Robert D. Booker was born in Callaway July 11, 1920, and joined the Army in June 1942. By April 9, 1943, Bob was serving as a private in the 34th Infantry Division.
On that day, near Fondouk, Tunisia, he advanced alone across open terrain despite intense hostile fire and began firing on the enemy with his machine gun. After being wounded, he continued to fire until receiving a second, fatal, wound.
For these actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor a year later, on April 25, 1944, one of only seven Nebraskans awarded that honor in World War II.
Booker, aged 22 at his death, was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in his hometown of Callaway. Private Booker's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action. On 9 April 1943 in the vicinity of Fondouk, Tunisia, Pvt. Booker, while engaged in action against the enemy, carried a light machine gun and a box of ammunition over 200 yards of open ground. He continued to advance despite the fact that 2 enemy machine guns and several mortars were using him as an individual target. Although enemy artillery also began to register on him, upon reaching his objective he immediately commenced firing. After being wounded he silenced 1 enemy machine gun and was beginning to fire at the other when he received a second mortal wound. With his last remaining strength he encouraged the members of his squad and directed their fire. Pvt. Booker acted without regard for his own safety. His initiative and courage against insurmountable odds are an example of the highest standard of self-sacrifice and fidelity to duty.”
Booker’s story, and many like it, are the subject of a recently released book titled Making John A Soldier: A Nebraskan Goes to War. The book’s author, John P. Malloy, Sr., was himself born and raised in Nebraska, and was also a World War II veteran.
Malloy spent part of his youth near Eddyville, where is great-grandfather settled in 1880. He spent the 1930s on a farm and lived through the drought and depression, graduating from a one-room school near Eddyville.
During World War II, Malloy spent three years as a Pfc. in the infantry and fought in three campaigns - the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge), the Rhineland and Central Europe. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the V emblem for Valor.
Four years ago, Malloy decided he should record some of the interesting events of his life and times as a combat infantryman. Making John A Soldier describes the life and trials of some of the 16 million Americans who fought freedom’s battle in World War II - the group Tom Brocaw dubbed “The Greatest Generation.”
After struggling through the depression years of the 30s, Malloy volunteered for military service in 1942. While this book chronicles his experiences from infantry training in 1943, to the role he played in helping crush Hitler’s minions, it is more that a history of one person or one infantry division.
Making John A Soldier describes key battles in both the Pacific and European theaters. It also examines selected Russian and German battles from Germany’s invasion of Russia in June 1941, to the Soviet’s conquest of Berlin in 1945.
Utilizing the GI Bill of Rights, Malloy earned his bachelor and master degrees at Creighton University, and later a doctorate at the University of Nebraska in 1953. He left Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisc., in 1965, as a tenured full professor after a successful academic career.
He then served as chief executive and principal stockholder for Modern Machine Works for 26 years. Malloy now lives in retirement in Tucson, Ariz.
Making John A Soldier not only recounts the heroic exploits of Bob Booker, but all seven Nebraskans awarded the Medal of Honor.
The cover of the book has quite an interesting story of its own.
"After our fight in the Battle of the Bulge in December and January 1945, our unit, the 75th lnfantry Division, was ordered to Eastern France, south of Strasbourg, near Colmar,” Malloy recalls. “Our mission there was to help drive the Germans back across the Rhine River.
“En-route the Division's 1,400-vehicle convoy passed through Liege, Belgium on Jan. 27, 1945. We stopped there for a short travel break. Bob Zimmer, Addison Hayner, Frank Estrada and I got out of our jeep to stretch our legs. Estrada walked down the column looking for a friend while the three of us remained with the jeep.
“We discovered we had stopped in front of a photographer's studio. The owner immediately appeared and asked if we would like our picture taken. We said sure-that would be great. He ran inside, got his camera, took our picture and hurried back inside. We didn't think we would ever see the result. lt turned out however we were stopped there longer than we had anticipated-at least an hour.
“Just as our convoy was about to pull out the photographer came rushing out with a smile on his face and waving a photo - the one that now graces the cover of Making John A Soldier. He explained in broken English he wanted to do this to thank us for driving the Germans back out of Belgium.
There we are in the picture- Bob Zimmer leaning on my right shoulder with a .45 on his hip. Hayner on my left, and me with my Thompson submachine gun slung over my shoulder. The picture has been with me for over 65 years."
The book is now available through Amazon.com for $29.95, and is shipped free. The Kindle E version is available at $9.95.
“Making John A Soldier provides a view of the uncelebrated sacrifices and bravery of the ordinary American GI during World War II,” says Malloy.