"HADRAVA"
_________________
Tony Sierra

 

 

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The 503d is, in the end, the sum of its individuals. The Regimental policy of stinting in the recognition of individual heroism ultimately lessened the Regiment.  I recall General Jones mentioning at a reunion that he had been lax in not ordering his officers to be more liberal with awards. He  was just putting into words something we'd  known all along. 

Many of us had observed instances where troopers deserved recognition for instances of bravery and heroism, and no one ever took time to follow up, being aware of Headquarters' views.  Each trooper lives within his platoon and in most cases his squad is his entire world.  What else can one recall with such intimacy?

Such is the story of Lou Hadrava.

19 Apr. 1945
At 0900 Co. moved three miles east on foot to relieve "H" Co. At 1500 while acting as observers for mortar fire, S/Sgt, Hadrava was wounded in both arms and Pfc. Gray was wounded in the left shoulder by automatic weapons fire. At 1600 Pvt. Cousineau accidentally shot himself in the foot. At 2230 approximately 15 enemy attempted infiltration, estimated four enemy casualties were unconfirme d.

  This write-up in the "D" Company's daily reports about Hadrava's  action and wounding is like announcing hot water for instant coffee.  Fortunately, an officer from the 40th Division had seen the courageous move by the two paratroopers temporarily attached to their command, and the following was issued.

 

 

RESTRICTED

HEADQUARTERS 40TH INFANTRY DIVISION
APO 40

31 May 1945

GENERAL ORDERS)

   )

NUMBER       103)


              
 

1. AWARDS OF THE SILVER STAR

By direction of the President, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved 9 July 1918 (Bulletin 43, WD, 1918), a Silver Star is awarded by the Commanding General, 40th Infantry Division, to the following named enlisted men and officer:

Staff Sergeant LOUIS J. HADRAVA, 31051433, Infantry, United States Army. For gallantry in action near Napilas, Negros, P.I. on 19 April 1945.   Staff Sergeant Hadrava was with his squad under enemy fire on a small knoll. When the company mortars required a forward observer, he voluntarily assumed this duty. He exposed himself repeatedly and without thought of his own safety to enemy fire in order to direct the operation of the mortars until the enemy machine guns were silenced. He then moved the platoon into position for an assault on the next hill. Staff Sergeant Hadrava remained at his post until he was so severely wounded that he was ordered to the rear. Staff Sergeant Hadrava' s valor and intrepid leadership aroused the inspiration of the men of his company. Home address: Mrs. Evelyn Hadrava (mother), 120 Patterson Ave, East Rutherford, New Jersey.

 

 

Lou Hadrava was an original member of the 503d regiment. He was in the pre-war army and served in the Quartermaster corps, working as a mechanic. When the call came for men to go to Ft. Benning to the paratroopers he was one of the first volunteers. He was with the first batch who formed "D" company, under Captain Ralph Bates and first Sergeant Roy Guy. When I joined the company in Australia, Hadrava was the corporal of the second squad of the third platoon.  He was a silent man, very "Army,"  following the rules to the letter and as such he was an outstanding corporal. I was a naive soldier fresh from infantry basic training and jump school and was assigned to learn under him.  Sergeant R. V. Holt, our squad leader,  split the squad and each took half the men for whatever problems we tackled on given days. It was the only in-depth training I ever received in the army, but with those two men as trainers and as role models, none better could be had. It was all I ever needed, no matter how tough things ever got.

Sergeant R. V. Holt was killed on the beach assaulting Battery Monja on Corregidor. I have previously written about his devastating death that morning on Corregidor.

By the Negros Island campaign, it was now S/Sgt. Lou Hadrava and with Eddie Rickard now corporal. We dreadfully missed Holt, but as with every diminished army unit, the squad soon assumed its prominence.

Our company had bivouacked the previous night 500 yards behind "H" Company, presumably as a reserve. At daybreak firing of what appeared to be either low caliber artillery or anti-aircraft weapon turned artillery or some form of mortar sounding not unlike our own 60 mm. mortars, rained frighteningly from amid the heavy jungle in the hills faraway. The order came for "D" Company to advance to where "H" company now was. I guess it was in preparation for an attack of some source or as relief for a battered company. None of us on the line knew what, but we went grudgingly but forward, always forward. I can think of nothing more frightening that to be ordered forward into live fire as that without knowing its source or our plan of attack, only forward, forward....but this was the fate of a soldier on the line.

After lots of picking up of gear, laid out ammo and weapons the company found itself on the military crest of the hill where "H" company had spent the night. And the shells came, increasing with the rising of the sun.

Near the crest every one was crawling, dragging their M1 rifle behind.

I recall I had inherited the BAR after John Sanguanetti was evacuated from Corregidor. The heavy BAR, however, could not be dragged. It insisted on being carried, however the way.

Near our goal, Lt. Tom Watkins, from behind his coca-cola bottomed eye-glasses yelled, "Sgt. Hadrava bring your squad up here!" We crawled and clawed our way near, but not too far up.

Hadrava stopped us and yelled, "The Lieutenant wants us to look for the firing. One guy can do it, so you guys stay on your ass and I'll take Gray with me." Carlos Gray was the erstwhile company barber and had only recently joined the squad, but being an old timer he was now the first scout.

Gray and Hadrava snaked to the very top of the hill amid the falling of explosions, which froze all the rest of the squad to statues. They leaned on their elbows and peered through their binoculars. Instantly the chatter of the Japanese Nambu machine pistol was added to the already overwhelming firing. At first burst both squad Sergeant Lou Hadrava and First scout Carlos Gray screamed and rolled back to the shelter of the military crest of that dreadful hill.

We were all devastated once again, but someone from the 40th Division observing higher up,  had seen the courageous move by the two paratroopers temporarily attached to them.

Tony Sierra

Lou Hadrava at the 2000 Reunion

 

 

 

         

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