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Public Servant Herman Boudreau, Heroic Under Enemy Fire

Herman Boudreau served in the U.S. Army in World War II, then rose to the rank of Command Sergeant Major in the Maine Army National Guard.

Boudreau one year before his death. He died in April at the age of 93.

Herman Boudreau served in the U.S. Army in World War II, then rose to the rank of command sergeant major in the Maine Army National Guard.

Herman Boudreau, one year before his death. He died in April at the age of 93.

Herman Boudreau served in the U.S. Army in World War II, then rose to the rank of command sergeant major in the Maine Army National Guard.

Herman Boudreau, one year before his death. He died in April at the age of 93.

Audio

Aired 5/30/13

When Herman Boudreau joined the U.S. Army in 1941, he set in motion a lifetime of public service. Boudreau, who died in April at age 93, served in the Army in New Zealand and the South Pacific during World War II.

He spent more than two years fighting the Japanese, and years later shared many of his war experiences with his daughter, Nancie Smith. In one incident, she says, he had to secure an airfield while removing the last Japanese resistance on three occupied islands.

"As they were clearing the airfield, they [came] under fire," Smith recounts. "And he ran towards where everybody was, and someone said, 'Hey, Boudreau, you're bleeding!' ... He looked down and his arm was bleeding ... A bullet had gone through and through his upper arm."

On another occasion, Smith says, her father was guiding tanks in combat when communications broke down. One of the tanks lost its way in the jungle while under heavy fire, she says. Boudreau ran through the jungle and found the tank, but was unable to get the attention of the soldiers inside.

"So he took the butt of his rifle and banged on the tank until they turned the turret towards him and ... saw that it was him. He kept pointing, 'Follow me, follow me,' " Smith says. "They were under heavy fire, [and] he said he could remember the pinging off the tanks. He said it sounded like little firecrackers contrastingly going off. He said, 'How I never got hit is beyond me.' "

Boudreau was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and a Silver Star. He signed up with the Maine Army National Guard when he returned from the war, rising to command sergeant major, and retired in 1967. He also served as a sergeant in the Maine State Police and was chief of police for the town of Freeport.

"His whole life," Smith says, "was about service."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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