From 1939 to 1945 the Second World War raged as a worldwide military conflict of which my Grandfather, which asked to remain nameless, served. Here is what he had to say…
“I enlisted on March 7, 1943. I was 18 years old. I didn’t really have a choice of what branch I wanted to serve in, I was told to go into the Army. I enlisted because it was war. It was my duty to serve. When I started out I was a Private. When I completed my role in the Army, I was a Corporal.”
Where did you serve at?
“I started out at Fort McCollum in Alabama and was there for 17 weeks doing ROTC Training. ROTC meaning Restricted Officer Training Corp. From there I went to Camp Howes in Gainesville Texas. Then I went to Newport News, Norfolk to be shipped over seas to Italy where I served most of my time.
When I was in Fort McCollum I was trained in most of the infantry. I was taught how to fire M1 rifles, pistols, Browning Automatic Rifles or BARs, as well as Bazookas and Heavy Mortars.”
What did you think of boot camp?
“A lot of marching, drills, talks and seminars on different subjects, a lot of classes on how to care and clean our equipment. Night problems was a very excessive taught drill especially when I was in Georgia because it was too hot in the daytime.
Night problems are what we called it when they gave us a compass and put us out in the middle of no where and we had to find our way back. We also had soldiers pretending to be the enemy and we had to locate them.”
Did you see any combat?
“Oh yeah, I was in the front line of the combat. You just sat there and waited for the sergeant to tell you to fire, then you fired. That’s what you did. We lost over 50% of our men.”
“The time I remember most of all was the time that I was up on The Million Dollar Hill at Mt. Casino in Italy. The Germans came up the hill through the clouds, the clouds were below us. There was a monastery at the bottom of this hill and the right wing of the monastery was all that you could barely see. The German’s didn’t know we were there. We saw them coming up through the clouds in their raincoats and steel hats with their automatic weapons and we opened fire. I will never forget that day.
We lost a lot of men on that hill. That is where I was injured too. No one told me exactly what hit me. It was a ricochet of a bullet or some shrapnel, but in any case, it hit me in the side. All they did for that is take me to the hospital, bandage me up and send me back to my unit.
There was also a second time when I was hospitalized, there was a shell that landed in front of me and I woke up two days later in the hospital. That is how I got a Purple Heart. I also got a Combat Medal just for being in combat and also for Good Conduct.”
What was the food like where you were?
“When we were on the front lines they gave us K-Rations which included 4 biscuits that we called dog biscuits, 4 cigarettes, a small pouch of coffee and a small can of bacon with egg and cheese mixed. We also got C-Rations which were a mix of hash, beans, and stew in a can. D- Rations were also given to us, we got three pieces, and it was chocolate candy.
I made the mistake of eating two pieces of the D-Rations, and boy did my stomach blow up like a balloon, you were only to eat one, it was an energy and dry food supplement. Sometimes we had a cooked meal whenever we weren’t on the front lines.”
What did you do for entertainment or when you went on leave?
“We only had one person come to entertain us when I was in Naples, Italy. I forget who it was though. We didn’t call it leave, we called it pass, and I normally went up to Naples and Rome.
On our way to Italy, we stopped in Casablanca, and they were already bombing Naples when we got there and we had to march seven miles to Magnolia. That was mostly all the places I saw when I was there. Nothing really entertaining.”
What did you do after the service?
“I was married. I had to come home and work and care for my family. It was really hard to find a job so for five months I did landscaping then I went to work in the Steel Mills. I went back to school in 1950 and took automobile repair under the G.I. Bill while I worked in the mill.”
Is there anything that you would like to say to those who are considering on joining the service?
“It is a time of war, and it is your patriotic duty to go and serve into some branch of the service and fight for our country. And I do pity the guys that are wounded and serving in our war now. “
“The war I was in doesn’t affect me much now because I forgot about it. I had to forget about it to work to support my family. But it is always there in the back of your mind, reminding me how I helped to keep our country free. We should all do the same.”
I’d like to thank my Grandfather for taking the time to talk about his experiences with me. I hope that this sheds some light and knowledge on what happened during World War II.
(My grandfather wishes not to have his name disclosed.)