I joined the 101st near Metz as a replacement in early March 1945, and I remember the weather was very bad until we got through the Siegfried Line and to the area around Uffenheim.
We had snow squalls, cold winds, hard rains, and then the early spring thaw, with foot-deep mud. Roads were strewn with mines, and fields were like an ocean of mud. We would be stuck for hours trying to get around road blocks, running into other outfits with tanks or trucks swamped. Sometimes we would have to pull back a few miles and try a new road or a special patrol. At the same time, we would face enemy fire from 88s, and good soldiers were getting wounded or killed.
Then, like a star from heaven, we got beautiful spring weather, and this eased the tension of combat for some. Not for the boy that was a replacement me, however: One night on guard in an M8 armored car, a German patrol came down the road, and three or four of us were off under some trees about 30 yards away. He got excited and called out, and the Germans opened up with a machine pistol blast at the M8, cutting his fingers – which were around the turret – to bits. Tec. 4 Cantrell opened up on the Germans with a carbine, and we came up from inside the armored car and ran to help. They sent the boy back to the hospital in England, and the war was over for him. He tried to write to us later.
Sometimes we would recruit refugees to help us patrol the Germans. They knew the roads and local areas. Some said they were alright; others said they couldn’t be trusted. Most of them couldn’t speak any English. Some of our own people were shot at by these refugees, and we didn’t have time to teach them our weapons, so we stopped recruiting.
I remember one spring day when a lone German fighter plane flew over our line on a wooded ridge we were holding for a day. He was flying at tree top level, and I could see his face in the cockpit. I was standing by the ring-mounted 30 caliber machine gun on an armored car. By the time I got the gun around to fire, he was gone, with one of our own P47s after him.
On this same ridge we found a good spring of water. The Germans also knew this spring was there, and we let a few fill their canteens. A few days later we captured these Germans, and we all had a little joke about the good spring water.
One other day, we shot a small deer about the size of a German police dog in an open field. I went out and carried it in over my shoulders and had deer blood all over me. The German women in the village thought I was hit by fire and were fussing all over me. This was our little humor for the rest of the day.
Sometimes, as we moved from area to area or outran our lines, we would be strafed by our own Air Corps fighter planes. We would run in a hasty manner and out our bright orange banners to let them know we were Americans.
We saw our first German jet aircraft (most of us didn’t even know what a jet engine or aircraft was) near Tauberbischofsheim and Lauda. A lot of us stood up in amazement at the sound and where it was coming from.
Two of my buddies were wounded: Jack Schaffer near Feuchtwangen and Ted Palace near Augsburg.
We were pinned down for three days with the 12th Armored Division in a picket near Landsberg. There was a concentration camp near Schwand with only a few surviving people in it. We got into this camp by crossing the railroad bridge with our jeeps.
For two or so weeks after the war, we remained near the Austria-Germany border in the Alps to check any last push of the SS or German Army. We then returned to Lorsch and remained there until we came home in July 1945.
We turned in our equipment, armored cars, vehicles and weapons at an American depot called Camp Lucky Strike near Le Havre, France, and sailed back in 14 days on Liberty ships. When we arrived at Staten Island, we went to Camp Shanks, near Orangeburg, New York, for hot showers and a good meal. After two or three days of newly issued clothing and PX items, we went to Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, for a 30-day leave. We reassembled at the Gap and went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where we were deactivated.
After a short tour of duty at Fort Indiantown Gap, I returned to Camp Shanks in December 1945 and was assigned Duty NCO in the POW stockade, shipping German and Italian prisoners back to Europe. With the closing of Camp Shanks in the summer of 1946, I was discharged at Fort Meade, Maryland, in June 1946.
From 1953 to 1962 I was a Staff Sergeant with the U.S. Air Force, then served until 1964 in the Air Force Reserve. From 1964 until 1982 I was with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, serving as Senior Master Sergeant (E-8). I retired in 1986 after a total of 34 years of military service.