I was born Dec 22, 1920. I was born and raised at Snyder Colorado, a small farming Community in the northeast part of Colorado, north of Brush. I grew up on two different farms, I am the oldest and have 2 younger brothers and a sister. My Dad, Claude worked for the lumberyard in Snyder 'till the fall of 1924, when my Grandparents wanted to go to California, to see if the climate would help their arthritis. My Mother, Eva was a homemaker, and she worked on the farm as much as anyone.
That fall, my brother Lovern & I got chicken pox, and scarlet fever. Then I got an ear infection and had a mastoid. A doctor from Denver came to operate on my mastoid. My Grandmother was in the operating room with me at the time, because my mom couldn't stand to see her son being operated on. I was four years old at the time. My grandmother told me that somehow the doctor had to chip the bone behind my ear to get to the mastoid. After the operation, it weakened the hearing in my left ear, and overloaded my right ear.
When I started the first grade, the teacher put me in the back of the class, as I was a dummy (because I could not hear well). One time at recess I was busy doing something and the teacher asked me if I wasn't going out to play, as all the children were out of the room. There were 16 girls, and 10 boys in class. There were 6 to 8 girls that would really tease me because I could not hear well. So I pulled my self into a shell as far as girls were concerned. Away from school, my 2 girl cousins, Lucille and Lily did not make any difference, as they did not tease me.
When I was 5 years old, Mom would tell my brother and me when it was noon or quitting time, and we would run out to the field where Dad was cultivating. Heck, Dad could have hung the lines on the hames and the team would have come to the barn by themselves. But he let me drive them back to the barn, and boy! I was really somebody driving that team. When I was 6 years old at beet harvest, Dad had to hook 4 horses on the wagon to take the beets to the railroad station where there was the beet dump. They could pull the wagon up on the dump and unload the beets into railroad cars, or put the beets into a big pile. Dad hooked 2 horses on the wagon, and 2 horses ahead. When he was loading the wagon with a beet fork, I could grab 2 beets by hand and throw on the wagon. Dad said I could almost throw as many beets on the wagon by hand as he could with a fork. Dad would let my brother & I go to the beet station and when we pulled by the beet pile, Lovern and I could throw beets off faster than Dad would shovel off the beets. After we were unloaded and across the scales and out on the road, Dad would let me drive the 4 horses and I could drive them clear into the field to where we would start to loading the beets.
When I was 8 years old, in the Fall 1929, my Grandparents came back from California to take over and farm the next spring. Grandpa had a big Elgin pocket watch, and some nights he would take the watch out and have me keep moving back to see how far he could hear the watch, and I would get about 4 feet from him, when he could not hear with either ear. Grandpa was hard of hearing also. One time he said let's see how far you can hear the watch, and I could only hear it half as far as Grandpa could hear it.
The spring of 1930 we moved to the farm with 160 acres, 5 miles southwest of Snyder on Wildcat. I finished the 3rd grade in a 2-room schoolhouse and from the 4th through 8th grade in a 1-room school. From the 5th grade on, I was the only one in my grade although there were at least 30 other kids in the schoolhouse.
In 1929 I drove 2 horses cultivating the field; in 1930 I drove 3 horses; and in 1931 I drove 4 horses; then 6; and then 8 horses after that.
When I started the 9th grade, I went back to the Snyder High School and the same girls would tease me that did in the first grade, but my cousins would tell me what they were saying, so that really helped. In the 10th grade Dad had Muscular Arthritis and got so he could not raise his hands above his waist. We had to help him put on his clothes and feed him. They sent him to the VA Hospital in Cheyenne Wyoming for 8 months before he could raise his arms over his head and start shaving himself, etc. I had to stop going to school and start farming full time. I had all the fields planted when Dad got to come home on a two week furlough after he had been in the hospital for a month. I showed him all the fields I had planted. Dad asked me, "Who told you how to plant the fields?" I said, "Nobody, I just watched how you did it." Later Dad told Mom, "We don't have to worry about the place. Vere has planted the fields like I would have". I finished the tenth grade by going to the Superintendent's house 3 nights a week. The next school year that Superintendent got a job with a small college, and he told the new Superintendent that I had to do the farming. And he asked him to give me night classes for 2 hours, 3 times a week. The new Superintendent told me I had to go to school. I asked 3 of the teachers if they would let me take night classes and they said no, but one teacher said maybe 1 night a week, but I would have had to go 9 miles to her place. One teacher, who taught the 11th and 12th grades, lived in Brush, 11 miles from me so I didn't ask her. When my brother Lovern started the 11th grade the teacher asked him why I didn't come to school? He told her I had to work on the farm. She said she would have taught me at night, but by that time I was out of school for 2 years. But when Lovern would bring his books home, I would study them. He also brought books home from the Library for me. In later years, I had to take an IQ test at Camp Barkley. They asked me how far I went in college. I told them that I had completed 10th grade. They said I had scored at the 2 year college level. They were looking for officers at the time.
During the Depression years from 1930 on, money was really scarce on the farms but we never went hungry. We had 75 chickens to lay eggs, 17 to 18 turkeys that would raise over 200 more turkeys, and about 15 pigs that would also raise over 200 pigs. We would sell the turkeys and pigs. I can not remember how much money we
got from the sales but at the time the prices were cheap. We got our milk cow herd up to where we would milk 12 to 14 cows, we took the cream and the eggs to town every Saturday and sold them to buy what staples we needed. We would butcher 3 or 4 pigs and there was always a calf growing up to butcher. Also, we had 12 working horses and raised enough feed for all the animals. We raised corn, grain, alfalfa hay and cane - also about 20 acres of sugar beets. We always had a big garden, and when we plowed the fields we plowed the garden. Mom always made sure we planted enough seeds to have enough to can vegetables to last all winter 'till the next spring. The peas would come on first, then string beans. The reason they were called string beans we had to have a string from the ground up 5 feet to a wire above the row so the bean vine could grow up the string and not on the ground. Mom would can plenty of cut string beans and sweet corn. Carrots we buried in the sand in the corner of the cellar and we kept sacks of potatoes there as well. We also raised tomatoes to can and had tomato preserves to last all winter.
At Christmas time when I was 11 years old Lovern and I got leather belts and boy, I had the world by the tail. The next year we got pocketknives and I had that knife 'till I got wounded the last time - after October 31,1944. When they moved me from one hospital to another hospital I was in PJs and then is when I lost the knife.
I joined the Colorado National Guard, the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division, "CO L" at Brush, Colorado. before I was 18 years old in the fall of 1938. We would go to the Armory every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. for 1 ½ hour for training. Once in a while we would go to the Armory on Saturday to do maneuvers in the field.
Every 3 months we would get $12.00 - I gave most of mine to Mom and Dad. When we would march in the Armory or on the street I was always out of step. I could not figure out why, 'till a tall sergeant, (he was 6 ft 4 in. and at that time I was 5 ft 10 in) showed me that I was taking too large a step. The marching pace is a 30-inch step and I had a 32-inch step. There was another man, Roy, who was 6 ft 2 in, but he had a real long body and short legs. He could not keep his shirttail in his pants and he took 28-inch steps. He was also always out of step and the Sergeant showed us how to take the 30-inch step. When I was 20 years old, I was 6 feet tall and weighed 175 pounds and wore size 12 shoe. Sergeant wore size 9 shoe and weighed 170 pounds.
In the summer of 1939, the "L CO" got on the train at Brush and went to Denver to Camp George West, a National Guard training camp. We got off the train into our company area, and were assigned to our tents and bunks. Another man and I were going up to the company Command Post (CP). As we walked by the supply tent the Supply Sergeant had a 6x6 ft box he wanted in the supply tent, and the 2 men could not pick it up so the sergeant asked for help. Joe and I stopped to help them. The sergeant said, "When I say lift, lift", so when he said, "Lift!", my side of the box was all that come up. Heck, I was a strong farm boy and was always pitching hay or shoveling or other hard work-like driving 6 to 8 head of horses. The Sergeant said, "Boy, you are a Tarzan!" and the nickname stayed with me all through my Army time. My buddies still call me Tarzan. Another time that this nickname was put to use was when we were in Camp Barkeley, Texas for 9 months. There were 6 men in each tent. The 6 cooks were in the tent next to the Kitchen Mess Hall and I was in charge of the next tent. Julio worked in the Kitchen all the time and he was in charge of the KPs. At mail call the Company Clerk would come out in the Company Street, (the company at full strength was over 220 men, I can't remember the exact amount any more) and they just wanted 1 or 2 men from each tent to come get the mail. Julio started out the door and I told him to get my mail, he said OK. He came back in saying we didn't get any letters and I said, "OK". Later when a man named Chris, who was in the next tent, and was in my section came in saying, "Here's a letter for you Tarzan". Julio said, "I didn't hear Tarzan called", and Chris said, "His name is not Tarzan!", Julio grabbed the letter out of my hand and I had to tell him what my name was.
At Camp George West we went on maneuver, hikes and firing ranges, we fired on the 200 and 300 yard ranges and I made Expert Rifleman. One afternoon we were on the 1000 inch range (that is just over 82 feet), I could fire a clip of 5 shells in the target and it would look like I fired, one shot. I had a lot of experience in shooting before I went into the National Guard. On the farm we had two .22 rifles and would go out hunting rabbits and magpies (birds).
Lovern always said I was a dare devil, but both of my brothers and my sister would always go along with what I would do. Many times 6, 7 or 8 of us boys would buy a box or two of .22 shells for 10 to 15 cents a box and get on a stripped down model T Ford. We would go out to the sand hills where there were a lot of rabbits. For every shell we fired, we got a rabbit. The man at the service station where we bought gas would give us 5 cents apiece for the rabbits. He probably got 10 cents a piece for each rabbit as it was used for Fox and Mink food.
The stripped down Fords we used were the Model T's that would quit running. When the family would get another car, then us kids would get the car that no longer ran. Two of the kids lived in town and had garages so we would take the car there and tear into the motor. Most of the time the rod would be burnt out and we would put a piece of bacon rind around the crankshaft and clamp the rod to the crankshaft and away we could go. For tires we put on the old truck tires without any tubes and that made a good sand dune buggy. Some times when we came to town 3 of the boys had striped down buggies, and we would get together to go out on the sand hills to play with the cars. Two of the boys always wanted me to drive their car. This one time I was driving one car and the wind had blown out the sand from a cut in the small hill. It had piled the sand about 2 feet high and about 8 to10 feet long, and where the sand blew out it was down about 3 feet. I was driving as fast as the car could go in the sand, and ran over the sand drift. When the back wheels went over the drift it threw the 8 kids up into the air, I drove out from under them and they fell in the soft sand. I had to turn around and pick them up. There were 4 boys and 4 girls on the car.
When I was 12, we started going to the Farmer Union meeting at the town hall once a month. After the meeting, they would have Square dances. Dad would call each dance and my Aunt Peggy taught me how to Square dance. After that I really loved to dance. I never did see Mom on the dance floor and I think that is the reason Dad never danced. Several of the girls from school came to the meeting and they would ask me to dance. I would dance every square with the girls. I never dated any of the girls but I liked all of them, but with the 6 girls teasing me in the lower grades I would not date. Lovern never dated any girls as long as I was with him - I guess because I would not date any. Rachel and Vivian teased me the most. Rita, Lela, Laura, Annamae, and Jean would not tease me. I can't remember the Garrett or Ray girl's names or the 2 sisters that were in my grade. There was also Theresa and Margaret. Their dad farmed one mile north of Snyder. They didn't tease me and were good dancers. Theresa's birthday was the 1st part of January and Margaret the last part of December close to my birthday.
In 1940 the 157th Infantry Regiment loaded on trains and went to the Camp Polk, Louisiana area (it's Fort Polk now). We maneuvered for three weeks. We were assigned red or blue ribbons and maneuvered against each other. I never heard which Division won the team battles. Each Rifleman had blank shells so the Umpires could tell which side had the most firepower. I would get small rocks that fit in shell casing and put a gum wrapper paper to hold the rock and powder in the shell casings. Then when a rabbit would jump up I would fire at the rabbit and knock it over but not kill it. We lived in our pup tents all the time. We came back to Brush and were home 'till September 16, 1940 when the National Guard was mobilized into Regular Army. We stayed in the Armory for 10 days and on Saturday, 10 of us men went to Snyder and everybody was there for the going away. When the girls went to hugging and kissing me that's when I started to pull out of the shell I put myself into.
We got on the train and went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma (10 miles from Lawton, OK), an artillery training camp. As the train pulled into camp, . . . there was 3 story brick barracks. Boy, that will be good to live in! The train kept moving. . .we went by a two story wooden barracks - that will also nice to live in! The train kept moving . . . on the other side of the tracks were warehouses (that would have worked as good barracks! . . . The train stopped and we got off and were looking to go to the barracks. There were officers and men to take us to our areas. Where did they take us?. . . When we started moving, we went in front of the train engine, then out into a big open field with grass knee high and chiggers!, [(Chiggers are small bugs that get through your clothes and bite). Some people say the chigger will burrow into the skin, I never saw a chigger, but when they bit me there was a big red spot. I am allergic to them. While we were in Texas, I had to go to the hospital 3 times with chigger bites. We were on maneuvers for 4 to 6 days and could not take our clothes off. My pant legs would rub the red bites and make water blisters; then the blisters would break and cause infection.]
There were stakes for each Company in the 3rd Battalion and for each tent in the company. There were 6 men assigned to each Pyramid tent and canvas bunks for each man. We had to put up the tents for the company CP (Command Post). the two tents for the supply sergeant, the cook tent and the kitchen tents. The cooks were setting up the stoves to get our supper. We also had to dig a latrine trench to use for several days just like when we were in maneuvers out in the field. The next day we had to dig a 4x16 ft long trench 6 feet deep. Then the carpenters came to make a 2 ft high bench and put a 6 inch board on top so you could sit on the board to go to the bathroom. About a week after the bench was built, we put up a 6-ft high canvas all the way around it, but didn't have anything over the top to keep the rain out. One day, when it was raining, a man had to go to the Latrine. He didn't want to sit on the wet board so he stood up on the board with his muddy shoes, took his pants down and squatted down, but he lost his balance and fell into the pit on his back, in the shit. (Heck, shit is a good word for it!) He went to hollering and we ran to see what was wrong. We found him lying on his back in the pit. He wanted someone to get in the pit to help him stand up. The sergeant that came to see what was going on said he had to go and he took his pants down and set right over Mac's head and it didn't take him long to stand up. The sergeant got up also. We helped him out then had to get 5 buckets of water for him to get cleaned up and to clean the bench also. Later, whenever he would go to the latrine, everyone would call out. "Watch out Mac so you don't fall in."
We started right in with our training. The construction crews were building the Regimental and Battalion Headquarters before they got to build the company kitchen, mess halls and bathhouses.
When the infirmary was built, the company went through the infirmary to get Small Pox, Tetanus and Yellow Fever shots. When "L CO" went in to get the shots, we stripped off our shirts and left them on the ground in front of us. Then we went in the front door into the 2nd door and 2 medics put alcohol on both arms. Then I went up to where the doctor put the Small Pox serum on my arm. He was scratching the skin when something hit my left arm and hit the bone. I felt the jolt in every bone in my body (even my teeth!). I fell over against the doctor and he thought that I had passed out. He tried to catch me, but I knocked him over also. Then we fell against a tray full of glass and knocked it over and there was broken glass everywhere. I looked at my arm and there was a full hypodermic syringe sticking straight up from my arm, with enough serum for 10 men. A big woman nurse was astraddle of me reaching for the syringe, when the doctor said, "Get the hell off of us so we can get up". I got up and helped the doctor up as he was on his back and there was broken glass everywhere. The nurse tried to push the serum into my arm but none would go in. So she went to pull the syringe out and the needle stayed in my arm. The doctor had a hard time pulling it out. The nurse put the same needle back on the syringe and really hit my arm with it again! It felt like she was trying to push a ten-penny nail in my arm. She could not push out any serum, so she had to pull the needle out again and this time there was some of my muscle on the end of the needle where the point was turned up like a hook where it hit the bone. She had to get another needle. I asked the nurse if she thought I was a pincushion? The man behind me said the nurse filled the syringe and walked up to me and threw the syringe like a dart.
Then the construction started on the water and sewer lines and it was really hard to get around, as trenches were everywhere for 2 months. I was a Corporal when we went to Fort Sill, OK, so I was in charge of a tent. By November 1940, the kitchen, mess hall and latrines were built. The last of November it was getting cold so they issued the Old Stibby stoves to each tent. The stove looks like a big funnel turned upside down. It stood 3 feet tall and had a 4 x 6-inch door to put the fuel in, and on the bottom was a 1-inch half circle to let air in the stove. We had to keep the ashes away from the opening or the stove could not get any air for the fire. We had to raise the stove every 3 to 4 days to take the ashes out or the fire would not burn. The men in the tent next to mine let their fire go out during the night. One of the men found a big cardboard box and took it in the tent so when they woke up cold they tore up the box and put it in the stove, lit the paper and then went back to bed. When the cardboard really got to burning, sparks went flying out of the stovepipe and the sparks blew over onto my tent. When I woke up the whole top of the tent and one side was burning. I jumped up, woke up the men and moved the 2 bunks where the side was burning. We got the fire out - I thought!! There was still small sparks coming out of their tent so I woke the man in charge of the tent and asked what he had done. He said, "Nothing." I said, "Your stove is sure hot!" We were afraid our tent would fall over so we took it down, folded it up and tied the ropes around the bundle. We went in another tent and slept on the floor 'till morning. At reveille we jumped up and got in line and of course the Company Commander had to say something, then we ate breakfast. By that time it was getting daylight. We went to the supply sergeant to get another tent and then we saw smoke coming up from the tent we had taken down. So I untied the ropes around the bundle and I could feel the heat so I raised the top layer and it busted into flames.
Our equipment was WWI vintage, the trucks were 1928 2x4 Chevys, I think. Our helmets and leggings were from WWI. The leggings were made out of torn 2-inch strips of army blanket with a 1-inch strip 3-foot long sewed on the end. We would wrap the 2-inch strip around the calf of our leg to our ankle and with the 1-inch strip, we would slip the end under the last wrap to hold the strap tight on our ankles. Our rifles were 1903 Springfield Bolt action and when the rifle was shot it would really kick. Talk about rifles! We went out to the Rifle Range to fire the rifles 3 different times. When we were at Camp George West, I learned to take a bath towel and fold it, put it under my field jacket on my shoulder to absorb the shock from the gun. I would have all my men in my squad and platoon take their towels and do the same. By noon the men, who were without towels or padding, would have sore shoulders. They could not shoot without flinching and would stop firing their Rifles. So, I went up on the line and started firing on 2 targets, then 3 and it wasn't long before I was firing on 5 targets. I noticed my barrel getting hot. When I fired that time I missed all 5 targets. (Pretty unusual for me.) I put another clip of 5 shells and fired 3 rounds, when my partner said, "I saw the bullet land about 200 feet in front of us". I lowered my rifle down, fired again and the bullet landed 50 feet in front if us. On the 5th round my partner said I could fire his rifle. So I let my rifle cool and went to firing his. When I was cleaning my rifle I looked in the barrel and found that I had burnt the rifling (groves that turned in the barrel to make the shell turn to travel straight) out of the barrel. The next morning I got another rifle.
The reservation had a small creek running through it and there were Pecan Trees along the banks. When the nuts started to fall my cousin, Gordon, and I went to the creek and picked up about 20 pounds of the nuts and took them back into camp. All that week, most of my platoon enjoyed the nuts. The next time we went to the creek 10 men came with us and we took more pecans back.
On the first of January 1941 the first men were coming to the 45th Division for one year training. The Headquarters, Medical and Service (the truck drivers) Companies did not want to have to train the new men so they got men from the Rifle Company to do the training. My cousin and I were transferred into the medics, my cousin was a PFC and I was a Corporal. The Division was preparing to move to Camp Barkeley, Texas close to Abilene. The service company did not have enough trucks to move the whole Regiment, so the service company took all their equipment and headquarters to Camp Barkeley. Then they came and got 6 companies and 2/3 of the medics. The medical detachment did not know anything about Army Regulations. We had to show them how to make beds, march, etc. We also had to teach them things they should have known as medics, such as rolling bandages, & general field medical information, etc. The first thing I did when we got settled was to show the men how to make their bunks. It took half the day to get them to make the beds to my specifications. Later if any one's bed was not made right, I would pull off the blankets and pile them on top of the bed. One man would not make his bed. I piled his covers off the bed. The next morning his bed was not fixed, so I piled his covers off, and even took the mattress off the bed and told him if he did not make his bed tomorrow, I would take all of his bedding and he would have to sleep on the bed springs. He made his bed after that. We would have Reveille at 6:00 a.m. every morning, the first morning at Barkeley six men in the tent next to mine did not come out. I told the sergeant "Give me one minute!" I went in their tent and flipped 5 bunks over on top of them. The 6th man jumped out of bed and I told the men to get their asses out on the line by the time I got there or I would report them as absent. Boy did you ever see men scramble out from under the beds! They grabbed their shoes and overcoats and when I got up to the line, here came the six men running. The next morning I just had to rack one man.
On Saturday morning there was a Regiment Parade. We were all ready to go out on the parade ground and Captain Combs, a dentist in charge of the medics, said we didn't have to go on the parade, and I said everybody has to go. Combs said, "We are not going." I said, "Call Regiment." He did and he came back saying "I guess you are right." The men in the Medics were like new recruits as they did not know how to march and neither did Combs. When we got on the parade ground and it was our turn to pass in review, as we came up to the reviewing stand, I told Combs to salute and he growled at me, "You don't know what you are talking about". I gave the command "Eyes right" and saluted as we passed the stand, Colonel Ankcorn and two majors were laughing at the way the men were walking. When we got to the Company area I got my Soldier's Handbook and showed Combs he was supposed to salute when we passed the reviewing stand. Combs started to say it was not necessary, when Major Hart said he needed to salute all higher officers and said, "By the way you need to salute me". Major Hart was in charge of the all the medics, and had been in the Army before during WWII.
There were three captains that were doctors, one for each Battalion. Monday morning I had to work at the Infirmary, but the other two corporals started the men marching. The next day I was on the line with them marching. After 3 days, the men were complaining their feet hurt, and that we were working them too hard. So I told them let's talk with Combs, and he said they didn't have to march. Major Hart was at his desk and he jumped up saying, "these men are medics and first-aid men but they are not soldiers 'till they know how to march. You leave the three corporals alone, and they will have the men in the Medical Detachment 'fighting first-aid men'." We kept marching and the men kept saying their feet hurt. I asked if they changed their socks and they said yes. About 2 weeks later we went on a 10-mile hike and over half of the men had blisters on their feet. I asked what size shoes did they wear, one man said 8 ½ but his feet looked bigger. That evening when all my men got back to the Company area I asked each man what size his feet were and what size his shoes were. Most of the men had shoes one size smaller and a few 1 ½, and one man had 2 sizes smaller. I went to the supply tent and got the shoe last and measured everyone. The next morning we went to the supply sergeant to get shoes the right size. The men had tried to see who could wear the smaller size shoe! I still can't understand why they did that!
The last part of March or first of April 1941, we were on the Parade Grounds again and Combs gave the order "Go Right". I gave the order "Column Right", Combs saw me step forward with my left foot and turn with my right foot. He yelled at me "Corporal Williams you started off with your right foot first." I didn't say anything until we got back to the Company area and got my book again and showed him all movement started with the left foot. Combs said, "You started off with your right foot." That's when we three corporals went to Major Hart to see if he could get another officer in charge of the medics. He told us to go to Regiment Headquarters and see Colonel Ankcorn and he said he would see about it. Three days later Combs broke all three of us corporals and the all of the PFCs that had been transferred into the medics, out to other Companies and I was put in "K CO". My cousin went to "F CO". I was put in the 3rd Platoon and was a yard bird; it took me 6 weeks before I made PFC. I tried to transfer back in to "CO L" but the captain and three lieutenants were transferred out and the new captain would not say yes. "K" Company's aide said he could not transfer me this soon.
Colonel Ankcorn called me to his CP (Command Post) along with the other two corporals that were transferred out of the medics. He said he had a lieutenant for the medics and wanted to know if we wanted transferred back in the medics. The men from the medics that came were Captain Coombs, the First Sergeant, the Company Clerk, and even the Supply Sergeant (he talked like Donald Duck when you could hear what he was saying), 3 sergeants, and 3 acting corporals. One of the sergeants was getting promoted and that's the position I wanted. The medics really set up a big howl when I said I wanted to be sergeant, and the other two men said they wanted to be corporals and work up to sergeant. I told Colonel Ankcorn that it would be a fight the whole time we would be in the medics. The Colonel kept us outside 'till the medics had left. Then he had us come in and he talked to us saying that he could keep the fighting to a minimum and he would make sure that we were sergeant and corporals, but he could also see our point about the fights. I had to go to the Infirmary for some reason and I got to talking with the men in the medics. They said they were really glad when we corporals were busted and transferred out of the medics but the new lieutenant was just as hard on them as we were.
When we moved to Camp Barkeley everything was built. The tents had wooden frames with plywood sides 4 foot high and screen 3 feet higher and the sides of the tent would come down below the screen and fasten on the sides of the plywood. Each tent had a gas stove - boy we were really up town!
The Regiment started getting the new 1½ ton 4x4 trucks with the front wheels having power also if needed (Actually front wheel drive). We got ¾ ton pickups, then later the ¼ ton jeeps. The Division sent down orders that there was a 1½ ton rating on the truck, and that 1½ tons was all the truck could handle - even though the truck really could handle 6 to 8 tons. When the 2½ ton 6 x 6 trucks came in, the rating said they could only handle 2½ tons, and they could really handle 15 tons - but that's the Army for you. Overseas the trucks held 15 tons or more.
We got to taking longer hikes and got to making 30 to 35 miles a day with full field packs. Later they sent down orders to carry an extra pair of shoes. We went on 2 to 5 day maneuvers and to the firing range. In August, the Division was issued the new M1 Rifle, a recoil Rifle that held 8 shells in a clip (with the recoil the Rifle would not kick). The Platoon Sergeant gave me the BAR Browning automatic rifle - the clip held 20 rounds. You could hold the trigger down and fire all 20 shells. I could take down and put back together both the BAR and the M-1 Rifles. I made Expert Marksman on both rifles.
The 45th Division would maneuver against the 36th Division, a Texas National Guard unit. We were part of the 8th Army. We would go close to Camp Bowie in Texas to maneuver for two weeks against the 36th Division two different times. We went in to the town of Brownwood. The 36th Division men said that Brownwood was "our town" and for us "to make sure we got out of it". We told them they had to show us that it was their town. Later they left with their tails between their legs. We really showed them.
In the summer of 1941 the 45th Division and the 36th Division went to western Louisiana for a 2-month maneuver. One Army against the other. For 2 days we were maneuvering against the Cavalry, and the 3rd morning we got an early start and moved about 3 miles. We came up on the Cavalry and they had their horses staked out. They said they had to let their horses rest. We told them to get on their horses and get out of here. They rode off and we never saw them again. We were the Blue Army the other was the Red. We were in a sham battle and the umpires said that 8 of us were captured. So two Reds walked us back about 10 to 15 miles and the guard left us out in the open. I don't know where they went, so I said "Let's start back". It was getting late, and we came up to a kitchen and told the cooks we were from some Infantry. They said, "Yes, they are up ahead of us". They fed us and we got a good night's sleep. Next morning, we ate breakfast and then headed out for the front lines. We never met any Red soldiers and when we heard gunfire to our left, we took off our red ribbons and put on the blue ones. (We had been issued both colors.) We came up to the Blue Army and it was the 36th Division that was beside the 45th Division. We were taken to the 36th Division and gave the information we had, then we went to the 45th Division with the information. The 45th Division made the next move we told them about and got the credit of taking part of the information that we told them about.
During this same time, I was on the water detail with a truckload of empty water cans. When the driver came up to the water station, there were 12 trucks waiting. The driver said, "I know where we can go to get a load of water". We went about 4 miles south and 2 miles east and a guard stopped us. The driver said where he was going, and the guard let us go on. We stopped to take off the blue ribbons and put on red ones then went to the red water station where there was only 1 truck ahead of us. The driver said he was some Regiment from the Red Army that we had seen on the way to the station. They wrote it down, we got the water and came back. We went by the first water station and there were still 9 trucks waiting. I never did know which Army won that war.
Once we were camped beside a river for 2 days and some men went swimming. There were cottonmouth water moccasin snakes swimming in the water also. Four of us were standing in the grass when I saw a 6 foot Green Racer snake. One man said, "Watch this" and he started running. The snake went after him, then he stopped and chased the snake. They went back and forth about 4 times before the snake crawled off.
The 45th Division went to Camp Bullis Texas close to San Antonio. The Cedar trees grew in clumps of four to nine trees. The needles that fell off the trees would be up to a foot deep and it was like flopping down on a mattress. We were infiltrating through the area. I jumped up and ran 100 feet and dropped down. Covey ran up and dropped down too, but he bounced right back up and turned white as a sheet. I jumped up and ran over to Covey and said, "Something is wrong with Covey". When I got beside him all he could say was "sssss--nn--ake!" I had to move to where I could see 2 big coils of a rattlesnake. A man in my squad, Brad, asked if any one had a loaded Rifle. I had shell casings with rocks in them so I gave him my weapon. He held the end of the barrel right next to the snake's head and pulled the trigger and blew the snake's head off. Then he reached down and picked up the snake. The jeep was ready to take any heavy equipment in to camp. Melvin, the jeep driver, said to put a handle on the snake so Brad found some wire to put around the 2 coils of the snake. Melvin took the snake to camp. Cliff, our cook, asked Brad what he was going to do with the snake. He said skin it and send the hide to his brother in St. Louis, MO. The skin was 7 ft. long. Cliff said, "Help me dress it out. I will put it in salt water over night, cut the snake into steaks, then fry them, and feed it to the men". Boy! Now I could find out what rattlesnake will taste like. The next evening when we came in we always checked the bulletin board because there was always details for KP and Regiment detail, like going with the trucks to different places to pick up supplies for the companies. Then there is guard duty every 13 days and here I was, on guard duty and had to hurry to get ready. I caught the first guard shift. The other 2 squads got to go to supper but we had to wait 'till after our shift at 2000 hrs to come and eat. Cliff had something fixed for us saying "I tried to keep some steaks for you boys but those hogs had to eat all of them up."
Right after that the Regiment was issued the M1 Rifles and I got the BAR. Then for a month it was to the firing range or the simulated city streets.
At Camp Bullis the wood ticks were so bad in the spring that when we would fall on the cedar needles the ticks would crawl on us. Every evening we would have to strip all our clothes off - even our shoes and socks looking for ticks. We would need some one to look at our backs also. One evening I had 63 ticks on me! One man went to sleep on the needles and when he woke up he brushed the ticks off his clothes, but that evening 4 men picked 254 ticks off him! They were in his hair and even under the foreskin in his penis. If you missed any ticks and they swelled with blood, the medics had Witch Hazel to put on the tick and it would back out.
When we got the new canvas leggings we did not need the old wrap leggings. Three different times when we were on maneuvers, I could not take off my leggings, and every time I got a chigger bite it would raise a red welt, then a water blister would form and with the leggings rubbing they would break and cause infection. I had to get to the Hospital once just before we left Camp Bullis and another time when we went to San Angelo, Texas for two weeks maneuvers with a tank Battalion.
In the evening the Lighting Bugs or Flies (they are called Lighting Bugs because at night they give off a light like a florescent light) would come out. I don't know where we accumulated the glass jars and bottles - maybe the soldiers ahead of us left them, but we would catch as many bugs as we could - 6 to12 bugs - and we would have light in our pup tents. The bugs put out enough light that I could see to write a letter home. As soon as we would go to sleep we would pour the bugs out of the jar so we could get them again the next night.
We went out on two over night maneuvers and I got a good case of chiggers and I started getting blisters and took off my leggings and put them in my pack. We went by a major & he stopped me because I did not have my leggings on. I told him about the chigger bites, and he said, "Let me see." So I pulled up both pant legs, when he saw the blisters, the major pulled me back and we went to his jeep. He told the driver to take me to the hospital to see some doctor. So here I went to the hospital in the major's Jeep. When I was discharged from the hospital a truck driver from the 157th Regiment asked me if I was Vere Williams and I said yes. He said, "Come on, I came to get you". He had a 6 x 6 truck and I got to ride in the cab. Most of the time when we rode on the trucks we would have to sit on wooden benches along the sides of the truck box.
While we were in Western Louisiana, we had to wash the glue off the envelopes and stamps, as the humidity was so high that the envelopes would seal shut and the stamps stuck together. So, we would buy a bottle of glue to seal the envelopes and stamps. This was also the case at San Antonio that spring.
When we went on maneuvers with the 36th Division at Camp Bowie we went in some tall grass and I got the chiggers but I waited 'till we got back to Camp Barkeley then I went in the Hospital with the chigger bites.
I never went out much with girls at Abilene, but there was a Christian College there. Four of us buddies in "K Co." would go to town but we never looked for girls. I had a buddy, Cully, in "L CO" that really had a line of bull with the girls, but I never did see him keep a girl long. I think the longest he kept a girl was a month. He would be out of money and would come to me and say, "Tarzan, I have a real nice girl I want you to meet". Every time Culley would want me to go to town, I had to pay the way. He would have 2 girls there, but with the line of bull Culley would put out, I could tell the girls were ready to drop him. Culley talked in his sleep. When I was in "L Co" he was in my tent so when he got to talking, we would ask him questions. He would tell us everything, as long as we did not call his name he wouldn't wake up. I did like one girl, and she was fond of me, but she'd had an uncle killed in WWI and when we left Camp Barkeley, she went to dating a man in college.
In October 1941, the Rifle Company made up the Weapons Platoon with 3-60 MM mortars and 21 men, 7 men to the squad, and two .30 caliber air cooled machine guns with 14 men- also 7 men to the squad. I was put in the machine gun squad as the second gunmen. The second gunman had to load the belt in the machine gun, watch that all the shells in the belt were even, (if one shell was pulled out even ½-inch it could not feed into the gun), and also have another belt ready when the 250 rounds were fired in each belt. Mel Browne was the First Gunner. When we would go out on the firing range and with the machine guns, the target was at 1,000 inches, which is 82 feet 4 inches. There were 22 one inch squares on the target and we got 66 shells in the belt and were supposed to put 3 rounds in each square. Most of the time, Mel could hit the squares that ran up and down or straight cross, but he would fire from 5 to 7 rounds in each square, so he would run out of shells about ½ way through the target and with luck he would get a score of 55 - 60. I would make expert with a score of 98 to 100. One time Mel was on KP, and the way he could suck ass, he got the first cook to put him as a second cook, so I was moved up to first gunner. Mel loved to eat, and when he gained up to 260 pounds, he would come back out on the line. There in Texas we would go on hikes a lot. One time we went on a forced march with full field packs, and in 24 hours we covered 54 miles. On that march, we did running as well as marching for over 36 miles. Mel lost 26 pounds. As soon as he would lose down to 175 pounds he would go back in to the kitchen.
On December 7, 1941 when the Japs hit Pearl Harbor I was on guard. It was Sunday night and I was on the first guard squad. I had to walk around the motor pool where all the trucks, ¾ tons, and the jeeps were parked at night, along with the civilian cars that some of the boys had. The motor pool was 3 blocks long and 1 block wide. The corporal of the first squad was bucking to make sergeant and he didn't like the men in the weapons platoon as we carried pistols. I was walking from midnight 'till 0200, and the corporal came some time after 0100. He did not see me. The motor pool did not have any lights and I was on the far side. The corporal went back to the guardhouse and got another man, while I had walked around the motor pool. He had him walking back and forth on the 1 block length, so when I came around - here a man came meeting me. I challenged him. He said that the corporal got him to walk the guard because I was sleeping while on guard. I told him to get the corporal. He went to the guardhouse and here came the lieutenant with the corporal. The lieutenant said, "The Corporal said you were sleeping on guard, and we are taking you back and locking you up." The corporal started to take my pistol and I stopped him. The lieutenant said, "You better give the corporal your pistol or you will be charged for not surrendering your weapon." They locked me in this room with nothing in it to sit on, so I had to sit on the floor. On weekends we were on guard 24 hours, but on weekdays the guards would walk from 1800 hours to 0600 hours, so we walked for 12 hours. The guard that replaced me finished the shift and went back to the company. Sleeping on guard duty was a serious offence which resulted in court martial. Well, I didn't get to eat breakfast. The court-martial was in the same building as the one the guards stayed in. Three majors were hearing the court-martial cases and did not get to me 'till after dinner. When they came and got me, one of the majors said "The corporal reported you were sleeping on guard. What do you have to say for yourself?" I said, "I was walking around the Motor Pool, and I never did see the corporal 'till after I had challenged the man that the he put on my post. The replacement had gotten the corporal and lieutenant." The majors had the orders of each post and said, "You have to take 10 minutes to walk around the motor pool if you walk fast, as you have to walk 8 blocks." I said, "That's right." The majors wanted to talk to the corporal and lieutenant but they were out in the field so a sergeant went in a jeep and got them. When they got back to the court martial room they saw me. The majors asked, "What happened?" The lieutenant said, "The corporal reported Private Williams sleeping on guard." The major asked the corporal how long he waited and he said, "Well, I didn't have all night." The Major said, "How many minutes?" The corporal said, "2 or maybe 3 minutes." The major asked, "Have you read the rules on walking the post?", and they said, "Yes." The Major said "How long would it take to walk the post?" and the corporal said, "2 to 3 minutes." "Where is the man supposed to walk, Corporal?" "Just up and back on the 1 block side." The Major said "You never even read the rule book. The guard has to walk all the way around the motor pool." The corporal and lieutenant really looked at each other and the majors gave them orders to memorize the rules for all the posts and come back in the next court-martial date. I said "I want my pistol before I leave here". The major told the corporal to "Bring his pistol here, I want to see it." The same sergeant took them back to the company and said it took the corporal 10 minutes to get my pistol. The corporal gave my pistol to the major and he inspected it and said it was all right and gave me the pistol and, told the corporal and the lieutenant that they had to know the rules word for word. As we were walking to the company I told the corporal that if I was ever on guard with him again, he would wake up with a knot on his head.
In March, I was on guard duty again, and so was the corporal. He really looked to see what squad I was in, and I was in the 2nd Squad. So when we got to the guardhouse, I changed with his last man, and he did not notice 'till we were at the motor pool again. When he saw me he turned white as a sheet and stammered that I was supposed to be in the 2nd squad. I just said "OK". When the corporal was supposed to come around in 1 hour, the corporal of the 2nd Squad, Jack, came, and I asked him why he was on this first squad. He said the corporal (I cannot remember that corporal's name) begged him to take his place. So I told him, "That the corporal said I was sleeping on guard and I said he would wake up with a knot on his head". Jack said, "That's the reason he was so scared." At 0200 when we changed guards, I told the guard that was supposed to relive me to go back with my squad, and I would walk in his place. The corporal didn't notice that it was me and it was dark. They had flashlights and when they got back to the guard house, the men laid down on the bunks. Soon the corporal saw I was not with the men. He tried to get both corporals to change with him and they would not do it. At 0300 hours I was watching for the corporal to come. I could see Post #8 and I could see him with his light, but he sure did not come to Post #9, the Motor Pool. When I got in the guard house at 0400 hours, I asked the him why he didn't check Post #9. He said, "Oh, I did. Just ask the men." "The man at #8 said, "You checked my post, but then went back to the guard house." The next morning he was at the Company Commander asking to get transferred out of the Company. Later I asked the Company Clerk what happened and he said the Captain told him the only way he could transfer him was to bust him down to a private and the corporal said, "That's better then getting a knot on my head". I am a good-natured man but when somebody does me dirty I get even, and it doesn't take me long to do it.
About the last of March 1942, the Division was loading up the trucks and equipment on railroad flat cars to get ready to move to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I think "K Company" had 5 coaches and a baggage car, and 2 or 3 more baggage cars - part of either the medical detachment or the service company. Then we had 24 flat cars with trucks, jeeps, and ¾-ton trucks. When the train come in to pick us up it also had a caboose. While we were loading on the train, the Engine unhooked from the coaches and backed onto the next track to get the 2 baggage cars to put in front of the coaches. When everybody was on the train, it pulled ahead then backed up to the 24 flat cars then got the caboose. They wanted 24 men to ride on each flat car so I volunteered. I got the first flat car, and we got to set in the cabs of the vehicles.
It seemed like the train would stop as much as it would move. The train stopped for 3 passenger trains and 3 freight trains coming west. The train even stopped for 3 freight trains going the same direction we were going. What I think, was that the railroad had a too small of an engine for our train. It took 6 days to get to Massachusetts - 2000 miles. When we got to St. Louis, Missouri they unhooked the engine and caboose and a little switch engine started moving the train. We came to the Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River. The Bridge was built high enough so ships could pass under it. The Engine just got over the top of the bridge and was starting down, the last car just cleared the switch when the engine spun out and the train stopped. The engineer tried several times to get the train to moving but no luck. There was a switch engine with 4 cars a 100 yards farther up on the west side of the river. Finally, it backed up to the switch then moved forward to the back of the train. The engineer blew the whistle to let the engineer in front know he was ready to help move the train. So when the train started moving, the back engine got to spinning it's wheels & the engineer had to cut the power to the wheels 'till they stopped spinning & then put more power to the wheels. When the train was half way over the bridge they cut the engine loose while the train was still moving. They pulled us into another railroad yard then put on another engine and caboose and we were on our way again. The man that had the last flat car was bitching that he had to walk so far to get to the car so I traded cars with him. On the morning of the 5th day of our journey, I just got to the last car for guard duty and was standing beside the track, when here came 2 men to get on the caboose. The conductor asked me if I wanted to ride in the caboose with them. I said sure. I got to talk with the men, and when the train got to moving, one went to throw a switch. The flagman has to throw the switch to line up with the main line and then had to run to catch the caboose as the train never stops moving. Then he said "Let's climb up in the cubicle on top of the caboose". When the train made a curve to the left, the flagman said for me to wave my arm up and down so the fireman could see me and tell the engineer so he would blow the whistle twice. I rode there 'till we got to the next railroad division where they changed crews and guards. Why we had to guard the cars I will never know. Of course when we left Pine Camp by the middle part of January with snow 4 feet deep on the level, if the wind had not blown, we would have froze riding in the trucks.
Fort Devens, Massachusetts was the first barracks we got to live in. Before we left Camp Barkeley the trees had bloomed. Then as we went through the Mississippi Valley the trees were blooming, and at Fort Devens the trees started blooming. I got to see the trees bloom 3 times in the spring of '42. We went right on with our training and maneuvers. That summer there was a tower out in the wide open space that was 20 feet high and 16 feet across the top that had rope nets dropped over each side to simulate a ship. With full field packs we would climb up the rope net cross over and down the other side. There was a wooden box 6 feet long, 2 feet wide and 3 feet high about 1½ feet away from the edge of the tower. When 4 men came down the net at the same time the 2 men in the middle would have to step on the box to get out of the way as there was 4 more men coming down right after you. This one afternoon we had been climbing for 3½ hours and they let us rest a few minutes. The 4 lieutenants said let's climb the tower and swing over the side. The first and second lieutenant swung over OK, but the third Lieutenant - he was a little over weight, probably 200 pounds - grabbed hold of the rope running up and down, with his left hand. Instead of the rope running across, so that when he swing over the side and his weight coming down on his left hand, it pulled the rope out of his hand. As he swing on to the right, his right hand slipped off the rope he fell, side ways onto the box. It was a bad accident. The second lieutenant ran over to where we were yelling, and commanded "Fall In. Fall In". When we were in place, "Right Face, Double Time, March" and he ran us one mile. By that time we were getting tired. We were carrying our full field packs and we were slowing down. It made the lieutenant mad that we were not keeping up with him and he kept us running for another mile. The lieutenant was not carrying a field pack, he only had his pistol and pistol belt on. By that time the ambulance had come and we had walked back to the tower. As we got there he gave the order to go over the tower. The first lieutenant, Cooley said, "Just a minute, you have run these men 2 miles, walked them back and you want them to climb the tower?" The second lieutenant did not talk back. He was the Athletic Director for the 157th. Regiment and he tried to make long distant runners out of us. One day, right after we ate dinner, this same second lieutenant called us out and we ran 1½ miles to a small lake, stacked our rifles stripped down and jumped in the water. Well, we were hot from running and only about 50 men went in to the water and 6 of those got the cramps. That made the lieutenant mad and he ordered every one out of the water and dressed. He left 2 men with the 6 men that got the cramps. Then he took us on a 5-mile forced march. I told the men in my squad that the lieutenant would get what's coming to him.
During the summer the 3rd Battalion of the 157th Regiment was first to go from the 45th Division, to the Cape Cod area on the Horn off Massachusetts, on Buzzard Bay close to Martha's Vineyard for amphibious training with the Navy as they had the new Higgins boats. The New Higgins boats came to a point on the bow. We had to climb over the sides to get in and jump over the sides. When we got out, with a full field pack, we had to drop down over 6 feet to the sand. We pitched our pup tent and that evening we got passes to go into town. It was a regular summer resort town. It had about 12 beer Gardens along with the curio shops along the beach. The first Beer Garden we came to was the biggest of all and we went in. The song Deep in the Heart of Texas was just a new song, so I went to the jukebox and I think it was 3 for 10 cents. Anyway, I played Deep in the Heart of Texas and went to sit with the rest of my buddies. There were several people in the Beer Hall so when the song started playing all the people stood up, but I could not figure out why 'till after the song was over. Two men came over to our table saying, "You fellows are not very patriotic". We asked "Why?" They said, "The National Anthem just played." I asked, "Who told you that?" They said "The soldiers that are here." I guessed I was more or less the leader of the men so I showed them my shoulder patch - The Thunderbird, an Indian Design of an Eagle with spread wings, which is really a Phoenix bird. "What patch do they have on their shoulder?" I asked. One said, "It was a Green Arrow with a darker "T" in the middle." That damned 36th Division - they want everybody to think Texas is the United States! I told them, "The National Anthem is still the same, and if you stand up when this song is played, I will make sure you are sitting when the song stops." That put a bug in our ear. We went to all the Beer Gardens and told the bartenders to shut down the jukeboxes. I showed everybody we were from the 45th Division and told them that the 36th Division was having everybody stand up for the song Deep in the Heart of Texas and that it was not the National Anthem. The 36th Division men were on overnight maneuvers to Martha's Vineyard and would be at the Beer Garden the next evening. The next evening 8 of us big men (I am 6 foot, 175 pounds) each had something to put in our hand when we hit somebody. I had my knife. We went to the first Beer Garden and there were 22 to 24 men around 2 big round tables. We kept our shoulder patches covered, I laid my cap over my shoulder and went to the jukebox and played Deep in the Heart of Texas. When the song started playing, the men jumped up yelling "Stand Up, Stand Up". We yelled "Sit Down"! They yelled "Stand Up" again, so we yelled again. Here came the men over to our table saying, "What do you mean sit down, don't you know the National Anthem?" Instead of spreading out they came to us in a tight group. I had my back to them but was watching. When they got 4 feet from me I swung out of my chair and really swung a hay maker punch in the leader's chin. The blow on the chin lifted him off his feet and he fell back against 9 men that fell to the floor. He grabbed his jaw and was saying something I could not hear. He said, "Get them, the sons of bitches!", and the fight was on. It was not long 'till we cleaned house and the men from the 36th were on the floor or back at their tables. I told them "Let this be a lesson to you." One man said, "Damn that's the 45th Division!" After the fight there was a chair broken and we asked the bartender what we owed him for the chair. He said, "Nothing it was those men's fault.", indicating the men of the 36th. My buddy, sitting beside me said he heard bones break when I hit that first man. We went all the way through all the Beer Gardens cleaning house. We went though about 8 gardens when two of our men were drinking in the garden. They were short-5 feet 6 inches - but were really built, as they were coal miners here in Colorado. They wanted to know what we were doing. We told them that we were cleaning house because of that song. They jumped up saying they had to stand up twice when the song was played and they were ready to fight also. As they fought they would work together. One would try to get a man from behind and the other would hit him above his belt and one of the men, Sweed, really had a punch, so when the man bent forward Sweed really cold cocked him. As he was falling, another man hit Sweed on the side of his head and it staggered him. Sweed shook his head and said, "You SOB!" The man was ready to hit again when Sweed kicked him on his chin and it's a wonder he did not kick him between his legs. While bent from being kicked Sweed cold cocked him. Before we left to go to the next Beer Garden, Sweed said "I want to tell you men - Do not under estimate the 45th Division!" (Sweed's parents came from Sweden and his name was like Slevinasky but that was not his name and everybody called him Sweed.)
We went on to the end of the Beer Gardens then went back to the Company area and told our men that to watch out, that the 36th Division men may coming after us as we really had a fight in all the Beer Gardens, but everything was quiet. To say we came through with out a scratch wouldn't quite work - 4 men had black eyes, one of them had both eyes black, and all had bruises. My knuckles were all skinned. We went to the Captain and told him we were in a fight last night. He said, "I can see that, what happened?" So we told him. He said, "I wish I had of known that, I would have called out the Company and we would really have shown them!" Breaking someone's jaw is really an offense from fighting and when we told the Captain, he said if anything comes of it he would take it to our Major to straighten out, but we never heard anything from the 36th Division. We finished the maneuver then and went back to Fort Devens for more training.
The Middle of September 1942, the 45th Division loaded on trucks and went 400 miles to Pine Camp in New York, near Watertown. Pine Camp now is Fort Drum. It was nice when we first got there - then here came the snow. We were issued fur lined parka coats but the fur lined parka pants, were sent to Arizona for Desert Training (that's the Army for you!) and we never did get any pants all the time we were in Pine Camp. One night in December, I was on guard, and had the midnight to 0200 hours shift. The moon was shining and there was no wind but the frost was flying through the air and it was 42 degrees below zero. I had on my long johns, 2 pair of fatigues, and 2 pair of woolen pants and my legs still got cold. (I think that's the reason I can not stand any cold on my legs now.) You could not blow your breath straight out in front of you and walk in to it as it would stick to your coat and face. One man who would blow his breath in front of him and then walk into the frost had his face was all covered with frost. When he came into the guard house the frost melted off his face, but it was frosted so bad, he had be in the hospital for 2 months. We had to blow our breath to one side and still the frost would be all over the front of our coats. When we went in to the guardhouse we did not dare take off our mittens and touch our coats or we would frost bite our fingers. We had to wake the men up that had been in for 2 hours to unfasten our outer coats. As the snow got deeper we would go out on hikes, and when the wind would blow, the hard winds would come out of the northwest, and blew up to 70 miles an hour. The snow would drift everywhere and we would have to shovel out the paths for the trucks that brought the coal for the furnaces.
When the snow was 2 ½ feet deep the Regiment had an overnight maneuver and we had to put 1 extra blankets in our pack. About 1530 hours, we stopped maneuvering and pitched our pup tents. We had to shovel the snow out first. Being down below the top of the snow, it was not so cold. After dark the trucks brought supper out to us. That night we did not take any clothes off just our parka coats and lay them over us. About 0200 they woke us up saying. "Break camp, we are moving out". Here it is pitch dark, as it was cloudy and the stars were not shining either. You could not see your hand in front of your face. We tore down our tents and when we went to roll up our blankets, I found 8 tent pegs and I'd only had 5 to begin with. I asked my buddy how many pegs he had and he said 6. We got our packs together and they took us to our barracks as they said it was too cold to stay out all night. We had unrolled our pack to get our blankets and we really had a lot of snow in the blankets. When I got to the tent pegs, I had 3 pieces of branch of a tree. The next morning at Reveille one Sergeant was short two men so the Sergeant and the jeep driver went back out in the field and found the two men. They were still sleeping in the pup tents.
One morning in December we were going for a 10 mile hike. The second lieutenant that was the Athletic Director went to see the Major to have the Battalion run for a mile to start out with. The Major said, "So you want everybody in the Battalion to be in the hospital?" The lieutenant said "Why?" The Major said "With the men sucking the cold air on their lungs." The lieutenant came back to the company mad. After the hike, we came back to the barracks. One of the men in my squad had his feet sweat so bad that when he started to take off his shoes, they were stuck to his feet. We had to loosen the shoe laces all the way so we could get our fingers down under his foot to get his shoes off, then his socks were frozen to his feet. When we got his socks off there was ice between his toes and on the bottom of his feet. Boy, I was never so glad to get away from a camp!
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.
While 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.
We 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.
Just 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.
The 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 Corp). 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.
I 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.
At 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.
At 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.
The 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.
The first of July, 1943, we loaded back on the ship. On the 5th the ships left the Harbor and headed east. We were issued books on the Language of Sicily. On the 9th we landed on the southern shore of Sicily. At midnight the 9th of July a bad storm hit and there was rough water trying to get into the Higgins boats. We were in the 7th Army under General George S. Patton. When he found out the 45th Division was a National Guard outfit he didn't want those '2nd rate soldiers' and was told by Eisenhower that he had to take the 45th Division. The 1st and 3rd Divisions were also in the 7th Army and made the invasion on Sicily. We landed close to +San Croce, Camerina and moved inland. The 2nd day we came to the +Comis and by 1700 hours the airport was captured along with ammo and bomb dumps, 200,000 gallons of aviation fuel, 450 prisoners, and more than 120 planes. When the first bullet was shot at us we were not really in to fighting but when the second shot was fired it was "Kill or be Killed!". The fighting was tough. With the Germans 88mm shells falling all round us. On the 15th of July, the British pulled through our Regiment. So we went further west to +San Caterine with heavy fighting. The Germans would pull back a few miles and set up a defense so when we would get up to them, there would be another big battle. The whole time we were walking north across Sicily, the sun came up in the west and set in the east for me 'till we got to see the ocean on the north side of the island and then everything turned around straight for me.
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 +Callanisseta, we had climbed over rubble in the streets. We went on up to +Canipofelice, and on to the north coast through +Cebalu 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. The 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 seen them.
Then here 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 Palarno. 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.
We went back to +Termimi Inerse close to +Palarmo 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 Palarno+ 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!!
The 8th of September 1943 the 179th Regiment and 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 157th Regiment boarded on ships to make it to Salarno+ Italy. When we made the Landing on Salarno 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 Salarno 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 ¾ to 1 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. The 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.
We 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. On 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.
I 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.
When 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. Everyday 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. fI 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 that.
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 Straite 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. The 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!"
About 14 years ago a man came to my place, he had just lost his wife and wanted to visit. We got to talking about the war and he said he was in Italy. I said I was in Italy with the 45th Division He said he was with 191st Tank Battalion. He told the story about some man knocking on his tanks wanting machine gun ammo. I told him that man was me! After that he came to talk with me 'till he passed away about 8 years ago.
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 MES 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.
When we first went into the mountains the company went up this pretty steep road and on top it was flat. About ¾ mile across, there was a company of Germans and a tank, so we walked around the edge of the mountain. The sides were so steep that the loose dirt we kicked, as we walked, would slide down 2 to 300 feet before it stopped. When we dug our foxholes we threw the dirt down the steep bank - we even dug the machine guns down so the barrel was just above the ground. When we would fire at any German movement, their tank would fire the 88 gun at us. The shells would either land right out in front of us or go over head and go way down into the valley below us. The tank must have run out of ammo because it quit firing on us. About midnight the tank started down the hill so the next morning we were standing out over our foxholes and here came 12 P 51s and made a big circle, heading right for us, we dived in our holes. That's one time I wished my foxhole had handles as the plane bomb strafed us, one bomb landed 8 feet to the right of our hole and the concussion lifted us out of the hole and threw us 10 feet from the hole. We had to scramble to get back in our holes again. Two men weren't as lucky, as one bomb lifted them out of the hole and another bomb blew them over the side of the hill. One man went head over heels down the side about 200 feet before he spread eagle to stop himself. Then he had to climb up on all fours to get up to the top again. Our Major called the squadron, and they said we were not supposed to be there for two weeks. Another time we contacted the Germans and our objective was ¾ mile farther. We were really in a battle, when the men in front of us pulled back so we went to moving, when an artillery shell landed about 20 feet to my right. Something hit me under my left eye. 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. The 34th Division relieved us and we got 6 days rest. The next day after I was wounded, one of my 2nd gunners had a swollen ankle and could hardly walk. He had to carry the machine gun, so I took him to the first aid station. I had a patch on my eye when the first aid man said "Tarzan, what's the matter with you." I told him "I have a man with a bad ankle." He said "No, you have a patch under your eye." So I told him I had been wounded yesterday and he chewed me out for not coming in when I got wounded. Did the Captain ever chew me out for not coming in when I got hit?!? He said I could get lead poisoning and could be pushing up daisies. They put another patch on my eye then asked if that was all. I was afraid to show him my knee but went ahead and pulled up my pant leg, I got another chewing out, I thought he chewed all my butt off. That time my wounds got on my record for the first time even through it was the third time I was wounded. When the doctors saw my 2nd gunner's ankle, they sent him back to the hospital and I never saw him again.
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. His 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.
When 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.
The 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.
Talk 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.
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. 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. 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.
While 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".
We 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.
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).
The whole time we were on the European Campaign, we wore woolen shirts and pants. I guess, because the woolens wouldn't show up as much as the Khaki uniforms that most all the other soldiers wore. We never sewed stripes on our sleeves. The Officers never wore any hardware as that would show the Germans their rank because then they would be the first men to be shot by the enemy. One time I had five new replacements in my section. One day they asked when I was going to sew on my stripes and I said when I get to be a First Sergeant. I didn't know our Captain was anywhere around. Neil said "That may be sooner than you think, Tarzan." After I got wounded the last time, a Sergeant from the mortar section got to be the First Sergeant of the Company. Awhile before I was wounded the last time in France, the men in my section were talking and some said "Boy Tarzan, you are not afraid of anything! You go right up to the line when bullets are flying everywhere". I said "My back is not wide enough for the yellow streak that runs up and down my back". "Boy you sure don't show it". I said, "I have 14 men following me and I would not expect any of them to do what I would not do." They said they never realized that and that was the reason they always followed me wherever we went. Really, we all had a job to do, and I did it with the best of my ability.
Sometime after we broke through Salarno, somewhere to the right of our Division was either the 90th or 91st Division. It was made up of African Americans. One evening at dusk we were set up along the road when here came a jeep with four Negroes. I stopped them, saying there were Germans ahead of us. They said their outfit was on up ahead of us. We told them their Division was to the right of us but they know better, and started driving. They got about 100 yards ahead of us when an artillery shell landed beside the jeep. All four men jumped out of the jeep and came tuning back - really running right by us. They didn't stop at the Company Commander's We went up and got the jeep. It had run off in a ditch and killed the motor. We took the jeep to the company CP. They sent it to the Battalion CP or to the Regiment CP. I don't know where the jeep ended up at.
One time we were on an oiled road walking, when a jeep with a sergeant and three officers (two majors and a captain, I think) drove up. We told them we were the leading element and that we didn't know where the Germans were. Both majors said they had been on this road before several times - we knew they had not because the Germans just pulled back that morning before. The first major told the sergeant to drive on, as 'we know where we are going'. They were not as lucky as the four Negroes were. They only got about 100 yards a head of us when the jeep ran over a tank mine. [A mine for tanks are four holes dug in the road in a diamond shape. They are set on a diagonal shape on the road and the holes dug down deep enough to put several mines on top of each other. I have seen from 2 to 12 mines stacked in a hole. A mine is 1 feet across and 3 to 4 inches high and weighs 12 pounds. A lot of times the mines are wired so when one hole explodes all four holes will blow.] All of a sudden there was a big explosion, a big puff of smoke then here came the concussion. We saw pieces flying in the air. We got up to where the jeep disappeared and judging from the depth of holes there were 10 to 12 mines in each hole, all four blow. All we could recognize was the motor and transmission that lay beside the road and the spare tire holder. The tires were blown off into pieces. We saw two of the officer's helmets, one had the Major's hair and skin plastered in top of it. I suppose those men were listed as missing in action.
There were times when we would advance thorough open fields and grassland. This one day we were going through an open field before we contacted the Germans. For some reason I took off my pack to fix something, was ready to pick it up when an artillery shell landed right before me. How come my crew or I never got hit, I don't know. I just put on my pack and started walking when another shell came in, and the Platoon Sergeant behind me took a direct hit. We saw his helmet hit the ground. All we could find of him was his helmet, the barrel of his rifle, and his bayonet with the leather handle blown off. One of his shoes one was split in half and the other one was split in front of the shoelaces.
Another time we were walking on this road when we could hear fighter planes up to our left. We could barely see the planes but they were in a dogfight. Soon, here came a plane coming down on a sharp angle picking up speed as it fell. The pilot bailed out and fell some before he opened his chute. The plane came screaming to the ground about 200 yards from us. We felt the jolt when it hit the ground. The motor hit the ground and broke off. The plane slid on the ground, then the dirt mushroomed up and the motor flew up into the air about 30 feet and landed behind the plane. It was a spitfire plane. A German pilot saw the plane go down and saw the pilot bail out so here he came. He went to firing on the pilot, but I guess his aim was bad. He turned around and fired again 'till the pilot dropped his arms from hanging in the ropes. But by then, the German was too close to the parachute and the propeller caught the parachute and pulled the man under the plane for a few seconds, then he dropped to the ground with no chute. The plane started up but then it sound like the motor quit running and we saw the plane fly into the ground probably two miles from where we were.
We were at the Replacement Depot from the 24th 'till the 28th of December1943 and more men came from hospital and some men came as replacements. We got up to eat breakfast the morning of the 28th and there was a double string of trucks waiting to take us to the ships. It was cloudy and the wind was blowing. The Depot said we would get on a troop ship, but here was 16 LCPs (Landing Craft Personal). They are a flat bottom craft that only draw four feet of water, so that they can get close to the beach when making an invasion. They have ramp two feet wide on each side of the front end that run ahead for a man to walk down on to get to the beach. It seems to me that 150 to160 men could get on the ship, and each ship has a crew of 20 to 24 men. As soon as the ships were filled that afternoon, they backed away from the docks and headed out to sea. There were 4 to 6 escort ships with the convoy. It took 4 days to get to Naples. The water was really rough with 12-foot swells. When both ships were in the lowest part, all you could see was the top of the control house on the LCP to the left of us as the ships were in a convoy. The ship would roll with the wave like a cork. Then when the ships would head into the swells, they would ride over the big waves. Sometimes as the back of the ship was coming up, the propeller would come part way out of the water and it would shake the whole ship. It stormed for 3 days and stopped during the night. The next morning the water was as clear and smooth as glass. We got into Naples in the afternoon. For New Year's dinner we had "C Rations". By the time we got to the Replacement Depot (the Race Track) it was after dark seems like about 2000 hours (8:00 p.m.) The kitchen fed us sandwiches. We stayed the night of the Jan 1st and the morning of the 2nd. We men got on the truck to go to the 157th Regiment. It was by the town of Venefro+ - close to where the monastery was on top of the mountain. We got to the Regiment area too late to go to our company area, so we stayed over night. The Regiment area was back 2 to 3 miles from the company area. Our company jeeps picked us up to go to the company area. I got the equipment I needed to go back on the front line again. That night, I went up with a string of mules to take supplies up to the men on top. There was snow on top of the mountain. The foxholes were rocks piled up for protection as the ground was frozen. We could see the Cassino+ Monastery to the east about 2 miles (it was 1/2 to 3/4 mile from the mountain we were on to the mountain that the monastery was on), the Germans were on the mountain ahead of us about 800 yards. The night of January 14th or morning of the 15th 1944 either the 85th or 88th Division relieved the 45th and we came down to the Naples Staging area for a few days. While we were there, Mel, the man that was the first gunner in my squad in the States, but didn't come over seas with us, came to the Company area. He sure acted important as he weighed all of 250 or 260 pounds and had his pistol with him. He was just as full of bull shit as he was before in the states. He had a group of men around him that didn't know him, and he was giving them a line of bull s. When I saw him, I walked up behind him and heard some of what he was saying. I walked up to him and shook hands with him. He wanted to know if I was still firing the machine guns. I said, "Yes". I asked what was he doing, when did he come overseas, etc. He said he was guarding German prisoners at a Naples Stockade, and that he left the States in November. The Captain wanted me, so I went to see what he wanted. Mel was there for about 2 hours. Two of the men in my section listened to him and said he was really doing a good job with the personnel (German prisoners). I told them he was really making a mountain out of a molehill. He was PFC when I was a Sergeant.
Winston Churchill, England's Prime Minister, wanted the supply lines at the Rome area cut to the winter lines. He said we could have cut the lines in 7 days time, but what Churchill didn't know was that the Germans had 6 Infantry and Armor Divisions around the north of Rome. So on the 26th of January 1944 the 3rd Division and 179th Regiment of the 45th and some British Divisions made the first invasion of Anzio. As usual there was a shortage of ships, like when we made the Salarno landing. We loaded on the ships the 28th and we were in one with the larger Personal Crafts. I was in the front hole, on the left side, clear to the front wall, on the top bunk. There were four bunks one above the other. In the middle of the night a ship cut across in front of our ship, and our ship hit the side of the other one and threw the bow to the left. Everybody on the left side of the isles was thrown out of their bunks. We hit the bunks on the right side and fell to the floor. I felt sorry for the men on the bottom bunk as 3 men fell on top of him. The lights went out for about one minute. There was a mad scramble for us trying to get up, so when the lights came back on soon, a Navy man stuck his head in saying everything was all right. That the ship had hit another one, but there was no damage. We landed on the docks and went right to the front lines to start fighting. We were in the area of Aprilia+ and there was a factory. The Germans were a fair fight. But two days later they tried to push us off the beachhead. There the Germans were trying to occupy it and they had a tank beside the building firing at us. The worst part was when we dug a deep foxhole we would hit water so all the foxholes were more shallow. There was a place that had trees called " The Pines" that we were by, later the British took over the area. There was a dairy along our area. I never did see how many cows were in the herd, but within a week all the cows were killed by artillery - then later the smell was really something. All through the Germans counter attacked, I was ordering from 4 to 6 cases of machine gun ammo. There are 4 boxes of ammo in each case that would be 16 to 24 boxes for each gun. When we really got into fighting hard, I would double the order so that when the supply sergeant brought up the supplies, I would have my men make the 2nd trip to bring all the cases to our holes.
The 15th of February we were going to move to another position as the British were taking over that area. They had been coming all day long, and we were going to move out that night. About 1600 hours my 1st and 2nd gunners and I took the section bedrolls to where the Company could pick them up. As we started walking a 280 mm shell come in and wounded one man. Two men jumped up to help him when the 2nd shell came in and wounded those two. We could tell it wasn't an 88 shell by the sound it made coming in. The 88's have a more screaming sound. We took the bedrolls to the spot where they could be picked up and as we were coming back, we were under a big tree when the 3rd shell came and hit the tree. There were 19 men wounded or killed with that shell. My 2nd gunner was killed, my 1st gunner had shrapnel in his hip. Shrapnel hit the left side of my helmet. There was a crease four inches long and ½-inch deep on the side of my helmet. I remember seeing my helmet rolling 30 feet in front of me, and that was the last I remember. The next thing I remembered I was running out in the open field as hard as I could run, I remember thinking "Why am I running?" I had run 3/8 of a mile from where I was hit. As I stopped I felt like I was floating on air, as if something was holding me up so I wouldn't fall. I have no idea how long I stood there 'till I came to my senses that I was standing up. I don't know why but I felt to see if I had my helmet on. I looked around and saw where I was and started walking back to where I was hit. I saw men carrying litters and when I walked up to my first gunner he said "What's the matter with you Tarzan". I said, "I was knocked senseless" and "That I came to myself out there in the field". "No, what is the matter with you?" "Why?" "Your shirt, it's all bloody". I looked down and blood has soaked the front of my shirt. So here I go to the aid station also. Bill my first gunner said I laid there for several minutes then looked up at my helmet, got up and picked up my helmet and then walked right back by him. He asked "Where are you going?" But I didn't answer, and when I got out in the field he couldn't see me anymore. When the medics got to me they cut my shirt off and had to put compact bandages on my neck and shoulders. They had to put a bandage around my neck under both of my arms. By that time it was dark. It took three ambulances to take all the litter patients, and then us six men that were in the fourth. If I remember right there were four men killed. The hospital took X rays for four days thinking my collarbone was broken. The next morning when I woke up, the left side of my face, neck, shoulder, upper arm and chest was all black and blue. I couldn't raise my arm or move my head for 10 days. I had to stay at the Tenth Field Hospital the whole time I was in the hospital. They called the hospital "Hells Half Acre" because the Germans would fire artillery all over the beachhead and the hospital was hit several times and bombed also. When the hospital moved off Anzio, there were six nurses killed and I don't know how many of the men were killed. By the time the Navy Ships would come to Anzio, the ship would be filled with the more serious wounded. So, I never did leave the hospital 'till I went back to the front lines. The hospital tent I was in was clear on the right side and there was an open space. One time a German night bomber came with butterfly bombs. (The bombs are small in a big container so when it is dropped from the plane the container pops open and the bombs lands on an area of 75 yards.) The bomber flew right over the hospital and dropped the bombs on the open area. What saved me was a four -foot sandbag wall all around the tents. After the bombs my tent looked like sieve with so many holes in the roof. After I went to the front lines, the Navy got to taking the less seriously wounded men on the LST ships and they would have a ward boy go with each group. After the 10th day when I could start moving my arm and head, I told the doctors to send me to the front lines as I could dodge shells and bombs better on the front line. On the 12th day they turned me loose. When I got back to my men they said, "You had a good bed to sleep in, good food and a million dollar wound so why did you come back so quick?" I told them I could dodge shrapnel better up here. It took 22 days before all the black and blue spots left my body. We had to hold the lines because we were the only line of defense. The Army gave everybody rifles in case the Germans broke through our lines.
Then here came the rain - for a month! The water would seep into the ground. And then six inches below the edge of the foxholes, the water would run into the foxholes. We had to dig a ditch around the walls of our foxholes for the water to run into, then we had to have a place to dip the water out with our helmets every 30 minutes or so. After going without sleep for several nights, a person will pass out. Two men close to my hole went to sleep and the water was up along the side of their chests when an artillery barrage come in and woke them up. If the water had came up much farther they could have drowned. The trucks, jeeps, and tanks were getting stuck every where after they left the road. One day I saw a caterpillar tractor going across the field when it sank into the mud and stopped going. The driver tried to back it up but it wouldn't move. The mud was about up to the top of the tracks. While he was trying to get the cat to move, all the mud around worked loose so when the driver went to step off the tractor he almost fell in the mud. When he stepped down, his foot sank in the mud up to his knee. Later, the Army Engineers got wooden planks to make roads for the vehicles to run on.
More times then I care to think the German tanks came in to our area and would run over our foxholes with the German Infantry right behind them. One time a tank stopped on top of my foxhole, and went to firing it's 88 in the back of us. Our artillery was firing right in front of us, so when the German Infantry pulled back, the tank finally turned around and followed them. We were never able to cover our foxholes on the front lines, as we always had to be on the look out for Germans. So when two men were in a foxhole, one man stood guard while the other man slept. Many times I was an odd man and I would have a foxhole by myself so I would have to stay awake all night. When we were in the rest area, we would have a man in our platoon stand guard for one hour at a time, then get the next man. This one man was on guard from 0200-0300 hours, he was standing up in his foxhole and went to sleep. He was still asleep at 0530 hours when we woke him up. When we were on a three-day rest, we had covers on our foxholes because of the butterfly bombs. One night a bomber dropped the bombs right over our area. For some reason I laid my pack on top of the foxhole. Three bombs landed on top of our foxhole and the next morning when I woke up my pack was riddled. Just one man got hurt. He was a new man on guard and he was standing out side of his foxhole, and got a piece of shrapnel in his leg, but didn't say anything 'till morning. His Sergeant took him to the aid station. The captain took out the piece of shrapnel.
Every time the 157th Regiment got a three-day rest period, we were right around the Long Toms - the 155's with the 16-foot barrels. Every night we would get a small bottle of insect repellent and we would put some on, then put a string into the bottle and light it for a candle. The only thing wrong was that every time the guns would fire, the concussion would blow out the candle. One day a man that had been wounded came back to the company with a brand new pair of pants. When the guns fired, the concussion split his pants legs on the seams, and he had four pieces of pant legs.
We were along the Mussolini Canal and my position was on a small curve on the canal where it made a slight bend into German territory and I could fire on the open ground to our right. We just got on position at 2400 hours and the German mortars started firing 500 yards up the canal. My machine gun fire went over their men. Each Sergeant had a field telephone and I whistled to the First Platoon Command Post (CP) and the new Platoon Sergeant answered. I told him the mortars were firing 500 yards ahead of me, he handed the phone to Lieutenant Railsback. I told him about the mortar fire and the shells landing in back of the Company CP. Railsback said as long as the shells are not falling on you forget about it. The mortars would fire every hour throughout the night. I would call in every time they would fire and I would get the same answer. The fourth night, close to morning the Germans raised their sights and the shells handed between my guns and the riflemen. I was already talking to Railsback when a shell cut my phone line, so as soon as the barrage lifted, a sergeant came to see if I was all right. I told him "Yes-my line phone was cut." In 30 minutes here came our communication Sergeant bringing me another line. When I told him what happened, he said he would tell Captain Neil Quick. Somehow the Sergeant connected my phone with the First Platoon and the Company CP. As soon as the mortar started firing I whistled in again and when Railsback answered I said "God damn it, I don't want to talk to you, I want to talk to Neil." He said, "Aren't I good enough to talk to?" I said "Hell No, you sure have not been." Neil came on the line and said, "Is that you, Tarzan" I said "Yes, those mortars are firing". He said, "Here is an artillery observer, tell him." I said I was on the curve of the canal and the mortars were about 500 yards in the canal. He asked "Are you where you can see?" I was standing beside my foxhole and told him I could. He said, "Here comes a white phosphorus shell." It looked like it was 100 feet to the right and I told him. He said, "That is what I want to know." He said something on his radio and said, "Here comes another" and when the shell landed, I could hear men screaming and said, "You are right on target!" Here come a salvo of 16 shells and there was no more German mortar fire after that. The sixth night we got pulled back for another three day rest. The next morning I went to the Company CP, Neil asked me, "Tarzan, was that the first time you called about the mortars being fired, when the shells cut your phone line?" I said, "Hell No! I called Lieutenant Railsback six days ago when we first got in the line, and every time they fired after that - every night because I could see them firing up in the canal." "Then you did call every time the mortars fired?" I said, "Yes". Neil called Railsback every thing but a white man and had his fists doubled up. Neil said "Let's go talk to him." He walked to the first platoon and Railsback was talking with his five sergeants. Neil said, "I want to talk to you". He said, "Can't you see I am talking to my Sergeant". Neil raised his voice and said, "I want to talk to you now." Railsback got up from the box he was sitting on and said, "Just what do you want to talk to me for now?" and he saw me with Neil "When did Tarzan call you?" "When the mortars went to firing," Lieutenant Railsback said, "He started calling as soon as we got on the line and called every time the mortars went to firing. He made a damn nuisance of himself. I was ready to cut his phone line to make him stop calling all the time." Neil said, "For your information those mortar shells were landing back at the Battalion Headquarters and really raising havoc. You never even reported any of Tarzan's calls. Now, I don't care if a Private or a Sergeant calls you that there is danger out there, no matter how small or large, I want to know about it! Now, if we were not so short of lieutenants. I would bust you down to a buck private and if it happens again, you can bet your life you will be a buck ass private!" We only had two lieutenants as the 3rd Platoon didn't have a lieutenant. While we were in the States the Companies had four lieutenants one for each Platoon. By the time we were in Salarno the weapons platoon was with out any lieutenants as they were needed in the rifle platoon. When the Companies would be in action, many times when all the officers got wounded or killed, a buck sergeant or even down to private would be in charge of a platoons or a company. After Neil gave Railsback the ass chewing, he really treated me with respect. As before, when I had to find out any thing while I was attached to the 1st Platoon I would have to ask Bob Miller, the platoon sergeant what was taking place, as Railsback would not talk to me. Then at Anzio, Bob got rotated home and Ervin took over the platoon. After we broke out of Anzio beachhead, and I was heading to Rome, something happened to Railsback as I never saw him again. When I got through talking to Neil, I went to the kitchen and asked the head cook Cliff, what we had for rations he said "C" rations. "Hey Cliff what would you do if an artillery would hit one of them cows out there in the field." He said "I would cut it up into steaks and feed them to you guys." (The whole time we were on Anzio we got the C rations most of the time, and just a few times we got K rations. I really liked the K rations the best. The C rations had 3 meats, meat & potato hash, meat & beans, and meat & vegetable stew. I got burnt out on potato hash. One of the men in one of my squads just could eat the hash, so another man and I would see to it that he got three cans of hash.) I went back to my section and told the men to get four poles, ten feet long, all the rope they could find, and sharp knives. They wanted to know what they were going to do. I told them, "Wait and find out." We went out to where the cows were, and waited 'till an artillery barrage come in and shot a cow. We cleaned it out, tied ropes to all four feet onto the poles and carried it to the kitchen. Cliff said "Damn, I didn't think you would do it." Heck, living on a farm, I helped Dad butcher cows and pigs so I know how to do it. I helped skin the hide off the cow and they hung the carcass up in the tent to cool over night. Then the next day, they cut the carcass into steaks and at suppertime the cooks said, "Bring your mess kits, as we have steaks along with C rations." Some of the men got the GIs from eating the fresh meat. When we come back off the line for another three days, I asked Cliff what rations he has and he said "Good old C rations." I went back to my section, and when I told them to get poles half the Company wanted to go with me. I was afraid too many men would draw artillery fire so I just took 12 men with me. When the cook had the steaks ready the men that had gotten the "GIs" didn't let it stop them from getting another steak that evening. We never got another rest period after that.
The first time I saw Ernie Pyle, we were on the north side of Sicily getting ready to make the invasion. Then I saw him three times in Italy after we left Salarno. After I went into the hospital with my ear infection, was when he came on Anzio. I never saw him but when we were fighting at the overpass and the caves, he came to the 157th Regiment Headquarters. After we quit fighting on Anzio, he went to England and got there after the Normandy landing. He went into Paris - I think when the 3rd Army liberated it. Then I'm not sure when he went to the Pacific. I saw Bill Mauldin twice in Italy in his jeep. Once when we were crossing an intersection on this road, Bill stopped his jeep to let us walk across the intersection and he waved to us as the Battalion walked by. When Bill Mauldin went to the Stars and Stripes the 45th Division Newsletter still got the cartoons of Willie and Joe. When Mauldin was in France, General Patton told General Eisenhower to make Mauldin quit drawing the cartoons as he was making fun of the officers. Eisenhower said you back off, as Bill Mauldin is the best moral builder we have - like when we were in the mountains of Venefro. The Cannon - I think anti-tank companies could not get their guns up on the mountain, so they went to leading mules up the mountain bringing supplies. Bill drew a man with a mule up on the mountain and a 2nd lieutenant fresh from the States was on the mule and the sergeant was saying, "You promised to bring up rations next time." (Talk about mules, there was a white mule that nobody wanted to take up on the mountain, because the Germans could see that white mule easily.) Another time Bill drew a troop of USO girls at a theater, and the enlisted were going into the regular door and the officers were going in the stage door. (We could put the cartoons in here if you would like.)
When we got through fighting on Sicily, Patton told officers and NCO'S that the 45th was the best - if not the very best - Division in the Army, that he had the pleasure of being with. (I remember when he said he didn't want a National Guard Outfit under his command.) Patton went to visit two hospitals and at the first hospital he saw a man that was not wounded and asked him what was wrong with him. He said he was shell shocked, and Patton just figured he was goldbricking, and hit him in the face with his gloves. That man didn't do anything, but at the second hospital he hit another man and that man went back into shock again, and was trying to crawl under the beds. The hospital really wanted to get Patton, but Eisenhower stepped in saying I need him when we go to England. He told Patton to apologize to the two men and told him he better not do anything like that again. Eisenhower told him "I can't cover up for you again." I have seen men fold under pressure. Like when I got wounded with that tree burst. The platoon that was by the tree that got the most casualties. Art was one of the less serious wounded, but whenever a plane flew over he tried to crawl under anything there at the First Aid Station. At the hospital he was in a different tent than I was in. I got a new replacement and I could see he was scared to death. I could talk to him to calm him down. He wanted to be the last ammo carrier as he didn't like to be close to the guns when they were firing and when we were in an artillery barrage he would be shaking. One time, we were on the line firing and a barrage came in and a shell landed to the right of him. I was looking back for my first ammo carrier to bring up more ammo when I saw this man jump up with both boxes of ammo and take off running as hard as he could run to the rear and I never saw him again.
Our machine gun ammunition came with 250 rounds in a belt and every fifth round was a tracer. (A tracer is a bullet with less lead and it has powder so when the shell is fired the powder would burn red 'till the bullet got 500 yards.) The tracers would not go as true as the full lead bullets. At 500 yards, the tracer would move out of line about 3 feet. I told all my machine gun crew, that when they were firing the gun and when they pulled the trigger if they saw two tracers go out at the same time they were firing too fast. We had air cooled guns and the barrel was 1 ¼ inch across and there was a jacket over the barrel about 2 ½ inches across with 1 ½ inch holes all around the jacket. The water-cooled gun was the heaviest gun the Company had. The barrel was small around so the water could circulate around the barrel and they could put a belt in the gun and pull the trigger 'till all the rounds were through the gun. The worst part with the tracer was that when the gun was fired at night, the red flame from the tracers would give the Germans our position. When the Germans were really trying to push us off the beach head, I have seen three counter attacks in a day, and each time each gun would fire a lot of ammo. Every night I would order 12 to 14 cases of machine gun shells - that was 48 to 56 boxes for two guns. One time when the Germans broke through our line, (as there was a small gap between the two companies I had about 36 boxes for each gun. That night our supply sergeant couldn't get any supplies up to us and so that ammo lasted for three days while we were surrounded. The first day we fired 14 boxes, the second day 12 boxes and the third day 10 boxes, as there was only 150 rounds between the two guns. When the other machine gun section sergeant would order cases of ammo, many times he would order as much as I would. Each case weighed 100 pounds so. If we both ordered 12 to14 cases - there were 24 to 48 cases that would weigh from 2400 to 2800 pounds. For the little trailers they pulled behind jeeps, the 2800 pounds would really be a load them. The mortar section would even order more shells. Plus all my ammo carriers and I had the .03 Springfield Rifle and had to order special ammo for those because the .03 shells came in five to a clip where the M1s had eight shells to a clip, but all would carry extra bandoleer with them. Also, at times hand grenades were used a lot when we were in close range. I couldn't figure out why the Germans pulled back after three days of fighting, 'till later when I found out that we would pull each Division down so much with casualties that they couldn't hold the ground they took.
###???During the rainy season the tanks couldn't get off the roads or they would get stuck and the artillery could zero in on the roads good. The individual prisoners taken would give up. Once there were eight men with a mortar came to about 200 yards and set up the mortar and started firing to our left.??? I was ready to start firing on them when the "M CO" mortar observer who was at my foxhole said "Let me fire on them as it has been sometime since I had a target to shoot at." He had a walkie talkie radio and gave instructions and said one is in its way. A German had just dropped a shell in the mortar when our shell landed someplace on the mortar as seven men flew back from the concussion. Later here came the Lieutenant with a white flag. He could talk English saying he couldn't go back to his company because all his men were killed with one shell. Another time an older man crawled up to our gun and in broken English he said "Please don't shoot, I give up". Then he said he was in WWI and a prisoner, He knew how the Americans treated the prisoners. Another man who still had a German Navy uniform on, gave up as soon as he got to the front lines. He said his ship was bombed and sunk so they gave him a gun and he never knew anything about it. Two men crawled to my gun position saying they were tired of all the fighting that we caused them, and they surrendered.
Some prisoners wanted to see our automatic artillery guns as the shells would came so fast. The way the artillery man would do if they were not firing at the maximum range the barrel would recoil and as it went back in to place, the men would put another shell in the gun and fire it before the barrel got back in place. One time one of the 105 mm guns would fire a shell and the ring would loosen and go to whistling through the air. We wanted the gun to keep firing because of the screaming meemies, but I guess the rifling in the barrel gave out and they got a new gun. On one German 88 gun the shells would turn around as it flew through the air and you could hear swish, swish, swish as it would go through the air. One time they were firing over our position and the shell that turned landed about 100 yards ahead of us. There was 12 shells that fell. As they hit the ground they would slide turning on the ground and two shells came close to our position. Seems like the gun fired for three weeks.
For three months the Germans had two big railroad guns with a 16 inch barrel that was 46 feet long and the gun weighed 246 tons. It would fire a 550 pound projectile about 30 miles in to the harbor of Anzio and the shells sunk several ships. They would keep the guns inside of two railroad tunnels and our planes couldn't get them but would bomb the road bed so the Germans would have to fix the rails before they could move the guns outside to fire them at night. We called the guns Anzio Annie and Anzio Express. After the war the Army found the two guns someplace in Austria. The Anzio Express was damaged too much to move but Anzio Annie was shipped to Aberdeen Ordnance Depot and is setting at the Museum sight on a railroad Spur. My Daughter, Arlene, and I went to Pennsylvania one summer, then on to Washington, DC and stopped to see the gun. I wanted to Pee on the gun, but my daughter said no. There was another couple there and he told his wife to take a picture of him peeing on the gun but she wouldn't so he didn't either. PICTURE
On March 23rd 1945, the 157th Regiment started moving along with the 3rd, 34th, 45th, and 36th Divisions which came to Anzio On March 23rd, we got the orders to move out. Later were part of the move along with the British and we had to fight for every foot of ground we took. As we moved forward we got on the higher ground and when we looked back towards Anzio no wonder we were always getting shelled you could see the whole beachhead. Like Bill Maudlin's cartoon of Willie and Joe looking out over the beachhead and on it said, "My Gawd! There we wuz and here they wuz." Cartoon? The tanks were really out on force. Also, one time big tanks were trundling along the edge of the gulch. A shell landed close to the driver and stunned him. The tank was veering sharply to the edge when the tank plunged upside down in the bottom. The three men got out started running and the riflemen cut them down. The German's artillery observers were in many of the scattered buildings and houses so our artillery made all the buildings the targets. Our casualties were heavy. On May 6th, General Mark Clark with the 85th and 88th Divisions. came into Rome. Mark Clark was right behind them. The 45th Division was west of Rome several miles. The 8th of June the 45th was relieved and on June 9th we were fifteen miles above Rome.
***It was surprising how many men had the little crystal radio set. With a couple of flashlight batteries, some wire and an old razor blade they could get a signal - it wasn't loud, but you could hear it. Every evening that we could we would listen to Sally and George. I don't remember how long they would be on the radio but they had the popular songs from the States. Then they would give the names and serial numbers of the GIs who were captured then tell us we should go over on their side as we were fighting a loosing battle anyway. If I remember right, Sally was a school teacher in Chicago I think and went over to Germany to teach English then went to working on the Radio. When we quit fighting there were soft ball games every where. Some of us went into Rome on passes. All I can remember seeing was the Coliseum and I was in Rome for eight hours. Thunder Its been 57 years since I've been there! The people in Rome seemed to me had more money as their clothes were better then the clothes the people at Naples had. And of course they were better than the out laying towns where their clothes were patches upon patches. There were three men in our company that could talk Italian. They went into Rome and told us the language had accents that were as much different as the accents of the people in Chicago and New York City with Rome being equal to Chicago. The Italian I learned in South Italy was so different that I really had to listen twice to understand the people in Rome. Another thing I noticed, the people were more friendly in Rome, especially the girls.
When we moved back to Anzio, the 3rd Division was there also. There were 16 LST ships heading into the docks with their doors open and the trucks and equipment were loaded on the ships. The 157th Regiment loaded on the ship and we went to Salarno for a week of R & R. We were clear out in the open spaces. Me, being as inquisitive as I was, growing up on a farm, any farm in Italy, I wanted to see what they were like. There was a large farm about ¾ of a mile to the east of us and as usual I would have men wanting to go with me. Seven men came with me. When we got to the farm, two men had just finished working on an old grain binder. A binder cuts the wheat heads and a foot of the stock or stem and ties each bundle with string. Their binder did not have a bundle carrier to carry the bundles to put into rows, like the one we had on the farm. Theirs just dropped the bundles all through the field. They wished they had a binder like we had on the farm.
They had several pierces of old machinery like a disc, a walking grain drill, etc. I saw people cutting grain with a hand sickle. The person would grab a hand full of wheat straw, then cut it with the sickle. A hand sickle that took both hands on the handle and has a cradle in back of the blade. Make another 2 to 3 swings and laid the cut straw on the ground then make another 2 or 3 swings and lay that on top of the first pile and people would tie each bundle with a few pieces of straw. There was a mowing machine that cut the stubble 1 ½ to 2 inches above the ground and a man would lay on a platform by the right wheel and have a five foot stick that he would lay on the mall board at the end of the sickle bar to hold the straw from falling, 'till the straw would start falling off the sickle bar then he would raise the stick to let the straw fall, then place the stick again. Then three or four people would make the bundles and would have to move the bundles at least six feet to the left so the team of oxen would not walk over the bundles. Then there were the old time reapers that would cut the straw on to a platform and a man would rake the straw off as they moved along, and of course the binder. One time we were bivouacked beside this wheat field, and the farmer was cutting the grain with a team of oxen on the binder and another team with a front gear of a cart in front - so that 4 oxen could pull the binder. On rough ground the binder would roll ahead and the yoke would slip forward on the oxen's necks and stop (two were in the tongue, and two were on the gear). Because the oxen were so slow, as they stepped forward the yoke would slip back and the binder would start with a jolt. The oxen had two speeds, slow and slower. The boy had a whip and when one ox would start falling behind he would give it a whack with the whip to get it up with its mate. It rained this afternoon so they stopped cutting and stopped the binder by our area. The next afternoon about 50 men were out by the binder when I asked Mel if he could drive his jeep. We hooked to the binder. We got the running gear out of the way and put the tongue with the yoke on back of the jeep and a attached chain to pull the binder. Cliff, our head cook, got on the binder and they really cut the grain! All of the 50 men got to picking up the bundles and putting the into shocks. You could sure tell by the shocks that the men didn't know anything about putting them together. We had to show them how to stand the bundles up to make the good shocks. After we ran out of string Mel and Cliff stopped, so we told them to go a head and cut the narrow strip and we would tie the bundles with straw. They parked the binder back close to where they hooked up with it. Later the farmer and his son came to the field to see if the wheat was dry enough to cut. Another kid and I went to them, saying, "We hooked the binder to the jeep and cut 'till we ran out of string or we would have cut the rest of the field." The boy saw the running gear was not in front of the binder and told his dad "I wish we had more string here".
I saw two old threshing machines - the first machine had a platform on top in front where the men would place the bundles and two people set over the concave to cut the strings and place the heads of the bundles down on the concave. A concave was a small barrel shape, three to four feet long with teeth or steel bars two inch long and the drum would turn fast to knock the wheat out of the heads of the straw. It was located on the front of the threshing machine. One man watched the threshing machine to keep it running. Three men sacked the grain in 100 pound sacks and put the sacks in a pile. Where the straw came out there was a baler and two men set on the baler to put the wires on the bales and there were one or two men to carry the bales to a stack. The men that brought the bundles to the threshing machine had two wheel carts with a team of oxen. There would be from 8 to 10 carts in the field. When they would move the machine a team of oxen would be pulling the trashier, another pulling the baler and the tractor would be by itself. I have seen more places that would have area of 16 feet across with smooth cement or just bare ground smoothed and swept off. They put the bundles of wheat all around inside the 16 feet circle - about 6 feet wide - and cut the string of the straw that held the bundles. There was a round barrel shape of cement with groves running all the way around. The groves and ridges would be 2 inches apart and they would pull the roller around on the straw with a team of oxen to knock the grain out of the heads. After the oxen walked around the straw they would fluff up the straw and have the oxen walk around 'till all the grain was out of the heads. They would take the straw and put it in piles, then put more bundles in the circle and go through the same routine. I have seen the wheat a foot high in the circle. When the wind would blow, they would willow the grain. To willow the grain it all depended on how hard the wind was blowing - if it was a mild breeze they would use big shovels and raise the shovel up to shoulder high and barely tip the shovel to let the grain fall out so the chaff would blow past the pile the wheat was falling on. When they got enough wheat to fill a sack, they carried it away to a grain shed. They would willow the grain 'till they finished or until the wind stopped blowing. I have also seen what is called whaling stick. Its a wooden handle about six feet long and another wooden stick about three feet long with a leather string tried to both sticks about six inch a part. The person would raise the wooden handle and bring it down in front of them and the three feet stick would hit the straw flat to knock the grain out of the straw. They would put the bundles in a small circle of about 6 to 8 feet across. I have seen as many as 6 to 8 people with the whaling sticks working on a pile of straw. I have seen them planting wheat by anything from a man broadcasting by throwing wheat by hand and people coming behind with grub hoes covering the seeds, to the use of walking drills.
When we left that farm we walked around to another place but it was smaller place. When we were heading back to our Company area there was a big gully in front of us and we could see some men coming and going to the gully so when we walked up to it, there was a line of 60 to 70 men standing in line and they yelled, "Get to the back of the line!" We walked to the head of the line and a man was standing at the foot of the bed taking the money and a girl about 25 years old was lying on the bed taking on the men. When one man got off she had a little pan of olive oil next to her. She would get some on her finger and rub between her legs and take on the next man.
When we got off the ship the trucks took us through a village. As we went by, 6 to 8 girls raised their dresses, advertising their wares. At the rest area we asked the truck driver how far we were from that town, and he said about 17 miles. Heck, that was too far to go to get a girl.
After six days we got on trucks to go close to Naples for amphibious training, both for our new men and the Navy boys. The 157th Regiment was in a wheat stubble where the wheat was all ready cut. The next morning at 0700 hours, we went to the docks where the LSTs (Landing Ship Transports) were tied up. There were 16 LSTs assigned to the 157th Regiment. Company K was assigned to one ship all the rest of the Companies to others. The ships went out ten miles then turned and came with in eight miles of the beaches that we were to land on. There were six Higgins Boats on each ship. The Higgins Boats set in cradles and when they wanted to put the LCVPs in the water the men would raise the craft to clear the deck and when it was over the water, release the two cables to let the boat down to the water. Now this is the first time the Navy boys had any experience of lowering the boats. The craft I was to get on, the two winch boys raised the boat and put it over the water. There were three men in the boat, one to steer the boat, and two to drop the ramp. The man on the front winch let the winch run and the boat headed straight down towards the water. The three men were hanging on for dear life! The man on the back winch held his winch so the craft didn't go all the way down. The front man ran his winch to level the boat, then they both let the boat down level. The boats were out circling in the water then and then came in to the side of the ship, to the rope nets for us men to climb down into the boat. On the boat I was to get into, the driver, the Navy called them coxswain, forgot how to slow the boat down and was a boats length from the side of the ship when he gave it full throttle, and the boat raised up as it went to moving faster. The two men fell to the back part of the floor. The craft hit the ship and tried to climb up the ship and the two men flew forward and down to the floor they went. He got the craft backed out and made two more circles then came up to get up to the side of the ship and damned if he didn't so the same thing again - but the two men were hanging on this time. Well, he got the boat to the side of the ship and we climbed in and got to the beach OK. The Officer in Charge of the Navy Flotilla asked our Colonel, if he knew that they were supposed to make two more landings that day. He said, "I think you can see my men need a lot of experience and if I can, I will see that they get it. Is there anything your men can do today?" I think it was Colonel Church said that they could find something us men to do. We went back to our area and cleaned our weapons and goofed off the rest of the day. The next morning we got on the ships at 0700 hours, and the sailors were really beat. We asked what happened and they said they went out a few miles and unloaded the boats, loaded the boats, tied down the tarps on the boats, unloaded, loaded the boats 'till supper time. An hour later they went back to unloading the boats, etc., and they did that 'till 0200 hours. They had to unload and load the boats in the dark and there was no moon light either.
One evening it was 1800 hours, my boat landed clear to the right of the landing area and I saw three girls cutting grain by hand, close to a fence about 200 yards on to the right of us. I told my two first gunners, "When the kitchen truck gets here we will take extra cans of C rations to the girls." I told the platoon Sergeant what we were going to do and to be sure to call us when you get ready to got on the boats. When the kitchen came we were the last to get the cans and I had ten extra cans of both crackers and meat. I think both other men had the same - we had the extra cans inside our shirts, we also had our forks and spoons and went to the girls. They were from about 20 to 25 years old and I took the oldest . We set on bundles of grain 'till we finished eating, then we went to laying on the ground. Soon I looked up and the company was still sitting down. The second time I looked, there were still there but the third time, the men were walking onto the landing craft tanks to go to the LSTs. I told the guys we had to go. The girls wanted us to take the rations back and I said "No take them home." They picked up the cans in their dresses' laps and ran home. We looked for our rifles and belts but they were gone. The men had picked them up and taken them to the boat, The boat had to wait on us. I asked the platoon sergeant why he didn't holler for us. He said he forgot all about us 'till they were ready to move. He said we could have stayed with the girls 'till they made the landing at 0200 hours. Seems like we made the water maneuvers for three weeks starting the last week of June to about the 18th or 19th of July.
The Navy boys just got through boot camp at San Diego California, I think. They got on the train and there were 12 coach and two dining cars. The train stopped on the docks and the men got off the train in St. Louis. The ships were brand new and each ship had their shake down cruse on the river before they were loaded. The ships were already loaded with officers and non commission officers. The men were standing in front of each ship. This was the first time men of the boots (those just out of boot camp) had seen a ship. An officer called off so many names and assigned each group to a ship. The Officer in Charge of the ships, (I think he was a Lieutenant, in the Navy, which is the same as a Captain in the Army) told them the names of all the men on the ship, and one man got all the new men's names so there would be a record of where each man went. Then he told them so many men go with each NCO. The NCOs took them to their quarters and showed them their bunks. Then, each group was divided in half. One half was assigned work stations such as the engine room or up by the cabin. The other half slept. (The bunks were shared by two men. One was on duty, working or eating, etc, and the other one was sleeping.) The ships raised their ramps, and closed the doors on the front of the ships They threw off the ropes from the docks and backed out into the river and headed down the Mouth to the Mississippi river, and on out to the Atlantic. They said if the water had not been running south they didn't know how the ship would have made it down the river. The ships went to Naples and unloaded, then all the ships went to Anzio to pick up the 157th Regiment to take us to Salarno. Then they came to Naples and started the amphibious training and like I said "Company K" was assigned to one ship.
***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. The 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.
Where 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 21/2 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 so that to all the road.
One afternoon we were playing softball and I was the catcher on my team. The man that was keeping score didn't have any paper so he was marking on the ground. Later a man pop up a foul ball and run to my left to catch it and stepped right in, where the man was keeping score so we never know which team got the most scores. Once when I was up to bat I had been hitting the ball to the left field but this time I saw the man in right field playing in close. The man in left field moved back when he saw I was up to Bat. So when the pitcher throw the ball I hit the ball over the man in the right field and the ball went into the dust in the road, where it went in to the road. It turned up the road instead of bouncing across the road. We finally found the ball 20 feet from where it hit.
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 got hurt.
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. We 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. I 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 eight 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.
The 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 know 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. Tried 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 light the French Morocco Soldiers.
Talk about Morocco soldiers, we were pinned down this one evening and couldn't even wiggles our toes or the machine guns would really fire on us. About a mile back here came several Half track and stopped at Regiment Headquarters. or Battalion Headquarters. They found out we were pinned down and said to stay in that position tonight. The Army told everybody when we got over seas to be sure to wear your dogtags around your neck or wake up with your throat slit. The Morocco solders would feel for your dogtags and if you didn't have any they would slit your throat. That night the Morocco soldiers infiltrated throughout our position and soon came back. At 700 hours here the half tracks with all the solders, came through again and what Germans there were left, really took off running. That night if three men were in a foxhole, like the Germans would do, they would slit the throats of the two outside men so when the man in the middle would wake up to both men dead. They slit all the machine gunners and the men that were on guard.
The Ship got to Marseille France the 18th and we went to the Replacement. 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. We 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. About 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. At 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. General 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 an many man as you have seen assemble 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. We 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 so 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 the157th, 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.
My 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 Mancy. I was south of there. Dad and Uncle Elwood want on into Germany.
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." I 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 was killed.
Soon after 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. Talk 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 head.
We did not have as many miles to go this 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.
The first of November the Germans made a big counterattack and "L Co" came to help "K CO", for some reason "K CO" stayed in that position for two more days ( At one of the 157th reunion Bud the man with the telescope said there was 39 men Dead from K and L Company Two jeeps with trailers got up there and he said I think I helped load Ervin the First Platoon Sergeant on the trailer. He said I never went over to see how many Germans were killed but there were a lot. I said Ervin was killed that time, and he said I thought so. Ervin's younger brother Otis the other machine gun Sergeant got mortar shrapnel; on his ankle. As his ankle got better his other foot got bad so the Drs. had to amputate his foot. I see Otis every once in a while.) We had walked about
half a mile when here came my ammo carriers. They said what's the matter with your arm. I told them that the machine guns were out of ammo and that Bennett was killed and that someone had to take his place. They hurried on. 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 came 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. We 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. The Driver could not go too fast as he had the blackout lights on. Blank out lights just had a dim light that shined down in front of the vehicle so airplanes couldn't see the lights. I asked the driver how far the Field Hospital was and he said he had never thought to check the mileage on the trips. I never did find out what number the Field Hospital was. They 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. At 2400 hour I was the first one in the operating tent in the first table. There were eight tables in the tent, they took off my coat and they put me on the table with all my clothes on so they must have cut my clothes off me. I think that's when I lost the knife that I got for Christmas that one year. There were two nurses at each table. The 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
Spica cast on my arm and around my chest. My hand was cold because of the wet cast. I put my right hand on my left hand because it was so cold. My 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 that much. When they 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. I 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.
We 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. When 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.
I 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 the 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. In 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 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.
For the next six days I had to lay still, the two men on each side of me had on casts. The man on my right had a body cast as his upper leg was broken and the other man had what they called a shipping cast as they were getting ready to be shipped back farther to another Hospital. The three of us got to talking and said we liked to playing pinochle a card game so we ask a ward boy if he had a table. He said they had plywood to lay across the beds. The man with the body cast done all the shuffling and dealing. The other man set on the other man's bed. The man with the body cast said that it sure helped to pass the time and we really had some wicked games. Once we played for three days before someone won the game as we were in the hole more then we were above board as we would bid too high and go set. By the time I could start moving again the two were shipped out.
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 want 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. There 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.
About the 12th of December the Doctor took me in and cut of the hanging cast and put on a heavy Spica as they were getting ready to ship me out. The 15th of December and how I remember the 15th so well, is the 15th of February is when shrapnel hit my helmet driving it down on my neck and shoulder. The 15th of August we made the landing on the South of France. Anyway the morning of the 15th we were loaded on a train to Paris to a Evacuation Hospital. The Hospital was a big two story building with several wings on it. From the second floor we could see the Eiffel tower in the distance. At the Hospital there two Majors a man and a woman told us we were lucky. We would be the first Hospital Patients to be flown to the States. We would have to tell them at the nurses station every 30 minutes, where we were at all times The first night we were there we went down for supper and it took over an hour to get though the line. When we cane back to the nurse station the head nurse really gave us hell for not reporting to her every 30 minutes. We told her that it took that long to get through the line. She said well you could come up on the 30 minutes. I said we would lose our place in line. Oh my gosh I never thought of that. I don't know who she talked to but she told us to be sure to tell the nurse when you are going to eat your meals. There was nothing to do up on the ward so we would talk with the nurses. The Head Nurse was a Frenchman but she was all American as she said she wouldn't live in France if that was the only place to live. The second afternoon we were coming back from dinner when we saw two girls cleaning windows so we stop to talk with them. All four of us men had casts on our arms and the girls really thought that was something. The windows were three feet from the floor and the ceilings were 10 feet high. There was a ledge one each window 1 1/2 feet wide and both girls were standing on the ledge. I was standing close to the ledge when the girl turned around and put one hand on my arm with the cast and the other on my right shoulder to get down off the ledge then she hugged and kissed me. I put my hand on her butt and she rubbed her crotch on my leg. There was too much traffic in the hallway so we went up to the ward. We were talking with the nurses when Head Nurse said why don't you go to your room and quit pestering us. We don't have anything else to do. I saw the two girls come in the hall and into the first room so I took off casual, like I was going to my room but went to the first room where the girls were. Then here came another man. I was running my hand up the girl's leg and she spread her legs for better access. The girls finished the windows so I helped my girl down and went into the next room and helped her up on the window shelf. Here came the other two men and they were standing by the door, soon they said here comes the nurse. Both of us stepped up to the front wall so when the nurse saw us in the same room with the girls she really gave us thunder saying what are you messing around with these girls for, while the girls in the States are waiting for you boys. I said but these girls got it here, she made us go to her desk. I saw the girls go into the room right next to the nurses station, so I went in and the girl I was with was having trouble getting up on the window ledge so I stepped up and helped her. I don't know how I done but I tripped her trigger as when she stood up she place her hand between her legs and went to trembling the other girl saw what she was doing, then she put her hand between her legs but she went to moaning and getting louder all the time. Boy I beat it out of the room and up the hall to the third room and heard the nurse saying where is Vere? She jumps up ran into the first room then she said something in French and I heard the girls saying no no here. She came looking for me and I was lying on my bunk. She said what are doing lying there. I said I'm giving my hips and shoulder a rest from carrying this heavy cast, and she believed me. She ask if I heard the girls. I said no, Why? She said never mind. I got up and followed her and went into the room with the girls and by that time it was time for them to quit for the evening. Both girls kissed me before leaving. The nurse said she would have let us go to the Rec. Room if it wasn't so far to it.
Early the third morning we were woke up and went down for breakfast and back up to the ward. They put us in ambulances to the train for Cherbourg France on the North Coast. The train pulled through a big Marshaling yard. I saw 12 Engines that were hooked to cars ready to head north, as we moved north we met freight trains going to Paris Loaded on open cars, winter vegetables and several kinds of green leaf vegetables, pumpkins and squash, I think four kinds, etc, and several kinds of cabbage. The train pulled into the Dock of Cherbourg France and we were carried on a large Ferry as the litters were put on the lower deck. As soon as the ship left the deck the Doctor said we could get up from the litter, so several of us got up so we could see the channel. Heck I would have rather walked as be carried on the litter as it was so hard for me to get up and down from the litter. When the ship pulled into Dover England we had to get back on the litters. There was a string of ambulances waiting for the ship. I was lucky I was put up on the level of the ambulance so I could look out the front window. So when the driver got out on the street I could see vehicles coming on the right side and said you are on the wrong side of the street. He said man you are in England now. They took us close to Bristol on the west side of England about 17 KM to the east, about 11 miles. I can not remember the name of the number of the General Hospital or the name of the Village it was by.
The Hospital has two streets with the Hospital ward, each street has two Hospital blocks. Each block has ten plywood buildings for wards. Behind each ward was a Hospital tent so there were 20 wards and tents. In the middle was the nurses offices and supply and behind that was the latrine. (wash and rest rooms) In the wooden wards were the most serious wounded, and in the tents were men that were getting ready to go back up to the front lines again. I was put in the tent next to the nurses station. There were twenty beds in each tent. There were eight of us that had cast on our arms, most of the time there would be twenty men in the ward. At night every where was Black Outs, all door ways have two doors and the tents have tarps hanging down in front of the tent opening. The first and second night I went to the bathroom it was cloudy, and dark as the ace of spades. You could not see your hand in front of your face. The only way you could tell, you were on the walk was the cement was one inch above the ground. As I was walking, I walked into the corner of the plywood ward and at the same time there was a loud boom off in the distant. It may have been a V 2 Rocket the Germans were sending over the Channel but I went to cussing and told the men in the tent I almost knocked the ward over. The next morning a man in the tent had a Buddy in the ward. The man said did you feel that bomb go off last night at 2200 hours it shock the building, he went to laughing saying a man with a cast on his arm hit the corner of the building. He had to get me to show the men in the ward, then I had to tell them how I got the cast. Told them I was wounded six times. Man where were you fighting at. I said Sicily, Italy, and France. Two men said I didn't know there was a war anywhere but here in France. I said the US was even in North Africa.
Talk about V1 and V2 Rockets the Germans were sending the rockets across the Channel to London, and The Big Cites. The fighter Planes got to watching for the rockets and were trying to shoot them down. One day a US Pilot saw a rocket, so he pulled the plane up and made a loop and as he came down he couldn't see the rocket anyplace. He looked all around then came back to where he had seen the rocket the saw smoke and bust coming up from the ground. He thought he never hit the rocket as he had over shot it so here came another rocket. He thought he would over shoot it to see what happened and sure enough it hit the ground so after that all the Pilots would dive in front of the rockets.
The third night there was a poker game in the tent and seven men were playing seven card stud. One Kid was eighteen years old and asked how they played so I was telling him. After a while a man dropped out and the Kid asked me if I would play for him he would give me money to play. I told him I could loose it all, but he said that's all right. I was holding my own 'till the last hand. The first down card was an ace of hearts, I think the next two cards face up were small numbers, one was a heart. Then a Queen of hearts, then ten of hearts, so I had four hearts, the next down was the King of hearts, and the last was the Jack of hearts. I was covering all the raises. All the men stayed in. I bet all the money I had. The Kid went to get a pound note, four US dollars and the bet to me was up two dollars so I raised two dollars. Then the men stayed, showing their hands. First man has two pairs, two aces and two eights. Two men had full houses I can't remember what kind though. Two had low straights. They were saying how will we divide up the pot, when I said I don't believe you have to, as I have a Royal Flush. A man with a straight said I was cheating. The man that had the two pairs was dealing and said how did he cheat he never shuffled any time and we done the dealing for him. The Kid said You Won, You Won. I said I could have lost just as easy. He said here's your money. I said I was playing with your money, then he said take half of it. So I divided it up and he took most all the small change. When I exchange the English money for the US money I got $20.00. There must have been about $50.00 in the pot.
All the men that didn't have cast on could get an over night pass twice a week. Christmas Eve after we went to bed, about 2300 hours two nurses came in with a box and were putting a bag at each bed. When the nurse came beside my bed I asked if she was Santa and she jumped like she was shot, then said you are suppose to be asleep. Everybody that was in the tents had to go to the Mess Hall which was about 175 to 200 yards from C block. There was always Chow Hounds as I had saw men going to the Mess Hall before noon and supper meals. The Breakfast meal was not so bad, as not as many men ate the Breakfast meal. One day at noon there was the Englishman at the Kitchen with a big black Horse and a white cart picking up the garbage. He had a pretty big dog, it would really liked to be petted and would go up to anybody that was close to the horse. The horse was standing with his hind hoof rocked over relaxed. We were about six feet to the left of the horse and the dog was trying to get the man in front of me to pet him. He would put his nose under the man's hand, but he was not paying any attention to the dog as he was talking he would raise and lower his hands. I could tell he was full of bull shit. So when the dog tried to lift his hand with his nose, I reach down pinched his leg and let out a Yap, that man jumped and fell against three other men. The dog jumped back against the horse knocking his knee forward and the horse was trying to get its balance and was moving the cart. The Englishman hollered Whoa Prince Whoa Prince. "Whoa" is the command given to a horse to stop. If you want someone to stop, you say Whoa. You get that from being on a farm. He came up to see what was the matter. I said this man scared your dog and he hit Prince's front knee and Prince had to catch his balance. The man said your dog bit me. The men in my tent group said Vere grabbed your leg and you jumped. That tickled the Englishman
One afternoon when the boys came in from being on passes, this one man Don was 5'8"or 9" and weighted about 160 to 165 pounds. Most of us were lying on our beds, when Don said, now is when I can get the best of a man bigger than I am. Then he jumped on top of me with both hands on my arm with the cast saying Now what in the Hell are you going to do about this. I put my right leg over his left leg so he couldn't jump off me. I rolled to the left. The Hospital beds were three feet high. He hung on to my arm as he was over the edge of the bed. With him holding on to my cast I rolled over the side of the bed. Don hit the floor, and I landed in top of him. My arm landed on his chest and knocked the wind out of him. As soon as he could get his breath, he went to hollering get this Big Bastard off me. While I laid on him I said just because somebody has a big body cast on, he's no weakling. When I let him up and he got up saying boy I thought I could hold you down but I sure as Hell was fooled.
A short time after we were at the Hospital at noon when all the men were on pass there were only ten of us going to dinner, eight of us in body casts, and as always there were all the chow hounds. The line seemed extra long. So before we got up to the line, I told the men lets walk though the line, so the men on my right had his right arm in a cast, then three men one right behind the other with their arm up against each ones backs. As we were coming up to the line I said We are coming though. They hollered, Oh No Your Not and about 30 men jumped behind the three men to stop us. The men were standing close to the man in back of him. The three men put their arms out to stop us. We kept walking, and the three men were forced back but the men were behind them and they started falling backwards. It was a chain reaction. It looked like a wave was pushing them over. Why we didn't stumble, I don't know as I guess we were stepping up high enough as all ten if us walked right over the top of the men. All but the last two men fell. After we walked over the men, I turned around saying Let this be a lesson to you, you can not stop a Sherman tank. One man got a bloody nose and another must have gotten an elbow in his crouch. After that every time we came to the Mess Hall the men would say here comes those crazy men from "C" Block, let us the through.
One day we stopped at the open line and nobody said get to the end of the line. We must have stayed there for fifteen minutes so when the line started moving we went to the end of the line. You got the attitude the first time you got on the Front Lines to shoot or be shot. Kill or be Killed. Another thing up on the front lines especially at night to be trigger happy. Right after we land on Salarno, Italy, one night about 2400 hours the moon was shining bright when out in front of me about 30 feet the grass was about four inches tall and there were six different movements in the grass. The lines in the grass didn't move in a straight line as I was getting ready to start firing the machine gun so I kept waiting and soon here came six small animals eating in the grass. Now if it had been dark so I could not see I would have opened up on the Varmints. When we were in the mountains in France there were trees all around us, and the second gunner just took over the watch when all of a sudden he started firing the gun fast as he could. I jumped up and went to the gun. I had to put my hand on him before he stopped firing. He said see those Germans coming. I told him those were trees. The next morning you could see the tree, he peeled the bark off of them.
The Colonel in charge of the Hospital would come around to each tent about once a week to see how everything was and talk with us. He also wanted to know what it was like on the front lines so I would tell him. Then the other men would tell their experiences. The Colonel told us we were the only men that would say anything about the war. Sometimes he would stay and talk for an hour at a time. The nurse that was a Major in charge of all the nurses came looking for the Colonel right after he came in one day. We jumped to attention when the Major came into the tent. The Colonel told her these boys really have interesting stories to tell. She was full of all kinds of questions and we told her everything she wanted to know. When they left the Major said She really enjoyed talking with us.
The first part of January 1945 the Colonel came in the tent on a Monday or Tuesday afternoon to see how we were doing. The next afternoon the eight of us man were setting on three beds have a BS session as the other men were on passes. Here came in the Colonel, two Majors, two Captains, and five nurses from "C" block. We jumped to attention so when all got into the tent the Colonel said as you were, so we all sat down again. The Colonel started talking saying that he has some real nice news. That the Hospital never got to present an award, especially an award as high as this. He talked for five minutes saying what a great honor it was to give a man this Great Medal then reached in his jacket for a slip of paper. Then he started reading; Sergeant Vere L Williams Serial # 20839325 Company K 157th Infantry Regiment 45th Division 7th Army, on the Afternoon of 31 October 1944 on hill so and so near Jeamenil France. There was a German Counterattack (there was two paragraphs and I don't remember what they were but went in) above and beyond the Line of Duty, I was awarded the Silver Star. Boy you could have knocked me over with a feather. The Colonel handed me the paper then shook my hand, then stepped back ***and Saluted me, I returned the Salute then the one Major and the two Captains congratulated me. The nurses, even one Major hugged and kissed me. Than one of the nurses took me to all ten of the wards on "C" block telling all the Patients that I got the Silver Star. She said it really made her proud to take me around to all the wards to tell the men you got the Silver Star. The Hospital put out a news letter every day about what each theater was doing then what the Hospital was doing, etc. The next day my name is the first article about how the Colonel presented me with the Silver Star. All the Nurses in the hospital came to "C" block to see Sergeant Vere Williams, the man that got the Silver Star and had to give me hugs and kisses. I even had to go to the Administration Building and the Colonel showed me around. With all the nurses hugging and kissing me I wished I didn't have that body cast on my chest. Boy I really was somebody around the Hospital after that.
I never knew how many men went though the Company being wounded or killed but when got to being a machine gun Sergeant for the 14 months I was on the line, I started keeping account of the men that did not come back to my section. I'm not counting the men that got wounded and came back, there were supposed to be fourteen men in my section. From the first part of September 1943 to October 31 1944. I was in the Hospital four months, in that time 57 men were wounded, that didn't come back and 7 men killed. So that was 64 men not counting myself. As for me I went to the Hospital the 28th of October 1943 back to the front lines the 4th of January 1944, Anzio for 12 days, 15th of February. Then August 15th wounded at the Southern France and got on the front line in France October 4th, then wounded again 31st of October 1944.
On Friday the 21st of January when the Captains came around they told me I had the cast on long enough, that they would cut it off me so after dinner they cane to get me and took me to the operating room to cut off the cast. They had a long handle cast cutter and it was all one man could so to cut though the cast. It took them two hours to get the cast cut off as they had to cut the cast on two sides as the cast would not spring any like the first cast I had on. I had to lift my arm up out of the cast and I couldn't bend my elbow. I could reach around my arm anyplace, like I could reach around my waist. The Doctor put my arm in a sling because I couldn't straighten my elbow or raise my arm. So when the boys came back from passes to Bristol they said you can go on pass with us Monday. So Monday morning when the Captains came around I ask if I could go on pass. They said I don't see why not as long as you don't hurt your arm. I said I would watch that I won't get hurt. I went to the Supply Building. They gave me a uniform so I went on pass that afternoon. The first thing we done when we got there, was get a bed at a big warehouse building that didn't cost anything. Then I think there were eight of us from the Hospital and they went to the first Pub (a beer tavern). They said here is a good place to meet girls. The Pub was full of GIs and there was ten GIs for every girl. I counted 20 girls in the Pub. The Boys chug down their Ale and it's too crowded in here, let's go to the next pub. The other Pub was not as crowded but there weren't as many girl either. Six of the men just wanted to drink ale. The other Kid and I wanted to see girls so he said I know other Pubs so we took off. He knew where six Pubs were and we went to all of them, at the last one we were at a table. Here came two girls and they walked up to the bar and got drinks then came to sit with us. I had to listen twice to hear what the girls were saying. The girls got chummy with us but said they had boy friends, GIs that were stationed in England. Soon here came 3 GIs and the girls said here's our boy friends. One solder ask where his girl friend was. They said she would be home when you men came, so they left for her place. I told Jeff I think that was his name. Lets walk around some so we came to a long Bridge, that crossed a river and two railroad tracks and people were walking north over the bridge so Jeff and I walked across and was standing beside the street when two girls 23 and 24 years old stopped to talk with us. This was 2100 hours. There was a church a half a block from us so we sat down on the church steps. At 2130 hours the one girl said we need to get home before curfew. The girl I was talking to didn't get up 'till 2155 hours and the girls had to take off running and soon here the siren sounded. I hoped they got home before the Bobbies got to them (Police). The next morning I told Jeff let's look around and we found more Pubs, then found where the Fishing Fleet came in. Then at 1245 hours we saw girls walking fast to the south so we follow them for three blocks and turned to the right, here was a factory the girls were going in. The girls surrounded us and told us to be there at 1700 hours. I said we got to be at the Hospital at 1700 hours but we could be here Thursday evening and they would show us a good time. We got back to the hospital Tuesday evening and the Boys said Vere you are on shipping order so I went to the nurses office and they didn't know anything about it as it was after1600 hours and the evening shift was working. I checked again when I got up the next morning so I went to eat breakfast and I checked again when I got back, so I went back to my tent. 30 minutes later here came the five nurses saying get your clothes on they are here to get you. They helped get my clothes on so when two men with a Litter came, I was suppose to have PJ on. The nurses stripped off my clothes and a ward boy got me a pair of PJ's then all five nurses hugged and kissed me before the men took me to the ambulance. I don't know how many ambulances there were that took us to the out skirts of Bristol to an evacuation hospital. After dinner the orders came down anybody wanting passes for the evening, sign up, so we put our names on the list.. An hour later all passes canceled the Doctors want to check all the patients. The Doctors saw us the next morning. That afternoon same orders, but I can't remember why the passes were canceled for the 28th, to exchange English money for American Money. The morning of the 29th we changed the money, then at 1500 hours we got ready to get on the ambulances again to go into Bristol to where the trains were. There were three passenger trains as there was more then one Hospital shipping out patients. There were two trains taking on the litter patient and the other train was ambulatory patients and more on the train.
When I first got into "K Co" Felix Sparks was a Second Lieutenant in charge of the Third Platoon and I was in the Third Squad. When the Regiment got the M1 Rifles they gave me the B A R Rifle. When the Company made the Weapons Platoon, I was put in the Machine Gun Section. About that time Felix left the Company and I think went to Regimental Headquarters. When we were in Camp Pickett VA Felix was put in charge of "J" Company (Jail Company) to get all the men that went AWOL. Felix said his Sergeants were tougher on the men the he was. When the Division was getting ready to go over seas Felix was a Captain and put in charge of "E" Company through Anzio. He was made a Major in charge of the First Battalion when we made the Invasion of Southern France. I didn't get to make the Big Push from Southern France to Rambervillers North of Switzerland where the 7th Army met up with Patton's 3rd Army, General Patches was in charge of the 7th Army. I don't know when the Major and two Officers got killed and three Officers got wounded in the Third Battalion. Felix Sparks was put in charge of the Third Battalion, he got to be a Lieutenant Colonel. The Division went into Germany, the Third Battalion captured the Dachau Concentration Camp. What a horrible sight that Camp was, with bodies stacked up like cords of wood and the prisoners dying. Felix said it is something he will never forget. The Regiment went on to Munich, when the city fell, the 157th Regimental Headquarters took over the Famous Beer Hall of Hillers, until the 3rd Army came and General Patton took over the Building. The 157th had to move someplace else.
The trains finally got loaded and pulled out after dark between 1800 and 1900 hours. Once again we were stopped as much as we were moving. Most of the way we were along the west coast line. Next morning seem like we had "K" Ration for breakfast. One of the nurses said we should be getting close to Glasgow Scotland. I was setting on the left side where I could see the water and when the train made a bend to the right I could see Glasgow. In the distance, I could see a ship out in the Bay. The nearer we got to the ship the bigger it got. Just before we got to the out skirts of Glasgow the train stopped. The ship was out in the Bay about 300 yards and there was large Landing Craft up to the Beach. We got off the train, of course had to get on the litters. There were GIs carrying the litters when here came six men. Two of the men, Don Reynolds, and Conrad Bath were in the National Guard with me in the States, in "L Company". . I spoke to them, so they carried me to the Landing Craft. They said they were going home either for a month or were being rotated home. Then I had to get up from the Litter when I got on the Landing Craft. (In September of 1993 eight years ago when the 1577th Infantry had their reunion at Devens Massachusetts, close to Boston, Don Reynolds was living close by as he had married a girl from there when we were at Fort Devens Massachusetts. His daughter brought him to the reunion. Eight of us were talking and Don said do you remember when Conrad and I carried you to the landing Craft, it seem like you weighed a ton. I said I only weighed 169 pounds. He had a stoke one and a half years before, then he passed away some time the next year.) When the landing Craft was full Don and Conrad went on to the ship with us. The closer we got to the Ship the bigger it was. We asked what ship it was and the men in charge of the Landing Craft said it was the Queen Elizabeth, second largest ship. When the USA declared war on Germany, the US took both the Queen Mary and Elizabeth to transport troops to England. Put racks of bunks in the ships. The Landing Craft headed into a double doors about 5 to 6 feet above the water line and lowered the ramp lever to the floor so the Litter Bearers could raise us up to the door of the ship. Four men would take us from the men on the Landing Craft to an open spot on the deck of the ship, but they put me on an elevator and up to the top floor or deck. It was the Promenade Deck. It was three or four decks above the main deck. Just the sun deck was above, a large deck that the Officers and Nurse could get on. The Promenade Deck must have be the Captain Dinner and Dance. Any way there was a large open space and there were row after row of ranks of wooden bunks. There were only three bunks on each rack. The bunks were one and a half times as wide as the steel canvas bunks the enlisted men had, and had a mattress.. The bottom bunk was one and a half foot off the deck. The second bunk was folded up so just two men would be on a rack (Hospital Patient) the racks for the enlisted men would be four or five high and the bottom bunk was about four inches off the deck. Every ship I was on only had four bunks high. Be like a big chest man that weigh 220 pounds and get the top bunk, he had to squeeze to get in his bunk. One night he was asleep and something scared him and he raised up hitting his head on the ceiling and liked to knock himself out. I never got to see the bowels of the ship but my Brother in law, Leon rode the Queen both ways. When he went over he was three or four deck below the main deck. I think there were six decks below the main deck to the water line. There were three areas of the ship, Red, White, and Blue. I think he said he was in the white area in a big open area with rows of bunks. He said the ship had two meals a day and one area at a time would get to eat at a time. They had to go to the mess hall one way and back another way as there were so many men on the ship. Leon said the first day he ate breakfast and by the time he found his bunk it was about time to go eat supper. Before they got to England he could find his way around. When he came back to the States he was in a compartment that had racks of bunks. The compartment was about 12 by 14 feet in size. The men had to share their bunks with other men so Leon and his buddy took blankets out on the deck for the trip home. We were lucky I guess as the meals were brought to us. Early afternoon the ship raised anchor and set sail south southwest then before Sundown I guess 4 or 5 p.m. there was a US Air Craft Carrier setting in the water, so when the Queen came along side of the Carrier the two ships had a rendezvous for about 15 to 30 minutes then both ships headed west together about 150 to 200 yards apart on a zig zag course at 52 knots per hour. A knot is 6111 feet and is 60 miles an hour. The Doctor and Nurses would let us go out on Deck most of the time when they were not giving out medicine or shots. At times the Nurses would be up on the sun deck along with the Officers. There was several Nurses standing at the rail. The rail on the sun deck was 6 foot inside the sides of the ship and were about 6 foot above us. There was one nurse that would have her skirt so high on her legs and when asked she would say she was trying to get her legs tanned. What, in the first part of February when the sun is so far to the South! She would put the her foot on the lower rail, well it was a wire cable about half a inch in size. She would put her left foot on the cable then spread her legs then put her right foot up and spread her legs, the whole time she would be standing up there, she didn't have any panties on. No body would say anything but boy they couldn't stop us from looking. She was on the 1600 to 2400 hour shift. The man in the bunk above me had trench feet, so when this same nurse came to look at his feet he was on the floor standing beside the bunks. He sat on my bunk beside me while she worked with his feet. I asked her if she was getting a tan on her legs. She said sure and stood up in front of me raising her skirt clear to her waist and I saw her panties. Her panties weren't Government issue but the kind you can see though. The third day the ships ran though a big storm. With the ship being so long I was in the middle part of the ship and I could feel the bow of the ship raise up and down very little. The Air Craft Carrier was not moving up and down very much either. Don and Conrad got to come up to visit with me for 30 minutes one day.
Five and a half days the Queen Elizabeth pulled into the Hudson River in New York City to Pier 51. It took six tugs to turn the ship into the dock. Three tugs in the front side and three tugs in the opposite side in the back part of the ship. We had to get on Litters again and was put on the elevator to be taken down to the main Deck, then down the gang plank to waiting ambulances to be taken to an Evacuation Hospital a short distance on Long Island, New York for three days. While we were there the Doctor examined us and made about half of the patients, walking patients (ambulatory). The Doctors told us they would send us to Hospitals in or close to our home State. Oh boy Colorado my home State. The third morning they told us the Hospitals we were being sent to. I think all the men that were from Colorado were sent to Vancouver Washington across the river from Portland Oregon We said we were just about as close to Colorado from here 1800 miles as we would be in Vancouver Washington.
When we left the Hospital for the train they put on the Litter patients first then the ambulatory men. There were 12 passenger coaches, and three Hospital coaches, there was one Hospital car for every four coaches. I was put on the second to the last coach. When I started to walk down the aisle to a top bunk farther in the car, here was Rex Richer on the first bed. I hadn't seen him since we made the landing on Southern France. The man wanted to show me where my bunk was so I went to the middle of the car. There was a young kid assigned to the bunk above Rex, so when all the men were assigned bunks, I went to Rex's bunk and asked the kid of he would trade bunks with me. He said he was assigned to this bunk and couldn't make a change. I ask him how long he has been in the Army, as he looked to being 18 years old. He said five months. How long were you on the front lines. He said four days (I think) so I pulled rank on him, and I told him I was on the front lines three times longer then you have been in the Army and I have been wounded six times so get up to that other bunk. Rex and I was together for the seven days it took to go to Washington. There were two nurses on the Hospital car for the four cars. One nurse acted like she was too good to talk with us but the other nurse really loved to hear about our War Stories and we told her how we got wounded. We were put on the New York Central Rail Road. Went to Albany, New York and on to Chicago. When we went by Lake Erie it was frozen over and there were fishing shanties all along the lake.
I was on the Railroad two other times. When I got furloughs, well I got three furloughs altogether, the first at Camp Barkeley Texas. So the first Sergeant Ted rented the car from Bob and six of us men got two week furlough and gave Ted money to help pay for the gas and the rent. We left Friday afternoon and the first thing Ted and two other Sergeants did was get six bottles of beer at the little town of Sweetwater, then stop again at Lubbock to get beer. Next at Amarillo for Beer and gas. Than had to make a pit stop at Dalhart Texas, so by that time they were pretty drunk. Each time they stopped it would take so long for the three men to get back in the car again so I told them to let me drive. We left at 2:00p.m.and it was midnight at Dalhart. So the three piled in the back seat and in no time they were a sleep. In New Mexico a car went around me doing 80 when I was driving at 65mph. The car got 3/4 miles ahead of us and was on a slight turn to the left when Jim and I saw a dull flash of light, then the cars tail light came on. I said something has happened up there and slowed down. Then here came the man running with a flash light giving us the washout to stop. As I came up to him I saw a horse lying in my lane, it was the same color as the highway. Jim woke up the three men and the seven pulled the horse off the oil. All that happened to the man's car was the front bumper bent in two places. Behind the wind shield on top was a dent and in the trunk were two hoof prints. We stopped at Pueblo for John, at Denver for Jim and on to Fort Morgan. When we left Ted was late and he drove to Denver. Another Sergeant drove to Pueblo to get John, the other Sergeant drove to Raton New Mexico and I drove to camp Barkeley and just got there before Reveille. At Fort Devens Sergeant Columbia was acting as First Sergeant, he didn't like the weapons Platoon, and I put in for two weeks furlough but he just gave in ten days and gave me some lame excuse. Started on Tuesday and I had to be back on Camp on Friday. It took me two days to get home so I would only have one week at home so I sent for a five say extenuation but Columbia sent me a telegram saying to be in Camp on Friday morning. I got the telegram, on Friday so, Monday I went to Fort Logan, south of Denver Colorado and showed them I had the telegram and the round trip train ticket to get back to Fort Devens. It was too late to get to the train station that afternoon so the next day they gave me a slip of paper saying I reported in and was on my way. I got on the CB&Q Burlington Railroad to Chicago, then New York Central. I went into the Company CP Thursday morning. Columbia was on my ass saying I was supposed to be here last Thursday. The Captain came over to see what all the fuss was about and the Sergeant said I was to be here last Thursday, and now he is AWOL. Captain wanted to see my furlough papers and it was only for 10 days and didn't start or finish on the weekend, he asked for the other papers. The Sergeant had them in his hand but the Sergeant didn't want to give them to him. The Captain said I will have you escorted to the guard house. I am not saying what I will do. The Company Clerk said that Vere asked for a five day extension so I typed it up for the Sergeant. The Captain said how come he got a telegram saying to be in camp last Friday. Sergeant said he sent me the telegram for a five day extension. The clerk looked on the Sergeant's desk and the telegram was not even stamped. The Captain asked Columbia if he liked his stripes. He said yes I like them very much. Captain said you will be a Buck Ass Private if anything else like this happens. Boy Columbia acted like he was walking on raw eggs after that. On the train either going or coming the wind was blowing off the water on Lake Erie and when the water hit the shore the water would fly up across the road and hit the train.
On December 22 1942 my Grandfather passed away on my Birthday. I got the telegram Saturday evening. I had to take the telegram to the Red Cross there on the camp as too many men got emergency furloughs saying their Grandmother passed away. (Like one man in my Company got four emergency furloughs. On his last furlough he extended his furlough so he was AWOL. So when someone went to his Grandma's and she came to the door. They told her that he got four telegrams that said she passed away, she said no one here sent any and wonder how he got so many furloughs right close together. They asked where he was, and she said he is next door. Grandma went with the men and there were four young men there and Grandma ask how her Grandson got so many furloughs so close together. The Boy next door said Oh I sent out the telegrams to five of his buddies. The Police were called, and the three men were sent back to their camp, so I don't know what happened to them. The men in my Company spent 30 days in the Brig.)
The Red Cross had to get in touch with the Mortuary. The morning of the 24th the Red Cross called wanting me to come to their Office and wanted to know if I had money to make the round trip. I told them that I had the money. I got my ticket and went to Utica, the main line for the New York Central Railroad. The Railroad Station was on three levels. I got off on the lower level and had to get on the upper level. There were 2 MPs about two car lengths behind me and they hollered to me to came to them, so I told them I had to get up on the top level to catch that train. They said come here or you won't be going anywhere, so I went up to them. When are you going? I said Colorado. They said nobody goes to Colorado the day before Christmas. Let's see your pass. I said I have an Emergency Furlough. Let's see it, so I showed it to them. Then I could tell they were just killing time and I was getting mad. I said I need to catch that train, they said we are not through with you yet. As when they first saw my furlough papers, they should have let me go. I said let's go see your Supervisors now. Boy they couldn't give me my papers fast enough. When I got up to the train the Conductor had picked up the steps and got on the step and just as I got a hold of the bar to step up the train started moving. I had to stand up for the next 30 miles as there was so many passengers on the coaches from New York City. Half way to Chicago, the train was a local and stopped at every station. People with all kinds of packages got on and off the train 'till it got halfway, then it was the Express into Chicago I got into Chicago Christmas morning. There are six Railroad Stations in Chicago and Railroad Buses take the Passengers from one Station to the other. I had to go to the Burlington Station and was the only one in the bus. When the train pulled out of Chicago there were five people on the coach, the woman and two children got off somewhere in Iowa, the other girl at Omaha, Nebraska.
When I got on the train at Denver Colorado going back there was a blizzard all the way to Watertown New York. At Chicago the Bus got stuck and I almost missed the train as I had to catch the last car and walk to the front part of the train. It was a Storm all the way to Watertown New York.
On the Hospital Train it seemed like we went into most of the side tracks to let Fright trains go by us. I guess we were not priority Freight, even Fright trains going the same direction we were going went around us. At Chicago, Ill they unhooked the last five cars. The ten car train went south to, I think Arkansas and Mississippi. Then with us, we set for 20 minutes then moved to a side track and several trains went both ways past us then a switch engine started moving us . I think we went all around Chicago area, then to the Northern Pacific Fright yard where they were making up Freight trains. Here came a passenger train with seven box cars and 12 coaches and we were put on the end of the train. The train left Chicago going to Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington. We were stopped at Tacoma, than another train took us to Vancouver Washington. In North Dakota there was a long Railroad grade that the engine couldn't pull the train up the grade. There was a fright train going east that was on the side track waiting for us to pass so they unhooked their engine and hooked on the front of our engine and both engines pulled us about 18 miles to where the Fright engine could unhook and we went on. In Montana, Idaho and Washington several times there were two engines on the train to pull thought the mountains.
At Vancouver I can't remember the name or number of the General Hospital. Rex Richer was put in a different ward then I was in so when I found out where he was I would go see him two to three times a week. The nurse and the two men said they were going to San Francisco to meet a ship and take the Hospital Patients to someplace in Virginia then go back up to New York City again. We were in the Hospital about a month when they let us have weekend passes so I would go to Seattle, when I got a pass.
At Snyder Colorado when I went to the one room school house there was a girl one grade before me for four years. Then her family moved to Idaho. In 1943 she joined the Navy WAVES. Later I think she married a Sailor.
* During the War years from 1943 to 46 there was a German Prison Camp at Brush Colorado and all the Farmers could get the prisoners to work on the farms. Uncle Carl, Dad's youngest Brother was on a farm and he said at beet thinning time and beet harvest the company would allot so many men for the amount of acres a beet Farmer had. As all the Farmers would have beets and I think Uncle Carl said he got eight men to thin and harvest the beets. Throughout the summer He would try to get two of the same men all the time as they could so anything on the farm. When he picked corn the two man could pick as fast as he could.
The 10th of June 1945 we were put on the Union Pacific train and sent to Denver Colorado to Fort Logan and was Discharged 14th of June 1945.
The Army asked if anyone wanted Compensation for their wounds, so I signed up for my left arm and ears, as my ears ring all the time.
Two months later I was called to Denver and the Doctors gave me 20% compensation on my left arm but the Doctor that checked my ears said nobody's ears ring all the time. He had a tuning fork and I told him my ears ring just like the tuning fork. I couldn't tell him when the tuning fork stopped ringing. I said there were too many bombs, Artillery, and Mortar Shells going off around me, and I was in charge off two machine guns and when they were firing there was a lot of noise. I said when a gun is fired a big Balloon breaks do your ears ring? He said a little but not much. He put the tuning fork against my head and I could feel the vibration but couldn't hear the fork The Doctor got mad and gave me a cussing , saying I was pulling his leg. A year later I was called back to the VA and different Doctors still gave me20% on my left arm but the same Doctor that had seen me a year earlier saw me this time and still gave me Hell about having ringing in my ear. I should have keep contesting about my ears but I stopped then.
My Dad Claude and his younger brother were in WWI in France in 1918. They were in Battery "B" 148th Field Artillery, I don't know the Division they were attached to. They had Horses to pull the Caissons. Dad rode the horse on the left of the front team and Elwood rode the left horse on the back team. Later the Artillery got trucks, and Dad drove a truck, but Elwood stayed with the Horses as the trucks were always getting stuck in the mud and snow. When they came back to the US, both joined the Veteran of Foreign Wars at Brush in the North eastern part of Colorado. In 1941 when Dad sold the farm. He and Lovern came to Minturn and they got to work on Camp Hale. Elmer Owens was the Post Master at Minturn and Dad had two younger brothers at Minturn. Elmer was also the Commander of the American Legion, (an organization of Veterans that never got to go over seas during a Foreign War. A man that Dad worked with at Camp Hale asked Dad to join the A.L. so in July 1945 after I was discharged, Dad asked if I wanted to join and I said yes. We went to Leadville and when Elmer introduced me, I said I was in five camps in the States. Sailed to Oran North Africa, and started fighting in Sicily. Italy, and France. That I was wounded six times and was in six battle zones and got the Silver Star and that I was south of where Dad was in France. Two men setting in front of me said we don't need a young punk telling a bunch of lies about himself. Elmer said he knew that I did everything I said I did. After the meeting eight men came around me saying we don't need a young punk telling a bunch of lies so I said if you don't want me in your Post I will get out and they said that's a good idea. I didn't know Dad was standing behind me and he said if my son can't be in the Post I won't be in the Post either. They said Oh we don't mean you Claude. Dad said well that's the way it stands with me also. So we came back to Minturn and formed the V.F.W. at Minturn. I have been in the VFW for 56 years and never held an Elected chair 'till three years ago when I was Surgeon for two years, the Jr. Vice Commander this last year and will be Sr. Vice this coming year.
The first of July 1945 I got a job as a Fireman on the big double unit Steam Engines the ones with the two sets of Driving wheels. I went to work for the Denver and Rio Grand Western Railroad. It took three Engines to take a fright train up to Tennessee Pass about 30 miles. The Road Engine, the Engine at the head of the train, they would put an Engine in the Swing, the middle of the train, then an Engine on the back of the train Pushing Engine. The Passenger Trains they would put another Engine in the lead. It took a minimum of 2 3/4 hours for the Passenger Engine helper to make the trip up to Tennessee Pass and back to Minturn. The Freight Train helper took four hours to make that trip. I have seen the times when I would make the trip up the Pass and come back to Minturn and would go into the Engineer room and my name would be up for the next train coming into Minturn. I worked 13 1/2 months, but when 18 men came home all at once, I got bumped clear off the Railroad. I should have went to work for the Union Pacific Railroad as a man went to work for them and was an Engineer eight years later.
Both my Brothers were in the Service also. Lovern two years younger then I. In April 1943 Lovern was afraid he would be drafted in to the Army and he didn't want to dig foxholes so he told Mom he would join the Navy. In May he was sent to Boot Camp in Coeur d'Alene Idaho. Then was put into Armed Guard on a gun crew on the Merchant Ship, Lumber Lady. Then he
was on three more ships. Later in1945, he was transferred to Guam in the Navy Air Force where the planes would fly out on search of Enemy Submarines. Lovern said every time the planes came in for the landing they would have to watch for Gooney Birds. The Albatross a big footed Sea Bird would fly across the runway and if the propeller would hit the bird it would break the Propeller. My bother Paul is Seven years younger then I am. His Birthday is March 28th and The Japs surrendered in August. Paul joined the Army the 18th of March before his 18th Birthday, the 11th of May, he went to Camp Fanning Texas about 90 miles South of Dallas for Basic Training. The October 17 1945. He went to Yokohama Japan with the Provost Marshall Department, and worked around shipping and warehouses. Paul said he had saw his share of Japs stealing different stuff, especially candy. Paul came back to the States October 30th, 1946 and was discharged on the 11th of December 1946. Lovern Joined the Navy just before I went overseas and was back in the States November 1945
My Sister Ardith is ten years younger then I am. She knew a war was going on as her two big Brothers were gone and she knew Mom really worried about me and Lovern. Well his name is Claude Lovern. In the Spring of 1947 Ardith graduated from High School and Paul was able to graduate with her as he hadn't finished school when he joined the Army, The school had a test that all the boys returning from the service could take, then they were able graduate, and receive a regular diploma. Both Lovern and Paul were in the Pacific. Lovern said when he came back from Guam he went to Shoemaker, seems like he said it was in the Oakland area and he was discharged from there.
My Mom never cussed, so years later, Arlene asked Grandma. What was it like to have three boys in the war at the same time? "Mom said it was pure hell, especially with Vere being in the infantry, and being wounded so many times, in danger of being killed at any time. When he came home, I didn't know whether to put him across my checkered apron, or hug and kiss him. Well, I hugged and kissed him." About two months after I got home, Mom went to the Post Office, and Elmer Owens, the Postmaster, told Mom the Army sent Vere a package. So when Mom saw it, she said I bet that's Vere's Silver Star. Elmer wanted to see it, so she asked if he could open the package. He got a knife and when he saw it, he really praised Mom for having a son with such an Honor. Ten people came in the Post Office while Elmer was looking at the medal, and he was telling them to see the medal that Mrs. Williams' son received. When Dad and I got home, Ardith came running our and hugging me, saying it's here! it's here. What's here? Your Silver Star Medal. Boy! Dad, Mom & Ardith were really proud of it, and I said, Aw, it's just another medal. Mom swatted me across my rump, saying you are really proud of this medal, aren't you? I had to admit that I was.
Ardith Married Leon Grant well is name is Merlin Leon but goes by his middle name. They got Married August 31 1947. Leon was drafted into the Army June, 1943 and was sent to Camp Barkeley Texas where I was in 1941. Then sent to Camp McCoy Wisconsin. June 3 1944 was loaded on the Queen Elizabeth Ship to go to England and landed at Glasgow, Scotland then to the 156th General Hospital near Hereford, England. Leon was a Ward boy in charge of a ward. He gave the men shots and the first time he gave a shot the man yelled and jumped like he killed him. In June 25 1945 Leon got on the Queen Elizabeth Ship at Scotland for the trip back to the States. Got a 30 day Furlough, then went to Camp Crowder, Missouri, then on to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, in the southern part of the state. That was the first time he was given a Rifle as he was training for the Invasion of Japan, so when Japan surrendered, Leon got to come home on April 10 1946. Leon and Ardith celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1997. Leon said he had to be crazy marrying a girl who had three older Big Brothers that keep him in line. Says he has been with this family so long he is a part of the Brothers.
I bought a used truck and went to delivering coal and gravel for seven years 'till Minturn got National Gas. I married Bea and she had two sons, Larry three years old and Howard 1 1/2 years old. Then we had four boys and two girls. Vere Loyd Jr., L. Wade, Arlene E, Richard M, Roy A and Carrie Paulette. I moved to Denver. When Loyd graduated from High School, Loyd and Wade and several other boys from school went to the Job Corporal Then Loyd joined the Army in 1967 and went to Vietnam. The first of March 1968 Loyd was killed in Vietnam and the second of March my Cousin Virgil Williams was killed. When Richard finished school he joined the Navy, I think in 1970 and went to Boot Camp at San Diego California, then went to Norfolk Virginia to get on a ship that was being built. I told Richard to go to every school the Navy wanted him to go to. When the ship was finished it went out for a Shake down Cruise then had to came back to the Ship Yard for more work. Richard went to more schools so when the ship was ready to sail Richard got several ratings. Another man went to Virginia with Richard but he didn't go to any schools so when the ship left the ship yard the man just got the rating above Seaman. Richard went to Vietnam several times and was at Vietnam at the end of the War. Larry Joined the Army I think in 1964.
I started working for Safeway Stores hauling groceries from the warehouse to the stores from April 1955 to September 56. Then hauling baled hay for Denver Milk Producers. Hauling hay to dairies during the winter of 56. In April 57 'till June of 61 I went to work for Hallock and Howard Lumber Company. I was the newest Driver and had the oldest truck. In two months I got a new GMC truck with a roll off box as the older divers didn't want to haul the volume loads. Then one month later I got to be the Semi Trailer Driver. The Company had a Franchise on Rolled Roofing. They could get on dollar off from a roll of roofing from Rubberoid Roofing Company. The last part of July 1958 or 59 there was a big hail storm in the Billings, Montana area. I just got off a run Thursday afternoon and Friday I took out four loads of Lumber local. When I came back to the yard about 3:00 p.m., the office told me to go the Ryder Truck Rental, and get a tandem axle tractor. (a truck with two axles on the back of the truck), and a 40 foot trailer then go to the Roofing Company to get a load of rolled roofing for Billing Montana. Gave me a phone number to call when I got there. I called about 4 p.m. Saturday and by the time I got to their yard here were eight men were ready to unload me, and put all the rolls on six trucks, I had 30 ton of roofing on the trailer. As I was leaving Billings I saw a bad looking cloud far to the right, so when I pulled into the yard Monday Morning at 7:00 a.m., the Boss told me to get another load of roofing for Greybull Wyoming and by the time I was loaded, here came a man from the Company with my orders and expense money and told me to come back to the Roofing Company when I got unloaded and they would have orders where for me to go. In a period of two weeks there were three big hail storms. The first in the Billings area, the second on the west side of the Little Big Horn Mountains and the third on the east side of Little Big Horn Mountains from Sheridan to Cheyenne Wyoming. Then one month later Billings got hit again. For two months and two weeks I hauled Rolled Roofing every Saturday. When I went to Billings with a load, I was working from 14 to 22 hours a day.
June 1961 'till September 1973 I worked for Ringsby Trucking Line as a City Delivery Driver, heavy duty. Bea left me in the spring of 67, went to Oklahoma, right after she got a new used car that I had to pay for, along with other debts that she had charged in stores.
When I had my first hip surgery, Arlene brought her mother, Bea, up from Oklahoma. Arlene and Leona left the room to get something and Bea got to talking about how hard it was for her to make a go of it, then said, we sure done wrong when you left me. I said, wait a minute, you are the one that got the used car and went to Oklahoma. She said, well I guess you are right.
In December I married Leona. She was 13 years younger the I was and had two boys and one girl, 18-15-12 years old. February 1973 we moved to Whitewater, Colorado and I still drove in Denver. Orvil, Leona's son stayed to go to college in Fort Collins and Boulder. Melinda, Leona's daughter was in trouble with the law by having marijuana cigarettes then later going on hard drugs then later taking the cure.
June 1974 I went to work for Don Ward and Company hauling bulk cement. I drove in most of Colorado, Western South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, Northern New Mexico, Eastern Utah, 7/8 of Wyoming, and Southeast center of Montana. In the four and an one half years that I drove, I worked 45 months and I drove over 500,000 miles. In December of 79 my Family Doctor saw me walking on the street and told Leona to get me in so he could X-ray my hips. My hips and knees ached all the time The 15th of December I wasn't working that day, and was at Rifle Colorado, 60 miles from Grand Junction. Leona came and got me because when the Doctor saw the X-ray of my right hip it was ready to lock up on me. He sent me to a bone Specialist, who operated on my hip, January 28, 1978. He was going to operate on my left hip in three months, but then said he wanted to wait for better glue. On February 25 1980 he operated on my left hip, and three months later my knees quit aching. Dr. Patterson would not release me to go back to driving semi tractor trailers as my back was fusing up just above by hip bones. He was afraid any bump or jolt in the cab of the truck would paralyze me from by waist on down. So I had to start with Social Security, it took six months for me to get any money, and eighteen months to get Medicare. I had an insurance that covered me for the two years while I had my hips replaced.
In 1992 the Doctors found a spot on Leona's left lung but she never did anything about it and just took Tylenol for the pain. A year and half later the spot was the size of a soft ball and the Doctor found a spot in her right lung the size of a base ball, she smoked two packs of cigarette a day. In March of 96 the cancer cells went to her stomach, then intestines, and Liver. In August she could not walk by her self and needed a wheel chair. The Hospice home Care got Leona a hospital bed. The first of November Arlene my daughter came to help me take care of Leona. Seven days before she passed away she still wanted cigarettes and when she would puff on the cigarette she would bring it back from her mouth, the let the lighted end down on her gown or blanket so, we really had to watch her, but when we would lift up the cigarette, she got mad. Six days before she passed away the nurse gave Arlene liquid morphine to put in her mouth every two hours. She passed away December 12 1996. Arlene is living with me now as her husband passed away December 25 1994. He was a Vietnam vet.
I found out about the 157th Infantry Regiment Association in 1982. Felix Sparks, and two other Officers formed the 157th Association in 1976, and I think there were only ten men there, the next year there were thirty-five. Then after that the men know Buddies and they joined up. When I found out about the Association and I joined up, but couldn't go to the Reunion for three more years. In the late 80s and early 90s the 157th Association has rosters, and there were over 2000 men on the rosters. I've seen when there would be 900 to1000 men with their wives come to the Reunions. Every third year the Reunion would be in Colorado. In 96 the roster only had over1300 men, as all of the men are getting older. The youngest men are 73 years old. Two years ago one of my Buddies was 92 years old when he passed away as he was fourteen years older then I was. When he came to my section I was 23 years old and he was 37 years old.
I have missed three Reunions the last one in 96 when I had to take care of Leona. Now my daughter Arlene and Bill go with me to the Reunions, in 97 at Denver CO, 98 Oklahoma City, OK, 99 Myrtle Beach, SC.,2000 Philadelphia, Penn. Several years ago they formed the Anzio Beachhead Veterans Association. I was sent a letter with information to join and put the letter right where I knew where it was, so I could send in the money for the dues, when the SS check came in. Leona had a bad habit of moving things so she know where they were. Well, she filed my letter in the trash can as we could never find it. Three years ago I got their address and joined up. Two years ago their Reunion was at Colorado Springs and we went to it. Last year it was in Charleston, SC and I couldn't go as I was taking treatments for bone cancer of my ribs. This year the Reunion was at Nashville, Tenn. We didn't go to the Grand Ole Opry all though the assoc. had a tour going to the Opry. With me, I have two hearing aides and I can't hear the people singing when the music is being played, and if the music is loud all I hear is the beat. The people that went said the music was so loud they couldn't hear the singing. The next year the Reunion will be in Savanna, GA. God willing I will be there. The 157th will be in Denver this September. In September of '99 at Myrtle Beach, SC from September 98 to September of 99 there were 56 men that passed away that were on the Memorial List and I knew six men of the men. At Philly, PA there were 73 men on the list and I know five of the men. A few years back when there were only 20 men on the list. I didn't know any of them. When we were in the States I knew most all the men but when we got to fighting in Sicily, Italy, and France we got so many replacements and I can not remember the names of the men in my section. Be like when I got to be Sergeant I was on the line for 13 and a half months although I was in the Hospital for a period of four months, I had fourteen men in my section. I kept track of the men that didn't come back after being wound and 57 men didn't come back and seven got killed so 64, well 65 men with myself went through without coming back to the Front lines
I hope you like my Story of my Army time.
An Old Buddy Vere L Williams (Tarzan)