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Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice

-- Baruch Spinoza
War Memories - part 17019 Reads  Printer-friendly page

World War IIPearl 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.
I was reading meters for the P.P.& L. and enjoyed the job and the fellows I worked with. It was outdoors with lots of walking and although the pay was not the greatest it provided me with what I needed.

I bought an old Harley Davidson motorcycle that was wrecked and fixed it up. My parents had a fit and bribed me with their old car a 1934 Oldsmobile. What they did not know was I was ready to give the cycle up as it was too heavy and needed a clutch. I sold it for a few dollars more than it cost me and took the car.

In the summer of 1942 I decided I would go to the Bethlehem Steel and on the first day I was off in 1943 I was to enlist. Working at the steel gave me more money and new friends. It also provided me with another form of night life. Steelworkers are hard drinkers and I soon learned to drink my share. One of the men I made friends with was Nick Mosko who later joined the Airborne and was killed in the Ardennes. I worked the rest of the summer and part of the winter and in January I signed up. By this time with the draft in full swing it was no longer enlisting it was voluntary draft waver or something like that, who cared. After my physical and test I left Bethlehem for New Cumberland on January 21st. On the same train were several men I had graduated with. We only stayed at New Cumberland long enough to get outfitted and tested to see where we would fit in. I remember going down a long hill from the barracks for shots. We walked down a hall and backed into a side room. We were given at least four shots in the shoulders and several in the arms. After the shots we went next door where we received a large duffel bag of clothes and two pair of boots. We were assembled outside until everyone was finished and by that time the shots were having their effect on us. Fever, aches and pain in the arms were soon felt. About this time it was shoulder the bag and up the hill to the barracks. This is the army Mr Jones!

After a short time at New Cumberland it was on a train to who knows were. One of the cardinal rules of the army is never tell a rookie anything. We arrived in what turned out to be Little Rock, Arkansaw. I always was horse nuts and when we unloaded there on the platform was a horse soldier, shiny boots and all. I soon learned I was in the infantry, Camp Joseph T. Robinson. At this time it was one of the toughest training camps in the army. There were a lot of mothers who complained to their Congressmen about the harsh treatment their little boys received. It was this training that kept them alive and brought them home after the war.

I was in the same little hut with Niles Long from Bethlehem. We went to school together and being from home we became good army buddies. I enjoyed much of the training and the new friends we made. I remember the two Apache Indians we had with us Elmer Armstrong and Eddie Cinnaginnie. One of them was always getting drunk and fighting. It was when we had our interview near the end of training I was asked to stay as cadre and later on after I was more mature go to OCS. This sounded good and I looked forward to it. About this time we were all given tests. Only a small number passed these tests and we were told we would go to college. The army called this Army Specialized Training Program or ASTP. After we finished the three months of basic they started shipping out. Niles wanted the airforce and he was shipped to an airbase somewhere. I was held back with about a dozen others. We did not have anything to do except loaf for about a week. Then new recruits started coming in, mostly Chicanos from California. It soon became dog eat dog in the mess hall as they were untrained and very anti-social. It was for the best I think that the army shipped us out.

Next stop Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We found ourselves in the artillery. I found several new friends, Henry Isaac, a Jew from Cologne Germany. The other buddy was Heinz Glaeser who came from Germany when he was 14 years old. Heinz and I ended up on a gun crew the first time we went into the field. These were old WW1 guns with very little traverse. It took a group of husky men to lift the gun around. We saw an old tank in the field, an old General Grant. These tanks were riveted together and when they were hit the rivets popped loose and flew around the inside. We sure were prepared in those days. The year before they trained with wooden guns.

A short time later I was assigned to radio and I believe Heinz went to the survey group. It was hot and muggy with no air conditioning. We went on leave to Hattiesburg, went to the movies and drank beer. I remember the movies had a tax of part of a cent so you received change in plastic money. I wanted to go to New Orleans but the train was too crowded. Wanting to leave town I found I could go to Jackson. It was a long hard ride. I wandered around and did not find a place to stay overnight so I went back to the bus station. The south always had a lot of hardcase M.P.s. I asked if I could stay in the station and sleep in a chair and was told if I did I would be arrested and put in the jail. Asking if they knew of a place to stay I was told it was my problem not theirs. I went to the rest room and one of them came in. He was decent and told me of a women who took in soldiers. He told me how to get there and warned me that I would get picked up if I was not off the streets.

I walked up a hill and in the dark I found the house he told me of. I knocked and a little old women answered. I told her I was looking for a place to stay and she said she was sorry but she was full. I said I was desperate and would even sleep in a chair so she invited me in. She gave me a space in a large closet, sleeping on a mattress on the floor with several other GIs. In the morning I signed the log and went into the kitchen to eat. She served anything you could possibly want to eat, eggs, bacon, grits, pancakes, cereal and anything else you could think of. I believe it cost me Three dollars for room and breakfast. I am sure a lot of soldiers had a warm spot in their hearts for this women, I know I never forgot that night. I visited the zoo the next day happy to be away from the soldiers life for a short time.

We quickly fell into barracks life, KP, guard duty, drilling and other normal things a soldier does. I had all of the usual duties such as KP which meant among other things scrubbing out the inside of the garbage cans, real fun. I liked guard duty and usually requested Prisoner Chasing. On this duty you were issued live ammunition, five rounds of 30-06. We slept in the stockade and ran the prisoners around during the day, every where was double time. Most of them were just in because of minor things like late from a pass. One or two were real pains, I was challenged once by one who thought I would not shoot. I convinced him in a hurry that if I had to choose serving his sentence or shooting I would guarantee at least three in him. He never challenged me again but I heard he gave some others a hard time. He later went AWOL and stole boots and a watch from one of us. He was brought back when we were in LA. and later ended up doing hard time.

After about two months we packed up and went on Louisiana Maneuvers. We stopped overnight and were given leave to go into some little town. I and some buddies ended up in a little bar. We sat by the door in the back room drinking our beers and shooting the breeze. A fight broke out in the other room and we were preparing to leave when a beer mug hit the wall over my head, that speeded up our departure. We arrived in the national forest in west Louisiana and settled into a routine of four days on maneuvers and three days of rest and leave. I spent most of the four days riding around in a jeep all day with a Lieutenant and a driver, Vignuet from New Hampshire. We ate "C" Rations when we were out of the battery area and ate with the outfit on the three day rest. The radios we had were tube type FM and really bad. The range was terrible and the cables connecting the units always broke and were hard to repair.

Our leave town was Leesville, a GI town. The natives had most of the town declared off limits to us, can't say I blamed them with the large number of drunken fighting GI's around town. Other than drinking there wasn't much to do. We didn't go in every weekend because of this. At this time there was a popular song "Paper Doll' and on one trip in I found my Paper Doll. I believe it was a Coca Cola display, it was a life-size cutout of a girl holding a soda. I convinced the store owner to give it to me and brought it back to camp. It was dark when we returned and I set it up outside my tent. In the morning I found out I had a lot of visitors wanting to see my Doll that I called my own. On one occasion when we were on the three-day break we were along a little stream in a cut off forest. One of the guys had a fish line and hooks so he was hooking snakes in the little stream. We washed in the stream and did our laundry there. The snakes would lie just out of reach watching us. No one ever enjoyed this and no one went swimming. One day several of us walked down to a little development near our area. It was about five houses around a country store. We were enjoying ice-cream and sodapop when a jeep full of MP's pulled up and rousted us. The little store and development was colored and down South you did not associate. One of our favorite pastimes was catching pigs. Sometimes seven or eight little pigs would wander into our area. This would set off the games, pig catching. The little porkers were turned loose after the game of seeing how many we could catch.

We moved to new positions one night and as usual we left late and not with the battery. We were going up a narrow dirt road with only cats eyes on. These are the lights on army vehicles for night driving. They look like one dim light unless you are too close and the one light becomes two. We missed the turn off into the battery area and went too far. We turned around and started back, hearing trucks coming Vig pulled up and moved to the shoulder. I was sitting in the rear on my bedroll so I could see better than Vig or the Lt. I saw and heard what had to be a big truck coming so I told Vig he better get over as far as he could. What we did not know was we were on the edge of a large drainage ditch. When Vig moved a couple of feet we went over and landed upside down. I tried a back flip and landed on my face pinned down by the seat back. I didn't feel any pain and it was kind of funny listening to the Lt. carrying on. until I heard Vig groaning in pain. I could hear the big truck which was Service batteries big wrecker so I started to yell for help. In no time at all we were pulled out and the jeep righted. Our only casualty was Vig who had broken ribs. We gathered our belongings and walked the few yards to our area. Vig returned to duty in a day or two none the worse for it except the pain of broken ribs. If nothing else it gave us a taste of what would come.

In August we were to return to Camp Shelby. Our kitchen was loaded and ready to leave at midnight when it was halted. We soon learned we were to turn in all trucks and heavy equiptment. We went to the railhead and loaded up for another train ride to no one knew where. This was the first and only time I crossed Texas, it was as big as they said. After a long train ride when we unloaded we found out we were in SUNNY California. It was 120 degrees in the shade and there was no shade. We were trucked to Camp Iron Mountain located on the desert about two hundred and fifty mile from Los Angeles. The closest towns were Parker in Arizona or Desert Center in California. General Patton had started these camps for troop training. There were a total of seven scattered over the barren landscape of this desert area. We stayed in tents until we built or own area on the edge of the main camp. We raised a canvas roof for a mess hall and dug latrines and a cool cellar for supplies. We arrived in August and stayed until February. While we were here we spent a lot of time in the field. We were issued new guns with a new carriage. These were the 4.5 howitzers we would later use in Europe. The carriages were a new design and as we towed with big trucks we broke one axle after another. Later we were issued tracked vehicles which had a lower tow point and the axles must have been improved because we had none of that type of problems in Europe. On occasion we went to the Colorado River to swim and eat our lunch. Later we would go to Parker, a sleepy little western town on the edge of a large Indian Reservation. This town was similar to what you expect in a western film, wooden sidewalks and overhangs. At times you could see a horse ground tied while his owner was in some store. Mostly we went to San Bernadino which was as far as we could take the truck, from there it was the Toonerville trolley or the bus to LA. My father had a relative who lived on the edge of Hollywood. I spent some time with her and slept there many a night. I was treated very well by her and she took me sightseeing where we could go on the bus or trolley. I also did some sight seeing on my own or with a buddy. We checked out Hollywood and Vine, the Stagedoor Canteen which did not impress us too much. We went to the Brown Derby and all the known places. Except for the long ride it was a good leave town, much more hospitable than the southern towns we knew.

The desert area around the camp was almost devoid of civilization so it was a good place for Army Games. We went over the mountain to some canyons, must have been in Nevada close to Needles. There were places we shot our guns at ranges of a least five miles. This area is not as barren today but there is still lots of empty space. Being in the field so much we soon became a close cohesive team.

In January we were given leave, strictly army fashion, from as far from home as you can get. I got on the train in Needles at 10 o'clock on Tuesday night and got off in Bethlehem on Saturday at 1 o'clock. Except for several hours in Chicago all this time was spent on the train. As soon as I arrived I was told Niles Long was dead. He and a group of cadets were killed when their bus was hit by a train in Kingman Arizona. I paid a duty call to his mother and went to the funeral. My brother came home on leave from the navy and my cousin was home also so we managed a few exciting evenings. Being the saviors of our nation we were treated very well. Good things do not last long and soon I had to return. Shortly after my return we loaded on a troop train and headed East to Camp Miles Standish. From the dry air of the desert to the damp swamp of this camp. We were brought up to date on shots and whatever and issued new weapons, the new carbine they started using. As issued it was covered with cosmoline and required hours of cleaning. Loads of fun inspired by the knowledge your life could be affected by the job you did. We were only there a short time and soon loaded on a boat for a refreshing ocean cruise. Our bunks were four high and so close you could not rollover.

We had 500 black soldiers in the hold under the mess hall, this was a segregated army at this time. I went into the mess hall to eat after we were underway. It was a large room the full width of the ship. The tables were stand up style and the area was divided into about four sections. Many of the men were already seasick and throwing up as soon as they looked around this large swaying room. I grabbed a sandwich and an apple and dumped the rest and headed up the ladder. The deck was covered with soldiers both black and white almost all seasick. I ate my apple and enjoyed the sea air. That night I was on MP duty guarding a ladder from an invasion I guess and above me was Coaldust, a coal miner from the hills of Tennessee. He was as sick as you can get and every time he heaved he made me heave. I drank water so I would have something in me to throw up the next time. Toward morning some old salt came by and asked me what was wrong, I told him of the situation. He said I will fix that and soon returned with a tumbler of whiskey , at his insistence I drank it and as he said it cured me. He stayed to talk and I told him of the lousy grub the English cooks served. He asked me if I would work for better food, after I jumped at the chance he said he would get me a job in the Merchant Marine kitchen. They had a little area to themselves with the kitchen in between the Merchant Marine and the Coast Guard. There was no cooking as they brought the food in from the main kitchen. I helped serve and go for fresh fruit down in the bowels of the ship. At night I made coffee and sandwiches for the seamen or the Coast Guard as this was a twenty four hour operation. Life on board a troop transport has no day or night, its all one time. With lots of time to kill and no organized things to do it was sleep, gamble or walk around. We spent fifteen days to cross the Atlantic. When we got into the North Sea it lived up to its reputation, Big waves and our little banana boat sure could roll. I helped the regular mess man haul the garbage cans up as he never could have done it alone. It was up a step and wait for the roll and then up again. When the hatch was opened down came a deluge of dirty water. It was foolish to be on deck unless your duty forced it. We finally landed at Wales. The last day we were out the gang in the kitchen wouldn't let me help. They told me it was my turn to be waited on and what did I want. Because we were told eggs would be scarce I wanted six eggs, they came back with three platters as eggs only come in pairs. Once again I left some new friends and moved on.

We were trucked to someplace in England. The first few days we moved from one place to another and finally ended up in a loft over some stores. There were about thirty of us there with the rest of the outfit in several other buildings. In the morning there were two doughnut dollies who came to load their truck. All we had to do was take our messcup and it was breakfast, two doughnuts and coffee, what more was needed. We soon were loaded up again and off to our camp outside of Exeter England.

We were taken to a tent camp that was on the grounds of some castle. Our mess halls were large Quonset huts and our sewage system was a wonder to behold. With the large number of men in such a small area it would have required a very good sewage system to handle our waste. Some one came up with a system that defies belief. Our latrines were constructed so all waste went into large buckets similar to a large coal scuttle. There were trap doors so these could be removed easily and loaded onto a trailer towed by a jeep. At one corner of this estate a special group of ovens were constructed, fed by pipes leading to tanks of fuel oil. All the waste was burned in these ovens, an all day job. This dirty sooty job was given to the biggest screwups in the battery. I think the sight of these two sooty unfortunate souls and the task they had did more to deter anyone from screwing up and be given this detail than anything else that could have been devised.

We had little to do as a normal course of affairs and were given lots of freedom. Our guns had arrived some where in England we were told, but with all the material that was there waiting for the invasion to come they were lost. We were offered 155 Howitzers but insisted on our more accurate 4.5's. At last our guns were located and we went out in the field to try them out. Some where in the moors of England, full of rabbits as large as domestic ones. Every where we went there were rabbits and at night on the switchboard it was as though they held a rally for our benefit. We practiced throwing the combat knives we bought on board ship at them without success. One night I did not want to sleep in a tent so I stayed out in the open. At night there was a heavy dew almost like rain so I crawled under a truck and slept well, waking up in the middle of the night I braced myself to roll over. My hand came down on something wet and furry, I found another place and moved over to a different spot further from what ever it was. In the morning I remembered this and moved the truck to see what I had felt the night before, it was the large head of a rabbit.

Some where Buck and I met, Buck was a dispatch rider in the RAF. He wore a long leather jacket without sleeves and had a flaming red handle bar mustache. Everyone knew Buck in the whole area which meant thousands of English Raf people. We became good friends and I soon spent all the time off with him even visiting most of the RAF bases for teatime which is a big English tradition. He was stationed in a house with several other riders and also had the use of a minitruck. Being able to get around the countryside he located eggs several times and as they got a bread ration and jam it was something to look forward to after an evening of pub trotting. I remember one night we went by train to see a Warrant Officer Buck knew play piano at some Pub on the outskirts of town. Several of Bucks roommates went with us and we got loaded. On the way home they got rowdy and threw the blackout lamps out the window, I stopped them from throwing out the cushions. One big Irishman fell from the luggage rack on my shoulder almost breaking it but I felt no pain. When we arrived at our station the conductor came after us about what we were doing. I can remember saying I would take care of the damages even if I had to buy the whole train. The conductor laughed and told us to beat it. We were planning to go to an Raf dance one Saturday night when I was put on KP. I got night duty which meant keeping fire under the big outdoor stoves used mainly to heat water for scrubbing up. Buck came over and found out I could not go, he returned a few days later and told me they were planning a farewell dance special because I was missed. At night on KP we noticed that there was more activity at the nearby airbase than normal. We some times saw them towing gliders and landing with the troop transports. This night traffic was very heavy. In the morning we were told it had started and soon we were loaded up heading for the coast. Much to my regret I never saw Buck again except on leave in Paris I thought I saw him and ran down the street chasing a motorcycle but unable to catch it. Ce Le Guerre.

We were loaded up and set off for the port, an all day drive on the narrow streets. We arrived late in the day and had our eyes opened to the realities of war. A troop train loaded with American wounded blocked our path, we had a first hand look at what we were facing. In small scattered groups guarded by GI's were German prisoners of war, some were walking wounded. For them the war was over, for us it presented an uncertain future ahead. We were unloaded and billeted in large warehouse style buildings located on the water front. The next day we were issued among other things ammunition and took care of last minute affairs. I smoked Lucky Strike cigarettes and recall that Lucky Strike green had gone to war. I received a carton of green cigarettes still wrapped in leadfoil which had gone out years before. It is amazing what was stockpiled in preparation for the invasion. There was so many tons of material loaded in readiness that it was joked that only the barrage balloons kept England from sinking..

Early in the morning we loaded on LCT's. These were barge like boats with a large deck open below , an engine room in the rear and a two story structure in the rear of the craft. This gave the Captain and his one crew member a higher platform for better visibility. All the craft flew a small barrage balloon, tied to a winch which made raising or lowering easier. We crossed in a group which made a nice convoy. As boats got close the balloons would come closer blown by the wind and cheered on by men who were bored and at the same time wondering what lie ahead, afraid and yet not afraid just anxious to get on with the job that lay ahead. It was late in the day when we made landfall, what a sight. Large ships with holes blown in them and sunk for jetties. There was fire works here and there and not knowing what was happening made it all the more exciting. All the trucks were waterproofed and made ready for the landing. Our driver came down with the mumps when the trucks were worked on so the job was given to two wiremen. Our craft pulled in as far as he could and dropped the ramp, all the front trucks pulled out. It was soon our turn, we had a 3/4 ton weapons carrier pulling a trailer all overloaded. We hit the water with a splash and there we stayed. The waterproofing was a failure. Our landing craft put it into reverse and raised the ramp and took off for Merry old England and his evening meal leaving us to our fate.

We were at least three hundred yards from the beach and we soon found out the truck wasn't sinking, the tide was coming in. We put all the bedrolls up as high as we could and wondered what would happen now. A large type duck came close and we all shouted until he came closer, he told us that after he took care of a jeep he would be back. In a short while he returned with a cable from the beach, I jumped over to the duck along with most of the crew. The other end of the cable went to a large dozer on the beach so after our driver waded in and fastened it to the truck we were towed a shore in short order, triple A GI style. Once a shore we were towed until the truck started, we headed up the beach to where we could drive up off the beach. In a short distance we stalled again and had to locate another dozer for a tow. By this time it was dark and with fire works in different places along with strange noises we were getting slightly nervous. I know all of us were looking forward to rejoining our unit and familiar faces to face what might lie ahead. After a short drive up the beach we found the road leading up the hill away from the beach. It was now dark and the road was bordered by mine field tape and we were lost. When we saw troops along the road we asked about our outfit. We were told they would be looking for us down the road. A little way down the road we were stopped by several men from our battery and directed to an area in a large field, We were told to bed down and not to wander around as there could be mines in the area. I doubt if anyone was in a wandering mood.

June 15th. Battery "C" moved into firing position to support the 82nd Airborne troops. We were set up by a small crossroads. A group of people came down the road that morning, about a dozen inmates of an insane asylum tended by about three nuns. The nuns were trying to take them where they would be safe. We ran the necessary telephones lines in and then had time to look around. Coming back from the gun position I saw a long narrow field lower than the surrounding ones. This was hedgerow country, large mounds of earth with the trees and brush growing on them. The Germans had dug foxholes and tunneled through the hedgerow so they could shoot in relative safety. There were about fifty soldiers and officers lying dead in their positions, apparently surprised by the paratroops. One of our men called me over to where he was manning an aerial mount fifty and said take a look. There were two paratroopers dead about ten feet from him, he said look up above. On a slight rise nearby was another trooper lying on his back. His face was blown away leaving only his tongue and lower jaw in the front of his head. His appearance was shocking enough but when I saw his carbine and haversack I had another shock. His serial number was on the bag and it was very close to mine, this indicated he was from close to home. There were many more dead troopers in the area, some by themselves and some in small groups. There were also about a dozen living near us, most of them in a state of shock from what they had gone through. Later on they must have left to rejoin their unit which was the outfit we were supporting. We were in this area several days firing support fire, this gave the rest of our battalion time to get a shore and get organized. Before we left this place Graves Registration came through picking up the bodies. The used an old bloody stretcher and carried the copse over to the truck where they were thrown in like an old log. This was our introduction to combat.

Our next position was where we experienced the first of two false gas alarms. When we left England we waterproofed our gasmask. There was a large clip placed on the hose below the mask and the canister was taped so no water could get in. We were to remove this when we were on shore. The wire crew was sleeping in an orchard, this was cider country. That night some one drove a car without tires down a dirt road making sounds like the gas alarms. The word spread like wildfire, "GAS ALARM". We had just bedded down and had not yet gone to sleep. I was near DEDE Stanton and Jaskolka who were buddies. I could here DEDE saying "I can't breath, I can't breath." . Jas called him over and removed the clip from the hose, still DEDE could not breath until he also removed the tape from the canister. Even with the tension we felt at the time we had a good laugh.

Time has made a blur of many of the events that we experienced in Normandy. I can remember other events but can not tie them to a particular place. I remember another false gas alarm that we had where one of the cooks had tied his mask up in the bows of the truck. Since he could not get it loose this is where he had to stand until the alarm was over. This same fellow used to regret not joining the Navy until we shipped out and he spent the entire voyage in the bunk hoping to die so he would no longer be seasick.

June 29th. We moved into position late that day and because of the time and the ground being so hard no one dug in as deep as they should. I had been shifted to the fire control of the battery and had three phones to handle. I had dug a shallow hole near a fence row thinking I could dig deeper the next day. The star shelling started after dark. Star shells normally mean you can be seen as they light up the whole area. Everyone was afraid of what would come next not of the star shells themselves. This did not mean they were not dangerous as they were from about an eight inch shell. I saw the base plate from one and it was about ten pounds of steel. During the shelling several men were struck by these base plates, one man had his legs broken. The shelling lasted about one half hour or longer during which time we got a fire mission. I tried to stay in the little hole I had and get the phones to me but they were so tangled from then excitement I couldn't tell one from the other. We took the fire mission and called it to the guns. It was hard to get the men out from under the gun and I can still hear Sgt. Conti yelling at his crew to get moving. I think our training made the difference plus we all thought our fire mission could be on the guns firing at us. AT some later time we were informed that the shelling came from a damaged shore battery and was done by German soldiers unfamiliar with guns. It was fortunate for us as High explosives could have wiped us out.

The next day I went into the large house that was in our position. It must have been the center for the Germans in this area as there were hundreds of German dog tags here. The Germans were taking very heavy casualties. One of the men brought me several German eight mm. cartridges with wooden slugs in them. They were sure that they had poison shells. The wooden part was died the ugliest shade of purple or red. I picked up a mauser and fired several rounds into a shell hole and came to the conclusion that they were not very dangerous. I believe they were rounds used for training as I don't think they could kill even at close range.

During the month we crisscrossed the peninsula and went though the towns that became famous because of the fighting in this area. We became the first artillery to fire on Cherbourg but never went into the town. We became acquainted with the French cider, cognac and saw first hand the primitive way these dirty people live. We had gun positions in orchards close to the farmhouse and saw first hand children sent to the rural area to escape city life so full of lice their hair was white. I remember one area where the family used the dung heap as their outdoor toilet.

We moved into an area where the 83rd Division had taken heavy casualties. I still have a compass that I picked up from a mortar crew that must have been wiped out. It was in this location that I picked up an M1 rifle and soon put my carbine away and used the M1. The carbine did not have the punch I felt I wanted and the M1 had a much longer range. I also salvaged a machine gun which had been blown into a shell hole. I cleaned this up but turned it in to army who gave it to the FFI forces who we little use for. The peninsula is getting crowded as there are more divisions here. We knew some thing had to happen as we needed more room.

July 25th. The time up to now has been do your job and survive. There were many places and many events that I no longer remember. I do remember the events of this date. The day started out as any other day would but soon we had a lot more air activity. No one had informed us of what was to take place. The air was soon full of P51's doing their thing, dive bombing and strafing. We had excellent seats for the show, this is what it turned out to be, the air show of the war. The dive bombers worked over the flak guns real hard and we did several missions to help out. Later in the morning the bombers came over, all types and all sizes. The first group had dropped their loads and were on the way back before the last planes had taken off so large was the air attack. Even after the work out the fighters had given the Germans still were able to send up flak and knocked down several heavy bombers. We counted chutes and knew that some of the crew did not get out, it was hard knowing that these were our planes and our men that were dying. We were close to the lines, not as close as the infantry but close enough to have the ground shimmy and shake from the large bombs that were being dropped. Due to the smoke and dust some of the planes dropped a little short but we never heard if there were any of our troops killed. When we moved up we only stopped overnight in the first position. There were bulldozers digging large trenches to bury the great number of cows killed in the bombing. Cows were one of the biggest casualties we saw in all of Normandy. After the war I found out the fighter planes would use up the last of their ammunition strafing cows. The Germans used lots of horses and some times we would pass a dozen or so which had been left behind. Some of the horses looked like pretty good stock but we never got close enough to try them out.

July 28. The 183rd Battalion was the other battalion with the 4.5 gun. It was kind of a sister battalion and some of the men we had taken basic with were transferred to this battalion. We never found out who got killed but knew they were almost wiped out. Some of the divisions would bypass groups of Germans and leave a token force to contain them. If the Germans were diehards which many of them were this presented problems for other troops who were not setup to fight these groups as they battled there way through the unit. In one of our positions we were firing many yards away and still taking small arms fire in our area. In order to get to the mess truck it was necessary to do some tricks to avoid the fire.. In this area I found a small truck abandoned by the Germans, it had many egg type grenades in it. The fuse on all the German grenades was very versatile as it could be exchanged very easily to a different time fuse. This made it easy to make booby traps. For want of some thing to do I removed all the fuses so the grenades were harmless. While I was doing this two men came in, they were scrounging around German equiptment. They said there was another place close by so I said lets go. They had a jeep and we took off, we went down the road to some houses but they weren't too interesting. The next thing I knew I was in the front lines as these two Jokers were Lt.'s from an infantry platoon trenched in about one half mile from us to help contain the Germans. The Germans were finally taken care of by several tanks that were brought in and swept though our unit to take on the Germans. This made the area a lot safer.

Falaise Gap. We were set on a sloping field about two hundred miles from the road. When the Gap was closed we saw truck loads of prisoners being hauled out. I remember the funeral services for Sgt. Roy. We went over to Headquarters battery. The service was like one that would take place at home except it was held outdoors in a small clearing in the forest. It stuck me as being ironic that we could hold a service like this after all the dead we had seen before this who were disposed of like so much garbage.

One place we stayed several days was only a few miles from Paris but we never got there. We were not aware of the big shindigs going on as we made a hero of Charles DeGaule, what a farce. Many of our men left to form the Red Ball express needed because we were advancing faster than normal means could handle. General Patton was racing through the lower end and we were moving along in the Northern Area. We had a greater concentration of Germans to take care of and were further handicapped by the British who were on our Northern Flank. We entered Belgium with a big welcome by the people. I was driving the second jeep in our column and it was slow moving with the flowers and the kisses and handshakes and the kisses. We stopped for the night off the road in a small grove of trees. One of the trucks was missing so two jeeps were sent out looking for them. I drove with Lt. Sherman and Bill Merethew our record keeper in the control center. We had to go back near the border to find them, they said they broke down but the truck ran all right when they came out of the house they were in. We returned and were surprised by some of our men marching prisoners down the road. When we pulled in to the area we were told of the mornings events. I wanted to see the action so I and some one else slowly made our way through the rather dense trees toward the field on the other side. About half way in there was a burst of fire off to our side and shortly after more shots closer to us. After a halt we proceeded slowly and came upon two of our men who had just shot a German who had been laying in wait but they had seen him first. While we were there another of our men came to us and told us he was with Rouse when they were shot at and he could not locate Rouse, I think he was too scared to search by himself and came for help which was a smart move. We went up where he had last seen Rouse and started our search, very carefully going through the woods. It wasn't long before he was found, shot about twenty times in the chest, we carried him back to our unit so he would be taken to Graves registration rather than be left there in the woods. I went back and crossed the woods again and again but we saw no more Belgium civilians in the field who had armed themselves with discarded German weapons, we felt they were more dangerous than the Germans. During the night there was a big commotion near one of the gun batteries, numerous shots were fired. Early in the morning some one in the woods called out, he was told to come out and show himself. It turned out to be a German Major, the big prize was the Lugar he carried. I learned later it was taken by our Captain making the Sgt. rather angry.
Note: by William H. Gieske, 172nd Field Artillery Battalion.


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