W. W. (Buck) Fluharty
W.W. “Buck” Fluharty was a member of Headquarters & Service Troop and had contact with other cavalrymen only when he and his crew went to recover damaged vehicles. “I was a tank mechanic,” he said, “and my vehicle was a light tank — M5.”
Buck was drafted at the end of 1942 when he was 19 years old, and he did his training at Fort Devens, Mass. Before the war, he worked in a boatyard in Tilghman, Md., and liked to ride his Harley motorcycle.
He remembers that some of the older men at headquarters — men around 38 — sometimes had trouble keeping up and would be threatened with being sent to the infantry. “That was a little too old,” he said.
Buck remembers leaving Camp Campbell, Kentucky, before Christmas 1945 and spending 16 days on a ship that was part of a convoy headed toward Europe. “I remember we stopped at a point off the coast of Portugal,” he said, “then we had air cover to England.”
Approximately 6,000 men were on the ship, and the food was terrible. Most of the men were sick all the way over. They were only able to eat twice a day because there were so many men to feed. Buck grew up on the water, so he didn’t get seasick. He and another may scrubbed the passageways at night and had access to the mess hall. “We survived on cold cuts for the 16 to 17 days we were at sea,” he said.
The 101th and 116th squadrons were each made up of four recon troops (Troops A, B, C, and D), with M8 armored cars and jeeps; one assault gun troop (Troop E), with a tank chassis with 75 mm howitzer short barrel gun for blowing apart fortifications (open turret); one tank troop (Troop F), equipped with rough 16-ton M5 light tanks, which had a crew of four and were powered by twin Cadillac engines with automatic transmissions. “It was a nice vehicle,” Buck said, “dependable, fast, but under-gunned with a 37 MM and three machine guns, 30 cal.”
Finally there was the headquarters and service troop, of which Buck was a member.
“We spent Christmas in England, lived in a camp in Furness County, town of Dalton, until we went to France (LeHavre) after Christmas,” he said. “The 101st spearheaded the 7th Army under General Patch. South of us were the Free French. We participated in the battle of Central Europe and the Rhineland. Our outfit was awarded two battle stars for this. I believe we were roughly 60 days in combat.”
“It was very cold,” he said. “All the overshoes went to the infantry, so my family sent me some. They didn’t arrive until winter was over.”
Every night the recon troops would go out and see where the enemy was, and it was a very dangerous job. They might be a half mile or so ahead of the main force, but they had faster vehicles and could run fast if they had to run.
“Our tank crew used to dig a hole big enough for four men and back our tank over it,” he said. “It was pretty secure. The tank might be blown up, but we’d be okay. The infantry would wave us away. A tank is a big target.”
“One man from Rochester, N.Y., was huge,” Buck said. “I weighed 145 lbs., and he could pick me up with one hand and set me on a tank. He was hit one day with shrapnel in the thigh and went into shock right away and died. But we didn’t lose a lot of men.”
Buck also told of a lieutenant, Fearless Wilkins, a member of one of the recon groups, mounted a 50-caliber gun on a tripod on his tank tray — a brute of a weapon. He would stand up out of the tank, waist high, and shoot up the Germans in every town he went into. No regard for himself. Even the Germans heard about him. He had no regard for his own safety at all. He was the only man I ever heard of to do that. Everyone knew of him.
“We thought we might be directed south into Italy to join forces coming up from south, but were diverted as last minute, traveled into Bavarian Alps past Hitler’s Berchtesgardten. It’s beautiful country. With hostilities at an end, we went on into Salsberg, Austria, where we were a small unit (600) in the midst of thousands of Germans, many of whom did know the war was over. So one of our men would walk guard with two SS troopers to head off any Germans coming down out of the hills. Had orders to whistle at no women, do nothing to set them off, as it was a touchy situation. Nothing happened though, and we were relieved by a larger outfit, and moved back to a German town to await transport home.”
Buck said that the whole outfit moved into Lorsch, and two men were assigned to a house. In his case, the tank driver, Ralph Nichols, and he took an upstairs room in a house where the Levasiers, a mother and her two daughters, Regina and Anna, lived. All others had similar places. The older daughter, around 20 or so, had a husband missing on the Russian front, younger girl was 16.
“They kept our room clean, had outdoor plumbing, little to eat (mostly potatoes dug up from fields around town),” he said. “We gave them quite a bit to eat from our surplus of rations.”
They stayed there a few weeks, then went to LeHavre again, boarded a Victory ship and headed for home. Buck remembers good food and that there was no convoy this time.
“I remember we were in the middle of the Atlantic on the Fourth of July,” he said, “and the Navy crew fired five-inch guns straight up to celebrate the holiday. At the end of the 12-day trip home, we ended up right where we left from: Ft. Dix, N.J. We were given a ticket to a mess hall, a one-shot deal. I got the largest steak I ever saw with all the trimmings, but we could not get into that mess hall again.”
Buck went back to the boatyards after the war, and he also worked as a mechanic on airplanes during Korean War. He quit flying after heart surgery about 1998, but is still riding his Harley.
Buck Fluharty playing his guitar.