3:13 | The tree bursts were tremendous. Clayton Byrd was hunkered down in a foxhole with a newly arrived replacement when one exploded close by, seriously injuring the new man. Byrd was carrying him back to the aid station when a green lieutenant told him to stop and return to the line.
Keywords : Clayton Byrd Battle of the Bulge German artillery fire shrapnel
When he was drafted, Clayton Byrd was selected for the Army Specialized Training Program, which meant that he could study for an engineering degree after basic training. It didn't last long as the manpower requirements in Europe caused the Army to take all those students and put them in the infantry.
The entire 94th Division crossed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth, trained for a few weeks in England and then landed on Utah Beach. It was well after the invasion but the beach was still littered with the aftermath of the battle. Clayton Byrd describes the first assignment for the unit which was containing a larger German force that was bottled up on the Brittany peninsula.
There had been no activity so the men rigged up a shower and started to get clean. The Germans must have been watching because the 88 shells started exploding, sending naked GI's running for cover. Clayton Byrd recalls that embarrassing incident as well as a couple of stories about trigger happy troops.
It was kind of a cushy assignment. Clayton Byrd's unit was containing a German force on the Brittany peninsula but it was redirected to the Battle of the Bulge. This was in no way cushy. The front line was in flux and he and 25 other men found themselves in an apple orchard two miles on the wrong side of it. The Germans had pushed through, bypassing them. They were cut off. Part 1 of 3.
The lieutenant had gone to bring help but there was no word. Two squads of GI's huddled in the cold and decided together that they would not surrender but rather fight to the end. Behind the lines and with little ammunition or food, they faced the first attack from the Germans, who helped them with poor tactics. Part 2 of 3.
The Germans were helping out. A small group of GI's were cut off from their side and, when the attack came, this time at night, the Germans inexplicably fired their flare too early. Clayton Byrd describes how this illuminated them, making perfect targets. By the time the American line caught up with them, the couple of dozen men had killed 150 of the enemy. Part 3 of 3.
The Saar River crossing was difficult. The current was swift and the Germans were amassed on the other side. Clayton Byrd recalls that, during the firefight, one of his buddies suffered an embarrassing wound. He also tells how his platoon easily took four pillboxes.
Clayton Byrd recalls how, during the push to the Rhine, George Patton schooled his boss a little bit at the town of Trier. Byrd himself was at the town of Lampaden, where he was wounded and briefly captured.
While he was recovering from a flesh wound, Clayton Byrd's division was making history in the push to the Rhine. Soon after he rejoined them, they were put in reserve and saw no more combat. The German war effort was spent. After the war, he got an up close look at some Soviet soldiers which disgusted him.
A veteran of the European theater, Clayton Byrd tells the story of a friend who escaped from a German POW road gang. He was on the verge of starving when he walked right into a German church to attend Mass.
Following post-war duty in Czechoslovakia, Clayton Byrd had a few years of civilian life before returning to the service during the Korean War. He served in Germany with an engineer battalion and when some land was cleared for a baseball field, he got a rude reminder of the last war.
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.
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.
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.
As the ship approached San Francisco, Jack Wall was up on deck straining to catch the first sight of land. Everyone was thinking of liberty on shore. As they walked through the gate onto Market Street, all of a sudden there were horns and whistles and a loud noise of celebration. What happened?
The news that President Roosevelt had died caused Dick Arnold to weep openly. He informed the burgermeister of Maastricht, where he was running the Army switchboard. Soon, the entire town square was filled with mourning Dutch civilians. Part 2 of 2.
The Okinawa campaign had ended the day before, so when Dick Whitaker and a few others set out on patrol, they had let their guard down. Sure enough, as they walked by a cornfield, there was the scream of a die hard Japanese soldier.
Dick Arnold was spent from his action outside Bastogne. He was in a lot of pain and had to be helped around but he could still operate the radio and be an interpreter. Then he got really sick and was given a new wonder drug. It was only then that they noticed he had severe effects from being nearly frozen to death.
Bill Cruickshank felt fortunate that he never had to face a bad artillery barrage, but he had more than enough time in a foxhole with bullets flying overhead. You never forget the noise they make when they are close.
The USS Pinkney had a dual role. The ship delivered troops to an invasion and then waited to evacuate wounded. At Okinawa, the troops were already ashore when a kamikaze plane struck it amidships. Pharmacist's Mate Jack Wall describes the incident and how he was almost a victim of it.
The newly formed ski troops were finally finding a purpose. Now part of the 10th Mountain Division, they were dispatched to Italy, where Bill Cruickshank found out that his job was going to be pushing the Germans back from their positions in the mountains above Pisa.
The men were packed in like sardines on the troop ship and Jack Wall was glad when it got to New Caledonia. He was a Navy Corpsman and Pharmacist's Mate and served in the hospital there before he went aboard ship to participate in the upcoming invasions.
They were ready. All radio operator Dick Arnold needed was clear weather and he and the forward observer he had found in the woods outside Bastogne could be an effective team. December 24th dawned bright and clear and it was just in time because the Germans were bringing in their Tiger tanks. Part 4 of 6.
It was a long recovery for Bill Cruickshank, who was wounded by machine gun fire in Italy. The hospital was in Atlantic City and, as soon as he was able, he pushed wheelchairs along the boardwalk to give more severely wounded men some recreation. This began a lifelong mission of helping others.
The USS Pinkney was an evacuation transport. It was designed to deliver troops to an invasion site and then evacuate the wounded. The ship participated in three memorable landings, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Pharmacist's Mate Jack Wall recalls an episode that unfolded in the psych ward regarding a suicidal sailor.
After what seemed like an eternity of training, Dick Arnold crossed the Atlantic to join the European campaign. On his very first day in combat, a ferocious artillery barrage pinned down the entire company. Although his group was sheltered behind a hill, he began digging in because he had been receiving some good advice. The other guys laughed at him. Then, the guns shifted their aim slightly. Part 1 of 3.
During the action at Riva Ridge near Pisa, a small group of Germans were captured by Bill Cruickshank and his men. They were dispatched to the rear and he didn't think any more about it. Years later, he was asked a question about that day which led to an extraordinary meeting.
The platoon was scattered after the disastrous attack on Sugarloaf Hill. Dick Whitaker and his buddy found a foxhole and proceeded to make it deeper. When he stopped and leaned over to light a cigarette, that's when the Japanese sniper took his shot.
Jack Wall's final rank would have been one tick higher except for the one time he was late returning from liberty. He's just lucky he never got in trouble for the wild parties in the dental ward aboard ship. They had a monthly allotment of alcohol which never went to waste and once they decided to make some applejack.
Bill Cruickshank explains how the ski troops were used as a ruse to get the Nazis to deploy their troops in Norway, where they weren't really needed. Eventually, they were given a real task, pushing the enemy off the high mountain ridges in Italy.
Dick Arnold had been picked up by some MP's, who had a captain who was both zealous and cowardly. He was falsely accused of desertion but he was just waiting on some new footwear. Finally, with his new boots on his feet, he went looking for his unit, but they were gone. Part 3 of 3.
Bill Cruickshank's father secured him an appointment to West Point but, after only a month there, the Army decided it needed eighteen year olds right now in the war. Everyone born before a certain date was sent home and exposed to the draft. Then, another opportunity opened up for the avid skier. There was a new unit of ski troops being formed.
After the war ended, B-24 mechanic Russell Vaudrey was prepping the planes to fly home when a monstrous typhoon hit. It lasted three days and, as they were repairing planes, a second typhoon swept in. Finally, the crews began flying what was left of their aircraft home.
At the train station where Bill Cruickshank was about to depart for training, he met a family of celebrities who were seeing two sons off to the same outfit. He didn't recognize the name but he would meet one of them later in Italy. The mountain training was arduous for the newly formed 10th Mountain Division, who used a lot of highly specialized gear.
Fate had brought him to a different unit and now fate found Dick Arnold on a railroad cut in the suburbs of Bastogne. A mortar shell killed the other men with him and he was all alone. He saw some footprints in the snow and it turned out to be a forward observer who had lost his radio operator. The two of them were now guarding the besieged city. Part 2 of 6.
He tried to enlist at seventeen but his folks weren't having it. Dick Whitaker had already talked to the Marine recruiter and, when he came back after graduating high school, the sergeant recognized him. He was off to Parris Island to get the DI treatment and it wasn't long before he boarded a troop ship headed west.