Capt. Richard R. Bostwick
Unit: 1st Battalion, 302nd Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division, Army
War fronts: Served as S2 combat intelligence; Battle of the Bulge, military government duties in Dusseldorf, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Served from 1943 to 1946.
After war: Bostwick married his wife, Bettye, and had four children. With partner Ed Murane, he founded the law firm Murane & Bostwick LLC, which is still in service today.
Special exhibit: The Wyoming Veterans’ Memorial Museum, 3740 Jourgensen Ave. in Casper, is currently featuring Bostwick in its spotlight case, an exhibit that features a different veteran every six months.
On the Web: See profiles of other veterans at our Web site, www.trib.com/honor
Through the woods, the soldier spotted small lights in the distance.
There were 5,000 or 6,000 men from the battalion trying to advance that night, but the lights made Richard Bostwick pause.
Unsure of what exactly they were marching into, he pointed the lights out to another soldier.
Markers for artillery fire.
The men backed off, moving down a dirt path in the darkness. Removed a safe distance from possible death, Bostwick and several others lay on the ground, faces toward one another in a circle. They unfolded a map, put a blanket above their heads and lit up.
If it weren’t for the glow of their cigarettes, they might not have figured out their location, that they had come too close to German lines.
The men stayed there until daylight. An enemy tank rolled down the path they’d been marching on.
“We got out of there that night,” Bostwick said.
He never forgot it.
In his role as S2 combat intelligence for Patton’s Third Army, it was Bostwick’s job to figure out where the enemy was, what he had, how good he was. He was an ROTC boy from the University of Wyoming, assigned overseas in the summer of 1944. He arrived at Normandy after D-Day, working his way through France to Germany and the Battle of the Bulge.
He remembers getting fresh socks every 24 hours at times. But it would be 80 days before he could change the rest of his clothes.
From January to March -- in the snow, fog, rain and mud -- he examined maps and watched enemy fire. He questioned prisoners of war, for which he was later given a Bronze Star. They said the information he uncovered advanced the campaign and saved lives.
The specifics of how he pulled information from those he interrogated are no longer in memory. The citation for Bostwick’s Bronze Star explains that he interrogated “during concerted attacks against heavily fortified enemy positions, … frequently working under intense enemy artillery, rocket, and mortar fire.”
Food made its way to the soldiers, but “you might be eating turkey at 3 a.m.,” Bostwick said. “That’s the way it worked in the Army.”
He survived the Battle of the Bulge, but he will tell you the close calls came in transit, not combat.
His Jeep was hit head on one night, bending the rifle in his lap into a U. It could have been his legs.
Traveling by railroad, Bostwick's train was hit by another barreling down the track. He remained unharmed, having just unloaded to get something to eat.
Before he went home, just after the Battle of the Bulge, Bostwick had other responsibilities he needed to complete. He was assigned the military government duties in Dusseldorf, Germany, in May 1945.
The soldiers put down their guns and became the police, trying to keep cities from falling apart.
They put German civilians back in their homes, and medical teams took care of the sick or injured.
“Ladies would come to our headquarters with small children asking for milk,” he said. “It looked pretty tough.”
He was moved to Czechoslovakia in July to do the same thing: help cities run until they could manage themselves.
It was there he encountered a new problem, the Russians.
Russian troops moved in before the Americans, and as Bostwick remembers it, relations were less than ideal.
“They had their heavy ammunition and big guns set so they could blow all our headquarters out in one sweep,” he said. “They didn’t do it, but they could have.
“Everyone would have had to go to war again.”
For Bostwick, it was the Russians who almost ended it for him.
He and several other soldiers were in Prague watching an American football game. Later that night, when the game was over, they loaded up in their German car and began the 80-mile drive back to headquarters.
In hindsight, he knows better. “We should have stayed overnight.”
Twenty miles into the drive, two trucks stopped them. The Russian men inside said they wanted the German car.
When the Americans said no, the Russians made them turn around and drive back to Prague. The trucks followed.
Since they were working on government duties post-war, the Americans carried no ammunition. Only one man in the car had a gun.
Bostwick devised a plan. When they reached the city, they’d slam on the brakes and jump out of the car.
“I don’t give a damn if they get our car,” Bostwick had said. “They’re not going to get us.”
In Prague, they jumped out as planned and began yelling for help. At the same time, a large car came down the road, and an American woman working for the government got out.
Bostwick told her what had happened and she turned to the kidnappers, speaking to them in Russian.
He doesn’t remember who she was and still doesn’t know exactly what she said to them. But they gave up, got in their vehicles and left.
Bostwick knew the kidnappers had guns, loaded ones. He’s certain if the woman hadn’t shown up when she did, they would have been shot.
“Just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers, “it could have been awful.”
Note: In addition to interviewing Bostwick, the Star-Tribune compiled this story with the help of a recorded interview from 2007 now at the Wyoming Veterans' Memorial Museum.