5:21 | They moved through a lot of small towns in France and Charles Shepherd reveals how you could tell what phase of the battle the town was in by the size of the rubble. They were pestered by German planes and instructed not to shoot at them. At one point he made eye contact with a German pilot flying low in a valley and he knows he could have shot him down.
Keywords : Charles Shepherd France rubble artillery cow Coutances Avranches Saint-James German foxhole Messerschmitt ME-109 horse Saint-Malo
Charles Shepherd started with ROTC because of the uniforms. There was a depression on and it was free clothing. The newly commissioned Lieutenant shipped out from Boston on June 6, 1944, arriving in Normandy as a replacement. He talked his way into the 121st Infantry Regiment, his father's outfit in World War 1.
They were green replacements in hedgerow country. Their first night there, one of them died when he went outside to answer the call of nature. No one knew him and he knew no one. Charles Shepherd recalls that sad first night at the front, where the hedgerows presented a unique battle environment.
Charles Shepherd was near Saint-Lo during the massive bombing campaign over that city. The men in his rifle platoon were baffled when strips of aluminum began falling around them and they hustled to gather them up. Later they learned what they were and how they were no danger. As they moved out, meeting no resistance, they advanced and dug in seven times in one day.
The French woman was talking and pointing to her barn. Three German soldiers were in there and they surrendered to Charles Shepherd and his platoon. Some of the German soldiers in the area were Asians captured at the Russian Front fighting for the Russian Army. The Germans pressed them into service as occupation troops in France.
In the fighting around the French coastal town of Saint-Malo, Charles Shepherd was constantly dodging artillery shells. At one point he was between his own mortar platoon and a German self-propelled gun. Everyone was firing and he took a shell fragment in his hand. For the moment, there was no evacuation and no morphine. They were surrounded.
Asked whether the shrapnel that hit him was from German or American ordnance, Charles Shepherd just laughs. In combat, he says, it doesn't make a difference. A chance meeting years later gave him a little insight into what happened. Evacuated to England, he faced new difficulties, like trying to get into the officer's club at the hospital.
Evacuated to England, Charles Shepherd had to undergo three operations on his hand. The third one was only necessary because the doctors bungled the second. Before he went back to his unit, he had to lead enlisted men in physical rehabilitation and then endure Christmas and New Year's Eve at a resort hotel.
Recovered from his wound, Charles Shepherd's first stop was the Fontainebleau Palace. He then rejoined his unit in the Hurtgen Forest, where the trees were devastated from the furious artillery barrages during the fighting there. They occupied a trench where they fought snow and ice more than Germans.
Moving towards Cologne, Charles Shepherd's unit had to pull back when a German 88mm gun knocked out their tanks and scattered the soldiers. He was in charge of the company for three days when the company commander was wounded. When the new captain arrived, he did not win any popularity contests.
When a soldier put a round through his hand while cleaning his .45, the company commander had a fit, accusing him of intentionally doing it. Charles Shepherd , the man's platoon leader, said no, it misfired, trying to defuse the situation. Later on in another town, during a briefing in a German cellar, the same company commander picked up a grease gun and, guess what?
Charles Shepherd sent one of his men to the rear with a captured German. He didn't return for a long time and, when he did, the explanation gave him pause. After a 72 hour pass to Paris, where the girls were glad to see him, his unit advanced to Bonn, where they occupied the Ford Motor Works. Scouts had reported a water tank and everyone was anticipating showers, but, situation normal.
Crossing the Rhine at Remagen, Charles Shepherd's unit advanced on the town of Siegen. They encountered a German flakwagen, a tracked, anti-aircraft vehicle which the enemy had lowered to fire at the Americans on the ground. The standoff lasted overnight.
Before they moved out for the day, platoon leader Charles Shepherd made a startling prediction to his men. As they advanced, he broke with protocol and moved to the front of the column. Soon, they were under German fire and ordered to pull back to make way for an artillery barrage. He started a peel-back maneuver to get everyone back to shelter in a ditch, but when it was his turn, there was no one left to cover him. This action led to him receiving the Silver Star, which he describes in another clip.
The second time he was wounded, Charles Shepherd returned very quickly to his unit. He got lost driving around in Germany and then, suddenly, the war in Europe was over. Masses of German soldiers were surrendering to the Americans to avoid Russian captivity. Soon, the division was back in the States for a 30 day leave and then, the Pacific.
Charles Shepherd needed five points to be discharged at the end of the war. He pointed out to his commander that the decoration he had been recommended for was worth five points. All he had to do was round up some of the guys to confirm the story. This led to him receiving the Silver Star for a previous action.
The escaping POW's were walking westward toward the Allied lines when they began to notice white flags on the houses. It was over. Picked up by advancing GI's, Fred Scheer made his way to Reims and then Camp Lucky Strike. Soon, he was on a ship home. Part 3 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.
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.)
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.
While in the CCC, Lofton Hill helped build the Fort Benning jump field. Two years later, he was training there as a paratrooper. After training, his unit was sent to the west coast, so he figured he was bound for the Pacific.
What went on in the decrypting room and why couldn't Japan break the code? It was the Navajo code talkers, says Julius Rainwater, a radio operator. He was not a big drinker, so when the officers brought out the booze on VE Day, it got a little out of hand.
Fred Scheer was a go-getter in high school, running his own dairy operation. He volunteered for the Army in 1943 and, after infantry training, made the Atlantic crossing. The forces were amassing for the upcoming invasion.
They were packed in like cattle on the troop ship. When they docked at Pearl Harbor, Lofton Hill watched the flag raised every morning on the wreckage of the USS Arizona. He was soon in the Philippines, fending off banzai attacks and enjoying the canned tangerines he found in the Japanese camps.
The destination was unknown when Juius Rainwater boarded the liberty ship and headed out into the Pacific. The first stop was Hawaii, where he had a chance meeting on the street with his brother, who was also in the service. When he shipped out again, he asked the captain if he could start a newspaper on board the ship. Good idea.
The prisoners were loaded into boxcars and sent from Reims into Germany. Fred Scheer recalls the two transit camps through which he passed, each divided with a Russian side to the camp. The Russians were treated very badly and Scheer knew that if they discovered he was Jewish, an even worse fate awaited him.
Julius Rainwater had a chance to meet his brother after the war ended with the Japanese surrender. It was in Inchon that the two crossed paths. Julius would go on to Okinawa where he waited for the points system to allow him to go home. He made very good use of his time while he was waiting. Finally, the day came.
Joe Turner wanted to be a pilot, but they didn't need any more pilots when he joined the Army Air Corps, so he became part of the ground forces. By the time he got to his assignment in the Philippines, the Japanese had surrendered and the task became one of recovering equipment.
After the Japanese surrender, Lofton Hill was certain the enemy troops in the hills in Luzon did not know about it. Soon, his unit was in Japan, freeing and sending home American POW's, who had received harsh treatment from their captors. He was put on MP detail, where he couldn't make much sense of what he was hearing from the civilians.
He'd never been up in a plane. Joe Turner was part of the crew at an Air Corps base in the Philippines and a sympathetic pilot offered to take him along on a flight to Japan. It went well until the word came from the cockpit. Put on your Mae West and your parachute.
He'd already been studying radio communications, so the Army sent Julius Rainwater to the Signal Corps. He learned Morse Code and became adept at copying coded messages. Most of the men were from the northeast, but the Georgia boy made fast friends while training.
En route through the Pacific on a liberty ship, Julius Rainwater heard Tokyo Rose threaten his convoy on her broadcast. It was an empty threat and he made it to Anguar, an island near Peleliu, where he set up a radio communications station. There were still Japanese in the hills, so they had guard duty and, when it was his turn, he was sure he saw something creeping up in the darkness.
Sherman Howard tried to enlist in the Marines, but he was too small, they said, so he went to the Navy in 1943. They had him on US coast patrol in a PBY and then put him to work as a mess cook but he wanted to go to sea. He shipped out for the Pacific in a retrofitted supply ship.
Starting at Guadalcanal, the USS Volans distributed supplies to fighting forces and ships in the South Pacific. Sherman Howard was a striker, or assistant, to a carpenter's mate. It was their job to fix nearly anything on the ship that needed repair.
One of the most memorable things for Sherman Howard about his Pacific tour was the initiation ceremony at the crossing of the equator. Just don't ask for details. His supply ship was in Tokyo Bay just weeks after the two atomic bombs ended the war.
The guards at the POW camp were mostly old men, too old for the front. Fred Scheer details the daily life and struggles at the small camp where he was interred. Food was a big concern. Red Cross parcels were a Godsend, but you could also utilize some outside sources, if you were willing to take the risk.