On June 6, 1944, on the west side of the Athens (TX) courthouse, I got on a bus headed to Camp Walters in Mineral Wells, leaving a young wife and a three-year-old son. We all took that fatal step forward. “You’re in the Army now!”
I was sent from there to Ft. Hood for 17 weeks of basic training. After being quarantined for two weeks, I was allowed to come home for a visit for 15 weekends in a row. I traveled by my thumb for most of that journey. But it was worth it to see my loved ones.
After basic, I was home for 12 days, then hopped a train in Dallas headed to Ft. Meade MD. Three days later, we were put on a ship in Boston Harbor, the USS Wakefield, formerly the USS Manhattan, a pleasure cruiser that had been burned out, then refurbished to carry troops.
Landing in Liverpool, England, we took a train to Southampton where we boarded a boat for LeHarve, France. We landed in LeHarve on Christmas Day. The turkeys they had for the troops’ Christmas dinner were still frozen, so they gave us a big red apple. From there we rode a truck to Elsenborn, Belgium.
We arrived to join the 99th Division there on Jan. 3, 1945. We were on the front line for five and one-half months. I was assigned as an 81mm mortar man. We traveled all across Germany fighting 24 hours a day.
We beheld the mountains of Czechoslovakia, and we were the first full division to cross the Rhine River at Remagen, Germany. There now is a monument to the 99th Division at that point, erected by the people of Remagen in gratitude for their liberation.
At this time, the war with Germany was over, and we were sent to central Germany. Orders came from General Lauer to the 99th to transfer two men to the 4th Cavalry. I was one of those men. I was sent to North Carolina, supposedly to leave after a 30-day furlough to go to Japan to fight. Fifteen days into my furlough, President Harry S Truman gave the order to drop the big bombs, ending the war with Japan, so I didn’t have to go after all.
After I arrived home, my wife and I had two beautiful daughters and I have been blessed with a wonderful life.
War is a terrible thing, and I tried not to let it change me, but there are always emotional scars from something like that. I had many very close calls, and praise the Lord, only brought home two frozen feet from marching daily in two feet of snow and ice from the coldest winter in 20 years in Germany. My feet still bother me a lot, but I must say that I was proud to serve my country and to be able to protect my home and family. God bless America.