“We are Americans” his father instilled in him from a very early age.
Editor’s note: World War II officially ended Sept. 2, 1945, when the Japanese signed surrender terms. We’re honoring the war’s area veterans over the next several months with these brief profiles.
Paul G. Kohler
Date of birth: March 10, 1922
Dates of Service: Nov. 11, 1942 to April 1945
Hometown: Minnadoka, Idaho
Lives in: Portales
Theater and location of service: Africa and Italy
Rank: Private First Class
Unit and Specialty: 5th Army, Medical Corps, Combat Medic
After discharge: Minnadoka, Idaho
In his own words: “We are Americans” his father instilled in him from a very early age. Fleeing Russia to escape the Bolsheviks in 1913, nine years before his birth, Kohler’s German parents came to America to begin a new life for their children. The only boy of 12 children, Kohler knew that it was his time to serve, leaving college to enlist when he could have been exempted as an only son. He says he never experienced any issues over his heritage. Being German — fighting German’s — he saw himself only as an American, fighting for his country.
Marching through the Poe Valley in Italy during the late winter — early spring months, the men moved without stopping for 40 days. Occasionally they would sit down and take their wet socks off, wring them out and then put them back on again before resuming their trek throughout the mud and water of spring thaw.
Retrieving the dead and wounded from the field was an unpleasant element of Kohlar’s job, he and four other men running out under the cover of night with a litter to bring the men back to the unit. Often times they came under fire as they worked to save the men who lay dying in the field. One such night Kohler was the only medic of the four to make it back with the litter.
“Here come the blue devils” was a phrase the German’s adopted to announce the arrival of the Kohler’s unit, and so the nickname stuck although the Americans never fully understood its meaning. The red cross on their helmets, sadly, marked the medics as targets for the German’s who were hunkered down in the hills above the valley, trying to prevent the American advance on Germany through the Italian countryside. Many times Kohler dodged fire, trying to accomplish his job and stay alive. Of the 29 medics in Kohler’s division, only nine of them survived the war, Kohler being one of those fortunate enough to come home.