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. When the order came to "straighten out the line," he knew he had to leave his safe foxhole and go to work.
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.
When he jumped on D-Day, Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau was way off target, but he finally found his unit in the small town of Varreville. Assigned to clear out a German pillbox near a bridge that was scheduled for demolition, his situation went from bad to worse when the bridge was blown.
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.
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.
He could not see anyone else. In the predawn, he gathered up his parachute and began a futile search for his unit and his gear, including his weapon. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau joined with an American captain he found on the road and they made their way toward the small Normandy town which was his target. Suddenly, there was the ominous whistling of aerial bombs right on top of them.
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.
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.
Serving in the Air Force, Lammie Spivey served on multiple ships during his time on the water. After being discharged and sent to shore, he stayed on in the Army Air Corps to serve in the air instead of the sea. 6 years in Japan and 3 years in France was good to him, as he got to have family with him while serving.
Departing on the U.S.S. New York to Pearl Harbor, where he transferred to Guam. While heading back to the U.S. on discharge, he had an incident on deck that led to him taking a big fall which he miraculously survived. He decided to start Army Air Corps training, where he stayed for the rest of his service.
When Georgia native William Forbes hears of the attack on Pearl Harbor, his first question is "what's a Pearl Harbor?" He soon develops a keen understanding of what's at stake, and enlists in the Army. The first casualty: his civilian clothes.
On D-Day, William Forbes' platoon storms the beaches of Normandy and fights their way through the French countryside all the way to Cherbourg. After a month of non-stop combat, he leads his team to Saint-Lo, where a bewildering explosion drastically alters his role in the war effort.
Forbes' postwar career takes him from Europe to Puerto Rico, back to Germany, on to Korea and finally to the Pentagon, where he serves under the Secretary of Defense. He retires from the Army to become a writer and a "Beltway Bandit" - and learns to appreciate Single Malt Scotch.
Life in the forward engine room is challenging. Willie Nelson and his fellow engineers make the best of the heat and the crazy hours, and form an "arrangement" with the combative galley cooks. (This interview made possible with the support of DALE GREGORY)
Forbes undergoes extensive training on the road to the European theater, earning his place as a platoon leader. His company trains in England for amphibious landings and strenuous combat. In the weeks leading-up to D-Day, they are moved to a sealed camp to await orders.
Walter Fleming's first action is the full-scale invasion of Iwo Jima. Over several perilous days, he has many close calls with mortar fire, open-sea collisions, and artillery rounds - all the while evacuating wave after wave of wounded Marines. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)
Charles Fallis was in the ninth grade when the war started, but he became part of the effort when he entered the Navy in 1944. Assigned to the beach party on a troop transport, he was surprised when he had to learn to do what soldiers do every day. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
Walter Fleming arrives at boot camp in San Diego, where he trains in boxing, firefighting, and piloting a Landing Craft. During an exercise at sea, he and his crew learn that horsing around can have consequences. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)
The Japanese knew that Okinawa was the last step on the Allied move toward the mainland, so they went all out with suicide attacks. Charles Fallis remembers the kamikaze alerts when he was anchored there. His ship was part of the task force that readied to invade Japan, and then after the surrender, part of the occupation. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
January 21st, 1945, John Rodgers and his fellow officers began on the longest forced march of World War II. From Szubin, Poland, they were forced to march over 300 miles in 47 days. It took some time, but General Patton’s forces were able to liberate the prisoners as the war in Europe came to an end.
With victory in sight, Fleming is sent on a series of missions to wrap up loose ends. During a suspenseful evacuation of woefully outgunned Chinese soldiers, he is forced to leave men and boys behind to face a vengeful enemy. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)