Ellsworth R. Eidenmuller
Biography: Ellsworth Reginald Eidenmuller was born on July 13, 1924. He was the son of Dorothy E. Eidenmuller and step-father, Dr. Clifford E. Dietderich, who were married on October 8, 1931 in Vancouver, Washington. Ellsworth’s mother was a radiographer (X-Ray technician) and probably met Clifford in the course of their medical occupations. Ellsworth entered the University of California, at Berkeley, in 1941, when he was still only 16 years old. He was there as a pre-medical student.
Service Time: Ellsworth entered the service on March 2, 1943, at San Francisco, California. He was assigned to the 648th Tank Destroyer Battalion as part of their medical detachment. The unit had been activated on March 6, 1943, at Camp Bowie, Texas, as a self-propelled TD Battalion but a year later, they were converted to the 3″ towed gun.
They trained at a number of military facilities including Camp Hood, Texas, Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. They also spent a month in Tennessee taking part in manuevers there. On December 10, 1944, they shipped out from the New York port and arrived in the United Kingdom on December 19th. They were quickly prepared for operations in France and soon boarded transports, landing on January 26th. They were committed to battle near Luneville, France, in February. 1945.
During the unit’s drive toward the French and German border, as part of the 70th Infantry Division, T/5 Ellsworth R. Eidenmuller noticed a group of wounded soldiers. He and the men were under intense mortar and artillery fire, but he worked his way over to them and administered first aid until they could be evacuated. Ellsworth himself was wounded by schrapnel during the shelling. For his actions, Ellsworth was awarded the Bronze Star per G.O. 16, HQ Co. 70th Infantry Division dated March 11, 1945. Ellsworth also received the Purple Heart.
The 648th began conversion to the M18 tank destroyer in early April, while near Landstuhl, Germany. The unit received credit for the two campaigns of Rhineland and Central Europe, and when the war ended, they were located in southern Germany in the vicinity of Ingolstadt. When Ellsworth recovered from his wounds, he was assigned to Nordhausen, which was a Nazi concentration camp for prisoners that were too weak and sick to work in the main work camps. Ellsworth and his 6-man crew were assigned to burying the many dead bodies. He would never forget the horrible things he would experience there.
Ellsworth returned to California and UC Berkeley to complete his degree. Instead of pre-med., he earned a B.A. in Economics in 1949, and started working for the Wells Fargo Bank. In 1951, at the age of 27, he changed his name to Rex Dietderich in honor of his step-father Clifford Dietderich. In 1952, he married the former Shirley Rohlfing and started a new career as a firefighter. He eventually rose to the rank of Captain in the Berkeley Fire Department and retired with a distinguished 29 year career.
He and Shirley had two children, Jean and Frank and the family lived an active life, which included many memorable backpacking and skin-diving trips. Rex and Shirley celebrated his retirement by hiking the John Muir Trail, which is 210 miles long and extends from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. He also built a fishing boat, which he and Shirley used to catch salmon that they supplied to Spenger’s Restaurant in Berkeley.
Rex had a wonderful bass voice and was often involved in local opera. He produced fine sculptures, including a bust of his son, which remains a family treasure. He was also a fine athlete, and favored the long distances of marathons. He and Shirley competed in track and field events around the world, collecting many awards. He was a wonderful storyteller and was able to share amazing stories about his experiences during World War II and during his fire-fighting career.
Rex passed away on November 7, 2013, and was buiried in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella, California. The main photo is used by permission of Digital Data Online, Inc. and E-Yearbook.com. I also want to thank Vern Hixson, for providing the grave marker photo.