5:02 | 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.
Keywords : John Souther Reconnaissance (RECON) German Tunisia North Africa Erwin Rommel strafing strafed Kasserine Pass Clinton Butefish
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.
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.
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.