It’s been 65 years since a wounded U.S. Army private from Bay County was carried from the battlefield to a combat hospital, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for bravery under fire.

Although 85-year-old Albert Caspers, of Portsmouth Township, earned the right to the medals during combat in Europe, he didn’t received them until a few weeks ago.

“Yes, it’s been 65 years but I’ve finally got them,” said Caspers, relating how he was able to receive his hard-earned hardware.

“I was talking about a year ago with a veteran’s service officer and he asked if I had ever been given the medals and I said I hadn’t, so he gave me some forms to fill out,” Caspers said. “That was last year and the Army finally sent me the medals.”

Although modest about discussing his wartime experiences, as Veterans Day approaches, Caspers says he’s proud to have the medals, which include two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and three Battle Stars, including one for the Battle of the Bulge.

Caspers' Purple Heart

Caspers was working on the family farm on Tuscola Road, the same land where he still lives, when he was drafted in March 1944 at the age of 18. After completing basic training in Texas, he and the rest of the newly-formed 99th Infantry Division were shipped overseas in September 1944, first to England and then to France.

Caspers was a rifleman in Company L of the 395th Regiment, riding and walking across France. The division’s history notes the regiment was deployed outside the German town of Hofen near the Belgian border and a short distance from the vaunted Siegfried Line.

“That’s when the Battle of the Bulge started,” Caspers recalled. “That’s where the Bronze Star came in. The whole company earned it, really. That’s also where I first was wounded, although it wasn’t real serious and I was able to keep going.”

Caspers and some of his comrades were in the basement of a building when a bomb detonated near them and he was wounded.

Historians note the Battle of the Bulge along the Belgian border was the last main offensive undertaken by the Germans in a desperate effort to gain a victory and force peace talks. It was the largest single battle of the war involving American troops with a combined total of 1.3 million men.

Caspers’ regiment was cited by the Army as being the lone unit to have stopped the German advance in their sector in the freezing December weather and heavy snow, actually driving the German attackers into retreat.

Photo of Albert Caspers upon his discharge
following World War II in 1945.

After a month of combat, the Battle of the Bulge was over and Caspers’ unit, along with the rest of the division, moved south toward the Rhine River.

“Our division was the first entire infantry division to cross the bridge at Remagen,” he said, the pride in that achievement still evident in his voice.

The Ludendorff Bridge at the town of Remagen was the only bridge left standing over the Rhine, even though German sappers had attempted to blow it up, weakening it. A large number of American troops and equipment crossed the river before the bridge finally collapsed.   The bridge later became the subject of several motion pictures.

After crossing the bridge and moving further into Germany, the 395th Regiment was deployed near Marburg. During the battle to take the area around the city, Caspers was struck by a German bullet, which pierced his stomach, narrowly missing his spine.

“A half-inch over and I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

But the wound was severe and he was fortunate that several of his buddies dragged him out of the line of fire and medics picked him up. He was rushed into a field hospital during the battle.

“If it wasn’t for the work they did on me in that field hospital, I’d never have made it either,” he said.
After initial surgery, he was taken to a hospital in France and then to England before being shipped home to other Army hospitals in Kansas and in Battle Creek in June 1945. As he recovered, Caspers was discharged from the military in October 1945.

He returned home to the farm and began dating a young woman who lived nearby. It wasn’t long before the two were engaged and married. He and his wife, Evelyn, recently celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary.

Besides operating the farm, Caspers went to work at Steering Gear in Saginaw, retiring in 1987.

While his military career lasted about 19 months six decades ago, the suffering and sacrifice he endured as a young man finally was recognized with the array of medals he now displays.

He proudly notes he has been a long-time member of both the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations.

When asked if there was any ceremony attached to his receiving the medals, he laughed.
“No, there was no ceremony. They just came through the mail.”

© 2010 All rights reserved.


  1. I hope someone has a ceremony for him! Him deserves it. Less than a week until Veteran's Day.

  2. Tell your Grandfather that I thank him for his service. My father also served in WWII but over in Burma!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. My maternal grandfather served as a Sea Bee in the Pacific Theater, mostly in the Philippines.

    I know that your very proud of your Grandpa, and rightly so.

  4. Great story! Thanks for sharing it and thank your grandfather for his service.


  5. My grandfather started out in the Aleutians -- an artillery sgt. with a unit that had horses pulling the big guns. He finished the war in Italy and actually saw Mussolini hang. But he never did talk about it around us kids.

    I, too, offer my thanks for your grandfather's service. This is an awesome story!