I was drafted into the united States Army on December 10th,
1942 from Bamboo, Wisconsin. We took our basic training with Co. "A"
409th Infantry Regiment of the "103' Infantry Division at Camp
Claiborne, LA. We were soon professional soldiers and trained on the M-l rifle,
60 mm mortar machine guns, bazookas and grenades. We were soon on our way
overseas on a transport ship for the British Isles, where we stayed briefly,
then went as replacement troops into the landing of Omaha Beach. Most of us
made the landing and our mission was to join up with our assigned unit of the
2" Armored Division which was held up after the landing and some tough
fighting. I was soon assigned to Co. "D" 41st Armored
Infantry Regiment of the 2 Armored Division under General Patton. As a Private
First Class, I was first assigned as an ammunition carrier for our 60 mm mortar
squad on the halftrack (PC) and from then on we got ourselves into some tough
The St. Lo breakthrough was probably one of our biggest battles,
except for the Battle of the Bulge. Otherwise we had to clear out a lot of
hidden German units scattered throughout the wheat fields of France. The
further toward Germany we got, the tougher the fighting and more and more of
the big stuff was fired at us. It wasn't until after we were called back from
near Hanover that we were ordered to help with the breakthrough of our lines
around Christmas time, known as the Battle of the Bulge. Our Company was
ordered to attack a small town (name unknown) in Belgium on December 27th,
1944. We had no artillery support and with only few tanks we ran head first
into a well dug in German Infantry and Tank Unit. My mortar squad attempted to
fight our way into the cover of a basement door and into a cellar when the
Germans closed in.
Lt. Rone, (our platoon leader) was severely wounded. We had lost
our radio man and were completely cut off. The Germans took over one of our
tanks and aimed the gun at the basement entrance when they called for us to
come out or they would shoot. The Germans then withdrew and forced us with
them. That night they placed seven of us into a well guarded room and gave us a
piece of raw lungs from what appeared to be a freshly butchered animal. No one
ate, of course. During darkness they ordered us all out onto a road; they
marched us into the next town where there was less fighting and a German
Officer interrogated us. Again on the road march we asked the guards if they
were going to shoot us and all they said was that they were German Soldiers.
Prune, Germany was where they assembled several hundred of us
POW's and we were bombed there by our own fighting planes. Work details were an
everyday event, especially on the railroads, relaying ties and rails. It was
very hard and heavy work. After several days we were ordered out of the
warehouse where we slept and into a road march through snow covered fields and
woods with no food or water. Many men got frost bite on their feet and hands.
Gerldstein, Germany was our next village where it was more
warehouses for barracks and work details. There we lost several of our comrades
from dysentery and malnutrition. Several POW's were shot in the back because
they didn't get up when the whistle blew for work formation. The work here
consisted of hauling manure from big barnyards, planting trees, piling brush
and digging gun emplacements for German antiaircraft guns up in the hills. We
had board storage racks on the walls for a bed, no blankets, no heat and we ate
some kind of very thin soup once a day from our helmets.
Here we did get 1/5th of a loaf of bread a day unless
you were on a work detail, then we were lucky if we got a little more soup.
After several weeks at this work camp, we marched to a camp near
Frankfort, Germany. If my memory is correct it was a Stalag 12B where we were
again interrogated and became registered POW's. "The Jerry's" as we
called them. Then they seemed to sort us out here and after several days we
were loaded on box cars and moved out. After what seemed to be two nights and a
day of sixty of us to a boxcar, we slowly moved to our final location of Stalag
11-B. No food nor water while on the train and no bathroom nor toilets. There
appeared to be hundreds of troops at this new camp, Russians, French, Czech,
Polish and Britain's. We were moved into a barracks next to the Russian's where
we would trade a potato or rutabaga with them. Our barracks leader soon told us
to stay away from the Russian's because they had diphtheria and were dying off
like flies. By this time I had lost a lot of weight and felt weak, therefore
did not volunteer for any work details. Here we did get a board bunk to sleep
on, rutabaga soup and 1/5 of a loaf of bread a day. We had aluminum cans or
helmets to eat soup from with no washing facilities; cold water to drink and an
out rationed or cut off the biggest share of the time.
At Stalag 11-B several attempts to escape were made. Later through
asking one of the outside fence guards, we would hear that the escape failed
and the POW was shot to death. Our attempt never materialized after that.
Medical aid was almost at none and as for dysentery, we were lucky
to get a hand full of loose charcoal. My left cheek was still sore and my left
foot was infected (wounds were very slow to heal in POW camps). Several
comrades died and had to be buried at the camp gravesite. A small building in
site of the barracks was piled over half full of dead corpses, nude and
believed to be Russians.
Time was spent mostly by trying to keep clean and killing lice or
trading a cigarette for a rutabaga or potato. Red Cross articles were not even
seen here, but the Germans seemed to have plenty of cigarettes.
At night we watched the artillery flashing as they got closer and
closer from both the allied front to the west and the Russian front to the east
and south. We hoped the allies would get there first.One morning late in April,
everything outside appeared very quite. A lot of German civilians were walking
down the road and only one guard was walking the fence. The guard was very
friendly he traded us some cigarettes and brought us some good drinking water
in our helmets. Suddenly someone saw the guard pull off his belt bayonet and
throw his rifle away. Word got out fast that someone had seen a column of
British scout cars just outside the camp. We knew then that we were liberated.
The British medical ambulance was the first to arrive at the barracks. They
took away the very sick and dying POW's. The next ambulances set up DDT spray
guns and deloused us around our shirt collars, up our sleeves and up the back
of our pant legs. Next a Convoy of British trucks came in and we were loaded up
and moved to a hospital camp. The location of all this is unknown to me. After
a day or so we were flown into England 91st Hospital at Oxford. We
were soon put on a malnutrition diet and cleaned up to the point of feeling
human again. After what appeared to be several weeks there we got transferred
into Ex-prisoner of War Casual Det. U.K. Base in London where we waited for
shipment back to the United States. A copy of my old orders read
"Restricted, Headquarters Command, United Kingdom Base, APO413 U.S.
Army" and dated May 25th, 1945. I believe it was from Plymouth
Harbor where we set sail on a L.S.T Convoy for the United States. Miami Beach
was to be our recuperation station, but because it was already full, my orders
were to go home and wait for further instructions. After 80 some days my orders
arrived in Reedsburg, Wisconsin in late summer. I was to report to Fort Sam
Houston, Texas under permissions of Par. Le C6 AR 6 15-5. I was promoted to the
rank of Corporal.
Settlement of day accounts were made and reimbursement for
personal property was made and I went home as a proud Corporal and an Ex POW of
the United States Army.
On January 17th, 1947 I re-enlisted into the United
States Army and was assigned to HQ & SV troop 1st Cay. Div. at
Camp Drake, Japan. After serving a normal tour I was discharged at Ft. Hood,
Texas and again re-enlisted March 1950. I ended up going back to the same unit
I had just left and unfortunately got sent with them to the Korean peninsula
where we sweat out the Korean War.
After serving in the Z.I. for several months my next overseas tour
was to U.S. Army Experimental Station in Big Delta, Alaska in 1953, which is
now known as Ft. Greeley. From there I served with the Arizona Military
District as Civilian Component Duty in the summer of 1957, 1958, and 1959 in
Phoenix, Arizona. In l959 1 was put on orders as Sgt. E-5 to serve with the
Audio-Visual Communications Center in Karlsruhe, Germany and then sent home to
Ft. Leonard, MO. Again I was honorably discharged and I decided to retire from
the U.S. Army under general orders #266 on the 26th of June, 1964
after completing over 20 years of service.
Copied by permission from Clyde D. Nachtigal on
March 3, 2010