Photo from Carolyn Marti Smith
Willibald C. Bianchi was born in New Ulm, Minnesota March 12, 1915. “Bill” as he was called, lived on a poultry farm overlooking the confluence of the Cottonwood and Minnesota Rivers. His grandparents originated in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. When his father died in a hunting accident, Bianchi dropped out of his sophomore year of high school to operate the farm with his mother, Carrie Eibner Bianchi, who was also the premier baker at Eibner’s restaurant.
Bianchi completed his high school through the University of Minnesota extension program. He then enrolled in the animal husbandry program at South Dakota State University. There he went out for boxing and football, and joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Upon graduation in 1939 Bianchi was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was transferred to the Philippines in April, 1941 and assigned to train Filipino men as soldiers.
The Japanese attacked the Philippines shortly following their attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. The defenders were driven back onto the Bataan peninsula where Bianchi’s heroism took place. His Citation reads:
“BIANCHI, WILLIBALD C. Rank and Organization: First Lieutenant, 45th Infantry, Philippine Scouts. Place and Date: Near Bagac, Bataan Province, Philippine Islands, 3 Feb. 1942. Entered Service at: New Ulm, Minn. Birth: New Ulm, Minn. G. O. No.: 11, 5 Mar. 1942. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on 3 Feb. 1942, near Bagac, Province of Bataan, Philippine Islands. When the rifle platoon of another company was ordered to wipe out two strong enemy machine-gun nests, Lieutenant Bianchi voluntarily and of his own initiative, advanced with the platoon leading part of the men. When wounded early in the action by two bullets through the left hand, he did not stop for first aid but discarded his rifle and began firing a pistol. He located a machine-gun nest and personally silenced it with grenades. When wounded the second time by two machine-gun bullets through the chest muscles, Lieutenant Bianchi climbed to the top of an American tank, manned its antiaircraft machine gun and fired into strongly held enemy position until knocked completely off the tank by a third severe wound.”
When Bataan fell on April 9, 1942 Bianchi was captured. He survived the Bataan Death March and was imprisoned in multiple Japanese camps. Late in the war he was transferred to an unmarked Japanese prison ship. On January 9, 1945 that ship was bombed and Bianchi was killed. Mrs. Carrie Bianchi received a letter of sympathy signed by General Douglas MacArthur, Commander-In-Chief, United States Army Forces, Pacific, dated October 25, 1945.
In the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, Section MA, Grave 39 lies a plaque which reads: “In Memory of WILLIBALD C. BIANCHI, Medal of Honor, Capt. U.S. Army, World War ll.”
In the New Ulm City Cemetery, in the Soldiers Rest section, a flag pole stands, and a plaque begins: “This flag pole & flag are dedicated to the memory of CAPT. WILLIBALD C. BIANCHI, Congressional Medal of Honor. American Legion Post 132 was renamed “Seifert-Bianchi” in his honor July 28, 1990” followed by the text of his Citation. On the plaque are the logos of the Medal of Honor and the American Legion.
EDITOR: George L. Glotzbach
CREDITS: Carolyn Marti Smith & Sue Marti Portner