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I am Vere L. Williams (part 3)
By Vere L. Williams
I got wounded the last time, a Sergeant from the mortar section got to be the
First Sergeant of the Company. Awhile before I was wounded the last time in France,
the men in my section were talking and some said "Boy Tarzan, you are not
afraid of anything! You go right up to the line when bullets are flying everywhere".
I said "My back is not wide enough for the yellow streak that runs up and
down my back". "Boy you sure don't show it". I said, "I have
14 men following me and I would not expect any of them to do what I would not
do." They said they never realized that and that was the reason they always
followed me wherever we went. Really, we all had a job to do, and I did it with
the best of my ability.
after we broke through Salarno, somewhere to the right of our Division was the
91st Division. It was made up of African Americans. One evening at dusk we were
set up along the road when here came a jeep with four Negroes. . I stopped them,
saying there were Germans ahead of us. They said their outfit was on up ahead
of us. We told them their Division was to the right of us but they know better,
and started driving.They got about 100 yards ahead of us when an artillery shell
landed beside the jeep. All four men jumped out of the jeep and came running back
- really running right by us. They didn't stop at the Company Commander's We went
up and got the jeep. It had run off in a ditch and killed the motor. We took the
jeep to the company CP. They sent it to the Battalion CP or to the Regiment CP.
I don't know where the jeep ended up at.
time we were on an oiled road walking, when a jeep with a sergeant and three officers
(two majors and a captain, I think) drove up. We told them we were the leading
element and that we didn't know where the Germans were. Both majors said they
had been on this road before several times - we knew they had not because the
Germans just pulled back that morning before. The first major told the sergeant
to drive on, as 'we know where we are going'. They were not as lucky as the four
Negroes were. They only got about 100 yards a head of us when the jeep ran over
a tank mine. [A mine for tanks are four holes dug in the road in a diamond shape.
They are set on a diagonal shape on the road and the holes dug down deep enough
to put several mines on top of each other. I have seen from 2 to 12 mines stacked
in a hole. A mine is 1 feet across and 3 to 4 inches high and weighs 12 pounds.
A lot of times the mines are wired so when one hole explodes all four holes will
blow.] All of a sudden there was a big explosion, a big puff of smoke then here
came the concussion. We saw pieces flying in the air. We got up to where the jeep
disappeared and judging from the depth of holes there were 10 to 12 mines in each
hole, all four blew. All we could recognize was the motor and transmission that
lay beside the road and the spare tire holder. The tires were blown off into pieces.
We saw two of the officer's helmets, one had the Major's hair and skin plastered
in top of it. I suppose those men were listed as missing in action.
were times when we would advance thorough open fields and grassland. This one
day we were going through an open field before we contacted the Germans. For some
reason I took off my pack to fix something, was ready to pick it up when an artillery
shell landed right before me. How come my crew or I never got hit, I don't know.
I just put on my pack and started walking when another shell came in, and the
Platoon Sergeant behind me took a direct hit. We saw his helmet hit the ground.
All we could find of him was his helmet, the barrel of his rifle, and his bayonet
with the leather handle blown off. One of his shoes one was split in half and
the other one was split in front of the shoelaces.
Another time we were walking on this road when we could hear fighter planes up to our left. We could barely see the planes but they were in a dogfight. Soon, here came a plane coming down on a sharp angle picking up speed as it fell. The pilot bailed out and fell some before he opened his chute. The plane came screaming to the ground about 200 yards from us. We felt the jolt when it hit the ground. The motor hit the ground and broke off. The plane slid on the ground, then the dirt mushroomed up and the motor flew up into the air about 30 feet and landed behind the plane. It was a spitfire plane. A German pilot saw the plane go down and saw the pilot bail out so here he came. He went to firing on the pilot, but I guess his aim was bad. He turned around and fired again 'till the pilot dropped his arms from hanging in the ropes. But by then, the German was too close to the parachute and the propeller caught the parachute and pulled the man under the plane for a few seconds, then he dropped to the ground with no chute. The plane started up but then it sound like the motor quit running and we saw the plane fly into the ground probably two miles from where we were.
We were at the Replacement Depot from the 24th 'till the 28th of December1943 and more men came from hospital and some men came as replacements. We got up to eat breakfast the morning of the 28th and there was a double string of trucks waiting to take us to the ships. It was cloudy and the wind was blowing. The Depot said we would get on a troop ship, but here was 16 LCPs (Landing Craft Personal). They are a flat bottom craft that only draw four feet of water, so that they can get close to the beach when making an invasion. They have ramp two feet wide on each side of the front end that run ahead for a man to walk down on to get to the beach. It seems to me that 150 to160 men could get on the ship, and each ship has a crew of 20 to 24 men. As soon as the ships were filled that afternoon, they backed away from the docks and headed out to sea. There were 4 to 6 escort ships with the convoy.
It took 4 days to get to Naples. The water was really rough with 12-foot swells. When both ships were in the lowest part, all you could see was the top of the control house on the LCP to the left of us as the ships were in a convoy. The ship would roll with the wave like a cork. Then when the ships would head into the swells, they would ride over the big waves. Sometimes as the back of the ship was coming up, the propeller would come part way out of the water and it would shake the whole ship. It stormed for 3 days and stopped during the night. The next morning the water was as clear and smooth as glass. We got into Naples in the afternoon.
For New Year's dinner we had "C Rations". By the time we got to the Replacement Depot (the Race Track) it was after dark seems like about 2000 hours (8:00 p.m.) The kitchen fed us sandwiches. We stayed the night of the Jan 1st and the morning of the 2nd. We men got on the truck to go to the 157th Regiment. It was by the town of Venefro - close to where the monastery was on top of the mountain. We got to the Regiment area too late to go to our company area, so we stayed over night.
The Regiment area was back 2 to 3 miles from the company area. Our company jeeps picked us up to go to the company area. I got the equipment I needed to go back on the front line again. That night, I went up with a string of mules to take supplies up to the men on top. There was snow on top of the mountain. The foxholes were rocks piled up for protection as the ground was frozen. We could see the Cassino+ Monastery to the east about 2 miles (it was 1/2 to 3/4 mile from the mountain we were on to the mountain that the monastery was on), the Germans were on the mountain ahead of us about 800 yards.
The night of January 14th or morning of the 15th 1944 either the 85th or 88th Division relieved the 45th and we came down to the Naples Staging area for a few days. While we were there, Mel, the man that was the first gunner in my squad in the States, but didn't come over seas with us, came to the Company area. He sure acted important as he weighed all of 250 or 260 pounds and had his pistol with him. He was just as full of bull shit as he was before in the states. He had a group of men around him that didn't know him, and he was giving them a line of bull s. When I saw him, I walked up behind him and heard some of what he was saying. I walked up to him and shook hands with him. He wanted to know if I was still firing the machine guns. I said, "Yes". I asked what was he doing, when did he come overseas, etc. He said he was guarding German prisoners at a Naples Stockade, and that he left the States in November. The Captain wanted me, so I went to see what he wanted. Mel was there for about 2 hours. Two of the men in my section listened to him and said he was really doing a good job with the personnel (German prisoners). I told them he was really making a mountain out of a molehill. He was PFC when I was a Sergeant.
Winston Churchill, England's Prime Minister, wanted the supply lines at the Rome area cut to the winter lines. He said we could have cut the lines in 7 days time, but what Churchill didn't know was that the Germans had 6 Infantry and Armor Divisions around the north of Rome. So on the 26th of January 1944 the 3rd Division and 179th Regiment of the 45th and some British Divisions made the first invasion of Anzio. As usual there was a shortage of ships, like when we made the Salerno landing. We loaded on the ships the 28th and we were in one with the larger Personal Crafts. I was in the front hole, on the left side, clear to the front wall, on the top bunk. There were four bunks one above the other. In the middle of the night a ship cut across in front of our ship, and our ship hit the side of the other one and threw the bow to the left. Everybody on the left side of the isles was thrown out of their bunks. We hit the bunks on the right side and fell to the floor. I felt sorry for the men on the bottom bunk as 3 men fell on top of him. The lights went out for about one minute. There was a mad scramble for us trying to get up, so when the lights came back on soon, a Navy man stuck his head in saying everything was all right. That the ship had hit another one, but there was no damage. We landed on the docks and went right to the front lines to start fighting.
We were in the area of Aprilia and there was a factory. The Germans were a fair fight. But two days later they tried to push us off the beachhead. There the Germans were trying to occupy it and they had a tank beside the building firing at us. The worst part was when we dug a deep foxhole we would hit water so all the foxholes were more shallow.
was a place that had trees called " The Pines" that we were by, later
the British took over the area. There was a dairy along our area. I never did
see how many cows were in the herd, but within a week all the cows were killed
by artillery - then later the smell was really something. All through the Germans
counter attacked, I was ordering from 4 to 6 cases of machine gun ammo. There
are 4 boxes of ammo in each case that would be 16 to 24 boxes for each gun. When
we really got into fighting hard, I would double the order so that when the supply
sergeant brought up the supplies, I would have my men make the 2nd trip to bring
all the cases to our holes.
The 15th of February we were going to move to another position as the British were taking over that area. They had been coming all day long, and we were going to move out that night. About 1600 hours my 1st and 2nd gunners and I took the section bedrolls to where the Company could pick them up. As we started walking a 280 mm shell come in and wounded one man. Two men jumped up to help him when the 2nd shell came in and wounded those two.We could tell it wasn't an 88 shell by the sound it made coming in. The 88's have a more screaming sound.
We took the bedrolls to the spot where they could be picked up and as we were coming back, we were under a big tree when the 3rd shell came and hit the tree. There were 19 men wounded or killed with that shell. My 2nd gunner was killed, my 1st gunner had shrapnel in his hip. Shrapnel hit the left side of my helmet. There was a crease four inches long and half-inch deep on the side of my helmet. I remember seeing my helmet rolling 30 feet in front of me, and that was the last I remember. The next thing I remembered I was running out in the open field as hard as I could run, I remember thinking "Why am I running?" I had run 3/8 of a mile from where I was hit. As I stopped I felt like I was floating on air, as if something was holding me up so I wouldn't fall. I have no idea how long I stood there 'till I came to my senses that I was standing up. I don't know why but I felt to see if I had my helmet on. I looked around and saw where I was and started walking back to where I was hit.
I saw men carrying litters and when I walked up to my first gunner he said "What's the matter with you Tarzan". I said, "I was knocked senseless" and "That I came to myself out there in the field". "No, what is the matter with you?" "Why?" "Your shirt, it's all bloody". I looked down and blood has soaked the front of my shirt. So here I go to the aid station also. Bill my first gunner said I laid there for several minutes then looked up at my helmet, got up and picked up my helmet and then walked right back by him. He asked "Where are you going?" But I didn't answer, and when I got out in the field he couldn't see me anymore. When the medics got to me they cut my shirt off and had to put compact bandages on my neck and shoulders. They had to put a bandage around my neck under both of my arms. By that time it was dark. It took three ambulances to take all the litter patients, and then us six men that were in the fourth. If I remember right there were four men killed. The hospital took X rays for four days thinking my collarbone was broken.
The next morning when I woke up, the left side of my face, neck, shoulder, upper arm and chest was all black and blue. I couldn't raise my arm or move my head for 10 days. I had to stay at the Tenth Field Hospital the whole time I was in the hospital. They called the hospital "Hells Half Acre" because the Germans would fire artillery all over the beachhead and the hospital was hit several times and bombed also. When the hospital moved off Anzio, there were six nurses killed and I don't know how many of the men were killed. By the time the Navy Ships would come to Anzio, the ship would be filled with the more serious wounded. So, I never did leave the hospital 'till I went back to the front lines.
The hospital tent I was in was clear on the right side and there was an open space. One time a German night bomber came with butterfly bombs. (The bombs are small in a big container so when it is dropped from the plane the container pops open and the bombs lands on an area of 75 yards.) The bomber flew right over the hospital and dropped the bombs on the open area. What saved me was a four -foot sandbag wall all around the tents. After the bombs my tent looked like sieve with so many holes in the roof. After I went to the front lines, the Navy got to taking the less seriously wounded men on the LST ships and they would have a ward boy go with each group.
After the 10th day when I could start moving my arm and head, I told the doctors to send me to the front lines as I could dodge shells and bombs better on the front line. On the 12th day they turned me loose. When I got back to my men they said, "You had a good bed to sleep in, good food and a million dollar wound so why did you come back so quick?" I told them I could dodge shrapnel better up here. It took 22 days before all the black and blue spots left my body. We had to hold the lines because we were the only line of defense. The Army gave everybody rifles in case the Germans broke through our lines.
Then here came the rain - for a month! The water would seep into the ground. And then six inches below the edge of the foxholes, the water would run into the foxholes. We had to dig a ditch around the walls of our foxholes for the water to run into, then we had to have a place to dip the water out with our helmets every 30 minutes or so. After going without sleep for several nights, a person will pass out. Two men close to my hole went to sleep and the water was up along the side of their chests when an artillery barrage come in and woke them up. If the water had came up much farther they could have drowned. The trucks, jeeps, and tanks were getting stuck every where after they left the road. One day I saw a caterpillar tractor going across the field when it sank into the mud and stopped going. The driver tried to back it up but it wouldn't move. The mud was about up to the top of the tracks. While he was trying to get the cat to move, all the mud around worked loose so when the driver went to step off the tractor he almost fell in the mud. When he stepped down, his foot sank in the mud up to his knee. Later, the Army Engineers got wooden planks to make roads for the vehicles to run on.
More times then I care to think the German tanks came in to our area and would run over our foxholes with the German Infantry right behind them. One time a tank stopped on top of my foxhole, and went to firing it's 88 in the back of us. Our artillery was firing right in front of us, so when the German Infantry pulled back, the tank finally turned around and followed them. We were never able to cover our foxholes on the front lines, as we always had to be on the look out for Germans. So when two men were in a foxhole, one man stood guard while the other man slept. Many times I was an odd man and I would have a foxhole by myself so I would have to stay awake all night.
When we were in the rest area, we would have a man in our platoon stand guard for one hour at a time, then get the next man. This one man was on guard from 0200-0300 hours, he was standing up in his foxhole and went to sleep. He was still asleep at 0530 hours when we woke him up. When we were on a three-day rest, we had covers on our foxholes because of the butterfly bombs. One night a bomber dropped the bombs right over our area. For some reason I laid my pack on top of the foxhole. Three bombs landed on top of our foxhole and the next morning when I woke up my pack was riddled. Just one man got hurt. He was a new man on guard and he was standing out side of his foxhole, and got a piece of shrapnel in his leg, but didn't say anything 'till morning. His Sergeant took him to the aid station. The captain took out the piece of shrapnel.
time the 157th Regiment got a three-day rest period, we were right around the
Long Toms - the 155's with the 16-foot barrels. Every night we would get a small
bottle of insect repellent and we would put some on, then put a string into the
bottle and light it for a candle. The only thing wrong was that every time the
guns would fire, the concussion would blow out the candle. One day a man that
had been wounded came back to the company with a brand new pair of pants. When
the guns fired, the concussion split his pants legs on the seams, and he had four
pieces of pant legs.
We were along the Mussolini Canal and my position was on a small curve on the canal where it made a slight bend into German territory and I could fire on the open ground to our right. We just got on position at 2400 hours and the German mortars started firing 500 yards up the canal. My machine gun fire went over their men. Each Sergeant had a field telephone and I whistled to the First Platoon Command Post (CP) and the new Platoon Sergeant answered. I told him the mortars were firing 500 yards ahead of me, he handed the phone to Lieutenant Railsback. I told him about the mortar fire and the shells landing in back of the Company CP. Railsback said as long as the shells are not falling on you forget about it. The mortars would fire every hour throughout the night. I would call in every time they would fire and I would get the same answer. The fourth night, close to morning the Germans raised their sights and the shells handed between my guns and the riflemen. I was already talking to Railsback when a shell cut my phone line, so as soon as the barrage lifted, a sergeant came to see if I was all right. I told him "Yes-my line phone was cut." In 30 minutes here came our communication Sergeant bringing me another line. When I told him what happened, he said he would tell Captain Neil Quick.
Somehow the Sergeant connected my phone with the First Platoon and the Company CP. As soon as the mortar started firing I whistled in again and when Railsback answered I said "God damn it, I don't want to talk to you, I want to talk to Neil." He said, "Aren't I good enough to talk to?" I said "Hell No, you sure have not been." Neil came on the line and said, "Is that you, Tarzan" I said "Yes, those mortars are firing". He said, "Here is an artillery observer, tell him." I said I was on the curve of the canal and the mortars were about 500 yards in the canal. He asked "Are you where you can see?" I was standing beside my foxhole and told him I could. He said, "Here comes a white phosphorus shell." It looked like it was 100 feet to the right and I told him. He said, "That is what I want to know." He said something on his radio and said, "Here comes another" and when the shell landed, I could hear men screaming and said, "You are right on target!" Here come a salvo of 16 shells and there was no more German mortar fire after that.
The sixth night we got pulled back for another three day rest. The next morning I went to the Company CP, Neil asked me, "Tarzan, was that the first time you called about the mortars being fired, when the shells cut your phone line?" I said, "Hell No! I called Lieutenant Railsback six days ago when we first got in the line, and every time they fired after that - every night because I could see them firing up in the canal." "Then you did call every time the mortars fired?" I said, "Yes". Neil called Railsback every thing but a white man and had his fists doubled up. Neil said "Let's go talk to him." He walked to the first platoon and Railsback was talking with his five sergeants. Neil said, "I want to talk to you". He said, "Can't you see I am talking to my Sergeant". Neil raised his voice and said, "I want to talk to you now." Railsback got up from the box he was sitting on and said, "Just what do you want to talk to me for now?" and he saw me with Neil "When did Tarzan call you?" "When the mortars went to firing," Lieutenant Railsback said, "He started calling as soon as we got on the line and called every time the mortars went to firing. He made a damn nuisance of himself. I was ready to cut his phone line to make him stop calling all the time." Neil said, "For your information those mortar shells were landing back at the Battalion Headquarters and really raising havoc. You never even reported any of Tarzan's calls. Now, I don't care if a Private or a Sergeant calls you that there is danger out there, no matter how small or large, I want to know about it! Now, if we were not so short of lieutenants. I would bust you down to a buck private and if it happens again, you can bet your life you will be a buck ass private!"
We only had two lieutenants as the 3rd Platoon didn't have a lieutenant. While we were in the States the Companies had four lieutenants one for each Platoon. By the time we were in Salarno the weapons platoon was with out any lieutenants as they were needed in the rifle platoon. When the Companies would be in action, many times when all the officers got wounded or killed, a buck sergeant or even down to private would be in charge of a platoons or a company. After Neil gave Railsback the ass chewing, he really treated me with respect. As before, when I had to find out any thing while I was attached to the 1st Platoon I would have to ask Bob Miller, the platoon sergeant what was taking place, as Railsback would not talk to me. Then at Anzio, Bob got rotated home and Ervin took over the platoon. After we broke out of Anzio beachhead, and I was heading to Rome, something happened to Railsback as I never saw him again.
When I got through talking to Neil, I went to the kitchen and asked the head cook Cliff, what we had for rations he said "C" rations. "Hey Cliff what would you do if an artillery would hit one of them cows out there in the field." He said "I would cut it up into steaks and feed them to you guys." (The whole time we were on Anzio we got the C rations most of the time, and just a few times we got K rations. I really liked the K rations the best. The C rations had 3 meats, meat & potato hash, meat & beans, and meat & vegetable stew. I got burnt out on potato hash. One of the men in one of my squads just could eat the hash, so another man and I would see to it that he got three cans of hash.)
I went back to
my section and told the men to get four poles, ten feet long, all the rope they
could find, and sharp knives. They wanted to know what they were going to do.
I told them, "Wait and find out." We went out to where the cows were,
and waited 'till an artillery barrage come in and shot a cow. We cleaned it out,
tied ropes to all four feet onto the poles and carried it to the kitchen. Cliff
said "Damn, I didn't think you would do it." Heck, living on a farm,
I helped Dad butcher cows and pigs so I know how to do it. I helped skin
the hide off the cow and they hung the carcass up in the tent to cool over night.
Then the next day, they cut the carcass into steaks and at suppertime the cooks
said, "Bring your mess kits, as we have steaks along with C rations."
Some of the men got the GIs from eating the fresh meat. When we come back off
the line for another three days, I asked Cliff what rations he has and he said
"Good old C rations." I went back to my section, and when I told them
to get poles half the Company wanted to go with me. I was afraid too many men
would draw artillery fire so I just took 12 men with me. When the cook had the
steaks ready the men that had gotten the "GIs" didn't let it stop them
from getting another steak that evening. We never got another rest period after
The first time I saw Ernie Pyle, we were on the north side of Sicily getting ready to make the invasion. Then I saw him three times in Italy after we left Salarno. After I went into the hospital with my ear infection, was when he came on Anzio. I never saw him but when we were fighting at the overpass and the caves, he came to the 157th Regiment Headquarters. After we quit fighting on Anzio, he went to England and got there after the Normandy landing. He went into Paris - I think when the 3rd Army liberated it. Then I'm not sure when he went to the Pacific.
I saw Bill Mauldin twice in Italy in his jeep. Once when we were crossing an intersection on this road, Bill stopped his jeep to let us walk across the intersection and he waved to us as the Battalion walked by. When Bill Mauldin went to the Stars and Stripes the 45th Division Newsletter still got the cartoons of Willie and Joe. When Mauldin was in France, General Patton told General Eisenhower to make Mauldin quit drawing the cartoons as he was making fun of the officers. Eisenhower said you back off, as Bill Mauldin is the best moral builder we have - like when we were in the mountains of Venefro. The Cannon - I think anti-tank companies could not get their guns up on the mountain, so they went to leading mules up the mountain bringing supplies. Bill drew a man with a mule up on the mountain and a 2nd lieutenant fresh from the States was on the mule and the sergeant was saying, "You promised to bring up rations next time." (Talk about mules, there was a white mule that nobody wanted to take up on the mountain, because the Germans could see that white mule easily.) Another time Bill drew a troop of USO girls at a theater, and the enlisted were going into the regular door and the officers were going in the stage door.
When we got through fighting on Sicily, Patton told officers and NCO'S that the 45th was the best - if not the very best - Division in the Army, that he had the pleasure of being with. (I remember when he said he didn't want a National Guard Outfit under his command.) Patton went to visit two hospitals and at the first hospital he saw a man that was not wounded and asked him what was wrong with him. He said he was shell shocked, and Patton just figured he was goldbricking, and hit him in the face with his gloves. That man didn't do anything, but at the second hospital he hit another man and that man went back into shock again, and was trying to crawl under the beds. The hospital really wanted to get Patton, but Eisenhower stepped in saying I need him when we go to England. He told Patton to apologize to the two men and told him he better not do anything like that again. Eisenhower told him "I can't cover up for you again." I have seen men fold under pressure. Like when I got wounded with that tree burst. The platoon that was by the tree that got the most casualties. Art was one of the less serious wounded, but whenever a plane flew over he tried to crawl under anything there at the First Aid Station. At the hospital he was in a different tent than I was in. I got a new replacement and I could see he was scared to death. I could talk to him to calm him down. He wanted to be the last ammo carrier as he didn't like to be close to the guns when they were firing and when we were in an artillery barrage he would be shaking. One time, we were on the line firing and a barrage came in and a shell landed to the right of him. I was looking back for my first ammo carrier to bring up more ammo when I saw this man jump up with both boxes of ammo and take off running as hard as he could run to the rear and I never saw him again.
Our machine gun ammunition came with 250 rounds in a belt and every fifth round was a tracer. (A tracer is a bullet with less lead and it has powder so when the shell is fired the powder would burn red 'till the bullet got 500 yards.) The tracers would not go as true as the full lead bullets. At 500 yards, the tracer would move out of line about 3 feet. I told all my machine gun crew, that when they were firing the gun and when they pulled the trigger if they saw two tracers go out at the same time they were firing too fast. We had air cooled guns and the barrel was 1 1/4 inch across and there was a jacket over the barrel about 2 1/2 inches across with 1 1/2 inch holes all around the jacket. The water-cooled gun was the heaviest gun the Company had. The barrel was small around so the water could circulate around the barrel and they could put a belt in the gun and pull the trigger 'till all the rounds were through the gun. The worst part with the tracer was that when the gun was fired at night, the red flame from the tracers would give the Germans our position. When the Germans were really trying to push us off the beach head, I have seen three counter attacks in a day, and each time each gun would fire a lot of ammo.
Every night I would order 12 to 14 cases of machine gun shells - that was 48 to 56 boxes for two guns. One time when the Germans broke through our line, (as there was a small gap between the two companies I had about 36 boxes for each gun. That night our supply sergeant couldn't get any supplies up to us and so that ammo lasted for three days while we were surrounded. The first day we fired 14 boxes, the second day 12 boxes and the third day 10 boxes, as there was only 150 rounds between the two guns.
the other machine gun section sergeant would order cases of ammo, many times he
would order as much as I would. Each case weighed 100 pounds so. If we both ordered
12 to 14 cases - there were 24 to 48 cases that would weigh from 2400 to 2800
pounds. For the little trailers they pulled behind jeeps, the 2800 pounds would
really be a load them. The mortar section would even order more shells. Plus all
my ammo carriers and I had the .03 Springfield Rifle and had to order special
ammo for those because the .03 shells came in five to a clip where the M1s had
eight shells to a clip, but all would carry extra bandoleer with them. Also, at
times hand grenades were used a lot when we were in close range. I couldn't figure
out why the Germans pulled back after three days of fighting, 'till later when
I found out that we would pull each Division down so much with casualties that
they couldn't hold the ground they took.
###???During the rainy season the tanks couldn't get off the roads or they would get stuck and the artillery could zero in on the roads good. The individual prisoners taken would give up. Once there were eight men with a mortar came to about 200 yards and set up the mortar and started firing to our left.??? I was ready to start firing on them when the "M CO" mortar observer who was at my foxhole said "Let me fire on them as it has been sometime since I had a target to shoot at." He had a walkie talkie radio and gave instructions and said one is in its way. A German had just dropped a shell in the mortar when our shell landed someplace on the mortar as seven men flew back from the concussion. Later here came the Lieutenant with a white flag. He could talk English saying he couldn't go back to his company because all his men were killed with one shell.
time an older man crawled up to our gun and in broken English he said "Please
don't shoot, I give up". Then he said he was in WWI and a prisoner, He knew
how the Americans treated the prisoners. Another man who still had a German Navy
uniform on, gave up as soon as he got to the front lines. He said his ship was
bombed and sunk so they gave him a gun and he never knew anything about it. Two
men crawled to my gun position saying they were tired of all the fighting that
we caused them, and they surrendered.
Some prisoners wanted to see our automatic artillery guns as the shells would come so fast. The way the artillery man would do if they were not firing at the maximum range the barrel would recoil and as it went back in to place, the men would put another shell in the gun and fire it before the barrel got back in place.
One time one of the 105 mm guns would fire a shell and the ring would loosen and go to whistling through the air. We wanted the gun to keep firing because of the screaming meemies, but I guess the rifling in the barrel gave out and they got a new gun.
On one German
88 gun the shells would turn around as it flew through the air and you could hear
swish, swish, swish as it would go through the air. One time they were firing
over our position and the shell that turned landed about 100 yards ahead of us.
There was 12 shells that fell. As they hit the ground they would slide turning
on the ground and two shells came close to our position. Seems like the gun fired
for three weeks.
For three months the Germans had two big railroad guns with a 16 inch barrel that was 46 feet long and the gun weighed 246 tons. It would fire a 550 pound projectile about 30 miles in to the harbor of Anzio and the shells sunk several ships. They would keep the guns inside of two railroad tunnels and our planes couldn't get them but would bomb the road bed so the Germans would have to fix the rails before they could move the guns outside to fire them at night. We called the guns Anzio Annie and Anzio Express. After the war the Army found the two guns someplace in Austria. The Anzio Express was damaged too much to move but Anzio Annie was shipped to Aberdeen Ordnance Depot and is sitting at the Museum sight on a railroad Spur.
My Daughter, Arlene, and I went to Pennsylvania one summer, then on to Washington, DC and stopped to see the gun. I wanted to Pee on the gun, but my daughter said no. There was another couple there and he told his wife to take a picture of him peeing on the gun but she wouldn't so he didn't either.
On March 23rd 1945, the 157th Regiment started moving along with the 3rd, 34th, 45th, and 36th Divisions which came to Anzio On March 23rd, we got the orders to move out. Later were part of the move along with the British and we had to fight for every foot of ground we took. As we moved forward we got on the higher ground and when we looked back towards Anzio no wonder we were always getting shelled you could see the whole beachhead. Like Bill Maudlin's cartoon of Willie and Joe looking out over the beachhead and on it said, "My Gawd! There we wuz and here they wuz." Cartoon? The tanks were really out on force.
Also, one time big tanks were trundling along the edge of the gulch. A shell landed close to the driver and stunned him. The tank was veering sharply to the edge when the tank plunged upside down in the bottom. The three men got out started running and the riflemen cut them down. The German's artillery observers were in many of the scattered buildings and houses so our artillery made all the buildings the targets. Our casualties were heavy. On May 6th, General Mark Clark with the 85th and 88th Divisions. came into Rome. Mark Clark was right behind them. The 45th Division was west of Rome several miles. The 8th of June the 45th was relieved and on June 9th we were fifteen miles above Rome.
When we quit fighting there were soft ball games every where. Some of us went into Rome on passes. All I can remember seeing was the Coliseum and I was in Rome for eight hours. Thunder Its been 57 years since I've been there! The people in Rome seemed to me had more money as their clothes were better then the clothes the people at Naples had. And of course they were better than the out laying towns where their clothes were patches upon patches.
There were three men in our company that could talk Italian. They went into Rome and told us the language had accents that were as much different as the accents of the people in Chicago and New York City with Rome being equal to Chicago. The Italian I learned in South Italy was so different that I really had to listen twice to understand the people in Rome. Another thing I noticed, the people were more friendly in Rome, especially the girls.
we moved back to Anzio, the 3rd Division was there also. There were 16 LST ships
heading into the docks with their doors open and the trucks and equipment were
loaded on the ships. The 157th Regiment loaded on the ship and we went to Salarno
for a week of R & R. We were clear out in the open spaces. Me, being as inquisitive
as I was, growing up on a farm, any farm in Italy, I wanted to see what they were
like. There was a large farm about ¾ of a mile to the east of us and as
usual I would have men wanting to go with me. Seven men came with me. When we
got to the farm, two men had just finished working on an old grain binder. A binder
cuts the wheat heads and a foot of the stock or stem and ties each bundle with
string. Their binder did not have a bundle carrier to carry the bundles to put
into rows, like the one we had on the farm. Theirs just dropped the bundles all
through the field. They wished they had a binder like we had on the farm.
They had several pieces of old machinery like a disc, a walking grain drill, etc. I saw people cutting grain with a hand sickle. The person would grab a hand full of wheat straw, then cut it with the sickle. A hand sickle that took both hands on the handle and has a cradle in back of the blade. Make another 2 to 3 swings and laid the cut straw on the ground then make another 2 or 3 swings and lay that on top of the first pile and people would tie each bundle with a few pieces of straw. There was a mowing machine that cut the stubble 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the ground and a man would lay on a platform by the right wheel and have a five foot stick that he would lay on the mall board at the end of the sickle bar to hold the straw from falling, 'till the straw would start falling off the sickle bar then he would raise the stick to let the straw fall, then place the stick again. Then three or four people would make the bundles and would have to move the bundles at least six feet to the left so the team of oxen would not walk over the bundles.
Then there were the old time reapers that would cut the straw on to a platform and a man would rake the straw off as they moved along, and of course the binder. One time we were bivouacked beside this wheat field, and the farmer was cutting the grain with a team of oxen on the binder and another team with a front gear of a cart in front - so that 4 oxen could pull the binder. On rough ground the binder would roll ahead and the yoke would slip forward on the oxen's necks and stop (two were in the tongue, and two were on the gear). Because the oxen were so slow, as they stepped forward the yoke would slip back and the binder would start with a jolt. The oxen had two speeds, slow and slower. The boy had a whip and when one ox would start falling behind he would give it a whack with the whip to get it up with its mate.
rained this afternoon so they stopped cutting and stopped the binder by our area.
The next afternoon about 50 men were out by the binder when I asked Mel if he
could drive his jeep. We hooked to the binder. We got the running gear out of
the way and put the tongue with the yoke on back of the jeep and a attached chain
to pull the binder. Cliff, our head cook, got on the binder and they really cut
the grain! All of the 50 men got to picking up the bundles and putting the into
shocks. You could sure tell by the shocks that the men didn't know anything about
putting them together. We had to show them how to stand the bundles up to make
the good shocks. After we ran out of string Mel and Cliff stopped, so we told
them to go a head and cut the narrow strip and we would tie the bundles with straw.
They parked the binder back close to where they hooked up with it. Later the farmer
and his son came to the field to see if the wheat was dry enough to cut. Another
kid and I went to them, saying, "We hooked the binder to the jeep and cut
'till we ran out of string or we would have cut the rest of the field." The
boy saw the running gear was not in front of the binder and told his dad "I
wish we had more string here".
I saw two old threshing machines - the first machine had a platform on top in front where the men would place the bundles and two people set over the concave to cut the strings and place the heads of the bundles down on the concave. A concave was a small barrel shape, three to four feet long with teeth or steel bars two inch long and the drum would turn fast to knock the wheat out of the heads of the straw. It was located on the front of the threshing machine. One man watched the threshing machine to keep it running. Three men sacked the grain in 100 pound sacks and put the sacks in a pile. Where the straw came out there was a baler and two men set on the baler to put the wires on the bales and there were one or two men to carry the bales to a stack.
The men that brought the bundles to the threshing machine had two wheel carts with a team of oxen. There would be from 8 to 10 carts in the field. When they would move the machine a team of oxen would be pulling the trashier, another pulling the baler and the tractor would be by itself. I have seen more places that would have area of 16 feet across with smooth cement or just bare ground smoothed and swept off. They put the bundles of wheat all around inside the 16 feet circle - about 6 feet wide - and cut the string of the straw that held the bundles. There was a round barrel shape of cement with groves running all the way around. The groves and ridges would be 2 inches apart and they would pull the roller around on the straw with a team of oxen to knock the grain out of the heads. After the oxen walked around the straw they would fluff up the straw and have the oxen walk around 'till all the grain was out of the heads. They would take the straw and put it in piles, then put more bundles in the circle and go through the same routine.
I have seen the wheat a foot high in the circle. When the wind would blow, they would willow the grain. To willow the grain it all depended on how hard the wind was blowing - if it was a mild breeze they would use big shovels and raise the shovel up to shoulder high and barely tip the shovel to let the grain fall out so the chaff would blow past the pile the wheat was falling on. When they got enough wheat to fill a sack, they carried it away to a grain shed. They would willow the grain 'till they finished or until the wind stopped blowing. I have also seen what is called whaling stick. Its a wooden handle about six feet long and another wooden stick about three feet long with a leather string tried to both sticks about six inch a part.
would raise the wooden handle and bring it down in front of them and the three
feet stick would hit the straw flat to knock the grain out of the straw. They
would put the bundles in a small circle of about 6 to 8 feet across. I have seen
as many as 6 to 8 people with the whaling sticks working on a pile of straw. I
have seen them planting wheat by anything from a man broadcasting by throwing
wheat by hand and people coming behind with grub hoes covering the seeds, to the
use of walking drills.
we left that farm we walked around to another place but it was smaller place.
When we were heading back to our Company area there was a big gully in front of
us and we could see some men coming and going to the gully so when we walked up
to it, there was a line of 60 to 70 men standing in line and they yelled, "Get
to the back of the line!" We walked to the head of the line and a man was
standing at the foot of the bed taking the money and a girl about 25 years old
was lying on the bed taking on the men. When one man got off she had a little
pan of olive oil next to her. She would get some on her finger and rub between
her legs and take on the next man.
After six days we got on trucks to go close to Naples for amphibious training, both for our new men and the Navy boys. The 157th Regiment was in a wheat stubble where the wheat was all ready cut. The next morning at 0700 hours, we went to the docks where the LSTs (Landing Ship Transports) were tied up. There were 16 LSTs assigned to the 157th Regiment. Company K was assigned to one ship all the rest of the Companies to others. The ships went out ten miles then turned and came with in eight miles of the beaches that we were to land on.
There were six Higgins Boats on each ship. The Higgins Boats set in cradles and when they wanted to put the LCVPs in the water the men would raise the craft to clear the deck and when it was over the water, release the two cables to let the boat down to the water. Now this is the first time the Navy boys had any experience of lowering the boats. The craft I was to get on, the two winch boys raised the boat and put it over the water. There were three men in the boat, one to steer the boat, and two to drop the ramp. The man on the front winch let the winch run and the boat headed straight down towards the water. The three men were hanging on for dear life! The man on the back winch held his winch so the craft didn't go all the way down. The front man ran his winch to level the boat, then they both let the boat down level.
The boats were out circling in the water then and then came in to the side of the ship, to the rope nets for us men to climb down into the boat. On the boat I was to get into, the driver, the Navy called them coxswain, forgot how to slow the boat down and was a boats length from the side of the ship when he gave it full throttle, and the boat raised up as it went to moving faster. The two men fell to the back part of the floor. The craft hit the ship and tried to climb up the ship and the two men flew forward and down to the floor they went. He got the craft backed out and made two more circles then came up to get up to the side of the ship and damned if he didn't so the same thing again - but the two men were hanging on this time.
Well, he got the boat to the side of the ship and we climbed in and got to the beach OK. The Officer in Charge of the Navy Flotilla asked our Colonel, if he knew that they were supposed to make two more landings that day. He said, "I think you can see my men need a lot of experience and if I can, I will see that they get it. Is there anything your men can do today?" I think it was Colonel Church said that they could find something us men to do. We went back to our area and cleaned our weapons and goofed off the rest of the day. The next morning we got on the ships at 0700 hours, and the sailors were really beat. We asked what happened and they said they went out a few miles and unloaded the boats, loaded the boats, tied down the tarps on the boats, unloaded, loaded the boats 'till supper time. An hour later they went back to unloading the boats, etc., and they did that 'till 0200 hours. They had to unload and load the boats in the dark and there was no moon light either.
The girls wanted us to
take the rations back and I said "No take them home." They picked up
the cans in their dresses' laps and ran home. We looked for our rifles and belts
but they were gone. The men had picked them up and taken them to the boat, The
boat had to wait on us. I asked the platoon sergeant why he didn't holler for
us. He said he forgot all about us 'till they were ready to move. He said we could
have stayed with the girls 'till they made the landing at 0200 hours. Seems like
we made the water maneuvers for three weeks starting the last week of June to
about the 18th or 19th of July.
The Navy boys just got through boot camp at San Diego California, I think. They got on the train and there were 12 coach and two dining cars. The train stopped on the docks and the men got off the train in St. Louis. The ships were brand new and each ship had their shake down cruse on the river before they were loaded. The ships were already loaded with officers and non commission officers. The men were standing in front of each ship. This was the first time men of the boots (those just out of boot camp) had seen a ship.
officer called off so many names and assigned each group to a ship. The Officer
in Charge of the ships, (I think he was a Lieutenant, in the Navy, which is the
same as a Captain in the Army) told them the names of all the men on the ship,
and one man got all the new men's names so there would be a record of where each
man went. Then he told them so many men go with each NCO. The NCOs took them to
their quarters and showed them their bunks. Then, each group was divided in half.
One half was assigned work stations such as the engine room or up by the cabin.
The other half slept. (The bunks were shared by two men. One was on duty, working
or eating, etc, and the other one was sleeping.) The ships raised their ramps,
and closed the doors on the front of the ships They threw off the ropes from the
docks and backed out into the river and headed down the Mouth to the Mississippi
river, and on out to the Atlantic. They said if the water had not been running
south they didn't know how the ship would have made it down the river. The ships
went to Naples and unloaded, then all the ships went to Anzio to pick up the 157th
Regiment to take us to Salarno. Then they came to Naples and started the amphibious
training and like I said "Company K" was assigned to one ship.