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Public Servant Herman Boudreau, Heroic Under Enemy Fire

May 30, 2013
Originally published on May 30, 2013 5:51 pm

When Herman Boudreau joined the U.S. Army in 1941, he set in motion a lifetime of public service. Boudreau, who died in April at age 93, served in the Army in New Zealand and the South Pacific during World War II.

He spent more than two years fighting the Japanese, and years later shared many of his war experiences with his daughter, Nancie Smith. In one incident, she says, he had to secure an airfield while removing the last Japanese resistance on three occupied islands.

"As they were clearing the airfield, they [came] under fire," Smith recounts. "And he ran towards where everybody was, and someone said, 'Hey, Boudreau, you're bleeding!' ... He looked down and his arm was bleeding ... A bullet had gone through and through his upper arm."

On another occasion, Smith says, her father was guiding tanks in combat when communications broke down. One of the tanks lost its way in the jungle while under heavy fire, she says. Boudreau ran through the jungle and found the tank, but was unable to get the attention of the soldiers inside.

"So he took the butt of his rifle and banged on the tank until they turned the turret towards him and ... saw that it was him. He kept pointing, 'Follow me, follow me,' " Smith says. "They were under heavy fire, [and] he said he could remember the pinging off the tanks. He said it sounded like little firecrackers contrastingly going off. He said, 'How I never got hit is beyond me.' "

Boudreau was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and a Silver Star. He signed up with the Maine Army National Guard when he returned from the war, rising to command sergeant major, and retired in 1967. He also served as a sergeant in the Maine State Police and was chief of police for the town of Freeport.

"His whole life," Smith says, "was about service."

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Hundreds of veterans of the Second World War are dying every day. All this week, we're remembering some of them who've died this year. Today, Herman J. Boudreau. The Maine native died in April at age 93. Boudreau served in the Army in New Zealand and the South Pacific, where he spent more than two years fighting the Japanese.

NANCIE SMITH: He was removing the last Japanese resistance on three occupied islands and had to secure an airfield.

BLOCK: Nancie Smith is his daughter.

SMITH: As they were clearing the airfield, they became under fire. And he ran towards where everybody was, and someone said, hey, Boudreau, you're bleeding. And he said, what? And he looked down and his arm was bleeding. And a bullet had gone through and through his upper arm.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

On another occasion, she says, her father was guiding tanks in combat when communications broke down.

SMITH: One of the tanks got lost in the jungle, and they were under really heavy fire. And there used to be, I guess, a phone on the back of the tanks. And he ran through the jungle, found the tank and grabbed the phone in the back to talk to the driver, but the phone wasn't working.

So he took the butt of his rifle and banged on the tank until they turned the turret towards him and looked and saw that it was him. And he kept pointing follow me, follow me. He said that they were under heavy fire. He said he can remember the pinging off the tanks. And he said it sounded like little firecrackers constantly going off. He says, how I never got hit is beyond me.

SIEGEL: When he came home from the war, Boudreau signed up with the Maine Army National Guard, rising to command sergeant major. He retired in 1967. He also served as a sergeant in the Maine State Police and was chief of police for the town of Freeport.

SMITH: His whole life was about service.

BLOCK: That's Nancie Smith talking about her father, Herman J. Boudreau, a World War II veteran who died last month at age 93. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and a Silver Star.

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SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.