5:09 | John Holeman was grateful for the air support as his unit fought across France. "That's the only thing that saved our hides!" The further they went, the more the German army was made up of teenagers and old men. At the Maginot line, he had a heart stopping encounter with a mortar shell. Eventually they were stopped by the worst winter in fifty years.
Keywords : John Holeman France air support fighter spotter plane German Russians Maginot Line pillbox mortar dud surrender shower winter Alsace foxhole barn
The training in California was hot and the Atlantic Crossing was a nightmare, according to John Holeman, who was on his way to France as a replacement for the hard hit units who had been in fierce combat. The first thing his unit saw when they got to the top of the cliffs at Omaha beach gave them pause, and when they were in transit through a rail yard, what they found in the next car gave them cheer.
John Holeman caught up with the 44th Division at Luneville in France. They made the new replacement a B.A.R. man. Heavier than a rifle, the Browning Automatic was, essentially, a small machine gun. Their first day moving out, a German artillery barrage sent him into a wet ditch, where he decided on a wardrobe adjustment. That same day, he watched a lone German fighter pilot parachute from the only enemy plane sent against them.
The front was disorganized, so outposts were made around the French farmhouse where John Holeman's unit was situated. After his watch, he noticed some men gathered near the farm's gate. Soon he would have a prized war souvenir.
Holed up in bunkers in the deep snow, John Holeman's unit was on Patton's flank when they were surrounded by Germans on the move. It was December 31st, and for three days, they fought the desperate enemy, who could not hold the position.
He had to leave the front with pneumonia, and when John Holeman had recuperated, he was shuffled through several camps. The war was winding down and no one seemed in a hurry to send anyone anywhere. When the people with high points started going home, he was assigned to a Quartermaster depot because of a highly prized skill, typing.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Fred Scheer, who was a POW in Germany, collected and published the stories of other POW's and this is one from Lester Schrenk, who was held in a Luftwaffe camp. One day, the men were given two Red Cross parcels each. This was unheard of, but there was a catch.
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.
Fred Scheer describes the men in his work gang, who walked every day from the prison camp to the rail yard where they repaired the tracks. Most distinctive were the three paratroopers, who were kind of aloof. The POW's were paid for their work, though there was little they could buy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.