My gun didn’t work but the Germans’ guns did. They start shooting at me; I got one bullet in the arm, one through the cuff, one through the collar.
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William Adelman. I was born March 31st, 1924. I’m 85 years old.
And the war broke out, I was still too young to go, so I was fortunate enough – I got a job in an aircraft factory there – but I wanted to go into the service. And when my age was good enough, I left my good job and I went into the service. I felt that it was adventurous. I thought, gee, I want to do it! Working in the aircraft factory, I had an exception, I didn’t have to go. But I wanted to go and when the, my time came up, when they sent me the invitation as you would call it, I answered. But at that time, as a conscript. I didn’t like that at all and as soon as I got into the actual service, I volunteered for overseas service.
Because of being a Jewish person, I felt I had to do something because we were being persecuted there. I didn’t know the extent of what they were doing but I felt an obligation. And also, I had a romantic idea, with going and singing in the troops and – it was more or less a romantic idea.
They needed reinforcements in Italy and Italy is where my regiment was, the Princess Pats, PPCLI [Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry]. And when they needed the reinforcements and they said, this is where you’re going, I volunteered to go. We had three regiments we had a choice of. Sometimes they told you, you didn’t have no choice, but I had a choice and I chose the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and away we went to Italy.
My first action was the Cassino. I don’t now if you know about Cassino. Cassino was a big battle. The Germans were entrenched on top of a mountain and we couldn’t get them off. And everybody tried and it was a large battle. And I joined my regiment there as a reinforcement. But we had to get to my regiment, which was in the line fighting. The bombing and the shooting was so intense that we couldn’t actually reach there. We were maybe a city block away but as far as they were concerned, we didn’t reach them. But we still were under the bombardment and things were bad – that’s when the first one of our fellows that I knew personally got killed. And that was a rough time, we couldn’t take that too easy.
Because we didn’t actually reach our regiment there, a little bit away, when the battle was over, we reinforcements were coming up, they gave us the duties: now, you guys just come and you have to be in the burial squad. The burial squad, that was a real eye opener for me. We took them and we wrapped them in blankets and we stacked them like corn which was a very, very tough time. It really ate into us. But after a while, even this, you get used to. One day we ran into another, it seemed like it would never end. We did a lot of praying then.
Throughout Italy, the cities that we came to, they were bombed out. When we got there, there was all kinds of chaos. But Rome was an open city. They didn’t bomb there. The Germans and the Allies agreed not to fight in Rome. And we came, everything was nice and clean and the girls were dressed right and they had lipstick on and they were beautiful. Roma.
We were in the front line and it was raining and we were in a slit trench, miserable. And we’re just sitting there in the static position, waiting, don’t know what was going to happen. And we hear this sergeant major yelling out, he’s yelling out, Adelman, Daniel. So myself and Daniel Holsell figured he wants us for some dirty duty. We’re not too ready to answer, so we don’t say anything, we just lie there. Finally, he finds us and he says to us a lot of not too pleasant words. He really gave us hell. He says, you guys are LOB. LOB is left out of battle. You’re eligible for leave to Rome. Wow. Well, sure, sure we’re going to go, sir.
Anyhow, we get onto our vehicle and there’s us and there’s others, and we go back from the front lines down. But we were in our dirty clothes, you know, didn’t get a chance to get to our kit bags, to our clothes. And we had the driver stop at the echelons. As we go down, there’s depots where they keep the supplies. And we went in and we tried to, we have, our clothes are dirty, we’re going on leave to Rome, we need some clothes. So they gave us clothes and they gave us lots of clothes because we went to different places and said the same story. What that meant is, that we had clothing and, ah, we didn’t need money but most of us at the time sold our clothes to the civilians. We get into Rome and two minutes, we’re off checking the plaza there and everybody’s partying and here’s shoes and here’s overcoats and we had a pile of money. This wasn’t legal but everybody was doing it.
I have a Thompson machine gun, that’s a small machine gun, very handy. And I’m leading the guys and I come to the first house and I see in the courtyard by a haystack, there was three figures leaning against the haystack. I know they’re German because they were wearing long coats and our boys weren’t wearing their winter coats yet. What I should have done was give a command, haystack, open fire. But I was scared that most of the guys behind me were new guys and they would pick up their weapons and fire in front of them and then shoot me. But I have my own gun, my Thompson machine gun and I pull the trigger and the damn thing jams. It was full of mud and it didn’t work.
My gun didn’t work but the Germans’ guns did. They start shooting at me; I got one bullet in the arm, one through the cuff, one through the collar. I went to ground and I fell into a little gulley. All I remember now is crawling down that gulley like a snake. I crawled and crawled and I thought it was forever. Finally the guys pulled me out and they took me into this particular house and they gave me a shot of morphine. I flexed my fingers and I said, gee, that’s not too bad, it doesn’t hurt too much. And it was the morphine. I actually was feeling good. Here I was wounded and what they call a million dollar wound. I knew that the battle for me now is finished. They get ready to send me back. Before they send me back, our guys captured the three Germans that were in the courtyard. Me with my broken German, I speak a little German, I tell them, you son of a guns, you shot me and when we get where we’re going, I’m going to shoot you. And I tell them, next time I… it wasn’t us, just a bunch of baloney between me and them.
And we go, on the way back, we had one guard that come with me with a rifle, was guarding the three prisoners. My arm started to stiffen up and I’m leaning on our guy but I realize that I’m going to be in his way if the prisoners want to run or do something. So I lean on the prisoner. I pick the smallest guy and we’re going back to where they can give me treatment and where they would put them in a prison camp. And it’s slippery and I fall and the guy that I’m leaning on falls too. This guy’s a little guy, a little bit over five feet. Me, I’m six foot one at the time. He picks me up and carried me like a baby. Until we got out of the ruts and then I got into the first aid camp and I said, goodbye boys. And that was my story with being wounded.