Heroes: the Army
"...It was the day after Christmas that we fired our first round at the enemy. While in this position we established our first OP in the town of Tripsrath and our first listening post in one of Geilenkirchen's bomb proof cellars..."
Bty B., 516th Field Arty
- Branch of Service: Army
- 516th Field Artillery, Battery B
- Dates: 1943 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Birth Year:
- Entered Service:
History of the 516th's Battery B (WW II):
by George Sharp.
The following is an informal history of Battery "B" of the 516th Field Artillery Battalion from the time the Battalion was activated on Nov. 25, 1943 to the time of the gathering together of these facts and stories about the organization, travels and personnel of the Battery. It is being written at the suggestion of Battery Commander, Capt. Harold J. Hedges. At this writing we are in position near the town of Moers to the west of Germany's Rhine River in the midst of the 9th Army's preparations for a drive across that historic stream toward Berlin and points east. The time is March 18, 1945 . Other chapters will be added as future events unfold if the opposition is not too great.
Since our early days at Camp Shelby, Miss., officers and men have come and gone with almost the frequency of commuters through a turnstile in a New York subway, but the nucleus remained and, with a few exceptions, we are the same outfit today that left the good old USA soil for foreign shores nearly six months ago.
Battery "B" was welded together out of groups of men with various degrees of training and experience from a number of different camps and outfits. Not to be overlooked was a group fresh from the induction center at Fort Dix, NJ Two of our present officers were the first of our Battery to view the camp site (and what a sight!) that was to be our home for nine months, our Battery Commander, Capt. Hedges, coming from Camp Gruber, Okla., and our 1st Lt. (then 2nd :Lt.) Robert J. Kuhlmann, diploma in hand, tripping in from Fort Sill, Okla. Capt. Hedges, easy going former music teacher with the Oklahoma drawl, has always been for his men and never could be considered a harsh taskmaster. Tall, lean, high-strung Lt. Kuhlmann, first baseman and hardware expert from Cincinnati, and a product of the Fort Sill Finishing School, has been from the beginning the RO (Reconnaissance Officer)
The cadre followed Capt. Hedges from Camp Gruber, arriving November 9 to find our hutment's and grounds overgrown with weeds and grass and looking very much the deserted village it had been for some months. Having no privates to set to work on the project, the cadre mowed the grass, cleaned out the hutment's, took bunks, foot lockers and stoves out of storage and set them up, being assisted in the last days of the restoration by small groups of men who drifted in from ASTP and the 559th F.A. Bn. at Camp Robinson, Ark. The largest single group of men, the nucleus around which the Battery was built arrived on December 19 from 17 weeks of tough basic training at Fort Bragg, NC Following closely on their heels came a contingent of raw recruits, ranging in age from 18 to twice 18, processed from Fort Dix, NJ to where they had been drawn from Brooklyn, Bayonne, Newark, Lambertville and other outlying areas of New York City. The last group to arrive before our serious training got under way shuffled in on January 6 and consisted of the Coast Artillery who had spent up to three years in that cold and foggy and sometimes snowbound British colonial island of the cod, Newfoundland, from which outposts they guarded the approaches to America from the possibility of raids by marauding Nazi submarines.
Those of the original cadre still with us are as follows: 1/Sgt. Thomas Bridges from the woodlands of Wisconsin, probably the best wood-craftsman in the Battery, quiet, keen, eminently fair and reasonable in his treatment of the men, scarcely the old-time, hard and rough type of top sargeant but having a mind of his own: firebrand S/Sgt. Joseph Jeanes (chief of gun sections) from Schlitz, the city made famous by Milwaukee beer; suave baldish. irritable, Sgt., Joseph Mikolajczak, also from Schlitz; Sgt. Christo Ladakako, short Greek, muscle-man from Maine and that small town boy, Sgt. Clarence Kelley of Vermont (all of the guns); quiet, even-tempered S/Sgt. Francis X. Sullivan (chief of detail sections) of New Hampshire; S/Sgt. Charles Boyle of Massachusetts, product of an army cooking school and, we understand holder of several shares in Tums Inc.; Slick S/Sgt. Robert Mattern of Indiana who fills in as supply sargeant; serious, plugging S/Sgt. Harlan Schulze (motors) of Connecticut; blond, hard to get to know, easy to get along with, T/4 Donald Jackson (radio) from that well known summer resort and home of famous authors, Kennebuck, Maine (writer putting in free plug for his home state); tall, slender T/4 Alfred "The Appetite" Schuenemann (artillery mechanic) of Wisconsin; and fair, fat and frolicsome Pvt. George Cakavell of Connecticut (cannoneer), one time mess Sergeant.
Our nine months at Camp Shelby, Miss. will be remembered with pleasure only in the knowledge that they are past history. Known as Missisoupy in the winter and Mississizzle in the summer, this southern state is one within the boundaries of which summer and winter vie with each other to see which can make the inhabitants thereof the most miserable. Having heard considerable propaganda about the "Sunny South" many of us were sadly disillusioned to find the sunny south as far as Mississippi is concerned was a lot of high pressure nonsense dreamed up by an over enthusiastic Chamber of Commerce. The winter there will be long remembered to most of us as the most miserable we were ever exposed to.
It was wet and raw and we were plagued by a piercing dampness that penetrated to the marrow regardless of how many lawyers of clothing were worn, quite unlike the dry cold many of the boys from northern states were used to which could counteracted somewhat by warm clothing.
Old Jupiter Pluvius held sway most of the winter and he ruled with a wet and clammy hand. The mud and gumbo couldn't be adequately described with the use of uncensorable adjectives only. To put it mildly, it was of a nature and consistency unencountered by many of us till our later experience in France, a slippery, mucky, mire, oozey mess that reaped a continuous stream of profane and useless invective from the disgusted men who had to wade around in it. The many hours of dismounted drill we went through which we went through in our quagmire of a gun park would have been made much less miserable and much more military if we had been supplied with spiked rubber boots.
But the spring in Mississippi was really beautiful, not too hot, not too cold, with a minimum of insects and a maximum of sunshine. Ten or twelve of the boys were home on ten -day furloughs (plus traveling time) at the time and missed it but they didn't seem to take it too hard.
The summer was hot and we oozed perspiration from morning till night. At night we drained the PXs regularly of their supplies of beer and soda. I doubt if we care to recall any more meteorological causes of our suffering while at Camp Shelby.
Most days at Camp Shelby began with reville and ended with retreat. Between the two we had classes on the carbine, mines, ammunition, map reading, sanitation and health, radio, surveying, etc., and movies on the same subjects and during the early days of our training, indulged in PT and dismounted drill. Cannoneer's Hop became a byword. The cannoners called it by other, more descriptive names. Never to be forgotten are the four-mile speed marches which always seemed to be led by the longest-legged officers. Our program was varied at intervals with field problems and excursions to firing ranges. Still unpleasantly fresh in our memories is the double-timing we had to do around the block each morning before breakfast during the last few weeks of our stay, an ordeal imposed upon us by our Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Sol Bloodsworth, when the men of Battery "B" failed to pass their AGP tests for overseas fitness, the umpires being inexperienced in handling stop watches, etc. If ever an act were conceived to start the men off each day with sour dispositions (and sometimes sour stomachs) that was it!!
Among the regular activities were movies, USO shows, KP, guard and goldbricking.
The men spent many of their weekends in the typical soldier town of Hattiesburg some twelve miles from camp, transportation being supplied by a broken-down collection of the creakiest busses outside of an auto graveyard. Most of the men also visited Gulfport and Biloxi on the Gulf of Mexico, and New Orleans at least once. All but a few of the men had two furloughs while at Camp Shelby.
Three officers of the many who came and went should be mentioned in passing: tall, angular, wise-cracking 2nd Lt. Karl Baron who always had difficulty with words of more than three syllables; talented, black-haired 1st Lt. John Devlin, now Capt. Devlin and Commander of Battery "C"; calm, likable 2nd Lt. Russell Galloway, now a 1st Lt. in Battery "A". Our regulation quartet of officers was finally decided upon with the assigning of high-pressure, fire-cracker 1st Lt. Edgar L. Norris of California by way of Newfoundland as Battery Executive, and steady, usually quiet 2nd Lt. (now 1st Lt.) James E. Brown of the windy city of Chicago as Assistant Executive and motor officer.
FROM CAMP SHELBY TO ENGLAND
Finally, on Sept. 15, 944, we left camp Shelby on the first lap of a crusade that was to take us to the German battlefront, a unit welded together by nine months of training and association, conditioned and prepared to do our part to fight for the cause of Freedom and justice against the Nazi tyranny. Our first stop was at Camp Shanks, NY where we were fitted, refitted and outfitted. Some of the boys who were fortunate enough to live within fifty miles of the camp were able to spend two or three nights at home. Ten days later, on Sept. 25, we left Camp Shanks for a short train ride and a shorter ferry ride which ended with us finding ourselves the occupants of the top deck of the old luxury liner (minus the luxury), the Aquitania.
Two days later at dawn the great ship, hoisted anchor, slid down the Hudson River past the Statue of Liberty, and we were out to sea on the second leg of our journey, unescorted except for a blimp which accompanied us most of the first day. The men of our Battalion were chosen to act as MPs on the boat.
The voyage was unusually smooth and uneventful but the lack of variety in the diet, which consisted of cereal and stewed apricots for breakfast, corned beef and stewed apricots for dinner (which meal was eliminated after we left port), and corned beef and stewed prunes for supper, was a continual source of complaint - and with good reason. Our own cooks began to rise in our estimation and now, while we are marking time waiting for the day when our ship would put into another shore, might be a propitious time to introduce them into our history.
Briefly, we place the care and maintenance of our stomachs fearlessly into the hands of S/Sgt. Boyde, heretofore mentioned, quiet, handsome T/4 Jay Wenger, serious T/4 William "Bill" Sarley, dapper, dark-complexioned T/5 Joseph Sabella, the latter three all from Pennsylvania, and chubby T/5 Eugene "Genial Gene" Donnelly of New Jersey.
The last two days at sea we were escorted by two British destroyers. Late in the afternoon of Oct. 3 the southern coast of Ireland could be dimly seen to port. The following day we awoke to find our floating island gliding smoothly up Scotland's Firth of Clyde, flanked on either side by a rugged and beautiful shoreline which looked like a huge painting set along the skyline, or a greatly magnified picture post card. We clung to the ship's rail most of the day watching the unfolding, sun drenched panorama. Green fields and brown fields stood out in contrast, separated by long hedgerows, and here and there, villages and scattered houses stood out on the waterward side like people seated in a huge amphitheater. Such was our introduction to Great Britain and the approaches to combat. At about 5.00 P.M., with great numbers of mewling gulls wheeling around us, we dropped anchor opposite the picturesque little town of Gorick.
For two foggy days we remained on the ship and on the third day, Oct. 7, we ferried to Greenock where we boarded the train for the third lap of our expedition.
In fine weather we rolled through rich green meadowland and clean, attractive countryside, arriving the following day at noon in the typical little English town of Broadstone which was destined to be our home for the next two months. Most of us were surprised to learn how far behind us the British are in many ways, particularly in the matter of modern home conveniences, but many of the men, probably most of them, enjoyed their stay there in spite of raw, unfavorable weather, finding the people to be friendly, clean and cooperative. Most of those who failed to enjoy their stay in England (considering the circumstances under which we were there, of course) were those afflicted with the all too prevalent American disease, Anglophobia.
During our sojourn there many visits were paid by the men to the nearby English Channel cities of Poole and Bournemouth, and most of the men made at least one trip to London. A few went to see the city and visit the famous buildings and landmarks. Piccadilly Circus and Rainbow Corner will crop up in our conversations for many years to come.
We left Broadstone, most of us, I think, regretfully, after two months association early on the morning of Dec. 5. All that we recall of the time between then and the evening of Dec. 7 is walking in mud and eating C rations and both those memories we will be glad to forget. On the latter date we boarded the LST No. 527 and that evening we pushed off from the pier and anchored in Weymouth Harbor on the south England Coast. For two days we pitched and rolled in harbor and in order to take our minds off our squeamish stomachs while anchored there , we will take time out and trot out a few of our better known men to take a bow and receive their due.
Most prominent of the "Newfy" men still with us are towering Cpl. Joe Bigger from the tall timber of Tennessee, and those buddies of the 5th Section, thin, peppery Sgt. Griffin Flint of Mississippi, chief of the section, and blond, quiet Cpl. Oliver Davis, woodsman from Connecticut. There is tall, likeable T/4 Carl (Ogden at home) Hocks of New Jersey, connoisseur (or should we say, reservoir) of everything liquid from GI coffee to bathtub gin and incidentally, one of the best radio operators in the Battalion; able, officious, quick-witted Cpl. Edward "Brainstorm Ed" Brehm (survey) of New Jersey by way of Ohio, high school math teacher and high IQ (153) man of the Battery; brawny, craggy Ernest Megargel (survey) of Pennsylvania, expert on farming.
Oldest man in the Battery is small, wiry William "Wild Bill" Creller of New York, wire corporal, who is fast approaching the ripe old age of 40 at this writing and the father of 16-and 17-year old daughters. Of no one has it ever been more truly said that he is happiest when he has something to gripe about. And from all indications he has been the happiest man in the Battery since our departure from England. Youngest man in the Battery is tall, 18-year old Pvt. Warren "Hungry" Hurley (radio) from Massachusetts. Best known by the most men is short, rotund, jocular but cynical T/5 Sam Woltch of Connecticut, mailman, recorder, and lawyer. Shortest man is hen-pecked but cheerful Pfc. Michael "There's a Life in the Old Boy Yet" Beyo (cannoneer) of Ohio. Best all around athlete is big, blond Pvt. (one time Cpl.) Joy Nygaard (cannoneer) from the state of Washington, Battery ping pong champion. Most confirmed old bachelor is sociable, good-natured T/5 Hugh Coyle (wire) of New Jersey who came as a Christmas present to his parents some 35 years ago. Quietest man is PFC Paul Garchar (cannoneer) of Ohio. Noisiest is Pvt. (one time Cpl.) Thomas Boffi (5th Section) of Rhode Island who hasn't the oral endurance of Cpl. Creller but who can talk louder and faster than any two men in the Battery. Our Battery clerk is soft-spoken Cpl. William "Bill" Dallmann of Wisconsin, and capable Anthony "Tony" DiBitetto, Brooklyn lawyer is the Battery agent
On Dec. 9 we hoisted anchor, rolled across the English Channel and anchored of LeHavre, France as night fell. Early the following morning we resumed our voyage and crept up the Seine thru rain and fog, debarking finally at Rouen. There followed an uncomfortable night in pup tents and trucks. Next morning our convoy took off again and we rolled thru rich agricultural country, the fourth lap of our tour ending in an apple orchard on the outskirts of the little French town of Nolleval. The eight days we spent there were, without a doubt, the longest eight days and the most miserable most of had ever experienced. We lived in pup tents, mud and misery.
The gumbo was of a viscosity (Webster defines as "glue like consistency") unencountered even in our previous winter in Mississippi. It was while there that the boys learned the difference between cognac and calvados.
On Dec. 19 we left our mutilated apple orchard (many of the trees went to feed our campfires and thaw out our bones) on the last lap of our crusade which was to take us to the combat zone. We traveled all day thru flat, monotonous sugar beet country, arriving at dusk in the French city of Cambrai. We slept over night on the floor of the grand ballroom of the city hall and were routed out early the following morning to resume our journey. We left war-torn, decadent France before noon and crossed into little Belgium, Europe's most densely populated country. The cities we passed through seemed progressive, the people clean and friendly. Many of the housewives came out to give us beer and apples when we stopped for dinner. As night fell we reached a rambling Belgian farm where we were destined to spend two days and three nights. While there we got used to the rapid "putt-putt" of German V-1 robot or buzz bombs flying overhead at night.
On Dec. 23 we left our temporary abode on the farm, crossed the southern tip of the Netherlands, passing thru Maastricht and Heerlen, arriving about noon in the battered German town of Palenberg. That night we dug our Long Toms in on German soil for the first time. Two days passed , the time spent in standing guard and trying to keep warm. On Christmas Day, a day which we will long be rememered by all of us but not with any pleasant memories, we moved our position two thousand yards to the opposite outskirts of Pallenberg and selected underground homes for ourselves in dugouts that had been made by predecessors, whether German soldiers or our own we did not know. These lairs were destined to be our homes for the next month and much ingenuity and effort was required to make them comfortable and keep ourselves warm. Our Christmas Day activities postponed our turkey dinner till after dark. In fact, it was so dark the best we could do was aim in the general direction of our mess kits with our forks, not knowing what we pried up till the food reached the inner recesses of our mouths. When future Christmas dinners at home roll around we will always look back to this one and recall how the turkey and fixings froze to our mess kits as we ate.
It was the day after Christmas that we fired our first round at the enemy. While in this position we established our first OP in the town of Tripsrath and our first listening post in one of Geilenkirchen's bomb proof cellars.
As we were able to find diversions few and far between during the month we lived in the confinement of our cramped, underground apartments, now might be a good time to build a roaring campfire, seat the Battery around it, and introduce a few more of our men to any who may read this chronicle. We may not have sufficient space in so brief a manuscript to allow us to introduce all the men in the Battery so it is suggested that we put all the names in a hat and draw out a dozen or so.
Among the drivers we draw out the names of heavy, rugged, rosy-cheeked T'5 Nick "Tiny" Klucher of Pennsylvania; swarty, plumpish PFC Walter Vieira of Massachusetts who looks like a movie actor (we couldn't say a movie star) when he is clean shave and dressed up, and could model for "Pete the Tramp" when he is not; clean-cut T/5 Edward Hugus of Pennsylvania; and the talkative Dane from Wisconsin, PFC Everett "Porky" Petersen.
The wire section draws out that young old man, soprano voiced PFC William "Chappie" Chapp of Detroit, who was loaned out on option to the officers to be their orderly when we were in Palenberg and has done such a fine job of it that he hasn't been able to escape since; and thrifty, dependable T/5 Ralph Anderson of Rhode Island. In the 5th Section we have piano-playing PFC "Limber Lester" Misch of the stockyards city of Chicago. The survery sections presents its two short, rugged muscle-men, dark-skinned, unobtrusive PFC Sam "Here I Am Girls" Campione of New York; and quiet flute-playing PFC Philip White of Rhode Island.
We present the following cannoneers to represent their sections: good-natured, Cpl. William "Winsome" Winnie of Michigan, prominent in Battery athletics; scrappy, untidy PFC Frederick Scruggs of Virginia; lackadaisical, intelligent PFC Harold "Last Rose of Summer" Lynch of Pennsylvania; sincerely religious PFC Harold Kurkowski of New York; self assured PFC Robert "Mac" MacCutcheon of Massachusetts; youthful, blue-eyed PFC Jack "Sunshine" Seidman of Brooklyn no less; hard working, ordinarily quiet Cpl. Oliver Martin of Virginia, quiet, rugged Frenchman PFC Leo Roy of New Hampshire; and the serious Norwegian from Minnesota, PFC Robert Engen.
On Jan. 22 we emerged from our dugouts and moved on to the battered Immendorf where we spent a week in the luxurious atmosphere of deserted homes wherever we could find bomb-proof cellars or rooms that weren't too badly ventilated by bomb and shell. On the last day of the month we moved forward a few miles to the town of Straeten which extends snake-like for a mile and half along its single, narrow, winding street. Establshing ourselves in Immendorf, we spent the month of February there, a month that, on the whole, saw fine weather, comforatble tempertaures and a gradual drying up of the mud that had replaced the snow, the last of which melted away while we were in Immendorf. Having learned well the art of scouting, scouring and scavaging long before our arrival in Straeten, we proceeded to furnish our rooms and cellars with the best mattresses and stoves the neighborhood provided ; also table, chairs, lanterns, even full-length mirrors and chime clocks. It was while there we established or OP in the tall steeple of the church in Heinsberg overlooking the Roer River, which, altho a small stream, held up the Allied advance for three months. Those of us who had occassion to climb to the top of the massive steeple will never forget our experience.
February 23 will go down in history as the day the 9th and 1st Armies began their big push which carried them across the Roer and to the banks of the Rhine (dragging the 516th along behind) where we repose as this is being written. It was five days later, on Feb. 28, that we began the series of moves which were to carry us close to Germany's most famous river, leaving Straeten on that date and between then and March 7 stopping for two or three days each in Kirchoven (where bicycles and silk top hats were all the rage among the boys), Alst, Alderkerk and Dormannshof (near Lintfort). Between March 7 and 17 our OP was situtated in Rheinsberg's highest church steeple and it was from there that those men who climbed it's long, steep stairway obtained their first view of the historic Rhine. On the latter date we moved our position eight miles south to the outskirts of Moers.
Now we are marking time --- waiting for the next chapter in the history of Battery "B" in the last days of World War 2, to unfold.
FROM THE RHINE TO THE END OF COMBAT
It is June 28 as we once more return to the pleasant task of recording for posterity more of the life story of Battery "B". There is enough unrecorded history now behind us to add another chapter or two to our memoirs. Since June 8 we have been living in the smelly little farm village of Oberrot in the Province of Wurttemberg about 35 miles northeast of Stuttgart in southwest Germany. That is three weeks too long. The place is a dead as an Eskimo village in Argentina. And that isn't all!
But we are getting ahead of our story. We'll come back to Oberrot later - thankful that will be in recollection and not in fact.
We stayed on the outskirts of Moers a little over week and enjoyed some much appreciated, fine, warm weather. While there, "B" Battery fired the Battalions' 10,000 round. Then, after detailed preparation, came a night of almost continuous fire as the 9th Army girded for the big push across the Rhine. That historic moment arrived early on the morning of March 24. On that day the Allied armies burst across the great river from the Netherlands border to the Swiss frontier. The final great chase was on! Two days later, on March 25, we left our mooring near Moer and followed in the wake of the rampaging 9th. This day was destined to be the most historic day of our combat experience. As we got closer to the Rhine it seemed to be enveloped in fog. History's greatest smoke screen was protecting our movements. Barrage balloons could be seen floating in the blue like great, silver fish protecting our bridgeheads against air attack. Our convoy moved across a very substantial bridge somewhere between Rheinberg on the west bank of the Rhine and Wesel on the east.
There followed a big letdown. For two days and nights we lived and slept in an open field and were made miserable by raw, unpleasant weather. As near as anyone can find out, it was in a region called Mehrum. It doesn't matter. We left there, passed through a region of farms and tress stunted by methodical pruning, and made ourselves at home in a few scattered farm houses in a place called Dinzlakenbruck. We were there two days then moved to the town of Kirchellen, arriving there in the midst of a heavy shower of rain and hail. Two more cold, raw days followed. Then on April 1, which was Easter Sunday, our caravan moved on again, this time stopping in the Ruhr valley city of Buer where some of us slept in the railway station and others set up in two nearby ex-passenger coaches.
Our recollection of Buer is an unhappy one as it was there that we suffered our first and only combat casualty. Sgt. Mikolajczak was killed by shrapnel when an enemy shell landed near him at an ordnance depot where he had taken his Long Tom for repairs.
The weather man continued to frown upon us. We were glad to leave at the end of two more days. Our next stop was a small town called Essel near the slightly larger town of Suderwich outside the city of Recklinghausen. Six more days of unfavorable weather and we broke up housekeeping once more, moved on a few miles farther, set up again in the town of Ickern near the city of Kastrop Roxel.
Sometime during the four days we were there we fired the last round we were to ever to fire in Germany. Battery "B's" total output for our nearly four months of combat was of the Battalions 18,852 rounds.
At this point we should reserve a paragraph in which to introduce a few more of our cannoneers who have performed so creditably in all kinds of weather and under all sorts of conditions during those four months. We present slender, youthful PFC James Ace of Pennsylvania; paunchy, garrulous PFC Alfred "Pop" Borowski of Chicago; althetic, be-spectaled PFC Harry Bugaiski of Detroit; quiet, retiring PFC Joseph Cizek of New York; sleepy PFC Clyde Curtis of the State of Washington; round-faced, fast talking Walter Filipek of Chicago; rugged PFC James Goricki of New York; the tall "suthin" flower, PFC Aster Gary of Alabama; chunky PFC Alfred "Bud" (short for Budweiser) Hurley of New York; fleet, quick-tempered PFC Hayward Ingram of West Virginia; argumentative PFC Edward Janes of Chicago; short, quiet, accordian-playing Cpl. Chester Jaszcak of Cleveland; Cpl. Stanley "Globe" Kaczorek, the Battery's leading exponent of the virtues (?) and beauties (?) of New Jersey; big, rugged PFC Edmund Karasciewicz of New Jersey; unobstrsive PFC William Kral of New York City; big drawling PFC Cecil Little of North Carolina; good-natured little Cpl. John Lukowitz of New Jersey; big, freckled PFC Max Mahler of New York; cowboy PFC Henry "Pete" Mandeville of New York, Oklahoma, etc., former T/5 in the motor section; pudgy PFC Frank "Red" Mandras of New York; PFC Leonard Matuszewski of Michigan, the man with the duck walk, the Peter Rabbit smile, and the ogling eye; big bulky PFC Samuel Mistretta of New York; blond PFC Neal Norsen of New York; dark-skinned, Syrian Cpl. Daniel Rizk of New Jersey; big muscular Cpl. Harry Sikorski of Pennsylvania; pleasant PFC Earl Zinn of Pennsylvania; uncommunicative PFC Dominic Zoccola of Ohio.
Then there the five Hot Water Boys who are well known for their extra-cirricular activities: Pvt. Edwin Dye of Ohio with the golden smile; chunky Pvt. Basil Kirby of North Carolina; harmonica - playing Pvt. Frank Magliocco of New Jersey; aging PCF Louis Scalfoni of Massachusetts; and blond PFC Earlie "Rebel" Sumner of Kentucky.
As the 9th Army raced toward the Elbe River, the 516th remained behind to help eliminate what history would call the Ruhr pocket. The Ruhr pocket steadily shrank in size and April 13 we moved south and west to the outskirts of the large and bomb-shattered industrial city of Bochum where we held in reserve in case of need. We marked time there for five days. Then began a new and entirely different chapter in our history
OUR AMG ACTIVITIES
We left the life we had known for so long and and wove our way over approximately 110 miles of dusty highway (about one third of the trip was made over one of Hitler's super highways). We arrived at our destination late in the evening, and found ourselves the inhabitants of a pretty little town called Spenge.
An advance part picked out nice homes for billets for the men (the officers and their retainers, T/5 Wotch and PFC and PFC Chapp, were put up in a castle no less!) and we began to practice our new job. We became the AMG (Allied Military Government). Our duties we various but not strenuous. We manned road blocks, examining passes, pat-rolled the roads between Spenge and neighboring towns, unearthed a few suspected Nazi officials and, all in all, appreciated the change that had come into our lives. We had a few warm sunny days but cold and showery was the rule. We spent two weeks there and, as we had considerable time on our hands between our tours of duty, some of the slack could be taken up by introducing a few more of Uncle Sam's hired hands.
We offer you four men who have to us from other Batteries; independent, intelligent, chain-smoking PFC Alden Wells (survey) of Massachusetts, formerly a T/4 in Headquarters Battery who came to us when the loquaciuos, Connecticut drug salesman, T/5 Fred Waugh (survery), was promoted to Headqaurters Battery in March; PFC Eugene Graff (cannoneer) of Pennsylvania; Pvt. Claude Gortman (cannoneer) of Florida from Battery "C" and Pvt. Charles Yates of Florida from Headquarters Battery.
The following men, all cannoneers, joined us in March when we were located in Moers: hill-billy PFC Elliott Dellinger of North Carolina veteran of North Africa, Sicily and Italy; thin-voiced PFC Grady Edge of Texas, and PFC Charles D. Hayes of Kentucky, both of whom came to us as replacements direct from Fort Myers, Florida; friendly PFC Jack Perry of Oklahoma, also an unexperienced replacement.
Five men who have spent considerable time in two or capacities are: big PFC Philip Blackman of Long Island, New York, who loves to tell stories and dream dreams; rugged PFC William Wooley, also of Long Island; loud-talking PFC Thomas "Double Trouble" Harden of Ohio; chunky 38 -year old PFC Philip Zayas of New York City by way of Puerto Rico; and PFC William Collins of Rhode Island, one time "Newfy" supply sergeant. Two important cogs in the Battery machine have been bay-windowed, tobacco-chewing PFC Daryl Davis of Iowa, Veteran KP; and obliging PFC Paul Collins of New Jersey, barber first class.
On May 3 we tranferred our AMG activities some 15 miles south to the town of Steinhagen where we were destined to spend a longer period of time than we spent in any one place since leaving England -- up to the present time. We have grave fears that that record may be broken in Oberrot, But to return to Steinhagen -- many of the boys wish they could -- we added some new experiences to our growing list.
We had been there but four days when came the great day that every Allied soldier in the ETO and every peace-loving man and woman the world over had been looking forward to so fervently -- V-E Day. Victory was actually consummated on May 7 and victory services were held in Steinhagen for both Catholics and Protestants on that date. May 8, however, was officially declared V-E Day.
In Steinhagen we dealt chiefly in Russians and gin. To be more explicit our chief duties were guarding; guarding certain Germans on isolated farms from raids by maurading DPs (Displaced Persons), mostly Russians, acting as guards at a large Russian DP camp, guarding the town's distilleries against possible raids by Germans, Russians and GIs, and on the adminstrative end acting as town judges, issuing passes and running the gin business. After V-E Day the manufacture of gin was authorized by the AMG, a price set, and officers and authorized men, American and British, colored and white, came from a hundred miles and more around to keep 1/Sgt. Bridges busy arranging its sale and counting marks.
In Spenge many of the boys formed a decided distaste for the Non-Fraternization policy formulated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the great leader of all Allied Armies in the West, which forbade military personnel from speaking to or associating with German civilians except on official business. In Steinhagen this distaste developed into a violent hatred. We wouldn't go so far as to say the policy was openly violated but before we left there the fellas sure could have told the girls' mothers in and around the town a lot of things about their daughters which they didn't learn simply by watching them walk down the other side of the street.
After V-E Day the point system for discharging men from the service was announced and four of our men with more than the necessary points 85 points left us in Steinhagen for the long-dreamed-of return to civilan life. They were Sgt. Flynt, Cpl. Bigger, PFC Collins and Pvt. Gortman. Cpl. Davis was made a segeant and took over a chief of the 5th Section. At about the same time Cpl. Sikorski was promoted to sergeant and gun section chief.
We have been hedge-hopping a good deal in our introductions so now we will attempt to get the remainder of the detail sections together to take a bow. If we succeed in getting them all together in Steinhagen it will be recognized as quite a feat requiring a thorough search of much of the surrouding country. From their hideouts, hangouts and hangovers we bring you, boisterous, enthusisiastic PFC Joseph "Jumping Joe" Giampaglia (radio) of New Jersey; six men from the wire section: wiry, little PFC Richard "Dick" Fortuna of Detroit; the well-known roller-skating enthusiast, PFC Alfred "Cookie" Cook of New Jersey; thin haired PFC Louis Credtor of the Bronx who is usually to be found in Cpl. Creller's wake; T/5 Francis "Heap Much Talk" Dey of New Jersey; easy-going T/5 Stephen Keshuta of Pennsylvania; and ambitious PFC Sidney Noveck of Connecticut; five men from the 5th Section: hirsute PFC Victor Collona of New Jersey; Brooklyn oil tank driver PFC Anthony "Tony" Alfano who is never at a loss for words; that veteran agitator, black haired PFC Anthony "Tony" Finizio of New Jersey; big cigar-smoking PFC Charles O'Neill of New York; and old army man PFC Alfred "Al" White of Massachusetts. Slim, likeable PFC Charles Milan of New Jersey was long a member of the 5th SectiOn but was recently made Battery clerk and given corporal's stripes when Cpl. Dallmann was transferred from the Battery and made a sergeant in Battalion Headquarers.
SWEATING IT OUT
The British took over our duties in Steinhagen on June 6. On that day, early in the morning, the Battery, a little bleary-eyed, staggering slightly and feeling like a man at the end of a jitterbug marathon, moved out. Then began a long and dusty but, on the whole, interesting 3-day, 350 mile trip south into the territory designed for occupation by United States troops. The first day we rode through the bomb shattered and shell shocked cities of Paderborn, Warburg, Kassel and Geissen, bedding down overnight in the woods near the roadside of the latter. The second day took us through the remains of Friedberg, Hanau and Aschaffenburg and we pulled up for our second night under the stars near the city of Wurzberg. Memories of these broken cities and many others visited by our drivers when on various details, will long ramin with us. Block after block of these former thriving German cities, now only skeletons of cities, were nothing but gutted buildings and shattered walls which stood like tombstones over vast, ghostly graveyards, with great heaps of bricks and rubble pushed up against them to allow the passage of traffic in the streets. But there were other things to be seen en route: green valleys, wooded hills, miles of cultivated fields, other fields red with poppies, here and there an ancient castle, pitcuresque old villages.
The third day found us winding farther into the hills of southern Germany. During the morning we ran into heavy shower of deluge proportions which came at an inopportune time, just as our vehicles were crossing what was before the shower an almost dry creek bed but which became a rushing torrent that held up some of our vehicles for about a half hour. The weather was clear when we entered with many misgivings the uninviting little village of Oberrot. We were introduced to our new homes, a school house and two dwellings.
Forcibly brought to mind after our long haul is the realization that much credit belongs to our drivers who, ever since our activation, have handled a strenuous job well and efficiently. Now is an appropiate time to take our hats off to those who have not already taken a bow. Here they are: dependable T/5 Henry Chasse of Connecticut; quiet, chubby PFC Robert Gindele of Pennsylvania; serious, thin-haired PFC Martin Green of Pennsylvania; be-spectacled Pvt. Harry Hamlin of California who came to us from Service Battery in exchange for heavy-set T/4 Sylvester Eisenhuth of Pennsylvania when we were in Steinhagen; chubby-cheeked PFC Charles Harwick of Pennsylvania; rugged indiviualist Charles R. "Sam" Hayes of Alabama; short, blond T/5 John Holt of West Virginia; graying, hard-working PFC Earl Kawalske of Wisconsin; tall T/5 George Middlebrooks of Georgia who never had much to say; wiry T/5 Ancil Miller of Ohio; blond, dapper PFC Salvatore Ragazzo of the Bronx; efficient T/5 Raymond Reed of West Virginia, motor mechanic; PFC John Torrillo of Brooklyn, capable driver of the kitchen truck and likeable T/5 Michael Urbanowicz.
Oberrot, like many similar places in southern Germany is a strange mixture of the Middle Ages and the modern as exemplified by the occassionally seen ox team pulling rubber-tired wagon. For that very reason it deserves a paragraph in the recounting of our travels abroad. The town has electric lights but the commonest sight on the streets is that of oxen and cows, singly or in pairs or teamed with horses, going to and from the fields hauling hay, dressing, etc. The people have telephones and radios yet a town crier goes about the streets ringing a bell and reading the news to those that assemble in the doorways and windows. A chimney sweep in top hat and his apprentice have been seen around the village with the tools of their trade, a strange assortment of brushes, slung over their shoulders The people are mostly hard working farmers, German hill-billies, typical peasants. Their homes were equipped with the most up-to-date outhouses, flush toilets being apparently unknown, and we soon discovered that they added a lot to the atmosphere of the home. In fact, it is an atmosphere that a combination of fumigation, flit and fire couldn't kill. Staying out-of-doors brings slight relief. Not even the fragrance of new-mown hay can compete with the heavy odors from the stables and barns which constantly assault our nostrils. House flies are the commonest forms of wild life -- and the windows have no screens.
The streets are not really streets; they are not much more than alleys. The houses were built hither and yon without regard to thoroughfares. A bird's eye view of the town from one of the surrounding hilltops gives an impression of a child's castle of blocks that had been pushed over, allowing each block to lay where it fell. In all fairness we must record the country surrounding the village is beautiful.
It is July 27 (It was just 10 month ago today that we sailed out of New York Harnor into an uncertain future) as we again apply our pen to recording events and experiences in the lives of the men of Battery "B". Our Steinhagen record was broken in Oberrot where we survived for nearly six weeks. On July 18 we retreated to Backnang, a fair sized town some twenty miles northeast of Stuttgart. The whole Battalion moved into a huge tanning factory, Battery "B" occupying the airy, sunlit fourth floor. Here, training, camp regulations and restrictions, which have slowly been closing in on us since our removal from combat, have clamped down with a vengance. But hope springs eternal in the human breast and it is always darkest before the storm. All this points to our eventual return to the good old U.S.A. and a 30 day furlough at home.
Our first Saturday and Sunday in Backnang were busy days for us. We took part in the 48-hour "Tallyho" operation conducted throughout the American and British zones of occupation and from 4.30 in the morning to approximately 10 o'clock at night the Battery rummaged through houses in Backnang and nearby villages on the lookout for weapons, GI equipment, etc. The long, hot, tiring weekend was followed by a night of unprecedented quiet, disturbed only by the deep breathing of deep, peaceful sleep.
While we are straining at the leash here let's return to Oberrot just once more to record a few important changes in personnel which took place while we were lanquishing there. In Oberrot we bid good-bye to nine more of our men, who because of age or an accumulation of 85 or more points, became dischargees and started on the long road home. We were sorry to lose them but glad to know they were being promoted to civilian life. It was so long and Good Luck to 1/Sgt Bridges, Sgt. Davis, PFC Colonna, PFC Dellinger, PFC Little and Pvt. Yates were discharged on points, and to T/5 Sarley, PFC Kawalske and PFC Wells who were released because of age. S/Sgt. Jeanes moved up to the position of 1/Sgt., Sgt. Ladokokas replaced him as chief of gun sections, and Cpl. Kaczorek was promoted to sergeant and section chief.
Shortly after this fifteen new men joined us from the the 515th F.A. Bn. to bring the battery back to full strength. We introduce big, pleasant T/4 James Duane (cat mechanic) of Massaschusetts, big (6'5", 220 lbs.), intelligent (IQ 153), likeable Cpl. Max Saunders (survery) of Oregon; thin, sociable T/5 Thomas Kakley (cook) of Massachusetts; rough and ready, keen, talkative PFC Mervan Foutz (driver) of Indiana; PFC George Platinitus (cook) of Massachusetts; nd the following cannoneers, all PFCs: James Breeden of Texas, slow-talking Jimeson Hamilton of the State of Washington; Maynard Hartzog of Texas; tall Matthew Howell of North Carolina; smiling Jefferson Layton of Missouri; Albert Murray of Texas; slender, good-looking Ralph Turner of Missouri; and tall, slim Melvin "Love 'Em and Leave "Em" Wainwright of Texas. Finally, Lt. Kuhlmann became lost to us when he was promoted to the Battalion staff. Lt. Brown became RO and Lt. Graydon Boyd was transfered from Service Battery to become our motor officer.
On July (?) General Eisenhower announced a relaxing of the Non-Fraternization policy, which served a worthy but not too popular purpose.
We should record in passing that most of the men in the Battery will be able to tell their children and their grandchildren that they had passes and furloughs to Paris, Brussels, Nancy, Dijon, England and the Riviera. In spite of the long dusty rides which those trips usually entailed, the general consensus of opinion is that they were well worth the effort involved. The Battalion has conducted two three-day tours to Berchtesgaden to date and fortunate indeed were the men who were able to get to go, the tour going through Munich to Hitler's home and the famed Eagle's Nest in the Bavarian Alps; to Oberammergua, home of the world renowned Passion Plays; to Innsbruck in Austria and the Brenner Pass, gateway to Italy. The highlight of the tour in the estimation of those who have made it as a visit to beautiful Lindenhof Castle.
And now we must come to a close of this informal history. But is with optimism in our hearts concerning the future. To prove to world that we believe the future has good things in store for us we are listing below four great events to which we are all looking forward. A space is being reserved in each case where you can record the date when each of these events came to pass. May you not have long to wait before being able to fill the space in.
The day I left the ETO____________
The day I arrived on United State soil_____________
The day I arrived home on furlough_______________
The day I was discharged from the Army______________
Happy landing, fellas!
----- George Sharpe
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
Mervan Foutz, PFC., 516th FAB, Battery "B"
Francis X. "Sully" Sullivan, S/Sgt., 516th FAB, Battery "B"
Harold J. Hedges, Capt., 516th FAB, Battery "B"
World War II Causality Search
The above story, "History of the 516th's Battery B (WWII)", by George Sharp, was contributed by the daughter of S/Sgt. Francis Sullivan, Ms. Maureen Peckrul.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the Ms. Maureen Peckrul. Photo of the 516th Staff courtesy of Ms. Maureen Peckrul. Our sincerest THANKS for allowing us to share this story.
Original Story submitted on 28 July 2003.
Story added to website on 29 July 2003.
Story updated on 23 August 2003.
September 5, 2002.
Would YOU be interested in adding YOUR story --
or a loved-one's story? We have made it very
easy for you to do so.
By clicking on the link below, you will be sent
to our "Veterans Survey Form" page where a survey form
has been set up to conviently record your story.
It is fast -- convenient and easy to fill out --
Just fill in the blanks!
We would love to tell your story on
World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words.
WW II Stories: Veterans Survey Form
© Copyright 2001-2012
World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words
All Rights Reserved
Updated on 27 January 2012...1432:05 CST
Please Sign Our Guestbook...