I was born and raised in Brooklyn NY, a second-generation American of the Jewish faith. Shortly after completion of high school I joined the Army and was sent to Fort Dix in New Jersey.
At the base I met an old Polish corporal who introduced me into the military designation of “G-man” garbage collector, “fireman” coal bucket, and K.C., “kitchen police.” By the way, every non-com was older. I was just 18.
I was shipped to Camp Hood in Texas, where I did my basic training at tank destroyer school. We used the “French 75” cannon mounted on halftracks, which turned out not too good in the African campaign.
Apparently, I did well on my IQ test and upon completion of basic training, I was sent to study engineering in the ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge LA. When the Army shut down the program, we were all shipped to infantry divisions as replacements.
My group was sent to Camp Maxey in Paris TX, when we joined the 99th Infantry Division. We went through basic training again and went over to ETO in September 1944.
The division left England, landing at Le Havre, France, which was pretty well damaged by Air Force bombing. We moved up to the front lines in Belgium, where you could see the Siegfried Line of German pillboxes and concrete tank teeth. We had arrived just a couple of weeks before the Battle of the Bulge began, and lining into our assigned position.
The weather turned bitter cold with rain and snow. The first day an artillery shell hit a nearby tree, which splintered, spattering a couple of wood splinters on my lips and more. Now, the Army doesn’t give Purple Hearts for the wood splinters. The foxhole I dug filled with rainwater and snow. Luckily, I was able to put fir tree branches and an extra blanket to absorb the water and try to keep dry.
For the next four to six weeks during the Bulge, we lived in foxholes in the snow and bitter cold weather. No washing, no shaving, no change of clothing, and not too many hot meals. We ate K-rations much of the time. It was just plain miserable, but we were still alive. How and why, who knows? Many soldiers were killed or wounded and many more were disabled with frostbite due to the intense cold.
Eventually the Bulge was sealed and advanced toward the Rhine River near Cologne. As we neared the river we were expecting the Navy or our engineers to bring up boats to cross the river but we were turned around and put on trucks heading for Remagen. We soon learned there was a bridge across the Rhine and since our division was nearby and would not get our feet wet, we would be among the first to cross as a unit.
We got off the 6x6 trucks on the hills above the town and advanced through the city. The Germans were throwing artillery on the town and Remagen Bridge trying to knock it down and to prevent us from getting to the bridge.
Let me tell you, I got across the bridge (with wood planks covering the rail tracks) as fast as I could walk or run. This was the first time I had ever seen (or heard of) German jet planes trying to bomb and destroy the bridge. The jets were being chased by American planes but the jets were much faster and got away. Everybody was shooting at the planes or ducking for cover. It was chaos. Our division was the first full infantry division to cross the Rhine before the Remagen Bridge collapsed.
We went on to participate in the battle of the Ruhr Pocket. The German army surrendered thousands of troops, thank goodness. The narrow country roads were filled with the gray army uniforms of German soldiers without their guns but with ranking German officers leading the troops.
The division soon crossed the Autobahn and headed toward the Danube River. The Danube River was definitely not blue, but brown and dirty. We crossed the river under fire and captured the city of Regensburg. The war soon came to an end, and after crossing the Danube, I had made it through the battles and river crossing and for that I thank God. I have the Combat Infantry Badge, three campaign stars and my “Ike” jacket.
Albert H. Davis D/395
11 Crambrook Rd.
New City NY 10956