"You wouldn’t think there would be that many planes in the world, let alone in England."
Technically, I tried to join the Navy when the war broke out, December the 8th I think it was. Went down and tried to join the Navy, but they wouldn’t take me because I had a bad eye. So I only had 2400 vision in one eye. So they wouldn’t take me. So I ended up getting drafted in the American Army, and I was 20 years old on the 10th of February and I went in on the 11th. I was pretty big and my dad was chairman of the draft board and the neighbours were wondering why he wasn’t in the army, you know. But anyway, they took me and put me on limited service.
Right after basic training, they put me in military police at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, in the post-MPs. And I was there for four, five, six months probably. And then they transferred me to an outfit that the military police escort guard, EG outfit, they were just finishing their basic training at Fort Custer [Michigan]. So I had to finish at another basic training, in a matter of ten days, it was about there I think. And then they were going to go overseas and with my limited service, they said, “Anything wrong with you? Oh yeah you’ve got a bad eye.” They wouldn’t take me. So they put me in another outfit. So then I learned from that, I said to, when they asked me at this time, when they went overseas, I says, “I’ve got a bad eye, but I want to go.” I volunteered to go. So I went overseas with them.
Well, primarily, we were just taking prisoners. Well, we started out in Texas, to where we were carting PWs [Prisoner of War] in Texas, Camp Wood, Texas, that was our first assignment, before we went overseas and then we went overseas. We did a lot of guard duty on it. They had hospital card where they had a couple of PWs in the hospital. We’d do hospital guard around there, usually on detached service, we’d be those guys at the time. And then of course, when D-Day came, we were taking back and forth across the [English] Channel. We’d take them in the LSTs [Landing Ship Tank] and bring them back and be able to take them to the train station and another group would take them to camp where they were going.
We were billeted in a football field in Kent in Weymouth, right across the Channel and we knew everything was building up. And then probably the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in the my life, and ever hoped to see, was we woke up about 4:00 in the morning, about the time, I don’t know what time it was, but with this loud roar and we went out and looked and these planes were going overhead. Each plane was pulling two gliders. And it was just like that. And then after, later on, they were coming back, minus the gliders of course, and it looked like a big conveyor belt. You wouldn’t think there would be that many planes in the world, let alone in England. This went on and on and on for hours. It was really spectacular.
We went on the second tide. They were the first tide, was in the morning and they went, took with the, they stormed the beaches in the morning and then we left and we landed over there about, I would guess, 8:00 or 9:00 at night, depending on when the tide come in, I don’t know when it was. But we went in on an LST. They were only a few hundred yards in off the beach at that time, and we only had eight prisoners to take back, we stayed overnight and then we had to wait for the tide to go out. When the tide went out, then we took the eight prisoners onboard the LSTs and took them back to England.
Not nice. A lot of action of course and a lot of aircraft action and anti-aircraft fire and this burying bodies with bulldozers and this type of thing, is not the most palatable thing you want to see in the world. And arms and legs floating in the water, and you know, it’s just the disgusting part of war.
My partner and I dug in a foxhole on the beach, we were in maybe 60, 70 feet off the water’s edge and we’d dug a hole. But it was so doggone dark, we settled down in the hole and boy, all of a sudden, the anti-aircraft gun, we were right next to it. Every time that recoil would bounce us off the ground. It was a crazy thing.
Then we stayed overnight and of course, when the tide come in, well, we’d put up, as I say, and took them back. But those LSTs, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them or not, but they were perfect for taking prisoners. Because once the tank deck was closed up, they were on the tank deck, they couldn’t get out. There was only two sets of stairs, one at the back end of the ship and we put a guard on top of those stairs with a Tommy gun and they couldn’t, they wouldn’t, had no chance in the world to get out of there.
I think we did at least two to Omaha [beach] and one to Utah [beach] for sure, but I’m not sure. We did take a truck one day, we’d taken a truck from, they had the Red Ball Express [a massive Allied convoy system] at carriage freight and they had food and stuff, so it was between the units. And we took a Red Ball from Omaha down to Utah. They got turned around and they had a German 88 [millimeter] back in the swamp and they couldn’t get it out of there. And they had it zeroed in on this bridge and they kept knocking the bridge out. And this driver, when he crossed the bridge, he was sort of going to the left, he went to the right and he realized his mistake and he went and stopped to go back up and they landed one of those 88s. But we were on one side of the truck and they took the whole side of the other side of the truck. I don’t know if it killed all the people or not, but they were pretty well mangled up. Just break of the game, you’d have to sit on the wrong side of the truck.
Well, we stayed in England for quite a little while after that, and then when we finally went to the continent, they were pretty well going into Germany by that time. We dragged prisoners back. They had a staging camp and it seemed to me, there was a half a million people, prisoners in that camp, just outside of Aachen or Rheinberg [Germany], in that area there somewhere. And we’d take trainloads of prisoners back from there into France and then they’d disperse them from there, with the different camps, where they were going to go.
But that was an experience in itself. Those trainloads of prisoners, the first trainload we took, we had gondola cars. And of course, we went down through Holland and Belgium and down that area. And the people in Holland did not care much for the Germans, so they would put on the walkways over the railroad tracks, they’d put these steel plates and stuff up on there, and then when the train went by with the prisoners, they’d push them into the trains, you know. Which, of course, is dangerous for us too because we had a guard at each end of the car. So after that, we used the forty–and-eights, the boxcars [carrying capacity of 40 men or eight horses].
No, they were the tail end of the Germans. It got sad there at the end. We had a lot of young boys and a lot of old men, and it was really sad to see them in uniform and they should never have been. They were just trying to, cannon fodder there, trying to do anything they could to win the war. Of course, it was lost by that time, it was kind of pitiful. At first, the little gang we had down at Fort Worth in Texas, now they were crackerjack German troops. I mean, they were crackerjacks. They would get out in too close order drills, you know, for exercise. Man, they were good, they were really good. But then of course, later on, this got worse and worse.