STEPHEN J. BODNAR
Patriot, Chapter 1919
(ARMY, WWII, Europe)
Article June 2004
J. Bodnar was born in
Carteret, New Jersey. He grew up there and graduated from Carteret High
School in the Class of 1943. He enlisted in the Army shortly afterward and
was inducted into the Army Specialized Training Program in October 1943.
Under that program, enlistees would be sent to College and upon graduation
would receive a commission in the Army Engineers. But, Steve had signed up
just as the Army was about to terminate that program, and he was quickly
diverted into the Infantry.
1944, he was assigned to Company I, 377th Infantry, 95th
Infantry Division, then in training at Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. After
only a few months there, they shipped out on the WEST POINT, a
converted troop ship that in pre-war times had been the United States Lines
luxury liner, AMERICA. They arrived in England in August 1944.
month, the 95th Division shipped over the channel to Normandy.
with his unit, crossed over on an English ship and
debarked onto OMAHA BEACH in September 1944. The breakout from the hedgerow
country had been several months earlier and by the time the 95th
Division had arrived the Allied Armies had raced deep into France nearly to
the German border. Steve says, “We thought the war was over, that’s what
the news indicated.. Baseball equipment was issued to the units and for
three wonderful weeks we just played ball on the beach and enjoyed camping
out. That time soon came to an end.”
1944, the division was assigned to General Patton’s 3rd Army and
it was moved up into the lines near Nancy, France. After about a month in
action, the front had moved forward nearly to Metz. A big attack was
planned for the day after the November National Elections. On November 8th,
Steve’s 3rd Battalion led the 377th Regiment in a
night attack. Their objective was a fortified Chateau at Maizieres-Les-Metz.
Steve describes the action, “When we reached the barbed wire, a machine
gun opened up on us and I was hit in the leg. Our medic was either killed
or wounded, nobody knows what happened to him. Anyway, he wasn’t there and
so I crawled back, slowly, on my own, until men in my unit could pick me up
and get me back to safety. I was put onto a stretcher on a jeep and taken
to the battalion aid station. The Doctor said I was in good shape and he
gave me a shot of brandy. I asked for another, but, he told me no, and I got
sent back to the Field Hospital. Gangrene quickly set in and three days
later my leg had to be amputated, that was Armistice Day, November 11,
J. Bodnar arrived back
in the U.S. on Dec 26th, and he says it was a cheerful sight when
he came into Boston to Camp Edwards, it was snowing and there were Christmas
lights everywhere. In Jan 1945 he was sent to England General Hospital,
located in what had been an old hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After
one year there, he was moved to McGuire General Hospital in Richmond,
Virginia, but; it closed two months after his arrival. He then spent his
remaining time in the Army in Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. In
all those medical facilities he was only one among many other orthopedic
patients and he watched while other amputees learned how to walk again on
artificial legs. Steve says, “When it came time for my artificial leg to
be fitted, I didn’t see any point in going through any Physical Therapy
training, I just got up and started walking on it.” He was discharged
from the Army, left Walter Reed on Aug 16, 1946, and went home to become a
member of the “5220 Club” (eligible to draw $20 per week for 52 weeks).
Bodnar was married to the former
Louise Brechka, who was also
from Carteret, New Jersey. Together, they went off to Lafayette College in
Easton Pennsylvania where Steve would earn a degree in Chemistry. In 1950,
Steve entered the University of Illinois in Urbana, and completed his Phd.
in Chemistry there. In 1954 he worked for ESSSO in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,
and in 1960 he went to work for the “Texas-U.S. Chemical Company” (a
subsidiary of Texaco) at Port Neches, Texas. The Bodnars lived in nearby
Beaumont during all the years Steve worked in Port Neches until his
retirement in 1988. He became a charter member and helped establish the
Beaumont Chapter of MOPH. Stephen and Louise had visited Fredericksburg many
times, attending their daughters’ horse shows and competitions; and they
liked the place so well that they moved there in 1990. During the years
since then, Steve has been an active member of the 95th Infantry
Division Association, their Memorial Committee, and their Foundation, and he
does the “I-377 Newsletter.” His wife passed away five years ago, but Steve
remains fully occupied in Fredericksburg where two of their daughters also
THIS PHOTO OF SOME OF THE MEN IN COMPANY I WAS TAKEN WITH A
CAMERA THAT HAD BEEN “LIBERATED” FROM A GERMAN SOLDIER BY LIEUT
CANFIELD SOMETIME AFTER STEPHEN BODNAR WAS WOUNDED, SO HE IS NOT
IN THE PICTURE. SUCH PHOTOS WERE RARE BECAUSE THE MEN WERE NOT
ALLOWED TO HAVE CAMERAS.
FRONT ROW, L—R, URBANSKI, HENSLEY, ZILKE AND KUPIAK. BACK ROW,
HAROLD ODUM, BARSEMA, LARSEN, CRITTENDEN, McCOY AND CELENTANO.
SHORTLY AFTER THIS PHOTO WAS MADE, BARSEMA WAS K.I.A., AND ODUM,
HENSLEY, LARSEN, CRITTENDEN, AND McCOY WERE W.I.A. LIEUT
CANFIELD, THE REPLACEMENT PLATOON LEADER WHO TOOK THE PHOTO, WAS
Jeep Named "Stephen Bodnar"
Stephen Bodnar (On the right)
GI Breakfast Fredericksburg May 2004
Rutgers University has given MOPH permission to
link to Raymond Bodnar's interview that presents a detailed
history of his family including his older brother Steve Bodnar.
LINK TO RUTGERS