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Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Division Museum unveils soldier’s statue

BY JOHN ESTUS Published: September 26, 2009
Injured and surrounded by Nazis, 2nd Lt. Ernest Childers got angry.

What happened next is a big reason the Oklahoma soldier’s statue was unveiled Friday at the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Division Museum.

Childers had broken his ankle dodging Nazi gunfire during World War II, but he still had to lead the eight 45th Infantry Division soldiers under his command on Sept. 22, 1943, in Italy.

"I crawled back and told my men to lay down a base of fire over me,” Childers, a member of the Creek Nation from Broken Arrow, later told an interviewer, according to Oklahoma Army National Guard records.

Then Childers crawled, as fast as he could, toward a Nazi machine gun nest. He shot the Germans dead before they could turn their fire on him.

He spotted more Germans in the distance. Still crawling and lacking grenades, Childers threw rocks at them.

"I assume they thought it was a hand grenade, because nobody throws rocks,” Childers told the interviewer.

Fearing a grenade blast, the Nazis scrambled. Childers and another solider shot and killed them.

Childers continued his crawl forward, single-handedly capturing an enemy mortar observer in the process.

Later, another Nazi walked toward the crawling Childers, who was out of bullets.

"My body was wet with sweat since the German was fully armed, and I was holding an empty rifle on him,” Childers told the interviewer.