Reprinted with permission
“A bold and dashing adventure is in your future.”
That was the message Ted Gundy received from his fortune cookie after finishing off one of his favorite meals, Chinese food. Little did he know, the prophetic message was soon to ring true, courtesy of one chance e-mail.
Gundy, a firearms enthusiast, was intrigued by the intricacies of today’s long-range firearms, in particular, all of the components that go into making a 1,000-yard shot. After going over the components of such a task, Gundy decided to ask the host of one of his favorite television programs, Shooting USA on The Outdoor Channel. Ted e-mailed the host and executive producer Jim Scoutten, asking him about such a shot.
In following correspondences the TV host learned that Gundy is a World War II veteran, and actually was a sniper during the Battle of the Bulge.
“After talking with Ted, learning about his service and his history, the idea for a show was formed,” Scoutten said. “Here we had a guy that was a sniper 65 years ago, wanting to learn more about today’s long range shooters.”
Scoutten latched onto the idea that allowing Gundy the opportunity to take a 1,000-yard shot would make great television.
He was not alone in the concept, as the United States Army came on board for the idea of bringing the veteran to Fort Benning GA, to the Army’s sniper school and in particular to the Army Marksmanship Unit.
“When I opened that fortune cookie, I never had any idea it had something like this in store for me,” Ted said. “It is times like this that make you realize there is someone looking out for you.”
After four months of planning, Ted and his son Mike flew to Atlanta. Theywere the official guests of the United States Army and the Army Marksmanship unit. The latter is home to the world’s best shooters, a unit that was first designated by President Eisenhower as the best of the best to represent the United States. The group regularly sends competitors to the Olympics.
When they arrived at Fort Benning GA, Gundy toured the sniper school and witnessed the training some of the world’s best marksmen undertake.
“That was a far cry from what I went through,” said Gundy. “We arrived overseas as replacements, fresh out of infantry school. They knew that I had scored the highest score in our company, so they passed out the sniper rifle to me.”
Thus a sniper was born. Sixty-five years later, Ted was able to witness the results of the modern training regimen. Gundy was introduced to arguably the best sniper team in the world, winners of the international sniper competitions the past two years. The plan was for Ted to work with SFC Robbie Johnson and SFC Jason St. John and ultimately to have the opportunity to take a 1,000-yard shot.
That is exactly what took place. Ted watched as the Army sniper team put three rounds into the target at the prescribed distance.
Admittedly, the 84-year-old was a bit nervous when he took the weapon. His first two attempts missed their mark. But Gundy had not traveled all that way to not make his dream shot. As a matter of fact, he made it three times, as the final three rounds found their target, despite it being 1,000 yards away.
“You cannot believe the sophisticated equipment those guys work with day in and day out,” Gundy said.
He noted the weaponry and other gear is a far cry from his service weapon, a rifle mounted with a three-power scope, that he noted most folks today wouldn’t even put on their .22 rifle.
Gundy was able to get a first-hand reminder of how far sniper rifles have come in 65 years. He was presented with a replica Springfield A4 sniper rifle and scope courtesy of Gibbs Rifle Company. Not only was he allowed to fire the reproduction of his WWII weapon on the range, he brought the gift home as a memento of the amazing trip.
In addition to the rifle, Ted came home sporting a new black baseball cap. He admits at first look it may not seem so special, but his is just the third black hat to be officially presented to a civilian. Only two other non-Army shooters have received the honor of wearing the official uniform headgear of the Army Marksmanship Unit.
“They presented ted with the hat as well as a framed citation in a special ceremony,” Scoutten said. “I’m not an emotional guy, but I had to back away from the camera during the presentation and the reading of the citation, as I was getting choked up by the honor being given to Ted.”
Gundy wasn’t finished there. The Army gave the group a special tour of the new Army Infantry Museum at the base, and Gundy also toured the sniper school, the gunsmith and reloading centers.
“The Army really did roll out the red carpet for us,” Gundy said. “It was an amazing trip.”
Ted also had the opportunity to visit with another member of the shooting squad, one who has suffered a similar injury to his own. In 1944, Gundy was hit by an artillery round and ultimately ended up losing his leg.
He visited with a member of the team who was injured in Iraq and also had lost a leg.
“Ted was such an inspiration, not only to this soldier who had recovered from a similar injury, but to all of the soldiers who had the opportunity to meet him on this trip,” said Scoutten. “I suspect he went home with a sore arm, because every one of these soldiers wanted to shake his hand.”
Part of that message was received by one of the graduating classes at the infantry school, who heard from Gundy prior to their graduation ceremony.
Scoutten said on numerous occasions throughout the trip Gundy would comment that he didn’t deserve this opportunity and the recognition he was receiving.
“He told me that he didn’t do anything special, and that he was only over there for a couple months before he was wounded and knocked out of the fight,” Scoutten said. “We all let Ted know what an inspiration he is to all of us, and that by paying tribute to him we honor the millions of other veterans, many of which are no longer with us.”
Ted’s story aired in January, in a 30-minute special edition of the regular program Shooting USA’s Impossible Shots.
The tale of WWII veteran Ted Gundy
Most 18-year-olds dream of a new car or some other extravagant gift for graduation. Ted Gundy got an all-expenses paid trip to Europe. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a graduation gift. Gundy was drafted into the U.S. Army and in the summer of 1944, he was shipped out to fight in World War II.
After wrapping up his senior year in May, Gundy went into the service in June and spent 18 weeks in basic training at Camp Croft, the U.S. Army Infantry Replacement Training Center in Spartinsburg SC.
The young man got a brief furlough to return home before he traveled back east to ship out overseas. Gundy was a bit wide-eyed when he and his fellow soldiers were loaded onto a triple-decker luxury liner in Boston Harbor. The trip across the Atlantic Ocean took a week as the ship was fored to take a zigzag route to avoid German submarines.
The troops landed in England and traveled across country by train. Gundy got to see London briefly as the train stopped in the capital city. But Gundy doesn’t recall much about one of the world’s greatest cities. Instead, his memories linger on a meal he had at the train station.
“I don’t remember much about London,” he said. “But I will never forget the Red Cross folks that were distributing donuts and coffee. I filled my helmet with donuts. That didn’t set well with me on the boat as we crossed the English Channel. I was so sick. Sick enough that I still don’t care for donuts today.”
Gundy joked that it was things like this that he and his fellow soldiers remember today. Of course there are the images they can never forget, but donuts make for better conversation, Gundy states.
The Memphis MO, man will never forget his first night in Belgium. After landing in France the troops traveled by truck to join up with their units, where they were filling the ranks of fallen soldiers.
Ted was assigned to Company B of the 393rd Regiment of the 99th Infantry Division. His unit was making its way across Belgium en route to take part in one of the more infamous fights of the war, the Battle of the Bulge.
Before joining his unit, Gundy and his fellow replacements were quartered in an old castle where they were told they were sleeping on the same stone that had housed Napoleon’s army. While the history was interesting to Gundy, he would have traded it for a blanket that first night.
“We weren’t outfitted for this type of climate,” Gundy said. “I spent the night in the attic of an old brick factory. I still believe that was the coldest I have ever been.”
As the troops advanced on the infamous Siegfried Line, Gundy found little relief from the weather. The men marched through snow above their knees at times. The only thing worse than the cold was the regular intermingling of body parts that were exposed from the snow mounds. The fighting had been fierce and neither side had the opportunity to collect the dead.
Gundy and his comrades continued to push forward, moving through a series of small villages across the countryside.
“Most of the time we were in the forests, moving from town to town,” Gundy said. “I was never in the major cities in the region. We were mostly in small places.”
The veteran doesn’t dwell on the tales of snipers, or injured friends, although one can tell there are plenty of those disturbing recollections. Instead his retrospection focuses on the villagers, his comrades or the weaponry he witnessed.
Ted doesn’t brag about the fierce fightng that was going on in the pillboxes and foxholes, but instead recalls the most magificent scope he had ever seen.
“We found it mounted to a German machine gun in a pillbox that we had just taken,” he said. “I kid you not, you could count the blades of grass when looking through that thing. I have never seen anything like it.”
By early March the troops had advanced to the Rhine River. Gundy’s division was the first full force to successfully cross the Remagen Bridge, one of the last standing crossings on the waterway, that Gundy said reminded him of the Mississippi River in size.
The whole time they were crossing, Gundy said he was sure they would be bombed, or the bridge would be blown or it simply would fall in since it already had seen plenty of damage.
But that was not the case, as he crossed the bridge with good friend Charles W. Jones of Bloomfield OH. The two men had befriended one another and Gundy said they were never far apart.
As a matter of fact, it was this closeness to which Gundy attributed his safe passage through the war up to this point.
Gundy recalled sitting in a foxhole with Jones and watching the man’s head quickly jerk to one side seconds before the dirt erupted behind his head.
“He told me he had seen the piece of shrapnel coming and had just dodged it,” Gundy said. Both men laughed at what they knew was impossible. But Gundy told himself that as long as he stayed close to Jones that he would be OK.
Unfortunately nearly a week later, the two men were separated during an artillery barrage. Jones had been summoned to the neighboring foxhole by an officer as the soldiers were being pinned down by machine gun fire and were developing a plan of attack. That left Gundy alone with two German prisoners of war.
The day was March 15, and it was the last day Ted Gundy would fight in World War II. An artillery round impacted his foxhole, killing the two prisoners instantly. Gundy was severely injured, taking shrapnel to his leg.
“I wrapped my belt around my leg to stop the bleeding and I noticed that I was the only one moving,” Gundy said. “My buddy scurried back to the foxhole and put my leg in a tourniquet.”
Ted woke up in a nearby field hospital with transfusions of blood going into his body in several different places. He was there for nearly two weeks before he was shipped out to a hospital in England.
The day before his 20th birthday, a surgeon amputated Ted’s leg due to the injury.
“That was the same day that Roosevelt passed away, so there were a lot of tears being spilled that day in the hospital ward,” Gundy said.
Ted returned to the U.S. in June of 1945 but not before a second surgery removed more of his damaged leg.
Gundy stayed in the Army’s Percy Jones General Hospital in Battle Creek MI. He stayed there until April 1946, when he was discharged.
“I served from June 1944 until I was discharged April 6, 1946,” Gundy said. “I was only with my outfit a little more than two and a half months. I spent a little more than a year in the hospital.”
Upon returning to Memphis, Ted Gundy became one of the youngest elected officials in the state of Missouri when Scotland County voters made him county tax collector.
Years later Ted began seeking out his fellow veterans. He located Jones, who had become a Baptist minister after the war, in California. The two began corresponding. Ted found other comrades through his outfit’s regular reunions.
In 1998, Ted and his daughter Rita Jarvis traveled to Belgium. He revisited many of the battle sites and was befriended by a Belgium couple that continues to correspond with the former soldier today.
“The Belgium people really were gracious to us,” Gundy said. “They think a lot of the American soldiers, as you can see in their many museums and historical markers of the war.”
They’re not alone in their utmost respect for all of our nation’s veterans.