Background
Born in Germany. During 1936, Bottcher served with the International Brigade against Franco in Spanish Civil War. Afterwards, he immigrated to the United States and joined the U. S. Army in California. Assigned to the 32nd Infantry Division, 126th Infantry Regiment, G Company.

Battle of Buna
Click For EnlargementAge 37 during during 1942, he walked across the Kapa Kapa Trail with the 126th Regiment to the north coast of New Guinea. Following the December 5, 1942 assault by American troops, Bottcher volunteer to lead group to drive a wedge into Japanese flank towards the beach at Buna. With a dozen men, he craweled through a swamp and hours of combat using their Thompson submachine guns and throwing grenades, the group made it to the beach and dug in.

On the beach they, claimed to have killed 40 Japanese and wounded a dozen more. They fought off attacks for seven days, dragged back abandoned enemy machine gun to use. Bottcher was wounded twice. Before being relieved, his party claimed to have killed a total of 120 Japanese, the rest of the 32nd Division was able to advance to the beach, putting a wedge between the defending Japanese forces.

Wounded twice in the battle, his first wound put an arm in a sling. His second wound saw him relieved from combat. General Eichelburger crawled out to his position to congratulate him and awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross (DFC) and a field promotion to Captain. Later, he was promoted to Major.

Click For EnlargementKilled In Action
On December 31, 1944 Bottcher was killed in action in the Philippines. The US State Department had refused him US citizenship because of his role in Spanish Civil War. Eichelberger later wrote of him: "He was the best Americans I have ever known." Afterwards, he was permenantly buried at Manila American Cemetery at plot L row 4 gGrave 134. Grave photo by Bert Caloud.

Click For EnlargementHe earned the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters. A memorial plaque at Buna today is dedicated to his role in the battle.

References
Jungle Fighters: A G.I. War Correspondent's Experiences In The New Guinea Campaign
Our Jungle Road to Tokyo by Robert L. Eichelberger

 

    Herman J. F. Bottcher

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