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Though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.-- Sun Tzu
It became known as the "Spearhead Division and I joined it, the Third Armored Division, at Camp Polk, Louisiana in early 1942, less than a year after it was formed. This account is of me telling of my day on the "Spearhead", how I got there, what happened, and how it ended.
More lives were lost in one exercise practicing for D-Day than during the invasion of Utah Beach on 6 June 1944. That rehearsal was called "Exercise Tiger." Planning for the greatest amphibious operation in history required many such exercises, each designed to test the readiness of plans for the invasion of Normandy and the efficiency of the troops. Duck, Fox, Muskrat, Beaver, and Trousers preceded Tiger, and Fabius followed. Each was larger than the last, and the later ones used live ammunition.
September 25, 1943 was an unforgettable day. It was the day I received my notice to appear at the county court house in Hyattsville, Maryland for my induction into the army. And from there the other inductees and I were taken by bus to Fort Meade, Maryland where we were given uniforms and clothing.
I got a very low draft number, so I was sure to be called. Instead of waiting to be called and being put into whatever anybody decided to do for me, I decided to try to guide my own destiny a bit. I enlisted in the Navy out of Floyd Bennet Naval Air Station, which was a reserve air station in Brooklyn, New York....I didn't want to be in the Army because I remembered all the stories and the movies about World War I were about people living in trenches.
Saint-Leonard, a name that has continually come to mind over the last five decades, is the name of a quaint little village situated in the foothills of the Vosges of Southern France. It was not long after our encounter in this village when I made myself a promise not to be forgotten... a promise that I would keep in the many years to follow. The incident bringing about this promise I have lived with since that day, Nov. 20, 1944. It was a promise made out of both fear and anger, that some day if it be God's will, I will return.
With a friend of mine, a Post Office messenger like myself, I had gone to the Royal Navy Recruiting Office when I was 16 year old to volunteer for the Navy. They took our names then and apologized for the fact that they were not allowed to take us as Boy Seamen at 16 years and that we would have to wait until we were called up at 18 years. They did tell us however if we volunteered just before 18 years the Navy would take us then.
September 16 I remember crossing the Siegfried line with it's dragon teeth. We had seen pictures of this defensive system for years and now we saw it first hand. With the return of our men from the Red Ball Express we are now back in business. I don't remember details of all the areas we were in when we arrived in Germany. I recall one position shortly after we were in on the outskirts of Aachen. We had an antiaircraft unit of two half-tracks with us. One vehicle had quad fifties in a cockpit like arrangement and the other was a thirty seven mm. with a pair of fifties.
Pearl Harbor occurred about six months after I graduated from High School. I believe we all were aware it would change our lives and the things we believed in but none of us knew how much. It placed restraints on our lives. We wanted to keep on working and enjoying our new found freedom of being out of school and yet we were all moved by feelings of duty to the country and many of my friends joined the service.
March 11, 1945. We are at fleet anchorage after returning from Iwo Jima, and Japanese areas. 2000 hours. I had just been relieved from watch in Rdo1, which is our main radio room in the Island structure, and had started walking aft on the flight deck. My rack, and also my GQ battle station, was Rdo#3. Radio 3 was a small emergency transmitter room on the Gallery deck, just under the flight deck, starboard side above the fan tail.
Our gun batteries were equipped with M7 track vehicles in the States, long before we deployed overseas! The M105 howitzers were mounted on the M7 with very minor modifications, and very little addtional training was needed, other than the driver and assitant driver, for this new and unique addition to the 29th. All of the other crew responsiblities remained essentially the same as if it were a trail drawn howitzer.
When I got to the hangar, navigators were working around a large table with their topographical maps and plotting charts. Navigators made their own calculations, and then compared results with others. When we had finished we went to the locker room. Dressing up was a long process for the gunners. It was a cold ride in the turrets and gunners wore as much clothing as they could from woollen underwear to electrically heated suits.
Somebody got the bright idea that I should go to a summer camp--- a summer military camp-- in June 1939, conducted by the U. S. Army. In due course I was enlisted/enrolled in the Basic program of the Citizens Military Training Camps at Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington. That was where my training as an infantry foot soldier began at age 15. We spent 30 days there in Vancouver and underwent intensive basic infantry training provided by soldiers of the Regular Army 3rd Division.
I've not much memory for accurate dates. I know I received my call up papers in early 1939 and with the assistance of Maples, where I was working at the time on MOD work, cutting out and making black out blinds by the hundred, I managed to get a years exemption.
I was a member of the 29th Infantry Division, in M Company, 3rd Battalion of the 116th Infantry Regiment. I was inducted into the Army June 16, 1943, at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., and was discharged on Oct. 23, 1945, at Camp Atterbury, Ind. I was second gunner on the .30-caliber water-cooled Browning machine gun through most of combat when I moved up to squad leader.
It was the fall of 1944. I was fresh out of USAC basic at Keesler Field and was assigned to B-29 gunnery training at Buckingham Field, Fort Myers, FL As a lot of good "cadets" did then, I chose this instead of "on the line" training. Within the first week at Buck Field, I was fitted with a parachute harness and "invited" to take an orientation ride in a funny-looking B-24.
1721: France and Spain sign the Treaty of Madrid.
1794: Congress authorizes the construction of 6 frigates, including the USS Constitution "to provide a naval armament".
1802: The Treaty of Amiens is signed, ending the French Revolutionary War.
1802: The French Revolutionary War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Amiens.
1814: U.S. troops under Gen. Andrew Jackson inflict a crushing defeat on the Creek Indians at Horshoe Bend in Northern Alabama.
1835: The Mexican army massacres Texan rebels at Gohad.
1880: The USS Constellation departs New York with food for famine victims in Ireland.
1933: Japan leaves the League of Nations.
1941: Tokeo Yoshikawa arrives in Oahu, Hawaii, to begin spying for Japan on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor.
1941: Britain leases defense bases in Trinidad to the United States for 99 years.