After Many Years, This WWII Veteran Is Opening Up About His Experiences in Battle

Joe Kovar saw a lot during his time serving in the US Army during World War II.  He was awarded 18 medals including the Purple Heart for an injury he received in the Battle of the Bulge.

“I’ve got 18 medals, but I don’t consider myself a hero because the heroes are all buried over there,” Kovar said.

Though Kovar saw and experienced quite a bit while helping liberate Europe, he spoke little of it, choosing to keep it bottled up inside.  He didn’t even share stories about the war with his wife and children.  Now, he’s seen the value of sharing his experiences with others and is telling his story in hopes of helping other veterans.

While most of us have experienced World War II from grainy black-and-white film clips, Kovar has vivid first-hand memories.

He arrived in France in 1944.  He still remembers the first battle he was in as a 19-year-old kid from Anoka.

“The shells started, boom, boom, boom, and they’re hitting.  And when they hit they could blow a house like this up,” Kovar said.  “It’s very scary that first shelling.”

His unit was almost completely wiped out in another ambush.  “We had a shelling that went on for about an hour and it took 57 of my comrades out,” he said.  “Fifty-seven in one afternoon.”

But he still was not prepared for the Battle of the Bulge and the bitter cold winter weather they fought in.  He said the weather was worse than the Germans.

They were outside for six weeks, not stepping into a building that entire time.

“We had no ear muffs, gloves or heavy socks, anything like that.  We were in our summer clothes yet,” Kovar said.  “No way to get warm. You can’t build a fire, they’ll see you and kill you.”

They were still fighting in the spring when Kovar received the wound that earned him the Purple Heart.  He got a piece of shrapnel in his arm, cutting all the nerves and making it useless. He looked around and realized how lucky he was, the soldier beside him was hit with shrapnel that killed him.

Kovar is convinced that he was protected by angels during that time.  It’s the reason he feels he survived the war when others died.

After all the horror he witnessed there is one memory of unabashed joy.  The view of the lights of Virginia Beach when they were coming home.

Up until six years ago, Kovar told no one about those memories.  Then, he was invited to speak before a group.  Since then, he gives several speeches a week.

He charges $300 per speech and gives every dollar of the money to veterans programs and homes.  He’s raised over $40,000 so far, CBS Minnesota reported.

His wife, Agnes, helps him with the events. The two have been married since 1948 and have four children, 12 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE