5:32 | When his unit was bogged down in the village of Wingen in Southern France, Howard Margol's commanding officer turned down an offer of a crate of glassware for every man from the town glass factory. 25 years after the war, an obituary caught his eye which led to a return trip to the village.
Keywords : Howard Margol Wingen glass France Lalique factory
He had desert training and mountain training, so Howard Margol figured that with the way the Army usually worked, he would be sent to the Pacific. What he wanted was a transfer to the 42nd Rainbow Division where his twin brother was serving. Told there was no way short of a letter to President Roosevelt from his mother, he decided to try that.
The ROTC at the University of Florida had artillery but it was horse drawn. The horses were pretty smart, recalls Howard Margol. As his modern, mobile artillery unit prepared to embark for France, two jokers figured out a novel way to stretch out a half day pass.
As soon as they could clean the Cosmoline from their weapons after disembarking in Southern France, they were trying to stop one end of a German pincer movement. The other end was the Battle of the Bulge. Howard Margol describes that action and then tells how the men got even with a tyrannical Lieutenant.
Howard Margol says the two West Pointers were the best officers in the unit. He tells why and then tells how the first Passover Seder in years in Germany was organized and held. And how was it that all their water was poured out and replaced with wine?
To Howard Margol, Wurzburg meant the old castle and the questionable actions of a couple of soldiers. Schweinfurt meant the well engineered gun emplacements and the rangefinder he and Ed Joos tried to hack open for the lenses. And Furth meant the stash of German parachutes which were cut into scarves. He wouldn't have made it to Furth if he and Ed had not stopped banging on that rangefinder when they did.
As they were setting up a new gun position, everyone in Howard Margol's artillery unit detected a strange odor. Some said it was a chemical factory but Howard Margol said no, that was the smell when his mom burned chicken skin. The new gun position was near the town of Dachau.
Howard Margol and his twin brother went from college to Army life in 1943 and then the real learning began. They learned not to volunteer, not to go to Officer Candidate School, not to send your son to military school, and how to get a hot shower when only officers have hot showers.
If everyone who claimed to be there at the liberation of Dachau were really there, it would be more soldiers than actually served in the entire European theater, says Howard Margol. Fortunately, research By John Linden has uncovered the facts.
Bella Solnick was his neighbor for 31 years, but had never told her story of escaping the SS. When he heard that, Howard Margol was taken back in his mind to the snowy days in Munich, when he was greeted by civilians waving white flags, some of them from the Dachau camp where Bella had been.
He was there when Dachau was liberated, but a more emotional experience for Howard Margol occurred on a convoy of several thousand Jewish camp survivors being taken to luxury resorts high in the Austrian Alps. Even though they were only 20 minutes away from their destination, it was sundown on Friday and they all got out and sat down on the side of the road.
Serving occupation duty in Salzburg, Austria, Howard Margol's unit was stationed at a large displaced persons camp. Each soldier had to take ten German prisoners into the woods on firewood detail. This led to an ironic situation when a prisoner escaped from one of the crews, though it wasn't the one you might think.
Some of the medals given out after victory in Europe seemed random to Howard Margol. A sergeant from his unit received a Silver Star for wiping out a machine gun nest, but he'd never encountered a machine gun nest during the war. At least it gave him what everyone wanted at the end of the war, points. When he got home, what Howard wanted was coffee.
Radar officer Howard Dean was in the 12th Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion, but he didn't know it yet. He'd arrived in the Pacific with no real assignment, and was attached to an anti-aircraft battery for a while. Then he was told to load a radar unit on a ship and prepare for a landing. Where was that going to be?
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.
Howard Dean was an engineering student at Georgia Tech when he was turned down by the Navy. He settled for the Army and they sent him back to Georgia Tech, where he finished his degree, then they sent him to Boston for a Harvard and MIT program studying radar.
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.
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.)
When he tried to enlist, he was told one of his legs was too short, but when Don Lacy was drafted, he convinced the same doctor to let him into the Navy. Showing an aptitude for electronics, he was sent to Chicago to be an instructor in a new radio school.
The Navy V-12 Program had Milton Kassel studying in college. On graduation, he would get a Navy commission, but the Navy had other ideas. They put him on active duty, made a 90 day wonder out of him, and sent him to serve on a patrol craft in the Aleutian Islands.
In the waters around Okinawa, ships were getting battered by kamikazes. His LSM had landed it's cargo, so Bill Pontow was assigned fire and rescue duty. He recalls an eerie incident aboard a stricken hospital ship as he searched below, unsuccessfully, for survivors.
When Milton Kassel and his shipmates heard about the atomic bomb, they didn't believe it was real. It was real enough that they were soon on their way back to the States. After a short leave he got another assignment, from the cold of Alaska to tropical Panama.
Bill Pontow knew how men could get spooked fighting in the Pacific, especially from kamikazes. He made it through the war without losing his cool, but he had a tough time adjusting when he returned home. Eventually, reunions with his Navy brothers proved to be a big help.
The invasion operation became an occupation operation after the war suddenly ended. Howard Dean was in charge of a radar unit, which he had to get off the ship and into a safe place ashore in Japan. He found a Signal Corps station where he could put it, but the officers there took off for leave as soon as he got there. This led to a potentially embarrassing situation.
The preparation for the Japan invasion was underway when the atomic bomb made it unnecessary. The crew on Bill Pontow's LSM was unsure about the news, but they were glad not to be invading the enemy's home. They knew that every Japanese would be fighting them with everything they had.
Shortly after the main landing on Leyte, radar officer Howard Dean came ashore. He had no assignment, yet, so they sent him to a nearby anti-aircraft battery. He began to observe gunners on the ships in the bay, who were undisciplined and shooting up the shore when they fired.
After occupation duty in Japan, Howard Dean stayed in the Army Reserve. The Lieutenant was destined for a higher rank in Korea, but lingering health problems from his days in the Philippines kept him at home. He went to work as an engineer, always remembering his great friends from the military.
When Bill Pontow's ship arrived at Pearl Harbor, there was still wreckage everywhere. Crews were working to clear passage through the capsized ships. After that sobering experience, he headed for the Philippines for the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the landing on Leyte.
While on occupation duty in Japan, Howard Dean took a train to Kyoto. The station master tried to clear out an entire car for him, but he refused and insisted the civilians be allowed to stay. Soon after this, he became part of a massive operation to account for all the equipment scattered across the Pacific.
Bill Pontow was a boatswain's mate on an LSM, responsible for all topside duties. At general quarters, he became a gunner on a 20 mm gun. A frequent target of that gun was the Japanese kamikazes that swarmed the American ships, beginning in the Philippines and increasing at Okinawa.
Radar officer Howard Dean became a specialist in gun laying radar, a system which linked radar with the fire control on an anti-aircraft battery. The Army wanted his engineering talent at MIT, designing radar units, but he wanted into the shooting war. Eventually he got his orders to ship out for Leyte.
B-17 radio operator and waist gunner Marvin O'Neal recalls his first mission, which involved a lot of flak and a lot of praying. He entered the war in Europe near the end and, on his last mission, he saw a German jet fighter streaking through the sky. Could they win the war with that thing?
During some down time, Howard Dean made a boat excursion to Corregidor, where he saw the entrance to the Manila Tunnels, a vast underground complex. What he later learned about it caused some surprise. The radar officer had another surprise when he drove his jeep near a combat zone.