103D INFANTRY DIVISION
Victory Beyond The Mountains
25. Sgt. Jones' Wire-Team Become Witness To History
COMPANY REPORTS - MAY, 1945 CONTINUED
The enemy for the first five days of May were still fleeing headlong for the safety of the Bavarian Alps, but the 103d Division and attached elements gave them no opportunity to slow up for reorganization. This pursuit necessitated the extension of already abnormally long lines of communication, but contact was maintained with all spearhead elements by radio, which at times had to be relayed due to mountainous and atmospheric conditions.
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS - MAY 2,
1945 SEEFELD, AUSTRIA 1 NIGHT
This was another of those snow covered towns. The trip up here was most interesting, we laid wire most of the way with a few of the other teams helping out.
John Anania and Matricardi picked up a couple of krauts to police the line off the road, and that did make covering the distance easier.
We were following fairly closely behind a jeep, when the small trailer it was towing hit a road mine and was blown off. The jeep and several other vehicles had already past without harm - surprising things happen. Further down the road, we were in a rather narrow canyon with snow drift along side the road and then mountains rising close by, a very poor place in which to maneuver or hide. There was a sniper who had been left behind by the retreating Germans. He started to fire an occasional shot at the GIs on the road. When the shooting started, some of us were not wearing helmets. Barclay had actually lost his someplace recently. He discovered a helmet that had been thrown up onto a snow bank and was able to "fish" it down with one of our poles to keep from having to go into a dangerous area. An examination of the helmet, before he put it on, told an interesting story. There was a bullet hole on one side of the helmet and another on the other side indicating that the wearer had been shot right through the head.
A closer look showed that the bullet had entered at an angle and had travelled around inside the helmet tearing up the helmet liner and then had hit a slight obstacle that deflected it out through the steel helmet part way around to the other side. The man who had been wearing that helmet probably had a very exciting tale when he was again able to talk!
A flock of infantry fellows from the 409th took over our house and we had quite a time getting any sleep. These fellows were very young, but looked old. Their average age seemed to be about 20.
They all had at least one German pistol, and most had two or three. They pushed off early in the morning and it was just a little while later that we were up and after them laying our wire to keep right behind them. We were heading for the crest of the mountains and the Inn river valley beyond.
Sgt. Frazier wanted us to keep right behind the first wave of infantry and that is just where we stayed with our wire truck for mile after mile. It was not too bad. Ahead of us the infantry was not running into too much trouble with the retreating troops, but, as usual, the mines were getting a few of them and the engineers were doing their best to clear the anti-personnel mines and the vehicle mines also.
The column was temporarily held up southwest of Seefeld by a huge crater in the tortuous mountain road. Entirely destroyed for a distance of 100 feet on the nearly-vertical hillside, the road was rendered impassable for vehicle traffic.
Sgt. Jones' team was parked on the road waiting to extend the wire circuits that were connected back to the Division Command Post. We would move forward on the road as soon as the crater was temporarily patched.
We had been moving fast for days and the truck was more cluttered than usual with our working equipment and personal gear, some of which was partially buried in the snow, ice, and mud that had accumulated in the back of the truck during a storm the night before. The men were even worse looking - unshaven, raunchy, mixed uniforms, no helmets, etc.
A convoy of jeeps, command cars, weapons carriers heavily loaded with 50 caliber machine guns and many officers drove up and joined our motley crew. The division commander, Major General Anthony C. McAuliffe, and most of his staff of colonels and lower ranks came out of the convoy. The General and several of his staff just walked by the truck and met some other officers who had hurried back from the front lines to join them. They disappeared around a bend in the road just ahead of the truck.
That left about six high ranking officers right at the truck and they saw us trying to look a lot more like real soldiers than we did - we failed the intensive inspection. There was general disapproval - we could sense that, even though conversation and/or small talk was missing.
Finally, one colonel overcame
his impulse to pretend that we didn't even exist, and, looking at the rusty,
dirty rifles imbedded in the snow,ice, and mud on the floor of the truck,
in an outraged voice asked us,"Soldiers, is that any way to treat your
rifles that your lives and the honor of the U.S. Army depend upon?"
We were all most uncomfortable and mute looking at him, the other officers, each other, and the mess in the back of the truck until Sgt. Jones gained courage enough to reply, "Sir, those are just some German rifles that we have recently picked up." (He might have added that our rifles were safely stored away in duffel bags or other wrapping where we were keeping them secure until it was time to turn them in, after the war).
In the silence, the officers looked back and forth as if to say, "Of course, I knew THAT", or, "Why does HE always embarrass us in front of the real soldiers?". The colonel finally said, "Get rid of them!", and walked away to the relief of most of the rest of the officers and men.
This was the largest gathering of high ranking U.S.Army officers we had seen since our last dress parade in the States when it seemed that the reviewing stand was just packed with them, all bright and shining.
In ordinary day-to-day operations during combat, the staff officers are busy with important stuff some distance from the action. We did see them occasionally when they came forward to get better information.
We were further surprised (and impressed) when the General and his officers returned from around the bend in the road with four or five British officers. These were the first British officers we could remember seeing and it was not possible for us to tell their ranks. The British use different insignia than the U.S. forces. They use a system of buttons or pips on their shoulders or sleeves. It was apparent that these were high ranking British staff officers on some special assignment.
The group of officers came up to the back of the truck so fast we ordinary soldiers did not have chance to do what we normally do when we see officers coming - disappear and/or look busy "someplace else".
Just by chance, or not being able to avoid it, Sgt. Jones' small group of humble telephone-wire layers and hangers became witnesses to history being made. The General asked Sgt. Jones if the field telephone on the back of the truck was connected to the Division Command Post. Fortunately, it was.
The reason we had been dragging wire for almost 500 miles through France, Germany, and Austria was that occasionally some important person had an important message or conversation for some other important person. (This of course, was a very narrow view of the utility of our lines. We only saw the very limited activity of putting the line into service - lots of testing, repairing, asking, "can you hear me?" When we made a final connection at the end of a lot of work, it was just the beginning of the exchange of much vital information).
With the General holding the 'phone, the connection was made through the Division Message Center to 6th Corps, to 7th Army, maybe Army Group, and possibly Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, SHAEF and General Eisenhower himself. This operation did seem to have the appearance of high level tactical importance.
Whoever the General spoke with must have been satisfied with the report. He returned the 'phone to Jones with, "Thank you, Sergeant."
The English officers were NOT satisfied with the report and conversation they had heard, and/or the progress that was being made. This was the start of a complaint by the English commander that may have been part of an earlier discussion between the General and himself, but it was cut off by a firm statement by Major General Anthony C. McAuliffe, "If you want to move forward faster, get your own God Damn men up here!"
The English officers did some murmuring and sulking as they followed after the General. The remaining American officers and the "few brave men" standing by the truck may have been remembering that the General had come to the command of the 103d Infantry Division as a Brigadier General just after he had become something of a legend when he refused to surrender his command of the 101st Airborne Division when they were surrounded by the Germans at Bastogne during the "Battle of the Bulge" in the Ardennes Forest.
Saying "NUTS" to the Germans was a historic reply and had received quite some notice as a bright spot in a very dark battle scene before the Allies had been able to start to push the Germans back after their massive surprise attack during a very harsh winter.
We liked the fact he didn't play favorites with the English when they also challenged him.
That the British officers were there with the lead elements of the Task Force is part of a story relating to a disagreement between the top political and military leaders of the two nations on strategy and tactics from the very beginning of the involvement of the United States in the war in Europe. Some of that controversy was a result of confusing intelligence lack of agreed upon common purpose in the military efforts underway and the political arrangements to follow the inevitable victory.
Near the end of the war in Europe, intelligence reports showed a possibility of German redoubts, "last stands" in Norway and Austria. There would be transfer of German government controls and large military strength into Erft-Leipzig in the north and to Berchtesgarden in Austria for the south strong point.
The larger more complex questions of the Western nations' relationship with Russia and the post-war control of Berlin and eastern Europe were beyond the view and control of the military leaders. History has shown the confusing and compli cated results.
By April, 1945 there was some discounting of the threat of massive resistance in Austria. The British leaders had earlier been much more interested in an assault on Berlin and eastern Germany.
Eisenhower and the Americans were more dedicated to disrupting any German effort to establish a fortress in the southern mountains.
At this time, very early in May,1945, with the end of the conflict in Europe clearly in sight, there was some renewal of the concern of massive resistance just ahead of our troops as we pushed right into the area that had been designated as the southern strong defensive point.
OUR MEN: BECK - Somewhere in Austria
2 May 1945.
So Adolph Hitler is dead! He certainly caused a great deal of trouble for one man. Perhaps by the time you get this all the Nazi big-wigs will be dead. I hear, to-night, where the Krauts in Italy have finally surrendered. But, as far as I am concerned, the Krauts still fight on. At least, here they do.
What really gets me, though, is this "Nicht Nazi" plea that the German civilians give when we take their town. Oh! they have always hated the Nazis and how they loved the Americans! In the meantime their homes are full of swastikas on flags, belt buckles, walls, etc. After spending about 12 years "heiling" Adolph, they are now "Nix Nazi."
They live in the most beautiful homes I have ever seen, while on the outskirts of their town or possibly a few miles away is a concentration camp where Poles, Jews, Russians, Czechs, Hungarians, etc., live as cattle in emaciation [sic] and rot. Trains go through these pretty towns daily loaded with the dead stinking corpses of the poor devils that were tortured to death, piled up like slabs of beef, while jerry and his happy healthy family went about their life of "Kultur."
I saw freight cars standing, on now blown tracks, loaded with garments of murdered people. In one car was shoes, thousands of them. In another was pants and so on down the line.
The people look normal, act normal and have normal living habits. But, inside them they seem to have the heart of a beast. Gen. Eisenhower's non-fraternization policy is fairly effective. The people are given the cold shoulder.
OUR MEN: BECK - Austria
3 May 1945.
There have been so many historic places that I have seen recently. I wish that I could talk about them now, but I can't. I have also been witness to the atrocities we have been reading about all these many years. It is kind of hard to believe. Like a fairy tale.
The German system of oppression includes the utilization of the conquered people as slaves. That's right, slaves the same as the U.S.A. had prior to the Civil War.
If you think that the people had nothing to do with it, you are wrong. Each German family had their own personal slaves, the number being determined by the wealth and prominence of the family. The slaves were either Poles, Russians, Czechs and in some cases French. These slaves lived with the family either in the attic or cellar and performed daily chores that would normally fall to the family to perform.
If the German had a business or a factory the prisoner(s) worked there. To the German, it was something perfectly normal and to this day they claim to be Anti- Nazi.
In a garage some time ago I met a Russian named Andre' who worked as a mechanic for the German owner for about three years. He was not a soldier, yet he was considered a prisoner.
Andre' brought two Russian officers to me who spoke German. They told me that they were held captive there for approximately one year. One was a lieutenant of artillery the other was a pilot in the Russian Air Force.
I offered them one of my Philip Morris'. The way they inhaled and exhaled, one could see that they hadn't had a decent smoke in a long time. We became good friends.
They took me down to the "dungeon" where they were kept prisoner. The four of us, Andre', the two Russian officers and myself, went through a series of barbed wire fences until we came to a heavy wooden door. It was open now, but there were enough bars and bolts to seal it shut forever.
We entered into a dingy room musty with the smell of wood and sweat of men's bodies. The room was about the size of your living room. [12'-0" X 15'-0"] Two small iron barred windows greedily [sic] allowed the streaks of day light to go inside.
There were double-decker bunks made of crude wood that took up practically all of the floor space.
In here, they told me, lived 15 Russian officers. (The other 13 weren't there at the time. They were liberated a few hours before and had walked into town to see what it looked like.)
During the night there were two SS guards at each entrance. (There were two entrances.) On one door was the roster of the prisoners - two majors, three captains, and the rest lieutenants.
They told me how Andre',
who was a trusty, would sneak extra food to them and also keep them up
to date on the war news.
26. Innsbruck - Peace, Tranquillity and Transition
It was during the period of time the column was temporarily held up southwest of Seefeld, that negotiations between the USA and the Germans defending the Innsbruck area started with several white flag escorts back and forth between the Command Centers.
A telephone circuit between Garmisch and Innsbruck was working and a German-speaking American officer called the German garrison at Innsbruck and demanded surrender. There was some delay in the response during which time the Division CP moved to Seefeld.
OUR MEN: WILK - 2 May 1945
At 5 PM a German major representing the Innsbruck commander was brought blindfolded to the CP. He offered to surrender the whole Tyrol-Vorarlberrg area of Western Austria, including the Brenner Pass sector at the Austrian/Italian border. Two American officers went back with him to Innsbruck to outline the details of the surrender. Unfortunately a resistance group of civilians and soldiers had seized control of the city and interrupted the German command structure so that there was no way to order the surrender of the fighting units actually in control of areas through which the advancing GI's would have to pass. The American officers, with the help of the German Major, made their way back to the CP.
On the following day, May 3, the Americans returned to Innsbruck in a white flagged jeep and were able to get authorities there to issue a cease-fire order over the radio at Innsbruck which was effective in getting the defending soldiers to lay down their arms - there was not an official surrender order.
We stayed overnight in this village, and even heard a rumor that the war was over. This rumor increased steadily, until we nearly believed it. Just about then our artillery opened up, so we forgot about all rumors, and moved on again.
Zirl was our next stop, only a few miles from Innsbruck. We went through Zirl and stopped again on the highway just before it made a bend into open country. The new M-18 TDs were with us, and soon they began to fire at some moving objects on the other side of the valley. A yell for an ambulance was passed down the line. It seems an I&R jeep had gone around this curve, only to run into an ambush. Two of the men were captured, another left wounded. Those two men captured, by the way, were freed again shortly after we moved into Innsbruck, one of them having been in a German controlled hospital.
Soldiers of an I&R (Intelligence and Reconnaissance) platoon of the 409th Regiment descended into the Inn River Valley and encountered only sporadic opposition from small units of German soldiers who didn't know of the tentative surrender. They entered Innsbruck at 5:43 PM on May 3, 1945. There were Austrian flags hanging from many windows - the locals did not display white surrender flags, because they now wished to be considered "liberated nationals of a country that had been invaded by the terrible Germans in the early days of the war" and not members of a population that had strongly supported the German efforts for years.
There were pretty girls, dancing in the streets, cognac and celebrations. All of this was very confusing to the American fighting men, and the members of Sgt. Jones' wire team who were close behind the advance units and arrived about 7 pm.
OUR MEN: JONES' BOYS - INNSBRUCK,
AUSTRIA MAY 3, 1945 60 DAYS
There could be no finer town in the "European Theater Of Operations" in which to celebrate the end of the war in Europe than this beautiful Tyrolian town. It is large and clean and full of entertainment possibilities.
When we came in here the first night on the heels of the dough boys, the people greeted us like liberators rather then conquerors. Since our stay here, with all of the "fraternization" and stuff that we see, we wonder about the war that we have just finished. What was it all about anyhow?
At first we were set up on the side of the hill with the Mess Hall at the Division CP located near the bottom of the cable car run. There was snow all around and, before long, we were able to get free rides to the very top of the mountain to a wonderful ski resort for a free lunch or dinner at the Enlisted Men's Club - who said rank doesn't have its' privileges?
When we came into town, we passed a field of German airplanes and some of the boys went out to look them over again.
There were some jet airplanes of the latest types (this technology was just being developed in the U.S. and the Allies had nothing nearly as advanced as these operational airplanes for speed and maneuver ability).
OUR MEN: WILK
Our first troops had been given a rousing welcome, like in a French city, with cheering etc. and the kissing of all the soldiers. It was not easy to understand those people. It may have been a temporary relief for them, with their nerves a bit on edge. Quite a few correspondents were around now to learn about the surrender of Innsbruck, which actually was quite a bit confused.
In the afternoon, we went back to Zirl to let the big guns move through and afterwards moved into Innsbruck. By mistake, we fell in with one of the convoys and left Innsbruck with one of them, but we found out in time and went back to the city.
We parked at some apartment house, where some of the regimental radio people had settle. They were in an apartment with a kitchen and also the people lived in it. An artist and his wife, who were quite confused and didn't know what to think of it all.
We didn't stay there too long, because the next day we were on our way along the Inn river, our mission to link up with the Third army, or XV Corps.
OUR MEN: DONLAN
We crossed the German Border into Austria on May 2, moving south to the Tyrolean city, Innsbruck, on the Inn River May 4, 1945. It was also only slightly bombed and sat as a picture postcard in the mountain valley of the curving Inn River. After all our idle days waiting in Bensheim, the final dash to the south and victory was a very momentous and memorable journey. We maintained our radio communications with difficulty in our dash and with mountains providing interference.
[Passing through advance positions of the 409th Infantry, which later pressed eastward to make contact with the XXI Corps at Worgl, elements of the 411th combat team raced more than 40 miles to seize the Brenner Pass at 0150 on May 4 without opposition. Continuing south into Italy contact was made with elements of the Fifth Army's 88th Division about eight miles south of Brenner at 1051.] Report After Action
OUR MEN: FADER
(We had moved) from Landsberg with a fast moving task force south through Bavaria and toward the Brenner Pass with brief but fierce fire-fights, especially one on our approach to Innsbruck that involved cadets from a German officers training camp.
Then through Innsbruck (with waving Austrians) and onto Brenner, the road deep in snow. Our radio truck was parked at the border and I was on duty when an officer from the CP gave me a message to send to Corps. So I sent the message that said that the Brenner Pass had been captured. (I did not keep a copy of the message and there goes history, passing me by.)
I seem to recall all sorts of confusion. Then someone suggested we go down into Italy and we piled into a jeep. THIS IS WHAT "Andy" Pierce Evans seems to remember better than I. But it is true.
I was the interpreter in our mad escapade into Italy. Yes, we did bluff our way to try to get to Brennero (or was Brennero the Austrian town at the pass?) where the Fifth Army was and along the way--was it in Colle Isarco?--we had our encounter with the German officers, but no pistols. Back to the Brenner Pass and the start of the peacetime army with all the brass.
OUR MEN: EVANS
On May 4, 1945, Seymour FADER and I participated in an unauthorized escapade in Italy. During the previous night a column of tanks and trucks, led by 411th Regimental Commander Col. Donovan P. Yeuell, raced with headlights ablaze from Innsbruck up to Brenner Pass and sealed off the pass at 040150 (May 4th, 1:50 a.m.) without opposition. The task force stopped for the night and the CP was set up in a building right next to the Brenner Pass border check point gate. Bud HENNUM's radio team was sleeping in a nearby barn. Around 040600 (May 4, 6:00 a.m.) two radio operators from the regimental command net, who had been in the CP all night, shook Seymour FADER and me up from a sound sleep and told us that Field Marshal Kesselring had surrendered all of the German forces in Italy and that, during the night, the 103d Division had linked up with the 88th Division of the 5th Army. They proposed an excursion down into Italy and suggested that this might be the last chance that we would have to "liberate" a Luger or a P-38 pistol.
Ever since we got into Alsace, we all knew that Fader was a good guy to have around. He spoke a mishmash of Yiddish, "Hollywood German" (English schpoken mit eine cherman occent), and fractured German put together from a few phrases from the Army's German Phrase Book. Somehow he managed to make himself understood so he frequently interpreted for us.
We were too sleepy to think clearly or we might not have gone. However, Seymour and I piled into their jeep with them and took off into Italy. It was still dark as we set out.
Probably closer to the truth about the reported linkup was that after we had secured Brenner Pass, an M-8 Recon Car from Division Recon had dashed down into Italy in the dark of night and had met a recon team from the 88th Division somewhere in Italy. They shook hands and then both hightailed it back where they came from.
As we soon found out, the territory between our perimeter and theirs was still in the hands of the Germans who, because of deteriorating communications, had not received word that they had been surrendered and who had no idea that we were within a hundred miles of Brenner Pass. In the dark, they had probably mistaken our M-8 Recon Car for one of their own vehicles and had not challenged it.
Blissfully unaware of the situation, we drove south and entered the little town of Colle Isarco, about eight miles south of Brenner Pass. After rounding a bend in a narrow street, we ran into a company of armed German soldiers. The street was so narrow that the jeep driver could not turn around or back up so he floored it. Fader shouted something in passable German that sounded like, " Make way for the whole American Seventh Army." The Germans, who had their rifles and burp guns slung over their shoulders, flattened against the walls of the buildings on both sides of the street as we barreled right down the center. Their faces were just inches from ours as they struggled to unsling their weapons. It reminded me of riffling through a Pinochle deck. We got through the soldiers and out of sight around a bend in the road without a shot being fired.
We wasted no time heading out of town and continuing south in hopes of running into some element of the Fifth Army.
We stopped at one point to get our bearings and heard a vehicle approaching from the south so we hid the jeep and crouched in a ditch. It was a great relief to see that it was a major and an enlisted driver in a jeep from the 88th Division. We jumped from concealment and flagged them down. Before we could say a word, the major said, "Boy, are we glad to see you. We just came through a town full of armed Krauts who don't know the war is over and we were lucky to get out alive. Get us to your CP immediately so we can report the situation."
They had bullet holes in the jeep to punctuate their story.
The major was not too happy
to hear about our experience. We discussed what to do and concurred that
the first troops to arrive from either direction would be German. Even
so, the major opted to hide his jeep and stay there whereas we decided
to try to get back to Brenner Pass.
We attempted to work our way through the opposite side of town from the place where we ran into the armed Germans but soon found ourselves driving into a large cul de sac facing a German Army Headquarters building of some sort. There was a single guard standing at the entrance. Our driver skidded sideways up to the guard kicking dirt and gravel all over his boots. After an angry look at his boots, he looked up into the barrels of our grease guns and gave up his rifle, quietly.
Fader told him that we were from the American Seventh Army and were there to take charge of all of their weapons. We made him take us to an armory, but while there were weapons of almost every description in the armory, there were no pistols. We insisted that there had to be pistols so he led us to the main building and up a flight of stairs but was reluctant to open the door at the head of the stairs.
One of us covered him and the rest barged into the room where there was about a dozen German officers looking at a large situation map. A high ranking officer was outlining his plan for getting the troops under his command back into Germany to the redoubt for the last stand.
Fader made it clear that they had been surrendered by Kesselring and that they were to turn over their pistols to us. The General or Colonel (or whatever he was) was reluctant to do so indicating that it was beneath his dignity to surrender to an enlisted man. He could not believe that we were from the 103d Division because, on his map, the 103d was still north of Ulm, more than a hundred miles to the north. Fader said something like, "You invented blitzkreig, but we perfected it. Brenner Pass is in our hands. You cannot get back to Germany." Fader then shocked them with the announcement that Hitler was dead. They had not gotten the word.
The officer seemed both resigned and relieved that it was over and started making plans for a formal surrender. Fader told him that there would not be one, that this was it, and that they would have to surrender their arms to us. Fader said, "Send your troops up to Brenner, unarmed and with their hands over their heads and they will be directed to PW cages." We insisted that the officers give us their weapons right then and there and they reluctantly complied.
The pickings were slim. Most of them had Schmeisser machine pistols which were lying on a table near the door. We didn't want them because there were plenty of those around, but we took them, just in case they had second thoughts. One of the GIs from the regimental radio team got the commanding officer's P-38. The other patted down one of the other senior officers and found in his side pocket a small flat black pearl-handled 25 caliber automatic. I got a Walther PK and that was about it. Fader, who had done all of the talking, came away empty handed.
The General wrote out a safe conduct pass for us and provided an enlisted man to ride on the hood of our jeep to show it at each roadblock. (It seems that after our encounter with the armed troops, the Germans had concluded that we were escaped prisoners of war. They had no idea where we had escaped from, but were hastily setting up road blocks to try to catch us.)
When we got back to Brenner, the 103d Division band was loaded on several trucks and playing marches. The Commanding Generals of the 103d (Mc Auliffe) and VI Corps (Brooks), plus a host of other generals and colonels, reporters from BBC, Reuters, and various US news agencies, along with other VIPs, were loaded in trucks and jeeps for a festive jaunt into Italy to formalize the linkup that had occurred during the night. Luckily, our radio team was not to be part of the convoy. There was no need for us. After all, the Division and Corps commanders were right there with him. Who else did Yeuell need to communicate with?
It was going to be a splendid parade with flags waving and the band playing (as best they could, considering the fact that they were loaded into several 2-1/2 ton trucks).
No one was dressed for combat.
One thing was certain, we couldn't tell them what they might have run into because we were not supposed to have been there and were very close to being listed as AWOL. We forgot all about the fact that a similar "parade" was probably forming up in the 88th Division's area.
Hopefully, the 88th Division approached the formal linkup in a much more prudent manner. Or maybe the word filtered down to the Germans south of Colle Isarco in time to avoid a disaster.
At mid-morning on May 4th the column moved out with orders to link up with the Fifth Army if they had to go all the way to Rome to do it.
The formal linkup with the Fifth Army's 88th Division took place at Colle Isarco, without any snags, at 041051 (May 4th, 10:51 a.m.).
However, I have always wondered what might have happened if we hadn't gotten to Colle Isarco first.
(1993 Editor's Note: It is a real wonderment for sure.)
OUR MEN: BERMAN
The war was just over, we were in Innsbruck, Austria and feeling pretty good that all of the excitement was behind us. We were stringing a wire line to a small town in the mountains not far from Innsbruck. The day was beautiful and the scenery was magnificent. Our wire team - BLAKE "Curly" MASPERI, BROADHURST, and BERMAN were all in our 1 1/2 ton truck and climbing toward the town.
When we arrived the town seemed to be deserted. We entered the town square and stopped. It was eerily silent...We waited and soon some small children popped out of the nearby buildings. Cautiously they approached looking at each other for support.
We greeted them with some candy - they loved it. The elders were soon to follow, realizing that we weren't about to shoot up the place. It seems that they were unaware of the war ending. We told them all about it, and they had quite a celebration.
We did our work of completing the line and headed home. Along the road we noticed some wire that was not connected and "CURLY", our team chief, decided to pick it up on a wire reel. I followed along behind the truck pulling the wire from the side of the road to the middle for the recovery process while the truck about 100 yards ahead moved slowly with the guys winding up the wire on our big reel unit.
Suddenly, I noticed something in the field that was between the road and a wooded area about 200 yards away. Out of the woods was coming a large number of German soldiers slowly walking toward the road. At first, I thought - this is crazy, the war is over, then I noticed that the officer leading was heading for me. I became a little calmer when I noticed that all of the men were wearing soft caps (they had discarded their helmets) and soon they held their arms up - "Surren der!". I just stood there fascinated. I looked at our truck, by then it had stopped, all of the guys were just standing and looking, the work had stopped.
The officer came up to me, the closest man, saluted and spoke German surrendering to me - probably the lowest member of our team if not the entire US 7th Army. He unbuckled his sword and pistol and presented them to me. There were several hundred soldiers behind him who just stood there while the officer and I walked to our truck, the main CP of the western front for the moment. "Curly" decided that the entire German unit would walk with us into Innsbruck and turn themselves in. Before long, we came upon some M.P.s at the junction with the main road and released our "prisoners" to them.
I brought the sword home with me and it remains somewhere in the house - I don't know where. Many years ago, I hid it when my kids were small. I didn't want any mischief from them. The pistol, a .25 caliber, I traded for a camera.
OUR MEN FADER
Innsbruck and occupation duty and the start of some serious fraternizing by some of our group. The day we left--Innsbruck was assigned to the French--and the people standing in the streets as our trucks moved out. They had heard that the French Moroccan troops wee taking our place and their reaction was understand able.
Another incident: fighting over, all sorts of new regulations...I had picked up a 22 cal. rifle. It was not "liberated". I actually found it among some ruins some time back. The people in the town (at the pass) were complaining about crows eating their seed which they had just planted. So I took my trusty rifle, went with them, and firing once, shot a crow in one of their plots. (The first and only time I fired a weapon in the ETO.) Well, all hell broke loose. Officers came running wanting to know where the firing was coming from. Drunk with the euphoria of the war's end, they did nothing except tell me that no weapons were to be fired in the company area.
OUR MEN: "SMITTY"
Rumors predicted the end of the war. With Hank KOLANDER at the wheel, radio repair's SAR negotiated a winding descent into the valley of the Inn River. He stopped to "capture" more German prisoners... putting them in the back of the truck with one very apprehensive Pfc. While most of them were teenage children in uniform, I worried about some Hitler youth sorehead who might be among them... the end of the war was so close. In any event, the driver finally surrendered his "captives" to an MP, and we proceeded to Halle, Austria, to arrive on the 4th day of May. The fifth was a quiet day. We slept in the trucks and watched fully- uniformed Germans walking about. It was the 6th of May that the 7th Army ceased activity and it was reported that the German 19th Army had surrendered at Innsbruck. Hoppel's group moved into a big German garrison building that day. It looked a lot like Camp Howze.
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Saturday, May
5, 1945 - Innsbruck
On duty from 10:30 to 6 a.m. By the time I was relieved I heard that the 1st Bn. 411th Inf. 103rd Division had linked up with the 88th Division of the 5th Army Italy at Brenner Pass. This was the most momentous military occurrence at Brenner Pass since Hannibal and Napoleon.
We are housed in Austrian two-story homes on the mountainside above the city of Innsbruck - probably the most luxurious in our whole campaign. It is sunny out and the view of the city, green valley, river and snow-capped mountains is beautiful. Rode down to town on a cable car trolley. Down onto the wide streets of Innsbruck. Large apartment houses patriotically flew the Austrian flag. Did see some destruction and piles of rubble - but more intact than Worms or Heilbraun.
The railroad depot and yards were really hard hit. I walked in areas where there were few G.I.'s and civilians stood and stared. Visited an unscathed tall-spired church (much gold in decorations). Across the Inn River I found the Adolph Hitler Platz - attached to a domed cathedral! The Reichsgaultheatre was boarded up. Took the trolley up a 45 degree climb back to C.P. I was ready for chow, mail and good news that the entire German Army Group (which included the German 19th Army) will surrender unconditionally. The terms were effected at the Innsbruck City Hall nearby. It shouldn't last long now! On duty all evening.
On May 5, 1945, at Innsbruck, there was the surrender of the German 19th Army which had resisted the U.S. 7th Army from its Southern France invasion, north through central France where the 103d Division joined the conflict, east through Alsace into Germany and through the Siegfried Line, south through Bavaria and into Austria and Italy. There was still some fighting in Czechoslovakia, but the Germans had been defeated.
There was a formal surrender by the German High Command to the Allied Supreme Command at Rheims, France on May 8,1945.
Prime Minister of Britain Churchill announced a V-E (Victory in Europe) day and then on May 9,1945, Britain, Russia, and the United States announced an official end to the war in Europe at 0001 (1 minute past midnight) May 9, 1945.
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Sunday, May
6, 1945 - Innsbruck in Tyrolean Alps
After French toast we unloaded our supply truck, getting ready for a long stay here. I took a cable car ride up the mountain with two British war correspondents (very British). The ride took 10 minutes and we were high above the ground at times. At the top was the winter sports resort hotel, Seegrube. Champion Austrian skiers use this area. At 7,200 ft. the snow was deep and soft. Looked down on many towns in this prosperous valley. We cleaned out our duffel and barracks bags and threw out lots.
Monday, May 7, 1945 - Word passing that we are near the end of the war in Europe. We're cleaning out all our equipment and the trucks also after the long journey to Innsbruck. Took the trolley down to the dentist at Eugene Strasse (special troops). Busses and street cars are running again. Trains crawl along mountain cliffs and bridges. Now we hear that the war's end will be in Rheims, France tomorrow, but President Truman hasn't declared the end yet.
Tuesday, May 8, 1945 - VE
Day - The news of the German surrender should be accepted with great joy,
and celebration - but G.I.'s are taking it in stride, possibly because
they are thinking of the job in the Pacific, or possibly because it is
hard to believe after so many years of war. I don't know - but it's
great news! Duty just like any other day as we keep up our Division
and Regimental communications. We worked at putting the Motor Pool
in first class condition after the long haul down from Bensheim in the
Rhineland. We also cleaned up our radio sets for remote operation.
After 2-6 p.m. duty, I went to a meeting for Radio Section in "J" Area.
Announcements on laundry and other services were made. Went to a
movie at night, "A Song To Remember", on life of Chopin. Good, but
too sleepy to enjoy.
OUR MEN: "SMITTY"
On a warm, sunny afternoon, the 8th, the BC342 radio in the truck announced VE Day and the signing of the treaty at Reims, France. QM Captain Porter, his people and attached signal troops threw a party. Pairs of disbelieving eyes watched Porter march down the barracks hall singing and beating a big German drum!
The silence of peace was strange to the ear and many found it difficult to believe that no front existed. Lurking beneath the hilarity were some reminders that Asia and the Pacific War still was being waged... visions of repair, set up in a Japanese tavern, were difficult to conjure.
The good fortune of the repair section during the past several months was probably fortuitous and undeserved. In all the time since Docelles, to my knowledge, a guard was posted but once... the first night. In all that time the weapons were removed from their rack in the SAR but once... they were hastily sought when someone shouted that parachutists were dropping nearby. It was repair's good fortune again that they were Americans who had bailed out of a disabled plane and not seasoned German airborne!
OUR MEN: DONLAN - Wednesday, May
9, 1945 - Victory Parade
The 103rd Division passed in review for civilians and military on the River Road Drive. The higher brass looked military and stern. Parts of the Regiments passed after the band, then a Task Force, then attached units such as Artillery with their 105's and 155's, then the 614th T.D.'s, 781 and 761st Tank Battalions. A hot day for a celebrated parade.
And so, the long journey from Camp Howze to Innsbruck ended after a long train and boat ride and memorable Marseilles landing and commitment to combat at St. Diè. The long, frustrating winter in Alsace and the Vosges gave way to the fast- moving spring on the Rhine and dash down through Bavaria and the Austrian Alps. Although we don't know what's ahead as far as the Pacific War is concerned, we in the Signal Company were greatly relieved to have the European chapter over with and a chance to relax a bit in the summer of 1945 in a pretty fair location in scenic Austria. Mail caught up with us and our thoughts turned to home as we added up our points for discharge (or not) according to the new Army formula for this matter. My buddies in Radio all wondered with me where we were headed?
OUR MEN: "SMITTY"
On May 12th, repair moved to Innsbruck, Austria, a tourist-type playground with a backdrop of majestic peaks. Bronzed, friendly civilians wore Tyrolean garb and modern European dress. Red and white banners greeted arriving troops. One large banner announced "WELCOME IN AUSTRIA". Troops were billeted in various places in the city.
Repair moved into a modern farmhouse at 60 Amras Strasse. It was owned by Josef Folderauer who lived at his gasthaus on Pradlerstrasse. The SARs (Small Arms Repair trucks) were backed up to the house which was divided up into storage for gear and living quarters. An all-electric bath and kitchen was found on each of the three floors. This was to be our house until 3 July.
A new sound truck was acquired and a trip to still another signal dump provided piles of Italian equipment. Not only was the new truck equipped with a tandem amplifier and four gigantic loudspeakers, but the theater downtown was the beneficiary of Sgt. GRANT's largest amplifier system. Beyond this, Captain BECK wanted to bring all his people within range of his voice, so his company area was provided with sound and, not to be outdone, the commanding general (or so I was told) required a sound system for the Division command post on some hill overlooking the river.
OUR MEN: ROREM
By late April 1945 we were in Austria and the Alps Mountains. We passed through Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Seefeld on the way to Innsbruck. When the war ended on May 8, 1945 we were in Innsbruck, staying in private homes. The Signal Company operated the central telephone exchange in the city rather than running our own lines.
While in Innsbruck I remember a day trip to Bolzano, Italy through the Brenner Pass, a cable car ride to a skiing resort above Innsbruck, and sitting in the cockpit of a German ME 262 jet fighter plane. Innsbruck was a nice city which was almost undamaged by the war. I think we stayed in a home at 68 Gump Strasse.
OUR MEN: WALDRON
When we arrived at Innsbruck and the war ended, there was a period of garrison duty and just time filling. Some of the guys were able to get away on organized "truck trips" to other places. I went with BERMAN AND FADER (with Barclay?) over the Brenner pass into northern Italy. The was some damage there at Bolzano but the war really had been wearing down by the time the 5th Army came up into that area and so there had been a somewhat peaceful transition - so "Orderly" in fact that there were still some bars and gathering places that had signs indicating that they were reserved for the use of the German soldiers that were stuck there waiting for a way to get home!.....
OUR MEN: TOM BROWN
We had crossed the Blue Danube at Ulm; gone through Ober Ammergau of the Passion Play fame, which depicted the life of Christ, on through Garmisch- Partenkirchen, the famous winter resort of wealthy Europeans and on into Innsbruck, Austria.
The Germans surrendered. With the war over the Army started thinking about recreation. It was Spring and baseball time. An Army bulldozer skinned off the top of a suitable field, to an Austrian farmer's anguish; a backstop was built; bases were installed and player's were invited to try out. My mouth watering, I signed up knowing full well that I would make the team as I was on the old team. Alas, it was not to be as the war with Japan awaited. Those GI's with not enough points to get out of the Army were reassigned to other divisions for shippment to the States, then Japan. Now the guys who kidded Sgt. BROWN about his purple heart were really jealous because that gave him five extra points!
OUR MEN: BECK - Austria
9 June 1945.
When the seventh army rolled thru [sic] Germany they liberated many thousands of people from concentration and labor camps. Some of these "displaced persons" (DP's as they are called) attached themselves to Army units to work in messes and other duties for the price of assured eating. The Signal Company picked up a few in this manner, also. They work in our mess as KP's, thus eliminated a KP roster made up of the men from the company. Two of these DP's work in the officer's mess. They are all hard workers doing anything they are told. About three of the DP's are Jews; one each Hungarian, Polish and Russian. In my initial interview with these people for screening purposes, I had to know what camps they were in, their family background, education and general information of that nature to determine their integrity, honesty and medical history.
I have seen a number of
concentration and labor camps (a labor camp is called "a lager").
By contact with the DP's I have a fairly comprehensive knowledge and realization
of what went on. By actually seeing, hearing and talking to men who
underwent all these cruelties, Roz, I have found that the resultant understanding
and feelings are relatively different from that which you read in a magazine
article or see in the newspaper. It is not a story that someone wrote
and I (or you) am reading it back home. I am, instead, experiencing
it first hand.
Two of the boys are now 18 years old. They were placed in the Levant Organization when they were 15. For three years they were molded into fighting units. Units that were being prepared to fight against the allies. They are Hungarian and escaped shortly before the war ended.
There are three that have been with us since Bidigen, Germany. Then they were frightened - scared of something. In stripped pants and tunic they were skinny, drawn and had all the indications of malnutrition. These three are starting to look good now. All have put on a little weight and their skin is smoother, rather than the parched, drawn layer of epidermis that resembled shoe leather that has been worn out.
Ernst is one of the three.
He is a Hungarian - Jew. He is 23 years old. He has been in
six concentration camps and it has been only sheer fate that he is alive
today. He was in Dachau - one of the worst concentration camps of
all. He said that here 5,000,000 (that figure is five million, make
no mistake about it) Jews were burnt [sic] to death over a period of 6
years in 12 human ovens. I have seen the ovens, he spoke about, at
Buchenwald. Ernst has been beat up so many times that it was like
exercise after while. He is blond with blue eyes. His hair
is close cropped in crew fashion. Somewhere along the line he picked
up a college education.
He is very intelligent, very sharp and quick to pick up words in the English language. He has no relatives and all his family have been killed, so until we go somewhere he is content to work in the kitchen.
Boris is 20. He was put in the Lublin camp because he didn't believe in Nazism. He is Russian. He is a big husky champ with wavy blond hair and great big hands. He looked like an overgrown skeleton when I first saw him around Shongau. His muscles are gradually taking shape and eventually he'll look like a full-back on a college team. He speaks German with a Russian accent so I have a hard time understanding him. After Lublin, Boris hit the circuit of four more concentration camps. His big hands show the scars where he has been knifed and mauled. He smiles through a set of broken white teeth when he describes how he escaped from one set of SS guards.
There are more, but, their experiences border on the same brutal, gruesome, hideous and unbelievable happenings. These are those that are left from the many millions that were killed in the slaughter houses of Europe. The Roman empire was a side show to the 20th century rape of Europe and Hannibal was a minor leaguer compared with Adolph Hitler, Vidkun Quisling, Julius Streicher and the hosts of collaborators.
Europe, because of them, is a continent in ruins. Its countries torn apart; its cities a graveyard of rubble and dead and stink; its people starving, confused, lost.
OUR MEN: BECK - AUSTRIA
12 June 1945
There was a ration issue today of one bottle of Coca-Cola per man. That is a treat. It brought so many memories to everyone.
Today I donned coveralls and spent the day in my motor shop with my mechanics. Having the responsibility for so many vehicles kind of makes me feel uneasy when I am not an automotive engineer. It is a good thing that I have such a good Motor Officer - Mr. St.CIN. I wound up my day by painting all the letters on my own jeep with [Robert] SHELDON [Captain BECK's jeep driver] standing around and commenting on the steady hand I displayed. He wanted to know where I got such a steady hand.
[Andy Beck note: Captain Beck was well qualified to letter on his jeep. Before being drafted in 1941, he had worked for five years as a calligrapher.]
OUR MEN: "SMITTY"
Furloughs and passes became more numerous... trips to England, Paris, Switzerland and Italy were afforded, according to rank and influence. More impressive was the determined and efficient fraternization... one might say it became an art form. Access to company stores of steaks, coffee and sugar didn't hurt either... further testimony to the fact that rank had privilege.
I finally managed a one-day pass to Bolzano, Italy, south of Brenner Pass. I had hoped for one that would have allowed me to go to Verona to meet with a friend in a T&T repair unit, but it was not to be; moreover, violating a pass so close to the end was, for me, beyond consideration.
MONTHLY REPORT OF ADMINISTRATION
AND SUPPLY ACTIVITIES
103D DIVISION SIGNAL COMPANY - 1 MAY - 10 MAY 1945
Supply and administration of the company continued unabated through the Alpine Regions. We occupied only two command posts from 2 May to 10 May.
At the close of the war in Europe on 9 May 1945, the Signal Company was sitting high above the city of Innsbruck, Austria on the north mountain range.
A number of days prior to the war's close found us in a fairly stabilized position. This afforded all personnel an opportunity to perform some much needed maintenance.
Many lessons on supply and administration of a signal company in combat were learned by all personnel concerned.
The first two days of May, 1945, saw the 103d Signal Company continue its installation and operation of division communications as the final Allied drive carried us into the heart of Austria.
The junction with the Fifth Army at Brenner Pass and the complete surrender of the Germans on official V-E Day found the 103d Signal Company in Innsbruck, Austria, a very fitting setting in which to end a campaign during which they had furnished complete and efficient communi cation facilities for the 103d Division and attached elements through the rugged snow-covered Vosges, across the Rhine Plain, and into the Siegfried Line in November and early December of 1944; then through the Siegfried Line, across the Rhine River, Southern Germany, Austria, and into Italy in the first four months and five days of 1945.
The fact that a sizeable portion of this communication network was constructed, operated, and maintained through some of the roughest terrain in Continental Europe is a credit to the ingenuity, initiative, and aggressive ness of the entire Signal Company personnel.
1. The activities of the 103d Division Signal Office for the above men tioned period consisted for the most part in making of additional installations to the Division wire net for the purpose of serving various branches of Military Government units and service elements of the Seventh Army. Automatic private branch exchanges on the premises were reopened and utilized to further facilitate communications of some of these units.
2. Local native cable splicing crews were organized and started on the rehabilitation of tall cables in the Innsbruck area. These crews were later turned over to the supervision of VI Corps for the purpose of reconstructing lines for use of Corps and Army.
3. Under the supervision of the 103d Signal Company Radio Officer, a radio code school, constructed from captured German equipment and other improvised materials, was established. Twenty positions were installed to be used for a refresher course for present operators as well as training new operators as requested by various units.
4. An exceptionally
heavy traffic load was thrown on the switchboard operators because of the
large number of units in the immediate vicinity of Innsbruck that could
be served most conveniently through the facilities of the Fame switchboard.
This traffic load reached a peak of 4,000 calls for a twenty-four hour
(Note: Fame was the code name for the forward Division Switchboard during the war.)
5. The local commercial exchange consisting of approximately 4500 working lines was closed down on orders of Seventh Army on 21 May 1945. Only those lines essential to the functions of the City and Gau ??? Military detachments were left in operation.
6. Commercial wire
and cable were utilized to the fullest extent for all installations to
conserve field wire in keeping with Seventh Army policy.
The war in the Pacific is still in progress and the plan for movement of troops from Europe to the Pacific had now been announced. Men with sufficient service already, will be transferred into veteran units and discharged. Most of our men will be assigned to units that will move back through the United States, have a few days at home, and be shipped toward Japan.
Members of the 103d Infantry Division and other units that had been engaged for less than a year would most likely be sent to the Pacific to help defeat Japan.
It was not a pleasant prospect, but before that happened there would be a period of re-organizing, re-training, refinement, etc. of the free spirited troops. The 'Official Records' for the period show those painful processes.
OUR MEN: BECK - AUSTRIA 19 June 1945 - ...the job of a company commander takes more out of a guy than anything else. And I have commanded this outfit almost two years. That's a long time to be shackled with the responsibility of 300 men.
23 June 1945 - If you recall I mentioned having moved the Company to a better spot in town about a month ago... When the war ended I made up my mind that I was going to get the very best for my men that was in Innsbruck. [sic] As far as living quarters are concerned they didn't have it better in the States. I took over the most exclusive residential area (that wasn't bombed out) in Innsbruck, routed out all the civilians and moved the men in.
Lt. SNELSON is my new SSO (Special Services Officer) and Sydney has already stood half the town on its ear in his quest for entertainment for the men. Well, you know Snelson. He has to do all or nothing at all. That's OK, I like that. It is the only way to get anything accomplished. He has promised to have some kind of a show every night for the men. Special Service activities are the most important thing to the men in a position such as this one. There is no place to go and no one, except themselves, that they are permitted to talk to.
It isn't the way it was in the States when a man could take off on a pass and have a wonderful time in Dallas or Fort Worth. As a result of the delicate situation we have to bring some form of entertainment to the soldier. During duty hours we have orientation and educational classes that a man attends voluntarily. There are several athletic functions, to include swimming. During off duty hours we have movies and any stage show we can get. The men in the Signal Company are usually pretty busy taking care of the communication system to have much time for anything else. It's the off duty hours that present the real problem.
Bob Gill had been taken out of action some months before and rejoined the Signal Company in Innsbruck. All of us were glad to see him again - he was one of the favorite leaders of the company with a great spirit.
OUR MEN: GILL
.....Our next couple of moves ultimately landed us back in the Moder river area for what proved to be the winter-holding area. We wound up in Ringendorf, but for some time before arriving there I had a pretty good case of the winter blahs or something. The something proved to be infectious hepatitis, so I was evacuated for what I had been told by the regimental medical officer would be "two or three days". That proved to be the misstatement of the century, as I barely got out of the hospital in England before VE Day. Slow trips through replacement depots to rejoin the outfit in Innsbruck and a short stay there before joining the 5th Division.
You know the rest of my story until the shooting stopped from my previous notes... I had 580 rotation points, so I came back to France to fly home and be discharged. I finally came back by ship two months after most of the other men of the division had been discharged.
SUPPLY AND ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIVITIES - 10 - 31 MAY 1945
1. Upon the cessation
of hostilities in the European Theater, the administration of the 103d
Signal Company increased in activity considerably. Problems dealing
with welfare, supply, training and recreation of the men were encountered
and successfully solved.
2. On 12 May 1945 the company moved to a better location in Innsbruck, Austria. The facilities available to the personnel in this location were as follows:
a. Every man had a bed with clean sheets.
b. Each group of six (6) to twelve (12) men had their private bathroom and living room.
c. Electrically heated water system.
d. Signal Company Theater with a seating capacity of 820 men.
Shows and moving pictures were shown twice each night.
e. Signal Company bar completely G.I. operated.
f. Tailor shop, Film developing shop, Barber shop.
g. Post Exchange, Restaurant.
h. Public Address and Broadcast system.
The duties of the company
included normal operations for the division communication network plus
regular garrison training. Schedules were made up each week.
Included on these schedules were such activities as dismounted drill, daily
motor stables, Saturday morning inspection and varied subjects under the
I and E program such as:
a. Current Events.
b. Your Job in Germany.
c. Two Down and One to Go.
d. Bill of Rights
e. Guided I and E tours to various parts of Germany and Austria.
A showdown inspection of all clothing was held during the period. All shortages were accounted for and placed on requisition.
A complete control room was installed in the orderly room building. Recorded programs were arranged and transcribed over approximately thirty-five (35) loudspeakers within the company area. Radio programs received over a German receiver were piped over the same speakers. the men also put on original skits and broadcast them over the microphone installed in the control room.
(1993 Note: Harold Rorem, "I think this is somewhat exaggerated - I don't remember seeing any of these "good" things. Maybe Capt. Beck hoped to do this! These reports to Division Headquarters officers often did contain some exaggeration, or wishful thinking. The inspections and dismounted drill - that I can remember but none of the "good" stuff.")
(1993 Editor's note: Memory is
such a fickle thing, Beck could report all of this "good" stuff as occuring
within the last weeks before the report was written, Rorem, and many of
the rest of us who would have REALLY noticed such benefits have no such
27. We Go Our Separate Ways -Most of Us to the 45th Signal Company
Our time in Innsbruck was drawing to a close. The strategic planners now had developed a program to send the men in all of the American armies in Europe, who had been doing the fighting for months and years, home to their families and friends. A point system for service had been developed. Men with sufficient service will be transferred into other units and discharged. Most of OUR MEN will be assigned to units that will move back through the United States, have a few days at home, and be shipped toward Japan.
The first group of men to leave Innsbruck were assigned to the signal company of the 5th Infantry Division which may have been assigned to a "fast track back through the United States and then to the Pacific war".
The progression of events they experienced were similar to those of OUR MEN assigned to the 45th except at times they were a month or more ahead our several months behind the 45th because of various factors in the redeployment. Most of their story will be told in the chapter, OUR MEN IN THE 5TH INFANTRY DIVISION SIGNAL COMPANY. How and why some of the men were chosen for assignment to the 5th is not too clear after all these years.
Some of those assigned from the Construction section were: ANANIA, NATOLI, SCUDDER, and WALDREF.
OUR MEN: EVANS
About the end of June, I said goodbye to the 103d "Cactus" Infantry Division and to Innsbruck and headed east, eventually arriving at Vilschaffen, a town close to the Czechoslovakian border on the Danube River. I along with other "Coolies" (members of "Buddha" BOITOS' radio section) including Jimmy CARR, Don BENZ, Frankie APPLEBAUM, Maurice "Bud" ZINK, and Frank TULLIO, was assigned to the 5th Infantry Division Signal Company. We had a few more days to enjoy the beautiful scenery, during which, we liberated a couple of outboard motor boats and spent a lot of time boating up and down the Danube.
We were just marking time while other G.I.s from other
units were reassigned to the 5th Division. We took the Cactus shoulder
patches off of our uniforms and replaced them with the Red Diamond of the
5th Infantry Division.
Eventually, the rosters (of the 5th division) were full, we had been through innumerable inspections, and we were ready for the trip back to the U.S. ....
OUR MEN: SMITTY
Rumors were rampant, points were being counted and reassignments began. Low numbers were transferred to the 45th Signal Company, high numbers stayed in the 103d.
OUR MEN: WILK
What happened in about June, 1945 was that the 103rd Signal Company was reorganized as the 45th Division Signal Company to include most of the officers and men of the old company. Some of the men that had belonged to the 103rd were assigned to the 5th Division Signal Company or other units. The 45th Division Signal Company was stationed near Munich, Germany - the majority of the men were moved there with most of their trucks and equipment to wait for transport to the seaports on the coast of France and embarkment for the United States and then shipment to the Pacific war.
OUR MEN: BECK - AUSTRIA 1 July 1945
I have received confirmation on my transfer. I am going with the rest of the company, that is those that haven't been transferred yet. And that is the majority. My new outfit will be the 45th Signal Company of the "Thunderbird" Division. It is presumed that I will take over the command of the 45th Signal Company.
Going with me will be Snelson, Butler, Hoppel, St. Cin, Tardiff and Sedensky, who has already left. And all the men. There won't be anyone left in the 103d that has less than 85 points. What it really is, is a transfer of the 103d to the 45th.
The first one to start off this business of being transferred was COL. BROWN. He left to take a position in a Corps or Army unit. Sergeants GRANT and FINKBEINER have gone with him. (BROWN may have become a general officer before he retired from the service.)
Gallagher is resigning from the army. He is 45 years old and feels he has had enough for a man of his age. He can resign and not worry about being drafted as he is over the age limit.
By 3 July 1945, all of the officers and men have already left the 103rd Signal Company. That is all except Lt. Butler whose orders were changed at the last minute. He will probably go to the replacement depot. As it stands now, the 103rd just becomes the 45th, because that's what it actually consists of. The only officers that were lost in the transition were Vanderby, Butler and Tucker who is in the 5th Signal Company. It will be the same gang at the 45th.
OUR MEN: BECK - GERMANY 7 July 1945
I am now the C.O. of the 45th Signal Company. It doesn't feel as if I have actually been transferred. The nearly entire roster of the 103rd has been transferred right along with me. Some of the officers and men had been transferred to the 5th Division.
Some of the officers that were here with the 45th are all old veterans of the division, having been [in] it for a considerable period of time. There is Lt. Col Hort, The DSO, HE HAS BEEN IN THE UNIT SINCE 1923! The 45th Infantry Division had been active as a National Guard unit in Oklahoma between the wars. Major Clark...... He is a rookie, only been around since 39. Then there is Lt. Brandt, my supply officer, who hasn't been in the United States for FIVE years. There is Lt. Haley who has been in England since I got here. Consequently I haven't met him yet. The other officers are those from the 103rd who I told you were transferred in with me. Most of the officers who were here have been in no less than four invasions. They all have an armful of overseas bars.
The officers live in a separate quarters here. We occupy a large home complete with all its furnishings. Downstairs is a living room in which all the officers hang around after duty hours. There is a radio, a comfortable couch, several soft chairs and generally looks like any living room at home. The house takes on the appearance of one big family living in it - 17 officers to be exact. We sleep two or three in a room. I have a nice bedroom which I share with Lt. Brandt. There are twin beds, dressers and night tables. The entire premises are kept clean by orderlies.
Bill Tucker left us in June for another unit. I am sorry to see him go. He's been with us since he was a Buck Private.
OUR MEN: SMITTY
On a sad, gray, misty morning, the 3rd of July, Smitty and the other low numbers, carrying as much loot as a duffle bag would allow, boarded box cars (40 & 8s).
About dusk of that day in the city of Munich, we left the train and boarded 45th Div. QM vehicles for the trip to Furstenfeldbruck.
With hardly time to get into the black market, Smitty, T/4 Novotny and Nixon were sent on a detail to the concentration camp at Dachau (liberated earlier on 29 April by the 45th Division). Our task at Dachau was to help with the transfer of 45th Signal equipment to the 7th Army. There was time to see the crematorium, gas chamber, shooting pits, human ashes and warehouses burdened with hair and eyeglasses, and liberated prisoners still wearing their striped suits.
(1995 Editor's note: The following descriptions of Dachau are edited excerpts of a letter that I wrote after the episode. I have a copy of the original written on a German "teletype" typewriter the day after the trip. For some reason, the descriptions of the positions and the physical arrangement of the buildings recorded at that time do not agree with my remembering them in logical order now. I have no desire to add confusion or controversy to these terrible events. These notes are my best effort toward a factual report.)
MORE LATER - Andy Beck, who had visited DACHAU much later, indicates that my origininal observations and descriptions were probably more nearly correct.
OUR MEN: BARCLAY
One or two of the other men (names forgotten) and I went to visit the famous Dachau concentration camp on Friday 13th. (August,1945)... Dachau was the first concentration camp built by Hitler soon after he came to power in 1933. There still were former prisoners of that place in their emaciated bodies and distinctive broad striped clothes walking around who were willing to tell us their stories.
When the Americans came in, they found that the Germans had been busy trying to kill off all of the prisoners in the camp and had done a very effective job of it, too. there were about 8,000 men, women and children lying dead from different causes, and a good many others who were too weak to recover completely. The Nazis had figured the Americans to be there about a certain time, and by then they could have killed everyone, but the Americans heard about it and sent a special tank task force to cut into the prison. The area was filled with bodies and many more on the edge of going into the gas chamber.
In the time of its operation, this camp had killed 135,000 people by plain and fancy methods. They did it with insane cunning. One of the prisoners said that for the longest time, all they had been given to eat was a beet in a gallon of water and a small loaf of bread for eight men. If you were lucky, you might get a large piece of the beet. At that time (1943), things were really rough around there. The guards had instructions to beat the workers until a certain number of them could no longer stand: same principal as flunking the bottom half of high school classes.
There was a high concrete wall around the area in the camp that contained the two different gas chambers in one building complex, the crematory and its support facilities in another building some distance away, an assortment of what appeared to be killing-by-rifle-fire ranges, housing for ferocious guard dogs, etc.
In addition to these partially concealed facilities, Dachau contained many long, low, dreadful hutments in which the inmates were "housed".
The largest gas chamber contained a dressing room that led into a large shower room and it was to this place that they would bring selected men, women and children, a few at a time, and have them prepare for a shower bath. They would equip them with a bar of soap and usher them into the "shower room". We went into it, The ceiling had the usual sprinkler fixtures, the walls were plain except for a small glassed-in window on one end, and floor had water and debris drains. The horrible thing about the place was that it was a large and cleverly-engineered gas chamber. Through the large sprinklers in the ceiling came cyanide gas and not water, and the small window on the end was for the "bath attendant" operator to look through to see when his job was completed.
The "sprinklers" had been pulled apart to show a system of sheet-metal duct-work rather than water pipe.
In the same building with the "bathroom" there was a room that had a strong odor of death, although it had not been used for some time, more than a month. This room was large - 20' by 30' with a ceiling 10 or 12 feet high. When the Americans (elements of the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions, with attached Japanese-American combat troops) first came, this room had been piled high with bodies...several hundred of them. When the bodies were remove, many stains of blood, gore and excrement remained on the walls, floor and ceiling. In spite of cleaning attempts, the stains, smell and horror still remained.
In this "shower" complex there was another and most unusual and sadistic gas chamber. It was rather small, perhaps 12' by 6' with "sealable" doors on each end of the room. Passing through the complex doors was a steel rail similar to those in a cattle slaughter house for the transport of a carcass suspended by a metal hook. The rail extended out of the room a sufficient distance on either end so that a row of live suspended humans that would fill the chamber could be arranged.
The chamber could be filled with gas to complete the horrible torture and death. There was a stencil on each end of the building there was a "chalk board" for entering the time the gas was applied and the time the chamber could be opened again.
There did not seem to be any reason for this type of torture and killing except sadistic terror. How often this facility was used, I have no way of knowing. The larger "shower" chamber was probably used as much as possible, perhaps constantly.
The crematory was in a brick building as I recall. It had at least two ovens. I took pictures of these. They seem to have been of exactly the same design as those found at the Buchenwald concentration-camp that have had such exposure in the press and media.
We saw many red clay vessels very similar to a quart flower pot which contained the ash of one body. The Nazis sold these pots of ash to the relative of the victim. For the thousands of people that they killed who could not be made to pay further, the ashes (in large barrels) that we saw, were given to the farmers around the camp to fertilize their fields. Some of the pure and sweet farmers claimed they knew nothing of the murder and torture, but the ashes of thousands of bodies could not have been overlooked or passed without thought.
On some occasions, an attempt was made to identify the bodies before and after cremation. For this purpose, a clay disk about 2" in diameter and 1/2" thick containing a series of numbers was put into the oven with the body and retrieved after the burning. There was a large container of these, I took several and brought them back to our CP and then home with me.
Among the several "execution-by-shooting" areas was a particularly interesting arrangement. Those to be shot were lined up standing on a wooden grating in front of a berm that stopped the bullets, similar to those in an old fashioned meat market Beneath the grating was a metal lined channel that collected the blood and drained it to the end of the row for collection and disposal.
There should be no question about my feeling that the conditions and the results of this Holocaust were and still are as terrible and destructive as has been accounted in the documented records.
OUR MEN: SMITTY
On the 15th of July we returned from Dachau to Furstenfeldbruck, to an army life that we only dimly remembered... inspections, hikes and guard duty. It wasn't all bad, there were some weekend passes. Those who got back to Innsbruck reported that the zone was now occupied by others and that French troops were now trading chocolate.
On the 22 July 1945 the Division left Furstenfeldbruck. The same day we crossed the Rhine and entered France. By the 24th we reached a staging area known as Camp St. Louis (near Verzenay and Reims). We lived in squad tents sprawled out on an open field for what seemed a very long (with the exception of a one-day pass to Paris) twenty-seven days.
My only impression of the camp, besides the dust, was the appearance of dogs. I suspect that food was one of the attractions, but human company is certainly another.
Those of OUR MEN who had been assigned to the 5th Infantry Signal Company had moved fairly rapidly from Innsbruck toward the Staging Areas and Port of Embarkation at La Havre, France. They will be at times days, weeks or months ahead or behind the men in the 45th Signal Company as we were being processed as individuals or as groups.
45TH DIVISION SIGNAL COMPANY, FURSTENFELDBRUCK, GERMANY
Capt. Beck Lt. Sedensky Lt. Snelson Lt.
Lt. Sweeney Lt. Delany Lt. Brandt
W.O. Hoppel W.O. Tardiff W.O. St. Cin
T/Sgt Frazier Pfc Abshire Ifkovich
S/Sgt Brown Barclay Koen Sgt. Morgan Diedrich Berman Leggett Emerick Biebel McPeek Fader Donlan Rorem Johnson, R. Blake Rassdale Lee Burchenal Will Bush Sprague McLeay Decker
Best Louchart Hilliard Maddox Lemon Kaufman Gardina Delmar Larsen Royce Little Geiger
T/4 Chaffee O'Hara Gomez,m Lazarz Patterson Hernandez Lett Swierzewski Gerey Meluso Wistar Mackey
Cpl. Cobb Wohgeschaffen, Griffen T/5 Schlosserb Buttner Stacey Marshall Fedon Platz Broadhurst Fowler Mingoia
Brooks Matusik Graves Bull Matricardi Burke Dortman McElroy Ford Ellis Moritz Klinger Murray Smith Ford Naney` Stender Schmidt Tillman Smith Viola English Walling Skeene Hardage Mistasek
There may have been additional men in the 45th Signal Company
whose names are unfortunately not included for some reason. The basic
roster of only about 100 enlisted men was supplied by GENE NANEY in addition
to other information for this period of time. Most of these men were
transferred from the 103d. A very few of them were men assigned to
the 45th before we arrived. This listing does not indicate the differences.
OUR MEN: NANEY
I was one of the truck drivers in the convoy that left the Furstenfeldbruck area headed west toward France and the assembly camps that would prepare us for our return to the United States for a brief rest period before being sent to the Pacific battles. There is some talk that we may bypass the USA, go through the Panama Canal, and straight toward the final conflict in Japan.
I was given a strip map of the proposed trip. After the war, I sent that and some other information on to Barclay for the book he is trying to write. We passed through some of the countryside in which the battles following the Normandy invasion forces had pushed the Germans eastward. There was considerable devastation and confusion highly visible. Also there, after all of these years, were signs of the WWI - especially around Verdun where there may have been an effort at preservation.
Our route: Furstenfeldbruck, Landstuhl, Homburg, Saarbrucken,
Forbach, St Avold, Metz, Gravelotte, Verdun, Ste Menehould, Leg de Romaine,
Mourmelon (Camp St. Louis), and Rheims nearby.
OUR MEN: DONLAN
In August 1945 many of us from the 103d Division had been transferred into the 45th Thunderbird Division and were awaiting new assignments at Camp Lucky Strike in Northern France - near Rheims. We were in large tents with the sides rolled up and uncomfortable in the August heat. R&R consisted of large outdoor movies at night, some temporary USO's, and passes to Rheims and Paris (by hitchhiking rides).
OUR MEN: BECK - FRANCE 29 July 1945
Since Paris was the only place I missed in all my wanderings and since I had to see the place before I left the continent, I jumped at the opportunity when Maj. Clark told me to take off for a couple of days in my jeep. I took Mr. St. CIN with me and Capt. Reardon also came along. Naturally, with the jeep comes SHELDON. Paris is 120 miles from Reims.
I am staying at the Independence Club for Officers run by the American Red Cross. It is located on one end of the Place de la Concorde. All expenses are paid for by the Red Cross, including meals. Not bad, eh?
FRANCE 7 August, 1945 - The system of redeployment here in the ETO works something like this: Units that are alerted are brought in from all parts of Europe to one of the many assembly area camps where they are processed either for return to the US or direct shipment to the CBI (China, Burma, India combat area). I happen to be in Camp St. Louis. When they are processed and shipping facilities are available at the ports, they (the unit) are sent to a staging area, which is located near the POE. [port of embarkation] Further processing takes place at the staging area. This is mostly for the movement to and on the ships. The stay in the staging area is a matter of a few days. When all that business is completed and you are on a ship you are all set.
OUR MEN: BECK - FRANCE 9 August 1945
Today was the day that we all have been spending long discussions on the merits of this atomic bomb that was launched against Japan. Wow! what a bomb! It is very fortunate that the development of this massive destructive power was by the United States and not some foreign country. Just think of what that bomb can do in conquering the world.
FRANCE 11 August '45 - Our (primary) medium of news is the Stars and Stripes which is hungrily read and re-read. That is the only daily current newspaper we get. But it is a good one. (We do get some radio reports from various Armed Forces Radio stations, that distribution of news is a "sometimes thing.)
My wishes and plans of the future are the same as any American G.I. I want a world to live, which is secure and safe for my wife and I to raise our little family. I want a fair chance to make a living - and my abilities and ambition will take care of the rest. I want to return, permanently, soon so that I can get started and not to be too old to grow up with my children.
FRANCE 14/16 August 45 - Snelson is all ready to take a discharge. Yes, believe it or not, Sydney is as fed up with the army as I am and all the rest.
... I like the 45th so much more than the 103rd for many reasons. There is so much more spirit. Their ways of doing things are far superior to anything the 103rd attempted to do and with less fuss and bother. As you recall the 103rd was full of "chicken". This division is not. I am actually sorry that I wasn't in the 45th all the time. By that I am not referring to their combat time. Hell no! The 45th has 511 days in combat whereas the 103rd has about 250.
OUR MEN: SMITTY
On the 20th of August we departed Camp St. Louis to arrive the following day at Camp Phillip Morris, near LeHavre. The rows of tents were indistinguishable from Camp St. Louis... the dogs were there, too. I recall that the song, Sentimental Journey (the Les Brown/Doris Day version), must have been played over and over... to this day I am transported back to that camp when I hear the song.
OUR MEN: BECK - Staging Area Le Havre, France 22 August
I might endeavor to describe the medium of transportation known here as a railway. No one really minded it. It was a most interesting experience. The trains in use are those that transported Napoleon the Third's troops to battle in the Franco-Prussian War around the year 1860. The soldiers then had the same sense of humor that our boys have today. This was evidenced by the marks cut in to the wooden seats. Even the 1918 soldiers complained as to the antiquity of the trains. Their remarks are also in evidence.
The seats were of wood and there were no windows in any of the cars. Where windows were supposed to be signified that it was first class travel. The lesser fortunate souls rode the "40 x 8" which was more comfortable since one could stretch ones legs out their entire length. A "40 x 8" has no glass to be blown out. This proved to be the better mode of train travel. The only time it got rough was when it rained. Then the little drops (about like a balloon) would fly in to the cars. Need I say that it rained all the time? It did.
OUR MEN: BARCLAY
The railroad trip from Camp St. Louis to Camp Philip Morris, near LeHavre, was a long, slow drag! After one of the stops for feeding at a mobile kitchen and mess facility. We used our own mess kits and their hot garbage cans in which to wash them. Toward the end of the day, I began to think about the all night travel period in the train cars with their hard wooden, straight backed, cramped and crowded bench seats. that would follow before we reached our next stop. As the companies were beginning to form up in ranks preparing to re-board the train, across the rather open spaces of the railroad yard I saw a rather small building, that may have contained switching gear or something else.
I was attracted to the possibilities of using the door of that building as a platform for sleeping. On an impulse, I left the loosely forming ranks and went across the rail yard to examine the possibilities. My movement did not seem to be too alarming. Examination of the door indicated that a bold, aggressive force would remove it from its hinges. A few yanks and twists, proved it was possible.
Still emboldened by my success, I started back to my place in the forming ranks. There still was not too much concern being shown by our officers or "non-coms" until I was standing there among the "real soldiers" with a two foot wide and five foot long door tucked under my arm.
For about half an hour there was some semi-good natured bantering, etc., but no intimidation or orders "Git rid of that there door or whatever to Hell it is!". It was only when the actual loading started that there was some murmuring and/or bitching by some of my mean spirited buddies as we struggled to get aboard and down the aisles to our predetermined places.
I put the door up above the bench seats, supported by their high wooded backs. With just a minimum of spare clothes for a mattress, I was able to spend a partially restful night.
I have no idea why this wild and crazy display of lack of military-bearing succeeded. It is possible it was so unusual and unexpected that no one chose to question it.
OUR MEN: BECK - [Camp Philip Morris] Le Havre, France 23 August
The Signal Company is parked over on the side of the officer's tents where the boys while away their time playing cards, passing on rumors, eating and spending the balance of their time sleeping. I have always felt rather close to my signal company. Like a mother hen brooding over her chickens. Besides realizing my responsibility as the C.O. I feel a certain pride in them. Most of them were with me in the 103rd. I brought them up from green recruits, took them overseas and then through combat. Some I lost, some got wounded the rest wound up in the 5th Division. The bulk are here with me now waiting to go back to the U.S. A guy doesn't forget things like that.
OUR MEN: SMITTY
The war (with Japan) ended on 2 September. VJ Day eased the tension somewhat... these low-numbered people might have to occupy Japan, but they wouldn't have to attack its fortifications. On the next day a QM company moved the 45th to the LeHavre docks, right beside the Madawaska Victory. I was already seasick, but cheerful.
The ship pulled out of a foggy harbor the next morning, past scuttled hulls, eventually past a far-off shore that I was told was Wales. For the next seven days there were no storms.
By this time I had learned how to suppress that queasy feeling... I violated the rules that forbade troops from entering the crew's area... I toasted my bread in their toaster at each meal. It made a difference, I thought. Maybe it was nothing more than the act of violating the rules that provided a remedy.
But, about the time we were off the Plymouth Lighthouse of Southern England, the ship p.a. system blared out "change of orders". We will be proceeding to Boston immediately, disembarkation there, and probable discharge for those with enough points.
Immediately, bedlam broke out - wild cheering, tossing of hats, gas masks, etc. in the air, and not a few went overboard! The ship literally rocked with joy.
Now celebrations broke out all over the ship, and bottles of French vino and cognac were popped. Big -- really big -- crap and poker games built up real large pots (we were recently paid). Bill BALLANTINE, John CARLSON, other members of former 103d Signal Company and I celebrated on what was a much more enjoyable trip than the one going over.
OUR MEN: SMITTY
A pea soup fog hung over Cape Cod on the 11th of September, but the USA eventually appeared. A boat load of WACs approached our vessel. We didn't capsize when everyone clambered to one rail. We disembarked at a dock in Boston Harbor, and moved to Camp Miles Standish. There, the fastest all-night processing imaginable had us on board appropriate trains to all parts of the USA on the following day. There were goodbyes to CARVER, KUHLENSCHMIDT, NOVOTNY, CHURILLA and Captain BECK.
(1995 Editor's note: Capt. Beck's letters home contained much detailed and interesting information about the last days of the 45th Division Signal Company, and the remnants of the 103d. Much of the procedure outlined would also apply to OUR MEN in the 5th Division. Andy Beck, one of Bernie's two sons, as mentioned earlier, has made this information available to us.)
OUR MEN: BECK
When you return to the US, you are all first embarked at a POE and sent to a reception center near to said POE. There all the administrative details concerning furloughs, leaves, orders and shipping of records are taken care of by the unit itself. Then all the personnel are broken down into reception center groups according to where they will spend their period of rest and recuperation. The separation center that I will go to will be Fort Dix. At the separation center we receive our leave orders and go to our homes at government expense. Of course in my case, the government expense is a laugh since Dix is only 65 miles from Brooklyn. Snelson will also go to Dix.
Then we take our 30 day rest period. Following the leave we return to the same place that gave us our leave orders and then we receive new orders telling us where to report to our unit. That will be our new unit station like coming off maneuvers. All this traveling around is at government expense.
The army was OK for all the regular army people during peace time, but, after going through [a] stretch of a war-time army for five years the average regular army man feels that he has had enough of it. I am on my fifth year (how well I know it) and I had enough of playing soldier a long time ago. Only there were times I would not call it play.
(1995 Editor's note: There were very few "Regular Army" officers or men involved in fighting WWII. Those few had serial numbers designating them members of "The United States Army". Most of millions of men who entered the service during that period of rapid expansion of our military units just prior to the entrance of the United States into WWII were in the "Army of the United States" and had serial numbers designating them as draftees or "volunteers" - those who joined before being drafted!
With very few exceptions, the dedication and effectiveness of all the officers and men was excellent.)
OUR MEN: BECK - Camp Bowie, Texas 6 November 1945
This is different than combat where there was a new gripping story to tell each day. The story going on now is merely the carving of the epitaph on the monument that will bury the 45th Division in the realms of all the other great combat outfits. Amen.
... going over the records and history of a unit that has been in operation and combat as long as this one has. In the still gloom of the afternoon setting with no one other than a few disinterested clerks, the pages of many battles and many places, names and pictures and personal little histories of bygone and present soldiers unfold before an eye that is only critical of getting rid of superfluous items. Those items that have no world quaking significance and are only valuable to the individual concerned are sent to that individual to the last address that could be found in the books. If the man is dead or missing we send it to his nearest kin.
All day long I have been following up the exploits of the 45th Division in invasion of Sicily, Italy, Southern France. Went through the hell that was Anzio Beachhead and stormed across France, Germany and Austria. The men who lived through that life are now scattered throughout the world with their memories of the 45th Division tucked neatly and safely away in their minds and in little souvenirs that will help them to better remember the flaming fire of World War II. Some don't need any souvenirs, they have them right on their bodies - or in their minds.
To me it's deactivating the 103rd. When the transfer was made back in Germany and Austria everything went, including the records. Those same records are here now in combination with the 45th. I have come across correspondences of men that were years old. Men that I have lost all track of.
Camp Bowie, Texas 10 November 1945 - This seems to be the season for farewell banquets. Practically every unit here on the post is having some sort of shindig; both to expend the money in the unit funds and to have a get together with last remaining members of the organization.
Camp Bowie, Texas 14 November 1945 - The men of the Signal Company (those that are here) had voted for a complete stag affair. We had a real steak dinner with plenty of beer. They wanted to sit down after the meal and play cards or generally talk among themselves. The setting was the entire country club located in the Lake Brownwood State Park.
The boys sat around after the meal and drank or played cards or talked among themselves on every subject imaginable. The war was refought [sic] a dozen times. Every man was miscast in his role as a soldier during the war. They all could have done much better than the generals - to hear them talk.The party cost $350.00 which should just about deplete the Unit Fund. Their "farewell to arms";salutes, details and the straight talk was a rousing success with a finale that wound up with two men carting St. Cin home!
Camp Bowie, Texas 17 November 1945
The signal company should be ready for deactivation during the early part of this coming week. On the date we become deactivated there shouldn't be more than a half dozen men who are clerks and are not eligible for discharge anyway. They and what ever officers are left will be transferred to the division headquarters company to work there until further disposition. There should be about four officers left to go to headquarters. These officers will probably be St Cin and Tardiff who are taking care of leading the men around who are being sent to different units or being discharged. St Cin is eligible for discharge.
Another officer who will probably remain is Snelson. He will act as a personnel officer for this special troops regiment. Since he is not going anywhere special and since he is angling for a job with a signal battalion on the post, he also wants to be around here until the very end. The last officer is myself.
Sydney Snelson has finally made up his mind on exactly what to do. He is going to take the discharge and at the conclusion of the terminal leave he is going to re- enlist as a Master Sergeant.
Right now there is plenty to do. Once the processing ball starts rolling, it won't be too bad. The objectives for the division now is to receive the men coming back and either transfer or discharge them according to their point score.
After the last man is discharged (or transferred) the company ceases to exist.
The men of the 45th Signal Company who had arrived at Boston on 11 September 1945 in the late afternoon, after the very brief reception ceremonies at the dock had boarded trains to be sent to Camp Miles Standish in the nearby countryside. As we passed through the back areas of the cities, as most railroads do, we were cheered and saluted by little groups of people on their back porches and at the railroad crossing points.
After a few brief days, or hours in some cases for those who lived close by, we were sent to bases close to our homes by trains, buses and airplanes for processing before being allowed to go home for 45 day furloughs. Most of us had orders to report to Camp Bowie in south Texas near Brownsville.
Apparently, there was some variation in the military installations to which a few men returned after their furloughs as evidenced by the record of SMITTY, ROREM, etc.
OUR MEN: ROREM
In July 1945, most of the men in the 103rd Division were transferred to the 5th or the 45th Divisions, which were scheduled to go to the Pacific. I went to the 45th Division, which was sent to Camp St. Louis near Mourmelon, France and then to Camp Philip Morris near Le Havre. The war in the Pacific ended while we were in Camp St. Louis. We boarded the Madawaska Victory Ship in Le Havre and returned to Camp Miles Standish in Boston, Massachusetts. With the war over, we spend a 45-day furlough at home and most were discharged after returning to Camp Bowie, Texas. I was discharged from Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis on February 21, 1946 after spending two months in Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Arkansas.
OUR MEN: WALDRON
When the 103d was broken up, I was sent to the 45th Division Signal Company with most of the men of the 103d. We were stationed near Munich for several months.......
Came back to the USA with the 45th and landed at Boston - went home on leave, did this, that, and other stuff and then reported back to Camp Bowie in south Texas for discharge.....
The men who had been assigned to the 5th Signal Company followed about the same routine after their arrival in New York. After their furloughs most of them reported to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. most of them stayed there in an almostroutine situation until they were discharged there about November of 1945, or from camps nearer their homes some time later, after nearly three years in the Army.
The difference in their experience from those lucky men in
the 45th Signal Company may have been that they were a small part of a
larger company personnel file, in an experienced unit that was able to
take advantage of the GI system, and a company commander and orderly room
organization that was willing to do it.
Most of their men were promoted several grades to fill vacancies in the Table of Organization as there were openings. The were credited with 3 or 4 battle stars while we of the 45th had only two.
(Comment from an unidentified GI transferred to the 5th Division, "This is a latrine rumor. It just ain't so.")
OUR MEN: FADER
Camp Bowie in Texas was the camp that the 45th division was sent to back in Texas. All I can recall is impatience and lots of sack time. Being bored I volunteered to type discharge papers. The men were being discharged in sequence according to the number of points accumulated. After a couple of days typing discharge papers, I noticed that the list contained names of men with less points than I had. So I typed my own discharge papers which were signed and I was a civilian again.
OUR MEN: BARCLAY
I was discharged late in the afternoon on 17 November, 1945 and was walking with my duffel bag, etc across the main entrance courtyard of Camp Bowie with its tall flagpole and large, waving American flag when the impressive color-guard marched out for the retreat ceremony and the lowering of the colors. I was there alone in that broad expanse except for the active participants in the ceremony when the bugle call "To the Colors" (?) was sounded. Standing there in my uniform saluting for the last time on my last day of active service I experienced those highly emotional feelings millions of other service men have felt before and since.
We were honored to serve with so many others. I and the other men of the 103d Infantry Division and its Signal Company will never forget the times, the places, and OUR MEN.
OUR MEN: BECK - Camp Bowie, Texas 21 November 1945
Officially, as of today, the 45th Signal Company ceases to exist. The only transfer, and the last one, was the transfer of one Capt. Bernard Beck to Headquarters Company making the total amount of men present for duty as none, assigned - none and everything else - zero. Yesterday's morning report sent the eight men and ten officers remaining to Hq. Co. For the sake of the record, the 45th Signal Company, after November 21st, is no longer a unit.
28. Our Men in the 5th Infantry Division Signal Company
As outlined by Bob Gill in the previous chapter, a group of OUR MEN had been assigned to the 5th Infantry Division Signal Company and began the exodus from the 103d Signal Company and the long trip home.
OUR MEN: EVANS
In Innsbruck the middle of June, 1945, we were loaded onto trucks for a brief ride to a railway siding where we were loaded onto "40 and 8"s, the freight cars famous from World War I for carrying 40 men or eight horses. They only stuffed about 30 of us in each car but with our duffel bags it seemed like a lot more. We had to sleep in shifts. There was a pot in one corner of each car for bodily functions but most of the guys kept the doors open because of the heat and urinated out the side of the car onto the ground. The pot was dumped out the same way.
(After the brief stay near the Czechoslovakia border to get organized described by Bob GILL), the trip across the full width of Germany and France took more than two days. Along the way we passed through the bombed out rail yard at Passau. Another German city, Afschaffenberg, had a railroad marshalling yard. Our bombers had really done a number on the rail yard there. To top it off, the Seventh Army in its southward advance had pounded the rest of the city to rubble. We went through on the single track that had been restored since the end of hostilities. The rest was in shambles. We passed close enough to Rheims to get a good view of the cathedral.
Eventually we reached our destination, Camp Lucky Strike, a tent city near Le Havre. Several "Coolies", Don BENZ, Frankie APPLEBAUM, Jimmy CARR and I got passes and did some sightseeing together. We got as far north as Dieppe where the British had made a commando raid early in the war. We explored several German bunkers, part of their West Wall defenses against an invasion.
The tents at Camp Lucky Strike were stifling. We were there for twelve days that seemed like twelve years. Then everything fell together and we found ourselves cued up at the harbor in Le Havre to board our ship, the USS Le Juene. There was a Red Cross Canteen truck serving hot coffee and doughnuts that you could not miss. The Le Havre harbor area had been hammered by, probably, both sides until not one stone was left standing on another. As far as we could see, in any direction, there was a flat field of rubble that had been bulldozed smooth.
Quarters on the Le Jeune had standard troopship bunks, stacked four high. We had to pass by the Navy crew mess on the way to our chow. It was far better, scrambled or fried eggs, sausage, bacon, grits, hash browned potatoes, hot and cold cereal - the works, but we couldn't complain, not after what we had eaten for the past year.
The weather was much kinder to us on the way back so we were able to spend a lot of time on "C" Deck, the enlisted men's deck, getting some sun. The trip was quicker, too - no wide swings southward or zig zag courses to avoid submarines. It was like a pleasure cruise, almost.
OUR MEN: TOM BROWN
At Innsbruck, I was reassigned to the 5th Infantry Division and almost immediately shipped out on railroad forty and eights to Le Harve, France, where we boarded a genuine troop transport with the name of an Army General. Nothing but the best. Good food and good weather. The trip that took 15 days over took only 3 days back.
We exchanged our invasion money for US dollars. - all except me as my stash was so small I decided to save it for a souvenir, which left me penniless.
The ship had not even left dock, when I went to the head (head is the Navy equivalent of the Army's latrine). There I saw the biggest crap game I have ever seen. GI's were crowded shoulder to shoulder, standing on sinks and commodes, clutching money, shouting bets. It was pandemonium time.
With no money all I could do was watch - until I saw a friend who had a wad of money in his hand. I went up to him and reminded him that he owed me twenty bucks, and he paid me with a flourish. I surely didn't want to get in that wild crap game, but did find a blackjack game (the ship was a floating casino) and played very conservatively and won $200. And I quit! And had some money to spend on my 30 day furlough.
OUR MEN: EVANS
As we entered New York Harbor, fire boats, tugs, and other harbor vessels came out to meet us with displays of spraying water and honking, honking horns. As we passed the Statue of Liberty, a hush fell over the ship. We just looked at her -- and wept openly and without shame.
After we disembarked, things happened so fast that I
cannot remember how I got there but the next thing I remember is being
home and the wonderful reception that I got from everyone. I was the very
first G.I. to return to my home town, St. Augustine, Florida, from Europe
and I was treated like a king.
I went to the beach. The Coast Guard's NO CAMERAS signs were still in place. I took a picture of the sign. The beach was very messy. Large black sticky globs of oil were everywhere, a reminder of the dozens of tankers that had been torpedoed within sight of shore. Unlike most of America, my hometown had not been completely shielded from the grim realities of war. It had seen tankers burning off shore. Many burned bodies of seamen had also washed ashore here. St. Augustine had some first hand knowledge of what war was all about.
On August 6, 1945 the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan by a B-29 Super-fortress, named "Enola Gay".
On August 9th a second nuclear bomb was dropped, by another B-29, named "Bocks Car", on Nagasaki virtually destroying that city as well. My hopes for the future went up another notch.
On September 2, 1945 the armed forces of the Empire of Japan surrendered unconditionally to General of the Army Douglas MacArthur aboard the battleship Missouri at anchor in Tokyo Bay.
Thus ended World War II, the greatest conflict in history. It had lasted five years and had been fought in every corner of the earth. Fifty five million people had been killed and an additional three million were missing.
I was still in the Army and had to report to Camp Campbell, Kentucky at the end of my R&R leave. After a brief period of mainly physical training, I, together with other "Coolies" including Don BENZ, Jimmy CARR, and Frankie APPLEBAUM, had orders cut to be transferred to a unit destined for occupation duty in Japan.
We went through several rounds of showdown inspections and then we were lined up with a bunch of other G.I.s and were loading our duffel bags on the trucks when our orders were canceled. We were going to stay at Camp Campbell after all.
At Camp Campbell, I was an instructor in the 5th Division Radio School but it was mostly a wasted effort. No one cared to learn anything now. What was the point?
By this time I was a T/4 having been promoted shortly before transfer to the 5th Division. A few days later I was surprised to be promoted from T/4 to T/3.( There is an untold story here but it can be found in PAPA'S WAR.) About a month later I would be discharged, never dreaming how important that promotion to T/3 would ultimately turn out to be.
OUR MEN: TOM BROWN
After my furlough I reported to my outfit in Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky. I stayed there until November of 1945, when I was discharged after nearly three years in the Army.
OUR MEN: EVANS
In February 1946, I was shipped to Camp Blanding, Florida where it all began. Blanding was now a separation center and they duly separated me from the Army. I got my "ruptured duck" (the discharged veterans symbol), and a brand new set of ribbons, the Good Conduct Medal, the American Theater ribbon, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Europe Africa Middle East Theater of Operations (EAMETO) ribbon with three battle stars for the Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe campaigns.
There certainly is more to the story of the experience of OUR MEN in the 5th Division Signal Company than has been related here. NATOLI, in his "special chapter of oral history" relates some very strange and interesting events involving a number of OUR MEN.
Jerome WALDREF was able to get himself committed to the hospital at Camp Beale, California with "a very bad sore throat" and then assigned to report to Camp Breckenridge in his own automobile at the conclusion after his furlough in California with orders that said, "report on arrival" (no date specified). He drove 400 miles south to Los Angeles, arriving just in time for a week of R&R including the Notre Dame/University of Southern California football game. He then called OUR MAN Wilbur SCUDDER in the signal company orderly room to learn that he was still listed as being in the hospital making an additional week of R&R and the next weekend USC football game viewing possible. WALDREF was never one to not be able to recognize possibilities. He started for Camp Campbell (in Kentucky) by way of Dallas, Texas to renew an acquaintance with a young lady who had been a Life Magazine "Cover Girl" about the time we were stationed in Camp Howze.
Some time past before he placed another call to SCUDDER to confirm that he was still in the hospital and/or enroute to Campbell, and that there did not seem to be too much anxiety about his travel progress.
He eventually arrived and reported to the Captain of the 5th Division Signal Company who remarked, "You certainly took your time, didn't you?" Jerome didn't even try to tell him what a hard time he had crossing the country. The captain suggested that Jerome should exchange his summer uniform for the winter uniform that all of the "REAL SOLDIERS" had been wearing for some time.
After a few short weeks in camp, Jerome was in the division message center when an order arrived alerting the 5th Division for possible duty during a Kentucky coal mining labor strike, no new furloughs were to be granted. He was able to have the delivery of that order to the signal company delayed until he get to the orderly room and arrange for an immediate furlough - back to California!
When he finally did arrive back again in Camp Campbell, he figured the time was ripe for suggesting the captain might promote him to Corporal as a reward for his arduous service to his country. The captain recognized talent when he saw it, even if it was fleeting like a humming bird, he promoted Jerome to Sergeant just in time to send him to Camp Attebury, Indiana, near his summer home for discharge on 13 December 1945.
29. Rosario Natoli's Oral History - the Real Stuff
(1994 Editor's note: NATOLI called me the night before he mailed
an audio cassette and he said HE had some really good stuff that will tell
the stories of John Anania, himself, me and some of the regular really
serious men of the company. He doesn't want to write any of it down,
so he can deny responsibility when it appears in the book for all to see
- he is going to send a tape recording. I am really looking forward
to trying to get it in any reasonable order, we all remember his story-
telling for GRANT's video tape - he kept coming back like a bad dream putting
in additional "real facts". I have taken the liberty (privilege) of trying
to clarify and/or perhaps interpret some of his material. I sincerely believe
that an "Oral History" does come very close to being one of the most interesting
accounts of events, unhampered as it is by the search for form and substance.
I have tried to duplicate Natoli's style of expression, ever though my word processing program rebels at some of the syntax and construction. More important than conventional style; accuracy and honesty are the key elements needed for our work. No one is going to be bold enough to question Natoli on either of those - Anania maybe, certainly not me.
In Natoli's case, he has such a "way with words", sentences and paragraphs - not to mention reality, that I believe his story can best be told as a unique chapter in the book. In that way, the very precise accounts in some of the material in the rest of this history will not be compromised, and Natoli's extraordinary memories can be appreciated for all of their passion and color.
The precision of some of the reporting may be slightly flawed by the passage of time between the events and the recording of them. I know that some of the things that I recount as reality, could not have happened at the time and place designated - but they more or less did happen, I think. This record then seems to indicate that what some of us thought happened at a particular time, may not be precisely accurate.
For Natoli, in his role of "good will ambassador" and part-time entertainer of the local troops, what he was saying and now recounting may be reality in the midst of a very traumatic and confusing time for all of us.
These are great and "wonderful" stories. The world, and the 103d Division Signal Company was then, and is now, a better place because Rosario Natoli was in it with us. Admiration, appreciation and respect, for him and his remarkable memory are certainly justifiable.)
Natoli's story of his early life and his induction into the
military service and the 103d Signal Company has been told in the chapter,
THE UNITED STATES BETWEEN THE WARS.
In 1942 I was working at Lincoln-Mercury putting cars together. I bought myself a brand new 1941 Dodge 4 door sedan, it was black and had everything on it, white walls, the works. I was working afternoons and when I came home around a quarter to twelve, the guys wanted to go for a ride. "Come on Natoli, let's go for a ride." While we were out, before you know it, the "Big Four" would pull us over and make us get out of the car. They wanted to search the car every time. They would take everything apart, pull the seats out, they didn't find nothing. They would start to leave, I would say, "Wait awhile, wait awhile, aren't you going to put the seats back in and the car back like you found it?" They told me to keep my mouth shut or they would kick my head in. I had to put the seats back in and everything. That happened almost every other night.
I had to report December 1,1942. Two weeks before I quit my job. On Thanksgiving the boys and I were sitting in the car listening to a ball game. All of a sudden, here comes the squad car. The biggest, meanest cop growled,"Get out of the car." "What for, we aren't doing nothing." We get out and he says, "Get in the squad car." He takes us to the station, I hear this big old sergeant saying, "Hey you, what are you doing here?" I said, "You guys brought me here." He wanted to know if I had a job. When I said I was not working, that I had to leave for the army in 2 weeks, he checked my papers, and said I could go. "Wait a minute, you brought me here, take me home."Get out of here before I kick your ass." So I walked a mile home.
During basic training, they always picked on Natoli, like I told you or anyone else who stopped long enough to listen. Sgt. GORE, one of the cadre at Claiborne, picked on me day in and day out. I never said a word. He would yell, "Natoli, get in step, I'm going to put a rock in your left pocket so you will be able to know the difference!"
All of that crap was building up, so when we finished basic training he had a bunch of us guys "policing up the grounds", he stop and said, "The basic training is over, you guys, if you have anything to say, say it and it will not be held against you." I asked, "Are you sure of that?" He said, "That's right, you can say what you want."
I said, "OK, sergeant, you asked for it. There were times if I had caught you in town, I would have broken every bone in your ass!" He looked at me, kinda laughing, and said, "I DID MY JOB". That stopped me. He had gotten me to a point where I was ready to break somebody in half.
In the coming days, nights and months those lessons and that spirit was part of what kept us going in the performance of our duty, work, and being parts of "the team".
I managed to get through all of the tough days at Claiborne and then Howze without hurting any one of myself and developed the skills of an excellent MOS 614 - Construction section wireman. I had a such an unique (that is unusual) way of doing my job that at times small groups of men would seem to just appear as if responding to the suggestion, "You should see what Natoli is doing now!". I did my job in a humble way, never letting the attention make me any more conceited than was justifiable.
If you remember when we were at Camp Shanks and then went down to board the ship, naturally the Signal Company was last up the gang plank, the Construc tion Section was the last of the company as always seemed to be the case.
This time, being the "tail-end" of every selection worked to the advantage of a few of us who had grown used to being 'last-in-line. They had loaded the ship from the bottom up and all the room that was left was on the top deck in staterooms that would normally be used by persons of some social standing.
In our case, the normal "built-in" 4 double-high bunks around the walls of the rooms was augmented by putting ordinary folding army cots into the open spaces of the room so that there were 10 or more men in the room. It still was really great compared to the conditions of the majority of the men of the company and the division on board this ship or any other in the convoy.
We were assigned to some work details to compensate for the better living conditions we had. The next day, when I was returning from a light work detail of picking up trash on the deck, I saw Capt. Beck and Sgt. Finkbinder coming out of our state room - these guys individually were bad news, working together, it could mean nothing but trouble.
I asked Johnny ANANIA, "What the hell is going on here?" - "They want to move us, and move us into 'the hole', put the first three graders (senior non- commissioned officers) in there."
The troop-captain of the ship (actually a lieutenant of the Army Transportation Corps) who had heard about this proposed move from some unknown (friendly?) source told Capt. BECK that he was the man who made the assignments of berths on this ship, he told Beck not to change it, back off.
Capt. Beck, somewhat crestfallen, was coming out of the state room, I seen him coming out and I said to him, "You know captain, some son-of-a-bitch is trying to take our cabins away from us!" That's when Johnny kicked me, and I said to him, "What's the matter with you John?" - "He's the guy who wants to kick you out!" I said, "Oh my god", here we go again.
(Editor's note: This dialogue indicates the true nature of Natoli - a real tiger in defense of the common man. Perhaps a tiger that has been badly mauled around the head and has lost some touch with reality, but surely a fun loving, unselfish, big soft "kitty-kat", and just plain "good guy" as we will ever know.)
When we got to Marseille, they started to unload the ship, we were out in front of the ship on the dock, all of us guys were lined up, the whole company, and everything else, the whole division and all of the trucks of the 7th Army was there. General Haffner came along, and he wanted to know why all those trucks were there. He was told, "These trucks are going to take your men to the assembly area." He didn't like that idea, he said, "No way, my men will walk, and get these trucks out of the way." and with the same breath, he looked at his sergeant and he said, "Sergeant, go get my car." So you know what that means, he drove his way all the way to the assembly area.
(Editor's note: Natoli almost has me persuaded that this story has some basis in fact, and then I remember that if the general really had himself transported instead of leading his men on foot, Jerome WALDREF who knows how to take advantage of a golden opportunity, would have been able to hitch-hike a ride with him. That never happened, Jerome and I walked every, foot-sore step of the way into camp together.)
While we were walking, and walking, and walking that lousy night we would come to an MP and he would say, "Just around the corner and a couple of miles, you will be there." Well we got four or five of those answers, always around the corner and two or three miles, and we still were not there.
Johnny ANANIA and I were so tired, we went off the side of
the road into a some- what sheltered area, I was so tired that I unbuckled
my pack and just let it drop. Wouldn't you know, it fell on some
guy's head. The man woke up and said in an irritated voice, "Watch
it fellow." I looked at him and said, "Aw forget-you, man." I was
too tired to look around, Johnny Anania with his flashlight was looking
around and he sees that this guy is wearing a bar of second lieutenant.
He's mumbling under his breath, "Natoli, Natoli, look, look" - and he puts the flashlight on this guy and I saw the bar. From then on, it was Sir, Sir, Sir. The next morning he was gone, we don't even know what he looked like, but he was gone.
Johnny and I started off early and we got to camp later that day, half the guys weren't there, now I don't know if they went to town, if there was a town.
It looked like a bad situation in the rocks, high in the mountains.
Orders came through that we would have to dig foxholes, pitch tents, like you know we pitched tents next to the foxholes when we were on maneuvers. We started digging and had only dug about 1 1/2 feet before every shovel in the company broke.
That same night, it rained and it rained, and it filled the foxholes right to the ground level. When you were walking guard, you had to feel your way and make yourself a path so that you could stay on the firm ground. After you had that routine in mind, you would be relieved from guard duty and you get a new man come in there and first thing, he falls in with his clean uniform and almost drowns, he learns fast.
One night Johnny Anania is pulling guard in the kitchen, so I go up there to help myself to a few food stocks.
(Natoli must have remembered that John was a little weak on guard duty - it is a good thing Natoli wasn't planning on helping himself to the commanding general's car).
John says, "Hurry up and get out of here, I am expecting to
relieved pretty soon by a REAL guard, this guy will probably be like a
So I am filling up my combat jacket with canned foods, and everything else.
(these are the guys who are in charge of protecting all of
us innocent, sleeping soldiers who need our rest to protect the world from
the other "crazies").
John is getting ready to "change guard", a serious and formal
proceedings. He unloads his rifle, he noticed, but he didn't understand
that the bullets in the rifle clip seemed to be very loose which meant
that something was not normal. When he had pulled the bolt back to
eject the bullet-clip, he loaded his rifle, so he only had seven shells
in that clip, the eighth was in the rifle chamber, ready to fire, that
is why they were so loose.
He points the gun up into the air, standing right next to me and my ear, and he fires.
There was a big explosion!!
(Editor: The hell, you say?)
I am going around feeling myself to see if I got hit, and I hear Johnny, calling, with my good ear, "Get out of here! Get out of here." So I had to empty my pockets and the bulges in my field jacket, the stuff under my arms, leave all of the things I had laid out on the table and was preparing to pack, and hurry out into the cold, wet night just ahead of the curious, sleepless officers and men who would be arriving to help fend off a possible German attack - what a disappointment, a very smooth operation goofed up by John Anania who doesn't know how to keep away from getting innocent guys into trouble who are just trying to "do no harm" and get by. That's Johnny Anania.
On November 11,1944 at 9 O'clock. We relieved the 3rd Infantry
Division. Sgt. Donald Gray was the team sergeant, T/Sgt. DURWOOD
BROWN was the staff sergeant in charge of the wire time assigned to the
409th Regiment wire team, Charles LITTLE was his Jeep driver, others on
the team were; Jim CURRIER, Donald VINCENT, Eugene SANTISTEVEN (a new man),
Rosario NATOLI and Leroy STENDER who drove the large 2 1/2 ton wire truck
most of the time.
Our group worked between division and regiment, or between corps and infantry squad, or ??? - I was never too sure of our assignment.
Natoli has a description of the wire team that suffers as a result of the passage of time, for most of us it was a period of fifty years. For Natoli, he probably had forgotten the sharp detail before he got back to his street corner to weave his magic in tales of his travels.
Charlie WARE and I got together, in our first combat zone, at a cross-roads there he sees this big round thing - "What's that, he picks it up by the string or something and he found out it was a land-mine, and he had to put it done real gently. And I thought, here we go, he is going to kill us all before we even start.
We were moving down the road, I took the job of policing the
wire - I don't want no part of the truck, so I just walked behind the truck
policing the wire.
I always put the wire OFF the road on the embankment so no tank could run it over. The infantry wire teams with their chicken wire (very light wire for temporary lines?) would call me the "Crazy Dago", they said, "You are going to get yourself killed, all of the land mines are always toward the side of the road." I didn't put any attention - I would always put my lines up out of the way so that they would stay safe.
(Editor's note: Guys like John ANANIA and some other very careful men when it came to the important job of policing wire lines, at times, even at this late date, 1995, are not too sure that Natoli should have ever really been given this responsi bility. In a number of conversations and questioning sessions, he seemed to be a little weak on the basics of this art and seemed to overestimate his own ability to cover long distances down the road while doing a satisfactory job.
No one has produced direct evidence yet that failure of critical communication or personal injury occurred as a result of his type of work, but even this long after the events of 1944 and 1945, there is an uneasiness in the minds of thoughtful, careful, responsible and humble wire-men all over this great nation - well, maybe not Arizona, where NATOLI now lives.)
Little by little we were taken over by Colonel Lloyd, the head of the 409th Regiment, I don't know how we did that, everywhere he went we followed him and when he stopped for a few minutes, he wanted a telephone. We had to get it for him - his wire-team assigned to the 409th Regiment was lost someplace on the road, laying their "chicken wire" in the middle of the road, by the time they got done, it never worked.
Editor's note: Damn that Natoli; if I had known he was going to use so many "code words" and abject adjectives on this cassette, I would have had him send me an "instant word guide". Apparently, "chicken wire" is his word for the lines all of the real wire-men laid. His wire must have been some kind of armored cable, that was wound 20 miles to a reel, so that he could put about 2 miles at a time 'off the road' with one grand, artistic sweep of his arms. To the casual observer, all of the wire every team used was W110B, one mile of mean and dirty stuff wound on a reel that laid it off onto the road near the edge but with so little slack that unless the truck stopped from time-to-time and pulled off extra wire, it was almost impossible to get it 'way up on the bank'.
One day we laid an advanced line and he wanted his CP in an
upstairs room, I got there with the wire, and was up on top of the roof,
and he is already in that room hollering for "His Telephone", he had his
handset, I had to reach out over the edge of the roof and down through
the window to hand him the wire, he connected it, and he was happy.
You have heard how good G2 (Intelligence) is? Those bunch of bums, they got more guys killed that anything else. They gave us the OK that this town was taken, so Sgt. Brown, Little and Stender and all of us guys go out and we run a line to where they wanted us to. Nobody is in this town, I went into a house the back corner was burning, the front corner was alright but the house was tilted.
We waited there and waited there, and I looked out the window, and here comes this infantry boy, the "dogfaces" are coming in house-to-house, door way-to door way, I looked out and said, "What the hell are you guys doing here?" He looked at me and asked, "What are you guys doing here?". I told that guy, "The town is taken, they told us, we got the wire all strung up." He says, "You guys are crazy, we haven't even been here yet"! " Well", I says, "its empty."
So there you go, with our G2, how good their information is, see. The infantry is not even there, and they say it's taken.
Remember the ASTP "boys"? They came in and they were put into the infantry and special troops, wherever they could fit in. We got hold of BARBY, Sgt. Barby.
(Sgt. Barby may have come to the 103d Signal Company from an Army Airforce unit, or ??. There were no non-commissioned officers transferred from ASTP, to my knowledge.)
As far a laying wire and, the way we operated, he was no way near it, he didn't know what the hell was going on. He would advance our truck right upon the infantry while they were digging foxholes, that's how close he would come, he didn't realize what was going on.
The infantry would look at us and be raving mad, "Get that damn truck out of here, you are going to draw fire."
One time we came to a wide open space along the road, but about 2 blocks away is a densely wooded area, a beautiful place to ambush somebody, and he says, "Natoli, get up there and tie in, and we will go across the road." I say, "If you want to tie-in, you do it yourself because I ain't tying nothing in.
When you come to a position like this, you dig-in, you don't go up in the air and make yourself a target". So we dug in.
In a town, there was some problem about who could get showers from the only shower unit we had seen in a long time, or ever. Sgt. BARBY got a shower but some of the rest of his team didn't.
That's when I said to him, what a bum he was, and as far as I was concerned, he was going to get us hurt, he was going to get us all killed, the truck would be gone, and he would be responsible, because he didn't know what he wanted to do. I told him that he had the responsibility for the truck and six of the men and they had to be taken care of. And I told him in a nice way.
He didn't like that, that's when I told him that for 2 cents I would take him out there and I would 'beat the hell' out of him, and I said, I don't think I am going to wait any longer.
I made a dash for him, he was on the other side of the room,
kind of a big hallway - we were screaming back and forth insulting one
another - I told him, I was going to send his ass to the hospital, so I
started for him, man, and he started for me.
Just then, here comes this "chicken" colonel, I don't know where he came from, but he walked right between us, he was pretty short and I could look down on his shoulder and see the big "chicken colonel". And boy, without saying a word, we both made an about-face, he didn't say a word, he kept walking.
Barby went back, and we both cooled off.
Our trip through Germany, on foot, continued. We came into one town, STENDER was driving and we were all in the back of the truck. We began to wonder why everybody is between houses and hiding and we were the only truck on the road, and we soon found out.
This German Messerschmidt was flying around, and we spotted
it, and he was coming around to the road we were on. We told STENDER,
"Turn off, man, hit the first corner and get out of here!" So we
got to the first corner, he put the truck in low gear and bailed out, the
truck came to a stop against the building.
All of guys jumped over the truck tail-gate board and me I landed in a mud puddle, I had on a brand new uniform on that day, I'd just put it on that morning. And that 'plane came down, and shelled where we were standing a minute sooner, and he tore up the road. And he really opened up, it was a good thing we turned that corner, or we would have been gone.
Another time going up. That day we moved out and we had
our "traveling colors" on, the big orange air-identification banners on
top of the truck, so that our airforce could recognize us.
Late that evening, here comes this American P47 airplane, and he is shooting, he is strafing and everybody is bailing out. Fortunately he didn't get nobody but he tore up a few trucks. And we wonder, what the heck is this, can it be one of the P47's the Germans had captured and they were flying it?
This P47 goes up to the edge of town and makes a turn, he didn't have enough, he wanted some more.
Meantime, all of the GIs pulled the machine-guns off the trucks, the 50s and the 30s and everyone with their rifles, the M1s, the carbines, and their side-arms - everybody had something.
And this guy is coming around and heading down the road, straight down the middle of town and he opens up. And while he is firing, every body else starts shooting with their guns. We had this guy aflame before he hit the second or third house in town.
And he crashed on the other side of town. They went to see who it was, and there a young American kid flying that 'plane.
That's when we said, "when we get four more, one down and four to go and we will be a German Ace".
(Editor's note: This is only one of three or more accounts of an American airplane being shot down by "friendly fire" by some of our guys that is included in this book.
At one time, I thought I would have a chance to shoot at a German airplane that was strafing the area of the Division CP. (name of the town has been forgotten for the moment). The details are all very clear in my mind - I had a Browning automatic rifle, was leaning out of a third floor window of one of the buildings overlooking the courtyard of a complex of buildings. The German, he really was, had already made a pass over the area and was coming over again - I was ready. Just at the critical moment, a staff officer in the courtyard yelled, "Don't shoot, he might shoot back!"
Spoiled my chance to be a war hero, now that I know how easy it is to hit these guys. It is all true, except that I didn't come into possession of the BAR until several months later. Maybe I was holding my M1, or a bedpan, or ??)
We came into a town one day, and I decided that I was going to bake a cake. I had all of the ingredients and everything. The stove was there.
Johnny ANANIA came in. He said, "What are you doing?" - "I'm going to bake a cake." He said, "How come, you never baked me a cake?" - "I don't know, you never asked me to bake you a cake and I never had the ingredients."
He said, "Well, bake me a cake." (Surprise)
So I started off to bake him a cake. I put half a truck tire in the stove, and I baked a cake. And by the time that tire caught on, it was really ablaze, man, too hot. It started burning the cake.
Just then, here comes a whole battalion of tanks, they come through, rumbling through the front street, shaking the house, and everything else, and the cake "fell". So that was the first failure of baking a cake. (More surprise)
The second cake I baked for Johnny was good, he liked it. That's the only time I baked Johnny a cake.
The day we entered Germany, we were under artillery shells, they had "screaming meemees" and everything else. We came to the mess hall, the cooks had hot meals, but the cooks were in the basement, and the meals were on the ground floor. I asked, "When am I going to get served?" They wouldn't come up to serve the food. Someone down there said, "We aren't going up there, you crazy 'Dago', serve yourself!"
We had some sliced beef, man that was good. I got all I wanted, because no one was there.
In the meantime, every once in a while, a shell would hit about 50 yards up in the mountain, and it would tear up about half of that mountain, and the house would shake.
Another time, we were out working, and shelling started. One of the shells was pretty damn close, Sgt. NELSON, him and another guy headed for a foxhole, Nelson got there first and jumped into the hole. The other guy fell on top of him, Nelson looked at him, the guy was "gone", he got hit, and Nelson didn't know what to do.
And then I made another mistake, I used to travel between the 409 headquarters and the Signal Company headquarters. On day, I went back to the Signal Company HQ to get a hot meal. Capt. Beck was there close to the chow line with Sgt. FINKBEINER. BECK looked at me and he said, "Natoli, how come, you don't shave?" I said, "I don't know". Well he says, "People have gone thirty days without food." I said, "I know, Sir, and people have gone years and years without shaving." He was not impressed and/or persuaded - he said, "Sergeant, tell that soldier to shave." and I was told to shave, and I got out of there pretty damn fast, I don't need that agitation, BALONEY!
Remember that time of the Battle of the Bulge, and we moved up near the 3rd Army area. And we had to lay lines. We didn't know how close the Germans were at that time. All of a sudden Sgt. BROWN comes flying in with LITTLE. "Brown says, "Just load up the truck and let's get "the hell" out of here, the Germans are not to far from here, orders are to pack up. We started to pack up. "No, no, just throw everything in the truck and let's get going, we haven't got time, the engineers are waiting for us to cross the bridge!"
So we piled everything in, and away we went. We crossed
the bridge, and the engineers blew it up. And then they start blowing trees
that would fall across the road. That's how close the Germans were and
we didn't even realize it. We were pretty lucky, all the way, man.
We came into another French town, there were German soldiers
there guarding some French soldiers. When the Germans saw us coming,
they gave the French guys their rifles and now the French soldiers had
the Germans prisoners.
Then the French soldiers gave us the Germans, and we had them. What the hell are we going to do with 20 prisoners, we got no room for 20 prisoners. We had to wait until the "rear echelon" would pick them up.
When we were staying in Innsbruck, General McAULIFFE had that big house overlooking the city. He had a guest, Marlene Dietrich. He sent his driver all the way to Paris to pick her up, and he brought her back, and she stayed with McAuliffe as a "house-guest". He was a handsome man.
Every time we past his house, we had to salute the American flag, big deal.
There was the time when the 103d Division, 7th Army captured
a warehouse full of champagne. Everybody got a bottle of champagne.
A lot of these guys didn't know what to do with it. For example,
VINCENT, he gets a bottle of champagne, puts it between his legs and unscrews
the wire and the cork. The cork popped and hit him between the eyes, almost
blinded him, and the stuff was flying all over his lap. He learned a lesson
On the road to Innsbruck, on the other side of the road was a case of Italian hand-grenades. A tank was coming up the road, we didn't know what to do, we hid behind the truck tires and everything else, and the tank ran over that case of hand- grenades and not one of the exploded, believe it or not, we couldn't believe it.
While we were in the truck parked beside the road, we didn't know it, but there was a 240mm cannon parked out there in the field, I was sitting on the truck when that thing goes off. It shook the whole truck, I almost fell off the truck. That is when I ended up with a shattered eardrum, without even knowing it.
When I was discharged from the army, the colonel doctor asks if I feel anything, does anything hurt. He asked 3 times, but he wouldn't tell me what was wrong, and me, nothing hurt. I didn't want nothing from the army. I regret that I gave up my GI insurance, I said no to everything. I was afraid to say yes, I might be signed up for another year.
I found out 10 years later when I got my own insurance at home. The doctor asked me if I had been in the army. I asked,"Why?" - "Because you have a shattered ear-drum."
I said, "That's nice". That nice army doctor saved the army about $10 a month in disability payments.
When we got to Innsbruck, there was a little confusion. We headed for the Brenner Pass into Italy with orders to go all the way to Rome if you have to, until you meet the American 5th Army. They (the advance troops) went about 10 to 15 miles and the war was over.
Every body soon was able to go sightseeing and just kinda taking it easy. All of a sudden, Capt. Beck decides that we will all go back to "garrison" living conditions, we are going to have guard duty, KP and everything we enjoyed back at camp in the 'States.
Incidentally, we were the only ones, and I had it "up to here". When that "chicken--" routine started, I will give you one guess who was on guard that first night, who was one of the guards? ME, I am the guy who always gets the guard and KP, and all that good stuff.
I think most of my problems at this time came from when I confronted T/Sgt. FRAZIER and he was going to recommend me for promotion to T/5, and a wire team, and I told him, "No way, I didn't want to be a non commissioned officer, not over here. When I was "bucking for promotion" back in the 'States, that was different. I am not going to worry about a truck or a wireteam. I am a PFC and I am going to worry about myself. When those shells come in, Natoli is going to be the one who heads for a hole and I am not going to wait to see if everybody got there first."
He didn't like that.
(Editor's note: What a shame, just when the Army began to recognize that much of Natoli's hidden, natural talent for organization, leadership, character develop ment and 'all that stuff' had been wasting away hidden behind a facade of indifference, "goofing off" and a willingness to just "go along, to get along", it was too late. Natoli's patience in waiting had been exhausted, there would be no more "Mister Good Guy".
He would overcome his quiet inhibition and begin to speak-out when he thought he was beginning to be treated unfairly. On one occasion he expressed the opinion that he was not "happy in the service" and that there were occasional times when he slightly regretted that he had "joined up"!
Most of the rest of us were very happy and contented and we felt bad that one of our companions was having second thoughts about his army experiences.
We thought that in time, he would get over his disappointment and become a normal, upbeat, happy-go-lucky guy. I, for one, will continue to do whatever I can to help and encourage him. ANANIA says he "kinda likes Natoli", and he will try to help.)
The 103d was going to be broken up. The men would be placed in the 45th and the 5th Infantry Divisions. I understood that they needed 96 signal men to go to the 5th. That's when I volunteered. I had enough of Capt. BECK and his outfit - everybody is sight seeing and here I am 'pulling guard' and everything, I said, "No way!" So John ANANIA, Joe LaFATTA, and I, 96 of us, and we left for the 5th.
On the way to the French coast with the 5th division, we passed other divisions headed the same way. I think there was the 4th, the 5th and another division all on the same route at the same time.
We understood that Camp Lucky Strike was close to the "Port of Embarkation" and that we would wait there for the first available ship and then go home to a furlough period and then amphibious-training for a landing on the shores of Japan. The army was telling us just how it would be.
At Lucky Strike, the army picked up all of our "French invasion" army script money and then they offered us passes to Paris.
How the hell are going to go to Paris with no money? See that's the army. A lot of the less honest and upright soldiers had food stuff, cigarettes, silk stockings, and all of that stuff. They went and they had a good time. Real clean combat veterans like me, we didn't have a chance.
Back at camp, Johnny ANANIA was trying to get the tent warming stove started, he put some gasoline in there on live embers and the gasoline exploded.
and everybody wanted to get out of the tent when the heating stove exploded. Sgt. DONOHUE walked by the tent and saw the situation, he ran in, grabbed a blanket off a bed and snuffed out the fire on Anyone's clothing that was burning his legs. Johnny ended up in the hospital, and I ended up taking care of his duffel bag and everything else. I even know his army serial number, 18, ere, its 161518151852, that's Johnny's number, I have never forgotten it.
When we got home, his father was asking me, "What happened to Johnny?" I was trying to evade the question, I didn't want to say. So he said, "Look, tell me, not knowing is driving me nuts." So I told him what really happened, but that Johnny is not seriously hurt, he has some skin burned off this legs, and he will be home, soon. And that is what happened, he was home not very much later.
(Editor's note: I had met and greatly admired Mrs. Natoli, as we all did, at the Dallas reunion and I asked Natoli to tell us how he met his wife, when she was a lovely German maiden.)
And now I am going to tell you how I met my wife. She is from Cologne Germany and while Cologne was under-siege, her family moved to Steinau, Germany, near Fulda and the Russian zone, that's when our 103d Division headquarters was at Bensheim, we used open-wire of the civilian telephone system to connect to Steinau. That's when I met her. Leading troops had told the locals that they would have to move out of the houses they occupied if we needed space to stay in.
When we came in, we moved her family out. The family next door to her family had chicken-pox, but they had to move over there.
When I saw her, I said to myself, well, well, it looks like the end of the line, buddy. (Natoli was smitten). And so from then on I talked her and everything else, but mostly I talked to her mother. (That sly devil!) I put the old charm on her mother, and she thought I was a real, real nice guy.
And that was true, I was a nice guy. As the days went by, she needed things for her father and mother, clothes and everything, she would come in the house and I would give it to her. I was getting food from the regiment and our signal company, I gave her some of the food. That went on.
Every once in a while, I would see Sgt. Finkbinder walking past the house, I don't know what he was looking for, but I know he was looking for trouble.
As the days went by, I said, I'll ask her for her address.
(Her mother wouldn't give it to such a nice guy??)
That was in April, 1945 - I told her, when we leave here, the war is not going to last much longer.
When I got home, in about a year and half, I figured she would be back home, and I wrote and asked her, "Why don't you come on over, and get married?"
That was a tough thing for her to do, leave her home, family and friends but she came in January, 1948. We got married May 22, 1948.
(Such a lucky guy, but I guess most of us have been very fortunate in the gracious ladies that we married. Seeing some of them at the reunions, reconfirms that.)
We left Camp Lucky Strike and we headed for the 'States and we got into Camp Shanks. At Shanks, they fed us steak, and all you could eat. Everything that we had not seen for some time, they had. With my luck, I had an Italian prisoner try to tell me that I could only take one piece of cake. And I told him in Italian, to go shove off, and I took two pieces.
They gave us a thirty day furlough from Shanks, and they told us that we would report to Ft. Campbell, Kentucky in thirty days.
I went home in July, and I was in a theater. All of sudden, the lights go on and across the screen flashes the message -JAPAN HAS SURRENDERED, THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC IS OVER!
I thought to myself, I beat a lot of the boys with high points toward being discharged. Those fellows are still back in Europe waiting for transportation home, while us guys with less points who didn't qualify for early discharge will now get out before those more seasoned veterans.
A lot of the guys in the 103d Division said we were crazy for volunteering into the 5th Division. The fact that we had been given priority so that we could come home to the good old USA, go on furlough, pass through the country on our way to the Pacific war has been a blessing in disguise.
(Editor's note: That Natoli, what a guy; spends the whole war drifting around from place to place, without ever really having to be serious about his training or work, and then he is at home waiting to be discharged with all of real veterans of the 5th Division. Those of us who hung back from volunteering, like eager beavers, into the 5th Division, end up where Natoli always said he was -the last of the chosen few lucky guys.
(Note from an anonymous transferee to the 5th Division, "We had a good idea as to the plans 'the powers that be' had for the 5th Division ... and to the best of my knowledge, NO one volunteered to transfer." Do you think we were nuts?)
The 45th Division, which had just as many real veterans as most outfits, was stuck at Camp Lucky Strike when the war in the Pacific ended. Worse than that, the permanent-party men assigned to Lucky Strike kept telling us about two characters from the 103d Division that had passed through there months before.
One of them (the handsome one) almost burned the camp down with a stove explosion, the other (the fat one) just seemed to be floating around the camp mess halls all the time like a butterfly -didn't know what was happening.
Some of the 103d men with us learned that ANANIA was still there in the hospital and so we went over to see him.
I had always thought, and still do, that John was one of the most handsome men I had known and when I had earlier heard that he had been in a gasoline-fire explosion, I imagined him with facial scars. It was a terrible feeling. Fortunately, because John wasn't using his head when he threw the gasoline into the stove, his burns were on his lower body. Awful bad, but not disfiguring.
At the hospital, John was in pain but he was well on the way to recovery. We were glad to see him. John, a very thoughtful person, one of my very best friends, gave me his issued "wireline man's knife", a combination blade and screwdriver arrangement. I was very pleased and thankful - I still have the knife.)
After my first 30 day furlough, I sent a telegram to the 5th Signal Company headquarters telling them that my mother was ill and I needed another 7 days. I got 7 days more. When I came back, I said, "I should have asked for more time, it seems that the longer I am there at home, the poorer my mother feels." They said, "You don't need to ask for more time, we know how poorly some of those mothers feel as the time drags by, day after day, after day."
These guys had hearts of gold (heads of stone?), they gave me 45 more days. We guys weren't doing so bad, we were home almost half the time in our last 6 months of service, you should have seen our mothers' faces!
The other days in camp, all of us guys walked around like big shots. All of us rose in rank. I made sergeant, VINCENT made staff sergeant, DONOHUE was top man, all of the other guys made corporals and sergeants.
We didn't have to do nothing, all of the "peons" were doing KP. For once I felt like a big shot, I didn't have to pull KP.
And so I got discharged from Camp Campbell on November 28,1945. But first they offered me, if I would join up for one more year, they would make me a master sergeant in the construction section. I said, "No, thank you, I may be a master sergeant for one day and the way I have been messing up, I would be busted to private, no way!"
The captain didn't like that, they wanted to keep us guys.
When I came back from the service, I brought home a P38 pistol that I wanted to register with the police department. I asked the cop on the beat how to do that without someone picking me up on the way to the station. He told me to take the gun apart, put it in a paper bag and put it into the trunk of my car until I get to the station, take it to the desk.
I did as he told me. I was in my uniform and when I told the desk sergeant that I wanted to register my pistol. I started to take the pieces out of the bag and put it together, click, click, click, I knew about those things The sergeant really liked it. Three more cops came in, detectives in plain clothes. One of them wanted to buy it. I told him it was not for sale. He said he could take it away from me.
I told him, You aren't taking anything away from me, I started to take it apart. He claimed I didn't have registration papers. I told him my papers were in my foot locker, and by that time I had it back in the paper bag. As I was leaving I told them,
"You guys haven't changed a bit since I have been away. If you want a gun so bad, why don't you enlist and get yourself one!" They didn't like that, so I left.
After I had been home for a short time, my buddy and I decided to see about joining the police force. At the personnel office the man said, "Take your shoes off and stand against that wall with the height scale on it. The required height was 5 foot, 9 1/2 inches in stocking feet - I was short by 3/4 of an inch, my buddy was the same.
We decided to give the fire department a try. At the office we were told that we would have to go to a training school and one part of that training was to jump into a life saving net from 5 stories up. I said, "What?" He repeated the requirement. We went out to look at the training tower, 50 feet up was the window, 50 feet below that was a concrete driveway on which the net would be held. I figured that with my luck, I would miss that lousy net and land on the driveway. That was the end of my civil service applications.
I went back to Lincoln-Mercury. After a year or two, I figured I was off more than I was on; strikes, it was too hot to work and the guys would walk out, and all that stuff. So that's when I joined the Detroit Board of Education, 1953. I took a cut, but it was steady, I knew I would get paid every two weeks and that's what helped me out.
After 10 years with the board, the principal of a Special Reading school where I was assigned, could see that I had a little potential and he told me, "Natoli, you're going back to school." "Going back to school, I haven't been to school for twenty five years, we do I want to go back for?" He pointed around at the people working there and said, "Look at that guy, he is a college graduate, you mean to tell me you don't know more than that guy ?"
To get into the community college, I had to have a High School Diploma. My father had pulled me out of school in 1939. I had to get my G.E.D. (General Education Diploma) before I could go to college. I got that important paper in 1954, but didn't go to college until 1970.
In January 1970, I went back to school at Wayne State Community College. I put in four years at night school there, graduated, and then I went to the big university, Wayne State University, the big time. I put in four years at nights over there. I finally graduated in December 1977 with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education. I could teach, if I wanted to, from kindergarten to the twelfth grade.
Two months before graduation, I had taken an examination as House Keeping Supervisor. The boss I had previously worked for gave me a job downtown after graduation. There were 5 of us supervisors and we ran 320 schools at a time. We had to get supplies, discipline, and everything that pertains to schools.
I retired on March 1,1983 after 30 years of service. From the
day I left Lincoln- Mercury and joined the board, I never missed a pay
(1994 Editor's note: I have read and put into this text many accounts of the "before service and after service education" of OUR MEN, Natoli's story shows a perseverance and integrity that I find very impressive and inspiring.)
On 16 July 16 1994, Ingeborg, my wife, and I and the kids headed for Cologne, Germany (near her home town of Steinau). We came back a few days before the convention in Phoenix to say my piece and defend my honor against the nit-picking editors and those other guys, like Anania, who never could figure out how real wiremen could be so efficient and remain so humble.
I had a clock that I had made at Sun City (a few miles from the convention site in Phoenix). That clock was a really nice piece of artwork, ANANIA, WALDREF and BARCLAY said so when they came out to the house for a visit with my lovely wife - I was there also. This clock had carved into its woodwork the names of the places and battles that the 103d Signal Company had been through.
I met one of Captain BECK'S sons, Andy, who had come to the convention to share information about his Dad with the few fellows there and to copy photo graphs to be include in the book that Barclay has been fooling around with for so very long.
I was impressed with Andy and his devotion to his Dad and his memory. At the banquet during the convention, I gave this clock to Andy. Some of the Signal guys there were really surprised, but all were very happy. They had a reminder of what a classy guy I really was.
Clem Post, one of the first officers in the Signal Company, came with Andy Beck. During basic training, POST and BECK had been close friends and after they were both discharged they kept in touch with one another. Post was like an uncle to Andy Beck and his brother as they were growing up. Andy family had a close relationship with Post after Bernie Beck died.
(Editor's almost final note about Natoli: I sincerely hope
that Natoli enjoys the affectionate treatment this chapter has been given.
He is one great guy, and as happy, healthy, and well balanced as anyone
I know - a lot of fun. I hope he and others will pardon me if I admit
that this has been a pleasant experience.)
30. Some of Our Men (Old Soldiers) Have Refused to Fade Away
After the passage of fifty years (or more), a surprising number of OUR MEN are still around with their growing families enjoying a diversity of activities and travels. Attendance at the 103d Division and the Signal Company reunions has been pretty good. Paul GRANT, Gene NANEY, Julius SEDENSKY, Harold ROREM, and many others have done a grand job of starting and keeping the yearly reunions of the Signal Company, successful, whether held together with the Division reunion or not.
The Chicago 103d Division reunion had the greatest attendance
so far. (Many of OUR MEN live in that area.) Those from the Signal
Company attending were:
John and Bernice Anania Wilmer Lee
Bill Barclay Charles and Reva Little
Bill and Mary Becks R. Paul Murray
Donald and Dolores Benz Gene and Bernice Naney
John Donlan Gus Nordstrom
Pierce Evans Jack Phillips
Patrick Faulkner Harold and Betty Rorem
Bob and Louise Gill Bill and Joan Schmitz
Paul and Helen Grant Julius and JoAnne Sedensky
Edward Jalloway Earl and Hazel Star
Matt Kovats Ray and Kitty Vanderby
Frank and Ruth Kraft Jerry Waldref
John and Francis Lazarz Ralph Larsen
The 1995 Division Reunion in August at Colonial Williamsburg could be the biggest and best yet - many of us are planning on attending. This may be one of our last good chances to see those old friends we have never forgotten.
The following notes describe what some of OUR MEN have done and continue to do. Pierce EVANS and others have contributed information about some of the fellows who have passed from the scene or that we have lost contact with.
The information about OUR MEN marked *** was contributed by Pierce Evans. Most of this information was contributed by OUR MEN directly or by their friends. Some additional notes have been excerpted from Harold Branton's excellent book, 103rd INFANTRY DIVISION.
***BILL AMBROSE, COOK - Last known location Chicago, Ill.
JOHN ANANIA: Married to Bernice, who travels with him - especially to conventions. They have a son and a daughter. He has lived in the Detroit, Michigan area for many years since leaving the service. He became an expert ceramic tile construction person and operated his own business. He is now officially doing what he did for as long as this editor can remember - taking it easy, helping his friends and doing no harm.
***JOHN ANDERSON - Last known location, Providence. R.I.
***FRANK APPLEBAUM IS retired, residing in Pikesville, Maryland(1994)
***BILL BALLANTINE - Was wounded in action, but may have returned to the 103d Signal Company just in time to get transferred to the 45th Division.
WILLIAM BARCLAY: Discharged as Pfc. Only one of JONES' BOYS who failed to have a successful military career. Studied Radio/Television Engineering over the years. Worked for radio and television stations in Hollywood and Sacramento CA. and in Walla Walla WA.
Married to Hazel Whipple in 1948. We have three sons and two grandsons. Will be living in Sun City Roseville CA. After June 1995.
***GEORGE BARTLETT - Last reported in Stockton, Ca.
BERNARD BECK: Throughout his civilian life, before and after military service, Bernie Beck worked in the field of sales promotion advertising. He was an accomplished commercial artist and calligrapher. After his discharge from active service, he held executive positions in national advertising agencies and organized his own firms under the names Bernard Beck Associates.
Beck eventually retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel. His military awards included the Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, the Emergency Service Medal, the Purple Heart and Service Ribbon with two battle stars.
Beck was married to Roslyn Nasser until he died. They had two children, Paul Beck, an Electronics Engineer and Andy Beck, an Architect. Bernard Beck died of a smoking-related heart attack at the young age of 65 in 1985.
WILLIAM BECKS: Bill and his wife, Mary, live in Green Bay, WI. during the summer and travel in their motor home during the winter.
DONALD BENZ: Was discharged as T/4 from 5th Division. Returned to birthplace, Portland, Oregon and graduated from Oregon State University in 1947. He was married to Dolores (a lovely, vibrant lady) in 1948. they have four sons, one daughter and nine grandchildren.
Don has been self employed in the field of air cleaning and air pollution control for 43 years in the company he founded.
MANUEL BERMAN and his wife had children (girls I think) who did well and he has grandchildren. His wife past away a few years ago - he now has a wonderful companion. They travel and study together and are doing well.)
After leaving the service, I worked for my Dad in his commercial construction and woodworking business. I also attended night architectural school at Pratt Institute. I married Rita Cohen in 1945. We had two girls, Donna and Carol. We moved from Manhattan to Long Island in 1952, to our own home, where I live today.
I continued working in this field for various Architectural firms until 1960 when my brother and I bought a hardware business and operating it until 1973. I then went back to the construction business, ins sales.
Rita died in 1982. I met Jacky Byron in 1982 and we have become very close. I retired in 1992.
I have continued my great interest in photography and lectured on it as an avocation for senior citizens.
During a trip to Europe in 1986 with my companion, Jacky, our itinerary included Alsace and Imbsheim where during the winter of 1944/45 our wire team was billeted in a house with very nice French woman living with her father. Her husband was pressed into army service by the Germans and she hadn't heard from him in a long time. She helped make our life more pleasant by cooking for us many times. We soon became good friends and when we left the area it was a sad parting.
It was summer and quiet. The people were busy farming and the village looked the same as long ago. The church tower loomed in the distance I stopped at a house and recognized it as the place we stayed in all those weeks long ago. The house was empty and a small sign in a front window announced that it was "for sale".
We walked further and met a woman carrying some buckets and stopped to talk to her. Jack, my companion was better at French than I and asked the woman if she remembered The woman said that she was about 6 years old at that time and remembers receiving candy and gum from the soldiers. Jacky asked her about the house and the old woman I remembered.
The village woman said the old woman had lived there all those years alone. Her father had died soon after the war, and my friend from long ago had died just within the past few years. I was very sad that I had missed seeing her by only a short time.
FRANCIS BIEBEL lives in Sun City, Arizona and came to the reunion in Phoenix in 1994 looking very fit and trim. He enrolled in the College of Engineer ing at Marquette University in Milwaukee and graduated in 1949 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. He worked two years as a project engineer on construc tion of new power plants and then founded his own construction company in 1951, specializing in Industrial Insulation.
He co-authored the National Industrial Insulation Standards Manual published in 1979, 1983 and 1988. He has traveled far and worked in many locations. He was named "Construction Man of the Year" in 1988.
He and his wife, Marie, have six children and six grand children. He retired in 1986.
***EMIL BOITOS Master Sergeant of Radio Section. Passed away in 1980.
ORAL BROWN: He and his wife Myrtle have lived Phoenix, Arizona since the time it was a small city. Oral was a teacher and has also been in the real estate business. Oral came to the convention in Phoenix and shared some of his stories with us. During our basic training at Camp Fannin, Texas, Oral was in the same barracks with the editor (Barclay). We were also together in the famous "Cook Shack" at Camp Howze. I have known him longer that any other man in the Signal Company except Mike Schirm and Jerome Waldref.
TOM BROWN: After discharge I went back to the Telephone
I took flying lessons (had an engine failure in my first hour of solo and had to make a forced landing) and got my commercial license.
I changed my work hours and went to school in the daytime.
I graduated in 4 years 8 months, worked a full time job.
I quit the telephone company and took a job with Motorola as a Sales Engineer selling two-way radios. I already had my "ham" license (W4NLI) I got my First Class Radiotelephone license.
I was promoted to Zone Manager, then Account Executive, then Account Executive Manager. In Bergen County, New Jersey, I started back to school and got my MBA (cum laude no less), then entered the New York University Graduate School of Business Phd program for two years.
We have five children, four boys and a girl. We have college educated all five with two lawyers, a Mechanical Engineer, a CPA, and (the girl) a graphic designer.
I learned of a management consultant franchise for sale in Tennessee and bought it, and moved the family to Nashville in 1968. My wife, Priscilla, and I run this business, Capital Business Services, together. We computerized in 1973 and are very computer literate, owning six computers to do our work. I have also written some of my own programs.
JERRY BUTLER: When I was discharged, early in 1946, I returned to Denver and I went back to work at the Mountain States Bell Telephone Company.
....I spent some time in repair, installation and then in the central office repair and test desk. In 1951, I was made a station installation foreman. My first duties were to train and supervise 30 installers borrowed from the different districts for the conversion of 5 cent pay phones to 10 cent pay phones. It took us a month to get it done.
After that, I was supervisor for installers in the district that included the Denver airport which was always very interesting.
In 1956-57 I was assigned in the Bell Laboratories at Maori Hill, N.J. with a group of 22 men assigned to the task of revising and rewriting the Bell System practices for outside plants of the associated telephone companies.
It was a very interesting and educational experience. I was allowed to take my family with me. We saw a lot of the east coast on 2-3 day week-ends.
We covered all the way from Quebec, Canada to Virginia. We had
an eleven year old son and a seven year old daughter - both of them inquisitive.
My family decided that it was time to go home to their old friends.
Back in Denver, I was again supervising installations, etc., but also special services, Mobile Radio, teletype and television equipment after the telephone company expanded more into those areas.
In 1960 I was in the Division office, this was strictly administrative - meetings, conferences and more meetings. In 1964, I moved on to the Colorado state office as a supervisor. This was similar to the Division, but covered all 12 districts of the state.
In February 1976, I retired to a life of pleasure and enjoyment.
We had a summer place on a large lake in Nebraska - it was 20 miles long
and 4.5 miles wide. Had very good fishing and water skiing. We worked in
a 62'x32' garden - it was great.
In the winter, we would drift south with the"snow birds" to Mesa, Arizona. Between these two places, we didn't see much of Denver except to pass through in October and April.
We would take several Mexico trips each winter. Some of the most
interesting places we would visit every year. My wife, Opal, enjoyed catching
larger fish than I did. We caught our share of 8-9 foot sail-fish off the
coast of Matsaland.
"Old Father Time" has caught up with us, however. We have sold both places, Lake McCougheny in Nebraska and our trailer home in Mesa.
Now it's doctor appointments and pills, but we have had more than our share of enjoyment, including trips to Africa, Spain, all the European countries and a couple to Hawaii.
JOHN CARLSON and his wife Lucille have two married children. John worked for the Railway Express Co. for a short time after being discharged and then worked for the St. Paul Minnesota Post Office. He retired in 1978 and he and Lucille traveled to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and here in the US.
***JAMES CARR: Has dropped completely out of sight. ???
HARLON CHAFFEE: I have been married twice. My first wife was killed in a car wreck. My oldest son was from my first wife.
My present wife and I have been married fifty years. We have three
sons. The boys all served in the military. Our oldest son was stationed
in Panama for a period of time. He now works at the Mayo Clinic as
a finance officer. The middle son became an Army engineering officer and
served in Germany, he is a Lt. Colonel in the reserves and works at Fort
Our youngest son served in Vietnam and Cambodia. He returned from the service to work for a meat packing company. He was shot to death in his home by unknown persons.
I will be 82 in spring 1994. My wife and I live sort of a quiet life in the home we built for ourselves in Hiawatha, IA> We have a cabin on the bluff side of the Mississippi river. We do a little pan fishing.
Harlon sent a picture of his house, it is really a well built, attractive home.
***DALTON COFFMAN: He had a successful teaching career and parallel career in the National Guard. Now retired and living in Cocoa, Florida.
IRWIN COHEN: DelRay Beach, FL.
LOVELL COLLINS: When the shooting stopped, I had 580 rotation points, so I came back to France to fly home and be discharged. I finally came back by ship two months after most of the other men of the division had been discharged.
I joined the Army Reserves. That was a BIG MISTAKE! When the Army recalled me to service during the Korean War as a senior non-commissioned officer with two critical MOS's. I was sent to the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico during 1946-1949 to help supply communications for the testing of the Army version of the German V-2 rocket.
In 1950, I was in Japan to help with the almost complete revision of the Signal Corps communication system for the islands. When the Korea War was ended, I was back in the States on an emergency furlough and was not allowed to return to Japan to inventory all my assigned equipment and to help my family return to our home in 1953.
I was then in and out of a series of military and commercial organizations, such as IBM, schools as occasional student and almost full time instructor. Every time a company would make new equipment for the Signal Corps, I would go through the company's school to learn about the very latest technology and the return to the Signal Corps school systems to teach the officers and men who would be using the equipment and in turn teaching their students.
I was assigned to Europe from 1955 to 1958 - at times, my family
was able to be with me.
I retired in 1960 from the Army as a Signal Corps Sergeant Major. As a Civil Service G5-11, I spent 18 more years learning and teaching before retiring again.
Our daughter is a professor at Indiana University and our son is one of those "Computer Nuts" here in Georgia. Mother Nature and Father Time have put an end to most of our traveling about for my wife and I. Spend much of my time hunting and fishing and growing an acre garden for friends and neighbors
JACK COPELAND: Blomfield Hills, MI.
JOHN DONLAN: Returned to area of St. Paul, Minnesota - prewar
home. Received a Chemical Engineering degree from University of Notre
Dame. Had a successful engineering career with 3-M Company as senior
He was married to Rita Brown in 1951 - they had four children before her death in 1969. Was married to Gert Peterson in 1973, and they had an additional child. She attended several 103d conventions with him before her death in 1994.
Is now retired, living in West St. Paul, Minnesota. Has been active in Signal Company reunion organization.
John and Gert had planned on attending the 1994 103d Division tour of the battle fields of Europe. John did attend with two of his sons. Members of the tour stayed in towns that brought back memories: Pfaffenhoffen, Obermodern, Hagenau, St.Die, Saverne, Inbsheim, etc... Walking through the tall pines of the Vosges where we were dug in during November/December 1944 and lived in snow, mud and '88 shelling... We met fellows from the infantry regiments and artillery who had lots of stories to share with us about the war THEY fought.
Pierce Evans was on the same tour.
WILLIAM DONOHUE: Bill worked for the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company in Lowell Mass. for 42 years. bill and his wife Marilyn retired and moved to Florida in 1985. Bill passed away in 1994. They have three daughters.
RUDOLPH DORTMAN: Rudy, an important member of JONES' BOYS wireteam, died a few years after returning home.....
WILBUR ELLIS: Was truck driver of JONES' BOYS, a job he shared with JOHN ANANIA. He was assigned to the 5th Division and became a Staff Sergeant. He is widowed and retired in Chicago.
MELVIN EPSTON: ???
WILLIAM ERMELING and his wife Helen live in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Bill was located by Andy Beck who noticed that a person named Ermeling worked in his office. That person turned out to be Bill's daughter.
PIERCE EVANS: In February 1946 I enrolled in college at the University of Florida under the G.I.Bill. ... I could get a degree in electrical engineering before my eligibility ran out. While in college, I discovered that the former enlisted men who had been discharged as first-three-graders were eligible for direct commissions in the Army Reserves. I applied and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.
Upon receiving my Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (BEE) degree, I applied for a three months tour of duty as Reserve Office at the Signal School in Ft. Monmouth, N.J.
...I walked into CBS, New York with exactly the qualifications that they wanted and hired on the spot. I started work at CBS the day after my tour of duty at Fort Monmouth ended.
I spent my entire professional career at CBS, eventually becoming Director of Audio and Video Engineering, responsible for the design and installation of essentially all of CBS Television's fixed and mobile broadcasting facilities.
I served in the same Army Reserve unit in New York City with Major BER NARD BECK. I was a Captain at the time.
Evans retired back to the area in which he lived before going into the service. He has a place in Florida at St Augustine Beach, looking across the sand at the Atlantic and the approaching storms.
SEYMOUR FADER: Back home I decided to go back to college. I had developed an interest in engineering and so enrolled at the Univ. of Pennsylvania (home of the ENIAC and EDVAC, the first electronic computers--banks and banks of vacuum tubes) and got my BSEE in 1949. However, after 3 years of engineering study I enrolled in the Wharton Graduate School for an MBA (1950) all paid for by Uncle Sam.
At Penn' I met and married my wife, Shirley Sloan, who got her BS in 1948 and her MS in 1949. (A humorous note: when I was a Freshman in CCNY she was in the 6th grade in elementary school and she's only 4 years younger than I.) She started teaching 2nd grade after her MS for the munificent salary of $2,200 a year.
After 5 years she started her writing career at which she's been quite successful-- columnist for various magazines and Sunday newspaper supplements, 4 books, and still at it. She's off on a radio-TV tour for her latest book.
After Penn' I went to work for an electrical manufacturer as a
production manager, learned a great deal, was well rewarded, and then went
on to bigger and better.
Then in 1971 I had a serious back operation. By that time I had become aware that if I was to progress industrywise I had to leave the metropolitan NY area. I had lucrative job offers from various corporations, but locations were in places like Kansas, Alabama, Minnesota, far from the media center that is NY. I knew that if we did relocate my wife would not have the proper opportunities. So, while recuperating, I decided to change careers and become a college professor. While in industry I had taught as an evening adjunct at several universities in the NY area and liked it. So when I was up and about I applied for a faculty position at one of the new state college in NJ where I spent 22 very enjoyable years.
I eventually became a full professor with tenure, department head. I was consulting, and started a summer overseas program in 1983 which I still run. Last fall (1993?) I was forced into mandatory (age) retirement and took my summer program to a Virginia college.
We have two children, a daughter Susan who had an extensive career in marketing. and a son, Steven, who had a variety of diverse jobs and is now on a fast track with a supermarket company. Susan has 4 children. Steven's wife just had a boy, Max, the first one for them.
ROBERT FORCHHEIMER: Bob was born in Coberg, Germany and spoke
the language just like a native even though he came to the USA while very
young. Before he retired from an active career, he was a CPA.
He and his wife, Betty have two sons and one daughter. He is living in Cleveland, Ohio.
LYNDALL FRAZIER: He was married to Geraldine Sailers Sept.15, 1941 - before joining the army in December, 1943. After being discharged, he returned to working for himself as an electrical contractor building rural lines all over the midwest. He and his wife had four children and six grandchildren.
One of their sons was a Big League baseball player.
He retired in 1983, after having heart problems. He, his wife, and one of his daughters came to the reunion in St Louis (they were living in Springfield MO. - he was in a wheelchair, but his mind was as sharp as ever. It was a wonderful time for reliving our army experiences. He died in 1994.
ARTHUR GARBE worked in the Detroit area as a roofer before entering the servie and went back into the roofing business after being discharged. Art and his wife Betty have three wonderful daughters and six grand children. He lives in Hazel Park, MI.
BOB GILL: ...End of European story except to say that we did return
to the old 'Trail of the 103rd' in Alsace Lorraine in '92. While
there, we visited the American cemeteries in St. Avold and Epinal.
Impressive!!! While viewing neat rows of thousands of white crosses,
we realized the uniqueness of what we were observing. Each one of
those crosses represents the life of a member of one of two distinct generations,
one of them being ours. Each one's life having been snuffed out when
he was a mere fun-loving lad barely beyond his teens. A moving experience:
A time for paying respects to our buddies.
A time for reflecting on the days we were in this land.
A time for appreciating the opportunity to have survived to
return home and live a full life.
Bob and his wife Louise have been great supporters of reunions and a help with this book contributing some real "color" and humor... They live in a place called Charlevoix, MI.
PAUL GRANT: One of the special people of the Signal Company and the company reunion group that he was a leader in starting. Exceptional able, friendly, courteous and kind.
Paul went with Colonel Brown and Ist/Sgt. Finkbeiner from Innsbruck. He was discharged in 1945, but recalled to service for a few months, November/December 1945, and then finally discharged.
I returned to Omaha, Nebraska to open my own electronics service business. I was in business for forty years. My wife of 36 years, Marcella Jurgensemier passed away in 1979. After she died, I just sold my business and all the properties that I had. I moved to the small town of Rutledge, Mo. I was married to Helen Meyers, (and found a home). I was Mayor for two years and am still active in making the town a better place in which to live.
I retired in 1981 and about all I did was play golf, travel with Helen until she passed away in 1995. I worked on my cars. I have redone a 1958 Plymouth. In 1989 and 1990, I built two replicas of a 1929 Mercedes, one for myself and one for another person.
I have four children, (two of each kind).
Paul has a well equipped machine shop that he uses to build and rebuild classic sports cars, his pictures show works of art!
NORVAL HENNUM: Bud and his wife Joy celebrated their 50th wedding Anniversary in 1994. Bud worked as a telegrapher and Station Agent in Grand Forks, ND for the Great Northern Railroad after his discharge. They move to Minneapolis in 1954 where he was in Sales and Service Department of the railroad. Bud retired in 1978. *** Our radio crew chief is retired and in good health (1994).
HOWARD HOPPLE: Returned with the 45th Division and was discharged in October 1945, but re-enlisted in March 1948 and was assigned to the Alaska Communications System. He finally retired from the army in September 1963, but continued to work for a Seattle banking institution until 1975.
He was married to Betty Jean Johns in May 1943. They have a son and a daughter.
Howard has been at some of the conventions, looking hale and hardy.
DAVID IRISH: Was assigned to the Message Center. Went to the 5th Division where he became the Message Center Chief. Dave and his wife Mary live in Belview, WA.
OLIN JOHNSON: As related previously, Olin Johnson came to the reunion in Dallas in 1991 and related his experience after leaving the 103d Signal Company because of illness. When he recovered, he served in various positions in 6th Corps and Frankfurt Army Headquarters.
He returned to the states and was discharged from active service
and joined the Active Reserve and then the Missouri National Guard and
was Captain of the Hq. Co.
In August 1960 he was called to active service during the Berlin Crisis for duty at Ft Bragg, NC. for one year. He retired as a major from a reserve unit in 1967. He had worked for a very many years for Fleischmann Yeast Co. and Mid Continent Paper Co. as sales and branch managers when he was forced to retire because of poor health in December 1989.
He died the year after his visit to the reunion.
EUGENE JONES: Sergeant of unusual wire team. Came from Texas, may have returned there. Was better than average poleline man - may have gone to that type of work. ???
MATT KOVATS went to the 5th Div. after the war and was discharged at Camp Campbell. KY. Matt worked as an electrician for the Ward Baking Co. and retired in 1985. He has lived in Chicago, IL. all his life.
FRANK KRAFT: Detroit, MI. (The editor, and perhaps some others, owes a special Thanks! to Frank for being one of the very first of OUR MEN to contribute historical information about the Signal Company and encouragement to move forward with REMEMBRANCES.)
JOSEPH LAFATTA: Lil'Joe died a number of years ago - he was an important part of the Signal Company unusual history.
RALPH LARSEN: Ralph was a member of JONES' BOYS for a time, and then he went on to more serious stuff like working on a wire trouble shooting team. He is the Choir Director and Organist for a church in Oak Park, IL. He was at the Chicago convention and looking well, happy and healthy.
WILMER LEE: Was discharged from the 45th Division Signal Co. at Camp Bowie TX. in 1945. Returned to work for Western Union and served in Chicago, Oakland and New York City. became Director of Operations-Lines and Cable Dept. Now living in Ethel, MO.
MERRILL LETT: Returned with the 45th??? He was married in 1949 to Catherine Keast, they have three daughters and two grandchildren.
He worked for 40 years in a limestone quarry and retired in 1987. Living in Macedonia, IA.
CHARLES LITTLE has been active in the reunions. He and his wife Reva are living in Livonia, MI.
JOSEPH LOUCHART: He was married to Beth in July 1943 during the signal company training period. They have a son and a daughter. After his discharge, he returned to work for Michigan Bell and retired in 1981. As reported earlier, Joe is having more trouble with his eyes than most of us, but he is active and in good spirits and likes to travel. They live in St. Charles, MI.
PAUL MURRAY went to the 45th Div. after the war and was discharged in December 1945 from Camp Grant, IL. He returned to Chicago where he worked for a short itme in the Industrial Hardware business. He also ran the Central Plating Co. in Chicagor for two years. In 1948 he moved to Florida where he managed a floor covering business. Paul and his wife Lorraine have two children and one grand child. FL.
GENE NANEY: Well, I'm sure there are more memories than I have put here on paper. But if I have missed a few, I'm sure I will be forgiven as there has been a lot of water under the bridge since we came home. I wish I could write a complete column on just what happened, but it has all run out and I just can't recall all that happened so long ago, sorry.
Of all my memories, I am thankful for my buddies and friends throughout the war, for their thoughtfulness for each other, and for the togetherness we had.
It is a wonderful thing to remember such closeness as buddies. You can get pretty close for such a short while and remember it for life.
Gene was active with Paul Grant, and some others, in starting the Signal Co. reunions. He also contributed significant information about the 45th Division Signal Company personnel. He and his wife Bernice are living in Fairfield, IL.
ROSARIO NATOLI: That guy!, has a whole chapter and expects something here? He earned a B.S. in Special Education in 1977 (probably did a wonderful job with those young folks). He became a housekeeping supervisor for the Detroit Board of Education. He is retired in Sun City, AZ.
The best thing one of the better things that can be said for him is that he was lucky enough to marry Ingelborg Grantz and have two children and two grandchildren, all very handsome, I'll bet.
HAROLD PATTERSON was discharged at Camp Bowie, TX in 1945. He and his wife were married in 1940. After service he worked in the pearl button company owned by his Father until 1950. He then worked for the Shaefffer Pen company until 1958. He owned an auto salvage lot for 19 years and retired in 1976. Harold and Edna have four children and seven grand children.
***JACK PHILLIPS - lives in Blue Island, Illinois.
JACK REYNOLDS: At the end of the war, I was transferred to the 45th Division and returned to the USA, then discharged.
I went to work for a food distributor. My work was mostly outside salesman. I worked there 35 years.
I have been married for 46 years to my wonderful wife, Bea, and we have a lovely daughter and granddaughter and a fine son in law.
Through the years, I have thought about Capt. BECK, the company commander and Lt. Snelson of the Message Center and many of the other men of the company.
We had a good close group of men in the whole Signal Company. We worked really well together as a team.
HAROLD ROREM: After discharge from the Army in February, 1946
I made use of the G.I. Bill and graduated from Iowa State University as
a mechanical engineer. I also met and married Betty Olson while attending
Iowa State. Betty was an elementary school teacher. After graduation,
I worked five years for the Shell Oil Company building oil platforms in
the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans. We moved to Minneapolis in 1955
and have lived there since. We have four sons and one daughter plus
six grand children. Our children's careers include medicine, engineering,
real estate and journalism. I retired from the Military Avionics
Division of Honeywell Inc. in 1988 after 33 years there.
We live in Brooklyn Center, MI.
Harold and Betty have done a wonderful job of compiling lists of men who served in the Signal Company, gathering and distributing other information, and being a tremendous help to the preparation of this book.
***ROBERT RUSHING - Originally from Big Sandy, Tennessee, now living (1994) in Royal Oak, Minnesota.
MICHAEL SCHIRM: When the division was in Innsbruck, JERRY WALDREF and some of the other fellows from the Signal Company and I were able to spend time together because the 411th area was not far from the Signal Company area. We had a great chance to look over the German jet airplanes that had been abandoned their and get some interesting pictures.
I went to the 45th Division near Munich and then started the trip toward Le Havre, the USA and on to Japan. When the war in the Pacific ended, I was assigned to the 79th Division Civil Military Government Affairs and began the most interesting 18 months of my Active Duty military career.
I worked with German officials, plant owners and businessmen to implement the Marshall Plan to rebuild the German economy. Never had I expected such a turn- around and to work so hard at long hours to help rebuild for the very people I was in mortal combat with just a few months before.
This was the most rewarding work to help a people who were down and out to beuild their lives and their businesses in the new mode of democracy in the American way.
In November 1946, I had enough points to return home after being overseas two and a half years and away from my home in Burbank, California some five yeas. In January 1947, I joined the hundreds of other GI's at the University of California Davis Campus in Northern Calif. I studied Business Administration.
After graduation I went to work for Swift & Co. in their Agricultural Division for two years. Then I worked for about 12 years with the Coachella Valley Water District. I was maarried to Catherine Mueller in September 1950. We have a son Christian and a daughter Marilynn.
I was able to purchase a 10 acre vineyard while I was still working for the Water District. For the next 35 years I was a grape farmer. We were able to expand over the years to owning 60 acres of grapes.
We recently (1995) sold the vineyard and moved back to Burbank and into the wonderful home my grand father built, my father lived in and I grew up in. Now my family is living here and hopefully the fourth generation will follow with our son Cristian and his family.
I stayed in the Army Reserve program until I retired from the Army as a Colonel.
WILLIAM SCHMITZ, "SMITTY": I was discharged at Camp McCoy, WI. Nov. 12, 1945, as a private first class.
Researched and taught Zoology at the University of Wisconsin and retired as professor emeritus in May 1989. I live with my wife of 40 years, Joan, in Wausau, WI. We have two sons.
Editor's note: There is much more to their story! When I first met Smitty at the St. Louis convention and had an opportunity to visit with him, and then a few years later his wife Joan, also a wonderful and petite academic, I was convinced that they were exceptional people - beautiful also.
Smitty told me he started to study Electrical Engineering at 'Wisconsin and had complete his first year when he decided to take a summer course in "Nature Studies". He was in classes being taught by Aldo Leopold (noted author of "A Sand County Almanac" and other wonderful and inspirational stories). This was at a time when ecology and conservation were not nearly as "popular" as they are now.
Smitty discovered a wonderful, fulfilling career. His E.E. professors could not convince him to continue his studies in engineering where he had shown such great promise.
After that short summer, Smitty and thousands of others, lost the presence of Aldo Leopold - he died fighting a brush fire on his neighbors land. His inspiration continues on.
Smitty became an academic and government authority on Limnology - "the science that deals with the physical, chemical and biological properties and features of fresh waters, esp. lakes and ponds".
He has done a world of good - much better than building a better "consumer electrical product" or giant computers.
WILLIAM B SCHMIDT Has made Denver Colorado his home. Bill went to the 45th Div. and was discharged from Fort Logan, Colorado in November 1945. After he was discharged, he worked for Gates for a short time and also Hyland Research. In 1953 he began working at the Atomic Energy Commission facility near Dever, first for the Dow Chemical company and later for Rockwell International. He retired in 1989. Bill and his wife Edna were married in 1955. They have a son and a daughter and three grandchildren.
*** ARNOLD SCHUMACHER Tech Sergeant - deceased, date of death unknown.
JULIUS SEDENSKY: "Sid" was discharged in Jan 1946 with the rank of captain. He worked as an electrical engineer in private industry, retiring in 1987.
He is married to JoAnne. They are active in sustaining the Company Reunions. Living in South Euclid, OH. They have two children.
JOHN SHEWARD: After discharge, I secured employment with The Franklin Glue Co., a manufacturer of industrial and home adhesives. I was a laboratory technician. I was employed there until my resignation in 1978. I worked in a number of capacities including, but not limited to, sales representative, purchasing agent, controller, assistant to the President, Vice President-finance, Vice President- manufacturing, and plain vanilla Vice President.
I spent several years in night school at Franklin University studying business subjects and accounting. After resigning at Franklin Glue, I accepted employment as Secretary-Treasurer of Trio Products Inc. of Elyria, Ohio. Trio manufactured various plastic items. The need for a computerized accounting system was very apparent at Trio. I had some computer exposure at Franklin, but always on the periphery. This time I got real hands-on experience and installed the entire system with very little assistance. I resigned from Trio late in 1979 and retired perma nently. I maintained my interest in computers and have had a personal computer ever since.
We live in Columbus, OH.
***FRANK TULLIO - He worked for Armour Meat Packers. MATT KOVATS had several contacts with him, last reported in Chicago area.
RAY VANDERBY: I married Kitty in November 1942 during Claiborne
Maneuvers. After being discharged in February 1946, I joined a local millwork
and cabinet shop, becoming president in 1962 and retired in 1980.
We live in Lansing, MI.
We have one daughter and six sons.
ARTHUR VERNON went to the 5th Div. after the war. Art was home on furlough when the war in the Pacific ended. Art and his first wife Doris were married when he was in service. His first child was born when he was overseas and he received a V-mail letter informing hime of the birth. He married his present wife Virginia in 1948 and they have two children and 8 grand children. Art worked as a welder before entering the Army and after the war worked for Kaiser-Fraser Co. and for the Argus Camera Co. as a lens maker. He became a Radiologic Technologist and worked for the University of Michigan hospital for 28 years before retiring in 1985. He lives in Livonia MI. and was at Chicago convention.
JEROME WALDREF: Married Lois Ream, June 1951. They have a son and a daughter. Lived in Minnesota until 1961 and in Santa Barbara since then. He is now retired after a hard life of seeking gainful employment and finding it briefly in the electronics business in 1971. He was an avid airplane pilot and owned several. Enjoys displaying his very large collection of war trophies.
JOHN WELSH and his wife Vera were married in 1955. They have four sons and one daughter. They also have six grand children and two grandsons. John was discharged in Nov. 1945 from Camp Bowie TX and in 1946 re-enlisted in the Army. He spent time in Europe with the 88th Div. and also spent 2 1/2 years in Japan. He left the service in 1955 and worked for the Dept of the Army in the Post Signal Office at Ft. Bragg, NC before retiring in 1985.
JENNINGS WALDRON: I am still married to the girl from Gainesville - fifty years already. Went back to work for ATT (telephone company) and slowly worked up to district supervisor of the central district. Retired 12 years ago and we spent lots of time traveling around in a motor home before it became too much of a physical strain. Our two sons and a daughter have families of their own - each of them is a professional person. They have only very recently expressed any real interest in OUR MEN and specifically, "What did you do in the big war, Daddy?" I am hoping that this record will give some of the answers. We are living in Lewiston NY.
IMMANUEL WILK: Became a Phd. in Chemistry and professor at Stanford University and Industry consultant. Now retired. Attended reunion at Alhambra CA. and shared stories of the war and gourmet tips.
***MAURICE F. ZINK - Is retired from the insurance business and lives
in Canton, Ohio.
Please be Patient.
We're still Working cleaning this up.
More to Come.
Come back soon.
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