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First Name: Alexander

Last Name: Drabik

Birthplace: Lucas County, OH, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: Holland, OH
Middle Name: A.

Date of Birth: 28 December 1910

Date of Death: 28 September 1993

Rank: Sergeant

Years Served:
Alexander A. Drabik

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Alexander A. Drabik
Sergeant, U.S. Army

Alexander A. Drabik was born on 28 December 1910. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Drabik, Polish immigrants who raised thirteen children on a farm near Holland and Toledo, OH. Prior to his enlistment in the U.S. Army, he worked as a butcher in Holland, OH.

Military Service

Early in his military career, he distinguished himself by rescuing 120 recruits who had become lost on the California desert. Drabik was seriously wounded during the Battle of the Bulge.

On 7 March 1945, Sergeant Drabik was at the Ludendorff Bridge near Remagen, Germany, with his unit, Company A, 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, Ninth Armored Division. As American troops approached the Rhine after their victories in the Battle of the Bulge, the Germans began destroying bridges across the river to gain time. The Germans were furiously working to place explosives on the Ludendorff Bridge when Drabik's unit arrived.

Major General William M. Hoge had been ordered to turn south at Remagen to link up with armored troops headed by General George S. Patton. But General Hoge decided instead to attack the bridge itself, even as German defenders were trying to blow it up.

John Reichley, a retired cavalry officer who teaches at the Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS, said Sergeant Drabik, a tall squad leader in his early 30's, turned to his men and said: "O.K., who's going with me? I'm going across."

Sergeant Drabik, under heavy machine-gun fire, was the first to make it across the Bridge."He was the third-oldest man in the company, and he ran the entire length, about three football fields, being shot at all the time," Mr. Reichley said. An Army film shows Sergeant Drabik crossing the bridge, losing his helmet in the process. When he got to the other side, he was confronted by a young German soldier who pointed his rifle at him.

"The kid looked behind me and saw my whole company coming, so he threw down his rifle and surrendered," Sergeant Drabik said after the bridge was taken. In recalling his run, he said: "It wasn't a historical moment for me. I was too busy running. I didn't think about the bridge blowing or anything. I just wanted to get to the other side."

Sergeant Drabik's dash across the railroad bridge was an unexpected coup that allowed Allied forces to pierce Nazi Germany's biggest defensive barrier. According to Mr. Reichley, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said the capture of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, the Allie's first bridgehead across the Rhine, shortened the war in Europe by six months.

General Eisenhower ordered all available troops and men rushed to Remagen, and within 24 hours 8,000 soldiers had crossed the Rhine there, enabling the Allies to start the final push to victory across Europe. Ten days later, the weakened bridge collapsed, killing 28 American engineers, but by then other temporary bridges were in place.

For his heroism, Sergeant Drabik was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. Army's second highest award for valor. U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) has repeatedly sponsored legislation to award him the highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

On 18 August 1945, the City of Toledo, OH, honored Sergeant Drabik and his Commanding Officer, Major General John W. Leonard, with a parade.

Drabik later said this about his famous run on 7 March 1945: "We ran down the middle of the bridge, shouting as we went. I didn't stop because I knew that if I kept moving they couldn't hit me. My men were in squad column and not one of them was hit. We took cover in some bomb craters. Then we just sat and waited for others to come. That's the way it was."

Post-War Life

After the war, Drabik lived in Toledo and resumed his career as a butcher.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Cross
Purple Heart
Army Good Conduct Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge

Distinguished Service Cross Citation

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Alexander A. Drabik (ASN: 35345618), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, 9th Armored Division, in action against enemy forces on 7 March 1945 in Germany. Upon reaching the Ludendorf railroad bridge crossing the Rhine River, Sergeant Drabik, aware that the bridge was prepared for demolition, and in the face of heavy machine gun, small arms, and direct 20-mm. gunfire, began a hazardous trip across the span. Although artillery shells and two explosions rocked the bridge, he continued his advance. Upon reaching the bridge towers on the far side, he cleared them of snipers and demolition crews. Still braving the intense machine gun and shell fire, he reached the eastern side of the river where he eliminated hostile snipers and gun crews from along the bank and on the face of the bluff overlooking the river. By his outstanding heroism and unflinching valor, Sergeant Drabik, contributed materially to the establishment of the first bridgehead across the Rhine River.

General Orders: Headquarters, First U.S. Army, General Orders No. 49 (March 27, 1945)

Death and Burial

Sergeant Alexander A. Drabik was killed in an automobile accident on 28 September 1993 in Kansas, at age 82. He was driving to Hunter, KS, for the annual reunion of Company A, 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, Ninth Armored Division, when his car crashed into a tractor-trailer truck on Interstate 70, east of Rocheport. He is buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Toledo, OH.


Honoree ID: 2434   Created by: MHOH




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