"ROBERT E. HOFER - THE WAR YEARS"
_________________
Stephen R. Hofer*

 

 

 

My father, Robert Eugene Hofer, was born December 21, 1919 in Elwood, Indiana, the third of six children of Henry Hofer and Beatrice Clare (Julius) Hofer.1

 Bob Hofer had not even celebrated his 10th birthday when the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929. "Black Thursday" marked the end of the Roaring Twenties and the beginning of the Great Depression. The tough times that followed touched virtually every family in America and the Hofer family of Elwood, Indiana, was no exception. By the time he was 14 years old, Bob Hofer had two jobs, arising before dawn every morning to deliver the Indianapolis Star and the Muncie Star on his newspaper route and then working as a bellhop at a local hotel every evening after school.ii

 Young Bob Hofer apparently was an excellent salesman; he won a local contest for increased newspaper subscription sales and his prize was a trip to Chicago to attend the 1934 Century of Progress Exposition. He and other local winners from around the state all went to Indianapolis to watch the Star being printed, then took a train to Chicago for an overnight stay at the Palmer House and a visit to the World's Fair.iii However, the need to help support his family was deemed more important than finishing his high school education. He dropped out of Elwood High School before his senior class graduated in 1937 and went to work at G. I. Sellers & Sons, a company that manufactured kitchen cabinets and other dining room furniture at Thirteenth and North Carolina Streets in Elwood. Sellers was a highly respected cabinetry manufacturer in business in Elwood from 1905 to 1951; even today, its products are highly esteemed by antique collectors. At Sellers, Bob Hofer assembled tables and chairs and helped with paint spraying.iv He stayed there until March 1941 when he went to work in the shipping department of Delco Remy, an Anderson, Indiana-based division of General Motors Corporation. However, he had been at Delco Remy only six months when he received notice that he had been drafted into the Army.v

 


A Paratrooper and Decorated War Hero.

 

Robert Hofer served in the United States Army from October 1, 1941, two months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into the Second World War, until October 6, 1945, a month after the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship Missouri. He fought in the Southwest Pacific Theatre of War as a member of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team and was involved in five major combat operations. He received the Bronze Star Medal for valor in the recapture of Corregidor Island, the heavily fortified, rocky fortress that guarded the entrance to Manila Bay in the Philippines. In addition to the Bronze Star, he was also awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre Ribbon with three bronze stars and bronze arrowhead, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with bronze star, the American Defense Service Medal, and the Good Conduct Medal.

Drafted into the Army as a private, Robert Hofer was promoted three times, to corporal on_____ , 194_, sergeant on_______ , 194_ and staff sergeant on______ ,194_. As a staff sergeant, he commanded a section, made up of two squads, each squad consisting of eight men and one mortar. With the section at full strength, he had 16 men and two mortars under his direction.

During his four years in the Army, Robert Hofer made 42 parachute jumps, including two jumps in combat, on September 5, 1943, at the Nadzab airfield in New Guinea's Markham Valley, the first major parachute operation of the Pacific War, and July 3, 1944, on the Kamiri airstrip on Noemfoor Island in the Dutch East Indies, north of New Guinea. He was also scheduled to jump on February 17, 1945 on Corregidor with members of the 503d's First Battalion, but the casualty rate sustained by the Second and Third Battalions during the previous day's initial assault on the island was so high that the decision was made to bring the First Battalion in by way of an amphibious landing instead. Robert Hofer also fought with the 503d on the Philippine islands of Mindoro and Negros, campaigns conducted before and after Corregidor.

 

On His Way to the South Pacific.

 

After Robert Hofer's induction into the Army, he was sent to Fort Wolters, Texas, for 13 weeks of basic training. He was still there on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The "day that will live in infamy, " as President Roosevelt described it, prompted Robert to volunteer for the paratroopers and he was sent to the Army's jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he became a member of only the sixth class ever to have completed paratrooper training. The 503d Parachute Infantry Regiment was formed on March 2, 1942 and Bob Hofer and his compatriots were transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for additional training.vi

 In October 1942, the United States War Department ordered the 503d Regiment to the Pacific Theatre. The unit moved by train from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg, California. The men then boarded an old converted Dutch freighter, the Poelau Laut, and departed San Francisco October 20, 1942 on what turned out to be a 43-day voyage, stopping first at the Panama Canal Zone to collect additional troops, and then proceeding on a month-long, unescorted, zig-zag crossing of the Pacific Ocean that ended in Cairns, North Queensland, Australia, on December 2, 1942.`

 The Poelau Laut was certainly no luxury liner and there were 1,939 soldiers clammed aboard a hot, smelly 494-feet-long ship that could manage no better than a sluggish 12 knots an hour. On board, the men spent their days in paratrooper calisthenics, cleaning their equipment, intelligence training, swabbing the decks and KP duty.vii Many years later, my father still recalled the monotonous days aboard the Poelau Laut with rueful amusement, mimicking, in a mock Dutch accent, the captain's daily instruction over the loud-speaker, to "Doomp da garrbitch!" Dad had two framed certificates hanging on his wall; one attested to his Bronze Star medal, but the other, signed by the 503d's commanding officer, Colonel George M. Jones, proclaimed that he was "Certified Survivor of the Poelau Laut , grateful to this day for never having to set foot on the decks of the Poelau Laut again!" ix

For the next nine months following their arrival in Australia, the soldiers of the 503d were encamped in a tent city at Gordonvale, a small village on the edge of the Tablelands rain forest, about 20 miles south of Cairns. When I visited Australia in April 1991, I made it a point to visit Gordonvale and took pictures for my father of a monument that had been erected near the town square commemorating the unit's stay there. The high heat and humidity of that area of Australia helped acclimatize the paratroopers for later combat in New Guinea and the Philippines. The regiment continued its training, jumping regularly and putting on mass parachute demonstrations for visiting dignitaries, including U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur. Finally, on August 7, 1943,  the 503d was ordered to move to New Guinea to begin combat operations.x  MacArthur was ready to begin implementing his island-hopping strategy directed, ultimately, to the recapture of the Philippines.

 

Baptism by Fire: Nadzab and Noemfoor.

The 503d was ferried to Port Moresby on the southeastern tip of New Guinea. From there, early on the morning of September 5th, a fleet of 79 C-47 aircraft carried more than 1,700 paratroopers, 21 soldiers to a plane, on a flight over the Owen Stanley Mountain Range. The aerial armada of more than 300 massed aircraft also included more than 100 fighters assigned to protect the slow-moving transports, six squadrons of B-25 bombers, whose mission was to bomb and strafe the drop zones just before the jump, and six A-20 aircraft, following the bombers and laying smoke to further screen the paratroopers. General MacArthur himself watched the entire operation, flying high above in a B-17 bomber. The planes descended to the jump altitude of between 400 and 500 feet, "a very low altitude designed to minimize the time a man is in the air and a target for sniper fire" and in less than four-and-a-half minutes, dispatched all three battalions of paratroopers, including young Robert Hofer, into the sky above Nadzab. On his return to Port Moresby, MacArthur called the drop "the most perfect example of training and discipline he had ever witnessed."xi

 The Nadzab jump was part of an overall campaign to drive the Japanese out of eastern New Guinea and, in particular, the city of Lae. Once the paratroopers seized Nadzab, the American and Australian forces could begin using the airstrip to land warplanes and soldiers. Three men died and 33 were injured in the jump, but the 503d was otherwise successful and soon secured the airfield. The unit then joined the other forces fighting on the ground to drive the Japanese out of Lae. Eight more paratroopers were killed and 12 wounded in the combat that followed their jump; however, within 11 days, the Allied forces were victorious as the Japanese fled Lae and abandoned the city. xii

 The 503d's next operation did not involve a parachute jump; instead, they were part of the campaign against Japanese positions at Hollandia in Humboldt Bay. The unit was assigned to guard a captured airstrip called Cyclops Field. Thousands of Japanese troops had fled into the interior of the island after the surprise landings, but the 503d encountered no organized resistance and killed only 56 enemy soldiers during the month-long patrolling action. The Hollandia campaign ultimately resulted in the deaths of more than 12,000 enemy soldiers and gave the Allied forces effective control of the northern coast of New Guinea.xiii General MacArthur now turned his attention to Biak and Noemfoor, two smaller islands in Geelvink Bay just off the northwestern coast.

Noemfoor was only 15 miles long and 12 miles wide, but the Japanese had constructed three airstrips on the island to help supply and protect their forces and had between 2,000 and 3,000 combat troops stationed there.xiv MacArthur would have to take Noemfoor in order to continue his advance toward the Philippines.

The American assault on Noemfoor, named "Operation Tabletennis," involved both amphibious landings and paratroopers. The 503d was assigned to jump on and seize the Kamiri airfield on the north shore of the island. The Japanese had constructed the runway out of coral shell that had the consistency of concrete and 128 of the 1,424 soldiers who jumped there on July 3-4, 1944 sustained injuries as a result of the hard landings."xv Fortunately, Robert Hofer was not one of the injured. Another 6,500 combat troops waded ashore and together they began combing the jungle and mountains, searching for the enemy troops who had fled before the assault. It took nearly two months of hard fighting under difficult conditions to secure the island. Roads were non-existent and had to be hacked out ofthe thick jungle with machetes and axes. Progress was slow, communication was difficult, and food, water and ammunition could only be supplied by plane drops. Fire fights with the Japanese were frequent, but the enemy soldiers often fled their positions in the face of overwhelming forces and the jungle made it that much easier for them to hide once again. Ultimately, more than 1,600 Japanese soldiers were killed and several hundred captured. The 503d lost 38 men in nearly two months of fighting on Noemfoor, 72 were wounded and more than 400 soldiers were rendered ineffective by jungle diseases such as malaria, scrub typhus and dysentery. However, by August 31st, the conquest of New Guinea was complete.xvi

I knew my father had been decorated for calling mortar fire down on enemy positions on Corregidor, but it is one thing to order an artillery attack that kills hidden enemy soldiers whom you cannot see and something entirely different to kill another human being in hand-to-hand combat. I asked my father during the March 23, 1986 interview I conducted with him whether he had ever had knowingly killed a Japanese soldier. He paused, obviously uncomfortable with the question. When he hesitated to answer, my mother spoke up for him and said, yes, he had. My dad acknowledged that it had occurred on Noemfoor and then told me that the starving Japanese soldiers had been cannibalizing the bodies of some of the Americans they had killed and then booby-trapped their bodies with explosives. "lt's a strange feeling to shoot someone," he said, "but after you've seen something like that [what the Japanese had done to the American corpses], it makes it easier," he explained, as if he was searching for a justification to offer me, and then he continued, "you have to remember that, in war, sometimes it is quite simply kill or be killed."xvii

The 503d's next action occurred in December 1944 on the Philippine Island of Mindoro. Originally, the regiment was supposed to jump on Mindoro, but inadequate airstrip facilities on the nearby island of Leyte made an airborne landing impossible.xviii  The amphibious landing on Mindoro on December 15, 1944 was still another step in MacArthur's efforts to retake the Philippines and, in particular, the main island of Luzon, which was only 115 miles to the north.xix  The 503d was subjected to a heavy air and naval counterattack, but by January, the American forces had taken control of the island xx  and now had the base from which they could launch the attack on the main island of Luzon and the capital city of Manila.

 

Retaking "The Rock."

The 503d was now selected to undertake what would ultimately become its most famous mission and one of the most famous military campaigns of the Second World War, the recapture of Corregidor,xxi  'the island fortress often referred to simply as "The Rock."xxii

 The American surrender of the Corregidor garrison known as Fort Mills in May 1942 after a five-month Japanese siegexxiii  was the agonizing culmination of a series of tragic events, including the Bataan Death March, that had prompted MacArthur's famous promise to the Filipino people, "I shall return."xxiv ' The island would have to be retaken in order to make good on MacArthur's guarantee.xxv  However, Corregidor has strategic significance that extended beyond mere symbolism. So long as the island remained in enemy hands, ships would not be able to safely enter Manila Harbor without the risk of shelling by Japanese artillery.xxvi  The problem was figuring out the best way to retake Corregidor.

 The United States had taken control of Corregidor and the rest of the Philippine Islands in 1898 after the U.S. victory in the Spanish-AmericanWar. In the years that followed, U.S. military forces had fortified the island and installed 23 batteries with 56 huge artillery weapons.xxvii The Americans had also built a complex network of underground tunnels and storage caves on the island that were now occupied by the Japanese and these tunnels made the island virtually invulnerable to aerial bombing.xxviii  Because high cliffs and jungle ravines surrounded much of the island's perimeter,.xxixAmerican military planners felt an amphibious landing would cost far too many lives..xxx And so, Army strategists decided to mount a "vertical" ( i.e., parachute ) attack on Corregidor.xxxi

 A major problem in planning the mission was to locate acceptable drop zones..xxxii The tadpole-shaped island was relatively small (4 miles long, a mile-and-a-half wide at its widest point and containing only 1,735 acres).xxxxxiii and it was regularly buffeted by brisk ocean winds that could easily sweep paratroopers out to sea where they would probably drown, tangled in their chutes and weighed down by their equipment. In 1945, Corregidor's topography was a rugged mixture of forested canyons and man-made debris. The surface had been heavily bombarded by American planes and was now littered with the remnants of what had once been Fort Mills. The jagged rubble of shattered buildings and splintered jungle trees would be extremely dangerous obstacles for soldiers drifting uncontrollably toward the ground on silken chutes.xxxiv Ironically, all of this had one positive side, in that the American strategists were confident the Japanese would never expect an assault by parachute, thus providing the critical benefit of surprise. In this regard, the Aimy planners were right ; Japanese commanders testified afterwards that they had assumed it would be impossible to accomplish a paratrooper landing on Corregidor.xxxv

The 503d's assault on Corregidor began on February 16, 1945 and jump casualties for the assault were high. Of the 2,050 men who jumped, 210 were injured on landing and another 50 wounded by enemy fire in the air or on the ground. Twenty soldiers died, some when they crashedinto buildings or because their parachutes malfunctioned and others were killed by Japanese fire.xxxvi  Notwithstanding their losses, however, by nightfall, the 503d's Second and Third Battalions had established a foothold on the island that included the capture of the South Dock at Black Beach. The next morning, the men of the First Battalion, including Robert Hofer, had already climbed onboard their C-47s when the order was issued to abort the jump. The regimental leadership had concluded it would now be safer to bring the First Battalion in by water. The planes flew over Corregidor, dropped supplies to the men on the ground, then carried the First Battalion to San Marcelino near Subic Bay.xxxvii There, the troops boarded  LCMs (landing craft mechanized) for their amphibious arrival at Black Beach later that day.xxxviii

Army intelligence had estimated that there were only about 850 Japanese marines on the island;xxxix in fact, there were between 6,000 and 6,500 enemy soldiers,xl nearly twice the number of the American forces even after the First Battalion's arrival (2,700 paratroopers and 1,100 standard infantrymen).  xli  Had the Japanese realized the extent of their numerical superiority, they might have been able to destroy the 503d. However, the Americans succeeded in smashing much of the enemy's communications capability shortly after their landing and thereafter, the Japanese were unable to exploit their advantage in manpower.xlii The enemy soldiers also demonstrated a fanatic and suicidal willingness to defend their positions, refusing to abandon the caves and tunnels, even if it meant sure death, so long as they could force the Americans into situations where they, too, would incur casualties. The Japanese soldiers also attacked American lines with massive banzai charges that were seemingly doomed to failure, but which afforded them the opportunity to kill and wound Americans at the same time. xliii And, when all else failed, rather than surrendering, the Japanese engaged in ceremonial group suicides that shocked even the battle-hardened American paratroopers. xliv

 

"For Heroic Achievement ... "

 

Although the First Battalion was a day late in arriving, it was soon involved in some of the most difficult fighting in Corregidor. By February 18th, the Americans had determined that there were approximately 2,000 Japanese stationed in the area from the Malinta Hill tunnel 4,000 yards eastward to the end of the island.xlv This was the sector the First Battalion was assigned to capture. That phase of the operation began on February 24th, xlvi the day that Robert Hofer would win the Bronze Star.

The official text of Robert Hofer's Bronze Star Medal citation reads as follows:

 

Headquarters XI Corps

APO 471

9 March 1945

 

 

  General Orders )
  Number 10 )
 

By direction of the President, under the provisions of Executive Order No. 9419, 4 February 1944 (Sec III, Bulletin 3, WD, 1944) a Bronze Star Medal is awarded by the Commanding General, XI Corps, to the following ... :

 

Staff Sergeant Robert E. Hofer, 35168344, Infantry, United States Army. For heroic achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy at Corregidor, Philippine Islands on 24 February 1945. During the advance of the 1st Battalion east of Malinta Hill, Sergeant Hofer was attached to Company "B" as Mortar observer. With utter disregard for his own safety, Sergeant Hofer took up positions open to enemy fire in order to better observe the effects of the fire. When radio communications failed, he carried his own wire to effect communications with the guns. Sergeant Hofer worked without relief for two days and nights during this advance and it was his unceasing vigilance that made it possible to direct fire on the forward assembly area of the enemy causing their counterattack to fail. Sergeant Hofer's devotion to duty, unceasing efforts, initiative and disregard for personal safety contributed materially to the success of the mission. Home address: Mrs. Beatrice Hofer (mother), Route #3, Pendleton Indiana.

 

By command of Major General Hall:

 

J.A. Elmore

Brigadier General, G.S.C., Chief of Staff

Official:

 Paul Oed,
Colonel, AGD,
Adjutant General

 

 

During my 1986 interview with him, Dad explained in somewhat more detail what he had done to earn the Bronze Star. He was the staff sergeant in charge of a heavy weapons section that was moving forward to support the First Battalion's "B" Company. The advance had begun early that morning. About 2:00 p.m. that afternoon, "B" Company came under assault and at least two soldiers were killed by sniper fire from concealed positions. At that point, Dad moved ahead of  "B" Company's line, advancing approximately 400 to 500 yards in the direction of a ridge line west of Monkey Point from which the enemy fire had been coming. When his radio failed, he returned to his line and carried a field telephone and wire with him back to his forward position and began providing directions for the artillery to fire on the Japanese sniper positions. "Could the Japanese see you?" I asked. "I'm sure some Japanese could see me," he replied, "I was drawing intermittent fire." From this vulnerable advance position, he provided the coordinates for the artillery response that eventually silenced the Japanese machine gun nest and allowed "B" Company to resume its advancexlvii

By February 26th, the First Battalion was closing in on a tunnel entrance built into Monkey Point and tanks rolled into position in an effort to block the metal doors and prevent any escape. The former occupants of the tunnel ha dbeen the US Navy who had used it for their top secret radio intercept station. The Japanese had provisioned it as a munitions store, filling it with huge stocks of explosives and ammunition. "B" Company was on a southern slope guarding a lower ridge. At 11:05 a.m., a giant explosion, far more violent than anything that had happened since the Corregidor assault began, ripped the top off of the hill Monkey Point. The entire island was shaken as if an earthquake had struck. The tanks were tossed into the air like toys. Rocks from the explosion were thrown more than a mile-and-a-half. The first explosion was followed immediately by four smaller detonations. Pieces of concrete, steel, boulders, trees and bodies rained down on the defenseless paratroopers. The explosions left a huge crater, 130 feet long, 70 feet wide, 30 feet deep. The entire hill had disappeared and in its place was a huge ravine. The First Battalion's death toll was 54; another 145 paratroopers were wounded, many seriously. Robert Hofer was one of the lucky ones, surviving without a scratch. More than 150 Japanese also died in the inferno. While the cause of the cataclysm was never definitively established, most of the American soldiers who were present believed that the Japanese had deliberately blown up the tunnel and its huge supply of explosives.xlviii

As it turned out, the Monkey Point explosion was really the last gasp of significant Japanese military resistance on Corregidor. After that, the 503d went into "mop-up" mode, searching out the final pockets of Japanese troops and by March 2, the Rock was deemed sufficiently safe to provide a formal welcome for the return of General MacArthur. An honor guard of 336 soldiers, Robert Hofer among them, was assembled on the same parade ground where paratroopers had first begun landing only two weeks before, for a brief, but historic ceremony. Colonel George Jones, commanding officer of the 503d, saluted General MacArthur and announced, "Sir, I present you the Fortress Corregidor. " To which the General replied:

"Colonel Jones, the capture of Corregidor is one of the most brilliant operations in military history. Outnumbered two to one, your command by its unfaltering courage, its invincible determination, and its professional skill overcame all obstacles and annihilated the enemy.... I see the old flagpole still stands. Have your troops hoist the colors to its peak, and let no enemy ever haul them down." xlix

Recorded by newsmen and film crews for a worldwide audience, the flag-raising ceremony lasted only seven-and-a-half minutes,l but with that event, the 503d entered into history as "The Rock Force." li'  On March 6th, Lieutenant General Charles Hall, commanding general of the Army's XIth Corps, returned to the island and presented Silver Stars, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts to the decorated men of the 503d, including my father.lii Two days later, the entire unit boarded naval LCI's (landing craft for infantry) for the return to Mindoro where the soldiers would get ready for their next battle. 

In recognition of its accomplishments in the recapture of Corregidor, the 503d Regimental Combat Team was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation liii and for the rest of their lives, the men of the 503d would proudly proclaim, "MacArthur said 'I shall return' and we took him back! " It had taken 12 days of intense fighting to recapture "The Rock" and the price paid had been steep. Of the estimated 6,500 Japanese soldiers on the island, when the invasion began, only 50 had surrendered. liv All the rest were either killed or took their own lives. The 503d suffered 169 men killed and 615 wounded or injured, a 29 percent casualty rate. lv My father was one of the lucky ones, a man who fought heroically in one of the Second World War's toughest battles and lived to tell about it.

 

Negros

The 503d's final combat experience occurred on the Philippine Island of Negros where it was called upon to bolster the 40th Division. The unit had originally been scheduled to jump on Negros, but that plan was scrubbed after the Japanese destroyed the first objectives of the planned jump, a strategic bridge and a large lumber mill. lvi  Arriving by amphibious landing craft instead, the 503d found itself embroiled in five months of fierce fighting with Japanese forces in the mountainous areas of Negros. Ironically, the 40th Division was later withdrawn, leaving the 503d to fight the enemy by itself and the unit ended up accepting the surrender of 7,500 Japanese soldiers at the end of the War. lvii

 

The War Ends

While historians would later question the necessity for President Truman's decision to drop the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the men of the 503d, including my father, never had any doubt about the wisdom of that action. I was returning from a European vacation in July 1990 just as my parents were arriving in Washington, D.C. for a 503d reunion that was timed to coincide with ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of airborne paratroopers in the U.S. military. I met my parents at the reunion and had an opportunity to speak with many of my father's 'Brothers'. To a man, they all echoed sentiments I had heard my father express before. They had all recognized, in early 1945, that they would eventually have to participate in a massive invasion of the Japanese mainland in order to bring the war to an end. Military strategists expected such an invasion would result in hundreds of thousands of American casualties. Even in the Twentieth Century, the Japanese military still adhered to the medieval 'bushido' code, the 'way of the warrior' that had spawned banzai charges and kamikaze attacks throughout the Second World War. This samurai spirit, a fanaticism that preferred death to the dishonor of surrender, would have been even more present in an invasion of the Japanese homeland. Many American soldiers doubted they would ever return home alive from an attack on Honshu, Japan's main island. Paratroopers recognized they would be especially vulnerable as they dangled from their parachutes. I heard it said over and over, by my father and others, "The atomic bomb saved my life! "

The Pacific Theatre veterans of that generation entertained no second thoughts about Truman's action.

My father was neither boastful nor reticent about his service in World War II. He had kept a large scrapbook filled with snapshots he had taken and other memorabilia he had collected during his Army days and he would occasionally take it out and show it to me when I was a youngster. Later on, he would talk about the war if asked, but did not seem to regard it as an especially heroic part of his life. He found all the clamor over the erection of a Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. somewhat ironic since World War II had been such a much bigger conflict, involving many more American soldiers and deaths, and yet no memorial had ever been erected for the veterans of the Second World War (at least, none was during his lifetime). He also thought the celebratory treatment of the soldiers who had fought in the February 1991 'Desert Storm' conflict in Iraq was overblown and entirely out of proportion, given the extremely brief, one-week length of the actual ground hostilities. He would occasionally recall that he had arrived back home in Indiana in October 1945 to no parade, no reception and no job and the only person who greeted him when he got off the bus in Anderson was a panhandler who asked him for money. "Get over on the other side of the street," he responded gruffly to the bum, "I'm working this corner."

Notwithstanding the sarcasm, I believe my father recognized, with some pride, that at a rather young age, he had played a role in one of the most significant and historic events of the Twentieth Century. However, I think he also viewed it as an inevitability, something that could not have been avoided and something in which most of the young men of his generation also participated. He enjoyed the camaraderie that he has established with many of the other men in his unit and maintained his membership over the years in the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team Association as a way of staying in touch with old friends around the country. He also attended a few of the annual national reunions that group sponsored, including Indianapolis in 1960, Milwaukee in 1961, Canaan Valley State Park in West Virginia in 1982 and Washington, D.C. in 1990. He undoubtedly would have attended many more had it not been for the fact that the date of the reunions almost always conflicted with the annual plant inventory being conducted at Delco Remy, an event he could not miss because of the responsibilities he assumed after becoming a Production Control supervisor in 1964. However, the 1960 and 1961 reunions afforded him an opportunity to take his family on vacation, while at the same time allowing him to renew acquaintances with men with whom he had shared both the horrors and doldrums of war. While he was most definitely not a 'joiner,' my father did eventually become a member of the American Legion Post in Anderson, and I think both the social and military aspects of that organization prompted his decision.

 Although the Second World War consumed only four years out of Robert Hofer's life, there was no question that the experience shaped him and affected him for the rest of his days. His views of the world, politics, morality, history and the future, his health and personal habits, even his relationship with family and friends, all were profoundly influenced by the 1,467 days he spent in the Army.

 

2005 Stephen R. Hofer

 

 

 

         

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AUTHOR'S FOOTNOTES

 

I spent some three hours interviewing my parents on March 23, 1986 while on a business trip to Houston, Texas and kept a video camera running as they responded to my questions about significant occurrences in their lives. Those videotaped recollections provide the factual basis for some of the events involving Robert Hofer and Maxine Hert Hofer that are described in this book and will be cited hereinafter as the AM arch 23, 1986 interview.  I have since duplicated the VHS analog master tape and hope to preserve and pass along that interview in whatever storage medium seems most appropriate in the future.
 

i.

 

 Indiana State Board of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Birth, Certificate Number 113-1919-058308, Local Certificate Number 2005 S-A-St. J. F. Ginn, M.D., Attending     Physician, certificate filed December 26, 1919. Note that the last name of both the son and the father was misspelled as A Hoeffer, rather than the correct spelling, AHofer.

ii.

 

 March 23, 1986 interview with Robert Hofer.

iii.

 

March 23, 1986 interview with Robert Hofer.

iv.

 

March 23, 1986 interview with Robert Hofer.

v.

 

 The accounts of the 503d Regimental Combat Team's exploits in World War II are taken from several sources, including the book, Corregidor, The Rock Force Assault, 1945 (hereinafter ACorregidor@), by Lieutenant General E. M. Flanagan Jr. (1988, Presidio Press, Novato, California) and AA Condensed History of the 503d Regimental Combat Team,@ an on-line account written by Donald E. Abbott (hereinafter Abbott History-0 and found at The 503d Heritage Battalion's web site, http://corregidor.org/heritage_battalionl/abbott/brief history.htm .

vi.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 112-116.

vii. 

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 114-115.

viii.

 

"Doom da Garr-bitch," an illustrated article found on The 503d Heritage Battalion's website.

ix.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 116.

x.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 117-121.

xi. 

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 122-123.

xii.

 

 Corregidor, Page Numbers 129-131.

xiii. 

 

Corregidor, Page Number 132.

xiv.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 132-138

xvi.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 141-146.

xvii.

 

March 23, 1986 interview with Robert Hofer.

xviii.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 84-86.

xix. 

 

Corregidor, Page Number 154.

xx.

 

  Abbott History, Page Number 2.

xxi.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 155-159.

xxii.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 26.

xxiii.

 

Abbott History, Page Number 2.

xxiv.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 79, 303.

xxv.

 

  Corregidor, Page Numbers 105-106, 164.

xxvi.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 105, 164.

xxvii.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 25-31.

xxviii.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 28-29.

xxix.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 27.

xxx.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 163, 181.

xxxi.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 181.

xxxii.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 165.

xxxiii.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 26.

xxxiv.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 168-170, 177.

xxxv.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers xiii, 110, 163.

xxxvi.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 222. xxvvii. Corregidor, Page Number 227.

xxxviii.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 249, 254.

xxxix.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 105, 109, 165.

xl

 

Abbott History, Page Number 3; Corregidor, Page Number 165, 215.

xli.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 310.

xlii.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 206, 224.

xliii.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 263-267.

xliv.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 253, 262, 285.

xlv.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 268.

xlvi.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 285-290.

xlvii.

 

March 23, 1986 interview with Robert Hofer.

xl viii.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers 295-299.

xlix.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 308.

1.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 310.

li.

 

Corregidor, Page Numbers xviii-xv.

lii.

 

Corregidor, Page Number 310.

liii.

 

 Abbott History, Page Number 3.

liv.

 

Abbott History, Page Number 3.

1v

 

Corregidor, Page Number 310; Abbott History, Page Number 3.

1vi.

 

Abbott History, Page Number 3.

lvii.

 

 Ibid.