June 6, 2022

It was a frigid December 1944 in France. As 20-year-old 2nd Lt. Bobby Stahlman ’45 approached the Ardennes Forest and Saarbrücken, also known as the “bulge” area, he donned a life-saving gift from kind French citizens: a white sheet to help him camouflage himself in the snow of enemy territory. Entering Germany, heavy artillery and mortar fire rained down on him and the 63rd Infantry Division.

1st Lt. Bobby Stahlman '45 led 20 American soldiers to a lifesaving victory.

With only 20 survivors from his company, the young soldier led troops to a ridge and directed them to wait until German soldiers began climbing the hill. Once the enemy was close enough, they strategically shot and caused many casualties. The Germans—believing that they were outnumbered and that many Americans were on the ridge—retreated and raised a white flag.

Unbeknownst to the enemy, it was the few men of the 7th Army, 63rd Division, 253rd Regiment, Company M, led by Bobby, that captured and marched the German company back to the American line. In the Battle of the Bulge—one of the bloodiest WWII battles for American forces on the Western Front, which claimed more than 20,000 American lives—Stahlman emerged as a hero, especially to the families of the soldiers he led to victory.

His Father’s Footsteps

Growing up, Alan Stahlman only heard his father’s experiences as a brave WWII soldier once. Fearing that his son would be sent to fight in the Vietnam War, Stahlman hesitated to share his war stories. Apart from knowing he had received many honors for his service, including Bronze and Silver Stars, Alan did not know the details of the dangers his father had faced.

When it came time to choose a college, he yearned to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the Aggie Corps of Cadets. Despite being honored that his son admired his military bravery, Bobby wished Alan would not endure war like he had. “We decided to flip a coin. If it was heads, I could join the Corps. If it was tails, I’d go to The University of Texas,” Alan shared. “I ended up going to Texas.”

I hope this endowment reminds cadets that there were many Aggies before them who gave their lives to be where we are today.
Alan Stahlman

Even though Alan did not follow in his father’s military footsteps, he traveled to St. Avoid Lorraine Cemetery—the largest American cemetery in Europe—in 1995 to thank the men of the 63rd Division and many others for their ultimate sacrifice. While in Achen, the same French village his father was in before crossing into Germany in 1944, Alan met a French woman who had lived in the village during the war.

While speaking to the woman, Alan heard his father’s story for the second time—the story of the white sheets that saved his life. “She told me that she had helped American soldiers by giving them sheets to camouflage themselves in the snow,” he recalled. “I nearly fell to my knees and cried knowing she may have been the very one who helped save my dad.”

Honoring Wishes

Bobby returned home from the war in 1946 as a first lieutenant and completed his degree at Texas A&M in animal husbandry and business in 1948. Alan, born in Aggieland in 1947, was immersed in his father’s love for Texas A&M from the start. After his parents’ lives, the loyal son did not hesitate to fulfill one of his father’s final wishes: give $500,000 to Texas A&M to support cadets.

His Aggie dad had planned his support for the Corps of Cadets years before when he and his wife, Betty, used their property (valued at $137,000) to fund a charitable remainder unitrust. From 1996 to Betty’s passing in 2021, the trust paid out 7% annual distributions to Alan’s parents, totaling approximately $177,000 in payments to them, with the remaining funds of nearly $90,000 reinvested in endowed Corps of Cadets scholarships.

Recently, Alan added an additional cash gift from his parents’ estate, fulfilling his father’s wish. Beyond that, he continues to honor his memory by sharing the miraculous story of white sheets and war bravery many times over. “Dad was an Aggie, a strong Aggie,” he expressed. “Cadets should be inspired to serve our country bravely as he did.”

The Betty and Bob Stahlman ’45 Endowed Scholarship Fund, established by Alan’s parents, supports members of the Corps of Cadets from Comal County, Texas, where the Stahlmans called home. “Like my father, I want to be incredibly supportive of cadets from Comal County,” Alan said. “I hope this endowment reminds cadets that there were many Aggies before them who gave their lives to be where we are today.”

For more information on how to support the Corps of Cadets with a planned gift or to learn the benefits of leaving your legacy through a charitable remainder unitrust like the Stahlmans, contact Angela Throne ’03 at the bottom of this page.