6:29 | When his buddy George Farris was hit by a sniper, Bob Royce and two others started back to battalion headquarters to get help. They had to hit the ground when the same sniper targeted them. Royce decided to get up and run for it. After he secured aid and was returning to the front, the sniper struck again.
Keywords : Bob Royce George Farris pilot sniper tank destroyer gas mask helmet
Raised by his grandparents in Washington DC and drafted after high school, Bob Royce refused to marry his girlfriend before he left for Europe because he didn't want to come home to a wife if he was maimed. He didn't get maimed and she married someone else, but, in a way, she helped him to be successful after the war.
Draftee Bob Royce went to Army boot camp in Grenada, Mississippi and his eyes were opened to the reality of life in the rural South during the 1940's. Looking past that to his training, he only worried about the heat. At his next stop in Charleston, he nearly lost the car his family loaned him to the Atlantic tide.
On the way to Europe, Bud Royce was berthed all the way down at the bottom of the ship, which prompted a morbid observation. After nearly burning down his billet in England, he left for Le Havre, where he managed to anger a French farmer, who compared Americans unfavorably to Germans.
Bob Royce recounts several offbeat incidents that occurred when his unit was pushing into Germany from France. Little things like, which way are those shells coming from? You call that a haircut? And, what do you do with a room full of drunks?
Bob Royce shows off the helmet he was wearing when a German sniper put a hole through it and knocked him flat on his face. He was miraculously unharmed and continued the mission to evacuate a wounded friend. For that, he was awarded a Silver Star, which he is also proud to display.
The Germans were surrendering in droves and Bob Royce made friends with an enemy prisoner who spoke good English. The defeated German soldier gave him a good luck charm because he might need it in the Pacific. The officers were held in a different building and they arrived in fancy convertibles. That gave the young Americans an idea.
When Bob Royce came home from the European campaign, he was the youngest acting 1st Sergeant in the division. He sent the company's men to bases near their homes for discharge and then he was told he had six more months to serve. He knew that was wrong and he began an enlisted man's quest for redress. All this was a lesson for future life.
He decided he would rather ride than walk, so Turner Harris volunteered for the Navy in 1942. His journey started out rough in an open rail car with cinders blowing on him. After basic training, he was sent to radio school and eventually assigned to the USS New Orleans, a heavy cruiser.
Michael Vernello recalls how it was so cold at the Battle of the Bulge, the ground was frozen and they couldn't dig in. At the end of the war, he met his Russian counterparts in a heavy artillery unit and was very surprised. With four Bronze Stars and many battles behind him, he was one of the first to go home.
They were pinned down by German artillery when the platoon leader told Jack Myers to put a shell into a church steeple where he thought a spotter might be. It worked and they moved on. It was the kind of thing he did all the time but it had resonance after the war.
Clifford Wilford remembers some of his infantry's encounters as they navigate through the French countryside. While in combat in France, they broke through the main line of German resistance. Continued in Part 2.
It wasn't easy at the Siegfried Line, says Jack Myers. There were tough pillboxes and bunkers, but he was a gunner on a tank destroyer and he could put a three inch shell right through the gun portals. The Germans had much better tanks, but the American armor was endless, a massive force that could not be stopped. Especially once they got the new 90 mm gun.
"I want to be a machine gunner on a tank." That's what Lou Mafrice told the interviewer at the newly formed 13th Armored Division. So, of course, they sent him to the medical battalion, where he became a halftrack driver, among other things. As the unit prepared to deploy to the European Theater, they discovered they were short one radioman. Lou had another job.
It was a pre-dawn mission and Jack Myers was a little nervous about going out ahead of the lines in the big tank destroyer, but that went OK. It was when they got back that things got scary. Soon after that, they were redeployed by rail through Southern France and into Southern Germany where they picked up a little fresh pork.
It was a rough crossing for Lou Mafrice. Not only was he seasick, but a bulkhead door slammed on his hand and took off a bit of finger. When his unit got into combat in France, the commanding general insisted on leading at the front. That cost him. As the Battle of the Bulge loomed, Lou's armored outfit was put under the command of George Patton.
The war in Europe was over and Jack Myers returned to England, where he had an amazing chance encounter. After his voyage home, he used the GI Bill to great effect, learning a trade which supported him for over fifty years. He has some words for those who criticize Harry Truman for using the atomic bomb.
The Austrians and local Germans had no heart for the fighting anymore. That was the observation of Lou Mafrice as his unit moved into Austria. Soon, the war in Europe was over and they headed back through Germany, back to Le Havre and then back to the United States. A forty day furlough sounded great, but one week into it, Lou got some urgent orders.
He almost enlisted after Pearl Harbor, but he waited for the draft to make sure no one stole his girlfriend. After taking care of that, he became a gunner in a tank destroyer battalion. He trained on three inch guns that were both towed and self-propelled and he was a little annoyed with the discipline, but it paid off later.
The German tanks and guns were far superior to the weaponry of the Americans, says Lou Mafrice of the 13th Armored Division. It was the bombing of their factories that became the deciding factor in the war. While on a reconnaissance mission at the Austrian border, he was startled to see a large mass of soldiers coming straight for him and his driver.
If you treated your Navy hat with salt water, you could roll it up in a really sharp way that also let you show off your Pompadour. That was how John McGinty hit the streets of Long Beach, but it wasn't long before the Shore Patrol noted his breach of grooming regulations.
It was a huge convoy to England and almost everyone on the troop ship was seasick. Jack Myers did not get sick but he had gone up on deck as the ship sailed from New York harbor in the middle of the night and that made him a little apprehensive. His first big battle was at Antwerp, where he had to intervene when his squad leader went a little crazy.
John McGinty well remembers the end of the war in the Pacific. There was a huge "V" formation of warplanes and they had a little party on a tiny island. He thought he had it made with only a point and a half to go to get his discharge, but the Navy had other plans.
They started in the eleventh grade, military recruiters giving tests and reminding students about the draft. John Mcginty joined the Navy two months before the draft would take him in 1944. He went aboard the brand new light cruiser USS Atlanta while the welders were still working. As a Projectileman, he had to load shells that presented a unique challenge.
The MPM Circuit was a continuous feed from Honolulu, one coded message after another, 24 hours a day. Radioman Turner Harris translated the Morse code for the decoding officer, then was on to the next message. That was also his battle station so he spent a lot of time there. He was on a heavy cruiser that was bombarding Japanese held islands.
Finally back home, Turner Harris could not find a job, so he reenlisted and became a Navy recruiter. After a while, he took a civilian job, but the Navy lured him back in with clandestine work, although he didn't realize that was what it was. He was working for Communications Support Activities, a Naval signal intelligence agency.
After a shuttle mission to North Africa, Dequindre McGlaun's B-17 squadron returned to it's base in England. Led by his plane, "Shackaroo," they hit a German submarine base on the way. Several highly successful missions followed, including a strike in the heart of Paris and one across the Baltic Sea that resulted in a classic photograph of the bomb run that wound up in museums.
Frank Harris recalls some more of his training in California on the B-25 and transitioning to the A-20 in South Carolina. While on a training mission, Harris' plane stalled over North Carolina and he had to make an emergency landing, changing his military career for good.
It became known as the Turkey Shoot because of the incredible numbers of downed Japanese planes. That was the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the next battle, Leyte Gulf, broke the back of the Japanese in the South Pacific. Radioman Turner Harris credits the American Hellcat pilots with his survival in those battles.
The man at the pilot physical said that Dequindre McGlaun had eyes like a horse with outstanding peripheral vision. That didn't help when he was washed out by an overzealous captain. He went back to work in a civilian job but he contacted the Army Air Corps and offered himself up for bombardier training.