I was studying industrial engineering at Northeastern University during the outbreak of World War II. I wanted to complete my education before going into combat but I knew that if the war came before I finished I would be drafted, so I joined the ERC (Enlisted Reserve Core). The idea with the ERC was that it would enable me to continue my education, but if the war escalated I’d be immediately available for combat. Shortly after joining the ERC I had a pretty good idea that things were getting worse and I would be called, and three months later, I was.
I was pulled into active duty the year after Pearl Harbor. I went through basic training at Fort Devens, MA. After basic training they asked me what role I wanted to serve. I told them I wanted to operate anti-aircraft guns and was sent to Fort Eustis, VA for advanced anti-aircraft training. But after my training there was a lull in the war and I was sent to ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) for further education and college in Roanoke, VA.
Six months later the war escalated and I was called back in. They put me in the 102nd Infantry Division which was known as the ‘Ozark division’ because all the men were from the Ozark Mountains. There were no anti-aircraft guns with that particular division so I learned to operate a 105 MM Howitzer.
I was only with the division for a week when we were all shipped to France. We landed at Normandy only a few days after D-Day. After Normandy the troops were cruising across Europe so fast that they were running out of ammunition and gasoline and equipment. It was a tragedy because we had a huge advantage over the Nazis at the time.
That time was the height of General Patton’s ‘Red Ball Express’ – a famed truck convoy system that supplied Allied forces moving quickly through Europe after breaking out from the D-Day beaches in Normandy. In order to expedite cargo to the front, trucks emblazoned with red balls followed a similarly marked route that had been closed to civilian traffic.
That's when I came into picture. I was nineteen or twenty and they asked my division if anyone could operate a stick shift. I raised my hand because I thought it would be a nice, clean job. Little did I know they would give me a 2.5 ton truck loaded with ammunition for the troops rushing across Europe. There were ten gears on the truck. I had no Idea what I was doing. I wasn't qualified but they needed men so badly that they would take anyone…so I unwittingly became a part of the ‘Red Ball Express.’
I drove during the night using infrared. I had to do it during the night because if a plane bombed the truck the ammunition explosions would blow the whole line. And there was also no smoking. Absolutely no smoking anywhere.
I drove through France and into Belgium. It took a long time. The convoy crawled through war torn roads strewn with craters from the bombs.
Patton’s men were happy to see the ammunition come through. Ultimately the supplies that I drove were used for the Siege of Bastogne, which was part of the larger Battle of the Bulge…a crucial point in the war.
After the war ended I stayed in Germany to assist with the process of deactivation. I was not in contact with the Nazis or the Germans that were part of the war. Adolf Hitler used to say, ‘Deutschland über alles!’ which translates to, ‘Germany above all else!’” But Hitler led Germany to ruins and the people I dealt with were regular people who wanted nothing to do with the war, so there was no dislike between the allied troops and the Germans. All the Germans wanted was cigarettes and food…
I was stationed in a town called Passau, Germany. It was peaceful there after the war. One day I tried to swim across the Danube River. Halfway over I started weakening and going down. Two German girls in a canoe saw me, rowed over and pulled me in.
Like I said, the Americans had no problem with the Germans and fortunately the two German girls had no problem with Americans… I’m certain I would have drowned if they hadn’t saved me!
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“What did you hear about D-Day when it was happening?”
“I heard there were 50% casualties but nobody knew just how bad it really was. We were heading into it and there was nothing we could do so we just continued onward. We knew some of us wouldn’t make it home but there was no turning back.”
“Were you scared driving the ammunitions truck?”
“No – I was too young. I didn't know you could get killed…”
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