Decades later, a fallen soldier’s family still remembers
The yellowed newsprint was unfolded carefully. Its creases spoke of being handled many times over the years since it had been printed in the 1940s after the allies had claimed victory in the “war to end all wars.”
Sgt. Carl Stadelbacher wouldn’t be home that spring or summer or any other time until his body was returned to his home in Cobden, Ill. where he would be buried at St. Joseph Church.
Like so many other soldiers, he was just a boy, really, had not quite begun to live before he was asked to defend and then die for his country in a foreign land.
Carl’s family loved him as the second of eight children of Leo and Geraldine Stadelbacher, a farm family in rural southern Illinois.
Carl’s older brother, Bob, was deferred because of the need to work on the family farm, but Carl decided he could best do his duty in the United States Army. From all accounts, he was a good friend to many of the young men in his company — Company “K” of the 112th Infantry, 28th Division — and one friend he made visited the family in Cobden when he returned to the States.
Before Carl sailed into action in Europe, he went home on a furlough, his younger sister, Marjorie Stadelbacher said.
As the youngest girl, Marjorie kept all of the correspondence between family members and Carl. When he came home on that last furlough in the 1940s, she was only six years old, but she remembers going to Hicks Woods for a picnic with Carl and the family.
After he left, her older brother and parents wrote to Carl, but letters dated January 1945 were returned, never opened. First he was designated MIA — Missing in Action — but later reclassified as a POW. He was captured Dec. 20, 1944 in Clervaux in northern Luxembourg along with other American soldiers.
In retrospect, the war was almost over, less than a year to go, and yet it kept taking the lives of young Americans.
Carl was placed in one POW camp in Germany and then moved to another. He was liberated by American soldiers April 3, 1945 and taken to an evacuation hospital where he died 12 days later of malnutrition and pneumonia a little over a month before his 23rd birthday. [More]