ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — John Pildner Sr. saw action in one of the most brutal battles in World War II during the winter of 1945 as Allied troops fought their way through Europe and suffered 100,000 casualties in Belgium and Germany during the Battle of the Bulge.
PIldner narrowly missed death on several occasions as soldiers were hit in close proximity to him during the battle after joining the service in northwestern Pennsylvania in 1944 and training at Ft. Indiantown Gap, near Harrisburg, Pa., and then in Georgia and Kentucky before a 10 day sail to England in 1944.
Pildner Sr. was trained in an infantry training replacement center and eventually worked with a tank unit that was involved in clearing land mines. He said he and his unit ended up in Europe after D-Day and began a march towards Germany but got caught in the Battle of the Bulge that occurred as Adolph Hitler tried to split the Allied troops.
The unit was a tank unit that faced a lot of fighting and he saw his friend get shot in close proximity to him but was eventually able to get help and get back to him while he was still alive. He said it took 50 years for him to realize the man did survive and he ended up seeing him again at a World War II reunion.
After the Germans surrendered and the European Theater closed Pildner Sr. said he did not have enough points to return home so was involved in efforts to help send soldiers home and find missing and deceased troops that were buried in cemeteries in Germany.
He even shared stories of an apparent two star general getting a jeep stuck in muddy conditions.
He spends a lot of time sharing his story and serving veterans, and the public, through the American Legion.