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Sun, Nov. 17

Golden Valley man recalls wartime travels when D-Day began

Rudy Hindman was traveling between Persia and France when the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France began 59 years ago today.

Hindman, who now lives in Golden Valley, said he knew the Allied invasion of France was coming because his older brother, Curtis, had trained for it in England.

Rudy Hindman, then a platoon sergeant, would eventually join the liberation effort as part of the 334th Engineers, which would follow a second force that landed in southern France a few months later.

Curtis Hindman, an Army major, was wounded at Normandy but recuperated.

Trois Hindman, another brother who was two years younger than Rudy, also was an Army sergeant who saw action at the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 as the Allies were poised to enter Germany.

The brothers had a brief reunion on three-day passes to Paris in early 1945, Rudy Hindman said.

Despite losing friends during the war, Hindman, who was from San Diego, was sure he would survive.

"I never thought I wouldn't come home," he said.

"But after four years, I forgot the names of the San Diego streets."

Though serving with a support unit, Rudy Hindman saw an ugly side to the war in Europe.

"I went overseas with three platoon sergeants with whom I'd trained recruits, and my three friends all died, two in France and one in Germany," Hindman, a 27-year resident of Golden Valley, said.

"They were working in construction when they were killed."

He was a few days shy of his 22nd birthday when he enlisted in the Army two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 1941.

He said he took his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and was promoted to drill sergeant.

He then helped put three groups of recruits through training before being assigned to the 334th Engineers, a unit that was sent to the Persian Gulf to help build supply routes into Russia, which was trying to repel a German invasion.

"We took supplies over dirt roads by convoy for two years, 24 hours a day," Hindman said.

The 334th Engineers also laid train tracks through Iraq.

Polish refugees fleeing from Russia made their way to Persia, now known as Iran, and then into Iraq along that route, Hindman said.

He was in Baghdad for eight months to help coordinate the evacuations.

"You had to have permission to go outside your tent in Persia between noon and 3 p.m.

because the temperatures would bake your brain," Hindman recounted.

"We couldn't wear watches or rings because they'd burn blisters on the skin, and metals and buttons were not allowed, either.

"In order to sleep with a blanket, we had a native boy pour water on us each hour to cool us as there was no air conditioning."

In 1944, Hindman's unit was attached to the French First Army, which was part of a force that landed on the southern coast of France in August.

Hindman said his unit would become the first to build pontoon bridges over the Rhine River.

It was in France where Hindman lost most of the hearing in his left ear and some in his right ear because of repeated explosions from bombs and shells to which the 334th was subjected.

The French fought their way into Germany, and Hindman's unit continued to build pontoon bridges near Stuttgart and Mannheim.

"There were snipers everywhere," Hindman said.

"There were also women in Germany that would throw hot water (out of upper floor windows) on us as we gathered bedding and Schnapps for our forces.

I was scalded twice in Stuttgart and got first- and second-degree burns on my chest."

Adding to the aggravation was the daily flyovers by a German reconnaissance plane everyone took to calling "Midnight Charlie." "Charlie" reported construction activity to the Germans, and Allied targets were attacked accordingly the next day, Hindman said.

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