I read some remarks about bad feelings between Camp Van Dorn old-timers and 19-year-old ASTPers. I’d like to give my experience in 2nd Platoon, F/393.
At the shocking end to ASTP in March 1944, when we joined the older men at Camp Maxey, I got Stan Lowry as my platoon sergeant – a Native American. I guess we had something in common. As a kid I lived on the edge of town next to many miles of woods and fields, where my gang played cowboys-and-Indians. He probably played the same game, but with opposite goals. I think that’s why he took to me as first scout of 2nd Squad. My winning the battalion’s Best Scouting Message contest might have figured in. He always invited me to come along to Oklahoma with him on weekends for fun with another sergeant, and to jog around Maxey’s perimeter on free mornings. Since my feet usually gave me trouble, I didn’t go. But I never let on about that weakness. More later.
Starting in Aubel before the Bulge, my squad leader sent me on errands in the snow, which filled my shoes (no boots yet). My feet swelled. I couldn’t get my shoes off.
On Dec. 13, I was point man in our first attack (five miles). When the enemy had the battalion hiking back and forth, limping, I became either the first man or the last man. When on the 19th we were on the edge of the forest about to head back for Elsenborn Ridge (Lauer’s plan, five miles), I wasn’t sure I could make it. I asked Sgt. Lowry if there were any trucks going back I could hitch a ride on – a question no infantryman is supposed to ask.
No words, he just pointed into the field. I headed out, walking past 20 wounded GIs lying side by side. I dressed a knee wound of a buddy I had boxed at LSU. In the field I ran into a medical lieutenant who stopped me and tried to get my shoe off, but couldn’t. He tagged me for a trip to the USA – trench foot. I couldn’t believe it. He walked away as an ambulance pulled up. The driver shouted it was his last trip. I yelled across the field, “What about those 20 wounded guys?” I pointed and he turned toward them.
At a battalion aid station another ASTPer from G Company and I were interviewed by Wes Gallagher and written up for the newspapers. We put the most optimistic slant on the mixed-up story we could to lift the spirits of the folks back home.
I didn’t get to the U.S., but was put into one of four trench foot treatment research groups in England for six months. The infection was cured by a new antibiotic developed by a scientist at my college – Rutgers University.
I’m now sure I owe my surviving foot or leg to Sarge for pointing the way out without questions. I met him and his wife a few years ago at a mini-reunion in Missoula MT. I had some long phone talks with him before he died.
Walt Malinowski F/393
14706 Dickens St., Apt. 9
Sherman Oaks CA 91403