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***About the 20th of July the Regiment let us do anything we wanted for ten days and most all the men would go into Naples. Each company got so many passes and the Captain would give the passes to the men that would likely get in trouble with the MPs "Military Police". I could go any place without a pass. All my section but one man could go to town without passes. Sometimes they would team us up with someone who was likely to get into trouble, but didn't have a pass.
This one day they teamed me up with a man in the mortar section and we went into Naples. There was always a kid five to eight years old come running up to you asking if you wanted a drink, Joe want to eat Joe, want a piece of ass nice girl 16 years old. You never knew what you would get with them kids. It might be their ten year old sister. When the first kid came up to us, he took him up on it and I went with him and it was in a dirty place.
I waited for him and he took on two different girls so later when a man ask if we wanted a woman I told my partner I went with you so now you will have to go with me or I will take you back to camp so he went with me and the man took us to a clean place and to a woman about 40 years old and she was really good.
We had heard about a new bar that was three blocks to the east of Via Roma the main street in Naples. So we walked the three blocks but didn't know which way 'till we saw it was three and a half blocks to our right across the street. So we started walking on the right side of the street, had walked a block when out of the door came the British sailors and the U S sailors. and two were fighting and more men came out of the bar around the men fighting. We walked to with in a block of the place and by that time there were about 25 to 30 men fighting. Two men had wine bottles and when one got hit he broke the bottle over the man's head. then another man hit him when the other man hit this man on the head with the bottle. Here came the MPs, and the British police in Jeeps 3/4 tons then 6x6 and my partner still wanted to go over where the fighting was. I told him if he went over there I would leave him there so he stayed with me.
police stopped the fighting then took everyone that was standing outside of the
bar. The next morning when the 45th news letter came out, it said at the bar a
fight started and the police were called and 64 men was arrested, 36 for fighting
and 28 for not stopping the fight. I showed the letter to the man that went with
me and he said he was really glad he stayed with me. I don't remember what we
done that evening but it was 2200 hours when we got back to camp.
the 6x6 trucks and jeep and 3/4 tons went through the area about 100 to 125 feet
from our pup tents the dirt in the road was 2 1/2 to 3 inch deep in dust and it
would flow like water and all the drivers had orders to drive slow through the
dust, so not to raise to much dust as the vehicle went by. But one truck driver
would speed up when he came through on the road just to see the dust splash from
the front wheels and he really raised a fog of dust and if the breeze was headed
toward our tents they would be covered with dust. We could tell when he was coming
on the dirt road, as when he would slow down he would push in the clutch then
race the motor before he would apply the brake. We saw him when he slowed down
to get on the dirt road and six of us were standing in front of our tents and
I said let's make a line across the road and stop him and he had to stop. I jumped
on the running board and grabbed his shirt and boy was he really hanging on to
the steering wheel. I said you SOB stop doing this. What am I doing? I said you
are seeing how far the front wheel will spray the dust and you make a dust storm
every time you come by. So if you do it again we know where you guys are camped
and we will came with brick bats looking for you . Tell your buddies that will
be sticking up for you they will get the same thing and you better damn sure remember
this or you will have knots on your head. After that he went slower than usual
through our area. Another thing I could never figure out why the army never sprayed
water on the dusty road to keep down the dust.
One afternoon a bunch of us were out by the road when I got a bright idea to see what a bandolore torpedo would do in the dust. All three platoons men ran to got their bandolores, and I think there were 12 as each platoon had four each, but they forgot to get any detonating caps so one man ran back and got one. He had just pulled the striker wire when here came a 6x6 truck and we really wave to get him to stop. We had the torpedo in the left lane so as not to blow as much dust toward our tents. When the torpedo went off it sure made a mushroom cloud of dust and it went over 100 feet in the air. There was very little breeze and the dust started falling down. It sure cleared the road of dust. When the truck came up and saw how we cleared the dust in that spot he said you should do that to all the road.
Some afternoons, my buddy that grew up on a farm also and I would go to some farms around our area. We walked to this one small farm where a man and woman about our age was winnowing their pile of grain. The woman talked with us then held the sack for her man to fill the sack then carried it to the grainer. We asked if they had any more shovels, so she went to their neighbors to get the shovels and we went to winnowing the grain. It kept the man busy taking sacks to the grainer. Soon the woman went someplace and came back with a bottle of good wine. We finished up just after sun down. They wanted us to stay for supper and she fried a big pan of potatoes, had tomatoes and sweet pepper and another vegetable. that I can't think of and some kind of Italian cheese. Boy she put something on the potatoes because they were really good. We got to telling about farming in the States. It was all most midnight when we went back to camp.
I think the 1st of August we got everything ready to get on the ships the next day the 2nd of August. I always carried a shelter half with me all the time as when we were in Sicily even though it was hot in the day time at night it would really cool off so when the bed rolls never caught up with us I had something to cover up with. It was light to carry. All the clothes we had was on our back, so all we had was a rain coat, mess kit, and shaving articles. We traveled light because we had to carry so much ammo.
The Garritroupers, they were the men that were too far back to be shot at and too far forward to wear ties. They got to pick up all the souvenirs as they had trucks to carry their loot. We loaded on the LSTs that morning of the 2nd, then went out into the bay and dropped anchor. For ten days we set out in the bay and every night the German planes would fly over. I don't know where the 3rd,34th, or 36th Division were at in Naples, Rome area. All four Divisions were in the 7th Army under General Patches.
One day Otis and I were standing at the rail of the ship and I told him I had a feeling I wouldn't stay in France long. He tried to talk me out of the feeling saying we would go all the way through France. Well I forgot about it. Every day a landing craft would bring supplies to the ships. The ships would open their doors and lower the ramp down to the craft, so to put the supplies on the ship. They wanted volunteers to carry the supplies to the kitchen or cabins. My whole section would volunteer just for the exercise. I even got in the craft to help unload the supplies. I think the 11th, the landing craft really had a load, at least five times as much as before, and it had the "K" ration also. The LSTs were a flat bottom ship that only drew four feet of water, so it could come close to the beach. The LST were about 50 feet wide as five 6x6 trucks could be side by side and have room between them. Each ship was about 400 feet long and had two decks. The top deck had a ramp to let down to the first deck so the trucks could drive up on the top deck then raise the ramp and fill the lower. There was nothing on top of the upper deck.
The morning of the 12th the convoy started moving, and on the 14th the convoy went between Sardinia and Corsica Islands, south of France. At 600 hours we were on the Higgins boats to get ready to make the eight miles in to the beach. The Navy was really shelling the beach as we were moving forward. The same feeling came over me I wasn't going to stay in France long. I was in the second wave as we were suppose to be five minutes behind the first wave, so they could set the bandolore torpedoes to clear the barb wire so the rest of the waves could come inland without any trouble.
There were 38 men in each boat. When we hit the beach we stepped out on the sand and never got our feet wet. As a matter of fact all five landings I made I got on the beach without stepping in the water. One time a Sergeant and his squad had to wade water up to their waist as the Higgins boat hit a sand bar 150 yards from the beach. The road was full of "CO I" so we went up behind the house on a hill side to catch up with the rest of the Company when a mortar shell landed eight feet to my right. I felt something hit my upper left leg but I couldn't see any hole but when the man in front of me and behind me were both bleeding, one, the side of his mouth and the other his hand, so I looked at my leg again. When I saw the small hole so I opened my pants and had blood running clear down to the top of my leggings. The two men had taken off their packs and were laying on the ground. I took off my pack. The first aid man was right there and started to get into his bag when I said we better move from here as the next shell will land right between us. Joe the first aid man said we better listen to Tarzan because he has been a round a long time, so we moved a 100 feet to a rock terrace when another shell came in and I could see two packs and they were riddled. After Joe got me bandaged, I told the two men they weren't going to die to get up and look at our packs. All they said, was wow! boy we are sure glad we listened to you.
We heard muffled hand grenades go off in the cement pill box the mortar was in and there were no more mortar shells after that. Less than five minutes from the time we landed I was wounded. We walked back to the beach. The beach Officer a Major said I don't know what to do with you boys as I am afraid the artillery will start coming in. The first aid station will not get to the beach 'till the ship come in to the beaches. He went to wringing his hands wondering what to do here, when here came three men that tripped personal land mines and got shrapnel in back of their legs. So here are six men standing on the beach.
Soon the Major asked what ships we got off of. I don't know how he did it but here came an empty Higgins boat wanting the wounded men. By that time here came two more men, we got on the boat and went out where the rest of the boats were circling. One of the Navy boys that was in bottom said "I wonder when is a good time to celebrate? I think now is the time ." He reach down beside the boat and had a quart bottle of champagne. He opened the bottle and started to pass it around and I said its your bottle you take the first drink, so he did. I can't say as I like champagne all that well but that champagne hit the spot. I suppose because we were so nervous at making the landing. The bottle went a round twice and the first man got to kill the bottle.
When the ships got up to us, the Higgins boats went to be put back on the decks of the ships and they asked if we could climb up the rope net and as we climbed up to the top all the men on board got hold of us and lifted us over the railing. Then asked all kinds of questions, like how far did we get in, and what was it like, and all we could tell them we were wounded on the beach. Soon the Officer in charge of the ship told all the wounded men to get down in the hole for less danger of artillery shells hitting the ship. I would have loved to see how the ships were unloaded but it didn't take much time to unload the ships.
We could hear the trucks as they moved to the front of the ship. It wasn't long 'till the ship backed away from unloading, then later the ship started moving. They fed us supper then I walked over on the lower deck and no one was there, so I went upon the top deck then I walked around the cabin. I saw two man standing on the fan tail, there was the housing for the machinery to steer the ship, so I walked back to where the two men were standing and heard a man saying, well that one didn't go off. That one didn't go off either. There were about 25 or 30 men on the fan tail. They had gathered up all the loose hand grenades that were left behind. As I can remember at first all three rifle platoons, each man was issued four grenades, then later they were cut down to two grenades each. There were fourteen boxes with 48 grenades in each box so that would have been 672 grenades so when the men cut back to 2 grenade there were 336 grenades being on the floor of the ship. The sailors picked all of them up and put them in five heaping boxes and had them out on the fan tail to throw them.
I ask how they throw the grenades and a man pulled the pin and threw it about 20 feet and it hit the water. Well between the ship wake and the grenade sinking in the water, they couldn't see the grenade go off. I asked them if they wanted a grenade to go off in the air and of course all of them said yes. They let me get in the middle and I picked up one but I didn't say that it took five seconds for the grenade to go off so when I let the handle fly off the grenade, here I have live ammo in my hand, and there is really a commotion around me as I throw the grenade into the air. It went off up in the air. I looked and the deck was clear.
I stood there for
a whole minute before I saw anybody. One man stuck his head around the housing
then said, he's all right. A man on the other side said he's OK. They all got
around and wanted me to throw another, I told them they had to stand here and
watch. OK we will. I pulled the pin and let the handle fly and the same thing
happened, but this time the men looked sheepish as they came back. They wanted
me to throw another and they said they would stand to watch me. I pulled the pin
and let the handle fly and there was still a commotion on the deck. There were
only three men standing beside me. Some wanted to stand and the other tried to
move, and they knocked everyone down on the deck. Its a wonder that no man fell
over board in the shuffle. I threw the forth one and six men moved so I threw
the fifth one and all stood to see it go off. I told them it took the grenade
five seconds to go off from the time the handle flow off and to throw the grenade
into the air like you are throwing a soft ball from center field to home plate.
So I got them to throwing and some would pull the pin and let the handle fly but
wouldn't throw it high enough and it would hit the water before it would go off.
Boy we sure had a sham battle going on in back of the ship. There were grenade
fragments on back of the ship where the exploding grenade flew the shrapnel. Nobody
The next morning the LSTs headed in to the dock There were sixteen ships and a truck was waiting in front of each ship ready to take in the supplies and get back out before the Free French would load. We were in the third ship from the left of the dock, 200 yards forward and as soon as the trucks came out of the ships the Frenchmen went to loading on. They were really happy as they were going to their Fatherland. By the time the ambulance got to us, the ships closed their doors and were backing out to get in convoys going back to France. We were taken to the hospital and Doctor looked at us and told us to go eat dinner. As soon as we finished, we were taken to the airfield and got on a C 47 cargo plane and flew to Naples. The planes flew over Anzio. The two highways that went to Rome were lined with wreaked vehicles.
got to the General Hospital at 1730 hours and two Doctors were looking at us.
All the men ahead of me got to go to supper but when they came to me, they ask
when did you eat last? I said at noon, and they said you are going to the operating
room. So I went to X-ray then to the operating room and they gave me ether. It
was getting day light when I came to the first time, and I could see my leg. It
was all red, I was bleeding, but I went back under. So when I came out again I
tried to rub my finger over the blood, but I passed out again. the third time
no blood was on my fingers. The piece of shrapnel that was in my leg was about
the size of a small pencil and was sharpened on both ends it was 3 1/2 inches
long. It went straight into my leg then turned right next to my bone. Just as
soon as I could, I wrote a V mail home to Dad and Mom telling them I was wounded
again. My sister had just turned fourteen years old and she had two bothers in
the service but didn't think so much about it. My bother was in the Navy. Sis
know Mom would worry a lot about me.
After two days the Doctor put a butter fly tape over my wound, and told me not to move for four days after I was operated on, as they didn't want it to tear the muscle and skin loose as it was starting to mend together. Boy, have you ever tried to use a bed pan when you were flat on your back. Two ward boys would raise me up and a nurse would put the bed pan under me and the same operation when they took it out from under me. Three times a day the nurses would give a back rub. One would roll me on my side while the other rub my back. If I would try to move the nurses would holler at me to lay still. I was too close to the nurses station and their desk Boy I never was so glad when the Doctors said I could get up. He said he didn't want me walking fast for a few more days.
saw Chaplain Loy, our Battalion. chaplain walking down the row of beds and I called
to him. He came to my bed and I told him what happened and he said he was in a
hurry to catch the ship to go back to France but he said he had two sheets of
paper and said I don't suppose your name is on the sheets. He started reading
off names, and at the bottom of page two, Sergeant Vere L Williams Missing in
Action. So I had to tell him again, so he could write everything down to take
back to Regiment Headquarters in France. I think I sent three V mail letters home
while I was in the Hospital. Some time after I was wounded the Dept. of the Army
sent Dad and Mom a telegram saying I was missing in action. Ardith said Mom and
Dad were really worried. They didn't know what to think when they got my second
V mail letter. I think that's when Ardith started worrying about me.
On the eighth day the Doctors said I could go on a afternoon pass. I didn't have any money so I went to the Hospital blood bank gave a pint of blood and got $10.00 and that was the last money I got 'till I was in the states for two months. The Hospital had slips and I can't remember what it was called but you could sign up for ten or twenty dollars and the next day they would pay you the money. I signed up for twenty that day. Went to get the money the next morning and a red line was drawn though my name. The Hospital had my records and would get paid at the end of the month. The first afternoon I just walked around all afternoon. The next afternoon a man from "K CO" went out with me but some how we left the Hospital in the morning and was walking on Via Roma when a big boy got to talking with us, was asking all kinds of questions. He said he was taking English in High School. Soon he asked if we wanted a girl and we said sure. He took us to a town square and we went to the fifth door and went up stairs. There were two old woman one about 50 the other about 70. The Boy told the woman we wanted to see Mary Ann, so the woman left and was back soon with a real nice girl about 22 years old. My buddy wanted to be first and went to the bed room while I talked to the woman so when they came out she took me in. She didn't want any money as she wanted an American souvenir so I tried to help her out. The next day I went there but Mary Ann wasn't there she went to some church meeting.
Army WACs, the women solders, the first two I had seen overseas were working in
the ward that I was in. The WACs would not go out with the Infantry men or any
one that wore woolen uniforms in the summer saying we were hired killers as we
would kill the German soldiers. I asked the two girls who they went out with and
they said Oh we go out with the Air Force men and they go with two machine gunner
on a B17. I said they don't kill anybody?. They said No, they do not fire on anybody.
I said when the plane drops the bombs, where do they land? They said on their
targets. I said the bombs don't kill anybody and they said no. I said I have walked
through and fought in cites that were bombed. The smell from the dead was so strong
you couldn't stand it. Later the girls said their boyfriends said they shot at
planes but didn't kill anybody "Yah right".
I had not been in the part of Naples where Mary Ann lived, so I got to looking around, came up to an open art museum that covered a 1/3 of the block. I just got started looking around when a Sergeant WAC came in and soon she was talking to me and asked what Division I was in. She said her brother was in the 29th Division that landed at Normandy and that he was wounded but she didn't know how bad he was. I told her I was a Sergeant too, in charge of an air cooled machine gun section, she said her bother was in the light machine guns also. We talked as we moved to the back of the area. She said she needed to change her pad as it was full. she said she was flowing heavy. She turned her back to the open area and raised her dress and lowered her panties. I held up her dress so no blood would get on it while she put on a new pad the Kotex was really full.
Later she knew where there was a USO Club so we went there. I told her I would be leaving the hospital the 5th of September, she said I can see you next week end. Then looked at a calendar she was carrying, said no I can't, I have to work next weekend. She had to work every fourth weekend. She said if she wasn't flying the red flag she knew where she could take me to bed. I told her I was wounded three times officially. Unofficially five times and told her how they all happened. She said she didn't want to write to someone that was on the front lines like her brother as she worried too much about him.
I wished we would have keep in contact with each other. I never had any more contact with the WACs as I was in three different hospitals. I know WACs were in Paris and England. A woman in the DAVs, was a WAC in Camp Pickett VA, a year after I was there. She was an ambulance driver and said the biggest scare she had, one afternoon had a call to go out in the field. As she went over the railroad tracks at the warehouse she heard a loud bang and thought a switch engine hit her, but she went on out in the field. When she jumped out and ran behind the vehicle she couldn't see any damage as she opened the doors and here the wooden bench was supposed to be up on the side fell when she went over the tracks. It took the rest of the afternoon for her heart to quit pounding and then some.
The 30th when I went back to seeing Mary Ann again, I think. The 7th of September when I was discharged from the hospital to the Replacement. at the race track. They wouldn't let us go on a pass as they said we were on a constant alert. We were there 'till the evening of the 12th and we got on a Polish ship. When Hitler took over Poland the ships were out to sea, and instead of going to Poland it went to England. The British made it a troop transport and it still had the Polish crew on the ship. Tring to communicate with them in Pole was almost impossible.
For some reason the ship wasn't loaded out that night and had to wait 'till 1400 hours on the 13th to leave port. There were twelve men in each ward room. There was a bath tub for the room also. One man jumped into the tub and really leathered up his head then tried to wash the soap out of his hair, it was salt water and it's almost impossible to wash out soap, in saltwater. It took him a hour to get out all the soap. Boy no more baths. The supper meal we had to stand at tables to eat. The meat was some kind of roast meat about 1 1/2 inches thick cut 1 1/2-inch wide by 8 inches long. We couldn't hardly cut the meat with a table knife and what we could cut was as tough as shoe leather and couldn't chew it. I went to get a slice of bread. The bread has the texture of biscuit dough as there was no yeast in the dough. I saw the bread moving up and down and said this bread is moving up and down. They said you are seeing things. I said I sure in the hell am. I picked up a slice and broke in open there was little white worms eating the bread. I didn't eat much supper. The breakfast meals were better as the meal was yellow corn meal mush. The cooks were as black as the ace of spades like the French Morocco Soldiers.
The Ship got to Marseille France the 18th and we went to the Replacement Depot. The 19h through the 22nd we got to go on passes to Marseilles, and the whole time my buddy and I never got any woman and there were woman everywhere. The 23rd we loaded on the train at 1500 hours but it was over four hours before the train even moved during the night. I know the train was setting on a side track that morning. The train only went 50 miles or 50 K and, as I can't remember when the engine broke down if it was KM it was only about 31 miles. The officer in charge of the train said we could go to the village, as the engine wouldn't be here 'till 2000 hours So a Corporal from the 2nd Battalion. and I went into town and wandered around 'till 1800 hours and started back to the train when we saw a train going up the road. I said I bet that is our train and sure enough we walked around the hill and the train was gone.
went to the depot and the American transportation Railroad Battalion was running
the trains. The man told us there would be an ammo train coming in two hours so
we waited at the depot. When the train stop we got on an open car with 500 pound
bombs, the whole train had bombs on it. When the train got to the next train division
it stopped for the night.
A French Policeman took us to an English run hotel and we slept on a feather bed and had breakfast. The officers at the hotel found out we were going back up to the front and said they didn't have anyway to go North but if we would had been going to Marsville. We went back to the train station and a passenger train was to leave at 1200 hours. By 1400 hours the railroad put four box cars on the end of the coaches then at 1600 hours, put six more box cars on the back and everybody got on and we were in a box car.
1200 hours that morning here came three solders and they wanted to know where
we were going and we said to Grenoble. They said they were replacement going there
also as they missed the trained, we teamed up. The train stopped at every jerk
water stop. ( a jerk water stop in early days railroading when an engine would
run low on water in the tender, behind the engine between watering stations, they
would stop at a creek or ditch to pull water up into the tender with buckets)
After two hours riding on the train everybody would get off to go to the side
of the railroad you know a bladder break.
We got to the next railroad Division and the train stopped. Everybody got off. We saw a soldier in fatigues and he said the railroad battery kitchen was on the other side of the tracks to go over there and get breakfast. They had the 25 to 1 rations and we ate breakfast then, there was boxes of cigarettes. which came 4 in a package or box and chocolate bars. They told to take all we wanted. The three replacements just took what they figured they would use, but the corporal and I filled our pockets and put more in side our shirts and tried to get the replacements to take more because we could use them for trade. The chocolate bars wouldn't melt until I think 140 degrees.
We went to see when the train would go to Lyons. Somebody asked where we were headed and we said Grenoble and he said to take the lorry (bus) 17 KM (17KM would be about 11 miles as a KM is 5/8 of a mile) to this town and walked across the bombed bridge to the train station. We got on the lorry and the driver made us get off because we didn't have any French money but the people on the bus really went to hollering so the driver let us back on the bus. There was a young man that could talk English and said he was going to Grenoble also.
When we got to the city and everybody got off, the Corporal and I gave the driver chocolate and cigs. and boy was he happy with us. We went to the train station and found out the train would come at 1420 hours. There were several F.F.S. the Free French Solders and when they found out we were going up to the line after being wounded they Hugged and Kissed us, then took us to their club, something like our USO clubs. It was 1100 hours. The men called to the others telling that we were going up to the front lines and that two of us were wounded and they all had to hug us. There were five girls and they had set us down in chairs and set on our laps a woman came in that could talk English, and said you boys want to take on the girls but don't have any money. I raised a box of cigs. to show the girls then put my finger to my lips, she said Oh wee (yes) then I raised the chocolate bar. Looked over at the Corporal and he was doing the same thing. Both girls jumped up taking our hands and we got up and they headed for the stairs.
The woman was saying something but the girls didn't stop, and each girl went into a different room. My girl was out of her dress in nothing flat. I got to playing with her 'till she begged me to take her. When we were finished for that time I gave her a box of cigs., she took two out to light both and I showed her only one as I didn't smoke although I carried cigs. for all the men in the section.
Like one time after a hard
fight the men ask if I had any cigs. and I had a full package and there were ten
men each to a cigarettes. and they smoked it 'till the ashes fell behind their
lips. Later they ask for the last cigs. in the package. I had about eight chocolate
bars in my shirt and I gave them to her with about 12 boxes of cigs, I think.
She opened one of the chocolate bars and started eating it then went for another
one for me. I told her I didn't like chocolate.
1300 hours the replacement came to the door saying we had to go. I said its only
one o'clock. Here they were at 1330, at 1345, and at 1400 hours, so the Corporal
and I got ready to go at 1430 hours. All the men hugged us, the girls hugged and
kissed us and we left to go to the train. The boy that could talk English, I took
him over by the wall to give him the four bars of chocolate and he said he couldn't
take them because he had done nothing. I ask if he had a girl at Grenoble. He
said yes. I told him to give her two bars and he said he could do that. Here came
the train and the coaches were full so the five of us rode in the baggage car
with all the bicycles. I helped the baggage man with the bicycles. When we got
to Grenoble the boy was waiting for us. His name was Claude the same name as my
Dad. He told us the camp was on the other side of the tracks and three blocks
to the right.
We bid him good by, then went across the tracks and to the right. We got to Grenoble about 1600 hours on October 26th. We walked up to the Guard gate and two MPs wanted to know what we were doing. I said we are coming into camp and had to tell them what had happened, so one called the Sergeant. So here come the Sergeant with four men and they had their pistols drawn and the hammers back ready to shoot like we were criminals, "Well hell, the Corporal and I were criminals, for all the men we had killed" I told the Sergeant about missing the train, about hitching rides here. Sergeant said I've seen men trying to break out of Camp but this is the first time I have seen anybody tried to break into camp. They took us to the guard house and the Sergeant called the administration building, where General Fry was in charge of the replacement Depot.
Fry really thought he was a tough old bird, but come right down to it he was just
a chick. We told the Sergeant to bring us to his office. We had to walk three
blocks to administration building and I walked up beside the Sergeant and told
him I was a Sergeant also and was in charge of a machine gun section, that I was
wounded three times and was going back to the front lines again. He looked at
my sleeve saying you don't have any stripes sown on your shirt. I said we don't
wear stripes on the front lines because that would show the Germans we were leaders
and would try to kill us first. I told him that I killed as many men as you have
seen assembled at times and I think the Corporal killed his share also. The Sergeant
had the Corporal walk with us and the Corporal said he was acting Sergeant of
his squad of men. One of the MPs asked the Sergeant if he wanted the two men that
was walking with him to walk with the other three men and he said no let them
walk with him.
got to General Fry's desk, the replacements were in the middle and the Corporal
on the left side and I on the right side. I told them want happened and he leaned
back in his chair, with a loud voice said, Don't you men know you can be dropped
as deserters? The three men were looking down at the floor. Boy he was really
making a good impression on us men. I was laughing and saw the Corporal was laughing
also. Fry looked at me and went to frowning at me, then the Corporal, then back
to me. Then he yelled, what outfits are you out of? The three men said what Replacement?.
So I said, the 157th Infantry Sir. What Division is that? 45th Sir. His mouth
fell on his chest and he finally said OK. Oh Captain come get these 45th men.
The Captain's desk was right
behind the General's and he had heard everything. He told us, for your information
the train just got in two hours ago. The Captain filled out what papers we needed
then took us to the tent area. There was the equipment we had left on the train.
We got blankets for bunks. Here came the three men and they said they were really
scared that General Fry was going to lock them in the guard house. (I didn't think
'till after we left the building or I would have told General Fry to go easy on
the three as they came right along with us and not to chew their butts off as
they are going up to the front lines to get their ass shot off). I said, Bull
Shit, he was going to do no such
thing as you are going up to the front lines to get you ass shot off. One asked
didn't General Fry scare you. I said Hell No, he would have done me a favor by
not sending me up on the front lines as I have been wounded three times all ready.
I took them to get their blankets.
The next morning 27th we were up at 0600 hours, we ate breakfast, turned in the blankets and got into groups. There were 38 men in the 157th, any way there were four groups of the 45th. I think the same for the 3rd, 34th, and the 36th Division I don't know how many groups for the replacements but when we got to the train each group has a number for the railroad car and we were #25 the last car.
The cars were the open slat stock cars and were called 40 Homms, 8 Chevaux. 40 men, 8 horses. The cars had straw on the floor but like one of Bill Mauldin's cartoons, one man was up in the car and was looking out the door saying they ought hire a Homme to clean up after them chevaux. There was days "K" ration in each car and a can of water. They told us to take the empty cartons and water cans to the first car every morning and get more rations and water. The train seemed to stop at every jerk water stop and city along the way. We stopped as much as we were moving.
The cars were hooked together
with a chain and a turn buckle to tighten up the chain and as the train
would move and stop the turn buckles would loosen up and there would be
more slack between the cars When the train would start the last car would
really jump forward. One day I walked up to the engine and it did not
have a coal water tender on it. The water tank was up over the boiler
and down on the sides. On back of the cab was a bunker to put coal for
the engine, no wonder we had to stop so often. One day the other Sergeant
said with in 30 days 90% of us will either be wounded or killed. That
was something that I had been thinking about before that. Every once in
a while men came to turn the turn buckle to take up the slack. The trip
took five days to get to Rambervillers,
the first of October 1944. The next day, 2nd October to get the to Division
Headquarters. then the 3rd to get to the 157th, and to the Company area.
That was in the Vosges Mountains just north of Switzerland.
Dad and a younger brother Elwood, were in WWI in the 148th Field Artillery. I
don't know what Division they were in. When they first got to France they had
horses and Dad rode the horse on the left of the team and was the lead team. His
Brother rode the team that was hooked to the caisson. A caisson is a two wheel
cart that carried the ammo for artillery gun. As they went through France they
were between Metz and Nancy. I was south of there. Dad and Uncle Elwood want on
The 4th I was back with "K Co", and in my old position in the machine gun Section, and started right in to fighting as we contacted the Germans that afternoon. That night they moved back. As soon as Otis found out I was back with the CO he came looking for me saying, Tarzan do you remember there on the LST when we were out in the bay, you said you wouldn't stay in France and I tried to talk you out of the notion. Boy that's really got me to thinking. Just how did you know you were not going to be in France long and when were you hit? I told him we crossed the road to go behind the building when the two mortar shells landed. "Otis I heard those two mortar shells then the hand grenade go off". "It was two day later before I realized that you were missing."
think Ramberviller was the 45th Division headquarters. We were in the mountains
and sometimes we would be walking on the side of a mountain and the pine trees
were all over the hill side and every tree was a hiding place for the German's
Infantry. We would be glad when the Germans would fire on us to expose their position.
All through October it would rain periodically and the ground would be wet and
we were always slipping and sliding
it was nothing to fall also. At night when we were in the trees we would always
try to put a roof over our foxholes as when the artillery shells came in with
a tree first shrapnel would fly everywhere. When the shell hit the ground, the
part of the shell that hit the ground wouldn't fly, just the sides and the top
of the shrapnel would just move along level with the ground and up but a tree
burst the shrapnel and shrapnel would fly down and could come right in the foxholes.
Be like that on Anzio when I got wounded the second time officially. When the
280MM shells hit the tree 19 men got wounded and killed as I know my second gunner
I got on the line I commence to having the feeling I would not come back if I
got into Germany. That was about the 8th of October. Then every few days the feeling
would get stronger. I never told anybody about my feeling. I think it was the
28th of October we were standing around talking and the new men said Boy Tarzan
you are not afraid of anything you go right up on the front line to pick out the
best gun placement. I said my back is not wide enough for the yellow streak that
runs up and down my back. They said you sure don't show it. I said I have 14 men
under me and I wouldn't expect any man to do something I wouldn't do. They said
they didn't think about that.
Like I said I can't remember the towns we went through but we went through Jenmenil. I can remember St Die, whether we went by it or what anyway the Regiment was heading towards Strasburg right at the German boarder. Strasburg was 17 KWs about 11 miles. ( It took the 157th Regiment three weeks to get a strong hold in Germany as they got pushed back twice) The morning of the 31st I got a strong feeling something was going to happen and I didn't know what.
about feeling in 1968 the 29th of February I was working for Ringsby truck line
in Denver Colorado. I was a City Driver. I had just finished for the day when
I told Joe another driver my son just got killed in Vietnam. He said how did you
know I said I have a strong feeling about it. Joe even tried to talk me out of
the feeling. At 12:30 hours the 4th if March I took a full trailer out to a warehouse.
At 1500 hours the shipping man said my dispatcher would like to talk to me. He
told me to drop the trailer and come right in. There were three offices on the
dock area. The Dispatch office was the first office and as I walked around the
corner I saw two Army Officers in the last office. I stopped at the Dispatcher
and Don told me the two Army men wanted to see me. I said my son was killed. Don
looked at me funny saying, I don't know Vere. I said yes I know he is. I walked
into the Office saying I am Vere L Williams. The two Captains. shook hands with
me and told me their names and they kind of hesitated and I said my son was killed
the first of March. They looked at each other the said, Vere L Williams Jr. was
killed the first of March and how did I know?. I said I had a strong feeling.
I was in WW2 in the Infantry and a machine gunner like he was and I knew what
he was going through. When I told Don he said, how did I know, and I told him
of the feeling. The next morning I told Joe and all he could do was shake his
We did not have as many miles to go this time to get to our objective. We were waking up the road and the Germans had set up three delaying actions and I think it was the same two machine guns all three times. We walked on the road 5 to 6 miles then climbed up this mountain so when we got on top, it was a flat top mountain and was in the shape of an hour glass at the bottle neck It was about 200 yards across. The first Platoon and my section set up in the bottle neck.
We got up there about 1400 hours and just started digging our foxholes when the Germans counterattack. I dropped my entrenching tool and grabbed my carbine. Sometime before the company gave the Weapons Platoon the 30 Caliber Carbine Rifles, as they just weigh five pounds and the Springfield weighed ten pounds. The trouble with the Carbine, the shells did not have enough powder to push the bullet over 200 yards. I flopped down beside the gun but there was under brush over two feet high and the machine gun was only one foot high. When I should have got killed I didn't. I stood up and I could see smoke coming from the German machine guns. I counted 12 guns firing, the bullets were hitting the trees above my head. I was telling my gunner where to shoot. I sent my ammo carriers back to get more ammo. There were eight men for both guns.
They brought sixteen boxes of ammo and I had two and each gunner had a box so that was 20 boxes for the two guns. After seven machine guns were quitted. I looked back and all the Rifle men were running back and left the machine gunners up there by ourselves. I felt like turning the machine gun on the first Platoon for leaving us up there. When we got the last machine gun I was out of ammo. I crawled over to my pack and got four magazines with 20 shells each and a box of shells. I fired at everything that moved. The second gunner, a man by the name of Bennett was putting in shells on my magazines until we run out of shells. Bennett said I see a man, right then the man shot and Bennett head hit the ground and was dead just like that.
I told the gunner I would see how much ammo the other gun had, and I crawled over behind a tree was looking around the right side when the Rifleman fired to the left side of the tree. I was leaning on my elbows and the bullet hit my upper left arm. I felt the jolt in every bone in my body and rolled me on my back. I had to lift my left arm on to my chest so I could sit up. My second gunner saw the man and turned the machine gun on him, fired three shots to put him out. I set up against the tree to talk with Snow and Fry, they only had 25 rounds left. blood started running out of my shirt sleeve and both men said get back to the First Aid man as we don't want anybody bleeding up here so they helped me stand up.
I walked to the Company CP, Nail our Captain said Tarzan what's the matter. I told him shot in the arm and its broken. He called the Medic. I told him the Rifleman have pulled back and the machine gunners are up there out of ammo. He saw the First Lieutenant, the Platoon Sergeant and the three Sergeant Squad Leader and told the Lieutenant to get his men back upon the line. Here came the First Aid man, he set down his bag and got his scissors out to cut the left sleeve. I said wait a minute I want to take off my coat first. He said I'm supposed to cut all clothes. I know what you are suppose to do, but I want to take off my coat so you go around the tree while I take it off. ( Me with a fresh broken arm trying to take off my coat but I would have tried even if it would have broken my other arm.) He said being you want you coat off I will help you, so when we got my coat off I said OK you can cut my sleeve now as I had a wool sweater as it was getting cold in October He cut my shirt and T shirt then had to put a bandage all around my arm for where the bullet went in on the front of my arm and out the back.. Then he cut the back of my shirt where the bullet hit my left shoulder. I never even stopped the bullet.
After he got me bandaged up he said why didn't you want me to cut your coat. I said as soon as the sun goes down it will be colder and this way I can cover my bare arm. He said I never thought of that. He put my arm in a sling. There was another man that had a bullet hole in front of his helmet and went out the back. It parted his hair and had the top of his head Bandaged. The Medic said the Litter Bearers would be up in two hours. I know it would be dark and with all the rocks the Litter Bearers would really be stumbling all over. Me with a broken arm of course the first aid man give me a shot of morphine to deaden the pain, but with Litter Bearers stumbling over rocks and falling I had second thoughts and told the first aid man as long as its daylight I would walk down the mountain and the other man said he would walk with me.
We got off the mountain at dusk and on the road that he had came up on, had a string of trucks and jeeps all stopped, in front was four tanks that were stopped. The closer I got, I could see the first tank had a track off in the ditch. Then I saw the fourth tank in the ditch also. All I could see was RED. I was so mad, here the tanks run off into the ditch on purpose. I told the Lieutenant in charge of the tanks to get them God Damn tanks out of the ditch. Do you want the Germans to come down here and drop Molotov Cock tails down your hatches. He said our troops were up on the mountain. I said we just broke up a counterattack and I got wounded. If the Germans come again they could break through our lines and be down here.
A Major came walking up to see what was the hold up, as I was telling the Lieutenant how to move the tanks by backing the third tank against the fourth tank, then move the second tank to turn it out, then pull the forth tank with the third one if you have a chain. The Major asked the Lieutenant can you do that. The Lieutenant said well I guess so. The Major said well do it then, and the men jumped into their tanks and backed the third one up, the second turned around out. The man in the third tank said I can't see behind me. I told him to turn his tank around and pull him out backwards . He turned his tank and with a couple jerks got the tank out then got the other tank out. The Major thanked me and asked for my name and Company. As soon as the tanks were off the road then here came the trucks and jeeps. The Major's Jeep stopped and he got in and away they went.
Here came a medical jeep from the first aid station and he had a litter across the back when he saw us standing there he bounced across the ditch. He opened my coat as I told him I was wounded in my arm, and it was broken. He opened up the Litter, put a blanket on it and I got on the Litter. He covered me, then strapped me to the Litter and the other man got in the front seat. He eased up to the ditch and here came three vehicles and he put up his hand and they stopped, then he eased across the ditch and told each Driver I got wounded on board.
went about one mile to the first aid station and four men lifted me off the jeep
and into the tent. I saw an Ambulance setting there with three men on Litters.
The Captain checked me over and asked questions, by that time it was getting dark.
They put me in the Ambulance closed the doors. I don't think I was at the First
Aid Station fifteen minutes 'till they got me on the Ambulance.
put us in the first tent, it was the Administration tent. They got all the information,
then into the regular Hospital tent that's 48 feet long. There were sixteen men
on litters in two rows and other men setting on benches, that was about 2100 hours.
At 2200 hours they took me to X rays and took a dozen pictures, then 2300 hours
back into X ray again. The two men said I hope we get it straight this time.
two asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. How can I drink tea lying down, they had
a little rubber hose two feet long and I sucked up the tea. Here came Surgeons
and the man to give the anesthesia The man that gave the anesthesia was getting
the syringe ready to put in my right arm saying most men count to 12 or 13 once
in a while 14. When he stuck me with the needle and said start counting and I
got to 12 - 14 - 16 - 20. He said I don't understand this, I stopped counting
then he pressed the syringe again and I remember saying 24 then was out like a
light. When I came to, my arm was in a
bunk was right next to the nurses desk. A nurse was standing at the desk when
she said I see you are coming to, is there anything you want. I looked up at her
and if her Fatigue Jacket had not been covering her wings,
she was an angel I tell you. I said yes my hand is cold. She had something in
her hands and she dropped it on the desk, threw her hand up to her face saying,
Oh My God! I forgot to get a cover for your hand when they brought you in, as
I knew your cast was wet, but I got busy with another man and forgot about your
hand. She run and got a blanket, folded it around my hand, was still apologizing.
I said don't feel bad about it as you have to do your work. She said I know but
you have been through so much as it is, to have a cold hand because I forgot about
you here. When I uncovered my hand from the blanket here my had was still dirty
from seven days without washing. They put the white cast over my hand. I asked
the nurse why they didn't wash my hand. She said they didn't want to move my hand
brought the breakfast trays the nurse ask me if I could sit up to eat, so she
helped me to sit up as my arm where the Doctor cut to take out the chipped bone
was sticking to the cast. I was really hungry, as I had not ate anything from
breakfast yesterday morning and that breakfast was 25 in 1 Rations. The nurse
ask when was the last time I ate. I told her yesterday morning. The other man
next to me said he ate breakfast yesterday also. She said there was an extra tray
and would we like to split it so she gave each a half to eat.
had to have help to raise up two more times before I could raise myself. My arm
was stuck to the cast for two days. The Latrine was like the first one we had
at Fort Sill, a bench setting over a pit but there was a canvas over the top of
the seats. The nurse, I can't remember her name, asked me just what is it like
up on the front line. I have asked other men, and all they will say, is it's hell.
I know it's hell by the way all you man come here all shot up. With her knowing
it was hell I told her how I got wounded all six times. Then she said she could
see why it was hell up on the front lines. She had the early shift from 2400 hours
'till 0900 hours I think then every time she had a change she would ask me questions.
The man next to me was from "I CO" and we would tell her our experiences
'till he left after four days. I left after six days and the nurse hugged and
kissed me for telling her my tales.
left early the morning of the seventh day to go to a General Hospital somewhere
south of Paris. It was either the 2firstor 23rd General Hospital as I was in both
hospital when I was in Italy. The next morning the Hospital Ward gave several
of us men with open wounds pain killer medicine to deaden the pain when the Doctor
would sew up the wounds. That day all the men that went in the Operating room
took ether to be sewn up. After dinner they had me go to the operating room and
the Doctor and his helpers had to cut my cast off. The Doctor a Major I think,
said boy. the Surgeons really put a heavy cast on you. When they got the cast
off me, the Doctor saw where the cut was under my arm. He pinched the ends of
my fingers asking if I could feel him pinching and asked if I could move my fingers.
Then asked me to grip his hand as hard as I could, so when I squeezed his hand
he jumped saying you sure have a grip for having a broken bone. He said the reason
he pinched my fingers was because the cut under my arm was right where the nerve
center for my hand and fingers were and that I was real lucky they were not cut.
He measured my arm and said it would have taken 27 months for new nerves to grow
to my finger tips. When he was ready to sew up my arm he asked me how much grit
I had. I asked why. He said to see if we need to give you ether. I said get to
sewing. OK and I watched him sew up the front of my arm.
he was finished they put a hanging cast on my arm. It was just below the wound
to my hand and had a loop so a cloth string put through the loop and around my
neck to hold my hand in front of my chest. I walked back into the ward. The men
said you didn't get sewed up, no matter what I said they didn't believe me 'till
the Major came in the ward and said I wish more of my patients was like this man,
as I sewed his wounded up without giving him any ether. The men said we didn't
believe you. The next morning my neck was really sore from the weight of my arm.
I had to hold my arm up with my right hand to give my neck some relief.
never saw the Head Nurse of our ward walk out from the front part of the ward
as the nurse station was to the back of the long ward, but when she came in the
front hallway there were two Second Lieutenant with her and she had her clip board
with her and said they were ready for morning inspection. The day before a Captain
made the inspection. I was about the sixth man from the front of the ward. The
nurse was on their right side and the man in the middle was doing all the talking
so when they got to the man next to me the other Lieutenant stepped behind the
two and came up to me and asked what my name, and I told him. When did you come
into the hospital. I said what ever day it was as it was two days ago. He asked
when did I get the cast on. I told him yesterday. He said can you do this and
put his hand on the cast and raised my arm as high over my head has he could lift
it. It felt like he was pulling my arm and it really hurt. I doubled up my fist
and started to draw back to hit him. He saw me when I doubled my fist and with
my left arm as high as he could raise it, he let go of my cast and my arm dropped
and I had to grab my arm and it felt like it hit the floor and more pain shot
thought my arm. I said you bastard I'll kill you. When he let go of my arm he
stepped back two steps, then when I threatened him he took off running out of
the hall. The other Lieutenant looked at me then at the man running through the
door. He said I got to go also and he started running. The nurse was writing something
in her clip board, when she saw I was in so much pain she asked if the Lieutenant
hurt me. I told her it felt like my arm hit the floor. She said OK, I need to
get the Captain right away and told me to sit down. She told the rest of the men
to sit also and she went to call the Captain.
about three minutes the Captain was in the ward and the nurse was telling him
what happened as they came to me and he asked me what pain I was having. I told
him. All he would do was shake his head. When I said if that bastard comes in
here again I will kill him. The Doctor said don't worry I will kill him for you.
He knows better then to do anything like that. He asked if I could walk all right
and I said yes I think so. He said let's go to the operating room and the nurse
came along. There was another man on one of the tables that he was working on
when he came to see me. He told the man that I have to check this man, can you
wait a little while and he said sure. The Doctor cut off the bandage to check
the stitches on the back of my arm was almost tore loose.
Then he called X-rays and here came two men to take me to X-rays. There took four pictures. When the two men took me back to the operating room the Captain came to look at the pictures then called a Major to come look at the pictures also. The Major asked what happened and the Doctor and nurse told him. Then he asked me when I was wounded. I said the 31st (nine days ago) The Major said the bones had started knitting and with him raising my arm and letting it drop tore all the knitting apart. The Major was really mad at the Lieutenant also and said he would take care of him also. The Captain asked the Major if he should put another spica cast on my arm. The Major looked at the X-rays again then at my arm. Then asked me if I could keep my arm still and not move it much for five days. I told him I sure would try to do my best. He told the Captain let's try that and to take X-rays every day for the next ten days and tell me how his arm is coming along. As you know I really watched that I didn't move my arm very much.
The hall between the two wards was 12 feet wide and 40 feet long. Someone found a basket ball and eight of us with arms in casts was playing in the hall way. The head nurse wanted us to stop and told the Captain and he said as long as they don't get too rough, to hurt them selves let them play, it will help the bones net. The nurse said what about Vere Williams he got his arm broken loose. Doctor said well yes but under different circumstances. We keep on playing basket ball. I don't know if he went with us when we were shipped out from the Hospital.
was an 18 year old that came in the ward. He had his left arm in a spica cast.
He was always moving his hand or talking. He was always asking someone questions
of how we got wounded. I told him I was wounded six times, then he was always
talking with me. One day I asked him how he got wounded and that was a mistake
on my part. He told us his story about while he was in High School, how he wanted
to be in the Army so when he turned 18 he joined, and went through training, the
trip coming over, the train rides, the trucks to the Division CP down to the Company
CP. He said there were 30 new men standing by the Company Clerk getting ready
to go up to the front lines for the first time when a shell came in and he got
hit with shrapnel. I ask him if he heard any other shots and he said no. I bet
he is telling his great grand kids what a big war hero he was because of the way
he would take in everyone stories.
One day the Head Nurse said everybody that has broken bones will get to go home and from that day on as soon as he would get up in the morning he would run to the nurse station asking if orders came down for us to leave. When the Captain would come in he would ran up to him saying when are we getting to go home. The Doctor would tell him I don't know. He made such a nuisance of himself that they told him if he came asking about going home again they would keep him there 'till his arm healed up. Boy that did make him nervous and he would pace the floor wanting to know when we would get to leave here. I told him you should have been up on the front lines for a week dodging bullets to keep from getting your ass shot off. That might have slowed him down some.