For my Grandson
Copyright 1997 -
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Impact of a Childhood
Friend on my Military Service
The Torpedoed Tanker
A-12 or V-12, the Big
Civil Defense Activities
A Most Unusual "Educational"
Camp Blanding, Florida,
Induction Center, July 1943
The Train Ride to Texas
North Camp Hood, Texas,
ASTP, Denton, Texas, Winter
'43 - Spring '44
Morton's Time in Service
Camp Howze, Texas, The
103d Infantry Division Signal Company
The Troop Train to Camp
Camp Shanks, New York,
Port of Embarkation
The Atlantic Crossing
Aboard the Henry T. Gibbons
Marseille Harbor - Oct.20,
1944, Marseille Staging Area
The Move up the Rhone
River Valley to the Front
Near St.Diè, France,
Nov. 11, 1944 - Baptism of Fire
Day, November 23, 1944
November 25, 1944
Le Howald, France -- Friendly
A Potpourri of Ups and
Epfig and Ebersheim, France
Redeployment for the Attack
on the Siegfried Line, Dec. 5, 1944
The Attack Toward the
The Maginot Line
Start of the Battle of
Redeployment to the Flank
of the Bulge
Return to Alsace
Imbsheim, Alsace, February,
1945, The Winter Doldrums
Back to the 411th
The Big Push, Head 'Em
Up and Roll 'Em Out, March 15, 1945
Muhlhausen: The Messerschmidt,
the Focke Wulf, and the P-47
The Second Siegfried Line
Landau, Germany, SHAEF
Reserve, Occupation Duty
Bensheim, Germany, 7th
Army Reserve, More Occupation Duty
The Return to Combat,
April 16, 1945
Ambush, April 24, 1945
Never Argue With a Tank
What to do With a Crate
Across the Danube and
South Toward Austria
Landsberg - The Concentration
Southward to Innsbruck
Incident in Colle Isarco,
Italy, May 4, 1945
Fulpmes, Gries am Brenner,
VE Day, May 8th 1945
May & June 1945
Innsbruck, The Luftwaffe
Airfield, Booby Trap
A Retrospective Look at
the 103d Infantry Division
Goodbye Cactus, Hello
Homeward Bound on the
USS Le Jeune
R & R Leave
Camp Campbell, Kentucky
Don Benz Gets Even
Dalton R. Coffman, ---
At It Again
Hi-Jinx at Camp Campbell
Out At Last
University of Florida,
The Final Chapter - and
Dalton R. Coffman is Still Involved
First, Our Radio Team
103d Division Signal Company
103d Div. Signal Company
Motor Pool Officer
Radio Section Master Sergeant
Radio Section Tech Sergeant
Radio Section, The "Coolies"
Other Signal Company Enlisted
High School Friends
Unidentified Major and
T/5, 88th Division, 5th Army
About the Font
A Sentimental Journey,
The 50th Anniversary
The Liberation of Alsace,
Ceremony, Washington, DC April
27, 1995, The 50th Anniversary
Of The The Liberation
of the Concentration Camps
Reunion of the 103d Infantry
August 16 - 20, 1995
Reunion of the 103d Infantry Division,
Columbus, Ohio, September
ASTP Memorial Plaque Dedication.
ABOUT THE FORMAT
narration is intended to present a series of personal snapshots taken over
a period of time. Hopefully, there is a balance of the good times and the
bad. Like a photo album, it does not purport to show or tell everything.
In some places there are many snapshots closely spaced in time and in others
there may be relatively long periods of time that are unaccounted for.
Like pictures in a photo album, some of the events described may have been
very important to me and others of merely passing interest. I will leave
it to the reader to decide which is which.
----- PREFACE -----
This first hand account
of some of my experiences in World War II was written for my grandson Brenton
Colen Kelber who has shown a strong interest in History and World War II
in particular, or, as he calls it, "Papa's War." As this is written, he
is only eleven years old and does not have even the major events of that
war sorted out in his head. Brenton will grow up quickly so I have not
written "down" to his age level. In time, he will come to understand the
things that he may not understand now.
The big picture
of the global events preceding and during that war are too complex and
bewildering for a boy of his age, or, perhaps for any of us, to comprehend.
If only a few of those events are mentioned in order to provide the necessary
continuity for this story it does not mean that I am unaware of the efforts
and sacrifices of other servicemen over and on the land and on and under
the sea, but front line servicemen have a very myopic view of a war.
soldier has no grasp of the "big picture." He only sees his own private
little corner of the war. If in this narration, it sometimes appears that
the 103d Infantry Division, the 103d Infantry Division Signal Company,
and the 411th Infantry Regiment, were the only participants in the war,
that is only because that was the tiny corner of the war in which I was
with time and while the events described really occurred, I have found
it hard to remember names and place all of the events precisely on a calendar
or on a map. I trust that I will be forgiven for minor errors as to time,
place, and individuals involved.
pray that nations will eventually learn to get along with one another and
that there will never be another war involving America's young men but,
while some of the idealism of my youth remains, the cynic in me says that
it may not happen in Brenton's lifetime.
Nuclear weapons have made
global war too horrifying to contemplate but we probably stand a good chance
of being drawn into an escalating brushfire conventional war, if,
indeed, any war can now be characterized as conventional.
Even without nuclear engagements, wars are now fought with weapons so smart
that there is no place to hide from them. They can be launched from highly
mobile platforms hundreds of miles from their target and follow you right
into the very room in which you have sought refuge.
Papa's War was an incredibly
primitive war by today's standards but it was just as deadly. It just took
longer to do the job.
not a game.
It never was.
----- PROLOGUE -----
there were millions of American soldiers, sailors, and marines who fought
in World War II and some of them were incredibly brave. Some of those truly
brave men were my friends and some of them did not survive the war. They
are forever young. That is why I go to the Memorial Day and Veterans Day
services every year, to honor the friends that I lost in that war.
no medals for heroism and was not wounded in action (except for a scratch
from a mortar shell fragment that was too minor to report), although there
were plenty of times when it seems nothing short of a miracle that I was
not seriously injured. I was just an ordinary soldier but I thought that
you might like to have a record of the small part that I had in World War
have always shown an interest in World War II, or as you call it, "Papa's
War." We have spent many hours together while I explained what a
really evil man the dictator of Germany, Adolf Hitler, was and how he conquered
and enslaved almost all of Europe and eventually drew the entire world
into a war so big that it involved hundreds of millions of people.
States managed to stay out of the war for a long time while at the same
time providing a lot of aid to the countries that were our friends in Europe.
However, when Japan hit Pearl Harbor, our naval base in the Hawaiian Islands,
with a sneak air attack on Sunday, December 7, 1941, it was only a matter
of a few days before we were drawn into the war with Germany. So it was
that we found ourselves in two wars at the same time. The first one, against
Japan, was fought by the Army, the Air Corps (which was then still part
of the Army), and Marines on dozens of islands in the Pacific Ocean and
by the Navy all over the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The other, against
Germany, was fought by the Army and Air Corps on the continents of Europe
and Africa and by the Navy all over the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean
Sea. We also helped our allies in such far away places as Russia, Africa,
Australia, New Zealand, China, Burma, and India.
The United States was not prepared
for war but recognized the danger and was already drafting men into the
armed services through the Selective Service System when the attack on
Pearl Harbor occurred.
enlisting heavily right after the attack and enlisted in waves with every
big news story about the war. It was difficult for the armed services to
handle such an irregular flow of men joining up so it was decided that
all men would have to go into service through the Selective Service System.
Each branch of service determined how many men it needed each month and
the Selective Service System called up the required number.
Some months, all of the
needs could be met by men volunteering for immediate induction. In other
months, men had to be drafted to meet the quotas.
When I was
graduated from high school, I volunteered for immediate induction and was
called up on June 28, 1943 but my story starts a lot earlier than that.