It has now been almost 62 years since I received my notice from Uncle Sam that I had been selected. A few days after that I was on a bus headed for Fort McClellan, AL, which at that time was an induction center. At the induction center they had desks set up where you could sign up for the Army, Navy, Marines or Coast Guard. Another person, William McBride, was inducted at the same time as myself and he tried to get me to sign up for the Navy but I told him I had rather keep my feet on the ground so we both signed up for the Army. In a few days we were loaded on another bus headed for Camp Wheeler, Georgia, which was at that time an Infantry Training Camp.
We were all lined up and sworn in and then received all of our clothing and training gear. We were escorted to our barracks and shown where everything was, our bunks, mess hall, latrine, issued sheets, blankets and pillows. The next morning we heard the bugle and the Sgt. came in and told us to rise and shine and fall in outside. After breakfast, we started some of the most grueling training anyone could receive. I began to get used to this after a few days and later I was in the best shape I have ever been in my life. They issued us all 03 rifles and we had to keep it clean at all times and it was inspected every day. We were sent to the rifle range pretty often and one day we would pull targets and the next day we would fire at the targets. They gave us an aptitude test to see what we were best fitted for. It so happened that I was assigned to the radio school. I had to learn a phonetic alphabet, like a (able), b (baker), c (Charlie), and etc. I also had to learn the Morse Code but not by dots and dashes but by sound like Di Da for A, Da Det Dit for B, and etc. We also had to train with a coding machine. Our radio to start with was a field radio, which was a 284. With this radio each person would generate the power and the other transmit. We would take turns doing this. We also trained with a 193 radio by using voice and C.W.
After we completed our training, we rode a train to Camp Chenango in Pennsylvania. We were there a short time and then went to a port in New York. We were loaded on a ship which was a luxury liner converted into a troop ship. We had no idea where we were going. After we were out to sea a few days, they told us we were headed to North Africa. We were out at sea quite some time as German submarines were chasing us and we had to zigzag back and forth for quite a while. We also ran into bad weather and they had to fill the ballast tanks on the ship and there was a lot of seasickness.
The first land that we saw was when we went through the Straight of Gibraltar. We finally landed at Oran in North Africa. The cities were not very clean and neither were the Arabs. There was a lot of sand, hot and very few trees, which were mostly palms. While there, I was in Tunisia, Bezerte and Mature. We were not there very long. Afterwards, we were loaded on cattle cars and went to another port of embarkation, loaded on a ship and headed for Salerno in Italy. From the ship we were loaded on L.C.I's and went in as close to land as we could and waded water up to our heads with rifles over our heads. At this time though they were M1 rifles instead of 03s.
I did not go in with an outfit; I was an infantry replacement at the time when I was assigned to an Artillery outfit, Hq Bty 6 Corp Arty, as a radio operator. We went from Salerno to Casino where we were stalemated as the Germans were holed up in a monastery and they did not want to destroy the monastery. We were there for some time and they pulled us back to another port of embarkation and we made a landing at Anzio in Italy. We were on the beachhead for quite some time and the Germans were looking down on us all the time that we were there. We stayed in wine cellars most of the time as we were being shelled with artillery most of the time. A lot of the shelling was with a gun that was named Anzio Annie. They had tried many times to locate this gun. Finally, they sent up cub planes and they spotted it by the flash of the gun, the sound, and how far it traveled. The gun was located in a railroad tunnel on cars and the recoil would push the gun back into the tunnel when fired. They sent planes up and bombed the tunnel at both ends and sealed the gun up.
Most of the time at Anzio I would be attached to other outfits. The Indian Gurkas for a while. I found out that when these Gurkas pulled their knives they had to bring blood with them. That if they showed it to you they would have to cut themselves. I was also attached to a Scottish outfit, the 80th medium regiments. We would also draw their rations. Every night when they went on guard duty, they would get a shot of rum and so would we. During the day we had to listen to bagpipes and they all wore their kilts and pranced up and down. One night the Germans dropped a bunch of paratroopers and we had to hunt them down all night.
One day we were watching the Italians dig holes in their grape vineyards and bury their wine flasks. And when they left, we'd go dig them up. Needless to say, we had all the red wine we could use for a while. We had to go into our outfit to get our new SOI signal operations instructions and we were caught in an artillery barrage and we all jumped out of our weapons carrier and ran for a wall to hide behind. It was at this time I was hit on the hand with shrapnel. We stopped at a field hospital and they dressed my hand. I was told to report it when I arrived at our outfit. I made a mistake and did not turn it in.
We finally moved out from the beachhead and were on our way to Rome. It took some time to get there but we finally did. After we were there for a while I went into Rome to sightsee, but I got lost and wandered around all night trying to find my way back to our outfit. I was supposed to be manning the radio but someone else had to fill in for me. Another time I went into Pompeii to look at the ruins there. Also I walked around the ruins of the coliseum. We were in a little town called Bagnolia and I got to see Mt. Vesuvius when it erupted. I believe this was in 1944 but I'm not sure.
At one time we set up our radio car on top of a mountain where there was a big monastery so that we could cover more distance. You could look out below on Sunday and see the people walking up the mountain to mass. They would be strung out below the mountain. They had several kids there that were training to be monks or something and they would wait on us hand and foot. When we were ready for a meal, we had to walk through a tunnel in a mountain to get to a place to eat. Monks there blessed the cross and gave all four of us one. I have no idea what happened to it and I don't remember the name of the town that this was in.
Not too long after this, we were back with our outfit heading for another port of embarkation; this time for southern France. We landed there at the same time as the Normandy invasion. We didn't meet too much opposition at this landing. They had a lot of fake artillery guns made out of logs and a few machine gun nests.
We made our way into Paris after some time and they sent us to the rest camp for a week. But before this they carried us to a place where we had to strip off our clothes and be de-liced. They gave us all some new clothing and we spent a week in Paris. One thing I did while in Paris is that we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and I took a leak off of it. After this, we went all the way through France and to Germany and then to the German Alps and then to Austria. I did get to see the place in Ensbrook, Austria, where they hold the Winter Olympics. After the war ended, I played on a softball team and traveled all over Germany. Finally, it came time to leave Europe and head home. And again we went to a port of embarkation. The Merchant Marines went on strike at that time and we had to stay there quite some time before we could come home.
When we did get back in the states, we were at Camp Kelmo, New Jersey, and we were on our way home.
Something to add on: While in France, eight of us were lost in a snowstorm. We tried to get some military police (MPs) to lock us up but they would not think of this. We finally found an old farmhouse and an old gentleman who was a very big man, 300 lbs. or so. He took us in and I wound up sleeping in bed with him. The others slept on the floor. When we finally got back to our outfit, they were ready to put us down as missing in action.
The first night that we landed on the beach at Anzio, 25 or so heavy German bombers flew over where we were. It seems that they waited until they got into the middle of the beachhead and opened fire on them. I've never seen as much antiaircraft fire and tracer bullets as they put up. The sky was lit up and the planes were going in every direction. One of the planes fell about 100 yards from where I was on duty that night. The next morning, I went out to look at the spot where it fell. You could only find a few small pieces of the plane and there was a hole big enough and deep enough to put several army trucks in it. This happened some where in Germany.
One day while I was not on duty I went out with the wire section to help them put in some telephone lines that had been knocked out with artillery. I looked up and saw a soldier coming from the front lines as we were very close to them. And I was very surprised to find that it was someone that I knew from Huntsville. It happened to be Humpy Owens. We became very close after the war ended and we played softball against one another. After we got back home, we made several hunting trips together in the bottomlands of the Tennessee River. On one trip, I lost my watch that was self-winding. At that time snow was on the ground. We went back a week later and I found the watch and it was still running. Probably because the snow melting and it kept the watch in motion was the reason that it was still running.
I started my Army service as a private, at $50 a month, and ended my service time three and a half years later as a corporal. I don't remember what my corporal pay was. From my pay, I made an allotment to my parents. The government contributed some to the allotment, at least 50/50, if not more.
Before I was drafted, I had finished my junior year of high school. When I came back from the Army, I decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and finish school. I returned to Rison School to the 12th grade. Probably because Mr. Fain had been in WWI, he told me that if I needed to walk around or go out and get a cup of coffee that would be all right. I guess he told the teachers because when I'd get up to leave during a class the teacher didn't say anything. I graduated in the class of 1947.