Robert “Boots” Chouinard was born in 1923. He enlisted in the army in 1943 and a year later was sent to Europe. He landed at Omaha Beach in France five days after D-Day, before heading to Germany.
Chouinard and his unit, the 128th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion, were sent across the Rhine to secure the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, a mission later chronicled in the film “The Bridge at Remagen”. As thousands of American soldiers crossed, they were tasked with shooting down the German planes that were trying to destroy the bridge. After successfully completing this task, they traveled south of the Rhine, where they made another crossing to Oppenheim, Germany.
While near Oppenheim, Chouinard heard an announcement over a loudspeaker about a church service; he was part of a crew of seven who attended the Easter service. As they entered the crowded church, armed and in uniform, they saw Germans, also present, turning around uncomfortably, saddened and overwhelmed with emotion. Chouinard was moved by the realization that they worshiped together while fighting a war. After the end of the service, they left quietly and continued their journey.
Near the end of the war, Chouinard and his comrades were in a field south of Munich, Germany. He noticed a farm and decided to ask for fresh eggs. Meeting an American who married a German, he spoke with her and then later left with the eggs. When Chouinard returned the next morning, he was greeted by a German soldier and officer waiting for him. He was informed by the German officer that he wished to speak to an American officer. The German officer wanted to surrender, and shortly afterwards a large mass of soldiers left the woods with their hands up. By not firing upon seeing the German soldier for the first time, the lives of over 100 Germans and Americans were saved.
Today, Chouinard lives in Salisbury, Mass., and writes for the Newburyport News. He plans to return to Germany to retrace his steps.
Thank you for your service.