5:41 | Guy Whidden had a Luger in his waistband which he almost used when the Army doctors were going to amputate his leg in Belgium. Here, he tells the story of how he acquired that Luger after having it pointed right at his forehead. This was one of the experiences that convinced him that his German enemies were very much like himself.
Keywords : Guy Whidden machine gun German knife Luger surrender prisoner 6th German Parachute Regiment French Carentan
Guy Whidden wasn't too excited by the Boy Scouts, but he liked the National Guard. The maneuvers were fun and he had a job he liked, orderly to the Colonel. That was before a barnyard prank got him.
To Guy Whidden and his friends, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the onset of war was exciting. Told by a recruiter he could join the Air Corps, he noticed the train was getting mighty far South. He was in the infantry and, since he didn't really know what that was, he wasn't disappointed. After a couple of stops, he applied for jump school and went to Fort Benning in 1942.
There were a lot of washouts in the first week of jump school, but Guy Whidden was not one of them. The athletic soldier was enjoying the whole thing, even being the first one out of the plane. He was ready to go to the war, but he had to wait for what seemed to him like a long time.
Before he went overseas, Paratrooper Guy Whidden went on maneuvers in Tennessee. One day, he was assigned to guard four prisoners, chronically AWOL soldiers awaiting court martial. It was a long night and they were hungry, which led to a sad situation for the reluctant guard.
It took a long time to get to England. The ship Guy Whidden had boarded was damaged, so he took a detour to Newfoundland. Finally, a new ship was brought, a British ship, complete with British food, of course. No one wanted to be in the bottom hold, which was knee deep with water.
He was quartered on the grounds of a palatial estate west of London. Paratrooper Guy Whidden was able to go into town on leave, and unlike the rest, he sought out a good vantage point to watch the nightly German bombing. He kept getting busted to private because of a weakness for pretty girls, which made him late back to the base every time.
A week before D-Day, Paratrooper Guy Whidden's unit moved to a fenced in camp near the coast. The orders were shoot to kill anyone leaving. The food was good, too good if you really thought about it. On the day, he was sickened by the tobacco smoke and the stench on the plane over the Channel. It would be a relief to jump and get away from it.
Guy Whidden parachuted into Sainte-Mere-Eglise and as soon as he was on the ground, an equipment bundle landing at the same time hit him in the head and knocked him out. He was too dazed to find his "Cricket" to signal friendlies and this nearly got him shot. He hooked up with another Airborne unit because his own was nowhere to be found. It was absolute chaos and there were bullets flying everywhere.
Pushing on after Normandy, Guy Whidden was in the Netherlands and surrounded by Germans. His unit took a pounding from mortars and shrapnel from a round hit his leg. As he treated himself, the barrage continued to take lives around him. Crawling from the field to a ditch, he was noticed and picked up by an officer who carried him to safety.
With a bad leg wound, Guy Whidden began an odyssey through crowded aid stations and hospitals in the Netherlands and Belgium. When he realized he was in a queue for amputation, he put a hand on the Luger in his waistband and resolved not to let that happen.
He started walking and running with his wounded leg way before he was supposed to. Then, back in the States, he requested an assignment at Airborne school. The only problem, he had to qualify for the course to teach it. Looking back on the war, he draws solace from something he apparently didn't do.
You will never forget the first combat order you are issued. Paratrooper Rock Merritt was a corporal when he was given his first real task during the invasion of Normandy. Part 3 of 4. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
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. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Operation Market Garden, a huge airborne drop into Holland, was considered a failure, but, to paratrooper Rock Merritt, it was a great success following the chaos of Normandy. Years later, he would meet the author of A Bridge Too Far, which documented the battle. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
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.
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.
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.
Several of the German weapons were far superior to his own, according to Frank "Lindy" Fancher. The Panzerfaust bazooka and the MG 42 machine gun were two that he really liked and he had more than one occasion to turn them on their makers. Sometimes he got orders that made no sense to him, like the time he was sent to a defensive position in a place that was impossible to defend.
His battlefield commission from Stromberg Hill finally caught up with Frank "Lindy" Fancher and he received his Lieutenant bars. By this time, the Battle of the Bulge was on and he was in several firefights in Belgium where the Germans had superior numbers. It was during this time that he spotted an idle tank and took off in it to help a pinned down unit.
Hal Puett joined the Navy ahead of the draft in 1942. He was sent to radio school where he was top of his class and earned a rare Radioman's rating while still there. Finding some action was his goal but the Navy had other ideas and made him an instructor at Pre-Flight school, teaching communications to student pilots.
Frank "Lindy" Fancher, in an incident that earned him a Silver Star, had to get his unit across a minefield into some bunkers where they would guard a Ruhr River crossing. Halfway across the mine field, someone sneezed, a flare went up and the machine gun fire started. He inched his way out of there, but before it was over, he would cross that field several times to aid the wounded, repair the telephone wire, and get his men into the bunkers. He would also be on the receiving end of a Screaming Mimi barrage.
One of the units from his group was surrounded and outnumbered by a large German force and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was ordered to keep the road open so they could escape. Later, back in a supposed safe area, he couldn't sleep and was the first to hear over the radio that the German armor was coming.
On Kwajalein, a tiny atoll in the Pacific, the Naval personnel manning the communications station were very resourceful, says Hal Puett who was in charge there in 1945 at the end of the war. They had some appropriated steaks and some blowtorches, so you can guess how they worked that out.
They had to take the hill. Patton needed to cross the Moselle River where the German guns were targeted and Frank "Lindy" Fancher's platoon was pinned down. He was so mad that he grabbed a 30 cal machine gun and some ammo belts and charged the hill. When it was over, the crossing was secure and Fancher had won a battlefield commission.
The classrooms and the headquarters were on different parts of the sprawling University of Georgia campus, so the instructors at the Navy's Pre-Flight School were issued a motorcycle and sidecar to get around. Hal Puett recalls a couple of times that this arrangement went a little sideways.
Rock Merritt had no knowledge of what he was training for in Nottingham, but soon the paratrooper was part of the vast invasion of Normandy. He describes the huge scope of the effort, the airplanes they used, and a unwanted responsibility he had regarding a bicycle. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
It was cold and the snow was up to your waist. Your skin would stick and "burn" if you touched metal. You couldn't see through the fog during the day and you huddled together at night in snow caves because it was twenty below. That was when you weren't fighting at the Battle of the Bulge, recalls Frank "Lindy" Fancher.
Rock Merritt tells the incredible story of a man he pulled from a bomb crater and sent back to the rear. He was sure the man was dead, but six years later, he got a surprising phone call. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
P.G. Caudell chose Navy because his two brothers chose Army and he wanted to be contrary. There was only one problem, he weighed less than a hundred pounds and they wanted at least ten more on a recruit. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
Rock Merritt was dug in listening to a German propaganda speaker when a machine gun started up. The paratrooper grabbed some Gammon grenades and crawled 500 yards under constant fire. He was able to walk back and the push into France continued. Part 4 of 4. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
The amphibious training would go on all night long. Troops would climb down cargo nets into landing craft, then climb back up. P.G. Caudell was a gunner on one of the 26 boats carried by the USS Adair, an attack transport. After passage through the Panama Canal, the Adair began ferrying troops and cargo throughout the Pacific theater. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
They jumped at 0230. Paratrooper Rock Merritt missed the drop zone and he was lucky because it was flooded. After struggling out of his parachute and unpacking his weapon, he deployed his Crackerjack cricket and clicked once when he heard a noise. Part 1 of 4. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
There was a lot of gunfire during an amphibious landing, recalls Navy gunner P.G. Caudell. One night, they were stuck on a beach and were under the sights of a hidden Japanese artillery piece that was targeting them. (This interview made possible with the support of Vietnam Veteran, Capt. GRAHAM G. KYLE, JR.)
The paratroopers traveled through Belgium to the cheers of onlookers, but they were miserable in the open trucks. Rock Merritt says it was the coldest he's ever been. There had no cold weather gear except snow shoes as they rushed to defend Allied gains in the Battle of the Bulge. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)