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The 10th of January, 1943, the Service Company had loaded all the trucks on flat cars, we got in the coaches and they hooked the truck on behind to go to Camp Pickett, Virginia by Petersburg, just outside of Richmond. Camp Pickett is now Fort Pickett.
There were snowdrifts everywhere. Where the trucks were loaded on the cars, the wind blew the snow underneath them so when the engine tried to move the cars, the train just moved a few feet. The engineer had to back the train up to the loading dock, and then he moved the train about 25 feet this time. He backed the train up again and this time got the train moving. The railroad sure took us a long way around to go 600 miles. The train left Watertown and went to Utica then headed west and I am not sure how it went but we got into Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania then some way east going to Baltimore Maryland. Seemed like we went
all over western Pennsylvania. After
we left Baltimore we went south to Camp Pickett, we left Pine Camp on January
11th and got to Camp Pickett the evening of January 14th 1943. We just got settled
in our barracks, when it started raining. It rained for 3 days and when the rain
hit it froze. Sometime after midnight the electricity went off. The next morning
we did not have Reveille because it was still dark, and the cooks did not have
gas for their gas lanterns so breakfast was late. That afternoon each floor of
the barracks was issued 2 candles, the 2nd day each got 4 candles, the 3rd day
8 candles, and the cooks got fuel for their lanterns, the 4th day we got 12 candles,
and the 5th day they got the electricity back on.
we were training, I think it was the Regiment, went to Newport News and got on
3 ships for 2 weeks for amphibious training. The ships went a few miles from Norfolk
and we started making landings from the ships with full field packs. Of course,
the Higgins boats had a 4-foot ramp in front so when the boats hit the beach and
the ramp could be let down, 2 men could go out at the same time. At night the
ships would drop anchor about ¼ mile from the beach. One night our ship
was on the right of the others and all of a sudden the loud speaker went to blasting,
"Man your Battle Stations!". The ship was dragging anchor and floating
toward the other 2 ships. In no time, the sailors were all over the ship. By the
time they got the ship to moving forward it was getting close to the #2 ship.
It turned its lights on so it would be seen. Our ship got to moving and raised
the anchor and moved about 300 yards then dropped anchor. Then it backed up to
see if the anchor would hold this time. We were there for 2 weeks making landings
everyday and some nights.
came back to camp, then later went to The Blue Ridge Mountains in the Appalachia
Mountain Range to maneuver in the mountain area. We were there about 18 days.
About every 2 or 3 days they would have us on a simulated Battle and the umpires
that checked our movement had Piper Cub airplanes and would fly over us. This
one day, we had been maneuvering for 2 days and came up on a clearing with no
trees on about 100 acres. The house was next to the trees on the north side. Whenever
the Piper Cub would fly close to the house the woman would come out and wave her
arms. So when the maneuvers stopped for the day, and we were close to the house,
as the plane flew over the woman came out yelling for the flying machine to go
away, we asked her what was the matter. She said she was afraid that flying machine
would knock off her chimney. We told her the plane had to fly high enough to clear
the tree tops, but I don't think we convinced her as when the plane flew over
again she still waved her arm and yelled.
One day we were out on the field with live ammo. There were men under the level of the ground that would raise a target - I think for 5 seconds but it could have been 10 seconds-then drop the target. There were 50 targets for the Rifleman to fire on. The machine gunners were on the right side of the course and there was a set of 5 targets that would come up. I was the Machine Gunner and had to flop on the ground setting up the tripod pod. The 2nd gunner set the machine gun on the tripod. The first ammo carrier brought the box of ammo so I could load the machine gun. As soon as I got lined up with the 1st target, I would hold the trigger to cover all the targets, or 'till the targets dropped.
There was a captain that looked like the Athletic Director that walked beside the machine gun section beside us with a radio telling the men when to pull the targets. A Platoon of 54 Riflemen would go through the course at a time. The men in the pits would count the number of hits on each target. We were on the last round for the day and were just about through the course. I had just fired on the last target and the Captain had walked ahead of my position about 30 feet. When the Riflemen were firing on the last target, someone fired at the Captain, just as he turned to walk back, and wounded him. It didn't take an ambulance long to get there to pick him up and take him to the hospital. When we got back to the Company area, before the Captain dismissed us, the Second Lieutenant that was the Athletic Director told us he know that bullet was meant for him and he apologized for what he had done with us. The next morning he transferred from the Company.
before we want to Camp Patrick Henry, the Rifle Company were practicing with Bangalore
Torpedoes and Bandoleer Torpedoes, a two inch pipe that's six feet long and fixed
so we could put one end inside the other pipe and turn it a ¼ turn and
it would lock in place. We could put several torpedoes together and there was
a cap to put on the end of the pipe so it could be pushed back on the ground,
sand to or through the barbed wire entanglements without getting stopped. There
were 11 pounds of dynamite in each torpedo. To set the torpedoes off, there was
the detonating cap that was as big around as a pencil and three inches long, then
a cloth covered fuse with powder inside, then a striker that fit over the fuse
and crimped the end over the fuse. When the wire was pulled out of the striker
sparks would fly into the fuse to set the powder on fire and it would burn to
the detonating cap exploding the torpedo.
It was getting close to time to come to the Company area so they let the Weapons Platoon come on ahead so we could clean our weapons (the machine guns and mortars). We got about 3/8 of a mile when we heard an explosion and figured they were going through the drill again. When the company came in they said there was an accident. What happened was that the three lieutenants and the three platoon sergeants got to betting which team man could set off the bandoleer first. Instead of saying which one could set up first. Each sergeant and lieutenant was with the man to set off the torpedo. The torpedoes flew out the side and not the end. One sergeant, when the man put the cap on the fuse, cut the fuse 2 inches from the end of the cap and put on the striker. It takes some pressure to put the cap in the end of the torpedo. The man had his arm up over it and had a hold of the end and had his face too close to the pipe so when he pulled the wire, the spark jumped to the cap and it exploded. There went his arm and face. The lieutenant was standing close and the concussion broke his right eardrum. The army sent that man home in a box.
first part of May, 1943 we got the orders we were going overseas but we did not
know where. I had a footlocker that I had to send home. The men that were married
had to make arrangements for their wives to be sent home, many of them pregnant.
The Division got on trucks and went to Williamsburg to Camp Patrick Henry close
to Newport News. My barracks was right next to the WAC Detachment and that was
the first time I had seen any WACs (Women's Army Corps). I think there was one
kitchen for each Regiment. The building was real big and the kitchen area was
in the middle with the mess halls on both sides. When it was time for a meal the
Company would fall in on the Company Street then march over to the mess hall.
By the time "K CO" got in the mess hall, here was "L CO" or
"I CO" ready to come in behind us.
never did date girls much in any one of the camps. While we were in Barkeley,
my buddy Culley from "L CO" would come saying he had a girl he wanted
me to meet. The worst part was that I never saw him have a girl over a month,
and the girl he would have for me, figured that I was like him - Full of Bull
S---. Or he would want to borrow $5.00, then half the time he would forget that
he borrowed the money.
first the 45th Division had 4 Regiments: The 157th, 158th, 179th, and 180th. When
the Division went in to the triangle, the 158th Regiment pulled out to another
camp and I heard they went to Panama. Culley got transferred in to the 158th before
they left the 45th Division. At Fort Devens, my buddy Jim and I would go to Boston
and would pick up girls for the day but nothing serious.
Pine Camp, Jim and I went to Watertown USO Club and two sisters picked us up.
They lived a few miles east of Watertown and that night they took us to their
place then brought us back to camp Sunday evening. They would pick us up 2 to
3 times a month on weekends, one time Jim and I was on KP (Kitchen Police help).
The cooks had 2 cases of "C" rations that had been opened with 2 cans
taken out of each box, one box had the cans with the meat and the other had the
crackers. Every time they cleaned the floor, they had to move the boxes and they
wanted to get rid them. I told Jim, "I bet the girls would like the rations."
So we asked the cooks, and they said to take the boxes, they were tired of moving
them. So we took the boxes up and put under our bunks 'till Saturday when the
girls came. We put the boxes in their car and they had to go back home and try
the rations. We told them to heat the meat cans up some, as they tasted better.
They got a can of meat and potatoes hash and vegetable stew to heat then. They
said, "You fellows eat like kings." We never did go to Watertown that
weekend. When we left Pine Camp the sisters were engaged to two brothers in the
same Air Force Company from Cheyenne Wyoming. When their unit moved to Watertown
they had a double wedding.
At Camp Pickett, I don't know how, but we met two college girls going to school at Roanoke. Every time we could get a weekend pass we would go to Roanoke. That June, the girls went back to Wisconsin and married their high school sweethearts. The new husband of the girl I was seeing was drafted into the Army and I suppose he went to OCS as he went to collage also.
We were at Camp Patrick Henry 5 or 6 days while the 5 ships loaded all the trucks and equipment of the 157th Regiment and their attachments, the 158th Field Artillery Regiment, etc. Early one morning we got on the train and went 30 miles to Newport News and came along side all the ships. The reason we rode the train was that all the trucks were loaded on the ships. As soon as everyone was off the coaches the train backed up to get another load of men.
By evening the 5 ships were full and they dropped the rope moors off the dock and we went out in the Bay between Norfolk and New Port News for several days. We would climb down the nets into the Higgins Boat and go around the other side of the ship and climb back on the ship. That was the first part of June.
The 5 ships that the 157th Infantry Regiment was on, were the USS Charles Carrole, the USS Thomas Jefferson, the USS Susan B Anthony, the USS Procyon, and the USS William P. Biddle. The USS William P. Biddle was the ship that I was on. More ships came and dropped anchor among us 'till there was 15 ships.
At 0800 June 8 1943, the rattle of anchor chains were heard all throughout the 15 ships, whistles blew and the armada slowly got under way. As we neared Norfolk more ships joined the convoy. There was an USS Navy cruiser and another large ship (there were 3 Navy ships), 2 oil tankers and 5 ships with cargo and a small harbor tug boat. Then there were 14 Escort Destroyers surrounding the convoy of 26 ships.
It was not long 'till we could not see land. As soon as we left the bay they told us we were going to North Africa. It took 14 days for the convoy to get to Oran, Algeria, N Africa. It did not take the ships long to make the zigzag course. The Skipper let the men sleep on the top deck, as it was so hot down below deck.
At night the water would have aluminum spots from the size of a Silver Dollar to 400 or more yard areas. As the ship went through the patches of aluminum you could look back and see the water light up gold dollars where it cut through. About 4 days out, the escort destroyers could come to one oil tanker to take on fuel. Many times I have seen a ship tied up on each side of the tanker, and sometimes there was another ship (a total of 3)tied up getting fuel. If the Destroyers dropped any depth charges they would go to the Supply Ship to get more depth charges.
The 3rd day the Company Clerk came to me, asking if I would go in kitchen mess the same as KP. Al (Al was in the 1st platoon I think) and I worked for 3 days and they would feed the sailors first and then the army men. We asked to work for 3 more days and the clerk said he would have to get other men after that. There were Flying Fish that would fly away from the ship. One day there were about 20 flew up at the same time, they would fly up to 200 yards. One night one was on the deck when we woke up. It was 16 inches long and had a wingspan of 18 inches.
porpoise would play around the ships. They would swim in front of our ship going
over to the ship on our left then swim back and they would swim for hours at a
time. Once there was a school of fish beside the ship and when porpoise came by
they sure made the water boil and in a minute they went to swimming again. Sometimes
the porpoise would get one behind the other and would come up out of the water
4 feet then dive into the water and come up again and they would do that clear
across both ships. It was really something to see. They kept us entertained most
of the way.
The 21st of June 1943 we went by the Rock of Gibraltar, then the 22nd into the Harbor of Oran Algeria, North Africa where we spent three days. The sailors went on pass to Oran and we stayed on the ships. The 25th the ships moved out of the Harbor out to sea and went to St. Cloud, a small village just east of Oran where we climbed down the nets into the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle and Personal). The New Higgins boats had a ramp all the way across the front of the boat so jeeps and trucks could drive off. We landed on the beach then went in and pitched our pup tents.
The 36th Division was over there before we got there and had places for us to march on hikes. There were charges of TNT that would go off as we moved through an area. There was also a firing range to fire our weapons. It was about time to go back to camp. In the last belt of machine gun ammo in the can of 250 rounds, I had to take out 25 bent shells. So when I went to firing the gun I was at the end of the belt, there was 6 to 7 rounds left. I gave the trigger another burst of 3 shells, when one shell went into the chamber, and just the cap came off leaving the casing in the chamber. The next shell fed into the chamber, but could not go all the way in. The machine gun is not supposed to fire until the bolt is in place and locked. But that shell exploded and blew brass and powder in the back of my hand and fingers.
A man took me to one of the 36th Division first aid station and two captains went to picking out the brass and powder. One would pick while the other wiped blood. Soon they got to cussing, they were missing out on their supper. I told them to go eat but they said they had to get my hand fixed. It took them 2½ hours to be able to wrap my hand. Then the man took me to our Company area. I had to get Cliff, our cook to give me cans of C-rations. On the ship I went to the ships medics, which our 157th Division medics helped. I had to tell the ship's doctors what had happened and they put my report in the ship's records. All four fingers had large cuts on them and the doctors said the 36th Division doctors should have put stitches on the cuts but it was a good thing they didn't as there were still brass and powder in the cuts. So they picked out more powder and brass and put on new bandages. We were on the ship 8 days and by that time the back of my hand was pretty well healed but my 2 fingers needed more bandages so when we landed on Sicily I had the first aid man bandage my hand and finger. I never went to our first aid station so that injury didn't get on my record. Two years after I was home from the army I still got brass out of my hand and fingers.
While we were going across Sicily it would be so hot in the middle of the day, we began to move out early in the morning, then stop about 1100 hours 'till about 1500 hours. We were along the coast and just stopped to rest when here came a jeep with two stars on the bumper. We stood up and I stopped the Jeep. There was General George Patton. I told him we were the leading element, that the Germans were somewhere ahead of us. He got out of the Jeep and talked to us before asking to see our officers so I took him to our Captain.
The next morning when we stopped, here came four trucks pulling 105 mm guns. They set up on an open area on the right side of the road. We told them we were the leading element and they said they had orders to set up here. The four guns were in a line about 50 feet apart. There was a building that we could see up on top of the hill that was back of us a 100 or so yards and there was a road that came down along the side of the mountain to about 250 yards then it made a sharp turn, and come toward us for 125 yards and then turned toward the highway we were walking on. We heard a motor start up and we could tell by the sound that it was a German vehicle. Soon a tank started down the road. All the gun crew bore sighted their guns on the road where it made the turn and loaded shells in each gun. The man on the 3rd gun said "It's my turn to fire the first shot". So when the tank made the turn he pulled the lanyard and when the shell hit the tank - right under the 88 on the turret, the turret went flying up into the air end over end and landed on the side of the road. The tank was on fire and rolled down to the turn in the road and ran into the ditch before it stopped. Some of the our boys went to see the tank and they said that just the driver was all that was in the tank.
When we went up through +Caltanissetta, we had climbed over rubble in the streets. We went on up to +Campofelice, and on to the north coast through +Cefalu on to +St. Stefano. There, one of the most fierce Battles in Sicily was Bloody Ridge. After we took Bloody Ridge there was a small mountain range running along the north coast with the road, the railroad, and then the beach. There was a tunnel the road went through, and the Germans blasted out the road past the tunnel, which was 6 feet deep and 12 feet long. We were walking farther then our artillery could fire and as we came around a hill there was an inlet where the water came in about 3/8 of a mile and there was a village on the other side.
German artillery opened up on us. We dug in on the hillside where there were olive
trees on the terraces. Every time someone would get out of his foxhole, the Germans
would lay in a barrage on us and would fire on us every hour. The second day the
engineer had a bridge strong enough for the Jeeps
to cross but had to make it stronger for the 6x6 tracks. The jeeps brought us
rations and water. The next morning the Germans really laid in a barrage on us.
I thought the German riflemen would be coming after the barrage, so I kept looking
out of my foxhole. To the left front of me about 20 feet, God and Jesus were floating
in the air right level with us. I told my buddy Don to look there, "God and
Jesus." While the shells were coming in we waved to them; they had flowing
white robes with belts and collars flowing red and blue. God turned toward the
Germans and waved his arms, the shelling stopped right then. We waved again and
they waved back and just like that they were gone. We told the other men we saw
God and Jesus but they did not believe us, as the two of us were all that had
came a Navy Destroyer. It lowered the seaplanes off the ship's fantail and into
the water. They would take off and fly over the village. The pilots would locate
the guns, then the ship would pinpoint the area and start firing. The ship turned
around firing 4 times then the plane flew back to the ship and the ship went back
to Palermo. Then here came the 3rd Division to relieve the 45th Division.
There was a building up
farther on the hillside and I told Don, my buddy, let's go up to the building.
When we got there the door was locked on the inside so we walked around the building.
We were standing by the door when I saw it open a crack and I could see somebody's
eye. I said we are American Soldiers. The door flew open and two young women came
out and hugging and kissing us. They had pallets on the floor but I couldn't see
any food anywhere. We took the girls to the "Company CP" and they got
some rations to eat. One of our men was an Italian and the girls said they were
working at the olive grove when we came so they went to the building. When we
moved out the girls went back to the village.
went back to Termimi Imerese close to Palermo and boarded the ships to make the
invasion by Falcone to get to Messina. When the Third Division met up with the
45th Division, the Germans were leaving Sicily. We got back on the ships and went
to Palermo+ then to Travia+ to the rest area 'till we made the landing in Italy.
On the 2nd of August, 1943 we were through fighting in Sicily.
About the 1st of September the Company Clerk got 16 of us men. One second lieutenant, 3 sergeants, and 12 men to guard three railroad bridges for four days. The cooks gave us four boxes of 25 and 1 rations - that was enough food for 25 men for one day. A truck took us a few miles to where the bridges were. There was a farm building that we stayed in. It was a 3-story building. The farm animals were on the first floor, the 2nd floor had the feed for the animals, and the people lived on the top floor. We put our bedrolls on the hay or straw on the 2nd floor. We gave the woman a box each day and told her what to cook for each meal. After the 16 men got to eat the family got to eat the rest. I think there were 8 in that family. They had a girl that was 20 years old and she would sit by me on the bedroll and we would talk using the Hand book of Sicily. I had the 2000-2200 hours guard shift. The second night the girl would go out with me to the bridge. As you know, I didn't do much guarding at that time. After we got to fighting in Sicily, I got to thinking I better start living it up or I was liable to be pushing up daises any minute!!
Click on map
Click on Map
The 8th of September 1943 the 179th Regiment and 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 157th Regiment boarded on ships to make it to Salerno+ Italy. When we made the Landing on Salerno we were in the 5th Army with General Mark Clark in change. The reason the 2nd Battalion and the 180th Regiment were left behind was there weren't enough ships to take the entire Division, as the ships were being pulled to England to prepare for the landing of Normandy in June of 1944. We got to the Salerno area the 10th of September and were supposed to be floating reserves but there wasn't any floating done . . .We went right on in. The 36th Division was supposed to make the initial landing but the Germans almost wiped the riflemen out, and the Army was giving the artillerymen rifles to try to hold the line.
We went ashore by Paestum and went inland three quarters to one mile and came up on 36th Regiment where 54 men were all killed with German bayonets. We couldn't see where any rifles were fired. The Germans took all of their rifles and ammo. We moved ahead about 200 yards and dug in. There was a rifle platoon and 14 machine gunners when dug in when here came (I figured a German Regiment) with bayonets on their rifles, figured to stab us like they had the 36th Division.
The lieutenant said to hold our firepower 'till they get closer. They got to about 125 feet from us when we opened fire and the Germans fell like ten pins. Each wave kept coming 'till about the 7th wave before they finally hit the ground and started firing back. The men that were down in front of them were no protection for the Germans as they were on a gradual sloop on a small hill and we could pick them off. The men that jumped up to run back we shot in the back.
Colonel Ankcorn had us move to another place. The navy gave orders for the troops ships to come back and pick up survivors that came to the beach. Colonel Ankcorn gave the order to put ammunition and rations behind the 157th Regiment - we were not pulling back! The ships went back to Sicily to get the rest of the 45th Division. We moved 3 times the next day and dug 3 different foxholes to make the Germans think there were more of us. We walked across a bridge on a dry creek that the Germans could see. Colonel Ankcorn had the company walk across the bridge then go back below the bridge, then walk over the bridge three times to make them think there were more of us.
4th day we walked by where our 105 mm guns were, a battery of the 158th Field
Artillery, was firing. They had stopped firing for a few minutes. They had fired
so many shells that the casing and cardboard were in a 'U' shape behind each gun.
They said they would have to move the guns ahead because the men couldn't throw
the casing any higher. While we were still there, here came a man driving DUKW
with 105 mm ammo. A DUKW is a cargo boat that is set on a 6x6 truck chassis that
goes out to the ships in the water to bring supplies into the beach area. The
driver ask "Where is the ammo Dump?" they said, "It's right here".
The driver said he was supposed to go to the dump and said, "Where is the
Ammo Dump?". The Captain said " You better unload right over there,
if you leave with that load you will only get to the bend in the road". The
driver said "Why?" And the Captain said, "You will have a 105 shell
in your hip pocket". It didn't take long to get the DUKW unloaded.
moved up to where we first came on to the beach but we didn't stay, as all the
36th Division men still laid where they were killed and the Germans didn't move
any of their dead. The smell was so terrible. Later after we broke through the
beachhead the gravedigger had to bury the 36th Division's men and the Germans
also. The 36th Division had to pull back to Sicily or to North Africa to reorganize.
The Division lost most of the riflemen as the men thought that this was like maneuvers
back in the States. For their foxholes, they just dug out about four inches deep.
(Thunder! I dug a deeper hole when I went to the bathroom!)
After we got to moving from the beach head, an artillery shell hit a tree and something hit me under my right eye. I told the first-aid men that were attached to the 1st platoon to put a patch on my eye and I didn't go to the first-aid station, so that wound didn't get put on my records either. Here I was wounded two times. I think we were on the beachhead three days when the corporal and sergeant in charge of the machine gun section got wounded. The corporal got wounded on his wrist and I don't know what happened to the sergeant.
the third day, here came in 12 P38 fighter planes - the planes that have the twin
fuselage and two motors. The engineers laid steel plates down on the sand so the
planes could land and take off. There was a crew to put ammunition and bombs on
the planes and to add fuel. The planes never climbed over 500 feet and would strafe
and drop their bombs, then right back to the landing strip. They said they never
had to put fuel in the plane - just the ammo. They would fly back to Sicily at
night. The men that put in the ammo on the planes could see the targets the P38s
were firing on.
All the rifle companies got two more machine guns, and being I was a first gunner, I was made Sergeant-in-Charge of the first section and Otis was in charge of the second section. So each platoon that would be on the line would have two machine guns supporting the platoon. For some reason, I was with the First Platoon that was to be the lead platoon, as they would rotate the 3 platoons and that would be the platoon I would be attached to. About all the men in the section know how to handle the machine guns, so we took eight men for ammo carriers, and four men for the guns in each section.
One man that was in my squad, Casey, didn't want to work with the machine gun and wanted to stay an ammo carrier. There was one replacement that came in to my section from Kentucky and he couldn't read or write. Every time he got a letter he would come to me to read it for him. So when we had some time off, I wrote letters home. I asked Clay if he wanted me to write a letter to his wife. He said "Boy I would really like that!". He knew his address then said "Dear Faye, How are you? I am fine. I love you. Clay". I said, "Wait a minute have you told her you were in Italy?" "No" " Have you said what outfit you are in"? He said "No". " How about being in the front line in a machine gun section carrying two boxes of ammo?" I wrote that, then I told her I was his Sergeant and he brought his letters for me to read. In her next letter she thanked me for writing for him. I don't know what happened to him, as I had to go to the hospital for two months with an ear infection.
Another man in my section showed pictures. Every time his mother sent pictures. One time he said they were of his twin sisters 7 years old and then the next time he said they were his daughters. One time we were in a foxhole for two nights, he told me when he was 6 years old his Dad died. Right after his dad passed away, his Mom had him sleep with her. When he was sixteen years old his mom got pregnant with twin girls. He was 24 years old when I knew him. I don't know what happened to him either.
When we would dig our foxholes if I was a even man I would dig with one of the ammo carriers but if I was a odd man I would dig one by myself. There were 15 men in the section two squads of seven men and the sergeant in charge. (Each squad had the First Gunner and Second Gunner and the 5 ammo carriers.) So I would count up all the men and myself, if the count was even - 10, 12, or 14, there would be two men to a foxhole. But if the number was odd 11, 13, or 15, there would be two men to a foxhole, and one man to a foxhole by himself. If there was a odd number, I dug a foxhole myself.
At night when we were on the front lines, the Supply Sergeant would bring up our rations, water, ammo, and many nights-cigarettes. I didn't smoke but I sure gave gum thunder, as I would have a stick in my mouth 24 hours a day. If there were any cigarettes left over I would take them, and most the time there would be one or two packs. I have seen times when there were over five packs.
I would carry the extra packs in my pack and when any of my men would run out of cigarettes, they would come to me and ask "Tarzan, you got any cigarettes?" Like one time on Anzio, the Germans were trying to push us back and we had our artillery firing shells in front of us, along with all our weapons. The Germans made three counter attacks that day. Talk about being nerve wrecking! I only had ten men in my section as four had gotten wounded. When the Germans finally stopped pushing, those 10 men came to me asking if I had any cigarettes as they were out. I had one pack so they all took a cigarette and smoked it. The ashes fell behind their lips. Later they wanted the last of the pack and I said "That all I have." And they said, " We know that". That night we got more cigarettes.
The 11th of September 1943 the 2nd Battalion of the 157th and 179th Regiments got to Italy. The 15th of September the 15th Division and the 34th Division came to Italy and the Germans were trying to push us off the beachhead. One night or evening the German Luftwaffe and ME-109 fighter planes came over to attack the beachhead. The British Spitfires and the P-38 planes intercepted them and after loosing several planes the Germans turned for home.
tobacco warehouse factory, Persano, Italy
can not remember the towns and cities we went through but I do know there was
a tobacco warehouse factory that the Germans were fighting for. At night, our
fighter planes would go back to their base and the German planes would come and
bomb the harbor. When we got to moving we crossed the Sele River. On September
19th the Regiment got to Eboli then on to Oliveto+. The 24th of September Colonel
Ankcorn's Jeep hit a land mine and his leg was badly mangled. He was sent back.
He was a good soldier and a good man. I really liked him.
we stopped moving for the night, the ground was so hard that it was hard to make
a dent in the soil. I had a pick mattock and could pick the dirt then take my
helmet to scoop out the dirt. I would let my men in the section use the pick also.
At one place we stopped, I was the odd man so I dug my foxhole alone. After we
got our hole dug we were standing around, having a BS session, probably about
girls, when the Germans laid in
a barrage on us. We dived into our foxholes. A shell either an armor piecing one
or a dud landed 1-foot beside my hole. A dud is a shell that does not explode.
The prisoners in Germany had to make the shells and sometimes they would fix the
shell so it would not go off. Sometimes, there were notes in the shells. When
the shell landed it broke off a layer of dirt 1-foot wide and 6 feet long on top
of me along with the dirt I had piled from digging my foxhole. I could hardly
breathe with all that dirt on top of me. When the barrage lifted the men got out
of their holes and said "Looks like Tarzan got it". I was able to say,
"You Sobs! Get this dirt off me so I can get out of here!". In no time
they had the dirt off me. A few years ago at one of our 157th Infantry reunions
we were talking about that and two men said "If we had known how mean you
were with us, we would have thrown more dirt on you." (I wasn't mean!!!)
As we moved in up the mountain ridges, we would be walking up the road and the Germans would have delaying action. They would have from 2 to 4 machine guns set up on top of a little hill and they would start firing on us. When we would get set up to fire on them they would crawl back and get on a truck and go tearing up the road. Twice, there were gullies to the right side of the road, and one squad of riflemen and the machine gun section went in the gully and got ahead of the Germans. When they came crawling to get their truck they gave up without a fight - even the truck drivers.
the Regiment would have so far to move forward and if we didn't contact the enemy
we would stop at that line for the night. After we dug in - I had a first gunner,
Rico, that anything I would say to him, he was all for it. One evening we walked
up to a barn and looked it over. It had a loft and we went up and were looking
out the door where they put the hay in the loft. I spotted some 81 mm mortar shells.
I said let's throw the shells out of this door to see if we can explode any. We
knocked the pins out of the shells and carried them up to the loft. It took three
trips to get all of them - there were 36 shells. We threw the shells and all but
five went off so we got them and threw them. When we got back up to the crew,
they asked us, "Where were you when the Germans threw in the barrage?".
I said, "We didn't hear anything." I looked at Rico and he never said
anything. If he had opened his mouth I would have decked him. The next evening,
he went into some bushes - I think to go to the bathroom, and when he came out,
he tripped a personal land mine. As he turned to see what it was, the mine jumped
up 1 foot and he got shrapnel in his right calf on his leg. I never saw him after
There were two
Negroes that were in the DUKW Company or Battalion that brings supplies from the
ships to the beach. One DUKW was filled with cans of gas I think, and they had
ten to fifteen gallons of wine. They were going to drive the DUKW back to the
States. I think they were at Bezerte and went though the Strait of Gibraltar.
They were two days out in the ocean when a plane spotted them. A ship picked them
up and brought them back to Africa. They were charged with being AWOL and stealing
GI equipment. I can't remember what the third charge was for. They got sent to
a Federal Prison. It was a good thing there was no storm or the DUKW would have
taken on water and sunk.
One day we were in reserve and when we came to a fork in the road a small city was off to the left. Our Major had "K CO" go to check out the city. How come my section was clear to the back of the column, I don't know, usually I was up close to the front of the line. There was a road that runs east and west and the road we were on curved into the straight road. There were bushes along the side of the road so we couldn't see anything coming, but my men said that they heard hobnailed boots. Then I heard them! They came out in the open on a dead run right for us. We tried to set up our machine guns and they were on top of us before a shot was fired. There were 46 German soldiers. They put their rifles on the ditch bank and took off their belts and helmets and put on caps. They surrendered; there was no fight in them. Here came a jeep with an officer a major - I think - and they took the prisoners back.
weapons platoon stayed at the Town Square while the rest of the company scouted
the rest of the city. I got to looking around as usual, and I looked up this doorway
a woman motioned for me to come up the stairs. I asked if there were any Germans
there, and she said no. She wanted to thank me for getting the Germans out of
the city and she led me to her bed. When we left there to get back to the highway
the 3rd Battalion was supposed to be just past the fork in the road but they were
not there. So my two first gunmen and I walked back about 100 yards. We yelled
"Are you bastards up ahead?" and waited for an answer. "Who in
the hell are you?". "We are the Katz n Jammer Kids." "We are
Ike.". We told them we had to go back to get the company. Then we pulled
through "I company". The 157th Regiment knew where the Germans were
set up about three miles ahead of us.
This was one of the few times four tanks were assigned to go with us. We were walking in a open grass field and were spread out, so when the artillery shells were coming in we would stop and run back to get out of the range of the artillery shell. The tanks would turn and come back with us. We told them to keep those Iron Coffins away from us as we didn't have any protection, and they said we could crawl under the tanks. When we made contact with the Germans, they started firing on us and we went to firing on the Germans, the tanks turned and went behind a little hill. I counted 7 machine gun nests. I think there were 3 guns in each nest and one shot from their cannon would have knocked out the nests. I sent my carrier back after more ammo. At the time I only had 3 ammo carriers for each gun. When I saw one gun only had 100 rounds and the other had 150. I said I would go to the tanks to see if I could get more ammo.
I got to the first tank and they had the hatches buttoned down, I pounded on the tank, the hatch opened and a periscope poked over the top and wanted to know what I wanted. I said, "I want machine gun ammo." "We don't have any." I said "What's that gun up on the turret and by the assistant driver." He said "Oh that kind". The hatch on the 2nd tank open and the lieutenant looked out and asked the same question, than asked how much I wanted. I told him "Could I have 8 boxes?" Each tank threw out 2 boxes from their hatch.
I ask the Lieutenant "How come you didn't stay and fire on the nests?" He said "There were no tanks and with bullets hitting the tank they couldn't stick their heads out of the tanks." I told him, You better have a guard out in case the Germans brake thorough our line. They would drop a Molotov cocktail down your hatch." I carried 2 boxes back to the guns and by then they were out of ammo. I got the two - 2nd Gunners to come with me to get the boxes. By the time the Germans pulled out we only had part of 2 boxes left.
One of my first gunners name was Cosso and a man started trotting back and Cosso started shooting at him, he got to running faster each time Cosso started shooting. Cosso fired 'till the man was out of sight. He turned to me saying "What's the matter with me, I didn't even hit him?" I told him, "Every time you hit him he got to running faster!"
Distinctive insignia of the
191st Tank Battalion
We were up on this mountain range and we could look to our left and see the ocean in the distance. We saw 32 German Fighter Planes in formation flying south. We thought they were our fighter planes going home for the night, as it was about one hour before sun down. We watched the planes go south then turn left then come up the highway we were on. We dived in our foxholes. The planes were low enough that one plane fired right over my foxhole knocking the loose dirt on top of us. It dropped its bomb right in front of our hole. The planes turned around and finished firing their guns when we heard a louder noise and looked up and here came 12 P38's - they had twin fuselage fighter planes - diving on the Germans planes. I saw one plane fire on one German plane; level off; fire on the second plane; then on the third; than made a loop up in the air; and went to firing again. But by that time they were on the other side of the hill, then we saw them flying back to their base. On this side of a hill about 1½ miles ahead of us there were 16 planes that hit the ground, we could see smoke coming up on the other side of the hill. The 45th Regiment put out a newsletter on 2 sheets of paper. When we got the letter it said 32 German ME 109 planes bombed and strafed our position and that a squadron of 12 P38s intercepted them. There were 25 or 26 planes destroyed and 5 or 6 damaged so all the German planes were hit.
It looked like someone took a razor blade and cut all the skin off my right kneecap. The first aid man patched me up and we went on to our objective. We just about had our foxholes dug when we got orders to move back. We were walking in two columns; I was to the back. Soon the Germans went to lobbing mortar shells 200 yards to our right, next it was 75 yards. I knew the next it would be right on us so I yelled up the lines to walk at a left oblique. The next barrage came, it was right beside us but still 75 yards away. The Germans fired four more barrages their shells landed 75 yards from us. After the barrages stopped I gave the command to "walk straight". When we got back to our line they told us that "I CO" on our right and "G CO" on our left couldn't break through and we were up where the Germans could get behind us.
34th "Red Bull" Division Patch
My other second gunner came to our company while we were still in the States, he was from eastern Ohio, was married and 34 years old. He worked for the city and during the summer he worked at a lake where there was swimming. He took care of the grounds. He had some venereal disease but it was negative. The Doctor told him his mother may have had the disease when he was born but he couldn't give anyone the disease. He said his mother died when he was young. His wife didn't have the disease. While we were at Camp Pickett he got two shots of penicillin and was suppose to get a third shot. Then we went over to Oran.
When we were in Italy we had a three-day rest period, the First Sergeant told him to be at the Regiment Headquarters at 0800 hours to go to the hospital to get a shot. He forgot about needing the Penicillin shot. He said there were 16 men that went to the Hospital. While they were waiting for the two captains to get ready, two nurses came in wanting shots, they said they were supposed to be working. When the doctors were ready, they told the nurses to bear their skin. The first nurse said, "What in front of all these men?" The doctor said "If you had not have showed your ass in front of men you wouldn't have had to take these shots", so she unfastened her pants and just showed some top part of the cheek on one side. The doctor that had the needle raised her shirt in back and the other doctor pulled down her pants and panties clear to her knees. She went to jumping trying to pull her pants up. The doctor told her she better stop or he may hurt her more giving her the shot, so she stopped moving. The other nurse saw what they doing so she dropped pants almost to her knees. He said the girls put on a good show.
wife would send him packages when we were in the states and he always shared it
with us. So when he got a package from her when we were in Italy, it was a foot
square. He opened the package and here was a tin can that 5 lbs. of cooked meat
came in, he took it out of the box saying, "What did she send Spam for?"
and laid the can off to his side and went to getting the other stuff out. I saw
the can was open so I raised the lid and could see paper, I moved the paper and
there was a top of a bottle. I put the lid back down and asked if I could have
the can. "Hell yes! I don't want any Spam". I put the can over on my
side of the pup tent, after he had looked at everything in the box and gave cookies
to all the men in our section then he asked me to let him see the can of lunch
meat. I teased him saying "You gave it to me." Finally I gave it to
him and when he saw the top was open, he raised the lid and took out the paper
and saw the bottle. He pulled it out of the can saying "My wife sure knows
what I like!" She had opened the bottle and filled it clear to the top then
put it in the can so it wouldn't slush any. It was a quart of Seagram's Seven.
We nursed that bottle for two days and when we were going to move out he let the
crew have the rest of the bottle. At Christmas one man got a tie and he said "Just
what I need on the front lines". I think he gave it to an Italian.
we would be at a rest area, it didn't take long for the kids to bring 5-LB. pails
to get what food that we would take to the garbage pit; to get what food was left
over. The cook would put the food into each one's buckets. Some even brought a
second pail for the coffee that was thrown out. At times there would be men coming
with cans, sometimes women would also come, as soon as the meal was over the kids
would hurry home.
people there were really poor. They had patches on top of patches on their clothes.
If they had a teenage girl or several girls they would pick one girl to service
the men for a dollar apiece. If they didn't have any girls the wife would service
the men. We were in an open field and across the road was a corn field, after
dinner a girl came to the "CO" area and showed her wares and that she
was ready to service the men. She had a blanket to lay on the ground and when
we left there were 53 men in line. Right where the Companies were close together
8 girls had set up camp and had a big canvas over head for shade with bunks to
lie on. One of the girls had an 11-year-old sister and she would perform fellatio
and only got half as much as the girls got for intercourse. She wanted more money,
so the girls told her what she had to do. When she serviced the 6th man she passed
out. A buddy and I went to see her, and the camp. A man was on her and she didn't
even move. The man said that she was really tight but it was like jacking off.
I have had girls from 12 years to in their 60's and the older woman had the most
experience. Another time about 1000 hours. One morning I saw this girl pass our
area, then that evening I saw her walking toward town. The next morning a jeep
driver saw her lying in the ditch and she was dead with $309.00 cash in her handmade
purse. We never did know how she died. The army found her parents.
about Death! I saw my share throughout the 16 months I was on the front lines.
Now I have tried to forget all those deaths I've seen, but twice it sticks to
me like it happened yesterday. The first one was we were walking on this road
when we contacted the enemy, the platoon I was attached to spread out to make
the firing line. I crawled up between two men to see where to set my machine gun
and each man on both sides of me got killed at the same time. Why I didn't get
hit I will never know (I just had good guiding or should I say guarding angels
looking over me). We rolled the two men over and set up our guns and went to firing.
The second time was when our Company was walking on this road when here came a
German column walking toward us. We set up our guns and started firing, after
about the seventh wave of having men fall, the German company finally started
spreading out and firing back. They had just kept coming and walking over the
dead, and fallen men. I think we got all the German men in that column. I don't
know how many boxes of ammo went through each gun but soon the gun on my left
stopped firing. I looked over and my first gunner was killed so I crawled over,
moved him over, and went to firing his gun myself. Just before the Germans pulled
back I ran out of ammo with that gun. As the men turned, my other gun ran out
of ammo. I had 8 ammo carriers and that was 16 boxes, I carried 2 and both gunners
carried a box, so that was 20 boxes for the two guns. That was the second time
we ran out of ammo.
Every time we needed a new gun, the supply Sergeant would clean the Cosmoline Grease off the guns with gas, as each gun was shipped in the grease to keep the moisture off of it. Meanwhile the Supply Sergeant got killed, so the man that took his place sent the gun up in the packing crate. So we had to scrape all the Cosmoline off the gun, so we could finally get something through the barrel. We took the gun out to fire it. With the first 10 rounds, we had to pull the bolt back to pull out the empty casing before the bolt would pull the shell out. Then, it would fire on a delayed action 'till after 100 rounds went through the barrel and started warming up the grease. Then the grease put up a white smoke. We ran a belt though the gun - 250 rounds - then wiped all the grease off that we could. After that, the supply man would clean the guns with gas before sending them on the front lines.
56th Evac hospital in support of VI Corps at the winter line, Italy, 1943
The 26th or 28th of October I got up that morning with a real earache. So I went to the first-aid station and the two doctors gave me eardrops. That afternoon they were waiting to send us back to the front. My face was hot so I asked the sergeant if I had a temperature. He found I had a 104-degree temperature. So he changed my orders to go to the Field Hospital. I got there that evening, but the ear doctor was not at the hospital so a medical doctor gave me a pain pill and sleeping pill so I could get some sleep. The next morning the lieutenant looked at my ear and said to put sulfa salve in my ear for four days. The salve didn't stop the pain. I had an Acute Otitis Media. Another man had the same thing in the same ear. We were moved into a ward that had wounded men, and the nurse was as busy as a cat on a tin roof. The first time she put drops in my ear the oil was cold, I could not ----- say anything it hurt me so bad, the same thing happened to other man. The next time we asked her if she could heat the oil up as the cold really hurt our ears. She said she was sorry she never thought of that.
My bunk was right next to two men, one had his chest bandaged and the other his stomach was bandaged. Within the six days we were there, both men passed away with in a hour of each other. A fighter pilot passed away that night. The morning of the seventh day we were there, they took us to Maples to either the 21st or the 23rd General Hospital (as I would be in both). We got there at noon, after we ate we saw a major and he looked at our ears and said "How long have you had this?" I told him "For seven days". "What hospital were you in?" I told him. He said he had trouble with that lieutenant before and would do something about that. He scraped my eardrum for 30 minutes it seemed, then put medicine that made my ear stay warm. I could touch the tip of my finger on the cotton and my finger would stay warm for up to 30 minutes.
The next day he put more medicine in my ear then the third day took out the cotton and scraped my ear again and more added more medicine. Sunday night I got sick and tried to throw up my heels. I had Yellow Jaundice. Monday the Major told the Medical Department about me. I couldn't eat anything 'till Wednesday morning, I started drinking orange juice so the ward boys kept bringing all kinds of juices and later canned fruit.
The Major asked if any doctor came to see me. I said "No". That night there was a bomb raid and everyone went to the basement. I was still too weak to walk very far, so I just stayed in bed, later a nurse came in the ward, saw me, and asked why I wasn't in the basement. I told her I was too weak to walk, she said the litter bears should have taken me down. So when all was clear, and the men came back up, she really gave the litter bearers hell for not taking me down. They said they thought everyone was down.
Friday morning the Major really got on the medical doctors for not coming to see me. They said they thought I had gone to see them. Here came three doctors to see me and they gave me some medicine and said it was a good thing that I was eating something. After we were in the General Hospital for over three weeks we were put on a hospital ship and went to Bizerte. The Major told us we were going to North Africa to recuperate and let our ears heal up.
I can't remember the number of that General Hospital but it was made up of Hospital tents - just the main offices were wooden. I was in "A" block, there were ten tents to a block. The A & B block was on the 1st street, the C & D block were on the 2nd street, the E & F were on the 3rd street and the mess hall was on the 4th street. Everyone that could walk would go to the mess hall. Each block would fall out for each meal, get to the hall all together then the next block would go. I didn't know it, but after I was at the hospital two weeks here came a man from the 3rd platoon. He was a Finn (his parents or grandparents came from Finland). He was in C block right in front of me.
Nurses in North Africa
The next morning the doctor came through with the Head Nurse. Later the nurse came to him asking if he was a Finn, as she said she was also. He said he was from Wisconsin he said the city, and she said she lived 20 miles from him. One's parents came from Finland and the other's grandparents. He asked her how he could find a girl while he was there. She told him to be in the last tent after bed check, she would be there. The second morning he was itching. When the doctors came around, he asked them why he was itching."Ho When he lowered his PJ's the doctor said he had the crabs. They asked him how he got the crabs? He said, how could I get a girl around here?!?" The doctors told the ward boys to put blue ointment on him (blue ointment was about like axle grease). The way he talked, it was witch hazel that they put on him. The nurse came to him later saying, "I'm sure glad you didn't tell how you got the crabs", because the lieutenant was with her the other night and gave her the crabs, and she didn't know it 'till last night. He said, "I'm not that dumb, I want more of that stuff". He said one of my first gunners Cosso came in his tent about the time I left.
we were in the hospital, there was a road along side of the hospital and people
were going both ways. They had a lot of transportation, anything from walking,
to riding donkeys, two wheel carts and wagons, to some cars and trucks. It was
nothing to see a man riding a donkey or horse, and his wife to be walking behind
him carrying a big bundle on top of her head. A ward man could speak their language,
and he told us he asked the man "Why don't you let your wife ride the donkey?"
He said, "She don't have a donkey". Then he asked, "Why don't you
put the bundle up on the donkey?" "She don't have a donkey". Then
he asks, "Is part of the stuff yours?" He said, "Yes, but she don't
have a donkey".
saw a man in the field plowing with a wooden plow with a camel in the middle,
a cow on one side and a donkey on the other side. We could see both animals' backs
under the camel. There was a row of palm trees alone the side of the road. We
saw how they would get cluster of dates down to the ground, the trees were about
20 feet tall. A man would climb the tree and tie the cluster to a rope then cut
off the cluster the let the cluster down with the rope and someone on the ground
would catch the cluster. Each tent would have a paper barrel 1 1/2 feet across
and 2 feet tall full of dates so we could get all the dates we wanted to eat.
When the dates would get low, here came another full barrel.
We thought we would eat Christmas dinner at the hospital, but after dinner one day, they gave a bunch of orders that we were going to the Replacement Depot - that was 24th of December. We got to the Replacement Depot late that afternoon and we were assigned tents. Then here came more men from other hospitals. The Depot didn't get any supplies because a supply ship came in late with the food supplies. I suppose that is the reason the hospital turned us out to the Replacement Depot. What food the cooks had, they fixed for us. I left the table still hungry. Christmas morning the cook gave each of us a small pancake and a half-cup of coffee. For dinner all they had was some sauerkraut. I like some sauerkraut but not enough to make a meal of it, and especially not Christmas dinner. We didn't get any thing for supper or breakfast the next morning. At 1300 hours here came a truck with a load of bread, then here came two trucks with food. The last truck had some canned meat. The cooks went to slicing the bread and meat for sandwiches for us. As soon as they had some ahead we started going though the line to get sandwiches.
6 barrel mortar
Before I went into the hospital the Germans got a U 6-barrel mortar. I think they fired it off electrically, and as the shells flew through the air they would really scream - the sound would raise the hair on your neck. They would fire them at night. We called them screaming meemies. I don't know if they did any damage when the shells landed. Everyone said they played the Purple Heart Blues. One night the moon was shining bright and they had my section out on point. The Captain gave me his binoculars, about 2400 hours I saw a pickup or car coming over 900 yards then it turned and I saw it was pulling a trailer. Two men got out, and soon here came the screaming meemies. As soon as they had fired them all, they jumped in the command car and got out of the area before our artillery was introduced to them.
One time we were beside the British, and we would be going forward. At 1000 hours and at 1430 hours they had to stop for tea & crumpets. This one morning we had not gotten started moving, when the Germans went to counter attacking the English. There was a small hill between us on our right. Bud came with his periscope rifle and jumped in my hole with me. When a German would show himself, Bud would shoot him. Up to our right front, I saw 7 men standing. Two men were standing in front. There were two in the middle and three behind. I asked Bud if I could see the gun. I looked through the scope and saw the men were officers and the two in front were high ranking officers. I set the sight for 500 yards (back in the States when I fired the gun with the scope on the 500-yard range I made expert both times I was on the firing range). There were three shells still in the gun, so I fired on one of the men that was on the back, he went to stepping backward about five steps as he fell. The second man spun around and fell forward. The third man just fell backwards. I got a clip of shells out of my belt, and had to put one shell in at a time as the scope was in the way to put all five shells down at once. I fired on the two men in the back again, and then fired on the first man in the front. The other man saw him fall and turned and started running back. Just as I pulled the trigger, he turned sideways to the right and I missed him. But, he kept running straight back so when I fired again it looked like somebody had really kicked him hard in the butt as he raised up and started running faster as he fell forward, I saw him bounce when he hit the ground. Bud said "Tarzan, you are really good hitting the men that far away." We never saw any of the men get up, and soon the Germans moved back. When we moved we contacted them at 1000 yards (about 5/8 miles up ahead).