Dad goes to war Part 2
By Lynn K. Juckett
When the Wacs replaced us at Ft. Meyers I thought that the world had come to an end for me. I haven't liked the Wacs since. I always thought that civilian women could do their jobs better and the army wouldn't have to worry about them.
When I reported to Co. A. one of the first persons that I saw was a man that I loaned $3.00 to the night before I left to go to Washington D.C. I didn't want to loan it to him then as I was shipping out the next day, but he promised to send it to me there, so I loaned him the money. He never sent it to me. I guess that he thought that he had seen the last of me. Well he was one of the first people that I saw when I walked in the orderly room and I promptly asked for my $3.00. He was kind of embarrassed to be asked right in front of the other people in the orderly room, but he paid up. He had become a sgt. while I was gone. I noticed that most of the men that were privates when I was there before were gone, they had been shipped out as replacements and the men that were left were now sergeants and corporals. I asked Sgt. Mack, the first Sgt. what platoon I was to fall out with when reveille was called. He said that he didn't know and that he would have to ask the Co. commander as he might want to transfer me. On the 23rd I was assigned to the second platoon and it looked that I was going to be in Co. A. for a while.
The first week that I was back about all that I did was loaf, but when I got put in the 2cnd platoon. I had to start soldiering again. I didn't like it to well either. The first day in the 2cnd platoon we had a 5 hour hike and it nearly killed me. It made big blisters on both heels and on the balls of my feet. I think I walked about 70 miles that first week back. My blisters would break open and bleed. I really suffered. . One day that week I drew K.P. and I was happy that I got it as I didn't have to do so much walking. Our training than consisted of walking about 4 or 5 miles out in the field and doing training exercises, some of them was in the night time. We also went on a bivouac. We did lots hiking too.
On Aug. 10, 1943 I was told to report to Div. Headquarters classification and on the 11íTh I was transferred to Div. Hq. to run the mimeograph machine in the Adjutant General section. The work in Division Hq. was about like working in the Pentagon only going to town wasn't like going to Washington D.C.
We had a bivouac on the 23rd Sgt Hartel told me to pitch shelter halves with a soldier named Francis Farrell. A shelter halve is half of a pup tent and it took two halves to make the tent. Farrell and I became tent mates from then on. I still keep in touch with him and have seen him three times since the war. \
On Sept. 1, I was sent to barber school. I didn't volunteer for it either. Our Sgt. came around asking for volunteers and nobody volunteered, a little while later he came around and said that I was going. I didn't want to go as the school was held in the evening on our free time. I have forgotten how long the school lasted. I think that we had to go 2 nights a week for a month. The training did me a lot of good though. I made about 3 or 4 thousand dollars cutting hair in the army. I also kept my family's hair cut after I got out of the army. It saved me a lot of money having 4 boys to cut.
My first haircut after I got out of school was our Colonel. We were on bivouac and one night his orderly came over to our tent and told me to report to the Colonel's tent with my barber tools to cut his hair. His orderly held a Coleman Lantern so that I could see while I was cutting his hair. He must have liked it because the next day he put in the Division Bulletin that any one needing a haircut was to report to me. I was to charge 25 cents. I got to keep 15 cents of it and the rest went to the company fund. It went along this way until I cut the hair of an officer from the Inspector General's dept. He said that I was cutting hair on army time there fore I couldn't charge. I told the Colonel about this and he said not to charge any more. When people asked me how much my haircut's cost I told them that I wasn't allowed to charge and they would give me a tip usually 50 cents. I made more money then ever. I mostly cut hair when I was out in the field. I didn't like to cut hair in the barracks as I had to do it on my free time and I would rather do something else.
On Oct. 31, 1943 I got my third furlough home. The people back home thought I was getting an awful lot of them. Many of my friends only got one or none before they was sent overseas. On all of my furloughs I would stop in Washington and visit my friends at the Pentagon. I also tried to get a transfer back to the pentagon and I would check with Capt. Gammel to see how I was making out on my transfer.
On Nov. 15 our ft for maneuvers in South Carolina. They were held around Columbia, S.C. The country there looked more desolate then North Carolina. Some of the shacks that the black folks lived in had no glass in the windows or screens either. The shacks were built on a pile of stones at each corner and chickens would run under the house and in them too.
On Thanksgiving Day we ate our dinner in the field. It was raining and all we had was cheese and salami. The next day it cleared up and they cooked our turkey and trimmings then. It didn't taste as good as it did when we were in our barracks as we had to eat in our mess kits sitting on a log or ground. These were division maneuvers and one regiment would have to defend itself against the other two regiments and they lasted for about 30 days.
On Dec. 4 we headed back to Camp Butner by truck convoy. These convoys stopped about every 2 hours to let the men go to the toilet. The lead vehicles would always stop in a isolated country spot, but as the convoy might be a half mile or more long your truck would be right in front of somebody's house We would go right in the ditch anyway because you wouldn't get another chance for two hours more. Cars would pass our convoy and see us going to the toilet while we were stopped.
On Dec. 11, 1943 we had a division review. This was quite an ordeal. With about 15,000 men in the division to get on the parade ground we were standing in formation for about 3 or four hours. In hot weather this was quite hard on the men. There would be lots of them faint from standing in the hot sun that long. I spent my second Christmas in the army at Camp Butner. I didn't get homesick this time. I guess I was getting used to being away from home by this time.
The fellow that was in the bunk next to mine was from Louisiana, His name was August Levert and he was married and had a little boy. He was really down in the dumps. He said that he could just see his "little ole boy" getting up for his presents.
On Dec.28 I was charge of quarters at our headquarters. I had a busy night as 21 men came in and I had to find them quarters to sleep in. One of them was from Battle Creek. I knew him as I had gone to High School with him. Our classification Sgt. asked me if I knew him. I told the Sgt. Yes that I knew him from High School. He then asked me what kind of guy he was and I told him that he very smart in the classes that I had with him. He was then assigned to division headquarters in the chemical warfare section.
Frances Dee a movie star visited our division on Jan.7, 1944. She came around and shook hands with the men in division headquarters. We all thought that it was great. Today very few people ever heard of her. I had a 3 day pass on Jan.13. I went to Washington with Daunhiemer.
While I was there I checked with Capt. Gammel again about my transfer and he told me that I couldn't get one. He said that if I had been limited service he could have kept me. That dashed my hopes of getting back in Washington. Never the less Daunhiemer and I had a good time on our pass.
On Jan. 19, we packed for maneuvers in Tennessee. These were army maneuvers and it involved 3 divisions, the 78íTh, 26íTh and the 106íTh plus a lot of other supporting troops and they lasted for three months.
We left Camp Butner on Jan. 22, and traveled by truck convoy again. The first night on the road we made it to Wilksboro N.C. The second night on the road we was in Jonesboro N.C. It was Sunday afternoon when we got there. We had to pitch our pup tents parade ground style. That means that we had to pitch them in rows. Other times when we had to pitch them in the field we had our tents dispersed and camouflaged. The people of that town came down to watch just as if the circus had come to town. After we had our supper we had church services. The General got the band out and they played hymns and the Chaplain invited the town people to join in with us. The next morning the ladies of that town gave each truck in the convoy a bag of homemade cookies that they had baked that night. Our maneuver problems took us all around the State of Tennessee. The weather was quite nasty. It rained everyday for three weeks straight. It didn't rain all the time but at least once a day. This kept things quite muddy in the maneuver areas. Several men in our division lost there lives on these maneuvers.
One man was killed when a truck ran over while he was sleeping on the ground. We had to operate in blackout conditions while we were having our problems and the truck driver didn't see him. We had another accident where 3 men drowned. We had to cross the Cumberland River on a pontoon bridge. The river was quite swollen on account of so much rain and the bridge broke letting about 3 trucks into the river. There was an Indian who got a medal for rescuing some of the men, but he caught pneumonia and died from that.
Our problems usually lasted about 3 or 4 days and the rest of the days we just lived in the field, did our regular work and some of us could go to town. The only town that we could go to was Nashville. It wasn't to bad of a liberty town. When I went in there I would eat a good meal in a restaurant and see a show. There was also a good roller skating rink there, which I went to. My Grandmother used to write and tell me to go to the Grand Ole Opry, but I never got around to it. On March 3, we found out that after maneuvers we were going to be stationed at Camp Pickett, Va. We finished maneuvers and started for Camp Pickett on the 27íTh and arrived there on the 30íTh of March. It rained all of the way to Camp Pickett.
Camp Pickett was located in the southeast corner in a rural section of Virginia. It was a farming area where they raised mostly tobacco. Blackstone was nearest town and it was very small. I would guess less then 2000 in population. There wasn't hardly any thing to do there in the form of recreation for servicemen.
While the 78íTh was stationed at Camp Pickett its main goal was to prepare for overseas duty. We had to keep in physical shape by taking hikes, running the obstacle course, athletics and etc. We also had to requalify on our basic weapons, mine was the M1 carbine. We also had to fire a lot of other weapons for familiarization just in case we had to use them in combat. We also was physically examined to see if we was still fit for combat. We had several men that were long time members of the headquarters replaced because they were thought to be too old or were limited service. We also brought the division up to full strength.
We got some of our replacements from the A.S.T.P. These were men who had been sent to college by the army and had been going to regular colleges and universities. They were a real unhappy bunch to have to do real soldiering. They felt about like I did when I lost my Pentagon job. We also got a lot of air cadets that had their program stopped. The army had gained air superiority over Germany and Japan and felt that they didn't need a lot of new pilots so their training programs were canceled. They were also very unhappy to be in the infantry.
From April 11 to 23 I had another furlough home. I spent the time at home visiting friends and relatives. I went fishing with my Dad a couple of times. I spent part of my furlough in Washington as I could have a better time there.
For recreation while at Camp Pickett I mostly went to the post theaters and other entertainment shows in the amphitheater that the U.S.O. would put on. These were always quite good. Generally they would have some movie star or starlet to perform. Once they even had a one ring circus. On the weekends we were close enough to Washington to get there, so I made several trips there. They had a bus service that went from the post to Washington. I also made a couple of trips to Richmond. I also made a trip to Newport News, Va. and seen my uncle Harold Loder and his wife Betty. Harold was my Dad's step brother. He was in an AA outfit that protected Norfolk and the surrounding area from air attacks which never happened. Another thing that I usually did where ever I was stationed was to go to the church services. I did this even when I was on pass.
On July 18, l944 I had another furlough home. I did the usual things visited friends and relatives. I went fishing with Dad a couple of times. I also went out to Kellogg's and seen the people there. I spent some of my time in Washington. I got back to Camp Pickett on the 1st of Aug. at 11:00 P.M.
The division had another review on June 21. I think that the under secretary of war Patterson came and it was held in his honor. I was lucky and didn't have to march in this one. When we fell out in the company street we lined up according to our height, the short ones down at the end of the line. I fell in where I thought my height should be but several men said that they were taller, so I moved down until I was third from the end. When we formed the company up there was only 3 men in the last rank. Our company commander said that it looked like hell to have only 3 men in that rank and dismissed us. The other ranks had 16 men in them. I watched the review sitting in the shade from the service club lawn.
On last days of September we got word that our division was going to be shipped overseas. There was a lot of speculation about where we were going to be sent to the Pacific or Europe. It was kept very secret. I wasn't allowed to run the orders on the mimeograph. An officer had to do it. He made a mistake and threw the backing sheet of the stencils in the waste basket. The next morning when I came to work I could read the orders by the dents made by the typewriter in the backing sheet. Our division was going to the staging area at Camp Kilmer N.J. from there to England.
At Camp Kilmer we had our shots brought up to date. Had lifeboat drills and had our equipment checked. We were there 7 days. I had a pass to New York City while I was there. I saw the stage play Oklahoma and went through the R.C.A. building. We saw the Milton Berle show being broadcast there. He had for guests, Lupe Velez and Lou Gehrig's widow.
The division left Camp Kilmer by train for Hoboken N.J. on the 13íTh, of Oct. We were then marched, carrying all of our equipment, to the ferry to cross the Hudson River. After we landed on the New York side we were then marched about 3 or 4 blocks to the dock where we boarded our transport. The name of the ship was the General George Squire. It was navy transport and it held about 4000 troops. The ship was run by the navy. It was the kind of ship where they put cargo nets down the side of the ship and the troops got into Higgins assault boats for an invasion, while the guns on the ship pounded the shore.
We set sail at about 5:30 P.M. the next day. We sailed in a large convoy. Some said that there was over 200 ships in it. You could only see about 20 ships around us as the rest was over the horizon. Our division was put on 4 separate ships. One of the ships was another naval transport just like ours. The other 2 ships were passengerís liners, one an Italian and the other Norwegian. It took us 12 days to cross the ocean and we zig zaged all of the way. There were Canadian Corvettes and American destroyers patrolling the convoy. The weather was fine bright and sunny, but still a lot of the men got seasick. I thought I was going to a couple of times, but I never did. They only fed us 2 meals a day. Every day at sunrise and at sunset we had go out on the deck for submarine alert. That was the time that we were most venerable to submarine attacks. We were never attacked though.
When we first got on the ship we had a little trouble with one of the officers from one of the regiments. He would make us arrange our equipment on our bunk a certain way and in about a half a hour he would want us to change it. This happened 3 or 4 times. He also wanted us to take calisthenics with his men. Our Sergeant said I am sick of him and he went told our Major what was happening. Our Major came down and told that lieutenant that we were his men and not to boss us as he would tell us what to do.
We landed in Plymouth England about 3:00 P.M. on the 25íTh of Oct. There were English marines doing some kind of exercises and landed on the dock the same time that we were getting off the ship. They got out of their boats in parade ground precision, while we looked like flock of sheep getting off our ship. There was also a bunch of English patrol boats docked there. It looked as if they were manned by about 5 women and one man on each boat. We all thought that it would be great duty to be assigned to one of those boats. After they got us all off the ship we boarded a train at 7:00 P.M. and arrived in Bournemouth 2:30 A.M. the next morning.
There we were billeted in the Hotel Carlton. I was put in room 92 on the fourth floor. The room had a bath room, but all of the other civilian furnishings had been removed. Our bunks didn't have any springs. Just metal bands to hold the mattress. The mattress was a straw tick. The hotel according to our standards was kind of old fashioned. The elevator or lift, as they called it, was like a bird cage on a string.
Bournemouth was located on the English Channel. During peace time people came here on their vacations to spend it at the seashore. Our hotel catered to those people then. It was a nice city. I don't know how big it was. It had double decker buses. We were to busy to go much of anywhere in the daytime and the city was under blackout conditions at night, so I didn't see too much of the city. While I was there I got a pass to go to London on the 12íTh and 13íTh of Nov. In London I took a sight seeing trip to see the city and seen most of the sights of London. I saw them change the guard at Buckingham Palace. We seen St. Paul's Cathedral it had a big hole down through the center of it where a bomb had hit it. The bomb was a dud and never exploded or it would have demolished the cathedral. It still made hole a about 20 feet across. The hole was on all floors and the bomb buried itself in the basement.
Another thing that impressed me was Madame Tausad's wax museum. While I was sleeping that night 2 V2 bombs hit London. These were Germany's rocket bombs. They struck 2 or 3 miles away. Some of our men that stayed out later then me heard the explosions, but I slept right through it. I found out about the bombing by over hearing the hotel maids talking about them.
We left Bournemouth on the 17íTh of Nov. for France. We left by truck convoy. I was a guard on one of the trucks. We went to Weymouth where we boarded LSTs to cross the channel. My truck was one of the last three trucks in the convoy and they put us on an LST all by ourselves. A LST was a small ship that landed tanks on the beaches. They were big enough to cross the ocean. In an invasion they would run the front of the ship on the beach and the tanks or whatever kind of vehicles they had aboard would drive off onto land. They were big enough to hold ten or twelve tanks at least. The hold was just one big compartment. The crew's living quarters was down each side of the ship. The truck that I was on and 2 others were put on LST 261. It went about a mile off shore and it was chained up to 3 other LSTs which were anchored there. Here we sat for nearly a week. While I was on the LST I got sort of seasick, for the first couple of days I only felt good when I was lying down in the back of our truck. That is where we slept, as the navy didn't give us any bunks.
We saw a couple of movies while I was on the LST. The movies were held on another LST, but we could climb from one to another. I also had my thanksgiving dinner on board the LST. By army standards I thought that they were kind of skimpy with the helpings. The navy said that they only had enough for their crew and we were about 10 extra men. We was better off than the rest of our Headquarters as they were bivouacked in a muddy field in France and ate their dinner in the rain.
On the 22cnd of Nov. we crossed the Channel and entered the harbor at La Havre on the 23rd. We then sailed up the Seine River for about 100 miles and landed at Rouen on the 24th. We joined our headquarters at 1:00 PM in Yvette France. Our headquarters was set up in the city hall of that town. Our office was in the court room. Some of their officials was working in the city hall at the same time. I slept in the court room while I was Yvette. We got used to some of the French customs while we were there, such as men and women using the same bathroom at the same time. I bought some souvenirs and some perfume which I sent home to my mother while I was there.
On the 26íTh of Nov. we moved from Yvette to Belgium. We traveled by railroad. We rode in box cars. It took us about 3 days to get there. The European box cars are a lot littler then ours here in America. We had 38 men and 1 officer in our car. We piled our duffle bags in one end of the car and sat on our packs for seats. They put a can of water and some cases of K rations for food in it. At night it got pretty cold in it. We never knew when or how long the train was going to stop, but whenever it did or wherever it did that is when we went to the toilet. Sometimes when it stopped it would be in the country and other times right in the heart of some town and people would watch us while we went to the toilet. We got over our bashfulness quite quick as you had to do your job when you had a chance. There wasn't any toilet in the box car. Europeans are used to this sort of thing as I have seen men urinate in the gutter right out in public.
We arrived in the town of S'Heeren Elderen Belgium about 3 days after we left Yvette. S'Heeren Elderen was a small rural town. The farmer's houses were in the town, but their fields were outside the town. That is the way most of the farms were in Europe. The town had no running water in the houses. There would be water hydrants every so far on the street and the people would carry their water from them to their houses. They had a wrench like key that they used to turn on the water with. When we wanted water to wash in, we would ask them to use the key and draw our own water. The people were real nice to us in that town. When we wanted water sometimes they would give us warm water from their house. We learned ask for the key in Flemish. We would say "slerkel aus to blief". The town was in the Flemish part of Belgium. Some of the people even let our men sleep in their houses. Our Colonel wouldn't let us do that we had to sleep in a hay loft in a barn. He said that when he wanted us to do something he didn't want to hunt all over town.
I made a couple of trips to Tongeren Belgium. I bought some barber shears there and some wooden shoes. Everybody had to buy wooden shoes and send them home. The people in that area wore wooden shoes outdoors and when they worked in the fields. When they went in the house they took them off. They wore regular leather shoes other times. We also went to Maastrich Holland to take showers. The boundaries of Holland, Belgium and Germany was within in a radius of 5 or 6 miles.
We moved to Raeren Belgium on Dec. 9íTh. We moved by truck convoy The people of S'Heeren Elderen stood in the streets and waved goodbye to us when we pulled out. Raeren was right on the German border and the name of the main street was Adolf Hitler Strasse.
The Germans had made it part of their country when they captured it. We set up our office in an apartment house and we slept in the same building. I pulled K.P. the first thing after we arrived. That was the last time that I had to do that, because after we captured some prisoners of war we had them do it. The prisoners liked that job as they got good food and didn't have to get shot at anymore. They never tried to escape I think they knew that they had lost the war all ready. While we were there in Raeren buzz bombs kept going over. They wasn't aimed at us, but was aimed at Antwerp. Some times they would fall short and we could hear them explode in the distance. A buzz bomb was sort of a small pilot less plane. It had a ram jet engine on it and could fly faster then most of our fighter planes. They flew in a straight line so anti aircraft guns knocked a lot of them down. While we was there the Special Services would show us movies when they could get them.
Our division was assigned to the First Army under the command of Gen. Courtney Hodges. The 78'th went into action on Dec. 13. Our first objective was to capture the Schwammenauel dam. It was a big dam on the Roer river. They wanted control of the dam because they were afraid that the Germans would let the water out and the flood would wash out any bridges that our army would put across the Roer river. If we had control of the dam our bridges would be safe at least from being flooded. During the next three days the division over ran several small German towns that stood between us and the dam. It was a good start for a new Division. The veteran 9íTh Division had been trying for the dam for quite some time and had been pulled back for a rest.
On Dec.16íTh the Germans started a big offensive. History calls it the Battle of the Bulge. The Army called it the Ardennes campaign. The 106'th Division, who we had maneuvers in Tennessee with, was hit hard. They were just back of the line waiting to be committed to battle, when the Germans burst in on them. The 106íTh hadn't even had positions dug in yet. Their cooks, clerks, band and everybody had to fight. On the south side of our Division, the Germans advanced about 30 miles past us and on the north side; the Germans were about 6 miles past us. We could have been cut off very easily, but we were able to hold our positions all through the entire battle. The Division suffered a lot of casualties though. In the morning of the 17íTh we had to search every house in Raeren. It was reported that German paratroopers had been dropped in our vicinity and we had to look for them. That night 8 of us in 2 jeeps had to go out patrolling the countryside looking for paratroopers. While we were patrolling, some German bombers came over and dropped flares. It really scared us as we thought they was lighting up the area for a parachute drop and there was only 8 of us to fight them, however no paratroopers came down much to our relief. However these planes did drop some bombs a couple of miles away. They also dropped some bombs in a field right behind where we slept and had our office on Dec. 19. I slept through this and didn't hear them go off. One reason is because we had some heavy artillery firing in our area and I had got used to loud noises. There was 4 craters in that field about 12 feet across, and 3 feet deep. On the 20'th the Germans were still gaining.
I had to go to Eupen Belgium to see if I could get my barber shears sharpened and I seen a lot of armored units moving up. On the night of the 22nd I had to pull guard duty. There were 2 of us that had to guard a intersection in the road and we had to stop every vehicle that came down the road and ask for the password. If they answered that correctly we would then ask them some question that only an American would know, like what team did Babe Ruth play on or what was Mickey Mouse's girl friend's name. We had to do this because the Germans had some men dressed in American uniforms and riding in vehicles that they had captured. We also had another paratrooper alert that night which made me all the more uneasy.
During this battle it turned real cold and it snowed about a foot deep. This caused the men on the line to have trench foot caused by cold wet feet for long periods of time. The aid station that was near us had so many cases of this, we had to go and help them with their paper work. These poor guys would be lying on cots with tufts of cotton packed between toes, which was all black looking. Many of them did lose their toes.
There was a castle about a mile away. The castle had a moat around it and the castle was made of stone. We kept men here that were replacements for the casualties that were suffered at the front. Our colonel made Benny Sacco, who I taught to cut hair, and I go over to the castle and give them haircuts. The colonel thought that they might not have a chance to get one for a long time. As a result I had to cut a lot of hair, 15 or 20 heads a day besides my regular work. I can remember that Christmas. A man had been brought back from one of the rifle companies whose brother had been killed that day and he was raving all night. He kept yelling and cursing the Germans and that he was going to kill all of them. They sent him back to a hospital for treatment the next morning. On Christmas day we were fed a good meal of turkey and trimmings