Sunday, February 05, 2006

Dad's service to his country

On July 18, 1995, while my wife, infant daughter, and I were enjoying a week at his timeshare at Surfside Beach, I interviewed my Dad about his experience in the U.S. Army during World War II.

He still remembers his serial number. Pretty amazing when you consider he hasn't used it since November, 1945, when he was discharged.

He was drafted in March, 1942. After a physical at Camp Croft, he went to Fort Jackson for basic training. He served stints at Santa Anna, CA, Camp Gordon in GA, and Camp Miles Standish in MA.

And then the time came to go to into action. Dad embarked for Glasgow, Scotland on the Queen Mary from NYC. It took 3 days and 18 hours to get to Scotland. The men were fed twice a day in groups of 50. After disembarking, Dad headed for Wales for more training.

Dad went into action on D-Day +3 in 1944. He served in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. He never got into Germany, but his outfit got close to the border.

Dad served with the 8th Infantry, 3rd Army. That army was commanded by General Patton - but Dad never saw him. His company commander was Captain Charles Shamer. His platoon commander was 1st Lt. Steve Dolinski. His squad leader was Sgt. Jon Maheren (sp?). There were 12 men in a squad - Dad was one of two Southerners in the bunch - the other one was Ralph Loudermilk from TN.

Dad worked in ordinance for a while. He was a rifleman and a munitions worker.

One time John Shell, the Master Sgt., saw a cow, shot it, and butchered it on the spot. They roasted the meat over a fire. It was their best meal in the field.

One time the guys got a 3 day pass. "Let's go to Paris!" someone said. "Does anyone know how to drive a truck?" Dad said he did, even though he really didn't, because he wanted to go to Paris.

My Dad's first cousin Harrison, who was a 1st or 2nd Lt. (Dad couldn't remember) was killed during the Battle of Anzio. My Dad's brother Jack was 4F because of flat feet.

So I asked Dad, "did you kill enemy soldiers?" He paused and then said, "well we shot at them, and they shot back. I don't know whether I ever hit anything."

When the war ended, Dad was sent to Hampton Roads, VA, From there he took a troop train to Ft. Bragg. There were too many soldiers to process, they couldn't discharge them all. Dad got a 21-day pass, took a train home, and arrived at his front door at about 2:00 in the morning. He didn't want to wake anyone, so he slept on the glider rocker on the front porch. His mother found him there the next morning. At the end of his pass, he went somewhere to be formally discharged.

The U.S. Army paid my Dad $75 a month for his service. He sent some of it home.

Dad said they didn't lose anyone in the squad. He was grateful for that.

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