WOODPILES by Ray Scherer
St. Joseph News-Press
Earl D. "Bud" Chew didn't know when he
entered the U.S. Army that he'd gain a special skill at diving
behind woodpiles to evade German bullets.
But fighting an often-unseen enemy in
Europe's thick forests forced soldiers to rely on their
imaginations to shield themselves. Mr. Chew's relatives said his
unique ability to take cover turned out to be an effective
lifesaver and was a source of pride that mixed in well with
humorous war stories.
"He loved woodpiles," said Dr. John
Growney, husband of sister-in-law Trudy Growney.
Mr. Chew, who was a St. Joseph resident,
died June 25 at age 79. He left behind a wealth of memories for
his family of his World War II service and their reflections of
his quiet warmth.
His relatives tell a story of how he
immediately fled his job of sewing cattle-feed sacks at an
Atchison, Kan., mill simply because he wanted to serve his
Eventually, he would learn how to
parachute out of an airplane. Most importantly, he participated
in the historic and pivotal Battle of the Bulge.
Entering the military was literally a
split-second decision for Mr. Chew, Dr. Growney said. The big
moment occurred at Blair Milling in Atchison.
"He and his buddy were working on the sack
line and decided they should join the war," he said. "They left
the machines running. And the grain kept flowing and the sacks
He was inducted into the U.S. Army on July
10, 1943, entering as an infantry rifleman, said nephew Jim
Growney. He completed parachute jump school in late January 1944
and was trained as a cannoneer on 75mm howitzers that could be
taken apart and loaded onto pack mules.
Before the war ended in spring 1945, Mr.
Chew would be able to count service in five European campaigns.
His battlefield accomplishments earned him five Bronze Stars and
one Bronze Arrowhead, among other honors. He was one of seven
members of the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion to
receive a Bronze Star for the Battle of the Bulge. He also was
credited with making one combat parachute jump.
But family members said Mr. Chew took all
of his achievements in stride, grounding his service on the
basic premise of doing a job for his country.
"He never talked about it," Mr. Growney
said of the Bronze Stars. The exploits influenced him to serve
in an Army unit that included a 1980s stint in Italy, where his
uncle had served four decades before.
"I always looked up to what he did," he
Mr. Chew's collection of wartime
memorabilia and photos includes a 101st Airborne Division
message from headquarters that recounts the famous "Nuts!" reply
of Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe to a German demand for surrender
at Bastogne in late December 1944.
A 1986 trip back to the Battle of the
Bulge and other World War II historic sites brought back
memories, said Mrs. Growney.
"We went all through that area," she said.
"He was so happy to be able to come back,"
Dr. Growney added.