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World War II veteran John Indergand poses for a portrait outside MorningStar Assisted Living and Memory Care at Jordan in Centennial on June 3, 2024. Indergand arrived in Normandy, France, just weeks after D-Day. He was honored with medals, including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

CENTENNIAL – John Indergand was 19 when he joined the U.S. Army in March 1943, about 15 months after the country entered World War II.

“I was very motivated to participate,” the 99-year-old veteran recalled in an interview ahead of the 80th anniversary of D-Day on Thursday. “Defeating Nazi Germany was the most important thing you could do in the world.”

After completing basic training, Indergand – a rifleman and E-4 corporal – arrived in Normandy, France in July 1944, several weeks after Allied troops invaded German-occupied France on June 6 in a massive air and sea assault known as D-Day.

More than 150,000 U.S., British and Canadian troops landed on the beaches codenamed Gold, Juno, Utah, Omaha and Sword, accompanied by an air raid over Normandy, according to the U.S. Army. More than 4,000 Allied soldiers were killed during the invasion, according to records kept by the National D-Day Memorial Project.

D-Day is now considered the largest amphibious landing in history and paved the way for Allied forces to liberate France and ultimately defeat Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

For World War II veterans, however, such victories can still evoke complicated emotions.

“D-Day is a massive mix of reactions,” Indergand said. “It would be like if you had a family of eight and four of you were alive and four were dead. You would be enormously relieved and satisfied that four of you were alive – but you would feel terrible about the other four.”

“Almost all victory days are mixed,” he added. “They are both wonderful and a deadly mix.”

According to his Separation Qualification Record, Indergand spent a year as a member of the 80th Infantry Regiment and 14th Armored Division in the European theater, where he attended intelligence briefings and prepared for combat in France.

“I was very impressed by how well the people of Normandy lived,” said Indergand. “I was impressed by their toughness and their perseverance. They had endured an enormous amount of conflict in their immediate neighborhood.”

The U.S. Army and Allied forces used tanks, artillery and machine guns to force the Nazis to retreat in battle, Indergand said.

“I felt trapped and cut off from the world, but I also felt that the Army and our intention to fill the world with American soldiers, which seemed to be the main idea of ​​both Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt, was a very good approach to war,” he added. “The more battles you fight, the more battles you can win.”

In September 1944, Indergand suffered his first combat injury.

“We entered a French village that intelligence said was empty, but we encountered German troops who were still retreating,” Indergand said. “We encountered light resistance, but there were still a lot of bullets flying around. I was shot in the left leg, but it was a minor injury.”

He spent a week in a field hospital and then resumed his regular duties.

Indergand was wounded a second time in March 1945, shortly before Paris.

“I was injured by the explosion of an artillery shell nearby. It was a shrapnel wound in my left thigh, which caused damage to the left sciatic nerve,” he said.

Indergand was evacuated to a field hospital in England before returning to the United States, where he was treated at Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco. There he met his future wife, a Jew who emigrated to the United States in 1939 after Nazi Germany annexed her native Vienna.

“An operation was performed, which was still experimental at the time, and enabled me to recover,” he said, adding that it took him nearly three years, including two years of outpatient treatment, to recover from the nerve damage and learn to walk again.

After completing his treatment in 1948, Indergand was discharged from the army.

“I thought his service was incredible,” said Bob Indergand, John’s 70-year-old son, who also lives in the Denver metro area. “I have a lot of respect for that. Imagine how scary that is.”

For his service, Indergand received three medals: a Bronze Star for his achievements in active ground combat, a Purple Heart with an oak leaf for his two injuries and a Combat Infantry Badge in recognition of the infantryman’s “continual operation under the most severe conditions,” he said.

After his first injury, he received the Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge in 1944. After his second injury in 1945, Indergand said he was told there were no more oak leaf clusters, which soldiers who already have a Purple Heart receive for subsequent injuries. He said he was given a piece of paper that he could exchange for the award, but he later lost it.

Almost 70 years passed before Indergand received the Bronze Star and Oak Leaves that had been promised to him.

At a luncheon in 2013, U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, heard Indergand discuss the missing awards. Eshoo spoke with Indergand and collected his service number and paperwork, and in 2014, the veteran finally received the Oak Leaves and Bronze Star.

World War II veteran John Indergand poses for a portrait in front of MorningStar Assisted Living and Memory Care at Jordan in Centennial, Colorado on June 3, 2024. Indergand is a World War II veteran who arrived in Normandy, France days after D-Day. He has been awarded three medals, including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. The Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf for wounds sustained on September 6, 1944, and March 24, 1945, both in France; a Bronze Star for outstanding achievement in active ground combat, and a … Combat Infantry Badge – recognizing that the infantryman continuously operated under the worst conditions and accomplished a mission that, while a small portion of the entire armed forces suffered the most casualties while receiving the least public recognition, sustained the most public casualties. Indergand will turn 100 on June 7, 2024. He volunteered for the Army in March 1943.  When he was discharged in 1948, he was a rifleman with the rank of corporal (E4). (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)
World War II veteran John Indergand with his medals on June 3, 2024. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

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