“Hey, where ya from, buddy?” The Bob Kadrlik Story
by Mel Behnen
I had just finished a very sad email to Wes Morrison advising him that I received a very SAD call from Darlene Kadrlik that her husband Robert (Bob) Kadrlik, an Army Buddy and good friend of mine, passed away on May 14 at 6:00 AM, the result of an auto accident added to other lingering health issues.
Bob Kadrlik, right, meets Jim McCabe, center, for the first time since Bob carried a badly wounded Jim to the aid station 45 years earlier in North Korea. Mel Behnen, author of this article, is at the left. Bob and Jim were both with Fox Co. 19th Regiment, and Mel was with the 3rd Engineers, all served in Korea in 1951.
I went on to tell Wes the details of Bob’s services. But then I left my mind wander back to my friend’s Korean War Story.
I first met Bob Kadrlik at Ft. Carson, Colorado, in November of 1950 during basic training. All I knew of him was that he was from some little town south of Minneapolis by the name of Veseli.
We shipped to Korea together, but got split up after getting off the boat one night at Pusan. That was the last I saw Bob until after I came home from Korea, and was assigned to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, when lo and behold, in March of 1952, I ran into him again, this time in McCoy.
Over a couple of beers one evening, he told of finding one of his wounded fellow GI’s as his unit was hurriedly "advancing to the rear."
He told the wounded GI that he'd send a Medic for him. But Bob couldn't find a Medic so, he told his Squad Leader that he was going back to get this wounded man “before the Chinks could get him.”
When he got back to the GI, Bob asked the wounded man: “How bad is your leg?” The unknown GI replied: “I might be able to hobble with your help if I can hang onto your shoulder.”
Bob slung both their M1’s over his other shoulder, got the wounded man to his one good foot, and they began their journey to the aid station, a couple of miles to the rear.
Shells were constantly going overhead and when the eerie whine of one screamed too close, they both hit the dirt. They didn’t speak to each other as time after time they had to sprawl flat, except for Bob constantly muttering: "We'll make it Buddy.”
Much later, they hobbled into a Medic Station, Bob with two good legs and his buddy with one and a handicap.
There was a Jeep litter wagon at the station, with a driver already in place and the engine running. Bob asked if he had room, and the driver said: “There’s room here on this empty litter next to that dead man, put your friend there and hurry.”
Bob, slid his new friend on the litter along side the dead GI, and stepped back to catch his breath.
In that instant, the Jeep’s driver roared the engine and lurched forward.
Surprised, Bob yelled after the man he had just put on the litter: “Hey, where ya from, buddy?” The wounded man yelled back: “Minneapolis.” Bob yelled: “I’m from South Saint Paul!”
Bob and I were discharged July 24, 1952. When I had been home on furlough earlier I had bought a new 52 Chevrolet, and so when we finally were free to leave, I offered to take Bob and a mutual friend, Elmo Arnold, with me to Minneapolis, where I had a dinner date with my girl friend, Bernice.
She had taken off work to prepare dinner for me; it was her 21st birthday!
I dropped Bob off at his parents home in Veseli, and then dropped Elmo off at his sister’s place in south Minneapolis. From there I went to 3241 Columbus Ave South, a young ladies rooming house run by a nice widow, Eva, where Bernice was waiting for me with that first scrumptious dinner (we have had many, many more in the ensuing life we shared together).
Over the years Bob would always say: "I just wonder if the wounded soldier I carried out made it back home OK?"
24th IDA MN Reunion
Then in August of 1996, the 24th Infantry Division Association was having its reunion in Bloomington, MN. I called Bob and said: “Come on Bob, let's go to the Reunion. We’ll post your name on the Bulletin Board where you can say that you are looking for the Minneapolis GI you helped off the hill in Korea on July 12, 1951.”
Bob took me up on the offer and we both attended the Reunion; Bob indeed posted his “looking for” message on the bulletin board in the Hospitality Room.
About a week later my phone rang. It was Bob's wife Darlene. “Bob is still asleep” she said excitedly, “But I want you to know what happened last night. Bob had trouble sleeping so I’ve not disturbed him this morning.”
The Phone Call Bob Wanted for 45 Years!
Bob and Darlene’s phone had rung and Bob answered. The caller enquired: “Were you a Medic in Korea in July 1951?” Bob replied: “Well, no, but why do you ask?"
The voice on the phone became discouraged and said: “I was so sure that I had found the guy who saved my life." Bob said: “What do you mean.”
The voice on the phone then began to tell Bob about how this GI found him wounded and unable to walk on his own. He said the GI said he would send a Medic, but instead he came back for me himself.
As the caller’s story continued to unfold, Bob soon realized that this was indeed the GI he had helped off the hill more than 45 years ago.
Bob interrupted: “Let me finish!"
When I put you in the Litter Jeep, it began to speed away, and I yelled: “Where are you from, buddy?" You replied, "Minneapolis.” And I yelled: “I'm from South Saint Paul.”
The GI Bob had saved was Jim McCabe, and he indeed was from Minneapolis, and indeed he had made it home OK.
Bob and Jim were both with Fox Company, 19th Infantry Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division, but they were in different squads and didn’t know each other.
They finally met shortly after the telephone call at a Minnesota Korean War Veterans Reunion on the 13th of Sept, 1996. It was Jim's wife, Bonnie's, Birthday.
Jim and Bonnie, who now live in the Anoka, MN area just outside Minneapolis, Bob and Darlene, and Bernice and I have been getting together regularly ever since!
Sorry that this got so lengthy, but I just had to offer one more tribute to my very good friend and Korean War 24th Division friend, Bob Kadrlik.
Sadly, Bob's wife Darlene also passed away in last July (2007), I’m very sorry to report.
May they rest in Peace.
Mel and Bernice Behnen
8341 Lyndale Ave. South
Bloomington, MN 55420
Mel served with Co A 3rd Engrs, 24th Div, Korea, 1951.Behnen, Mel, 2007, The Taro Leaf, Vol 61(1&2), Winter-Spring, pp 22-23.