"The Way it Was"
By COR LONGIOTTI
CO. D 179 INF. 45 DIVISION
MACHINE GUNNER, HEAVY WEAPONS
Used with permission of Author.
live within the shadow of the Almighty, sheltered by the God who is above all
My wife Loretta; my children, Karen and William; my grandchildren Lisa, Marci, Ethan, Adam, Cory, Lance and Cameo
"It does not determine who is right or wrong only who is left"
Throughout the years many things have been forgotten, but there are some things
that will never be forgotten.
In the year of 1996, this is the account of what I can remember of my experiences while serving in the U.S. Army during WWII, In Co D, 179th Infantry during the years of 1943 through 1945.
These accounts may not be exact sequential order, because of the time span that has elapsed, but they are to the best of my memory.
From my hometown of Greenville, Pa. To Basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, to North Africa, to Sicily, to the beachhead at Salerno, Italy; to the beach head at Anzio, Italy, and as a prisoner of War in Italy and Germany. Finally liberation and return trip home through France, to Boston and home to Greenville, Pa.
Medals Received: GOOD CONDUCT MEDAL, COMBAT INFANTRYMAN BADGE, EUROPEAN THEATER MEDAL WITH THREE BRONZE BATTLE STARS, WORLD WAR II MEDAL, POW MEDAL AND IN FEB. 1992 AWARDED THE BRONZE STAR MEDAL FOR MERITORIOUS ACTION IN COMBAT
Fifty-one years have gone by since I have returned home from Europe and WWII.
Most of this time I have kept silent about my experiences of the war and the prisoner
of war camps I was in, and would only talk about them when questioned and then
I just wanted to forget everything and go on with my life. In the last fifty-one years a lot has been forgotten, but some things you can never forget, so I decided to write about what I can remember of my experiences during World War II in Italy and Germany and as a prisoner of war. I still get a little choked up when talking about or even thinking about some of the things that I have been through or seen.
Just a few brief lines of my early life. It all started on a cool Sunday evening at 10:30 P.M., on the 27th day of May 1923, in the beautiful city of Greenville, PA. A son (Cordino Longiotti) was born to the proud parents of William and Amelia Longiotti. Both of my parents had emigrated from Italy and worked very hard to make a living for their family. My childhood life was generally normal for that era, except for a few incidents, which will not be mentioned here. I had one older brother and one younger brother along with four younger sisters. At the age of seven we all came down with the terrible disease of Diphtheria. My older brother Warren who was nine years old at the time died from the disease. I can still see him lying in bed just before he gasped his last breath, and he wanted the window shade pulled down because the light was too bright. In those days Quarantine signs were posted on the house for every communicable disease including mumps, measles, chicken pox, scarlet fever etc.
We were quarantined for close to three months, which kept me out of school and therefore in the first grade for two years. I attended St. Michaels's Catholic School through the sixth grade, and then went on to Greenville Penn High School, graduating in May 1942. On graduation night, after receiving my diploma, I went to work at 11:00 PM at Westinghouse Electric Co. in Sharon, PA. I had been working in the plants war department, building torpedoes for about eight months, when in late January 1943 I got a letter of greetings from my Uncle Sam and on the 3rd of February, I was inducted into the U.S. Army.
My basic training was at Fort McClellan, Alabama, which was quite routine with 13 weeks of hard work and exercise. There was a lot of marching, running, long hikes (day and night, rain or shine), obstacle courses, lectures, rifle ranges, cleaning weapons and K.P. After about a month I came down with the measles and spent a few days in the base hospital, then back to the training fields.
After completing my basic training I was sent to camp Reynolds near my hometown of Greenville, PA. For one week. At least I got to see my family and friends before leaving Camp Kilmer, NJ. After being processed and briefed on what to expect we left Camp Kilmer and went by truck to Staten Island, New York where we boarded a ship, the "Evangeline". There were about 3500 troops plus ships crew on board, for an undisclosed destination.
We set sail 9 June 1943. There wasn't much to do aboard ship except sitting around and watching the water and sky, sometimes we could watch the dolphins swimming in front of the ship and other times we would play cards, Poker and Black Jack. Of course I did get sea sick after the second day out at sea, lasting about three or four days, then I was OK. After twelve days on board ship, traveling with a large armada of ships, destroyers and Battle ships, and nothing but water and sky, we landed in Oran, Algiers in North Africa on June 21st.
After disembarking we set up camp in the desert sands, I mean sand, nothing but sand, hot sand. We had a very bright company commander there, shortly after our arrival in North Africa he decided to show us how to take a bath without water. There we were out in the hot desert sands, a whole company of soldiers stripped down to our birthday suits wiping ourselves with a towel, what a sight that was. I can still picture it about 200+ soldiers standing in formation stark naked rubbing themselves with a dry towel.
While in the African desert we got a pass to visit the city of Oran. Some of us were so overcome with the strange city that we forgot about the curfew, so we were caught by the MPs and had to spend the night in town sleeping on a marble floor. The next morning we returned to our outfit and after a few words from our Company Commander everything was back to normal. After a short stay we went by truck to Bezerte, Algiers where we boarded another boat on 21 July. After two days we arrived in Licata, Southern Sicily.
While in Licata, we experienced our first enemy air raid, which made us realize that war was real and not just something that was talked about in basic training. Even though we were not in any immediate danger it was a horrifying experience with the sirens blaring and enemy planes dropping bombs, and we had no idea what we were doing there. We could hear them exploding at a short distance from us as we were scrambling for cover. We had no inclination of what to expect at the time or what would be in store for us in the future, but we managed to get over it this time. From Licata we got aboard another ship and went around the island to Palermo, Sicily, arriving 31 July.
Here is where I was inducted into the 45th Infantry Division, 179th Regiment, Company D. Company D was a heavy weapons company with six squads of 30 caliber water-cooled machine guns and two squads of mortars. Two machine gun squads were assigned to each rifle company, in the Battalion. The 179th Infantry had already seen battle in Sicily before I arrived and they must have had several casualties, because as a replacement I was made assistant gunner.
About this time is when we heard the rumor that Italy may surrender, the actual surrender was on 9 Sept 1943; the day of the invasion of Salerno. The Germans were not to happy about the situation and were taking many Italian soldiers as prisoners and forcing some of them to fight with the German soldiers, but most of the Italians would defect and surrender. After a short stay we again boarded a boat, an LCI (Landing Craft Infantry), from the port of Termini, Sicily. This time we were headed for the invasion at the beach of Salerno, Italy. As we were approaching the beaches before daybreak we could see and hear all types of heavy bombardment on the shores ahead, from ships and airplanes.
On September 9, 1943, on a hot day in mid morning, the beach was partly secured when we went ashore in the second wave. I was carrying a back pack with supplies, a carbine and the 30 caliber water cooled machine gun, over 40 pounds, when we went into the waters of the Mediterranean up to our necks.
In the heavy weapons squad the gunner carried the tripod, the assistant gunner carried the gun (MG, M1917A1, .30, heavy gun, weight 32.6Lbs), the third man carried the gun cradle (Tripod and cradle, weigh 53.2 Lbs together) and the rest of the squad carried a water can (Coolant can w/ 7 pints water, weighs 7.28 lbs) and several cans of ammunition (250 rd. can weighs 20 lbs).
When we got on the beach we secured our position and then continued forward, with wet clothes covered with sand, advancing with little opposition at this time. We were wearing full combat gear (even though the weather was still very hot), which at that time included woolen O.D. pants, woolen shirt, combat boots, and full back pack with a shelter half, wool blanket, rain coat, shovel, mess-kit, and C rations and misc. items. INSERT LINK TO COMBAT LOAD PAGE About a month later we were supplied with K-Rations which were less weight and easier to handle, but the food was always military.
Soon after landing we were engaged in some heavy fighting along the Sele River and bridge. This was my first experience in actual combat, where unlike basic training, here it was for real with the enemy soldiers firing back at us. As we kept edging forward day by day, I got my first glimpse at dead soldiers, both Americans and Germans. It was a horrible sight especially when you see some of your own troops lying on the ground dead or wounded and there is nothing you can do to help. The duties of the heavy weapons company were to support the rifle companies, many times firing over their heads at the enemy. We would dig in, set up our machine gun for support, while the rifle company would fight their way forward, then we would advance to our next position and set up again.
With little regard to the enemy's mortars, artillery and tank fire we kept pushing forward. I found out that basic training is very important; it prepares you for fighting a war. But regardless how much training you have you are never fully prepared for the real thing and having the enemy returning fire at you. But after three or four days at the front line you can learn a lot more than basic training can teach you, which is necessary to stay alive.
Only about a week had passed, we were still wearing the same clothes, when we crossed the Calore river, wading chest deep and dodging enemy fire which seemed to be getting more intense every day. We met a lot of resistance from the enemy, but not enough to stop our advances, until we discovered that we were about two miles behind the German lines and completely surrounded. The Germans surrounded the whole 179th Infantry Regiment, however we had no choice but to keep on fighting and holding our positions.
We were completely cut off from our supply lines and the Germans had a full force of troops and over 200 tanks unit facing us, while our tank units were held back by the heavy bombarding of enemy artillery. After three days we were all very tired and sweaty, with no sleep or food, and only water from the river to drink, that I know had dead Germans in it the first time we crossed it, and some grapes we found along the road to eat. We would get a canteen of water from the river and drop in a couple of purifying tablets and then we could drink it.
We were running out of supplies and ammunition and getting weaker with exhaustion, when it seemed that the enemy could have thrown the crushing blow and completely destroyed us. But for some unknown reason they let up on their fighting long enough for some of our tanks to bread through and open up a passageway, and we retreated to friendly territory. Evidently the Germans did not realize that our regiment was desperately short of everything a soldier needs to fight with, especially ammunition and in one or two more days they could have completely destroyed us.
I remember we were so tired and beat that I was falling asleep while walking along the roadway. We lost about one fourth of our regiment in those few days, but I thank God for delivering me, I know that someone was praying for us, and our squad had no causalities at this time. "But in the 3 days of combat our regiment lost 403 men killed or wounded and 121 men missing in action. The 179th Battalion was given credit for saving the foothold on the Salerno Beachhead."
After a few hours rest we started moving forward again despite the rains and German artillery barrages. Sometimes the ground was so muddy that even the jeeps would get stuck and walking was no easy matter. It was hard to find a dry spot to lay and sleep at night or even to sit and rest, even when we covered ourselves with raincoats at night they would sweat and we got up all wet.
About three or four weeks after the Salerno landing my gunner was wounded and I took over as gunner. It was said that the average life of a machine gunner was about three minutes of firing in actual combat, but thank the Lord for watching over me.
Almost two months had passed since we landed on the beach at Salerno, when we reached Piedimonte, and on Oct. 20th our regiment was finally withdrawn to reserve and rest for a few days. It was the first time we were withdrawn from the front lines since D-Day, except for the 1-day rest after being trapped at Salerno. It was so good to be able to get a change of clothes, a shower and shave, and some hot food for a change and just lay around. While on the front lines we could not shave so we would cut our beards with a scissors. When I took off my clothes they were so stiff from salt water and sweat that they could stand straight up by themselves. While in the rest area an Italian man and his wife came along with a large basket on her head full of vegetables. One of the soldiers wanted to help the lady take the basket down, but her husband said, "No, no we don't do that". We bought some potatoes and peppers and I cut them up and fried them over a wood fire, just like home!
After almost two months of combat, fatigue had started to take its toll. After a few days of rest, on the 29th of October I went on sick call and found out that I had Yellow Jaundice, so I was transferred to a military hospital situated on a hilltop overlooking Naples. I remained in the hospital for ten days then was transferred to a convalescent hospital in the city of Naples. While I was in the hospital on the top of a hill I could see the German planes flying over at night and trying to drop bombs into the crater of the Mount Vesuvius Volcano to get it started erupting. While in Naples recuperating I had a chance to roam about the city and see some of the sights, those that were still standing after military bombings. Being that Naples was an important naval port, the allies heavily bombed it. I remained at the convalescent hospital for about three weeks before returning to my outfit.
On December 5th, when I returned to my outfit we were again on the offensive, only now we were in the mountains of Abruzzi where the ground was hard and rocky and the weather was getting colder every day and along with the rain it did not make the most comfortable place to spend the winter nor to sleep at night. Even though fighting in the mountains was more difficult there were more advantages than disadvantages. There were more places to hide and the terrain was so rough and hilly that few, if any, tanks and artillery could get through, but there was plenty of mortar fire.
Mules and Donkeys and sometimes-human power were used to carry our supplies and ammunition up the mountains. There was one place along the mountain path that even the donkeys had trouble walking. I remember seeing some mules that had fallen down the side of the mountains lying in the ravines below. There were a lot of rocks, big and small, and stone fences about three feet thick spread all throughout the hilly countryside to hide behind, which afforded goof protection from rifle and machine gun fire, but not for mortars. Many years ago the Italians, while keeping watch over their livestock, used to pick up all the stones and rock from the fields in the mountain areas and build fences about three feet wide and three feet high, for their livestock. During an enemy mortar barrage while hiding behind a stone fence, a mortar landed on the other side of the fence, just a few feet away, and the concussion literally lifted me up off the ground about four inches.
We were continuously getting new replacements, one in particular in our group, I don't remember his name, but while in the mountains he wanted to dig a foxhole according to Hoyle, even though the ground was almost solid rock. All we could do to try and protect ourselves was pile up rocks around the machine gun and us. I usually put a lot of brush around the machine gun to hide the muzzle blast from the enemy, even used a blanket a tone time, as machine guns were always the main target for the enemy.
After two days of intense fighting and mortar shelling this replacement got so frightened that he must have temporarily lost his mind (we call it shell shock) and he shot himself in the foot so he could go to the hospital and get away from the fighting. He shot himself through the ankle, which I think was poor aiming. He probably had his eyes closed. That was the third person that I knew of who shot himself. The Military tried to get someone to tell how he was shot so they could court marshal him, but no one would admit it was intentional and there was an awful lot of rifle fire and machine gun fire at the time.
Also at this particular time one of the squad leaders of the rifle company had his thumb shot off while he was charging forward toward the enemy. Some of the soldiers were worried that they would get wounded and return home missing an arm or a leg or maybe their head, but thank God the thoughts never entered my mind.
In another incident when we were advancing on the attack in the mountains everything was quiet, with no enemy fire, when we went down a steep mountain into a deep canyon and up the other side. Just as we approached the top of the mountain on the other side, to our surprise, the Germans were waiting for us, and they started throwing everything they had at us. The enemy fire was so intense that we were pinned down before we all got to the top of the crest. We soon got the word to retreat, so I picked up our machine gun and ran down the mountain and up the other side without stopping, it is surprising what a person can do when you have hot lead chasing you. While retreating, there was a lot of heavy enemy artillery along with mortar fire and a small piece of shrapnel hit me on the back of my helmet and made a little dent. Again I thank God, for someone was looking out for me from above.
About this time the Germans also started using some of their new rockets. Because of the eerie screeching sound they made we called them the "Screaming Meemeies". They were a group of about 6 or 8-barreled mortar mounted on top of trucks and fired in series all at once. As they came screeching through the sky at us they made an awful kind of eerie like noises and were very scary at first causing some terror among the troops, I think the noise was scarier than the rockets themselves. But after awhile we got used to them and we could tell about where they were going to land by the sound they made while whizzing through the air. The same was true with mortar and artillery shells. We could tell by the sound they made if the shells would land short of us, or over our heads and sometimes very close.
Somewhere in this general area an Italian family invited three of us soldiers into their house for a spaghetti dinner. They used a large cast iron pot over the wood fireplace to cook their meal, being out in the country the fireplace was all they had to cook with and heat their house. It was the most enjoyable meal we have had since leaving the States, and it was a warm meal, which was very rare for us. I thought it was very nice of them to invite us into their home for dinner. While we were pushing ahead and walking in one of the canyons I saw a man sitting in a small cave in the side of the hill with his dead wife lying beside him. We could not stop to talk to him, but evidently he was waiting for the battles to come to an end so he could carry his wife out. How she died, I do not know, whether it was an accident, artillery or the German soldiers killed her.
We kept advancing forward even though the weather was getting colder with rain and finally turning into snow. The going was getting rougher and much slower, some due to terrain and the weather and especially the enemy putting up a much stronger defense. We were getting close to Casino, which was one of Germany's best defensive lines in central Italy. They had built a defense line stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Adriatic Sea with a lot of concrete pillboxes and bunkers dug into the side of the mountains, which were manned with heavy machine guns and sniper fire and also lookouts and spotters for artillery fire. The weather was below freezing and there were several soldiers that had to be carried out on stretchers for frozen feet, I seen some feet that were swelled so bad that the shoe laces would burst. I always carried an extra pair of socks in my pocket to help keep my feet dry.
Several days after the crossing of the Volturno River we were just outside the city of Venafro and I remember awaking one morning, after sleeping under a shelter half, with four inches of snow on top of me. It was winter weather. There was not much activity at this time except for artillery and mortar with the occasional rifle or machine gun fire and night patrols by the rifle companies of both sides. Of course, we were still on the front lines and always on the alert with a watchful eye day and night.
On Christmas day 1943 while we were in the city of Venafro, just east of Casino, we were served a hot turkey dinner with all the trimmings. After five or six weeks of eating K-rations, a hot meal was very welcome. We were at a standstill in the area of Venafro for several days, unable to make any gain in the mountains of Casino due partly to the weather, but mostly to the German defense lines. The city of Casino was completely demolished by artillery and plane bombings, not one building was left standing in the whole city.
Overlooking the city of Casino on a high mountaintop, north of the city, there was a large Catholic monastery, which the Germans used for lookout for their artillery. It was not customary for our planes or artillery to destroy any religious monasteries. The American generals held back from bombing it for several days even though the officers in the front lines kept requesting it, until the losses to our troops started mounting up and finally they decided to bomb it. But the German fortifications were so great in that area that the bombing of the monastery did not help much. It seemed like we would be stuck there for the duration of the winter.
On January 5, 1944 the 45th Division was pulled back form combat duty and we were trucked to Caserta where we camped in an old volcano just north of Naples. When Kings ruled Italy they used to use this area for their hunting grounds. Up to this time I had a small camera, and I had taken several pictures in and around the front lines, but when we left for Anzio I left the camera and film in my duffel bag. Evidently all my belongings have gotten lost or destroyed because I never saw them again.
After regrouping and getting more replacements and new supplies, we were getting ready for the invasion of Anzio. We had about 10 days of rest when we boarded an LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) ship in Naples and headed for the Anzio beachhead. On the 22nd of January 1944, at 2:00 A.M. the first troops landed on Anzio Beach, under the command of Major-General John Lucas.
We made our landing about mid morning, this time on dry ground. There was little resistance since the Germans were caught off guard, so our troops advanced to about 25 miles and then were ordered to stop. There were two American divisions, the 3rd and 45th, and one division of British troops. The British and American Generals put a halt to our advancement because they were afraid that the Germans were setting up a trap. But the information gathered later proved that there were very few enemy forces anywhere in the surrounding areas on the 22 to the 26 of January, between Anzio and Rome, only 37 miles away. Our troops could have advanced all the way to Rome with very few causalities before the Germans could never have gotten any sizable amount of troops and equipment in the area that soon, but I guess that after thought is always better than fore thought.
In about 3 to 4 days the German reinforcements began to arrive in great numbers. In just a few days the Germans had eight divisions on the hills sides surrounding the flat plains of Anzio, along with artillery and armored troops. The Anzio area was a very flat land with small hills in the distance surrounding it, with irrigation ditches and several straw huts, which were used by farmers during harvest time, scattered through out the area. Soon artillery shells began to reach virtually every corner of the
beachhead while the enemy infantry began patrolling and attacking our positions day and night. To top it German planes were dropping personal bombs (commonly called Butterfly bombs) and fighter planes were strafing us every day. The personal bombs were designed to explode in the air before they hit the ground throwing shrapnel in every direction, which made our foxholes almost useless. We kept scattered apart to minimize the amount of injuries inflicted from the bombings. We would walk and hide in the irrigation ditches keeping down low and use anything else we could find to keep hidden from the Germans, there was a lot of sniper fire in this area.
Almost every day that the weather permitted the enemy planes were flying over our positions dropping personal bombs and strafing our positions causing a lot of casualties. I have seen more enemy planes on the Anzio beachhead than anywhere else in Italy; they seemed to literally cover the sky. Over a four or five day period, there were no clouds overhead, but there was a lot of fireworks in the sky, I counted 52 German planes shot down. It was a spectacular sight to see all the dog fights and anti aircraft fire and everything else we could throw at them. Sometimes the planes were so low that we were even firing our 30 caliber machine guns at the planes. Our machine gun ammunition had one tracer bullet in every ten which is supposed to make it easier to see where you are firing, but in order to hide our muzzle blast from the enemy we would take out all the tracers and those are what we used to fire at the planes.
The next day while we were in a reserve area in an open area with a few trees, one of our P-51 planes engaged in a dog fight with a German messerschmit plane flew overhead and dropped a large missile like object about 100 feet from where we were located. While it was falling we first thought it was a bomb and ran for whatever cover we could find, but later discovered it was a spare tank half full of fuel which the planes drop to lighten their loads. The tank never did explode but it sure did give us a big scare. I do not know what the outcome of that dogfight was because they flew out of our sight.
Our positions were changing frequently, the enemy would push us back, then we would counter attack and regain some of our position but not enough to make up for our losses like playing three steps back and two steps forward. February was a bad month, the Germans were throwing everything they could find at us and as we were retreating our casualties were mounting up, especially for the front line troops. Of course the rear echelon troops also got a lot of artillery. One ranger outfit was wiped out completely while attacking a small factory, out of 726 men only 6 returned. We would get a few replacements but never enough to replace the soldiers killed, wounded or missing, which made it harder for us to hold our positions.
The Germans had a new jet fighter plane at this time that they flew at low altitudes over our areas just to scare us and bring our morale down. Since we had never heard nor seen a fighter jet plane before, it was very noisy and somewhat scary at first but in no time at all we were used to it. We soon realized that the jet plane had no fire power at that time since it was new and still in the experimental stage so there was nothing to fear.
With The Germans huge build up of troops, tanks and equipment, they had such tremendous firepower, that little by little we kept loosing ground and retreating until we were less than 5 miles from the shores of the Mediterranean sea and it seemed like the enemy would push us off the beach head and into the sea. In two days the Germans pushed our defense line back about 4 miles.
After a very short rest of one day on the night of the 16 of February, 1944 we moved to the front lines again with the rifle company, which we were supporting, (I think it was Company C), and dug in along the Albano road which leads straight to the city of Anzio. This road had banks on the side facing the enemy about 3 feet above the road. We were to hold that line at all cost. Before we made the landing in Anzio we had a good company commander who would lead his troops, but he was wounded about a month or so before Anzio, so we got a replacement Captain, but he would not lead his troops. He remained behind under whatever protection from fire that he could find. They like to give orders but do not know much of what is going on at the front line because they are afraid to go there.
The days of the 16th and 17th the Germans were dropping personal bombs and strafing our positions all day long. While we were dug in along the stretch of Highway, we were holding our ground until the night of the 17th when the Germans were using flares in the sky along with artillery and rockets and mortars bombarding our positions all night long. Evidently the enemy was trying to knock out as much of our equipment and troops as possible in preparation for the attack the next morning and trying to push us back. The enemy was set and determined to push us into the sea and we were determined to hold our ground, we were being bombarded all night long.
We got through the night all right with very little rest and proud that we were able to hold our positions, so we thought. But to our surprise just before daybreak the next morning we discovered that all the rifle company troops had pulled back and set up another defense line about a 1000 yards to our rear and we were left alone along the highway. There we were only two squads of machine guns and no one else in sight, we had a terrible feeling of abandonment. I believe that many of the rifle company troops may have been captured during the night. Our section Sergeant was wounded during the night and no one was there to help, the medics had also retreated, and we were unable to get to him to give him aid. Our job was to support the rifle company troops but somehow we were abandoned and left behind, somewhere, somehow the communications must have hit a snag. Maybe they thought we were all killed from the artillery bombardment during the night.
Due to the fact there were never enough replacements our squads were not up to full strength, and there were only 4 of us left in my gun squad and I think about 5 or less in the other squad, in fact our whole battalion was well under strength at this time. But it was impossible for us to retreat after daylight so there we were trapped like sitting ducks in no man's land between the enemy in front and our troops in the rear. There we were trying to defend ourselves, two squads of Machine guns about 100 yards apart and no other means of support as far as we could see either right or left of us, except for the British troops to our far left completely out of sight. Artillery, mortar and machine gun fire was coming from all directions, from the Germans in front and our own troops in the rear with us trapped in the middle. This was the worst battle of the war that I have seen; it was like being in hell itself.
About 200 yards to our right, near a large bombed out factory or storage building, there was a German tank firing 88 mm shells at us point blank, knocking out my machine gun before daybreak in the morning, which left us with no fire power except a carbine a rifle and my 45 automatic pistol. I don't know if the other machine gun squad was up to par or not, because I could not see nor hear any firing. We were hoping for a let up in enemy fire so we could make a run for it, but the break never came. In the far distance we could see enemy troops milling around along with several tanks, but I never thought they were going to make a charge for our positions. I don't know where our fighter planes were that morning, but they surely were not there when we needed them the most, even though it was a little overcast Due to such heavy fire and the continuous bombardment with artillery and mortar, and little to defend ourselves with, we had no choice but to keep down low, (the tank made sure of that). Every time we picked up our heads or tried to stand up to see what was going on and looking for a way out the German tank would start firing 88 mm shells at us. We could not make contact with the other gun squad or anyone else; we had no way of communication. The firepower was so heavy that we could not even run across the road to an open field. The ground was very flat with no trees or buildings to hide behind. With all the artillery and mortar bombardment it was a miracle that we were even able to survive. God was surely with us.
Shortly after daybreak in the morning of the 18 February 1944, things were happening so fast and everything was in such a big turmoil that it was all we could do to keep our heads down low to prevent being hit from shrapnel and at the same time try to defend ourselves while looking for an escape route. While we were concentrating on the enemy in front of us, and with all the noise from artillery and mortars and gunfire, we never heard nor saw what was going on behind us. We were expecting and hoping that some of our own troops would be coming up from the rear to support us.
Who would expect that the enemy troops would come from the rear? We never knew that the Germans had broken through and were already behind us until it was too late. When all of a sudden out of nowhere 5 German soldiers took us by surprise, coming from the rear with bayonets on their rifles and inches from our backs shouting 'ROUST HANS IN DER LUFT'. As soon as I stood up a German soldier, like lighting, jumped in the foxhole and grabbed my 45 automatic, he wasn't taking any chances. Unbeknown to us the other machine gun squad had already been captured. There were enemy troops behind us and in front of us. Then what we saw a few minutes later was just like out of the history books of World War I. About 200 yards in front of us heavily armed German soldiers under cover of artillery and mortar barrage were coming in droves and I mean droves. About twelve to fifteen waves of German soldiers were charging forward across the open fields shouting and yelling and with bayonets drawn on their rifles ready for close combat.
There were German soldiers as far as we could see in front of us and to our right and left and behind us, there were thousands. When the German troops got closer we could see that they were all glassy eyed like they may have been drugged. They kept coming until they were hit, either wounded and knocked down or killed, never making any attempt or try to avoid the mortar or artillery fire. I honestly believe that if it wasn't for those five German soldiers that crept up on us from the rear (I think one was Polish) and got to us first, we would never have made it out alive. It has been known that Germans do not always take prisoners, especially when they are making a big charge forward.
When our troops charge the enemy they always run and hit the ground then get up run again and hit the ground or run zig zag across an open field to try and avoid the enemy fire as much as possible. There must have been a full regiment of troops in front of us and there we were in the middle with the fireworks from artillery, mortar, machine guns and rifle fire, from behind and front, like we were in the middle of Hell itself. I don't know how we did it, but we managed to get out of there alive for which I am thankful to Almighty God, for there was no other way. The saying goes that there are no atheist in the foxholes, which is true, because I've seen soldiers who never prayed before would make the sign of the cross, or pray the best they knew how, when it was a matter of life or death. I learned later that the Germans had broken through the British lines to our left and swept around behind us. It never entered my mind that I would be taken as a prisoner of war, possibly wounded yes, but a prisoner, never.
While we were marching back to the enemy camp one of the German soldiers took my wristwatch, which my wife (before we were married) gave me when I went into the service. I carried a small New Testament Bible with me, which the Germans never confiscated. It was with me from the time I was inducted till I returned home. We were being marched back along a dirt road that was strewn with dead bodies on both sides of the road, and many more bodies throughout the battlefields. They were mostly Germans, but there were also many Americans. It was not a pretty sight, (it was a very gruesome sight), and one that will never be forgotten, many of the bodies were shattered to bits, several were blown apart by artillery shells and others were run over by heavy vehicles after they were killed. It was the most horrible sight of the war that I have ever seen and it was a great loss for both sides. 'In the 7 days of fighting the 179th Infantry alone lost 55% of its men and officers. Over 500 killed or wounded and over 700 missing and captured'. INSERT LINK TO PAUL BROWN/CEMETARY
In 1984 I went to Nettuno, Italy and visited the American military cemetery there, which covers over 77 acres. During our visit there we came across many of the crosses bearing the names of soldiers from my outfit, the 179th Infantry. The Casualties were tremendous. I had heard that more than half our regiment was lost. The visit to the cemetery brought back some vivid memories of the fighting some 40 years earlier.
We had no idea what was in store for us because the Germans were known not to be trusted with prisoners. Carrying our wounded sergeant, using a blanket for our stretcher, we walked about 3 miles to a large farmhouse that the Germans were using for their First Aid Station. There was also a military tank and half-track, and several piles of ammunition boxes next to it. I do not know what happened to our wounded sergeant after we got to the aid station, whether he was treated or died, I never saw him again.
There were about 80 to 100 of us prisoners taken at this time; I believe they were all Americans. The weather was cold and the ground was soggy and wet when they had us all lined up for a head count and briefing in front of the aid station. While we were all standing in line, there was a German soldier directly behind me sitting on a wooden ammunition box eating a sandwich, but little did he know that it would be his last. As the German officer started talking to us, I saw six American P-51 fighter planes flying to our right and making a sweeping turn toward us. As the P-51s completed the turn they started diving right for us. Someone shouted and we, the prisoners, all hit the wet and soggy ground, but the Germans did nothing to try getting out of the way. They didn't even take cover; they just stood there and watched as if dumbfounded by the event. Three planes fired at us with their guns, I guess the other planes must have realized their error and held their fire. As a rule the aid stations do not get bombed or strafed, but there were military vehicles and equipment near by which made it a target.
When we got up the soldier sitting behind me eating a sandwich was still sitting there with his mouth open and the sandwich in his hand, but he never woke up, he was hit in the chest. Also one other German soldier was hit, but I do not remember if he died. If any of the ammunition boxes were hit and exploded, it would have meant disaster for almost all of us. I thank God that He saw me and the rest of us through this ordeal. I don't remember what reaction the Germans had to the planes strafing them, but I am sure there were some nasty remarks.
That afternoon, we were crammed in a truck, standing room only, and taken to a temporary camp in Foresabina, Italy. We remained there for three days. There we slept on the concrete floor on piles of straw, loaded with lice, with no bedding, only the blanket we carried on our backpacks. Then again we traveled by truck to a camp near Laterina, Italy. We were to remain at this camp for close to three months. It was a large camp with prisoners from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, India, and other places. The camp was surrounded by a high double chain link fence spaced about eight feet apart with barbed wire on top and guard towers at the corners. There were also guards with German Sheppard dogs patrolling between the fences.
The barracks had concrete walls with concrete floors, and a latrine at the rear. They were more like a large warehouse with only one partition wall to separate the latrine from the rest of the building. There was no privacy whatsoever. The latrine was a large holding cistern the width of the building, underneath the concrete floor, with several holes in the floor, which you straddled with your feet, no partitions or privacy.
Water was rationed, so we could wash only every other day, there was no such thing as a shower or bath. Our beds were nothing but a large bag filled with straw and a blanket on very crudely constructed bunk beds, which were over run with body lice, so it was only natural that we all should have body lice. On warm days we would sit outside in the sun in the daytime and pick lice from ourselves, but every one was in the same condition, so there was nothing to be embarrassed about. We would wear the same clothes that we had for over almost 4 months. At this camp there was one barrack for officers, which had bunk beds with straw mattresses. The officers were always treated a little better than the enlisted men.
As for our food, if you want to call it that, it was barely enough to subsist on, consisted of a cup of coffee in the morning, at least that is what they called it but it was hot, for lunch we got a cup of watery soup which you had to learn to eat. We had to use our own canteen cups for coffee and soup; there was no such thing as dishes and silverware. There were no tables or chairs, we just sat on the floor or the ground or ate standing up. As the days rolled by and hunger was setting in, the soup was welcomed but never enough. For dinner we got a cup of tea along with a small loaf of bread, which was divided among 6 persons, the portions were small and it was the only solid food we received. It was plain German bread with nothing on it.
The hunger was getting so bad, and being that It was almost impossible to cut six pieces of bread to the exact size, so that in order to prevent a fight the person that cut the bread would hold the pieces in his hands behind his back and you told him which one you wanted, right hand or left hand. There have been some pretty nasty fights over food; I guess hunger will do many strange things to a person. When soup was served it came in a large pot, which was set on the ground in the middle of the compound. When it was empty several P.W.s would try to get to the pot first to scrape for just one more drop. Every Thursday we got rice or barley soup, which was like a treat for us because it had a little more body to it. Every once in a while some Italians would come near the camp and try to throw some loaves of bread over the fence before the German guards would run them off. I was never lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time, and no one would share. Medical help or aid of any kind was practically unheard of; one had to be almost dying to get medical assistance. After about a month almost everyone had dysentery. There were some prisoners that died at this camp, but I don't remember how many.
Escape from camp was unthinkable, when someone tried to escape and was not successful, he would be put in solitary confinement for a period of time with only bread and water for several days. The building used for solitary confinement was made out of wood with three small rooms and a very small window near the ceiling. It was set in the middle of the compound so everyone could see when anyone was put in confinement. When someone had successfully escaped from camp he was usually caught and was brought back to camp in a wooden box that was put on display for everyone to see. There were two such incidents like that during my stay at this camp, but as far as I can remember neither one were prisoners from our camp. I don't know where they came from but the Germans would bring the prisoner's body in a box and set it in the middle of the compound for a day just to prove their point. There have been a few that tried to escape but I don't remember of anyone that escaped from our compound while I was there.
One day the Germans proudly brought in an officer celebrity, so to speak, into camp to show him off to the Americans. He was Max Schmelling, an ex-boxer and German champion that fought Joe Louis in the late thirty's or early forty's, but he lost, and it did not go over as big as they thought it would. He was a hero to the Germans but most of the prisoners never heard of him.
Life at the camp was pretty dull, line up every morning and evening for roll call, then just walk around for a little exercise or sit and pick lice from your body, and sit and talk. By the way we were not allowed to have more than three or four persons in a group talking, because the Germans were always suspicious and they did not trust anyone. The only exercise we got was walking around the campgrounds. Sometimes we would have roll call two or three times a day or whenever the guards felt like it. At least once a day and sometimes two or three times a day or whenever they felt like it, they would inspect our barracks to see if they could find anything to the contrary. They were always on the look out for anything that was different and always suspicious of every little move that we made, or if they saw a little group together talking they would break it up with threats. In the three months that I spent there I must have lost at least 40 pounds. I weighed about 90 pounds when we left the camp for Germany.
The Officers barrack was on the end of the compound the second one from where I was and about 25 feet from the first fence. Somehow they broke through the concrete floor, under one of the bunk beds, and proceeded to dig a tunnel, always making sure that the bunk bed was in the exact same position every time the guards came by.
Only a few of the prisoners ever knew of the tunnel being built. Not everyone could be trusted. I don't remember how it was that I found out, but I did know about it. I would see men walking around outside with dirt trickling out from underneath their pant legs. They would fill their pockets or pouches with dirt then let it trickle out on the ground while walking, carefully tamping it down with their feet so it would not be noticeable, at the same time being very careful not to draw suspicion from the guards, Some of the dirt was thrown into the latrine tanks in the rear of the barracks, but were always careful not to over do it so it would not show, The Germans were always suspicious of anything that was going on, so everyone had to be on the alert. They must have started the tunnel sometime before I got there, because to dig a tunnel large enough for a man to crawl through and 40 to 45 feet long and deep enough so as not to cave in was no easy task, and to do it unnoticed was the biggest task of all. They even had to be careful not to dig near the fence while the guard and dog were walking their beat near by. I don't remember how they got light in the tunnel, but there had to be some type of light to see for digging. Not to say the least there was a great risk involved.
All things considered a tunnel was being dug and one night they were ready to make a break for it. Every thing was checked and double-checked and it was decided that the tunnel was clear of the second fence. All that had to be considered was to make sure that the guards were on the other side of the compound and could not see when someone got through the tunnel.
The officers and a few of the enlisted men, myself included, about seventy of us, gathered at the officer's barrack just as the sun was setting ready to make a break to the outside. We had to be very careful not to be seen by the guards because we were not allowed to roam around after dark. Every thing was just perfect, a dark night with cloudy skies with no moon or stars. All that was left to do was to break upward through the ground at the end of the tunnel, when like a thud the bad news came. The tunnel engineers had decided that the tunnel was about two feet short of the second fence and would come up between the two fences, so the whole episode was called off for two more days and we had to sneak back to our own barracks with out being seen. It was a great disappointment. If we could have gotten out we would have had a good chance since the Italians and Germans were not friendly with each other.
The Germans were always suspicious that something might be going on but had no idea that there actually was a tunnel being built until the next morning when an English soldier from Scotland reported it. The Germans took him away to another location immediately for fear that someone may beat him up or even kill him and I think it could have happened. The Germans then broke down the tunnel and filled it in with dirt and, by the way, it was two feet past the second fence, just a miscalculation on the part of the excavators. Several of the officers were put in solitary confinement with bread and water for about three or four weeks.
About three weeks later on May 1 2, 1 944 we were loaded on a truck, standing room only, and taken to a camp In Mantoya, Italy, somewhere around in the Florence area. There we were in a large building that I think had been used for a museum before the war. After four days on May 17 we were loaded-and I mean loaded- into railroad boxcars with little more than standing room. We were so crowded that everyone could not sit down at the same time, so we would take turns sitting on the floor. I can't remember about the sanitary conditions, whether we had any or not, maybe some things are better to be forgotten. After three days traveling, and stopping only once to let us out to stretch and whatever, we finally reached our destination, Stalag VII-A in Mooseburg, Germany.
We were taken off the train and into a shower room where we were deloused, (stripped bare then sprayed all over with some kind of dusty chemical), and had a shower and then taken to what looked more like a prison than a camp. We did not know at the time that the Germans used this same type of shower rooms to gas and murder thousands of Jews and other prisoners and civilians in concentration camps.
The buildings had rooms with steel bars on doors and window that looked more like prison cells. There was nothing to do here except sit around all day and the food here was no better than it was in our previous camp. We remained there about 20 days and on June 8 we were taken to Augsburg. There we helped build our own barracks from prefab building materials, and again the food was barely enough to sustain you, but at least we were getting more exercise. By the way, American bombers bombed this same camp some time after we moved out.
While in Augsburg we were taken in small groups downtown or to the airport on work details to clean up the rubble from the damage that was being inflicted by American and British bomber planes. I remember on one occasion while five of us were on a work detail in downtown Augsburg to clean up the debris from the bombings when the air raid siren sounded- there were several American planes overhead- and the guards took us into an underground air raid shelter. It was full of civilians and everyone was staring at us as if to say, why are you here when your bombers are dropping bombs on us, you could almost see daggers in their eyes. None of us understood any German so we had no idea of what anyone was talking about, whether about us or not.
One day for lunch they brought us a large pot of snail soup and as the custom was set it in the middle of the floor in our barrack, which was their normal way
Of serving meals. Some of the snails were still alive and clinging to the sides of the pot and it had a terrible odor. As I remember we put the lid back on the pot and not one person even sampled it, needless to say we went hungry that day which was not unusual.
In Augsburg was the first time that I was interrogated but never intensely, it was all mostly personal information, like what work I did in civilian life and where I was born, etc. I guess after five months there was not much military information we could give. We were told to fill out cards, which would be used by the Red Cross to notify our families.
At Home in the United States I was reported as missing in action by the State Department, and my family had no idea whether I was alive or dead for almost six months. In August the news came over the radio in the U.S.A. with a list of names of prisoners of war from Germany, including my name. My parents received several telegrams and cards from concerned people throughout the country that were listening to the radio and heard my name mentioned. It was a big relief for them to know that I was still alive and I believe they prayed all the more for my safe return home, for which I am thankful to God. There were times when I thought that I would never see home again.
When I was asked what I did in civilian life I told them that I worked on a farm, when asked if I could milk cows, plow and do other farm chores my reply was yes, even though I had never done of that type of farm work before. There were rumours going around that they were looking for farm workers and I thought it would be better than the camps, at least the food could not be any worse and should be better. On August 8 we went by truck to Stalag VII-B in Memmingen, which was to be our base camp. The next day we were on our way again by train, (this time we traveled like human beings in a passenger train with seats). We were being transferred to a farm detail in Unterthurheim, a farming community of about 400 to 500 people south west of Augsburg.
It looked like any typical small town except that almost every home had a barn attached to the house, like eve have attached garages, and a large rear yard, about an acre. You come out of the house and step right into the barn area where the cows and pigs and oxen were housed, that way it helped keep the house warm in winter. Behind that was the storage for hay and straw in the loft and the wagons and other farm equipment below. It was typical of most farms in Germany; the only thing that separated the manure pile from the house was the driveway between them about 30 feet.
In 1984 while we were traveling in Germany, after several attempts, we finally found the town of Unterthurheim. It looked just the same as it was 40 years earlier except that this time I was a tourist and not a POW. It was serviced by a railroad but does not have a Post Office, which made it difficult to find. I found the farm where I was working but the previous owners sold out and the new owners knew nothing about prisoners working there during the war. There was a farmer with his daughter across the street painting a fence; the girl spoke very good English. We talked for a while and the girl interpreted to her father. He remembered very well when we were working on the farms during the war, and surprisingly he was happy to see us.
In Unterthurheim there were eighteen of us prisoners in one large house, near the railroad tracks, where we slept on bunk beds, took our showers, shaved and washed our clothes, etc. but no meals. Every morning we would go to the farmer's house for breakfast then out in the fields to work, we came back for lunch, then back to work till supper time which usually was close to sundown. Our food was much better than camp food, we ate whatever the farm family ate or had on hand, which was limited because of the shortage of food in Germany, but at least we got to eat more and better food than we ever had at the camps. However even with the shortage the farmers ate better than the people in the cities. Most of our meals were vegetarian, cabbage, sauerkraut, lots of potatoes, etc, and lot of soups. We always had a large stein of beer on the table, which the girl from the Ukraine picked up at the Local bar for every meal. Many times, except when it was soupy, we all ate from one bowl that was set in the centre of the table; you just reach over and grab your food with your fork, and drink from the same beer stein. But I did not mind that at all, it was food and it was edible. Meat was very scarce even at the farms, maybe once every two weeks or so and that was a very small portion, they even served blood sausage which I tried once, but just the thought of it was terrible.
We worked every day from sun up to sun down. W would plow the fields with oxen and single plow, the potatoes we would plant by hand and harvest by hand, Every other morning before breakfast we would go out with oxen and wagon to cut green grass and bring it back to the barn to mix with straw and feed to the cows. I found out the hard way that the oxen have only one pace-slow, while we were in the field cutting grass I got the oxen to run but they got out of control and were running around in a circle till the wagon rolled over. To say the least the farmer was mad as a hornet but he got over it and we got the wagon turned upright and the grass back to the barn. The cows never left the barn; they remained tiled up or in a stanchion all year round.
The farm family consisted of an older man and his daughter with two small children. The husband was off fighting in the war. The farm consisted of 8 or 10 milk cows, two pigs, two oxen, and several chickens. There was also a girl in her middle twenties from the Ukraine living at this farm. She was taken as a civilian prisoner and placed there to work. She did all the housework and a lot of the farm work such as milking the cows and helping in the fields, she told me that if she did not get her work done she would not eat.
At harvest time we cut the wheat fields by hand with a scythe and cradle then tie the wheat in bundles and stack in the field until they could be picked up and brought back to the barn to be trashed. The hay was cut with a scythe also and left in the field to dry, and we would turn it over with a pitchfork. When we hauled the hay in to the barn we would load it on the wagon by hand with a pitchfork. Also at harvest time they would use two milk cows hitched to wagons to help bring in the hay, wheat, cow beets and potatoes. All the work on the farm was done by hand except for the few implements they had to use with the oxen, such as plows and manure spreaders.
The food supply in Germany was so bad that the government would send inspectors to each farm once a month to measure the milk by weight to make sure that it was all turned in. They could keep only a very small amount of milk for small children, no adults. The farmer where I worked would hide several burlap bags full of wheat under the hay and straw in the barn loft and a full wagonload of potatoes in the cellar covered over with cow beets. The farmers were not stupid, they knew that Hitler needed food to feed his army and the farmers were their only source of supply, but they also wanted to feed their families. That way they would always have bread and potatoes on the table, I am sure all the farmers did the same thing so they could have enough to feed their families.
While we were in Unterthurheim we received some Red Cross packages for the first time, which contained a chocolate bar, a couple packs of cigarettes and toilet articles etc. We were to receive a package every month but I only received a total of four packages. Being I did not smoke, the cigarettes could be used for bargaining. I was able to trade my cigarettes for a camera, and a pocket watch with chain and for a small hand made metal jewellery box.
In the fall after the harvest the farmer would kill one pig for their yearly supply of meat. But before they could kill the hog for their own subsistence they had to have a government inspector come to check the weight to make sure that it was not in excess of what they were allowed to have for their family. Hitler wanted to make sure that his fighting troops had enough food.
In the winter, when the snow was on the ground, we would go to the woods about three miles away to cut firewood for the next winter. In January 1945, I got too sick to work and one of the guards took me to a civilian hospital by train, since that was the only means of transportation available to them. It must have been a Catholic hospital at one time because there were nuns working there as nurses. While in the hospital I found out that I had Diphtheria, and there I was in a strange hospital and in an enemy country, and what comes to mind, but the memories of my childhood when I was 7 years old and my brother died of Diphtheria. It was a horrible feeling, with thoughts going through my head, what if I should die here in the hospital and no one would know about it. 8ut than that in about two weeks I was able to leave hospital,
This farm town had two Catholic churches but its doors were boarded up by the Gestapo (Hitler's henchmen), evidently since Hitler was an atheist I guess the people sort of expected it, but I don't think that it deterred their faith in any way. After the invasion at Normandy and the allies were approaching the German borders the doors to the churches were opened again. I think the residents took it on themselves to tear off the boards and reopen the door and the people soon started going back to church again mostly the women.
We would see our planes flying over several times and they would drop tinsel like strips of aluminum foil to evade the enemy radar. At Christmas 1944 w picked up some of the tinsel and one of the fellows found a small evergreen tree, which we decorated. The guards had someone go to the local bar to buy some beer and we celebrated Christmas our way. I think we were all feeling pretty good that night except for one person, I cannot remember his name, but I guess he had too much to drink and by mistake drank a half bottle of kerosene or lamp oil, I can't remember which, that we used for our lamps. Not to say the least he was a very sick soldier all night. Next morning every thing was back to normal so to speak and we all went back to work as usual. Sometimes we could get hold of the local news paper from one of the farms, even though we could not read German, we had some idea of what was going on in the war. As the war was drawing closer to the German borders the people seemed to get more excited and were waiting for an end to the fighting and of Hitler with his Gestapo. No one would talk against Hitler, but I got the impression that the people did not like him and were anxiously waiting for the end of the war.
As the war lines drew closer and we could hear the shooting and artillery in the distance and we started to get excited knowing that the day of liberation was near. Two days before the American troops arrived in our area another group of 12 prisoners with their guards from an adjoining work farm area joined our group with orders to march us all back to the base camp in Memmingen, which was several miles away. But we all objected very strongly and refused to go. The German Sergeant (guard) in charge of our group was not to anxious to go either, so we finally convinced him and he convinced the other guards that we should remain where we were.
At this point they all knew that the end was near and I think they were glad to see it come. We all doubled up and went to the farmer's houses to wait for the big day. We waited for two days and then it happened. It was the most beautiful sight we have ever seen, the American troops arriving in town with no resistance from the enemy. It was a day that I will never forget. The German Sergeant and another prisoner stayed at the same farm that I was at, so I asked him to give me his revolver and ammo when the Americans arrived, which he consented to do hoping that he could evade being taken prisoner.
On the 26 of April 1 945, very early in the morning, in fact it was shortly after midnight, at 1:30 A. M. to be exact, the American Third Infantry division arrived in town and as agreed the Sergeant gave me his revolver, which I still have for a souvenir, but he was still taken In for questioning. It was a great day of rejoicing for us, just to know that you are free after 14 months and 8 days is enough to make anyone jump for joy. It is difficult for anyone to imagine what it is like to be set free if you have never been in such a situation, it was like all of a sudden you have a completely new Life and freedom to go where you wanted to, which is exactly what some of us did.
The third Infantry troops were advancing forward and we had a choice to go with them or wait until the rear echelon troops arrived. Three of us decided we would go it on our own, so shortly after daybreak we found an ammunition truck that was going back to the French border for supplies and we talked him into taking us with him. He took us across the Rhine River to the French border and dropped us off near a military camp where we were taken in. There we got cleaned up and some new clothes and had some good American military food. After 14 months of living in enemy territory and barely enough food to survive on, American military food was like a delicacy to us, and all you could eat.
From the camp we were put on an army transport plane C-47 to Le-Harve France, which is a port on the Atlantic Ocean. After a few days in camp on 1 5 of May 1945 we set sail on an LST freighter for Southampton, England, there were about 300 troops on this ship. We departed from Southampton on 19 May, and arrived in 8oston, Ma. On 29 May 1945 just ten days short of two years since I left New York. We hit some rough weather on the way with the waves so high they completely covered the ship's deck but no one complained, being we were on the way home, eve did not mind it at all, and I never got seasick.
It was a great feeling to be back in the good old U.S.A. From Boston we took a train to Camp Kilmer, N. J. After being processed and given new clothes etc., I was given a 64 days delayed in route to go to Asheville, N. C., where else could I go but HOME to Greenville, Pa. "THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME," I have to admit that there were times when I thought that I would never see home again, but I thank God for
He made it all possible.
I spent my 60 days in Greenville area getting readjusted to a normal life and visiting with family, relatives and friends. On September 4, I returned to Asheville, N. C. where I spent the next three weeks in a hotel doing nothing but resting. On Sept. 27, I received orders to go to Fort Sill, Ok. With a ten day delay in route. So I went via Greenville, Pa. and on Oct. 2nd 1945, I married my fiancé Loretta Sanitate. After a very short honeymoon on Oct. 10, I reported in at Fort Sill, Ok. Shortly after arriving, the point system for discharge was dropped to 73 points, which made me qualify for discharge and return to civilian life.
I was discharged from the service on October 1945 from Fort Sill Oklahoma. At the time of discharge I was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the European Theatre Medal, the World War II Medal, and three Bronze Battle Stars for major battles. I received the P, 0, W. Med; in the Fall of 1970, and in October 1991 I received letter from the Secretary of Defence of the U.S.A. that I was being awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious actions in Combat, which I received in February 1 992. A little late but appreciated.