160th Field Artillery Battalion Crest ,Second WorldWar

James R Bird

160th Field Artillery Battalion Crest ,Second WorldWar
NOTE THAT LINKS WHICH LEAD TO THIS SITE ARE BEYOND OUR CONTROL,
AND WE DO NOT ENDORSE THE WEB CONTENT OR ACTIONS OF SUCH OTHER SITES OR THEIR OPERATORS.

Introduction to the WWIIRA and 45th Infantry Division, World War II Reenactors

An explanation of who the WWIIRA and World War Two reenactors are

What you will want to know if you have an interest in working with us.

The photo gallery has historical images of the WWII, Thunderbirds and 45th ID reenacting photos.

Information about Venturing Crew 1941, Boy Scouts of America

Home Who We Are Want to volunteer Photo Gallery Venturing Crew

These are the World War II events that you will find the WWIIRA in attendance.

Learn about the Men and campaigns of the 45th Infantry Division in WW II.

Links to 45th related, World War 2, or community support websites

Learn about our project to help our present day Military with civilian relations

Table of Contents listing all of the pages on our WW II 45th Division and Reenacting website, including a list of Maps.
Schedule of Events  Unit History Wounded Warrior Project    Links Table of Contents


Yahoo Group replaces
message board!

We have shirts, sweatshirts, Golf Ts with Thunderbirds and regiment crestsStickers, calenders, clocks and more...Hats,Mugs, travel mugs, We'll work on customizing just ask us!
Looking for Thunderbird gifts?
Would you like to help support this website?

Please stop by and visit the Gift Shop!

 

 



KREIGSERINNERUNGEN
Long ago and far way.
A skein of recollections by
James R Bird
Formerly of the
45th Infantry "Thunderbird" Division in WW II


TOM CLANCY, "If it's not written down it never happened."

 

""Quod on in actis. non est mundo."
Anything not written down is nonexistent.

 

"Scripta manet,"
what is written down endures.

 

"Armies are strange human societies-ruthless, wholly self contained, creating derisive legends and folk tales as they tramp along toward death and destiny." Bruce Catton.

 

"That he which hath not stomach to this fight,
Let Him depa't... We would not die in this man's company
that fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day and comes home safe
Will stand a-tiptoe when this day is named
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day and see old age
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors
And say "Tomorrow is St. Crispian."
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, These wounds I had on Crispian's Day."
Old men forget, yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day...This story shall the good man
Teach his son, From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered -
We few we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother...
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Crispian's Day." William Shakespeare

 

(WW II war memories) are based on;
1. personal recollections, many came to the surface of my mind
like frost heaved stones in a New England pasture
2. writings from my previous letters letters and reports
3. excerpts from books and records (see addendum 1 & addendum 2)
4. Items may not be in sequential order since I did not record them as
they occurred.
5. GOOGLE check for web sites;

Distinctive insignia of the 45th Infantry Division Headquarters, Second Worldwar
Distinctive insignia of the 45th Infantry Division Headquarters, Second Worldwa

"Semper Anticus" - Always Forward!
The 45th Infantry Division's slogan
It was the only division in the U. S Army to take part in four amphibious landings.

"No Marine has more love for the Corps
than we have for the 45th."
Capt. Anse. H. Speairs, 157th Infantry Regiment
(Col. retired USA)
as quoted in THE ROCK OF ANZIO. Flint Whitlock.

 

 

General George S. Patton, 7th Army commanded, Operation Husky

I thank God, and ever grateful that I was able to go through the war with Battery A 160th Field Artillery Battalion, 45th Infantry (Thunderbird) Division. The core of this division were mostly from Oklahoma, but the states of Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico made great contributions to this Division. Many American Indians from at least twenty tribes from the South West were members of it. From whichever state these men came from, they were highly trained citizen soldiers who wanted to "get the job done" and go home. At the end of the war in Europe General George S. Patton, Jr told us, "The 45th is one of the best, if not actually the best division in the History of American Arms." Admiral Hyman Rickover had a plaque on his office wall "If you don't care who gets the credit you can move the world." That was "We Thunderbirds."

 

"The 45th Division is one of the best two American Divisions I have encountered. The other was the 3rd Infantry Division."
General Field Marshal Albert Kesselring,
who commanded all German forces in Italy.
He made the statement during post war interrogation

 

 

160th Field Artillery Battalion Crest ,Second WorldWar
160th Field Artillery Battalion Crest ,Second WorldWar

The motto of my artillery battalion was Toujours En avant [Always Forward] and by the end of the war, members of this battalion had been awarded three Distinguished service Crosses, three Legion of Merit Medals, twenty-seven Silver Stars, one Soldiers Medal, eighty-one Bronze Stars, one distinguished Flying Cross, nine Air Medals, ten Air Medal Oak Leaf Clusters, onehundred-ninty-eight Purple Hearts, one Military Medal (British), and ten given battlefield appointments to 2nd Lt.

 

 
The Silver Star Medal

Summation:

I spent three and half years in the army, two and one half years overseas and survived more than five hundred days of combat through eight campaigns

Sicily,
Naples - Fogia [Salerno],
Anzio,
Rome - Arno,
Southern France,
Ardennes - Alsace,
Rhineland,
and
Central Europe.

Awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.

 

Pearl Harbor a day that shall live in infamy.

PEARL HARBOR:

Sunday December 7th 1941 - Monday, 8 December 1941 - Philadelphia PA, summarily rejected at navy, coast guard and air corps recruiting stations because I was wearing glasses.

FT DIX NJ:

Four months to the day after Pearl Harbor, on April 7th 1942 I was inducted and processed into the army at Ft. Dix, NJ. I have little memory of that experience, but that my first meal in the army was ground meal (?) in white gravy on toast.

FT BRAGG NC:

Trained in the use of surveying instruments, range finders, slide rules used for triangulation and ballistics, and minimal operations of the French 75mm field gun and the 105mm gun/howitzer. A Lt. Shaeffer (son of my high school English teacher) was the CO of our training unit.

FAYETTEVILLE NC:

was the closest town to Ft. Bragg. The family of one of my Italian classmates operated the Victory Grill and we spent a lot of time there. Another GI watering hole was the Town Pump. At that time both the 9th Infantry Division and the 82nd Airborne Division were based at Ft. Bragg. Camel Cigarettes had an ad on the back of many magazines depicting a paratrooper coming down in a parachute with a balloon stating "Geronimo! I love Camels." One day a GI from the 9th Division called out in an effeminate voice, "Geronimo! I love Camels" and the s*** hit the fan. GIs from both the 9th and 82nd created a riot - even the fire company was called out to hose them down.

CAMP SUTTON, MONROE NC:

After a train ride in ancient passenger cars from the late 1800s from Ft. Bragg to Camp Sutton I joined the 141st FA Battalion [Washington Artillery] at Monroe NC. This was a unit of the Louisiana National Guard from New Orleans LA known as the Washington Artillery. We lived in squad tents and used sleeping bags, went to Ft Bragg NC to use the artillery range. Ancient Schneider French 155mm single trail guns were still in use. We were using old ammunition left over from WW I, including shells filled with round balls.

Each payday the mess Sgt. collected $.50 from each person and sent back to New Orleans for Cajun French condiments to dress up our food.

We went to Pageland SC to a rifle range. Located at a local cross road intersection near there was a beer hall with a sign over the bar - OUR BEER IS FULL OF VITAMIN P.

OCS:

The 141st FA Bn moved to Florida, but we still lived in tents. After a few weeks there I was selected to go to Officers Training School (OCS) at Camp Davis. NC. I didn't last long and was transferred to the 78th Infantry division at Camp Butner NC. I was in an infantry unit for about two months and then transferred to Headquarters. 109th FA Bn, 28th Infantry Division at Camp Gordon Johnson FL.


CAMP GORDON JOHNSON, NEAR CARRABELLE FL:

spent several months with the 28th Division taking amphibious training and survived a hurricane. One Saturday morning, 1st/Sgt. French called me and several others out and said, "Pack up you're leaving." Several truckloads of men from the 28th Infantry Division were taken to the railroad station in Tallahassee FL and sent north to Camp Picket, Blackstone VA.

CAMP PICKET VA:

We were absorbed into the 45th Infantry Division, and I was assigned to A Battery 160th FA Bn, and within a few weeks we went to Camp Patrick Henry, Newport News VA for embarkation.

NEWPORTNEWS VA:

LTC Jess Larsen, commander of the 160th Artillery battalion made a rousing speech that was too bombastic revealing he was too full of himself.

We loaded on the APA12, USS Leonard Wood, a former American Fruit Co. ship, this ship was crewed by Coast Guard officers and sailors. It was a long zig zag trip with large convoy arriving at Oran, North Africa sometime in June.

APA12, USS Leonard Wood
APA12, USS Leonard Wood

APA12, USS LEONARD WOOD:

On the trip over two things happened to me that were lodged in my memory. One of our sergeants helped some members of the ship's crew distill alcohol from fermented garbage. On one occasion he came back to our compartment at night drunk and chucked up all over me. A fight started, luckily I couldn't find my trench knife other wise he would have been dead and me in the clink. Some time later after invading Sicily we became fairly good friends. One night I awoke with a very painful earache and went to the ship's dispensary for help. A Navy doctor diagnosed my problem as otitis media and lanced the infection - what a relief and what a stink.

We wore the same OD wool clothes a 100% of the time - even sleeping in them - we also wore a deflated life belt at all times - to inflate them a trigger was squeezed to release CO2 from two cartridges.

We were fed twice a day - I don't remember what else was served, but baked beans were dispensed every time. Our sleeping quarters were very tight and confined - so sometimes " bean gas" was overwhelming.

We arrived in Oran in June 23rd, and left port on the 5th of July in preparation of invading Sicily on the 10th. General George Patton was in command.

About 1960 I attended a dinner meeting of weights and measure officials in New York City. The discussion got around to WW II when some of us related experiences and I learned one of my table mates, Rhinehardt Hoffman had been the executive officer on the Leonard Wood, he told me they eventually ended up in the Pacific area.

THE EIGHT CAMPAIGNS:

SICILY
[THE SEVENTH ARMY UNDER MAJ. GEN. GEORGE S. PATTON, JR]
OPERATION HUSKY

On the way in to the beach in a small landing craft loaded we entered via rope nets, one of the sergeants ask the executive officer (XO) Lt. H. Vanderhoof, "should we load our weapons now?

A Battery 160 FA Bn was recorded as the first allied artillery unit on shore in the invasion, and the first to fire against the German army. Privates Jerry Boyles and Leo Bell (both country/western guitar playing prairie troubadours) were the first of our comrades to die - they never made it off the beach because of a mine.

The first night we slept in a vineyard, the next morning two buddies couldn't get up. One of our medics, 'Doc' Hunkler (he had been a pharmacists before being drafted) examined them and called the battalion doctor and told him he thought these men had meningitis. The doctor arrived and confirmed the diagnosis, two observation planes were sent and landed on the road and took them aboard - we never saw them again but the medics took our temperatures for several days.

wheel pedal dentist drill

 

Later on, I was eating grapes and chewed down too hard on a grape seed and compressed a filling. I was able to find an army dentist who had a drill powered by a GI pedaling a wheel. What a relief when he got that filling out.

Some time later LTC Larsen left and Major John Embry assumed command. Later after the war Colonel John Embry compiled a history of the 160th Field Artillery Battalion. (Available at the 45th Division Museum, Oklahoma City OK)

VITTORIO:

A small Sicilian town with a warehouse filled with barrels of white wine. This was a highly potent wine used to fortify other wines and almost lethal to drink straight, this wine was highly "potent" and made many GIs sick.

CALTANESSETTA:

This town was the center for Italian Brown Shirts. It had been bombed by allied aircraft and severely damaged - the stink of death was prominent.

CASTLEBUONO:

This was a mountain top town and accessed by an old Roman road, it was made in steps and we were barely able to get our gun trucks up this ancient road, but we were able to fire into the back door of German defenders. Some old men in this village were retired railroad workers and had worked on the Pennsylvania RR, Reading RR and the New York Central RR and brought out ancient bag pipes and played old tunes for us. I learned from the locals that Roman soldiers had brought bag pipes with them to Sicily from Persia hundreds of years before,

Sometimes during the Sicilian campaign we heard German radio programs and learned about the song Lili Marlene (see addendum 3). We soon picked it up and some of us also learned the German words. It became one of the most popular war songs ever. We also had a few prairie troubadours, guitarists, accordionists and a violinist - some of their songs on our battery "hit parade" were Sweet Fern, down in the valley so low; One Dozen Roses, Jingle Jangle Jingle, No letter today, Love letters in the Sand and You are my Sunshine. (See addendum 3)

Frances Langford on tour with the USO
Frances Langford, USO Show

PALERMO:

One of my buddies left Palermo as a young teenager. He took some of us to a family restaurant where we were served brown spaghetti with either a chopped squid or octopus sauce. I've never again seen brown spaghetti, but it was good.

We saw Bob Hope and Frances Langford twice - both times riding from Termini Emerese, we went through thunderstorms and were soaked to the skin.

CEFALU:

There is an ancient Italian army barracks on the waterfront where I spent two weeks as a POW guard of both Italian and German prisoners of war. Of course the Italians were very friendly, but the Germans were stoical. Each evening the Italians had a songfest, which was always enjoyable. Any visitor to Sicily and gets to Cefalu must visit the church and see the mosaics and a white marble statue inside.

Shortly after the campaign ended, General Patton spoke to a large 'congregation of Thunderbird officers and non-coms and told them "... Your Division is one of the best if not the best division in the history of American arms. I love every bone in your f*****heads...."

OLIVES:

I learned there was a long-standing agreement between enemies in the Mediterranean area for centuries not to cut down any of these trees because they are very slow growing. I've since learned olive trees are evergreen, the fruit doesn't ripen all at once and that there are quite a few varieties.

NAPLES - FOGIA CAMPAIGN, a.k.a. SALERNO
[The Fifth Army under Maj. Gen. Mark Clark]
Operation BAYTOWN

Temple ruins at Paestum
A Thunderbird in Paestum

We landed at Paestum [adjacent to the Greek temple Neptune] in the dark of night - someone ask" Anybody here from NJ? Years later at a YMCA, Paterson NJ a group of us were "talking war stories." The odds were tremendous, but one of the men there was the GI who asked the question and learned he served in the 36th Infantry Division.

SELE RIVER:

We were backed into a lemon grove behind a willow brake along the Sele River and hit hard by some German tanks. We lost one gun and a few trucks, were almost out of 105mm ammunition when the tanks turned around and left.

SALERNO BEACH PARTY:

went to the beach with a group to get 105mm ammunition, I had the "GIs" and was ready to go to the toilet on the beach when red alert was sounded so went to a sand bag bunker. While in the bunker I had an "accident" and when the red alert was over, I stripped down and was sloshing my pants in the surf - a Sgt. called to me and told me he had extra clothes, and put them on. Several years after the war I learned Sgt. Lee, the husband of a classmate, Charlotte Coe was the GI who gave me the pants.

VOLTURNO RIVER VALLEY:

October, Wesley Bell and myself went reconnoitering for eggs/chickens and found a springhouse near a farm. We looked inside and saw a jerry can sitting in the water. Wes opened the can and found it filled with wine - this was completely out-of-place so we attached a rope to a handle and pulled on it from out side the building - a resulting explosion lifted the roof completely off the spring house.

In the battles up on the Vulturno River there were never enough forward observers (FOs), so sergeants and in one case a FO was PFC Lonnie Johnson. Lonnie was later given a field commission to 2nd Lt. along with two others from my battery.

On one occasion hot food was brought up to us in thermal cans. The cans were dispersed in a line along a dry watercourse and the Germans caught onto what we were doing and shelled us. No one was injured but our food was loaded with gravel and junk thrown bout by the explosions. A few days later a German chow line was observed. The fire direction center remembered our being shelled and assigned the new target to our battery. We put out hearts into 'delivering mail' to those Germans I have no recollection of what damage we may have done to them.

M16 Half track with quad 50cal machine guns
M16 with Quad 50 cal. machine guns

A Sgt. Tate was in charge of two half-tracks assigned to our battery for anti-aircraft protection. Each unit had four 50-cal. machine guns mounted in a turret. One after noon several German planes flew over us quite high and disappeared behind a mountain. Each of these half tracks always had at least one crewman on the turret at all times. Tate called for full crews, and in addition a few of our men manned the single 50-cal. gun ring mounted on our own 6 x 6 trucks and waited. Four German fighter planes came back at us through a notch in the mountain thinking they would catch us with our pants down. Our barrage caught them flat-footed - two were hit and crash-landed several miles down the valley from us.

On one occasion Nisei troops moved up through us - what a spiffy bunch they were - still wearing tailored uniforms. Any who came through when our kitchen crew was working were fed, a few of them volunteered to be on our gun crews for a short time - they got a big kick out of it.

For a period of time in the Italian mountains water was in short supply so we let our beards grow out. A general came through the area and complained loudly that if we had a gas attack we couldn't seal our gas masks against our faces. We had discarded our gasmasks long before.

One rainy day Vince Miller and I were sitting on a log, facing each other eating a meal and each of us complained at the same time the other was kicking up mud. Actually it was a stream of spent 50 cal. bullets from a distant anti aircraft unit landing between us.

NAPLES:

On one occasion two truck loads of us went down to Naples from Venafro for day and were required to check the trucks into a MP compound and were given receipts. When we returned one of the trucks was missing and the MP in charge said, "Tough s***." We scouted around and found an unattended navy truck painted in gray and "took title to it." This truck had a full cab and ours were open cabs equipped with a 50-cal. machine gun ring mount. The next morning the truck had been painted OD with the regular truck numbers etc. painted on the bumpers. When Captain Brown saw it he just looked hard at it for a few minutes, but never said a word. Some time later the motor Sgt. was able to swap it for a regular artillery truck.

Another time some our crew was picked up in Naples "without wearing ties" and taken into custody. When the word came back to the battery Lt. Vanderhoof gave me his flat hat with a bar on it and sent another buddy and me to Naples to get them. I signed them out as Lt. 'Joe Doakes' and we never heard another word.

POZZILI:

Armistice Day - 11 November 1943. During the night of November 10/11, I was part of a group of 14 - 15 GIs who went up a mountain to establish an artillery (OP) east of Cassino. Late in the afternoon we were shelled hard and I was seriously wounded, my buddy, Pvt. John F. Anderson was killed. Our first born son was named John Anderson Bird, he was born on Christmas 1950 and died in an accident on Easter 1980.

I was brought down from the mountain unconscious and woke up in a field collection station, was transferred to 38th Evacuation Hospital where multiple shell fragments were removed. Taken to the 300th General Hospital in Naples and prepared for shipment to North Africa. Arrived in Ferryville, Tunisia and handed over to the 37th General Hospital where I recuperated. The 38th Evacuation was much like M*A*S*H - The tents were 'holy' and leaked like a sieve, so they covered us with shelter halves. The folding wood and canvas cots sank down into the mud to the cross members - some nurses put bowls of coffee along side us and gave us a short rubber hose to suck up coffee as much as we wanted. We soon learned to be frugal with coffee because you couldn't get quick attention when your bladder filled up. Brand new winter clothes I was issued a few days before in Naples were cut off of me - not even underwear was left by the time I arrived at the collection station.

While at the 300th General Hospital I was able to write a letter home telling about my circumstances - fortunately, my letter arrived at my home a day before my mother and father received a telegram from the army on December 9th 1943 informing them I had been severely wounded.

FERRYVILLE, TUNISIA: The 37th General Hospital was a tent-city affair with gravel streets and board walks, the tents were heated with small liquid fuel stoves.

One of our tent mates lost both feet from a shell explosion. A new "young" nurse was assigned to our ward and learned he had been a military policeman and commented, "I didn't know MPs got that close to the front. She was told in no uncertain terms that he had been a division MP and was controlling traffic at an intersection when Germans shelled the crossroad and a shell landed at his feet. He was from Punxitawny PA and was known forevermore as "Groundhog."

Our Christmas turkey dinner caused everyone in the hospital including the staff to become very ill because the turkeys had spoiled - we all were 'going' at both ends. Former Italian soldiers were brought in some of these Cobees (cobelligerents) walked around the area with burlap bags containing lime to shake on the 'brown spots' on the ground.

A badly burned tank crewman was brought into our ward and curtained off. Another tent mate started to complain about the stinking odor. Immediately we told the complainer to shut up and pray for the poor guy. When we woke up the next morning the burned patient was gone. One of the other patients in my ward was an enlisted man in the 3rd Division. He was known as "Frenchy" from upstate Maine. We w up and asked him why he had enlisted instead of waiting to be drafted. He told us he and a cousin were blowing out stumps on his uncle's farm and decided to see what would happen if they put a stick of dynamite up a bull's ass. They did, the bull blew up both drove south in a hurry to Portland and enlisted. Later, when able to navigate I was able to go to Carthage with a group of GIs. Nothing there in the way of buildings etc. but the local guide brought ancient history alive.

Ruins of Carthage

The navy had a facility at Ferryville with three mess halls, and I quickly learned I could eat there provided you were wearing a white navy hat and told the 'checker', "receiving ship." There were three chow lines, beef, ham and fish - take your choice. I could "eat high of the hog" at the navy mess hall, no matter how you were dressed you if you wore a white hat.

ANZIO
Operation SHINGLE

I returned to the unit in April 1944, our battery clerk met me at the landing and the first words out of his mouth were, "Jim did you know you were a Foooooo hero?" He told me I had been awarded a Silver Star. Within a day or so mail was catching up to me and it included a newspaper clipping from home which announced to my neighbors back home, that I had been awarded the Silver Star.

Time blurred - Anzio could be compared with a "lost weekend." War service, especially in a place like Anzio is like living in the city - you seldom know what your neighbor does, much less of what happens a block away. Something just surfaced from the recess of my mind - a red mouse became an inhabitant of our bunker - I can't recall who was my bunk mate, but we would feed the mouse crumbs and he/she became tame enough to crawl into our hands to eat.

The epithet "rear echelon commandos" did not exist on the beachhead of Anzio - everybody on site and offshore were vulnerable.

About this period of time I think we started to be supplied with "proximity" fuzes. These fuzes were designed to explode the artillery shell about thirty feet above ground as it was landing. These fuzes were seventy percent effective, that is seven out of ten exploded as designed, some only when they hit the ground and the rest at the top of the apogee as they began their down hill drop. It was quite a sight at night to see a few exploding way up in the sky as they began to fall. Later in life I met one of the inventors, Dr. Alan Astin at the National Bureau of standards and Col. Alfred J. Reese, who was a Sgt. at Aberdeen Proving Grounds and assisted in the testing of these fuzes. (See addendum 4.)

ODE TO ANZIO

(Sung to Coming in on a Wing and a prayer.)

We're the ones who are fighting the war.
Tho' we wonder what we're fighting for.
While the others ride and fly
We are fighting not to die
As we dig a little deeper in the ground.

Through the night we cannot hear a sound
The the shells start beating around.
On bended knees we pray, we may live another day
Just to dig a little deeper in the ground.

What a day, what a night while other soldiers die
Around us left and right
So we lay there and tremble with fear,
In many an eye there's a fear,
So we thank of home and our loved ones alone,
As we dig a little deeper in the ground.

So we dig a little deeper in the ground,
It's the only shelter that can be found.
With our faces to the sky we are praying not to die
As we dig a little deeper in the ground.

Written by Jack Graham A 179th IR at Anzio.


ROME - ARNO
Operation DIADEM

Fifth Army Commander General Mark Clark's vainness was costly. Instead of shutting off all avenues of retreat for the Germans he wanted to be regarded and photographed as the "liberator" of Rome. Consequently, many German soldiers escaped north to fight us again.

I hitched hiked a ride on a donkey cart into Rome and was left off at the Italian War Memorial and gawked at it for a few minutes then headed off to St. Peters Cathedral.

Pope Pius XII
Pope Pius XII

I was walking through St. Peters ogling the place when a priest beckoned to several other GIs and me and we went into a small alcove. A few minutes later a jeep stopped near by and we were herded to it and an old man stood up. It was Pope Pius, who spoke to us - I don't remember a word he said or if it was even in English.

A short time later MPs were gathering all 45th ID people and sending them back to their units because we were moving south to prepare for the invasion of southern France.

A20 Havoc bomber
A20 Havioc bomber

While we stationed and trained in the area preparing for the invasion of Southern France some of us had the opportunity to fly in small bombers. As I recall the unit was a Tennessee National Guard unit with A20 attack bombers manned by a three-man crew. They were flying low-level bomb runs to Civitaveechia, a rail yard. When doing pattern bombing three planes would fly in formation and the bombardier in the first plane would tell the others when to drop their bombs. Some of us were allowed to sit in the vacant bombardier seat and go for the ride. Once was enough for me because there were no foxholes to crawl into when anti aircraft fire erupted.

A few years ago a bus load of we Anzio veterans were touring the Citadel in Charleston SC and the tour guide was expansive about General Mark Clark being buried on the campus. The poor guy was shocked and nonplussed when we told him in no uncertain terms how we despised him as the Commander of the Fifth Army in Italy.

SOUTHERN FRANCE CAMPAIGN
[The "Forgotten" Seventh Army under Lt. Gen. Alexander Patch]
Operation ANVIL later renamed DRAGOON

I arrived at Ste. Maxime on a (LCI) landing craft infantry with the 179th IR combat team and the first thing that 'hit me between the eyes' was a dead girl (probably a teenager) lying face down in the road. Her whole back was blown out and we could see through to the front part of her rib cage.

RHONE VALLEY:

Aerial target spoting plane
45th's Piper Cub

We were set up as battalion combat teams and drove north with a light observation airplane flying back and forth ahead of us. Whenever they located a target we would be notified - two 105mm guns were pulled off on each side of the road and 'centered' on a church steeple etc. and fired the mission and then a (CSMO) and moved on. On one such occasion we were stopped near a small quarry, Cpl. Jamison went behind a rock with his shovel etc. when he came out he had a gaggle of 23 Germans from several units. They were waiting for Americans because they did not want to be taken by French FFI.

On one 'pit stop' as we headed north a canal was on the left side of the road with a retaining wall of cut stone. I was 'flaked out' on the wall when a 'condition red' warning came down the line. By reflex action I rolled to the left and fell into the canal. When I was able to get out I found that had I stayed on the wall or rolled to the right into the road I would have been chopped up by a steam of bullets.

The battalion combat team stopped one night in the middle of a small farming village - when supplies were brought up, a few infantry replacements came with it. One of these new men was placed on guard duty on one of the night shifts. A group of Germans with a few trucks and a tank came through the village going north. Unofficial policy was to let groups like this go through knowing they would be picked up later. the new boy stepped out in back of the tank as it went through the one street village and fired a bazooka at it. The tank was disabled and a shard came back and hit the kid in the arm - less than a day in combat he bagged a tank, a wound and a Purple Heart.

Along the way north we came across a girls' boarding school where everyone had been evacuated. There was a spring fed pond containing trout - enough trout were 'liberated' with an explosive for everyone to have fried trout for supper.

GRENOBLE:

we moved into this town late one afternoon with the supposition it had been cleared. The next morning some Germans attacked but where overwhelmed by an infantry unit - a few shells hit near us but not close enough to do any damage.

CHATEAU SALINE:

Bill Mauldin's Willie and Joe in a jeep at the boarder of 3rd and 7th Army  reading a sign listing all of the fines.

"Radio th' ol' man we'll be late on account of a thousand-mile detour."

Printed with permision from the Stars and Stripes,
Copywrite 2003 Stars and Stripes

In a letter from my mother, she mentioned my youngest brother was somewhere near me in the 3rd Army. We were in a static situation for a few days so asked 1st/Sgt. Drigo if could go and look him up. Permission was granted provided I took a buddy along. Wesley Bell and I headed north crossing over from the 7th Army into the 3rd Army to find Tom. 3rd Army MPs were notorious for nit-picking so whenever we saw one we went right up to and asked for directions etc. - in fact the first night out 3rd army PM's provided us with a place to sleep and breakfast the next morning. At that time both of us were replicas of Mauldin's cartoon characters Willie & Joe, each of us toting an M1 Garand rifle.

We found Tom and his unit that morning and had a social time with him, we left the next morning. Tom's company commander told him he could use a jeep to take us back to our unit - which was much faster than the trip out.

Sarreguemines:

Apparently, this town was a hard nut to crack - so a TOT [time on target] by more than twenty artillery battalions was laid on it. I believe this was one of the largest TOT's in our part of the war. The next morning the town was just a pile of broken bricks - but some Germans did survive the barrage. Bulldozers were brought up to clear the streets so we get our trucks through. [TOT multiple artillery units firing their tubes at predetermined instants so that the shells arrive at the target at the same time taking the enemy by surprise.]

Some time during this period we were off-line for a few days and formation was held and some medals distributed. I received my Silver Star along with two French medals and sent them home. I only learned in 1993 what the French medals were, a Croix du Combattant and Nacionals du Combattant.

My recollection is that my 160th Field artillery Battalion was the first of the 45th Division to enter Germany some time in the middle of December.

A Battery 160th Field Artillery, Christmas dinner in Germany 1944

 

RHINELAND

WORMS:

We were off line a few days cleaning up etc. when we received a (CSMO) 'close station move out' to move out and went up to the Rhine River and loaded our guns and equipment on DUKWs And crossed the river in daylight without any trouble. A short way further we came to a German message center that had been bypassed. There was a gaggle of German WACs or whatever they were called - we fed them and within a short time MPs arrived to take them off our hands. They were a scruffy looking bunch.

ASCHAFFENBERG:

As we drove through the town I was sitting on top of loaded ammunition truck and was stopped while the trucks ahead of us tried to negotiate sharp turns in the narrow streets. The houses were shingled with orange tiles and one of them next to me was suddenly shattered by a bullet. Grover Warick was manning the 50 caliber machine gun on the cab ring mount, he reacted immediately and laced a church tower in the next street with bullets - we don't know if he hit the sniper but he didn't fire again while we were there.

ARDENNES - ALSACE

NORDWIND/NORTHWIND:

was the 7th Army's "battle of the Bulge" when the German Army made its last big effort. Flint Whitlock wrote extensively in The Rock of Anzio about this battle during the coldest winter in many years in that part of Europe; and in Chapter XXVII , Rivera to the Rhine, Jeff. J. Clark and Robert Ross Smith wrote extensively about this battle. A must read book about this period is SPARKS, Emajean Buechner.

During this period beginning on New Years Eve we shot quite few Roe (small) Deer - we cut them up ground the meat and made deer burgers. Later in the spring we were reminiscing and Jake Stembridge said, "I ate so much deer meat my ass got so wild I couldn't wipe it."

One of the very cold nights I was on an outpost with a BAR and saw motion out the corner of my right eye - by the time I swung around I saw it was Jake Stembridge turning on aiming stakes lights. Had he been on my left side he might have been blown away.

One night a German ski patrol came through our area and an out post gurd fired at them. The next morning we found a bloody spot in the snow and the wrappings of a German first aid kit discarded.

CENTRAL EUROPE

NÜRNBERG:

We set up in a field near homes and fired extensively. The next morning we heard aircraft engines starting and several German fighter planes took off in a hurry from a street immediately behind us.

First Sergeant Napoleon (Nip) Drigo was the last person in our battery to receive a Purple Heart. Nip's face was filled with glass shards when a shell exploded outside the house where we had our CP and blew out all the windows.

Someone located a wrecked freight car on a siding that was loaded with boxes of canned Portuguese sardines in olive oil - for about a week or more we ate sardines until they 'came out of our ears.'

Swastika on top of the Zepplin Platz
Explosion on top of the Zepplin platz

I had the privilege of watching army engineers blow the large swastika off the top of the Nürnberg stadium.

 

 

ULM:

We crossed the Danube here, the city was a German hospital area and when we went through it hundreds of German soldiers recovering from wounds stood on the streets or looking out of windows watching us as we passed.

DACHAU:

29 April 1945. The 3rd battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment was the primary liberators of the Dachau Camp. I visited this horrible place on 30 April 1945, and was considered a 'liberator' because [according to Army policy] I had arrived at the camp within 48 hours after the actual liberation .(See addendum #5). About seven years ago, I was invited and began to attend annual reunions of the 157th Infantry Regiment, I've since became well acquainted with some of those who were involved.

MÜNCHEN/MUNICH:

There was curfew set, people caught out after that time, riding a bicycle had it confiscated and it was thrown on a pile in front of the bombed out railroad station - within a day or two the stack seemed to be a mile high.

MEMORIAL DAY:

This was only time in the ETO [European theater of operations] when I was part of a formal parade. It was an impressive experience.

MEMORIAL DAY, ANZIO ITALY 1945:

as reported by Bill Mauldin in his book THE GOLD RING. "General Lucian Truscott turned his back on visitors and VIPs and spoke to the dead. He apologized to the dead for their presence here. He said everybody tells leaders it is not their fault that men get killed in war, bit that every leader knows in his own heart this is not altogether true. He said he hoped everybody here [deceased veterans] through any mistake of his would forgive Him. but he realized that was asking a hell of a lot under the circumstances. Truscott did say he would not speak about the glorious dead because he didn't see much glory in getting killed in your late teens or early twenties. He promised that if in the future he ran into anybody, especially old men, who thought death in battle was glorious, he would straighten them out. He said he thought that was the least he could do."

ROSENHEIM:

We were stationed near a brick yard and a railroad yard next to a slave labor camp containing Eastern Europeans. A few of our buddies could speak their language and we went there to visit. One night they were have a gigantic party fueled by alcohol taken from tank cars on a siding - the stuff was buzz bomb fuel. The party became riotous and several fights occurred. One fight ended in a casualty when one fighter stabbed another through the ear with knife - it wasn't a pleasant sight.

During this period our trucks were used to haul DPs [displaced persons] back to Eastern Europe. We drove them to a demarcation line where they left us and went over the line to the Russian army. The Russian soldiers treated them abominably - we couldn't do a dammed thing about it.

AUSTRIA:

Sometime in August a bunch of us high pointers were transferred to the 103rd Infantry Division and were dispersed in small towns in the Austrian mountains - not much to do but listen to cow bells. I do recall a trip to Salzburg - when walking around a college campus I heard an organ being played and tracked it down to a small auditorium. The organist was a Black GI and I sat there quite awhile listening to him - when he finished there were about 15 of us there and gave him a great hand - he was very good.

CIGARETTE CAMPS, FRANCE:

I was in a cigarette camp (departure camps named after brands of Cigarettes) and scheduled to come home on a liberty ship named the Marine Fox. Some our people were on the ship preparing chow lines etc. when it was announced the ship couldn't leave because it was having engine problems. This pissed us off, but the next morning we were called out and taken to an army troop transport named the USS General Anderson. Instead of a seventeen-day trip on the Marine Fox to Charleston NC we only took a five-day trip to New York. When we arrived at New York, the ship was moored/anchored in the Hudson River and we were take ashore via ferry boats to Camp Shanks, NY. They had chow lines on these ferries with steaks, all the milk you could drink and all the ice cream you could eat.

APA111, USS General Anderson
APA 111, USS General Anderson

USS GENERAL ANDERSON: I have two recollections of the trip home, the weather on the North Atlantic Ocean was frightful so many of the troops were seasick that those of us who weren't didn't have to stand in any long chow lines. The second was that I heard about a 'big' poker game going on down in the bowels of the ship and went to investigate. I was quite surprised to find "Diamond Jim H*****, one of my buddies operating the game. Jim had been drafted along with a few others in my battery as replacements for the losses in the Battle of the Bulge - we had heard through the grapevine he had been killed. When he looked up as saw me he said, "No I ain't dead yet."

AFTERWARDS

WINDOW FLAGS WITH BLUE OR GOLD STARS:

My parents were the only family in our neighborhood who posted a flag with three blue stars on it - the three Bird Boys were all in the army and served in Europe.

German POWs had asked to see the 45th's semi-auto Field Artillery pieces! The Germans did not know about "Time On Target" (TOT), that and the 45th field artillery's accuracy lead him to the conclusion that the 45th had semi-automatic guns!

Arrival home after the war was not 'certified as valid' until a veteran checked-in at two stops. The first was Mrs. Tram's kitchen where many of my friends had played pinochle and talked. The second was the Baker family's cellar where the Penncrest Boy's club met for several years prior to the war.

A few days after I arrived home our local mail carrier, Mr. Ralph Larson stopped me on the street and thanked me. He informed that he delivered at least one letter each week to my parents from either me or one of my two brothers. He told me it bothered him when many weeks or months went by before some of the other local men in the service would write their parents or family.

Shortly after the war Ann and I went to the Savar Theater, Camden NJ to see a black and white movie about the infantry in the Italian Mountains. the sound of 88mm German shells was realistic, and my reflexes were still strong causing me to slide to the floor. Sometime later when in Philadelphia a trolley released its air brakes the sound (like a heavy shell arriving) caused me to reflexively "hit the dirt" on the sidewalk. a traffic cop was looking at me and grinned when I got up.

At our wedding on 8 June 1946, while walking up the aisle of the church Mrs. Nellie Trainor an eighty year old neighbor lost her panties- she just picked them up and tucked them under arm so quickly few people knew what happened.

I joined the Disabled American Veterans Chapter in Camden, NJ and later started the first of five DAV chapters [life member] in Burlington County. I also became life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Anzio Beachhead Veterans Association; The forty-fifth Infantry division Association, the 160th Field Artillery Battalion Association And the 157th Infantry Regiment Association.

For a few years after the war I helped local veterans write letters to the Veterans Administration. Sometimes when we came home from church there were one or two veterans waiting for me to write letters to the Veterans Administration for them.

I retired from state service in 1983 and began to be more involved with veterans' organizations. One of the most important to me is the Anzio Beachhead Veterans of WW II and I have attended many reunions. Ann and I attended the Christening Ceremony for the CG-68, USS Anzio at Pascagoula MS in 1990 and for several change of command ceremonies [an impressive ceremony] of this ship at Norfolk VA.

CG-68, USS Anzio
CG-68 USS Anzio

KOREA:

Shortly after the "police action" began in Korea I was having coffee and a muffin in a diner near Ft Dix NJ, and saw an officer at the counter wearing a Thunderbird shoulder patch who had a familiar appearance. I asked, "Are you Captain Counter?" He said, " yes, but I'm a major now." After a half-hour discussion about the "old days" in the ETO he asked me if I would like to re-up. He told me he was at Ft Dix preparing to reactivate and artillery battalion and said, "If you come back, I'll make you my First Sergeant." I declined and later at lunch when I told my wife she turned white and asked, "You're not going back are you?" I told her, "No, do I look like I have a hole in my head?"

The 45th Infantry Division was one of four national guard divisions called up to serve during the Korea conflict. Only two were sent to Korea, the 45th ID and the 40th ID from California.

1978:

Ann and I went to Italy with a group and went through Sicily and parts of Southern Italy. Much of the trip was through areas where I had fought - not much had changed. We did go to Monte Cassino where I had an 'out of body' experience. I was standing on the stone wall looking east towards the mountains where I had been wounded when suddenly I could hear sounds, see faces and actions of long ago as if someone had put a coin in a slot and started my memory going. A couple of elderly women in our group asked me how I felt - they could see something had happened to me.

COMBINED D-DAY FLAG DAY CEREMONY
Delran, NJ
1:00 p.m. June 11th 1994
by James R Bird

GOOD AFTERNOON:

It is my privilege to represent the Burlington County Boy Scouts on this occasion, because our organization has helped thousands of boys mature as patriotic and fruitful Americans, probably a few served at Normandy.

The fiftieth anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, termed the Mighty Endeavor by President Roosevelt, and Crusade in Europe by General Eisenhower, was a day of commemoration - not a celebration as a few implied. I liken this service to the echoing of TAPS from Monday's salute to the fallen.

How could we celebrate the deaths of thousands of Americans who died there?? Or in any battle??

Whenever I hear the strains of TAPS, at the American Cemetery in Colleville, France, when President Clinton eloquently saluted veterans of Normandy on behalf of all Americans. The British army's THE LAST POST or the German's I HAVE A COMRADE, I cry for my friends and buddies who have gone on. ***

Although the invasion of Normandy was a major victory, termed the beginning of the end,it was but a link in the chain of many battles against the Nazis. It may be looked upon as a 7th-inning batting rally --there were many battles before it and many more hard won battles afterwards.

Michelangelo's statue, The Victor looks into the future with sadness,
because: No one enjoys a victory - it's over as soon as it's won.
The beachhead was won at tremendous cost- then row after row of impervious hedgerows had to be captured, again at tremendous cost.

Nor is a war over when the shooting stops - it lasts in the memory of those who lost comrades, friends or relatives, especially by mothers (then known as Gold Star Mothers) and wives, in the pain of the disabled and the bereaved.

Each battle of each war creates a new "Band of brothers" for as William Shakespeare wrote: "For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother."

Almost a year before, I was numbed when Jerry Boyles and Leo Bell were the first of many buddies to die when we invaded Sicily on July 10th 1943.

Then, like Jerry Boyles and Leo Bell, thousands of allied soldiers, sailors and airmen died on D-Day June 6 1944 and thousands more were wounded.

Two of my boyhood friends were among those who died on that beach. They were old enough to be drafted, old enough to die for this country, but neither was old enough to vote.

It would be twenty-nine years before 18 year olds could vote, and many Americans take this right for granted because it has never yet been in jeopardy.

Patriotism is more than being stirred by adrenaline upon hearing John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes For Ever, Semper Fidelis and watching the American flag whipping in the breeze - it is primarily being a good citizen. Jerry Boyles, Leo Bell, and my friends along with many others died in faraway and lonely places around the world . They who died, and they who survived fought to protect this republic and our right to vote. After the Wall came down in Europe and the Cold War ended, Baltic nations held parliamentary elections, and ninety percent of eligible voters went to the polls, while only fifty percent of eligible Americans voted in the 1988 presidential election.

Recently millions of South Africans lined up to vote after 350 years of waiting. My comrades and friends paid with their lives, and I still pay with constant pain for the right to vote. You can best honor Jerry, Leo, Bill, Grant and all the rest by insuring your vote - If you don't use it you could lose it.

Long ago, William Tecumseh Sherman, a Union Civil War general said,
"I am tired and sick of war. It's glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance more destruction. War is Hell!"

When you have been in an army hospital as I have, and smelled the odor of a badly burned tank crewman or the odor of gangrene from a GI with trench foot you will not soon forget their misery - nor would you be anxious to ever again commit our troops, unless in the defense of this country.

Notwithstanding that war is hell, war is not all bad - many of us who spent long months, even years overseas had a learning experience, beneficial and helpful towards making this world a better place. I know of at least four combat soldiers, three living in this area who became successful ministers or priests, two of them served with me at Anzio.

Many more, like myself became volunteers to serve our communities in the Boy and Girl Scouts, fire companies, PTA and church activities. We raised families and turned this country into a strong nation - the only super power still in existence; let us not abuse that power.

Heroes one - heroes all - often unsung, except to God. In Normandy, the infantry (sometimes referred to as the queen of war) took the brunt of war, but at places like Anzio, on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans - everyone was vulnerable.

Many of my generation knew of Audie Murphy, a kid from Texas who became the most decorated soldier in WW II for exceptional bravery. But, those young men who served at Dunkirk, in the air battle of Britain, (one of my school mates disappeared in that battle) in the lonely reaches of the North Atlantic, at Corregidor, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Kasserine Pass, Sicily, Anzio, Cassino, Normandy, St Lo, Rambervillers, Battle of the Bulge, Achaffenburg (where we fought children and old men) in the air, on and under the sea, were heroes all, because they did the work required of them.

Till we meet again on that far shore:
We Shall Remember Them.
"They shall not grow old,
as we that are left grow old,
age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning we will remember them."
Laurence Binyon

On Tuesday the COURIER POST displayed a headline "We must never forget!"
Remembering is not enough - so taking a phrase from The BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIc. "LET US LIVE TO MAKE MEN FREE."


Recollections of James Bird Part Two

Back To Top

All Contents of this website are under copyright by the World War II Recreation Association
or used with permission of original copyright holder

View My Web Statistics

last revision 2/5/14