5:34 | The foxhole was a pretty good thing, if you had time to dig it right and reinforce it, according to Bob Uhl. When he left it, he had to contend with the German 88, a devastating weapon that fired a shell at supersonic speed. It was a multi-purpose weapon, used for anti-aircraft, anti-tank and anti-personnel situations. He managed to dodge that, but a conventional artillery shell sent him to the rear to face an unusual medical situation.
Keywords : Bob Uhl foxhole machine gun 88 mm gun artillery tooth
Bob Uhl was a freshman at Georgia Tech but he was also a soldier on paper, having gone into the Army Reserve in 1943. Eventually, the manpower needs of the infantry caught up to him and he was off to basic training. When he shipped out, his convoy was the first to land in France instead of England.
Shortly after arriving in France, Bob Uhl found himself near the Maginot Line, feeling out the German defenses. That operation went well, and in his family correspondence Bob tried to always reassure them, but still they could get a sense of the danger he was in from the media of the day. The unit began to receive replacements after suffering losses and these men were suddenly thrust into an unnerving situation without knowing anyone around them.
It was a cruel winter leading up to the Battle of the Bulge and Bob Uhl recalls how the Germans dropped propaganda leaflets urging the Americans to surrender and get a warm bed. There were no takers. His unit was south of the battle, keeping pressure on the enemy.
They were trying to advance across a railroad cut but the Germans were on top and firing down the cut. As Bob Uhl struggled up the bank with his bazooka, his friend Bill Miley was hit and killed instantly. It was hard to leave his buddy, but he had to press on.
Units were shuffled around continuously and he sometimes found himself back in a position he had previously occupied. That's how Bob Uhl remembers his time on the outskirts of the Battle of the Bulge. When that fight was over, it was just holding the line until March. At that time, a big push began, but his unit, after 155 days of continuous combat, was kept in reserve.
The Germans kept falling back through small towns until they got to one they felt like defending, then the pattern would repeat. Bob Uhl was a bazookaman, then a runner. As a runner, he was paired with the medic and he pays tribute to the bravery of those men.
There was a German observation post in a church steeple and every time Bob Uhl's unit tried to move, mortars and artillery pounded them. It was a pretty church and they hated to destroy it, but it had to be done. After conventional artillery failed to take it out, a new weapon was called up. After that, he was disturbed when World War I tactics came into play.
At the Rhine, one of the 44th Infantry Division's units directed the first ground fire across the river into Germany. German resistance stiffened at that point because they were now defending the Fatherland. He recounts an operation to capture a bridge at Heidelberg and another incident which cured him of a strange phobia.
After passing through the devastated city of Reims, Bob Uhl couldn't feel much pity for the German citizens. After all, they had started the conflict. After the war in Europe concluded, he felt the same way about the Japanese who had suffered the atomic bomb used on them. His unit was designated to take part in the invasion of Japan, so naturally he has an opinion on whether President Truman did the right thing.
The German 88 was a formidable weapon, but it had one disadvantage. The high velocity of the shell didn't allow for a timed burst, which was a great tactic to use against ground troops. American technology had developed a new proximity fire shell, which would always explode at a set distance from it's target. This made it very effective.
When Bob Uhl was made a runner, he was given a carbine. It was lighter than his M-1, but the limited range caused him to go back to the powerful rifle for his personal weapon. He never had an incident in his unit of men wounding themselves to get out of duty, but there were plenty of wounded feet from improper footwear. Fortunately, new boots designed for the cold, wet winter conditions were issued.
There were other things than combat going on, recalls Bob Uhl, during the push into Germany. There was the guy who snored loudly, the shovel handle shaped bruise on his posterior, and the amphibious truck driver with a five gallon can of schnapps.
In the push into Germany, Bob Uhl lost a good friend named Calvin Farmer. The enemy was beginning to surrender and Farmer lost his life to some unscrupulous Germans who indicated they were going to do so. They later surrendered but somehow never made it back to the rear. After hostilities ceased, his unit was sent to guard a Bavarian hotel full of political prisoners.
There were lots of bullets and shells flying during that last year of the war in Europe, but Bob Uhl was spared and went on to have a full life. He always remembers the 28 men from his company who didn't have that opportunity and he memorialized them at the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning.
The Japanese were trying to regroup, but Bill Vaughan's unit had the high ground and took care of them in short order. They had fortified Luzon very well, hiding artillery pieces in caves high in the mountains and rolling them out at night to blast Allied ships. (This interview made possible with the support of MARILYN M. WOODHOUSE.)
After bailing out, evading German troops and hiding in the woods, B-17 Pilot George Starks was helped by French civilians and put on his way over land toward Switzerland. He had a broken bone in his foot, but he managed to make good time, with some help from locals. German troops were everywhere but his young looks and beret gave him a chance when he encountered them. Part 2 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
In Dachau, Rogers witnesses thousands of starving prisoners in a concentration camp. He remembers the many other displaced civilians, forced into labor, who suffered at the hands of the nazis. (This interview made possible with the support of TIMOTHY R. COLLINS.)
On his fifth combat mission, his first as aircraft commander, B-17 pilot George Starks was on the outside edge of the formation when the plane was hit by German fighters. With a wing on fire, he gave the signal to bail out and he was soon in free fall from high altitude over France. He landed hard, hid his chute, and hid in the woods as he heard German troops approaching. Part 1 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
The Russians were close enough that the American POW's could hear the fire in the distance. Their guards roused them all and put them on the road in a forced march, leaving their camp in Poland and heading for Germany. It was seventy nine days of freezing cold out in the open, with very little food. (This interview made possible with the support of PHILIP J. O'NEILL.)
Chan Rogers experiences a couple of close calls on the Siegfried Line. His unit stumbles upon a nest of sleeping Germans, suddenly finding themselves in a harrowing firefight. Later, when facing off against a group of German pillboxes, they are showered with deadly shrapnel from tree bursts. (This interview made possible with the support of TIMOTHY R. COLLINS.)
As he made his way through France in disguise, downed B-17 pilot George Starks encountered German troops, stole a bicycle and made friends with many locals. In one town he was sheltered by the chief of police, who had a very friendly daughter. Part 3 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Jack Houston had just helped his buddy dress a wound when he volunteered to return to the Okinawa hilltop where they were getting the enemy cleared out. When he got the jump on three of them, his muzzle flash gave him away and he had to leave in a hurry. He flung himself off the hill where he came face to face with a rifle. Part 5 of 6. (This interview made possible with the support of JOHN & BARBARA MCCOY.)
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.
Following his French contact at a discreet distance, George Starks parked his bicycle and watched the man enter a bakery. In the back of that bakery, he met Maurice, a member of the Free French Resistance. He was getting close to Switzerland, but he would need Maurice's help to get over the border. Part 4 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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 long trek across France, George Starks was finally next to the Swiss border. From the time he hid his parachute until the time he stepped across the creek that was the border, he had been helped by sympathetic locals. When he was finally out of occupied territory and free in Switzerland, he was surprised when someone else showed up. Part 5 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
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.
George Starks had evaded capture all across France and was safe in Switzerland, where he had it easier than downed airmen who had actually come down in Switzerland. They were supposed to stay put and wait, but he had other ideas, which led to the liberation of Evian on the other side of Lake Geneva. Part 6 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
He was in his last year of college pursuing a mechanical engineering degree when Bob DeBoo was drafted into the Navy. They sent him to finish his degree, then to midshipmen's school, and then he was ready to deploy. He was assigned to an LSM, which is Landing Ship, Medium.
George Starks enlisted as an aviation cadet in 1942 and made his way up the training ladder to B-17's. He got out of an assignment as an instructor in the small trainers because he wanted to fly the big aircraft. He excelled along the way and at nineteen years old, he prepared to go to war as the commander of a ten man crew. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
When the war in the Pacific ended, Marine Lieutenant Dan Magill did two things. The first occurred with him on his knees in thanks. The second involved the stash of medicinal alcohol and coconuts. (This interview made possible with the support of ANITA E. MANUEL.)
After leaving his safe haven in Switzerland, downed B-17 pilot George Starks finally met up with American forces near Evian in France. Then began a long, sometimes pleasurable trip back to his unit in England. After debriefing, he was sent around to give lectures on evasion for other airmen, then back home to Florida. Part 7 of 7. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
The hazing that Roy Scribner got the first time he crossed the equator included the eating of a bitter pudding that came with an unusual health benefit. He was on a minesweeper on the way to the Philippines and, once there, the ship became a target for kamikazes. (This interview made possible with the support of THOMAS J. DOUGLAS, USAF.)
After boot camp, Dan Magill reported to Quantico for officer candidate training. The newly arrived Marine was walking by the barracks when he spotted a beautiful redhead who was the spitting image of Maureen O'Hara. Once he picked himself up off the ground, he found out something startling. (This interview made possible with the support of ANITA E. MANUEL.)
The new B-17 crew was part of a provisional group that, once in England, would be parceled out to units that needed replacement crews. George Starks was the young Lieutenant in charge of one crew that had been selected as the best of the group. He barely got away from Labrador in a storm and the flight across the Atlantic was the toughest instrument flying he ever did. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
Before Roy Scribner headed home from the Pacific, he had to watch his ship, the USS Dorsey demolished and scuttled after being slammed by a typhoon. Back home, he was sent to Camp Shoemaker, a place he knew very well. (This interview made possible with the support of THOMAS J. DOUGLAS, USAF.)
The battles were over, but Marine Lieutenant Dan Magill was ordered to investigate reports of straggler Japanese troops up in the mountains of the Philippines. They were a pitiful lot when he found them, and their leader presented him with a keepsake. Another assignment involved a Marine who had an eye for the local girls. (This interview made possible with the support of ANITA E. MANUEL.)
After an amazing adventure in France and Switzerland, George Starks was instructing B-17 pilots at the war's end. He took a job with an airline, but decided upon another path, one which would lead him back into the army, but not as a pilot. (This interview made possible with the support of DOROTHY J. D'EWART.)
The USS Dorsey, a destroyer/minesweeper, had a number of weapons to protect itself. Roy Scribner was a loader on one of the 20mm guns which was primarily an anti-aircraft weapon. The 40mm gun at the stern was the best protection they had against kamikazes, which were a constant threat. They had already taken out three of the ten ships in his group. (This interview made possible with the support of THOMAS J. DOUGLAS, USAF.)
Every member of Dan Magill's fraternity joined the military services the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was allowed to finish college and then he reported to Parris Island. Alongside him was a great friend, Howard "Smiley" Johnson, who was quite a character. (This interview made possible with the support of ANITA E. MANUEL.)
The Banzai charges would come at night. Machine gunner Bill Vaughan was in his foxhole and had the advantage, but he was always glad to see daylight come. The living conditions on Luzon were not good, basically a hole with water in it and swarms of malaria causing mosquitoes. (This interview made possible with the support of MARILYN M. WOODHOUSE.)
Marine Lieutenant Dan Magill arrived in the Philippines after the enemy was on the run. Very soon, the islands were out from under the thumb of the Japanese, and he had an interesting idea for the colonel about a little commemoration involving a diving exhibition. (This interview made possible with the support of ANITA E. MANUEL.)