5:47 | Al Brown came out of rural Florida to join the war effort with his brother, Frank. In basic training, he remembers being "singularly unimpressed" with the light bazooka that was demonstrated. He knew there was no way that weapon would stop a German tank.
Keywords : Al Brown St. Augustine Florida Panama City Pensacola beach Frank Brown Ft. Jackson South Carolina 106th Division 422nd Regiment 34th Division bazooka German Panzerfaust My Comrades And Me
Joining the 3rd Infantry Division as it prepped for Anzio, Al Brown's first experience taught him a valuable lesson, that one had to look out for himself. It started with the first shift of guard duty as he walked a muddy ridge.
A dozen men had made a pact to try and stay together after training and deployment. They made it intact to a replacement depot in Naples, but while Al Brown was on KP, all the rest had joined the Darby Rangers. That turned out to be the most important KP he ever did.
Moving toward Rome, Al Brown knew his brother's unit was nearby, and for an awful moment, he thought he had found him mortally wounded on the battle field. He never found his brother but a mortar round nearly found him.
Al Brown slept right through D-Day. He was nowhere near Normandy, he was in Rome and exhausted from the campaign. Hearing the news of the invasion in the north, he wondered how they could have gotten so far inland in one day.
As Al Brown's unit moved North from Italy into the Rhone Valley, the Germans fought very skillful delaying actions. Digging in near Belmont, France, he noticed an officer and a radio operator casually sitting in the open. Before long, they were all running.
When the war ended, Al Brown experienced high and low emotions. Happy for victory and sad for fallen comrades, and even for the Germans. The turmoil followed him on the trip home in the form of a raging hurricane.
As the Victory Ship entered New York Harbor, the fog cleared just in time for Al Brown to see the Statue of Liberty. It was a good feeling to be home.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
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.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
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.
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.
After a short stay in England, Marion NeSmith crossed the Channel and landed at Omaha Beach, where there were crosses on the graves from D-Day. As his unit moved into the interior, he never knew where he was, but there was a target coming up, the city of Saint-Malo.
There were no jobs to be found in 1940, so David Mealor followed his brother into the National Guard. Just as his year was up, the country mobilized to fight a new war and he was in for the duration. He was sure his unit was destined for Europe, but when the ship was just getting out into the Atlantic, it turned right.
While still in high school, Marion NeSmith joined the National Guard. He was activated in early 1941, so he had to postpone school for a while. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his unit served on guard duty in Washington DC.
While still in training, David Mealor thought that it was too cold in camp, so he volunteered for mountain training and maneuvers. He figured it would be hiking through the hills, but he had a rude awakening when he saw what he would be climbing. The maneuvers were disorganized, which led to a plot for a little getaway.
While on maneuvers, Marion NeSmith heard about the news from Pearl Harbor. His unit spent a year protecting Washington DC and training, then it was their turn to ship out. He crossed the Atlantic bound for Liverpool.
It was just terrible in New Guinea. Jungle so thick you couldn't move and rain that never stopped. David Mealor was in the communications section, so he had a little wire trailer that he could sleep in. That was about all the luck he had there.
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.
During the attack on Saint-Malo, Marion NeSmith narrowly missed getting cut down by a German machine gun. He ran for a ditch, where he found the rest of his unit taking cover. This worked for a while, but the German 88's began to wreak havoc. There was a blast and he went one way and his rifle went another.
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.
He was getting acclimated to Navy life. Corwin Mokler had completed sonar school and went to Brooklyn Navy Yard, where his ship was still being built. The crew moved on board and dealt with all the noise. Finally, they set out an a shakedown cruise down to Bermuda and, once that was done, they made their way to the Pacific.
After being wounded by shrapnel from a German 88, Marion NeSmith began a journey through aid stations and field hospitals until he wound up back in England in a first class hospital. He could hear buzz bombs going over and there was always that tense moment when the engine cut out and it would fall.
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.
He was sent home from New Guinea with jungle rot, but it cleared up on the trip. David Mealor began an odyssey of Army backwaters and disorganization. He was bounced around in stateside units, finally ending up in Petaluma on a converted chicken ranch. While he was there, his mother asked him to find his brother, who's ship had just docked in San Francisco. Find a sailor in San Francisco?
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.
Corwin Mokler decided to enlist in the Navy before the Army got him through the draft. At Great Lakes Naval Station, he was selected as a sonarman and went to Key West for training, where he saw the ocean for the first time. The destroyer USS McGowan was his ship and it was still being built.
They had a secret radio in the prison camp, so they could contrast the BBC with the German newscasts. Jim Wicker recalls how the news of the approach of the Russians caused their captors to take all the POW's out on the road to march further into Germany. The conditions were terrible at the end of that march when the men were packed into a camp meant for far fewer prisoners.
It was the safest job in the army, according to Buck Stiles. He was company commander of service company in the 66th Armored regiment and it was his job to move whatever needed to be moved. His trucks were in constant movement to each forward company, first in North Africa and then in Sicily.
He had qualified as an aircraft mechanic in the Army Air Corps, but Jim Wicker jumped at the chance for pilot training. He aced a test for those with no college and began flight school. It was a proud day for him when he graduated because he thought he had no chance to become a pilot.