Monday, May 28, 2007

Her Hero

By a Cincinatti Post Staff Writer

Barbara Bardes traveled halfway around the world for a very personal Memorial Day tribute.

The Rabbit Hash resident journeyed to Manila in the Philippines to visit an American cemetery where a name on a monument memorializes her father, whom she never really knew.

"When I see his name, I will say a prayer," said the 63-year-old University of Cincinnati political science professor.



Barbara Bardes holds a photograph of her father, Bill Bischoff,
who was a navigator in World War II

 

Bardes' father, Bill Bischoff, was killed in World War II on Aug. 5, 1944, when he was 27 years old and Barbara, his only child, was four days shy of her first birthday.

The only time father and daughter saw each other was when Bischoff was home on leave in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Cincinnati for 10 days in February 1944. Bardes was only six months old at the time, too young to remember being with her father.

"I never knew him, but I have lots of photographs and I look just like him," she said.

Through the years, Bardes has sought more information about the father she never got to know. At times, though, she has temporarily set aside her research because of the anguish in reviewing a bright life that was extinguished in a dark way.

Bischoff, born in 1916 and a graduate of Cincinnati Withrow High School, was an excellent baseball pitcher who \went to spring training with the Cincinnati Reds and played Class AA baseball one summer.

He was working for a lumber company in Norwood and going to night school at the University of Cincinnati when World War II beckoned.

Bischoff was an Army Air Force 2nd lieutenant and a navigator on a B-24 airplane nicknamed "Blondes Away" that flew from the island of Owi north of New Guinea to bomb oil refineries in Indonesia that served the Japanese.

His plane was shot down over the then-Japanese occupied island of Ceram, now part of Indonesia, and Bischoff was the only survivor of the 10-man crew.

Bardes, with the help of the American War Orphans Network and mortuary files, discovered what happened to her father and it isn't an easy tale for her to tell.

"He was murdered," she said.

"After Americans captured the island, they found a native who said he had seen my father murdered by a Japanese officer the day after he was shot down.

"The native had his dog tags. The native said he buried his body. It is assumed that huge floods washed the body away."


Barbara Bardes has this box of items that belonged to her father, Bill Bischoff,
who was a navigator in World War II.

 

Bardes said she wants to visit the island of Ceram where her father died, but doesn't believe now is the best time to make the trip.

"It appears not to be safe on the island," she said. "A number of Christians were murdered in that area a few years ago. So, I'm not going to try it this time. I might try later."

Bardes went to the Philippines with a group of 20 people on a trip organized by a member of the American War Orphans Network.

She anticipated an emotional experience at a monument in an American cemetery in Manila where the names of war dead are engraved.

"I want to see my father's name on the monument, to know that he has been honored by his country and to be with other orphans and remember them all," she said.

Her father's absence has always been a presence in Bardes' life.

"I've always thought of my father as a hero," she said. "My mother remarried another GI who was a wonderful stepfather, very respectful, and it was a wonderful family growing up.

"But I've always felt I was part of two families. One family with my stepfather and half-brother and half-sister and I was close to them all, and yet, in the back of my mind, I have this other family."

Because of her father, Bardes was able to attend college on the GI Bill.

"He was very much with me during that time," she said.

Bardes has mementoes that were recovered from her father's tent where he lived on the island of Owi.

"I have a slide rule and a map that he used to navigate across the Pacific," she said. "I have a little box with sea shells in it and extra brass for his uniforms."

She hopes to locate a photograph of her father with members of his crew in front of their B-24 plane.

"I know the serial number of the plane," she said.

A few years ago, Bardes made a point of going inside a B-24 on display.

"I wanted to see where the navigator was seated," she said. "I couldn't imagine how they squeezed 10 guys in that plane. It was a tin can."

Bardes said she has been told by veterans who served with her father that he was "an optimistic, cheerful guy."

"They said that after a 10-hour flight he was thrilled that he got to pitch in baseball games they played in the evening in the jungle," she said.

"I don't know what his career would have been after the war, but in his heart of hearts, I think he wanted to play baseball.

"Then the war came along and that was the end of everything."

Congratulations, Barbara!
With thanks to Jerry Pinkerton for submitting the story
– in memory of 2LT Bill Bischoff, KIA 5 Aug. 44