I enlisted in the military service in July, 1940, was shipped
to Fort Benning, Georgia, and assigned to the Second Armored
Division which was stationed at Fort Benning at that time, and
partly in an area known as Harmony Church, which was Tent City.
At that time the Army still had horse units, or mechanized artillery.
They would use horses to tow the artillery pieces. I remained
at Fort Benning until I was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to
form the Third Armored Division. We were about sixty or seventy
who came from Fort Benning to Camp Polk, but when we arrived
in Louisiana, Camp Polk was not completed, so we were stationed
at Camp Beauregard, Alexandria, Louisiana, for approximately
three or four months, awaiting the completion of Camp Polk. We
were billeted in tents. I will never forget the day we were assigned
two officers, Captain Lovelady, and a platoon leader, George
T. Stallings. We remained at Beauregard for approximately three
or four months and, when Camp Polk was completed, we motored
by trucks (2 1/2 ton trucks or whatever vehicle we had at that
time) to take over Camp Polk.
On June 4,1941, I was promoted to Corporal, on July 2,1941,
to Buck Sergeant, on February 25,1942, to Staff Sergeant and
on April 13, 1942, to 1st Sergeant. I remained as 1st Sergeant
in D Co., 33rd Armored Regiment until I was promoted, or battlefield
commissioned in Normandy, or the latter part of Normandy, as
I should say. So, I did go through all of the ranks of an enlisted
man in approximately a year and a half, from Private to 1st Sergeant.
After quite a long stay at Camp Polk, we went to desert training
in the Mojave Desert for approximately four months. The Division
was then transferred to Camp Pickett, then to Indiantown Gap,
then Camp Kilmer and then to England.
I was commissioned the latter part of the St. Lo breakthrough
and I commanded D Company of the 33rd Armored Regiment, 2nd battalion
for approximately 75% to 80% of the action of D Company in Europe.
Once in a while we would get officers and, if they were senior
officers, then they were assigned to the Company and I would
step down as Platoon Leader or Maintenance Officer, as the case
may be. As soon as those officers were gone then I would have
to take command of the Company again. After the Normandy Campaign
I commanded D Company the greater majority of the battle actions
we were in. I was always in D Company of the 2nd battalion, 33rd
Armored Regiment as an enlisted man and as an officer.
I feel my life was spared on many occasions due to the efforts
of Col. Lovelady. Whenever we would get new officers he would
assign some of them to D Company and he would always tell me
that he did not want me at the lead tank, at the head of the
column because he said I was about the only one he had left to
keep the Company going, and that he could depend on and who knew
the operation of the Company. Therefore, I would remain back
maybe a day or two. Then if officers would be wounded or killed
I would have to take over again.
I would like to recount two separate actions that come to
my mind every time I talk about the battles we had in Europe
against the Germans. One of them was the objective of Marburg,
Germany. We were given this mission and told we would have to
arrive at this objective within a certain period of time. For
some reason, I had just been assigned one of the latest model
tanks ... the General Pershing tank ... it was a 90mm with a
23-foot barrel with a muzzle break on the end. I think we were
finally being assigned tanks that could match, not quite, but
almost, the German tanks. We were told that we would have to
take Marburg within a 24-hour period and it was approximately
100 miles away. The Germans had blown up a bridge across a small
river and our engineers had to lay a pontoon across the river
so we could make our way across. The tracks of this new type
tank were too wide to cross on our normal pontoon bridges. Therefore,
I had to detour quite a few miles away. Col. Lovelady gave me
a coordinate on the map and told me to go in such and such a
direction approximately so many miles, that there was a Unit
which had taken a bridge intact there and crossed there, and
eventually I could make my way to his Task Force, which I did.
I left early in the morning. It was foggy, and it was a hard
surface road, and we were traveling as fast as we possibly could.
But we knew it would take possibly three or four hours to make
our way around to this bridge which was intact and then come
back and join our Task Force. We were going down this road as
fast as we could and finally my driver locked both of the levers
and skidded down the pavement for forty or fifty feet and finally
came to a halt. I looked up ahead, through the fog, and here
was a 500-pounder laying in the middle of the road. You could
see the wires on each side and a foxhole on either side which
I am sure at one time was occupied by Germans to detonate this
bomb to try to stop our advance.
I got down, looked around but couldn't see any Germans in
the foxhole. I could not detonate this bomb in the middle of
the road so I finally made my way around the bomb and got back
on the highway and finally arrived at the bridge and crossed
over. I was trying to make my way back to our main route and
it seemed that I would never get there. I had been traveling
for about two or three hours until finally I told my driver to
pull off the road and stop. We listened for any gun fire or artillery.
I thought surely the Task Force was ahead of us. I knew I was
on the right route. We kept on going, and going and going for
how many hours I don't know. We just never got to regroup with
our Task Force. Finally, after traveling for five or six hours,
maybe seven, I got to the outskirts of Marburg. I couldn't see
any of our equipment, nothing was moving. When you went into
a town and nothing was moving you had better keep your head down
because you knew there were some Germans there. I told the men
to buckle up and close all hatches and we moved into the town
to see if we could find our Unit. We made our way into the middle
of the town and there was a little square there, so I told the
driver to get into the middle of this square and kill the motor
to see if we could hear anything, or maybe raise somebody and
find out exactly what the situation was.
I raised Col. Lovelady on the radio. He asked me what my location
was, and I told him I was in the heart of town. He asked me what
town I was talking about, and I told him that I was right in
the middle of our objective. He said "Hell's fire, we're
having a battle here; we've been in a battle for the last two
or three hours; we had a change in route; and I forgot to let
you know!" He said there were a lot of roadblocks holding
them up. The Colonel gave me a route on the map to take and told
me to go down a certain road and that we should see German anti-tank
guns which would be facing the opposite direction I was coming
The Colonel told me to clear the way so we could make our
way through Marburg as planned. I told him I was on my way. I
finally found the road he was talking about and made my way slowly
ahead, and, at the first curve I turned, I could see three or
four Germans there. They had put logs across the road and there
was this anti-tank gun; they were all on their knees behind the
logs, all zeroed in, waiting for the column to come close enough.
I told my gunner to put an HE in the gun and just let them have
it, which he did. You could see logs and guns and Germans flying
all over. Then we kept on going. Anyway, we met about two or
three of the roadblocks and we finally cleared all of the anti-tank
guns and met up with the column. This is one day that comes to
mind every time I discuss the European operations because it
was something to remember, taking an objective with a Task Force
consisting of one tank.
The other action that comes to mind was in some area in Germany.
We were taking a pretty good sized town. When we got close to
the town we could see Germans running all over, crossing the
streets, and one or two tanks moving around, trucks and whatnot.
There were freshly dug foxholes on the road we were on, leading
into the city. We knew they were freshly dug because there was
dirt around them, not camouflaged or anything. When we got fairly
close to the foxholes, we just stopped because we knew there
were Germans with bazookas and we knew from experience just how
far those bazookas would travel.
I pulled my tank just about the distance I wanted from the
foxholes. I could see these two Germans, they would come up and
aim the bazookas, and I would tell my gunner to fire the machine
gun at them. They could see the tracers and they would duck down
in the foxholes. They would come up again and we would fire and
they would go down. This went on and on. I even tried an HE in
the 75mm, but that didn't work. At about that time I had lost
my patience and pretty soon, bang, here comes the bazooka, but
it fell about 10 or 15 paces in front of my tank and exploded.
I bailed out of my tank and took off for that foxhole with
my bare hands. When I got to the foxhole both of the Germans
jumped out. I whacked one with my bare fist and knocked him down
into the foxhole. In the meantime, I noticed my driver had done
the same thing, he had lost his patience too, I guess, and he
got the other one. Finally, we were walking back to the tank
and the two Germans got up and they wanted to surrender, with
their hands behind their heads. We gave them the signal to go
back and we kept walking toward our Unit. Somebody would pick
them up because we didn't have time to fool around with prisoners.
Why I did that I don't know. I thought I had broken my right
fist because my hand was bleeding. I guess I hit him in the mouth
and broke some teeth, but those are some things I recall. There
were many, but you sort of get used to combat, I guess, until
you get shot up.
After the war ended, I had only six men left from the original
D Company. I am speaking of six regular men who actually went
into combat, not into supplies or kitchen whatnot. These were
front-line tank crewmen. We had six regular men left and every
one had been wounded once or twice, some three times. We had
to make an inventory, the supply sergeant and myself, as to how
many tanks the Company had lost during the five campaigns. The
supply sergeant came up with a total of 86 tanks. That did not
include the ones that were repaired, that were knocked out and
did not burn, and two or three days later you would get them
back. I am speaking of tanks that were totally lost, and there