103D INFANTRY DIVISION
1918 - 1945
Pfc. William F.
All Rights Reserved
William F. Barclay passed away July 11, 2001
Bill was a true gentleman.
He will be missed.
is still under construction. It is not all here yet and posted portions
are still under construction. Some are a bit ragged but they will be fixed
as we go along. Andy Beck, son of 103d Signal Company Commander,
Bernard Beck, has taken on the daunting task of preparing a second edition
with hundreds of photographs so it may take a while. Please bear with us
while we complete the work. Your patience will be rewarded.
1 - Prelude to War
1. A Few Good Men Remember
Events for most of "Our Men"
2. The United States, Part of
the World, 1918-1942
2 - Beginnings and the 103d Infantry Division
3. Introduction to the Division
Units and Men
4. Preliminary 103d Div. and
Signal Company Organization and Training
3 - Preparation and the 103d Division Signal Company
5. 103d Signal Company Purpose
6. A.S.T.P.- Army Specialized
7. Final Preparation of OUR MEN
in a Combat Signal Company
8. They Went That-A-Way
9. Cruise Ship To The Unknown
4 - Introduction to Battle
10. French Riviera Interlude
11. Wet Rhone Valley Motoring
12. Lost In The Woods And On
13. Into The Valley And The Real
5 - Internal and External Conflicts of December '44 - March '45
14. French Maginot And German
15. Christmas 1944 In The Provence
16. Back To Fight In Alsace -
17. Seven weeks Rest and Preparation
18. Massive Attack By Allies
- March 15, 1944
6 - Attack and Pursuit
19. An Old Wagon-Train Goes To
20. Dark Encounter - Friend Or
21. Occupation And Pursuit Of
Fast Retreating Germans
7 - The Beginning Of The End
22. Slow Blue(?) Danube And Fast
23. Landsberg - Mein Kampf And
24. Cold Alps, The Storm Before
8 - Victory Beyond The Mountains
25. Sgt. Jones' Wire-Team Become
Witness To History
26. Innsbruck - Peace, Tranquillity
27. We Go Our Separate Ways -Most
of Us to the 45th Signal Company
28. Our Men in the 5th Infantry
Division Signal Company
29. Rosario Natoli's Oral History
- the Real Stuff
30. Some of Our Men (Old Soldiers)
Have Refused to Fade Away
Any chronicle of a series of events
occurring during a relative short period of time in the life of a group
of men, as REMEMBRANCES is, may benefit from the inclusion of information
that places those events into a context of preceding and following history.
The addition of reference material at appropriate intervals in the text
may lead to a better understanding of the events and experiences of those
men, their companions and others who were effected.
I conceived this narrative
in eight parts - it's possible that there is too much fragmentation, however,
I believe it results in a fairly orderly progression. This is a partial
recounting of some of the experiences of the officers and men of the 103d
Signal Company covering a period of time before, during and after World
War II. It is not intended to be a historical record of that company, however
a great amount of technical and tactical information about the Signal Company
and the other large and small military units with which OUR MEN were
involved is included to complement their stories.
The eight parts are:
1 PRELUDE TO WAR includes an abbreviated history of the United States
in the 35-40 years preceding the Second World War. Some of the economic,
political, environmental and cultural events and results are discussed.
This was a period of time in which OUR MEN of these stories, their parents
and their families had experiences that profoundly effected their placement
and actions in the military. Excerpts from some of the diaries of the men
have been included in this section to illustrate the diversity and drama
of that period.
2 BEGINNINGS AND THE 103D INFANTRY DIVISION is an introduction to the
structure of the 103d Infantry Division in particular and the general concept
and construction of a typical Infantry Division. The preliminary history
of the 103d division, its formation after WWI and its training for the
second World War (WWII) are discussed.
3 PREPARATION AND THE 103D DIVISION SIGNAL COMPANY is the story of
the 103d Signal Company formation after WWI, its history, preliminary training
and its purpose and tactical organization, ie. how it operated to provide
communication for the division and it attached units. Also included is
a "Table of Organization", an outline of the "Command and Control" structure
of the Signal Company. The successful direction and control of the Signal
Company by Captain Beck, his officers and non-commissioned officers during
its preparation for combat action and during that period of time
when the individual operating teams and their members may have seemed to
be autonomous units was the direct result of excellent training and support.
Included in this part is
a discussion of the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) and the men
who joined the Signal Company after ASTP's relatively brief existence.
The additional training period of the Company following the influx of ASTP
boys into a "combat unit" was brief and dramatic. Preparation for movement
to an unknown combat area, movement, ship boarding and sailing overseas
are related by personal experiences.
4 INTRODUCTION TO BATTLE includes the integration of the 103d division
into the 7th Army and commitment of the division to action in the Vosges
mountains of eastern France. Also included is a very brief history
of the war in Europe before our landing in Southern France.
OUR MEN tell of the initial days
of pain and suffering before we had met the enemy and operations as a "real
combat outfit", success and failures. The attacks in the mountains, the
push down into the valley, combat and conquest in the villages - St.Die
and beyond in Alsace are related by men becoming "real soldiers".
5 INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL CONFLICTS OF DECEMBER '44 - MARCH '45
relates probably the most difficult and complex period of combat action
by the 103d Division, the Signal Company and its men. The very successful
drive through the Maginot and Siegfried Lines and into Germany is followed
by the disappointing and chaotic withdrawal and rapid movement to support
the Allied Armies engaged in the last great battle on the Western Front.
Christmas in Lorraine seems to be a time of reflection about home and family
in the letters and diaries before a rush back to Alsace to engage the German
forces that were advancing back into territory we had fought so hard to
conquer. Command confusion, SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fouled Up) is
recognized. Orders given to Army Group, Army, Corps and Division commanders
in our sector were ignored and/or disobeyed. The tragic retreat by the
103d Division and OUR MEN during a miserably cold night to stabilization
and a period of inactivity all produced some dramatic descriptions.
6 ATTACK AND PURSUIT covers a period of fast movement, long, tiresome
periods of sustained action and work for all of the Company. We were back
into Germany to stay. Overwhelming Allied force produced successes but
still meant dangerous and dirty work for the men of the division and the
7 BEGINNING OF THE END on the banks of the Danube river began
the final drive south through Bavaria, toward the Tyrolean Alps and back
into winter-war conditions. Personal encounters by OUR MEN with the brutal
German concentration camps are related.
8 VICTORY BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS relates some of the cold drive-and-stop
movement of Company Radio Operating and Wire Section teams and their support
groups through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world made wretched
by conflict and suffering. And then - success and victory! Some of us are
missing, others enjoy a well earned rest before going our separate ways.
Some of the experiences
of OUR MEN assigned to the 45th Division Signal Company and the few who
were assigned to the 5th Division Signal Company are related. The final
chapter ...Refused to Fade Away, does not end our history and legacy.
Every effort has been made
by most of those attending the reunions and the editor, Bill Barclay, to
get as many contributions from all interested veterans of the 103d
Signal Company as possible. There is a very good chance we have not succeeded
in making the most of our opportunities, in spite of wonderful support
from a large number of men (and their families). All of the "willing workers"
hope that the book will be of some value to those who were involved and/or
family members and others who may have some interest in these events.
Part of this record was initially
compiled just after the war while mosts of the men were still in close
contact. Notes and diaries written during the hectic days of combat action
could be compared, corrected and expanded by recollections that remained
vivid and fairly accurate. A number of other men wrote about those
days soon after the end of the war or perhaps a little later or decades
later when they were prompted by their own desires to create a record for
their families, and/or the opportunity to share their experiences in a
narrative such as REMEMBRANCES hopes to be. There probably was some artistic
license used in the recall process, but for the most part, we were trying
to make a fairly honest record of the times, places, people and experiences
From the detail available
in the diaries, notes and oral narratives contributed, it may be concluded
that the military service period in the lives of OUR MEN had made dramatic
impressions they wanted to record for themselves and their families.
In addition to the wire
teams assigned to the three regiments of the division, there were several
wire teams with trucks operating from the division Command Post to carry
wire lines forward toward the regimental Command Posts and to the supporting
units of the division. Members of one of these wire teams, led by SGT.
EUGENE JONES, attached to division headquarters, com- posed a mental diary
of some of their travels and experiences during the period of action when
there was little time for reflection or writing. The writing took place
during the period just after the war while the Signal Company was stationed
in Innsbruck, Austria, while their memories and their honesty were not
yet greatly altered by the passage of too much time.
The editor of these Remembrances,
used a "captured or liberated" German military typewriter to write an eleven
page diary with the help of EUGENE JONES, JOHN ANANIA, RUDOLPH DORTMAN,
WILBUR ELLIS, RALPH LARSEN, HEBER TISCH and some others who were close
at hand. ANANIA, DORTMAN and I were in the same apartment in Innsbruck,
Austria. Carbon copies of that crude effort were given to the team members
before we were separated by assignment to different divisions.
A desire to improve that
rather limited and circumspect diary (for John Anania, myself and others
of our friends at the conventions) has apparently been expanded beyond
all expectations by contributions and encouragement from additional members
of the Signal Company and their families.
The format of this book
includes a series of recorded events in chronological order experienced
by individuals and small groups of men who were assigned as operating teams
within sections of the Signal Company and by other men assigned to more
centralized operations at the division command post or the division rear
repair and support groups.
The living style and typical
experience of all of the Radio Operating teams was similar. The style and
experience of all of the Construction (wire) teams was also similar. The
general descriptions supplied by particular groups of men, apply to most
of the other similar small units that were some of the basic elements of
the Signal Company. The operating groups at the Division Command Post;
Message Center, Telephone & Telegraph and others shared many common
experiences as outlined by contributions from men serving with those units.
Some of the men assigned to the Company Administration & Supply at
the Division Command Post or at Division Rear and the Division Signal
Supply & Repair groups of the Signal Company also made records of their
travels and experiences.
This history includes excerpts
from the written and oral records contributed by members of the Signal
Company, and in some cases members of their families who survived them.
Notable among these are BERNARD BECK's son, Andy who has had an extraordinary
interest in his father's life and history. Andy has provided us with excerpts
from his dad's many letters written during his military experience.
There is a wealth of interesting material, much of which has been included.
Members of radio operating
teams, notably BOB GILL, PIERCE EVANS, SEYMOUR FADER, IMMANUEL WILKE, JOHN
DONLAN, and others have been able to give this record additional material,
descriptions, and explanations of their far-ranging activities.
The Division Telephone &
Telegraph Repair, Radio Repair and others were, in general, less mobile.
The narrative contributed by WILLIAM R. SCHMITZ (SMITTY) in his diary was
written soon enough after the events to contain a great deal of detail
of his total U.S.Army career. Excerpts have been included at places in
the report where they serve to provide clarity to the operation and experiences
of the Signal Company Service and Repair sections. FRANK KRAFT, assigned
to T&T Repair, has supplied an outline of his military history and
some of his experiences. That information has been included in places in
the document where it may give a better understanding of the personal nature
of the experiences shared by others who followed almost the same route
in their forward advance. Frank was one of the very first of OUR MEN
to send an account of his experiences. That effort by him was very encouraging
at a time of uncertainty.
HOWARD HOPPEL, PAUL GRANT,
CLEM POST and many others in addition to Kraft and Smitty who have
shared their recollections during reunions and by correspondence have been
a great help. BOB GILL has provided a most interesting, entertaining, and
"just great" account of his experiences at Claiborne, Howze and over-seas.
For those who were there-at- the-beginning, this has to be wonderful reading
JOHN DONLAN and HAROLD
ROREM, acting as secretaries and "collectors of rosters, detailed information,
official records, etc" have made a great contribution to this record as
well as having supplied a wonderful record of the men of the company, their
identities and addresses. Rorem has also supplied a great deal of interesting
detail to this record, excerpts from it have been include at appropriate
intervals in this narrative to supply back-ground information on the activities
of various men and groups assigned to the Message Center and the Division
Command Post. Donlan has provided notes from a very detailed diary
of his experiences, his "Ships' Log" of our "outbound voyage" is very complete
and impressive. Donlan has also supplied some wonderfully descriptions
of the villages and country side through which we passed. In 1945, Sgt.
Immanuel WILK wrote about his experiences while serving with a radio-operating
team on a special task-force assignment during the last few weeks of the
war. Excerpts from Wilk's diary are included in the narrative.
A separate chapter with
a transcription of an oral history of ROSARIO NATOLI has been included.
The stories Natoli tells and his narrative style are not the type of descriptive
material that fits easily into a well ordered compila tion of real literary
material that this war epic represents. All who know and appreciate Natoli
will probably agree with this special treatment of an unusual talent.
Also included in the text
are some excerpts from recollections of soldiers from some of the other
units of the division or its attachments. The contributions of OUR MEN
and these others are being augmented by excerpts and reconstruc tions from
a number of books and formal records. The particular inclusion of
reference material is not noted every place in the text; however astute
readers may notice a marked improvement in editorial style between the
more casual style of the general document and those excerpts from "Real
As an aid to understanding
the Infantry soldier's view of the tactical situation, the day-today "Grunge"
and "the life and times" of these most important men in the division, there
have been included, in para-phrase style, recollections a few dramatic
experiences of a few men assigned to the infantry companies. The interest
and concern for the experiences of some of these infantry men by OUR MEN
was not a casual thing - they were our school mates, buddies, in some cases
members of our families, and friends. One of the latter of these
infantry men was Private First Class (to become Lieutenant) Gordon Roget,
an acquaintance of the editor in Lodi California.
Medical Doctor Roget has
written his own book, Autobiography of Gordon Roget, M.D.- From Nothing,
detailing his experiences before, during and after his service in the 103d
division. Some of his frankly vivid war stories have been included.
He was a dynamic person and infantry soldier.
Of course, there is much
more included in this record about the Signal Company and its men, but
the accomplishments and the sacrifice of the foot soldiers we accompanied
or followed are important parts of the stories of the 103d Infantry Division
as told in other books. The routine and the unusual events told by
these ordinary (at times, perhaps, extraordinary) men - the most primitive
living conditions were routine; that hunger, fatigue, filth, severe cold,
danger and sacrifice and sudden death of close friends became common conditions.
We in the Signal Company, realized then and now, we had it much better
than the average soldier in the division - their stories are some of the
vital parts of the "Remembrances".
The chapters containing
the contributions of OUR MEN of the Signal Company tell of the efforts
we made individually and as small groups to supply part of the essential
communications for the 103d Infantry Division and its fighting men. More
than that, however, they tell of a period of time that included some of
the most exhilarating, depressing, satisfying, discouraging, physically
and emotionally straining experiences of our lifetimes.
The reports from and about
OUR MEN continue into 1995, and beyond. There are successes, disappointments,
losses of some of us or in our families, but continuing companionship and
evaluation of life experiences. The 1995 convention of the 103d Infantry
Division and the Signal Company will be in Williamsburg, Virginia. That
historic area of our country may be the setting for the biggest and best
convention we have had if the interest shown in it by OUR MEN is an indicator.
It could be another great event and memory for us. We should each do our
very best to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience with as many of OUR
MEN and their families as we can gather together.
A considerable amount of
time was spent in the combining and editing of the material for this book.
A very large sacrifice of time was and continues to be made by HAZEL BARCLAY,
the best "support person" I will ever have. The book would never have been
started or finished without her encouragement and help.
Much of the transcription
of the "raw material" from all sources was done by Jan Schulz, a better
than average person and an excellent stenographer.
There may be more than a
few errors, misstatements, wrong conclusions, inclusion of material that
may not seem appropriate, exclusion of contributions from OUR MEN that
should have been a part of the true story, slights - deliberate or accidental,
lies and exaggerations included in the document. Not all of these are necessarily
"mean-spirited", but most, if not all of them, were made by the editor,
In preparing the final (?)
version of this book for distribution at the August 1995 convention of
the 103d Infantry Division at Williamsburg, Virginia, the editor found
that his time, physical and emotional strength and computer skills were
failing. Harold and Betty Rorem, who had done extensive proof reading
and error correcting previously, kindly offered to review the pages that
had been tentatively bound into a book for reproduction and distribution
and to add much significant text, diagrams, illustrations and other professional
touches that made the distributed copies a more complete document.
We who have copies of that revised and improved book are very thankful
for all of their help and support.
Beck, the son of the 103d Signal Company Commander , Captain Bernard Beck,
has undertaken the daunting task of rewriting REMEMBRANCES and has collected
literally hundreds of photographs from OUR MEN for inclusion in the revision.
Since there is no specific target date for completion of his work, we are
providing, on this website, Bill Barclay's original book (text only) to
tide you over.