3:22 | It was a cruel winter leading up to the Battle of the Bulge and Bob Uhl recalls how the Germans dropped propaganda leaflets urging the Americans to surrender and get a warm bed. There were no takers. His unit was south of the battle, keeping pressure on the enemy.
Keywords : Bob Uhl German propaganda winter cold Battle of the Bulge 7th Army French tank foxhole
Bob Uhl was a freshman at Georgia Tech but he was also a soldier on paper, having gone into the Army Reserve in 1943. Eventually, the manpower needs of the infantry caught up to him and he was off to basic training. When he shipped out, his convoy was the first to land in France instead of England.
Shortly after arriving in France, Bob Uhl found himself near the Maginot Line, feeling out the German defenses. That operation went well, and in his family correspondence Bob tried to always reassure them, but still they could get a sense of the danger he was in from the media of the day. The unit began to receive replacements after suffering losses and these men were suddenly thrust into an unnerving situation without knowing anyone around them.
They were trying to advance across a railroad cut but the Germans were on top and firing down the cut. As Bob Uhl struggled up the bank with his bazooka, his friend Bill Miley was hit and killed instantly. It was hard to leave his buddy, but he had to press on.
The foxhole was a pretty good thing, if you had time to dig it right and reinforce it, according to Bob Uhl. When he left it, he had to contend with the German 88, a devastating weapon that fired a shell at supersonic speed. It was a multi-purpose weapon, used for anti-aircraft, anti-tank and anti-personnel situations. He managed to dodge that, but a conventional artillery shell sent him to the rear to face an unusual medical situation.
Units were shuffled around continuously and he sometimes found himself back in a position he had previously occupied. That's how Bob Uhl remembers his time on the outskirts of the Battle of the Bulge. When that fight was over, it was just holding the line until March. At that time, a big push began, but his unit, after 155 days of continuous combat, was kept in reserve.
The Germans kept falling back through small towns until they got to one they felt like defending, then the pattern would repeat. Bob Uhl was a bazookaman, then a runner. As a runner, he was paired with the medic and he pays tribute to the bravery of those men.
There was a German observation post in a church steeple and every time Bob Uhl's unit tried to move, mortars and artillery pounded them. It was a pretty church and they hated to destroy it, but it had to be done. After conventional artillery failed to take it out, a new weapon was called up. After that, he was disturbed when World War I tactics came into play.
At the Rhine, one of the 44th Infantry Division's units directed the first ground fire across the river into Germany. German resistance stiffened at that point because they were now defending the Fatherland. He recounts an operation to capture a bridge at Heidelberg and another incident which cured him of a strange phobia.
After passing through the devastated city of Reims, Bob Uhl couldn't feel much pity for the German citizens. After all, they had started the conflict. After the war in Europe concluded, he felt the same way about the Japanese who had suffered the atomic bomb used on them. His unit was designated to take part in the invasion of Japan, so naturally he has an opinion on whether President Truman did the right thing.
The German 88 was a formidable weapon, but it had one disadvantage. The high velocity of the shell didn't allow for a timed burst, which was a great tactic to use against ground troops. American technology had developed a new proximity fire shell, which would always explode at a set distance from it's target. This made it very effective.
When Bob Uhl was made a runner, he was given a carbine. It was lighter than his M-1, but the limited range caused him to go back to the powerful rifle for his personal weapon. He never had an incident in his unit of men wounding themselves to get out of duty, but there were plenty of wounded feet from improper footwear. Fortunately, new boots designed for the cold, wet winter conditions were issued.
There were other things than combat going on, recalls Bob Uhl, during the push into Germany. There was the guy who snored loudly, the shovel handle shaped bruise on his posterior, and the amphibious truck driver with a five gallon can of schnapps.
In the push into Germany, Bob Uhl lost a good friend named Calvin Farmer. The enemy was beginning to surrender and Farmer lost his life to some unscrupulous Germans who indicated they were going to do so. They later surrendered but somehow never made it back to the rear. After hostilities ceased, his unit was sent to guard a Bavarian hotel full of political prisoners.
There were lots of bullets and shells flying during that last year of the war in Europe, but Bob Uhl was spared and went on to have a full life. He always remembers the 28 men from his company who didn't have that opportunity and he memorialized them at the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.
Jack Lemonds was over Braunschweig, Germany when his B-24 was split in two by flak. As others in the plane succumbed to flames, he managed to tumble out, attaching his parachute as he fell. In the front half of the plane, the pilot struggled in vain to control the descent until the whole thing blew.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
After a three day pass to London, B-24 crew member Jack Lemonds returned to his base to find out a good friend's crew had been shot down. No one knew if they survived, but, through a twist of fate, he would see his friend again. He remembers a mission of his own that was particularly hazardous due to a swarm of German fighters.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
The Russians were close enough that the American POW's could hear the fire in the distance. Their guards roused them all and put them on the road in a forced march, leaving their camp in Poland and heading for Germany. It was seventy nine days of freezing cold out in the open, with very little food.
Paratrooper Mario Patruno made good use of his time in England before the big invasion. After attempting to recover some Italian real estate, he hitched around the country, making friends wherever he went.
The first POW camp was near the French border, but when the Allies began to push across France, Jack Lemonds and many others were moved to another camp up in Poland. On the way, he saw the terrific devastation Allied bombing had caused all across Germany.
There were 40,000 paratroopers deployed in Operation Market Garden, an assault into the Netherlands and Germany. Paratrooper Mario Patruno approached his target bridge, only to see the Germans blow it up. Before taking Eindhoven, he captured a frightened young enemy soldier and, immediately, several more showed up.
After a forced march of at least 500 miles through Poland and Germany, the POW's reached the Elbe River. There, the guards made the decision to surrender when they saw the American forces on the other bank. Jack Lemonds had survived and, in a nearby office building, picked up a memento that marks his liberation day.
After nearly being sliced up by a shattered plate glass window, Paratrooper Mario Patruno scrambled behind a pile of rubble to return fire to a German across the street. He sensed that there was someone next to him firing, and when he saw who the local hero was, he could barely believe it.
As he floated to the ground after bailing out, Jack Lemonds looked up and saw the B-24's make their turn to head back to England. What would happen to him, he wondered? As he gathered his chute, three German farmers tried to do him in, but he was saved by an enemy soldier. It would not be the last time.
In the Dutch town of Eindhoven, Paratrooper Mario Patruno made a foolhardy charge on an enemy barricade. As he disarmed the German officer there, he had a surprise related to his own weapon. When the battle was over, joyous civilians thronged the streets and brought out food and drink. Then it was on toward Germany, riding on British tanks.
His German captors took care of his wounds and then Jack Lemonds was taken to Frankfurt for interrogation. The officer who questioned him was the spitting image of a post war cinema stereotype. All he got was name, rank and serial number.
There was a sniper who was getting mighty close. In the Dutch town of Nijmegen, Paratrooper Mario Patruno waited for the shooter to reload, then ran to a wrecked vehicle to fire back. Unfortunately, there was another German with a bead on him. He didn't hear the bullet that got him. It was like a punch in the face.
With a chemistry degree in hand, Nathan Radin headed home from Berkeley to New York City. He forgot to notify the draft board, but they found him eventually, working for the War Department in a parachute flare factory. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
As a group of new B-24 crews readied to make the flight to England, one of them crashed into a mountain in New Hampshire. Undeterred, waist gunner Jack Lemonds and a host of others donned their heated suits and made the long, cold flight. They didn't know it yet, but their first mission would be on the the most important day of the war.
He was a non-combatant, but Nathan Radin saw the consequences of war up close, a toll on both human bodies and the environment. He looks back and wonders how it happened and how it could be happening still. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
As the Navy prepared to move beyond the Solomon Islands, a large fleet assembled at Fiji. Hank Sturgess had Shore Patrol duty the first night of leave on the island. It started out well, bit soon the sick sailors began showing up. Back at sea, an important task on his ship was the rescue of downed airmen. This led to a peculiar arrangement with the aircraft carrier crews. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
They were anxious. The first mission for many of the B-24 crews in England was D-Day. Waist gunner Jack Lemonds was awed by the spectacle of hundreds of ship bombarding the Normandy shore as he flew towards France. Later, when the enormous cost in lives became known, he felt fortunate to have been in the air, not on the ground.
During one battle, the destroyer USS Radford was guarding some small carriers when a Japanese submarine got in close and sank one. Soon, Hank Sturgess picked up a blip on SONAR and the fast ship closed in to seek revenge. On another occasion, a well known pilot was missing and the men of the Radford joined the search. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Most guys were already assigned and shipped out of camp but Nathan Radin found himself in charge of marching new recruits around. Finally, he got an assignment that matched up with his college degree, a medical dispensary in Charleston. Then it was on to a laboratory in Ohio where he trained pilots in a decompression chamber. His eventual wartime assignment was still waiting for him. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)