Donald Custer Bradley continued a Bradley family tradition of serving his country, a tradition stretching back to his ancestor Aaron Bradley of Litchfield, Connecticut, who served in the Revolution War and to ancestors who served in local militia groups in Guilford, Connecticut, in the 1600s. Here is his story, shared on Veterans Day 2012.
Donald C. Bradley studied military science and was a Cadet Captain in ROTC at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he graduated on May 29, 1943. On July 1, 1943, he received orders to report to Camp McCoy, near LaCrosse, Wisconsin. He was then transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, for six months of training. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Dec. 30, 1943.
His first assigments were training troops as follows:
— Feb. 27-June 4, 1944, IRTC, Camp Roberts, Templeton and Atascadero, California.
— June 6-July 18, 1944, Camp Adair, Corvallis and Albany, Oregon, 70th Infantry Division.
— July 22-August 11, 1944, Fort Leonard Wood, Lebanon, Missouri, 70th Infantry Division.
On September 5, 1944, his second wedding anniversary, he was in New York City waiting to be shipped overseas to Europe. This was three months after the D-Day Invasion. He went first to England and then to France for the end of the Allied Campaign in northern France. He was assigned to the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division that, in late September, took up defensive positions along the Teveren-Geilenkirchen line near Aachen inside Germany.
Lt. Bradley was wounded at the Battle of Aachen, which began on October 13, 1944. Located near the border with Belgium, Aachen was the first major German city to face invasion by the Allies. The American 1st and 30th Divisions began the assault, but when the 30th had many losses, parts of the 29th Division entered the battle. Military historians state that winning Aachen was key critical step for American soldiers attempting to breach the fortified Siegfried Line in the fall of 1944.
More specifically for Lt. Bradley, his 116th Infantry was deployed in the Aachen battle as follows: “The main German escape route from Aachen was the road to Alsdorf, which ran northeast from the besieged city. With attached battalions from the 66th Armd. Regt., 120th Inf. Regt., and 99th Inf. Bn., the 116th moved against Wurselen, five miles north of Aachen, Oct. 13, repulsed a counter-attack, cut the Alsdorf Road to seal the Aachen Gap.” [Source: "29 Let's Go!" -- a small booklet on the history of the 29th Infantry Division, published by the Stars & Stripes in Paris in 1944-1945.] The Combat Chronicle of the 29th Division in World War II also reports of 1944 battles that “In mid-October the 116th Infantry took part in the fighting at the Aachen Gap.”
After hospitalization and healing, Don rejoined the 29th Division in action pushing east into Germany. He was with Allied Forces when they met the Russian Army at the Elbe River at the end of the war. Some sources say the Division had reached the Elbe on April 19, 1945, and that first radio contact with the Soviet troops occurred by April 23. The official meetings of American and Russian forces occurred on April 26, 1945, near Torgau.
According to the “29 Let’s Go!” booklet, “Given a regular combat mission again, the 29th dispatched its 115th and 116th to clear all opposition in the division sector west of the Elbe. Resistance was slight; the river was reached April 26.”
A 1945 newspaper article from Wisconsin summarized it this way: “Lt. Bradley, a rifle platoon leader, fought with the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division from Aachen to the Elbe River, where his unit was one of the first to make contact with the Russians. He was wounded in the Battle for Aachen and was awarded the Purple Heart.”The article added that Don was then transferred to the Military Police Platoon, 95th Infantry Division, and returned to the United States with that platoon. There was every expectation that his next assignment would be in the Pacific, but the Japanese surrender in mid-August 1945 made that unnecessary.
Lt. Bradley completed his military duties with assignments as follows:
— August 10-October 13, 1945, stationed at Camp Shelby, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, awaiting redeployment.
— October 15, 1945-March 9, 1946, Camp Butner, Durham, North Carolina
Don, his wife and their young daughter then headed home via a visit to Washington, D.C., and its historic monuments, including a stop of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The U.S. 29th Infantry Division has as its motto, “29. Let’s Go!” Its nickname is Blue and Gray, and its patch is a yin and yang symbol of the two colors, recognizing that it was made up of units that fought for the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Donald C. Bradley was awarded a Purple Heart, recognizing that he had been wounded in action. The original Purple Heart, called the Badge of Military Merit, was created by George Washington in 1782.
=> Find the booklet “29 Let’s Go!” at this Web address: http://www.lonesentry.com/gi_stories_booklets/29thinfantry/
=> Read the story of the 116th Infantry during World War II: http://116thinfantry.org/2.html
=> See the history of the 29th Division at this Web address: http://www.29infantrydivision.org/ and also here: http://www.freewebs.com/29thbattlefieldclan/29thhistory.htm