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WWII Memoirs
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Thread: WWII Memoirs

  1. #1

    WWII Memoirs

    My uncle, Lloyd D. Lindsey, is 92 and still kicking! He's a quiet, kind-but-tough ol' Missouri Boy who still rolls his own cigarettes and, from age 12 until the day he retired, only worked for one employer, the International Shoe Factory.

    Like most good ol' boys, he never said much. When my other uncle, Lloyd's brother Paul, died, I found a handwritten copy of Lloyd's memoirs of WWII in Paul's belongings, copies of which had been disseminated to the family.

    I would never have guessed how much he had to say; or how much he had been through. I sat down and read the whole thing in one sitting. Like most Vets, he never talked about the war. He said he just wanted to talk about happy subjects. Now I know why.

    He was sent to France not long after D Day and participated in the Battle of the Bulge. What an incredible story! Like Truman, Uncle Lloyd's narrative is "Plain Speaking" but one I will never forget.

    On another thread, someone mentioned that people are trying to archive the stories of WWII soldiers, as there are not many of them left.

    So I thought I would copy it word for word here, for posterity's instruction and for your reading enjoyment.

    marieb
    While men consider what place to give Jesus in history, He has already decided what place to give them in eternity. - Leonard Ravenhill

  2. #2
    DEDICATION

    This book is dedicated to the men of the 26th Yankee Infantry Division who fought with distinction in both WWI and WWII. Their courage and devotion to their country earned the respect and admiration of all who fought with them.

    The American people owe them an undying debt of gratitude for the tremendous casualties they sustained and for their contribution in bringing both wars to a successful conclusion.


    PROLOGUE

    It was a cool, crisp morning in early November, and I was walking to work, as was my custom since I lived only four blocks from the factory. There were several vacant lots between the last house on the street and the factory which were covered with pine trees.

    As I passed these lots, I caught the cool, pungent scent of the pines and paused momentarily. I suddenly became engulfed in a wave of nostalgic memories of other pine trees in another time and another place...

    CHAPTER I

    I was sorting through the mail and my eye caught a letter addressed to me from the Selective Service Office in St. Louis. I quickly opened it. It was a brief notification that I had been reclassified as 1A and eligible for induction into the Armed Forces at once.

    It was late December, 1943 and I lived with my wife, Genevieve, and two children, Lloyd Martin, aged 10, and Donna Jo, aged 8, in a nice home at the edge of town. I was employed as Office Manager of International Shoe Co. in the small town of Bland, Missouri.

    I had one of the better jobs in town and was highly respected in the community. My wife and I had a nice garden, fruit trees and 50 White Rock chickens, which gave us a great deal of pleasure. We were happy, fairly prosperous and life in general was easygoing and pleasant. There were minor inconveniences, such as rationing of meat, sugar, coffee, gasoline and shoes; but everyone seemed to have plenty of necessities.

    But there were ominous feelings of foreboding, as these were troubled times. France was completely in the hands of the Germans. Our forces were fighting desperately in the South Pacific and our troops were having difficulties in the fierce fighting in North Africa.

    We were sending tremendous amounts of supplies and men to England and Ireland in preparation for a massive invasion of France.

    This was the situation at that time; and one which was beginning to encroach upon the private lives of so many people. Our Rock Island station agent once remarked that during WWI he had never had the unpleasant duty of delivering a death message.

    Such was not to be the case during WWII, as he would deliver several death messages and numerous messages of men wounded in action to relatives in this small town. All of the single men and most of the married men with no children were already in the service. Now married men with children were being called. About all that were left were the aged and infirm.

    On February 11, 1944, I received the now famous Greetings, requesting that I appear at my local draft board for a physical examination. That night I caught the Fennessy bus to St. Louis and spent the night with Dave Wood, who was a former Packing Room foreman at Bland.

    After a hurried breakfast, I caught a bus and arrived at my local Board on 12th Street at about 6:30 a.m. It was still dark and several young men were standing around uncertainly and talking in small groups.

    Soon a draft board official arrived and started checking off names on his list. When all were accounted for, we were loaded on a bus and taken to Jefferson Barracks. We were again checked in and taken to a large hall filled with several hundred men from other draft boards. After brief instructions we were given a large paper bag and told to take off all of our clothes, put them in a bag and write our name on the bag.

    If the situation had not been serious, it would certainly have been comical: several hundred naked men milling around with a self-conscious grin on each of their faces. Nowhere in the world will you find such an odd assortment of humanity. Some were tall and skinny, short and fat, black hair, grey hair, bald, bow-legged, flat-footed, paunchy, hairy, and anything else you might conceive. Thus began a day I will never forget.

    We were checked from stem to stern, including heart, blood pressure, hearing, nose, vision, color blindness and hernia. Most of the time, however, was spent standing in line and waiting.

    After lunch, we started all over again. They looked down our throats and up our rear ends, took samples of blood and short-arm inspections.

    Late in the afternoon, we appeared individually before a three-man board and were asked to give our preference on the branch of service we desired. I stated that the Navy was my preference. When asked why, I said that I felt my qualifications were betterr suited for the Navy. What I didn't tell them was that I felt the Navy would be a much better place to live than in the Army, as far as accommodations were concerned.

    We were then sent to a large hall and those that failed to pass were sent home. The rest of us were called up one at a time and given our papers in our left hand and told to place our right hand on the table, palm down. The officer in charge had a large rubber stamp which he banged down on the back of your hand. When I left his desk I looked at my hand. I saw in large black letters the word ARMY.

    We were then given a dime each for car fare back to the bus and told we would be notified by mail when we would be called for induction.

    Arriving at the bus station, I found I had a few minutes' time, so I decided I would get a beer to cool my fevered brow. I boarded the Fennessy bus, an ancient vehicle that clattered and banged, but always faithfully managed to arrive at its destination. In due time, it pulled up in front of the drugstore in Bland.

    When I stepped through the front door, my wife Gen and the children were seated at the dining room table, where she was helping the children with their homework. The expressions on their faces told me they had been waiting anxiously for my return. When I told them I had passed the physical, I could see they were happy for my sake that was in good physical condition; but I could also detect that they were fearful of what the future had in store for us as a family.

    I was given 30 days to put my affairs in order, and these days passed all too quickly. I paid all outstanding bills and went over our bank account with Gen. We reviewed our life insurance policies in order for her to make the premium payments when due.

    One disturbing factor at this time was that Gen had been examined by Dr. Ravensway at Booneville and he had recommended surgery to correct a condition caused by the birth of our children. It now appeared I would be called before this could be completed. I could see that this, coupled with the responsibility of caring for the children and my leaving, was going to be a difficult burden for her to bear.
    While men consider what place to give Jesus in history, He has already decided what place to give them in eternity. - Leonard Ravenhill

  3. #3
    CHAPTER II


    All too soon, my last day at home arrived. Bud Yancey, my boss, came out from St. Louis and formally checked me out and turned the office over to my successor. We went by home and picked up a bag with a few belongings; and I said goodbye to my wife and children. It was difficult to control my emotions in the presence of the children, but we all managed somehow. On the drive to St. Louis, I was rather quiet; and certainly very poor company. But I'm sure Mr. Yancey understood.

    I spent the night with our friends, Ralph and Else Scott. Early the next morning, I reported to my local Board. After the usual checking procedure, we were again loaded on a bus and taken to Jefferson Barracks. There were several hundred men present. We were lined up in some semblance of order and answered to roll call. We then raised our right hand and were duly sworn in. Thus, on March 23, 1944, I was officially a member of the Armed Forces.

    The rest of the day was spent receiving shots for tetanus, typhoid and smallpox. We then lined up to received our issue of clothing. Very little regard was given to sizes and fit. Some jockey behind the counter took one look at you and threw a pair of pants, a shirt and some underwear and socks at you and told you to keep moving. I could have cared less, because I knew I wasn't going to a party anyway.

    The next few days were spent getting more shots, attending lectures and watching films of various aspects of military life. The barracks was under the charge of some PFC cadre who delighted in showing his importance by yelling and pointing out how stupid you were. We also were initiated into the fine art of KP, which started at 4 a.m. and ended about 10 p.m. When this chore was finished, your only desire was to fall on your bunk and slip blissfully into a deep sleep.

    At the end of a week, it became apparent that we were about ready to move out, as our processing was nearing completion. We were restricted to the area and told we would leave the next day, but were not told our destination.

    Gen had come to St. Louis and was staying with Ralph and Else. She came to the barracks that last night and we had a couple hours together before saying goodbye.

    The next morning we were loaded onto a train and started on a trip that would take 4 days. Although we were not told where we were going, it was apparent we were headed west. Troop trains didn't have a regular schedule, and we spent quite a bit of time waiting on sidings. We had our own kitchen car and received our meals on the train. The rest of the time was spent watching the dreary landscape or trying to sleep sitting up in a chair car. Finally, dirty and tired, we arrived at what was to be our happy home for the next five or six months, Camp Roberts, California.
    While men consider what place to give Jesus in history, He has already decided what place to give them in eternity. - Leonard Ravenhill

  4. #4
    CHAPTER III


    Camp Roberts is situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco at the edge of the foothills in what can best be described as semi-desert country. The military must have taken great pains in selecting this site for a camp in order to ensure it to be the most unattractive and miserable location in California.

    It was damp and cold during the rainy season of early spring, and unbearable hot and dry during the summer months. The camp consisted of a vast expanse of flat land covering thousands of acres and surrounded by foothills and plateaus covered with brush and scrubby trees.

    The barracks were of the two-story type and stretched as far as you could see in any direction. Inside, they were devoid of any furniture except double deck bunks.

    Upon arrival, we were assigned bunks and allowed to shower before going to the Mess Hall. After mess, we were introduced to our officers and told that reveille would be at 5:30 a.m.

    True to their word, before daylight next morning a sergeant stuck his head in the door and blasted ona whistle that would wake the dead. After breakfast, we were issued rifles and told to fall in and were then marched to the parade grounds to get our first instructions in close order drill. This was easy for me, as I had four years prior service in the National Guard. We had our usual foul-ups, but as the days passed, we were to become very proficient and a well-disciplined outfit.

    Infantry basic training is the most rugged of all branches of service. It consists of calisthenics, close order drill, rifle range, maneuvers, obstacle course and combat training. It also covers training with BAR, machine guns, mortars and bazookas. Before completing our training, we would be able to handle all of these weapons efficiently.

    About every two weeks, we would draw KP duty. This started at 3:30 a.m. and lasted until 10 at night. The cooks were concerned only with preparing the meals, while the KP's got all the dirty work, such as washing dishes, scrubbing pots and pans and peeling potatoes.

    After the evening meal was completed and the pots and pans scoured, the last job was to scrub the kitchen with GI soap and scrub brushes. When we were relieved, we went to the barracks, took a shower and fell into the sack exhausted, knowing that tomorrow morning at 5:30 our regular routine would start again.

    The food was generally good and wholesome and plentiful. At first, some of the younger kids complained that it wasn't prepared the way their mothers cooked; but after a hard day in the field, they ate heartily and rarely complained.

    Our instructor, Sergeant Pingree, said that the Army would tear us down and build us up all over again. With the calisthenics, drills, hikes, and regular hours, we began to shape up into a well-disciplined and physically fit outfit.

    In our fourth week of training, we were sent to the rifle range, where we received instructions on how to take a rifle apart and reassemble it blindfolded. We also had instructions in dry fire, which is learning to estimate windage and elevation without the use of ammunition. This was followed by actual firing in the prone, sitting, standing and rapid-fire posiitons. Since I had previous training in the National guard, I had no difficulty in qualifying as a sharpshooter.

    It was at about this time that Gen was booked for surgery in Booneville, Missouri. The nurse assured her they would go through the Red Cross and request an emergency leave so I could come back and be with her.

    When the telegram arrived at Camp Roberts, I was called over to Company headquarters to verify the facts. Our Company Commander, Captain Blatt, asked if I would like to return home on leave; and I assured him that I would.

    He said, "Turn in your equipment. Pack your barracks bag and be ready to leave in an hour."

    I went back to the barracks, got everything in order and was ready to leave by 3:00 that afternoon. I waited until chow time and still no word.

    Thinking it may have been overlooked, I returned to headquarters. As soon as I saw the Captain's face, I knew my request had been denied. Captain Blatt was a combat veteran from Guadalcanal; and though strict, he had compassion for his men.

    He was quite indignant as he told me the Regimental Colonel had denied the request on the grounds that training men to be soldiers was their first priority and individual problems could not interfere.

    As the days passed, our hikes became longer and our packs heavier. It was at about this time I started having trouble with my feet. It became so bad I could hardly walk without pain, and I finally went on sick call. The podiatrist at the Infirmary examined my feet thoroughly and made out a prescription. He told me to go to the shoe repair shop and have my shoes built up on the inside of the heels, and a pair of arch supports built to fit my feet.

    The shop was about a mile from the barracks and I had to walk all the way there and back. With the supports pushing the bones of my feet back into place, it was very painful walking. But within a few days I was as good as ever.

    As the summer progressed, so did our training. Soon we were ready for a week's bivouac. This consisted of carrying on your back everything needed for a week of living in the open. We hiked about fifteen miles and made camp. I always managed to pick up some Spanish moss to put under my blanket to make it a little softer.

    After maneuvering for several days, we broke camp and hiked another ten miles into the Hunter Liggett reservation. After several more days of training, we broke camp early one morning and started the 25 mile hike back to Camp Roberts. It was a long, grueling hike and the weather was hot.

    The next two weeks were devoted to advanced combat training, including hand-to-hand combat, amphibious lands and finally crawling under live machine-gun fire. This was a little scary, but if you kept calm and kept your head and rear end down, it was not too dangerous.

    It was now early August and we were in our last week of training. We were completing 17 weeks of extremely rough training and we looking forward to going home for a few days before receiving our regular assignments.

    The following Monday we fell in formation and started receiving shipping orders. Of the 200 men in our Company, approximately 175 were sent to Fort Ord, which was a port of embarkation for the South Pacific. They packed up and immediately left. The remaining 25 of us were told we would receive our orders in a day or two.

    In due time we received our orders. Most of us were being sent to Fort Meade, Maryland. We turned in our Sun Tans and were issued O.D. wool uniforms. The weather was still hot and w were very uncomfortable as we packed and made ready to leave. We were to receive a 10-day delay en route to spend with our families before reporting to Fort Meade.

    We were loaded on a troop train complete with kitchen car and left Camp Roberts late in the afternoon. I occupied a seat with Richard Roop, who had taken a liking to me as we were much alike in many respects. He was a quiet, gentle man, in his late twenties. He was married and had a wife and two daughters in Kansas City.

    We talked of our jobs and families and sometimes just sat quietly and watched the dreary scenery outside and listened to the clack of the wheels on the rails and the mournful whistle of the engine. On the second night, around midnight, we pulled into El Paso and would hold over about a half-hour. Roop said he was going to try to find something to drink. In about ten minutes, he was back with 2 quart bottles of beer and a big grin on his face. He gave me a bottle and we sat there drinking and talking until late in the night.

    Little did we realize that within 60 days, this kind and gentle man would be lying dead near the German border with a machine-gun bullet between his eyes.

    Late in the afternoon of the third day, we pulled into the Union Station at Kansas City. I said goodbye to Roop and then went to the Express office to ship my barracks bag to Bland. I grabbed a bite to eat and then went to the Bus Terminal and bought a ticket for Rose Bud, which was as close as I could get to Bland by bus.

    The bus was crowded and the weather was hot as we traveled eastward. It was about 2:30 in the morning when we pulled into Rose Bud. I stepped off the bus and looked around and there was not a soul in sight. I had only a small traveling bag, so I started down the highway towards Owensville, hoping to get a ride with one fo the late-night truckers.

    It is 17 miles from Rose Bud to Bland and I was sure I would be able to hitch a ride part of the way. The night air was cool and I didn't mind walking, as I was accustomed to long hikes. Several cars passed by but didn't stop. Soon I saw the lights of Owensville. The town was deserted at this time of the morning, so I continued on towards Bland.

    I began to tire a little, but I was eager to get home so I kept on walking at a pretty brisk pace. By this time, I had given up hopes of getting a ride and really didn't care. The sky was turning red in the east as I topped a small rise about one mile south of Bland. I could see the smoke from the factory and realized that the employees would soon be on their way to work. I turned in the first street, crossed the tracks and went by the factory. I spoke to several friends and went down the street to the large white house where my wife and children had an apartment. I knocked on the door and in just a moment my wife and children appeared. It was quite a reunion, as we hadn't seen each other for over six months.
    While men consider what place to give Jesus in history, He has already decided what place to give them in eternity. - Leonard Ravenhill

  5. #5
    CHAPTER IV


    The days passed all too quickly. Soon it was time to leave. We made arrangements with friends to care for the children and Gen and I boarded the bus for St. Louis. Arriving there, we registered at the Statler Hotel and had a quiet dinner together.

    The next afternoon we went to the bus terminal, where we said our goodbyes and Gen boarded the Fennessy bus to return to Bland. When the bus was out of sight, I picked up my duffle bag and, feeling a little low, headed for the Union Station to await the arrival of my train. About midnight we left the station for the long 2-day train ride to Fort Meade. The journey through the eastern states was monotonous and uneventful.

    The next few days were devoted to receiving shots for overseas, receiving final equipment and military orientation films.

    On Saturday evening, I went to the Post Chapel to find out the time of Sunday Mass. While I was standing there, another soldier came up and checked the bulletin board.

    "Are you going to Mass in the morning," he asked?

    "Yes," I replied.

    "My name is Arlington R. Merchant, " he stated, "but everyone calls me Pop. How about us going together in the morning?"

    "Fine," I said.

    Pop was from New Hampshire and proved to be very good company. He was 39 years old and had seven children. A curved stem pipe was his constant companion and gave a realistic flavor to his nickname of Pop.

    After a couple of days waiting, we were loaded on a train and eventually arrived at Camp Shanks. The following night we were taken to the pier and, after calling the roll call, we were loaded on board the Dutch liner New Amsterdam. This was a huge ship that carried about 15,000 troops. We were assigned quarters in the hold of the ship, where we were packed like sardines. We slept on the floor, using our duffle bag for a pillow. There was one toilet for all of us and the air was foul, as we were below the water line. The cooks were Indonesians and the food was not too good, especially if you were subject to seasickness.

    We left New York harbor on October 5, 1944, and I would like to say the trip was uneventful; but such was not the case. The first day out we hit the gulfstream and the air was warm and bright. The sea was calm and a deep blue-green and beautiful to behold. Most of the men were on deck, lined up at the rail watching the porpoises and flying fishes. One of the men remarked about the gracefulness of the flying fishes. One of the Scottish soldiers escorting us said, "Aye, lad, and bonnie wee things they are, too."

    This was a new experience for most of us. We spent most of our time on deck enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. There were numerous poker games and crap games on deck. As usual, the pros and sharpies were taking the boys to the cleaners.

    We started taking a zig-zag course to avoid German submaries, and it was fascinating to watch the wake of the ship.

    About the third day out, the weather changed and the North Atlantic began to show her true colors. The sky was overcast and the water became a sullen gray as the waves grew higher and the ship began to pitch and roll. My stomach moved with the ship, and like hundres of others, I became very seasick. It is the worst sickness you can imagine and you felt as if you were going to die; and wished you could.

    The smell of food was nauseating and we grew weaker every day. My friend Richard Roop was not affected by the rolling of the ship and felt sorry for me. He gave me an orange and urged me to eat it. That was all I was able to keep down during the rest of the voyage.

    On October 13, we entered the Firth of Clyde and docked at Glasgow, Scotland. I was weak but managed to strap on my pack and debark with the rest of the men. As soon as I got my feet on solid ground, I felt much better, and soon returned to normal. I was so hungry I could have eaten anything I could get my hands on.

    We were loaded on a train and moved south to Manchester, England. The trip took several hours and was quite pleasant compared to the experience by ship. Manchester is a sprawling city of several million people and is one of the largest industrial cities in England. It is dirty and unattractive, with an ever-present layer of smog hanging menacingly above.

    We were quartered in an old military barracks at the edge of the city, and this place was as dismal as the surroundings. Although this was late October and the weather was cool, our barracks was without heat and it was necessary to shave and shower in cold water. We were assigned to double-deck bunks with ticks filled with moldy straw; but we managed to stay fairly comfortable.

    Our money was converted to British currency, which was confusing at first; but after engaging in affew crap games, we soon became familiar with its value.

    The next day we were issued rifles which were taken from the packing cases covered with heavy grease. It was a half-day's job to get them clean and ready for inspection. We were then marched a couple miles out of town to a rifle range and given three rounds of ammunition to zero in our rifles. That was hardly enough to zero a rifle properly, especially when your life was going to depend on its accuracy.

    The following day we were assembled for a briefing on what to expect in combat. The captain in charge tried to reassure us by saying 98% of the men who arrived at the hospital would survive. What he didn't tell us was the percentage that would never arrive at a hospital.

    We went through the gas chamber for a final testing of our gas masks and then given booster shots for tetanus and typhus. We then assembled our cargo packs and were loaded on a train headed for the port of Southampton. This is one of the largest ports in England. The harbor was crowded with ships. We were loaded on a channel boat and each squad of twelve men was assigned a small area with a long bench to be used as a table.

    For supper, one man from each squad was sent to the galley for food. When he came back, he had a kettle half-filled with rice and two fish with the heads on , lying on top and two loaves of bread. The rice was soggy and the fish were smelly; and the bread was full of weevils. But we closed our eyes and ate it anyway.

    Early next morning, the ship got underway. By mid-afternoon we sighted the coast of Normandy. The shoreline was strewn with debris and wreckage that gave mute evidence of the fierce fighting that took place here at the time of the D Day landing on June 6, 1944.

    We anchored about a half-mile from shore and soon the landing crafts came alongside. The swells were rather heavy and the landing crafts would rise and fall five or six feet alonside the ship, which made transferring rather difficult.

    The landing nets were thrown over the side and we started climbing down with full packs and rifles. We would wait until a swell would bring the landing craft up. Then we would jump into the craft. One misstep and you could fall in the water between the ship and the landing craft and be crushed to death. Fortunately, we made the transfer safely and headed for shore. When the landing craft reached shore we jumped into waist-deep water, waded ashore and set foot on historic Omaha Beach.

    The Normandy coast at this point had a narrow strip of sandy beach which merged into steep bluffs. We arduously climbed these bluffs and came out on a flat area that stretched for miles. We marched past a newly made cemetery covered with neat rows of white crosses marking the last resting place of thousands of men who fell during the invasion.

    Soon a cold drizzling rain set in and we halted and set up our pup tents. Pop and I set up our tent and made a ditch around it to keep the inside dry. After eating our issue of Spam, we crawled inside and settled down for a chilly, miserable night.

    Early next morning we were loaded on trucks and driven to Carentan. We were assembled in the marketplace in the center of town to await the arrival of trucks to take us to our next destination. While we were waiting there, a young girl came down the street with a basket of eggs on her arm. Apparently she had a call from nature, for she set her basket down, lifted her skirts and proceeded to turn over the gravel. All of the men stood there bug-eyed and slack-jawed. Then they began to whistle and yell. Undisturbed, she straightened her dress, picked up her basket of eggs, adn walked on down the street.

    After another long truck ride, we arrived at Le Mans. We were loaded into boxcars and started the long, miserable journey eastward. We were crowded and cramped and without toilet facilities. We were issued one can of C rations each and continued on our journey. By later afternoon, we pulled into a siding and were allowed to get out and stretch.

    Most of us headed to the call of nature and were strung out along the tracks with bare behinds exposed to the chill winds. At about that time a French priest came riding by on a bicycle. He took one look at this spectacle and muttered to himself, "Mon Dieu, Mon Dieu!"

    The train rattled and rolled all night long. By morning we arrived at Neufchateau. We were quartered in some old French barracks taken over by the Americans. For the first time in several days, we had a hot meal. Neufchateau was a picturesque old French town with an arched, stone bridge over the river at the edge of town.

    It was now early November and the weather remained cold and rainy. We slogged around in the mud waiting to be moved again. We were soon loaded on trucks and travelled to Toul on the Moselle River. We were housed in an old warehouse for the night. The next morning we were assembled for breakfast. At the end of the chow line, a cook was giving out cigarettes. One of the young fellows remarked that he had never received free cigarettes before. The cook said, "Don't feel too good about it, Sonny. They are only given out in a combat zone."

    After breakfast we were moved several miles to a large open field surrounded by timber. We were then told we were assigned to the 26th Yankee Division. This division was one of the first to arrive in France during WWI and distinguished itself throughout that war. It was also destined to have an illustrious record during WWII. It would engage in some of the fiercest fighting of the war and would suffer 19,000 casualties.

    I was assigned to E company, Pop Merchant to F company, and Richard Roop to H company. All of us assigned to E company were marched about a quarter mile to the timber, where a sergeant in charge gave us some brief information about our outfit. About dark, a truck picked us up and started driving for the front lines.

    We could see the flashes in the sky and hear the rumble of artillery which became louder and more ominous as we proceeded. Finally the truck stopped and we marched about a half-mile to the town of Moynvic.

    We went into an old building and were met by 1st Sergeant McPhee. By the light of a candle he called our names and turned us over to our squad leaders. We stumbled along in the dark and soon came to our area.

    The squad leader pointed to a fox hole and said, "Jump in. That's where you will stay tonight."

    I crawled in and introduced myself to the guy sitting there. His name was Peter Pietersen from northern Iowa. Thus I became a full-fledged member of the Yankee Division on the front lines in France.
    While men consider what place to give Jesus in history, He has already decided what place to give them in eternity. - Leonard Ravenhill

  6. #6
    CHAPTER V


    We were dug in at the base of Hill 310, so named because it was 310 feet high. This hill had been assaulted by our 101st regiment just a day or two before, but the Germans were dug in on top and inflicted heavy casualties on the 101st, forcing them to withdraw. Their heavy losses were the reason we were sent in as replacements. The 101st called for timed artillery fire on the hill to knock out the enemy. This is artillery fire timed to explode just before reaching the ground and designed to knock out troops that are dug in. This was the situation that existed at the time of my arrival.

    About midnight we were routed out and told we were assaulting the hill. The going was rough, as the hill was steep and slippery with mud, to say nothing of the full pack, rifle and ammunition we were carrying. Arriving at the top we found it deserted. Guards were posted and the rest of us were ordered to dig in. I shared a hole with Pete and we covered up with my shelter-half. It was cold and we dozed fitfully until morning.

    When daylight came we crawled out to find we were covered with an inch of snow. Pietersen was dirty and grimy, with a two week's growth of beard. He looked at my cargo pack and said, "I don't want to tell you what to do; but if you intend to survive, you should get rid of that pack.

    "You won't need that shelter-half and tent pegs. and you won't get any hot meals. There hasn't been any use of gas and that gas mask will only be in your way.

    "Keep a clean pair of socks in your helmet and put your spoon in your jacket pocket and your raincoat in your pack."

    I took his advice and kept what he told me to and dumped the rest in a ditch.

    Hill 310 was the beginning of the Dieuze plateau, which extended for about eight miles towards Benestroff, our objective. It overlooked the valley and gave us command of the approaches. As I looked out over the valley where the enemy was still dug in, I could see why it was necessary to take this high ground and the terribly high price we had paid for it.

    As we moved forward, I saw my first dead soldier. He was a young American lying sprawled on the ground with a pasty gray, putty-colored look. That was the first of many thousands I would see before this war was over.

    All around could be seen dead Germans still crouched in their holes where they had been killed by our times artillery fire. We were stationed in groups and outposts overlooking the valley and told to be on the lookout for counterattacks. By mid-afternoon we were relieved and our outfit moved about a mile down the ridge to an abandoned church. From there we marched several miles down into the valley and were told to dig in for the night, as we were receiving considerable artillery fire.

    Petersen, Pietersen, and myself decided to dig a three-man hole. They said they would dig if I would get some straw to put in it. There was a barn about a quarter of a mile out in a field about half full of sheaf oats. The field was littered with dead cattle and horses and the odor of death hung heavily in the air.

    I picked up four bundles of oats and plodded back to our area. They had the hole completed by the time I arrived. We spread the oats on the ground and then covered the top with logs and dirt. Someone had built a small fire to warm by, as it was still daylight. We were standing around talking when our platoon sergeant, Danny Deyesso, told us we would jump off at daylight in an attack on Guebling.

    Some of the fellows were showing pictures of their families and some were talking about their plans after the war was over. Some just stood staring into the fire and wondering what tomorrow would bring.

    When darkness came the fire was put out. The sergeant told us to get some rest, as we would have a hard day tomorrow. How right he was.

    We crawled in our hole, which was very cramped, and tried to get some sleep. But due to the cold, the snow, and thinking about the next day, we got very little sleep.

    About 5:00 on the morning of November 14, we were routed out. After a quick breakfast of C rations, we marched about a mile to an assembly area near the outskirts of the town of Guebling and spread out in a thin line. Our company was to make a frontal attack on the town and F company was to our right. At precisely 6:00 our artillery came in over us and pounded the town for about ten minutes.

    The town seemed to explode and it seemed impossible for anyone to survive in that area. As we waited, poised for the attack, I got a sickening, empty, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. We were all scared, but somehow an inner courage helped us overcome the debilitating fear.

    The barrage lifted and we started running towards the town, expecting at any minute to be fired upon. We rushed into the town without resistance and proceeded to go from house to house to dig out the enemy. The town was deserted. The Germans had withdrawn and dug in on higher ground. They would hit us again before long.

    We moved through the town and came to a large open area with pine timber on both sides. This field was slightly uphilll and we all had an uneasy feeling as we started forward.

    Suddenly all hell broke loose and we were hammered with rifle, machine-gun and mortar fire, as well as fire from tanks stationed in the woods to our right. Our squat leader, Alexander, was killed instantly with a rifle bullet through his head.

    Samuels, to my right, was hit. So were Leffler, Livesy and Petersen. We hit the ground and started looking for any rock, ditch or clump of grass that would give us cover. And we started firing back at anything that moved.

    We were pinned down most of the day by the merciless fire; but I could see Sgt. McPhee on my right kneeling up and firing rifle grenades at the tanks in the edge of the pine trees. By late afternoon we were ordered to pull back to a road about 100 yards to the rear.

    Petersen came running by with the trousers on his right leg torn and soaked with blood. Pietersen came to my position and was visible upset and shaken. He told me that when we were fired upon he jumped to the nearest shell hole.

    Later he said he had called to me repeatedly, but due to the noise, he received no answer. He said, "Lindsey, I was sure that I was all alone, and I made up my mind that if the Germans counterattacked, I would put the rifle to my head and blow my brains out."

    I said, "Pete, if you are going to die, just go down fighting and take as many with you as you can."

    When we regrouped, we heard that F company on our right had been surrounded by tanks and was completely wiped out. Those that were not killed were captured and taken prisoner. I didn't know until years later that Pop Merchant was among those taken prisoner and was later liberated.

    Our dead and wounded were still laying on the slope in the snow. They were later evacuated. Having failed to take the town by a frontal attack, we then circled the town and attacked from the west. We immediately ran into heavy resistance from tanks and machine guns lined up in the edge of the pine trees.

    It was now beginning to get dark and a steady stream of tracer bullets was covering the entire area. When you realize that only one out of every four bullets is a tracer, you begin to understand how much fire was being thrown at us. The situation looked hopeless, but we began running towards the town.

    At times we crawled in the muddy depressions made by the tank tracks. First Sgt. McPhee grabbed a bazooka and fired several rounds at the tanks, damaging two and forcing their withdrawal. For this heroic action, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

    We soon arrived at a stream at the edge of town and waded across in bone-chilling waist-deep ice water. Just ahead was a two-story rock building. Just before arriving at the stream, we could see machine-gun fire coming from the second story. But by now it was silent.

    Our platoon leader told me and Brown, a bartender from Florida, to rush the building and toss in a couple of grenades. As we went forward, Brown grumbled, "Where in the hell are all the sergeants that are supposed to lead us?"

    He took one side and I took the other. We both tossed a grenade in the upper story and flattened ourselves against the side of the building. After the blast, we stealthily made our way into the town. By now it was pitch dark and the town was a beehive of activity.

    We could hear the rumble of tanks and weapon carries, as well as the puttering of motorbikes as they prepared to withdraw. We went down the street and slipped into the deserted buildings in small groups. While I was standing guard by the door, I would hear the Germans giving orders to the men running down the street. I was so close I could have reached out and grabbed one of the by the arm.

    Soon the town became silent and we checked to see how our outfit had fared. Of the twelve men in our squad that jumped off that morning, there were only five of us left. It was then I realized a combat infantryman lives a very precarious life.

    We made contact with the platoon across the street and set up outposts for the night. We covered all the windows and made a small fire on the floor and brewed some coffee, as we were all cold and tired.

    Near midnight we could hear water running outside and soon it started creeping into our building. Later we found out the Germans had opened the flood gates on the canal and flooded the town to cover their withdrawal.

    We climbed up to the loft and spent the rest of the night in the cold, as the top of the building had been blown away by artillery.

    At daylight the screaming meemies started coming in on us. They are multiple rockets that have a weird screaming sound as they approach and make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Soon a jeep made its way into town and brought us C rations and replenished our supplly of ammunition.

    We had been bothered by sniper fire since daylight and were ordered to clean out the town, house by house. All of the Germans had pulled out except for a few snipers to hold up our advance. They were located and eliminated and the town was made secure by noon.

    After the water subsided, we were assembled in the street for roll call. There was a heavy silence as some of the names were called, as our losses had been very heavy. Sgt. Robinson was assigned to our squat to replace Sgt. Alexander, who had been killed the day before. some of us were notified that we had been promoted to PFC and awarded the Combat Infantryman's badge. This award carried an increase in pay of $10 per month, which we felt we had justly earned.

    When you go into an attack, your overcoats are thrown on a pile and brought up to you later. This may take several days, depending on the severity of the fighting. Pietersen found an old red comforter in one of the houses and rolled it up and tied it with baling wire and slung it over his shoulder.

    That night we found an abandoned barn, and six of us slept spoon-fashion in the hay covered with this comforter. The next day we moved forward about a half-mile, meeting some resistance in the pines; but we went through the woods with rifles blazing and captured two prisoners.

    That night we dug in at the edge of the pine woods. The next morning, as I crawled out, I looked square in the face of a dead German. That was a little disconcerting so early in the morning; but not enough to keep me from brewing a cup of coffee to take the snow chill out of my bones.

    On November 20, we started moving eastward, slowly putting pressure on the enemy until we arrived at a point southwest of Munster. We were quartered in an old house that had been badly battered; but we covered the windows and made a fire in the stove.

    After dark our squad was ordered to make a night patrol into Munster to try to make contact with the 328th, which had been attacking the town from the northwest. There were four of us on the patrol: Sgt. Robinson, Knudson, Slim McAllister -- a rancher from Wyoming -- and me. It was about 8:00 on Thanksgiving night when we left on our mission.

    We checked with the guards on our perimeter and told them we would be back around midnight and received the necessary password. A cold freezing rain set in as we stumbled along in the darkness, and when we arrived at the river outside Munster we found the river swollen from recent heavy rains.

    The bridge leading into Munster was destroyed, so we started up river to find a place we could cross. The current was swift and the water was icy cold. We had to try several spots before finding a place we could wade across by holding our rifles above our heads.

    When we reached the other side, we cautiously made our way through the pines until we reached the edge of town. We were unable to make contact with any patrols from the 328th, and assumed they were held up east of town. There were numerous fires burning in the town and we could hear the Germans shouting commands and maneuvering their tanks and armored vehicles into position to defend the town.

    After gathering as much information as possible, we quietly made our way back to the river and waded across, hoping we would not run into a German patrol. The night was pitch black and it began to sleet. Our clothing was frozen stiff and we were miserably cold, but finally arrived at our area. We called out the password and received an answer from the guards.

    We proceeded to our area and reported all the details to our company commander. He immediately called the artillery. Within minutes our artillery was screaming overhead and we could see the town bursting into flames. Our efforts that night made it possible for the 328th to take the town the following day.

    The lieutenant told us we would be relieved of duty the next day so we could rest and dry out our clothes. We went to the house where our squad was quartered and stripped off all our clothes and hung them by the stove and rolled up in a blanket on the floor.

    At daybreak Sgt. Deyesso came in and ordered everyone outside. The four of us told him we were on patrol last night and were relieved of duty that day. The sergeant said he had orders to move everyone out, as there was a strip of pine timber about a mile down the road held by the Germans that was holding up our advance. He said this would be a three- or four-hour job; and then we could come back and rest. Little did we realize, as we pulled on our wet, stiff clothes that it would be two miserable weeks before we would see shelter again.

    We moved out down the road at twenty-foot intervals. In the event we would encounter incoming artillery or mortar fire, not more than one soldier would be killed or wounded. As we entered the pines, we found the trees were very dense. So we gathered closer together in order to maintain contact.

    Suddenly a German popped up out of nowhere about fifty yards ahead. He was as startled as we were. He paused momentarily and then turned and started to run. All of us raised our rifles and blasted away. He dropped to the ground like a felled pine tree. Who or how many hit him will never be known; and it is just as well.

    A minute or two later another German stepped into sight almost in front of us. When he saw us, he immediately dropped his rifle and raised his hands above his head. He was taken prisoner and escorted back to the company CP for interrogation.

    We moved forward cautiously for a short distance when suddenly a machine-gun opened fire on us. We hit the ground and took cover, as we were in their direct line of fire. We fired back in their general direction to give the squad on our left time to maneuver to their exposed flank. With grenades and rifle fire, they knocked out the machine gun and we continued on through the pines.

    Our progress was slow, as we continued to run into planned resistance the rest of the day. At nightfall we dug in and posted guards and tried to get some rest.

    This fighting in the Bonnefontaine woods lasted for several days. It was so fierce that units of our battalion became separated and we were strictly on our own. Our company found ourselves at the edge of the woods near Chateau Bonnefontaine. We received orders to attack the Chateau, which was heavily defended by Germans. Due to casualties, our company strength was down to about 100 men.

    We split into two groups and planned to attack from two sides. As we rushed toward the chateau about 200 yards away, our group was hit with machine gun and rifle fire, as well as 40 mm cannon fire. We were immediately pinned down and returned the fire; but our rifles were no match for their machine guns and cannon.

    We were forced to withdraw to the pines and regroup. Meanwhile the other group ran into heavy resistance and were surrounded and captured by the Germans. About 40 men were captured, including our company commander, Lt. Pennington.

    During the night, a large group of Germans withdrew, taking our prisoners with them, leaving only a small force to hold up our advance. In the confusion, Lt. Pennington escaped and made his way back to our unit. At daybreak we launched another attack and were successful in taking the Chateau and holding it. We finally contacted the rest of our battalion and we were told to stay at the Chateau until they could reach us.

    At one time the Chateau was a beautiful home of about 20 rooms and furnished with fine furniture, paintings and books. Now, the building was badly damaged and had no heat. But we did find something to ward off the cold. Down in the basement we found a wicker-covered, five gallon jug half-full of cognac. Sgt. Robinson said, "Scrounge around, boys, and find every bottle you can, as we are going to take as much of this as possible."

    This was indeed a boost to our morale, as well as taking the ever-present chill out of our bones.

    The next day, we left the pines and started moving across more open country. We were now entering Lorraine territory, characterized by its small villages and farms. The villages date back hundreds of years, when the people built their homes close together for mutual protection.

    The homes were built with thick stone walls and EVERYTHING was under one roof. Stepping out of the kitchen door, you entered the cow shed. Next to that was a shed housing the pigs or goats, followed by a shed for the chickens.

    During winter, the manure was piled high in front of the house along the narrow road. When spring came, they would load the manure on two-wheel carts drawn by oxen and spread it on their farms outside the village. You could generally smell these villages a mile away; but it didn't seem to bother the people, as this was their way of life.

    This area had been conquered alternately by the French and Germans for centuries; and we were suspicious of everyone because you never knew if they were sympathetic to the germans or the Allies.

    There were numerous small churches and shrines in the area, and all displayed the distinctive cross of Lorraine, which is similar to the cross on our Christmas seals.

    It was just such a village as this that we approached in the afternoon. It was apparent the Germans were in the area, as we could hear gun fire and several barns were afire. We were split into groups. Each group was assigned a house to clean out. Four of us rushed our house and took it from front and back.

    When we entered, we found a man and wife with two small children and a grandmother huddled together near the fireplace, not knowing what to expect. The man stepped forward and said, "Ne Boche," and pointed to the east, indicating the Germans had left in that direction.

    We checked every room but did not find any of the enemy. When we returned to the main room, the man tried to show they were friendly by bringing out a basket of ripe, yellow pears and gave one to each of us.

    He then went to a closet and brought out a gallon jug containing what appeared to be water. Seeing our hesitation, he poured some in a glass and downed it in one gulp to show us it was all right.

    That was good enough for me, so I poured some in a glass and gulped it down as he did. It seemed as if someone had hit me on the head with a sledgehammer. I gasped for breath, choked and my eyes watered. But I managed to say, "Man, that is really good!"

    We gave the children some of the hard candy from our C rations and proceeded to check out the rest of the village.

    We came to another house where an elderly lady and a young girl were baking black bread in an open hearth oven in back of the house. The dough was put on pans and pushed back into the oven with what looked like long-handled shovels called peals.

    When the bread came out of the oven, it was black and the crust was very hard, but the inside was soft and the taste was delicious. We gave them candy and cigarettes for a loaf and cut it in pieces with a bayonet and divided it among us. I chewed on my piece for several days, as it was a welcome change from our monotonous rations.

    That night we dug in at the edge of the woods and tried to get a little rest. But the woods had been hit so badly with artillery that the pine tree limbs kept falling all night. At daybreak we were routed out again and started pushing forward.

    It was now December 2 and we were told that our objective was to take the strategic town of Saare-Union. We were to be supported by elements of the 4th Armored Division, which was welcome news to us. It is very comforting to have tanks alongside when fighting a very formidable and determined enemy. We would fight by day and dig in by night, sometimes gaining only two or three hundred yards a day. We were all cold, weary and exhausted by the time we reached the Saare River and successfully crossed it on December 8.

    We were now on the outskirts of the town. By nightfall, it was taken and made secure. We were quartered in an old school building. After posting guards, we managed to get a little rest under the first shelter in weeks.

    The next morning we received a hot breakfast for the first time in heaven knows how long and were informed we were being relieved by the 87th Division, which had recently arrived from the States.

    Thus, on December 10, the 101st Regiment of the 26th Division ended its first campaign, beginning on November 8, just east of Nancy, continuing through day of hard combat into the province of Lorraine and ending at Saare Union.

    During this campaign, the Yankee Division advanced over 45 miles, wresting from the enemy 132 French towns over an area of 450 square miles. During this period 2600 prisoners were taken and 2300 casualties inflicted on the enemy. For their efforts in this campaign, the Yankee Division was awarded its second battle star.

    That afternoon we were loaded onto trucks and driven to a staging area outside the city of Metz. We marched several miles into the city to an old French barracks where we were quartered. We were a pretty sorry sight as we marched in, as our clothing was torn and dirty and all of us had a month's growth of beard.

    On the way, I met one of my buddies from Camp Roberts and he told me that Richard Roop had been killed several days earlier. That was indeed a blow to me.

    Though tired, our spirits were high as we had hopes of spending Christmas with a shelter over our heads. The next day we were marched to a public bathhouse and given a chance to shower and shave.

    Some clean clothing was available and I got a new pair of wool underwear, which I put on next to my body and pulled my soiled ones over them. I also received a pair of combat boots and discarded my old shoes and leggings.

    Next morning we were told that our regiment was given the task of out-posting Fort Jeanne d'Arc at the edge of the city. This fort was manned by the Germans and still intact, although all of the surrounding country was in Allied hands. In their sweep across this area, the Americans attempted to storm this fort but were unable to crack their formidable defenses.

    They decided to bypass the fort and keep it surrounded and eventually starve them out.

    The fort was built of heavy concrete and steel walls and roof; and the inside was like an underground city covering four square miles of installations. Our company was stationed in the town of Gravelotte overlooking the fort. Periodically we would fire machine gun and mortar fire at the fort to discourage any attempt to escape.

    The town was almost completely destroyed by artillery fire, and at night we would send out patrols to prevent escape from the fort, as they were desperate for food and ammunition.

    Elements of our company were stationed throughout the town at night; and it gave you an eerie feeling out there alone. When the wind would blow, parts of the damaged buildings would fall and you could imagine the Germans were moving around out in the darkness. The weather was getting colder and there would be snow flurries almost every day. We would be on guard two hours and then we would be relieved for two hours. We would go inside and have a cup of coffee to take the chill out of our bones.

    Between our position and the fort was an open area which we called no-man's land. This area was littered with American and German dead that fell in the initial assault and were unable to be evacuated. Due to the cold weather, the bodies did not decompose so fast, but the smell of death hung heavily over the area. Although the weather was cold, we were glad to be assigned this duty, as it was relatively safe and not too arduous.

    On December 13, a message came from the fort requesting a meeting to discuss surrender terms. General Hartness, Assistant Commander of the Yankee Division, was appointed to represent the division. With several other officers, he met with the German fort commander, Major Jans Voss, at a prearranged place.

    The party was escorted into the fort where they found almost starvation conditions. After the terms of uncondiitonal surrender were given, the Germans were ordered to come out in groups. About 600 prisoners were taken, marking the first capitulation of this fort in its existence of many centuries. The fall of Fort Jeanne d'Arc represented the last stronghold of resistance in France. The enemy had now been driven from the free countries and forced to retreat behind its own borders.

    As the Yankee Division had suffered heavy casualties in recent weeks, the strength in all companies was far below normal. It was necessary to receive new replacements to bring division strength up to combat-readiness. As a result, a training program was initiated to recapture team structure which had existed previously. Instructions were given in the use of flame throwers and plastic explosives, as these devices would be necessary in eliminating concrete pillboxes and fortifications in the Siegfried line.

    On December 18, our training period came to an abrupt halt, as word was received that the Germans had launched a major offensive to the north, swarming out of their west wall and heading in the direction of Luxemborg. Thus our hopes of spending Christmas in the comparative peace and quiet of Metz were shattered and we started making preparations to move out again.
    While men consider what place to give Jesus in history, He has already decided what place to give them in eternity. - Leonard Ravenhill

  7. #7
    very good

  8. #8
    This is awesome. Thank you for posting it.
    Been reading for years, just now starting to talk.

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