6:56 | The roads were full of German soldiers returning to Germany. Willie Lindsey's unit had pushed all the way to the Rhine, which they crossed on some improbable landing craft. When they were on the move, he was often lead scout, which was a rough life.
Keywords : Willie Rabbit Lindsey German Germany land mines Rhine Remagen bridge landing craft tank scout Charlie Altmans machine gun
It was September of 1944 when Willie Lindsey was drafted and sent for infantry training at Camp Blanding. They had good experienced men training the draftees and he felt it helped him greatly when he got into combat. It didn't help him at all, though, when the man next to him on the grenade course dropped a live grenade at his feet
After a short Christmas leave, Willie Lindsey shipped out for Europe. His unit was being rushed into place because the Battle of the Bulge had the Allied commanders worried. Even before they got ashore, they lost a man to the cold waters of the English Channel.
Willie Lindsey arrived in France just as the Battle of the Bulge was winding down. His unit moved across France towards the action, but the cold was his primary enemy at this time. He could hear the Screaming Mimi's but they all went overhead.
Willie Lindsey was lead scout as the company was on the move. He got to an open field and stopped to plan going around the edges because you don't cross an open field. Incredibly, the young company commander decided to do just that. Bad idea. Part 1 of 3.
After being pinned down by artillery in an open field, Willie Lindsey was sent by his platoon leader to try and connect with a sister company. He found them alright, under fire by a German machine gun on the edge of a mine field. After he took care of that, he was in a gazebo near a German house when he spotted a German soldier coming out of the house and heading straight for him. Part 2 of 3.
After capturing a German soldier under unusual circumstances, Willie Lindsey took him and two civilians back to his unit's position. It had been an eventful day between nearly getting killed by artillery fire and single-handedly taking out a German machine gun crew. Part 3 of 3.
Willie Lindsey found a map while going through an abandoned German airfield. This came in handy at a crossroads where he determined that the retreating Germans had switched the road signs. Incredibly, the inept company commander insisted on following the signs.
When Willie Lindsey got to Leipzig, his unit had to take a huge monument complex where German soldiers had holed up. It was tough but they had help from their artillery. Another building taken in Leipzig contained a large arsenal of German small arms.
After his friend and platoon sergeant Charlie Altmans was wounded, Willie Lindsey got a new sergeant who was from the Panama coastal artillery. This man knew nothing about infantry tactics and was bound to get get someone killed as the GI's pushed deeper into Germany.
They could have reached Berlin easily, but the 69th Infantry Division was stopped at the Elbe River so the Russians could take the German capitol. That was OK with Willie Lindsey. It meant that they wouldn't lose any more men. After the first meeting with the Russians, patrols were started to keep tabs on the tenuous allies.
The company commander was arrogant and rude. Willie Lindsey recalls how he humiliated a soldier needlessly, just one of the many things that made the enlisted men despise him. Three lieutenants decided to cook his goose.
Willie Lindsey was on a troop train bound for Italy where he was going to ship out to the Pacific. When the atomic bombs were dropped, it was a train full of happy GI's. He had low points, so he stayed on in Germany, trying to learn his new job, mechanic.
In postwar Germany, Willie Lindsey was first in a constabulary unit, then in a motorpool, where he was supposed to be a mechanic. He wasn't, really, but he tried hard and did a decent job, something that didn't go unnoticed by the colonel, who became a great friend and backed him up when it was needed.
It was the day to practice bomb but there were no practice bombs available. The crews were allowed to take a pleasure flight anywhere they wanted. Marvin Russell's crew headed up to Atlanta, but they never got there after a close encounter with a tree.
John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
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 bailing out over Germany, Marvin Russell couldn't find any of his crew where he landed. He found a Italian work crew and tried to get some civilian clothes from them, but he wound up in the hands of the Germans. He was taken eventually to a military base where he was subjected to a humiliating interview.
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.
Bill Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 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.
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.)
He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
Hannah Deutch was a teenager when the Kindertransport rescue effort became her means of escape from Germany. England was taking in thousands of Jewish children and she got her papers in order and left. Right away, as the oldest one in the large group, she became the leader on the journey.
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.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
During one mission, B-17 pilot George Stamps was startled when another formation of bombers passed through his at the same altitude. That was scary but the Germans had something that was also very frightening, the Messerschmitt Me 262, the first jet fighter.
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.
Rufus Dalton was at the Maginot Line bouncing mortar shells off an old citadel. His unit was suddenly pulled and sent to take Patton's place in the line after the general was summoned to the Bulge. Once they got there, a fierce ten day battle ensued due to the last major German offensive, Operation Nordwind. Part 1 of 2.
Near the end of the war, the food supply in Holland had been disrupted and there was widespread hunger. Henk Duinhoven was lucky to be in the countryside, where gardens had been harvested. When he heard the sound of Canadian tanks, he knew that liberation was finally at hand.
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.
It was a fierce week long battle for the city of Heilbronn. Even though they were only delaying the inevitable, the Germans weren't beat, yet. Forward Observer Rufus Dalton went into the demolished city looking for a rifle company he was instructed to find. It was an eerie setting with the city in flames all around him. Part 2 of 2.
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.
The men of the 92nd Infantry Division had to fight on three fronts. They had to fight the Germans. They had to fight the racial animosity of their fellow soldiers and commanders. And they had to fight Congress, which wanted to maintain segregation in the Army. Lyle Gittens made it through all that with an undampened spirit.
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
Wes Ruth was eating breakfast when he saw the planes coming in. He thought they were ours until the bombs started falling. As he drove frantically to his hangar on Ford Island, he saw the USS Arizona hit. The Japanese had made their move. As a photo-recon pilot, he was dispatched as soon as the attacks ended to search for the enemy fleet.
As if a year in a German prison camp wasn't enough misery, when Marvin Russell was settling into life back home after the war, he suffered a serious injury which nearly took his life. Two things saved him, a new drug and an innovative doctor.
The Germans had been chased back into their homeland. B-17 pilot George Stamps was taking his ground crew for a ride over the Ruhr Valley to see the damage their efforts had inflicted on the enemy. Suddenly, there was a call on the radio. It was over. The Germans had surrendered. Forget the Ruhr, we're going to Paris!