4:44 | John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
Keywords : John Souther Reconnaissance (RECON) Tunisia North Africa wadi German artillery 88 mm gun radio Silver Star
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
John Souther was already in the Army when Pearl Harbor was bombed and he immediately was engaged in stepped up training. He went with the 1st Armored Division to the first invasion of the war, North Africa. Pummeled by Rommel at first, they prevailed and then went on to Italy.
Rommel's troops were in full retreat. Reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther was keeping track of their position when he stumbled on a bunker with two German machine guns pointed right at him. He immediately thought back to his training and a word he heard repeatedly.
The Anzio beachhead was chaos. John Souther describes the relentless artillery fire, the bombing and the strafing and all you could do was dig in. He nearly lost his nerve while huddled in his covered foxhole. Some went "psycho." Eventually, American air power was able to break the stalemate and the invasion of Italy continued.
John Souther went on a lot of reconnaissance patrols at night with the aim of capturing the enemy. He had a sergeant who spoke fluent German and would rile up the prisoners by insulting Hitler. He also had a platoon leader who got caught in a shootout worthy of a Hollywood movie.
John Souther's reconnaissance company was often the first American unit Italians would see. In one little town, they made him mayor! When he got to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, he was getting hit by artillery fire being directed by a German on the top floor, so he brought up his own assault guns. Was he going to fire on a national monument?
He had it made for a couple of weeks there. John Souther's recon company occupied an Italian estate which had giant casks of wine in a cellar with nice convenient taps. By this time, the much better K-ration had replaced the C-ration, so when you weren't at a nice estate, your meal was a little better.
The war was nearing an end, but John Souther's unit was still on the move across Italy. He had to be evacuated for a few weeks when he fell ill, but he rejoined his men in time for the final push toward the Alps and the German surrender.
When Dan McBride returned from the war, he had some long talks with his dad and they reminisced over talks years ago, when knowledge about the Army was first passed on. He was grateful for the advice he received when he got to boot camp, specifically, what to do when the instructor dropped the dummy hand grenade.
It was a memorable mission. Ken Rohde was a pilot, but he was in the tail gunner's position as the air commander's observer in the lead plane. He was leading the entire 8th Air Force, about 1500 planes. Then, out of the blue, they went to a secondary target. The next day, the group CO flew the lead plane and Rohde was in the second plane as they tried again. That turned out to be lucky for him.
Verner Chaffin was in Law School when Pearl Harbor was attacked and then, in a whirlwind of activity, he got his degree, took the bar exam, and applied to the Naval Intelligence Japanese language school. He was accepted and began the grueling program.
Dan McBride came to the Army fully ready. He'd been shooting since the age of three and he attended the Citizens Military Training Camp during his high school summers. At age sixteen, he was qualified on every weapon he would be exposed to later in Basic training. He was scared of heights, so, naturally, he volunteered for Airborne.
Dan McBride and his buddy were dating a couple of English girls and were lucky enough to be invited over for Christmas dinner. They were sitting around afterwards and he began to feel a rumbling in his belly. His Army diet of beans and Brussels sprouts was about to betray him.
The recruiter tried to put him in the Navy, but Bob Titus said he didn't care for the Navy, so the recruiter said OK, wise guy, you're going to the infantry. That was what he wanted. He became a paratrooper and joined the 82nd Airborne but the war ended before he saw combat.
Army Nurse Mary Ann Koontz was in New Caledonia where there was some confusion about where her group would be assigned. She worked in the psychiatric ward at a hospital in New Zealand until she was needed somewhere else. This time it was India on the Burma Road.
He got homesick sometimes, but Alex Nuckles was encouraged by the letters from his wife while he was deployed in the Pacific. Returning home required some transition time, getting used to the food and talking to people who weren't engaged in a war. He made it through with help from his faith.
After two years in a forced labor camp in his native Poland, Norbert Friedman was sent to a series of different camps, most in Germany. On the transport to the second one, the Jewish prisoners were crammed into cattle cars and given no food or water on the four day journey. At the camp, they were forced to strip and went into showers.
It wasn't the short, easy mission they were promised. It was continuous combat for weeks. Paratrooper Dan McBride had jumped into Operation Market Garden in Holland and right away nearly got killed by a mortar round. During the attack on Best, he got pinned down during a German ambush and had another narrow escape.
Cook Alex Nuckles was stationed on Saipan with a quartermaster unit. He thought that one of the white lieutenants was the finest officer he'd met in the service. Dengue fever sidelined him for a while, but he recovered. There was some friction between the captain and the first sergeant and once they took off the bars and stripes to fight.
The battle hardened men of the 82nd and 101st Airborne, who had enough points to go home, were transferred into the 17th Airborne temporarily. This stuck in their craw and they refused to wear the patch and caused some ruckus on the way home. Dan McBride had a hand in that.
The ship was headed out into the Pacific with a large convoy when it lost it's rudder. After that was repaired, it had to make it's way to New Guinea alone. David Mealor was grateful there were no encounters with submarines, but once he got to the destination, there was impenetrable jungle and tropical diseases, one of which took him out of the action.
While in the armada at Iwo Jima, the men on Corwin Mokler's destroyer went to the aid of a sister ship when it was hit by a kamikaze. They escorted it to a safe anchorage and took the opportunity to have a little beer on the beach. They then sailed for Leyte Gulf, where they encountered a Japanese task force and confronted them head on.
Dan McBride couldn't stand the Brits and he was stuck in a British Army hospital in Brussels. He had a broken ankle, but when he was told they were going to ship him to a replacement depot, he and some more GI's hatched a plan to get back to their own unit. They finally made that happen and were reunited just in time to react to the news about a German breakthrough.
Looking back, Ken Rohde felt he was lucky for the slow Atlantic crossing in a large convoy. The longer you put off being in that air war in Europe, the better off you were. When he reported to 8th Air Force HQ, he saw a chilling sight that drove home the fact that he was now in a real shooting war.
His sniper rifle was too long to jump with so the plan was to carry it in a bundle. Dan McBride had successful test jumps in England, so he was confident that it would work on D-Day. As the paratroopers were leaving, they got a surprise visit from General Eisenhower, who spoke to each of them. They took off and as soon as the planes got to the French coast, Murphy's Law began to take over.
He came ashore on D plus three and set up just in from the Normandy beach. Service company commander Buck Stiles had some tense moments when the Germans began shelling, but soon they were pushed back and he could get on with his task of supplying his regiment with everything they needed.
The new man in Jim Fleming's barracks was known as Jojo. He had to bail out soon after he started flying missions and word soon came that he had been rescued by Yugoslav partisans and was on an island. The squadron commander wouldn't risk a flight to pick him up, so the men decided to take matters in their own hands.
There were some guys who grew quite a bit while they were in the Marines. David Greene was stuck at 5', 6" and was always on the end of the left side of the formations. He was tall enough to ship out for the Pacific, though, as a radioman.
In the Philippines, Corwin Mokler's ship escorted LSTs and troop transports through the region. He remembers a lone aircraft at high altitude that was relaying a signal that identified it as a friendly. That turned out not to be the case. When the ship was reattached to its task force, they took part in a bombardment run on Japan.
By the time sonarman Corwin Mokler got to the Pacific, the threat from Japanese planes and submarines was just about gone. His destroyer found no opposition as they took part in shore bombardment of Saipan and Peleliu. Later, as kamikazes began to appear, they had a near miss from one of the suicide planes.
Most accounts of the Holocaust deal with the atrocities, but to survivor Norbert Friedman, there are two little known aspects of it that people should know about. One is the rare courage that enabled some individuals to overcome the overwhelming despair and the other is the role of women during the entire conflict.
He was having a big time working at his father's business, but Buck Stiles got a telegram from the Army. There was a war on and the reserve officer was needed. His first active duty tour had been in the horse cavalry, but now he was going to be riding tanks.
He was in headquarters company, so Marine radioman David Greene was the first to return to a ship after the battle was over. After getting cleaned up and getting a new uniform, he was happy to be back on board after the long ordeal. He enjoyed being aboard ship, as long as you didn't get the bottom bunk.
Occupation duty in the mountains of Austria was a great chance for some deer hunting. Dan McBride and his friends were hunting when they heard sounds coming from a barn and discovered an Austrian family hiding there. They gave them some gifts and told them to go back to town. When the points system came around, he had more than enough to head home.