10:01 | The GI's took a house in Germany for the night and once it was secure, Arnold Whittaker did what he usually did, look around for some food. He found a couple of hams and went to sleep dreaming of a ham breakfast. He got up the next morning and went to the kitchen. This saved his life.
Keywords : Arnold Whittaker Germany Saar River Prum River German prisoners food alcohol women ham Malcolm Belinda Dick Weiss Tiger Tank 88mm gun sniper foxhole George Patton Luxembourg green
Providence is the reason he's here today. Arnold Whittaker had a series of close calls with death, not only during the war, but in childhood and in civilian life. His generation was tough, having come through the Great Depression and the fighting men epitomized this.
It wasn't long after basic training that Arnold Whittaker joined thousands of other GI's on the RMS Queen Mary and headed for Europe. When he boarded landing craft to go ashore at Normandy, he had to negotiate a tricky drop from the cargo net to the boat. Then he learned how to dig a foxhole.
The engineers had bulldozed a road up to the top of the cliff. Arnold Whittaker was coming ashore at Omaha Beach but it was well after D-Day. As he came to the top of the road, he saw thousands of white, wooden crosses. Was this his destiny?
His first night in combat, there was an artillery barrage in the rain and he lost his M-1. Not a great start for Arnold Whittaker but he found his weapon and began trying to find acceptance as a replacement. There were a lot of these green troops as they moved into Metz where they had to deal with snipers.
As his company moved from Metz into Germany, they lost 100 out of 144 men in a fierce counter-attack. Arnold Whittaker had been a replacement just a month ago and now he was meeting new replacements. Then, the Battle of the Bulge was on and the 5th Division headed to the fray in the midst of the worst winter in decades.
It was layer upon layer of clothing. Arnold Whittaker details his garb in the fierce winter at the Battle of the Bulge. It kept you warm but sweat in the inner layers was a problem. Socks were a problem. Meanwhile, there was a war on and a tree burst could rain down hot steel on you.
It was Christmas day, 1944. Patton's prayer had worked. The weather had cleared and the 5th Division moved up to a spot that was way too open for Arnold Whittaker. He pushed four feet of snow aside and began to dig his foxhole. He had a hole about as big as his head in the frozen ground when he heard it, the unmistakable sound of Screaming Mimis.
The house had no heat but it was still shelter. Arnold Whittaker was in the German village of Riesdorf during the back and forth of the Battle of the Bulge. One of the guys found a chest full of memorabilia in the attic and one of the items was a picture of an American doughboy from the last war. What was the story behind this?
They were always crossing rivers. Arnold Whittaker's unit made seventeen crossings for Patton and he describes the action at the most significant; the Rhine. When he got to the other side, his squad leader was immediately wounded, which put him in charge.
Most Germans knew it. The end was getting near and, as long as you didn't run into any SS troops, the fighting was minimal. Arnold Whittaker had made it down to Czechoslovakia and, in the last week of the war, a German Tiger tank stood between him and some refreshing beverages.
When Arnold Whittaker got to the front at the Battle of the Bulge, he saw mounds in a field heaped with snow. As he got closer, he realized that each mound was a dead GI. Someone's buddies were now just a chore for the support troops.
Patton had promised that the 5th Division would be there in 24 hours. There weren't enough trucks so Arnold Whittaker and the rest of the infantry had to ride 100 miles on top of Sherman tanks to get to the Ruhr Valley. On the way, the news spread. There's a giant flask of cognac that's been liberated by an enterprising GI on a certain tank.
Arnold Whittaker was awarded a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for his actions at the Battle of the Bulge and subsequent actions. The Bronze was for carrying a wounded man to safety under fire. The Silver came later when he became agitated at the hesitance of his squad leader and stormed a German stronghold by himself.
Arnold Whittaker got to tour Paris before he shipped back home. He was preparing to tour Japan, not in a good way, when the surprise announcement came. The war in the Pacific was over. He wrote of his experiences in the European campaign in his book, "Foxhole Promises."
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What makes the difference in a soldier is that you don't quit. Dick Arnold had held on in deadly freezing weather to stop German tanks from advancing on Bastogne. The others in his ad hoc team had frozen to death and he began the long walk out of there. Part 6 of 6.
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.
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.
The hill had been assaulted eleven times before with no result. When it came time for Fox Company to give it a go, Dick Whitaker was among the Marines who tried and failed once again. On his way back down the hill he found a wounded buddy and helped make sure he was evacuated.
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.