I grew up knowing the kids, but never the parents...
Widow accepts honor for soldier
Thursday, October 21, 2004
By JOHN A. GAVIN
Even today, Eleanor Nadler, 82, remains active in American Legion and VFW activities.
Although her husband, Edward, a decorated World War II veteran, died in 1977, she still feels a connection to those who served in uniform.
Almost every week, she visits elderly soldiers at the Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus and various veterans hospitals.
The bond dates to the early 1940s, when she was young woman waiting for her fiancé to return home from the war.
Like hundreds of thousands of women of that era who anguished over the fate of their husbands, boyfriends and sons, Eleanor Nadler never knew the full extent of her husband's war experiences.
For many soldiers, the atrocities, pain and suffering were too horrific to retell. Many took those memories to their graves.
The Nadlers married in June 1946. While raising four children, Edward Nadler would sometimes talk about his B-24 bomber being shot down over Germany in 1944 and being held as a prisoner almost until the war's end.
But he never described the atrocities he experienced at the hands of the Nazis as the Allied liberators plowed through Germany.
Details of what happened to Nadler's 8th Army Air Corps, 489th Strategic Bomb Group after being shot down near Mannheim on July 31, 1944, remained a mystery to her until now.
Thanks to research by his daughter, Pam Cordts, and the Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command, Edward Nadler has been posthumously awarded the Prisoner of War Medal.
In a surprise ceremony last month, Eleanor Nadler was presented the medal at the Ridgefield American Legion.
"I was shocked," she said about the effort made to retrace her husband's war experiences. "I'm honored. Everybody keeps congratulating me, but I didn't do anything."
Army Col. John Merkwan, director of the Army Research Development and Engineering Center in Picatinny, made the presentation.
A 54-year member of the American Legion Auxiliary, active volunteer and the grandmother of five, Eleanor Nadler has been a role model for patriotism and veterans' causes.
Cordts, 48, the Nadlers' youngest child, said her family upbringing inspired her also to reach out to veterans, leading to resources she never imagined - enough to track down information about her father's bomber unit based in Halesworth, England.
Using the Internet, interviewing old soldiers and researching old Army records, she found that her father was part of a strategic mission to bomb IE Farben, a ball bearings manufacturing plant in Ludwisshafen, crucial to the Nazi's efforts to make aircraft parts for the Luftwaffe.
"It started out with me making a little tribute to him," said Cordts, who was only 20 when her father died. "Then this wealth of knowledge just jumped out. The more I learned, the more leads I had. It became an interesting journey."
After being shot down by the Germans, Edward Nadler and other crew members were interrogated by the SS and sent by train to a concentration camp in German-occupied Poland.
In February 1945, as the Russian army closed in on the east, the prisoners were forced to march 500 miles westward in the bitter cold and hungry. Many of the men starved or froze to death.
Nadler weighed only 85 pounds when liberated by the Allies on May 2, 1945, six days before VE Day.
Cordts made many of her contacts when she attended the unveiling of the World War II Memorial in Washington in May and has compiled memoirs of the events in a family album.
One reason for the tribute was that World War II veterans weren't awarded medals for being POWs.
The gold-plated medal imprinted with an eagle was initiated in 1985 and recognizes any soldier or civilian held captive by an enemy after April 15, 1917.
Cordts, her sister, Susan, 57, and brothers, Thomas, 55, and Richard, 52, said the medal is a fitting tribute to their father - a lifelong Ridgefield resident, service station owner and former commander of the local American Legion.
It's also a reminder of the strength and faith Eleanor Nadler had during those trying years. Since she couldn't reach Edward, she wrote letters to other soldiers, who were casual friends and strangers. She said she felt it was good for soldiers to receive letters and it provided comfort for her that she was helping in some way.
"I had no address to mail to him [Edward]," she said, recalling the 10 months he was a POW.
"We knew he had been captured. Part of the time, he was on the march."