I was drafted into the Army in August of 1941 and went to basic training in Macon, GA. I was in Atlanta on a weekend pass and had gone to the movies. When I got out everyone in the streets was going crazy. Someone said all soldiers had to report to base immediately, so I hitchhiked a ride back to Macon that afternoon.
The next day the Colonel put the radio on and FDR declared war. I was transferred to Jackson, South Carolina and made part of 120th Infantry. While we were in South Carolina, Warrant Officer Liles, the fattest guy in the Army, came into our barracks and asked if anyone could type. I raised my hand, he selected me, and it was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. I was assigned to regimental headquarters as a clerk, which was always situated a few miles back from the front battle lines. Most Private First Class and Privates of the 120th Infantry who fought on the front lines died, if I didn't volunteer as a typist I would have probably been one of them. I was supposed to be in the Army for one year but I ended up staying for the duration of the war.
While I was back on furlough a friend of mine invited me to go to a club with him on East Broadway in New York City. We saw two girls dancing on the other side of the room.
“Which one do you want?” My friend asked me. “Left or right?”
I found out that the girl on the left was named Eve and we spent the night dancing. Eve wrote to me every single day I was in the service.
Near the end of the war in Europe I was in Germany. We crossed the Elbe River and were headed towards Berlin. We could have taken Berlin but all of the sudden we were told to retreat back across the river. That was unusual. It’s hard to cross a river so you don’t usually come back once you’ve gone across, but the front line troops crossed it and came back. We later found out that General Bradley thought conquering Berlin would lead to 100,000 – 150,000 more American casualties and didn’t think it was worth it. He decided to let the Russians have the glory of conquering Berlin and absorb all those casualties.
When we came back across the Elbe we were stationed near a German parachute factory. The Germans had stolen fine, snow-white silk from the French to make parachutes. Colonel Purdue gave each of us a 100-meter roll of silk which he claimed were ‘military supplies,’ but he got chewed up because the silk was considered a ‘war souvenir’ and he was turned over to the AMG (American Military Government).
When the infantry got back to Paris a lot of the silk provisions were taken back, but I had already cut my rations into four packages and sent them home to Eve. Eve took the silk, went to a seamstress on the Lower East Side and had them convert the silk into the most beautiful wedding dress I’ve ever seen. Her wedding dress was created from World War II Nazi parachutes made of captured French silk, but it must have been lucky – we’ve been married for seventy years!
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“Any life advice?”
“Yeah – stay away from fast women and slow horses.”
“Lieutenant Curley used to tell me that leading troops is like a piece of spaghetti. You have to lead from the front, you can't lead behind."
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