Humphrey was on the mark
I enjoyed reading the Bob Humphrey series from filling out the 99th Division at Camp Maxey in Paris TX, with the "ASTP soldiers" through the various European campaigns of the division. I can relate with his words. I was there.
I was one of the ASTP privates shipped from Louisiana State University, unceremoniously dropped off near the First Battalion, 395th Regiment parade grounds. I did my basic training at tank destroyer school at Camp Hood TX, before being selected for ASTP training. The non-coms already had a chip on their shoulders and were concerned about how they were going to handle these smart-ass college kids.
"Take off those piss pots insignia and put on the Checkerboard. There are no openings for promotions, everything is full," were the greetings. I picked up my share of cigarette butts, cleaned many a latrine and garbage details and kitchen duties. I also did my close order drills, walked the 20-mile hikes and fired the M-1 pretty good.
The gripes and belittling Bob wrote about were so true. I think my platoon must have been the "hubba hubba" group that offended the non-coms so we did extra close order drill as punishment. The training was one thing, being talked down to as a smarty private from the big, tough city of Brooklyn NY, was not my speed. I asked for a transfer to D Company and it was granted. Eventually we accepted the non-coms and they learned to live with these college kids. After all, we were now infantrymen.
When the division was alerted to be shipped overseas, I helped pack the wooden crates with our tools of war. The troop trains headed for the east coast (I remembered my geography) and after a few days we arrived at Camp Miles Standish outside Boston. We had a blast running around the Boston Commons. I even got lost on the MTA, the Boston subway line. How embarrassing for me — who constantly rode the New York subway to work and back home. Hey, who had a car?
The division left Boston Harbor bound for Europe. That trip on the troopship was almost as bad as freezing during the Bulge. You name it and it was bad
About a month later we left for Southampton, boarded a ferry and landed in bombed-out LeHavre, France, where we boarded open-air 6x6 trucks for an extremely cold, miserable ride to Belgium and the front lines.
We all know how the cold, freezing weather, shooting, selling, shortages, and living in a foxhole out in the snow and bitter wind took its toll. Bob Humphrey was on the mark in one of his articles. I also must recommend George Neill's "Infantry Soldier" as a must read. It's true, true, true.
With all the shelling and shooting, I also crossed the Remagen Bridge at a rapid pace (called running), without falling off the planks. It was the first time I had ever seen a jet plane (German) that had attempted to bomb the bridge. It seemed like our planes were standing still trying to shoot them down.
I was in the Ruhr Pocket, where for the first time since leaving England, I found a flush toilet in an apartment house. Of course, before I flushed it, I looked for a booby trap. Out in the field, it appeared that the whole German army surrendered. Miles after miles, the German troops and generals in staff cars came down the country road to be interned. Something like the German surrender at Stalingrad.
Soon after the surrender, we headed south by truck on the Autobahn toward Austria. We made the crossing of the Danube River in the early morning in spite of the engineers turning on floodlights to build a bridge upriver to make the crossing easier. I wonder who used that bridge?
The war was soon over and I had made it in one piece. Yes, I was just a lucky kid.
Albert H. Davis D/395
11 Crambrook Rd.
New City NY 10956