Bahr sent this picture to her boyfriend, Marine Bob Baumann, in the Pacific. She's wearing his letter sweater and is at the
Madison firehouse where Baumann lived as a Badger football star.
Baumann is 74, next to teammate and future fellow Marine Dave Schreiner.
Chandler was informally engaged to former Wisconsin tackle Bob Baumann -- my father's teammate on the 1942 Helms Foundation
national champion Badgers -- when the Marine first lieutenant was killed in the Battle of Okinawa on June 8, 1945.
Chandler's letter, with a Bucky Badger return address label, arrived from
San Luis Obispo, Calif.
She wrote: “You have given me a wonderful gift, a gift more meaningful than you will be able to realize.”
When they met,
Baumann had enlisted in the Marines and was awaiting his call-up.
He was waiting for teammate Pat Harder outside
Rennebohm’s Pharmacy when Arlene Bahr, 19, emerged. Arlene realized she had forgotten something and went back into the
store. As she rushed back out, Baumann laughed and asked, “Hey, are you trying to get my attention?”
Years later, Arlene
assured me her response was uncharacteristic. She asked Baumann: “I did, didn’t I?”
Arlene told him about the errands she was running, including mailing some material for the Daily Cardinal, the
student newspaper. Baumann asked if she would join him for a beer that evening after practice. They went to Lohmaier’s
on State Street, where players often gathered for conversation and beers. (The legal drinking age was 18 for beer.)
immediately,” Arlene recalled later.
Bob was a child of the Depression in hardscrabble Harvey, Illinois, abutting Chicagos
southern border, and he had been a star and multiple-sport captain at Thornton Township High School. He also did the punting
for the Badgers, as a rare left-footed kicker.
His mom, Bertha, was widowed, and some financial support came from Bob's Aunt Emma.
Bob helped out, working, and at Wisconsin he was always trying to scrape pennies and nickels together for beer money or anything
else. He and Badgers guard George Makris, also a UW boxing team star, later a Marine and then the football coach at Temple,
lived in a Madison firehouse and received a free room for opening and/or closing the big firehouse doors when the fire engine
left or returned. Guards Jerry Frei and Ken Currier had the same arrangement at another firehouse.
was ruggedly good looking. He wasn't particularly outgoing with his teammates, but he had an undeniable charm and flirtatiousness,
making him popular with women. His teammates sometimes scratched their heads, but not in a jealous sense, but out of admiration.
("How does he do it?") He probably intrigued women, too: Here was a star athlete who played the piano and saxophone.
Some of his teammates joked about signing up for lessons.
When weather permitted, Makris took Baumann along on boxing training runs around
Lake Mendota. The boxing team’s student manager was a fat boy named Maury who was jealous of the attention paid
Makris and Baumann, especially by the women on campus. Maury belittled their training regimen as all show and bet
Makris twenty-five dollars that Makris and Baumann couldn’t start from State Street, run all the way around the lake (nearly twenty miles), and make it back
to the starting point without stopping or walking. Before the run, word of the wager got around, and the other Badger football
players got in on the action, backing Baumann and Makris.
The bettors on both sides of the proposition waited on State
Street. Soon, the two big football players, winded but still running, chugged down the street to the designated finish line.
The winning bettors, including most of their teammates, cheered. The losers cursed. Makris’s status as one of the
most popular players on the team was cemented, and Baumann was proud of his buddy and roommate.
By the time the
’42 season started, Arlend Bahr, the Daily Cardinal writer, and Baumann were a couple, “going steady.”
In her letter to me, she noted: "You mentioned that the team often wondered why the girls liked Bob. They thought he
didn't talk. With me, he talked a lot and one of the reasons I liked him was because he was so gentle, kind and, with me,
protective. The team probably saw the aggressive, tenacious football player. I saw the whole man. . . . We walked all over
the city, because we didn’t have a lot of money. He’d never wear gloves, even when it was terribly cold,
because he always said he needed to keep his hands used to the cold so he could hold footballs to punt no matter what
the temperature was. We walked and we talked. I guess you could describe me as a good listener.”"
wrote the "Hitting the Badger Beat" gossip column for the Daily Cardinal and Baumann's teammates at first
were curious where the column got its "tips" about the football team, but they soon figured it out and -- not minding
being portrayed as the Casanovas on campus -- went along. One column even noted, "Scene on Campus: Bob Baumann recommending
the Lathrop Library as the ideal place to study anatomy."
When the Badgers were sequestered at the local
country club on the Friday nights before home games, Arlene gave Bob a list of her friends and their phone numbers and Bob
suggested that his teammates call them to pass the time. Bob didn't tell them where the numbers came from, but his image as
a ladies' man was enhanced. Arlene joined Bob for the Badgers' post-game gatherings at the Log Cabin or other taverns
on State Street, and she got to know many of the Badgers, most notably George Makris.
Badgers coach Harry Stuhldreher was aware what it meant for Badgers from the
Chicago area to play in their hometown, and Baumann was a game co-captain for Wisconsin's wins that season at Soldier Field
against the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and in Evanston against Northwestern.
In the game against
Great Lakes, Baumann went up against Jim Barber, a former star tackle for the University
of San Francisco Dons who outweighed him by about twenty pounds. The stories in the Chicago papers pointed out that Baumann came from the same high school—Thornton Township—as baseball star and Cleveland Indians manager Lou Boudreau.
After the Badgers won 13-7 and scribe Francis Powers in the Sunday Chicago Daily News paper described halfback Elroy
Hirsch as having "crazy legs," Baumann had the game ball on his lap and was taking a nap as the boys chortled about
"Crazylegs" on the train ride back to Madison.
Bob unquestionably still had a bit of the quiet
flirt in him.
After the Badgers' big win over Ohip State on Halloween, he encountered a teenaged Badgers fan, Nancy
Schumacher, who had graduated from high school in Mineral Point the previous June.
She put off going to college for a year to work in the Chain Belt plant in Milwaukee,
where she helped make cases for anti-aircraft guns. After the hardback Third
Down and a War to Go: The All-American 1942 Wisconsin Badgers came out, she also wrote me about Bob.
Nancy kept a scrapbook of the Badgers’ season. After pasting down a newspaper
picture of Dave Schreiner sitting between two coeds, she wrote “PHOOEY”
Her father, Art, was a former UW letterman and thus had tickets on the 50-yard line. Nancy sat in other seats with her mother and planned to join some of her student friends on State Street after the game. But when heavy rains
began, she decided to wait under the stands and was excited to notice some of the
players passing by.
She began asking them for autographs on her program. Bob Baumann smiled and teased Nancy that it would be only fair if she gave him
her autograph, too. Embarrassed at first, she signed. They talked until the rains
let up, and then they went their separate ways, Baumann to meet Arlene Bahr, and
Nancy to hook up with friends.
Following the 20-19 win over Northwestern on November 4, Stuhldreher granted Baumann permission to stay behind for
the weekend. After the game, he went to the downtown Chicago train station and met Arlene, and then they took another short
train ride to Harvey to meet his mother, Bertha; his aunt, Emma; and a handful of cousins.
“He hadn’t told
his mother he was bringing me,” Arlene recalled. “When we appeared at the door, his mother was surprised to see
a young woman with her son. He introduced me as his girlfriend, and his family was wonderful.”
And Bob and Arlene were still together when Baumann moved to the Marines, along with
many of his teammates. That came after, at some point in late 1942, Dave Schreiner, Baumann and senior tackle Dick
Thornally drove to Milwaukee to visit the Marine recruiting station. Schreiner apparently was trying to finalize his
enlistment, while Baumann and Thornally underwent physicals.
The three Badgers had borrowed Stuhldreher’s
big green Mercury. They were close to Milwaukee, in the small city of Waukesha,
when a police officer pulled them over and cited Thornally for speeding. In small-town
fashion, the officer took the boys straight to a town building to face a judge.
The judge recognized them and made convivial small talk, telling the three Badger football players—including the All-American Schreiner—that his grandson was on the Wisconsin baseball team. The boys recognized the name.
Sure, they knew him!
you what, boys,” the judge said, “you go to Milwaukee and do your business
with the Marines and stop back here on the way home, and we’ll take care
On their way back, they stopped in Waukesha and again appeared before the judge.
“He fined me twenty-five bucks!” Thornally told me, his anger undiminished years later. “Twenty-give bucks was a lot! What we had done didn’t seem to have any effect on him.”
As they rode to Madison, Thornally, Baumann, and Schreiner
discussed their future as leathernecks. They were three
of the six '42 Badger seniors -- joining halfback Len Seelinger, plus George Makris and tackle Paul Hirsbrunner -- who finished
up their studies in the spring of '43 and reported to the Marines. The university moved up the academic timetable that spring,
and it was almost as if they simultaneously were handed their diplomas and weapons.
On April 8, 1943,
the Bears claimed Baumann in the 24th round of the NFL draft. (There were only 10 teams in the league at the time.) He told
Arlene that he might give pro football a chance—if he ever had the opportunity to do so—to see how it went and
perhaps put together a stake for what he really wanted to do: run a sports camp for children.
late 1943, during Baumann’s Marine training, he and Arlene again visited his family in Harvey.
The Baumanns moved
Thanksgiving dinner up to the Sunday before Thanksgiving. On Monday, Arlene, then a senior, returned to Madison for classes,
and Bob followed the next day. “He had a lot of friends he wanted to see, and we went out with them Tuesday and Wednesday
night,” Arlene recalled. “I saw him off on the train on Thanksgiving morning. I can relive that moment, standing
on the platform down at the station, seeing him off. He stood on the step, and he waved goodbye to me.”
saw him off on the train on Thanksgiving morning,” Arlene told me. “He stood on the step, and he waved goodbye
Baumann and Arlene
Bahr had an “understanding” that stopped short of a formal engagement.
Bob gave Arlene his letterman’s sweater and said that would have to suffice until he could
afford an engagement ring. And they talked of marriage, both before he went overseas and in letters as he was posted in the
"I loved that 'W' sweater," Arlene told me.
Baumann and Dave
Schreiner eventually were first lieutenants in the same company.
Bob Baumann sent this picture to Arlene Bahr
and hand-wrote the caption on the back. Arlene gave me the originals of this and several other photos he sent her.
After Nancy Schumacher
sent Baumann Christmas cards in 1942 and 1943 -- the first when he still was in Madison, the second sent to his family home
in Harvey and forwarded along to him by his mother -- they ended up sporadic pen pals during his time in the service.
Nancy sent me copies of four letters, and
they're clearly platonic in nature.
suppose you are a little disappointed with the team this year but it couldn't be helped with all the boys gone. That was certainly
too bad about the QB Shafer. [Badger Allan Shafer suffered fatal injuries in a 1944 game.] We're still in training out here
and and it sure gets tiresome. Sometimes this heat is unbearable. Every day is over 100 degrees and very stuffy. I sure wish
a little Madison weather would come out this way and I imagine you'd like to have a little of our weather. We had a very nice
Xmas and New Year's. Both days, we had all the fresh turkey we wanted and also had parties both days. I won't go into it any
further but you should be able to see that we had a lot of fun. Well, Nancy, this is all I have time for now so I'll close.
Dave S says hello."
By early 1945, Baumann was overjoyed that Arlene had arranged
to move to Chicago. After her own graduation in 1944, she landed a public relations job with the Goodyear Tire and
Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio.
There, one of her duties was to write obituaries of former Goodyear employees killed
in the war, and, given where Bob was, that was even more jarring than it otherwise would have been. “It was getting
pretty rough to do that over and over,” she recalled. She was offered a supervisory job with the Akron YWCA,
took it, and successfully applied for a transfer to the downtown Chicago YWCA.
In a March
19, 1945 letter to Arlene from Guadalcanal, Baumann wrote that he liked the fact that Arlene would be closer to her parents
in Wisconsin, so they could watch over her “a bit more.” He continued, “I’m doing it in spirit as
well as I can. I guess you know that, darling. In Chicago, you can visit my mother quite a bit, also, and that will help
things somewhat there. She thinks a lot of you. She said I picked the best there is when I fell in love with you, and
I most certainly agree with her, as I wouldn’t trade you for the world. You officially belong to me.”
He talked of how
he and Arlene would get married after he returned, and that if they couldn’t afford to go anywhere for the honeymoon,
that was OK with him, but that it would be great if they could go to northern Wisconsin and do some fishing on the
trip. “I’m glad you like swimming,” he wrote. “Now I’ll have to teach you to fish.”
When Baumann wrote
that letter, he and Schreiner had less than two weeks left on Guadalcanal. “I could read between the lines,”
Arlene recalled. “They couldn’t exactly say what they were going to do, but he let me know that they
weren’t going to be there much longer. He told me that they’d had a big party that almost tore their tent
to pieces, but that was OK because they weren’t going to be using that tent anymore.”
They moved on
to the Battle of Okinawa.
On April 28, from a military hospital after he was wounded in the early stages
of the fighting, Baumann wrote again to Arlene. He said he had just watched a movie, and that didn’t make him proud.
still at this hospital, laying around, waiting,” he wrote. “A couple of the boys from my platoon are here,
also, so I’m not too lonesome. I do expect to leave here soon, though, in just a few days.”
tell Arlene the specifics of his wound, either.
“I do miss you terribly, honey,” he added. “You’re the first
one I thought of when I was hit.”
He returned to his unit,
On June 21, 1945, Baumann’s aunt, Emma, called Arlene and said that Baumann had
been killed in action.
“No, no, it’s a mistake!” Arlene cried.
She said that officials must have been confused because Bob had been wounded in April.
no mistake,” Emma said. “The telegram is here.”
The Madison headline that afternoon:
Killed by Japs
Arlene told me
she hadn’t known the details of Baumann’s death until she read what his fellow Marines told me about it. She always
had feared that he had suffered, but the book made it clear he was killed with a single gunshot to the head.
Here's the passage
from Third Down and a War to Go that Arlene read about Baumann's death:
On the third day of the assault, June 6, the Schreiner-led
platoon was pinned down and under heavy fire. Captain [Clint] Eastment was directed
to move ahead with scouts and left Baumann in charge of the company.
Years later (Marine) John McLaughry wrote his memories of what happened next.
He said Baumann’s platoon “was blind-sided by heavy enemy fire from the reverse slope to his left flank. . . . All this time I was in radio contact with Bob who was only some 50 yards away on the reverse side of the ridge.”
Sergeant Gus Forbus was with Schreiner. “We were getting the shit kicked out of us, to be honest,” Forbus remembered. “It was really hot, with snipers firing and mortars, you name it. We were in trouble, and we were trying to get out of there. So Dave and I were evacuating our dead and wounded. We were
running; there’s no walking when you’re under fire like that.”
Bodies littered the trail. Schreiner was used to that, but something clicked in
his mind as he and Forbus ran by one of the many corpses.
“That looked like Bob!” he hollered
“Now, don’t you go back there!”
With eyes misting, Schreiner kept running.
“We got the ones out we were
carrying,” Forbus recalled. “He didn’t
go back. I wouldn’t let him go back.”
fears were confirmed.
The body was Bob Baumann’s.
Eastment recalled, “When I came back, they told me Bob had been hit. He got a bullet right through his head.”
McLaughry wrote that Baumann “was hit and died as we were discussing [on the radio] how to extricate his platoon.”
Private First Class Jim Harwood said Baumann’s death angered some of the former Badger tackle’s men. “I should remember his runner’s
name, but I’m sorry, I don’t,”
Harwood said. “It’s been too many years ago. When Baumann got killed, they sent his runner back to get some civilians. Hell, this is a terrible story to have to tell, but it’s true.
They sent him back to get a bunch of
civilians, and he took them behind a hill and killed every god damn one of them because Baumann had been killed.”
The irony was that
the day when word of Baumann's death reached his family and Arlene, Schreiner died from wounds suffered the day before in
the final stages of the Battle of Okinawa.
coach Harry Stuhldreher later received a letter from Len Seelinger, the other ex-Badger who foought on Okinawa with the Marines.
He passed along the gist to Madison reporters. Stuhldreher either read it out loud and the reporters took haphazard notes,
or the Badger coach paraphrased it in different conversations. One Madison paper quoted the letter from Seelinger to Stuhldreher as saying: “Your famous tackle of Harvey,
Ill., will fight no more. The shock of that news really put a lump in my throat.” Stuhldreher also reported
that Seelinger’s letter said Baumann was trying to get to a pinned down Dave Schreiner to tell him that tanks were
on the way.
Another of Baumann’s 1942 teammates, Marine Lieutenant Bob Rennebohm, was in San Diego, preparing
to ship out to the Pacific for the likely invasion of Japan. Before anyone back home told him about Baumann, he found
out another way.
“You won’t believe this,” Rennebohm recalled, still incredulous years later. “I
was standing at a bridge and a camp newspaper came floating down this
little stream. I could read the headline at the bottom.”
The headline: “Bob Bauman, Wisconsin tackle,
Baumann's captain, Frank Kemp, wrote to Bertha, Bob's mother.
The letter was
dated July 20, 1945.
"Dear Mrs. Bauman,
I have wanted to write long before this, but I received a fairly bad wound in
my right leg on Okinawa and have not been able to do much of anything for a month or so.
My deepest sympathy is extended to you on the loss of your son Robert, When he first came to the battalion. he came
to my old compoany, A Company, and took the 1st Platoon. After the Guam campaign, I considered him the best platoon leader
I had ever seen in action. He was calm in difficult situations never complained or let down when the going was tough, was
always an inspiration to the officers and men of the company...We'll
shall miss him a great deal. I was wounded before Bob was hit. I wish that I could have been with, but one always feels
that one could have helped out.
John Clark was here in this hospital with me but he has been sent to Pearl Harbor.
He writes that he is coming along fine and soon will be back to duty. He took Bob and Dave's loss very hard and they were
inseparable pals. John tells me that Frank [Bob's brother] is now an officer in the Marine Corps. I sure hope the war will
be over before he has to do much fighting.
Within a few weeks I am to be sent to the United States for further treatment.
I have quite a bit of hospitalization in front of me.
When I get out I surely hope I shall be able to come
down to Harvey to see you.
By the time I was researching Third Down and a War to Go, Kemp was living in Denver.
He repeated those sentiments about Baumann to me and also praised Schreiner.
Another irony was that in 1946, Bob's brother, Frank
Bauman, played for Illinois against many of Bob's former Wisconsin teammates. My father, Jerry, was among about a dozen Badgers
who were sophomores on the '42 team, went off to serve in the war, and returned to play again in '46 and '47.
It can be confusing, but Bob was "Baumann" in all things
Wisconsin, but "Bauman" once a Marine. Wisconsin reverted to "Baumann" when the university named a residence
hall after him after the war. Behind him, Frank was "Bauman."
Arlene never forgot Bob Baumann, who posthumously
was awarded the Bronze Star. At first, she continued in her job as the director of girls’ activities at the Chicago
YMCA. “I put my life back together gradually,” she recalled.
She married engineer Harold Vokoun,
a World War II veteran, in 1947.
The couple had two sons, and Arlene stopped working, but Vokoun died of a heart
attack in 1959. Arlene went back to school, receiving a master’s degree from the University of New Mexico and then
becoming the director of student activities and associate dean of women at the University of California–San
Luis Obispo. She married Everett Chandler, a fellow university administrator, and later became a teacher and chair of
the human development department at Cuesta Community College. She retired in 1987 and remained in San Luis Obispo
with her husband.
Bob's Bronze Star