Heroes: the Army
"...I snagged my boot on something and went headfirst into the ground. All I could think of as I fell was a "bouncing Betty." There was no explosion. Maybe I had not moved the trip wire enough. Carefully, I felt back on my boot top - it was a wire, but a communications wire..."
Jack D. Brody
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Cannon Co., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942 - 1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Waterloo, IA
Jack D. Brody
Cannon Co., 405th
Without these happenings, the grim business of a precarious wartime occupation would have sent home more 'section eights' than it did. Being afraid and overly cautious helped too.
Either I am not normal - prone to certain adversities - just plain lucky - or Somebody upstairs likes me! Normality is questioned, because the Army did not know what they wanted to do with me - at least prior to my Ozark days. Then I didn't know what I was going to be doing the next day - just, did it!. Of course, I wouldn't have been GI if I did not complain a bit.
Adversity was absent during my pre-102nd days - except for noncoms who were always telling me what to do. I figured they must have been quite illiterate, because all they ever said was: "Move it, Brody!" "Hey - dummy!" - "Give me 25 pushups!" Ozark days were better - but the pushups went to 30!
Luck or Somebody was with me from my first day in the 102nd Division at Camp Swift. Being a recent ASTPer, and not looked upon by older noncoms as a welcomed addition, I was temporarily placed in B Co. for a refresher course - under the command of Capt. Estes [Norman B.] - who, with his officers and noncoms, proved what I could do beyond my suspected endurance. I'll always remember Capt. Estes' "you can do more" philosophy - even when your butt is dragging!
Permanently assigned to the 3rd Platoon, Cannon Co. 405th Regiment I found myself among a group of men who each had their own peculiar personalities - a mixture of ethnic backgrounds - of which, Italian decendents always managed to argue or fight among themselves. Nicknames were widespread - Guinea, Cakey, Daok, Glinderhead, Chopbeater - and as Bill Coby would put it, most looked up when "Hey, Dummy!" was used.
But, like all platoons, we became close knit, jealous about our group, and family-like oriented. The serious, the ne'er-do-wells, and jokers intertwined very well. What a better way to go off to War!
With all the pressing thoughts and doubts about coming combat duty - who would have thought that respites would play a vital part? I sure didn't, and they started before I was part way across the Atlantic Ocean.
The S.S. John Ericcson was a nice troop ship, but it was a long way down to E deck. Your tongue would be hanging out by the time you reached topside, and the trip back down was always accented by a strong odor as you passed each deck. The chow galley was my downfall. When a GI across your standup table, throws up in your bowl of cereal, there's not much you can do but layout the rest of the voyage. It doesn't take much for the seasick virus to take hold of you.
Landing in Cherbourg, France and trucking through its narrow streets to a road leading to a bivouac area, a French rain starts falling. Light at first, but by the time the area is reached, it is coming down hard - and pup tents still have to be put up for shelter and sleeping quarters.
My pup tent half, Joe Wyzga from Maine, is slow but right, and delays bedding down for the night by his phobia for clean feet and his reasons for doing so. Wet outside and inside, I dozed off with Joe still relating the advantages of clean feet.
Overstuffed and underfed in a "40 & 8" boxcar, 3rd Platoon forwarded and backwarded, stopped and went, all the way to Tongres, Belgium, where I was left behind to guard the men's duffel bags. Later, after each had taken out what he thought he might need, I can't recall ever seeing a duffel bag again until I was issued one to come home with.
The delay in Tongres placed me in Palenberg, Germany, just in time to help load ammunition for the guns, and get my 'baptismal' from German planes straffing the area. I took cover, but did not realize where until the raid was over. My refuge was a bomb crater - with cases of artillery shells in it! A bit rattled - I did not load another case of shells.
Sent to Waurchin, Germany to complete the construction of a O.P. in an orchard at the southeast edge of town, Joe Wyzga and I had to spend the night. During my ink-black night of guard duty, with my ears primed for any unusual sounds, there came the inevitable strange sound in the darkness. I froze. Should I "Halt who goes there?" No way. I fired four quick shots from my carbine and there was a dull thump in the darkness. Should I go look? Uh uh - let the K Co. guys do it the next day. My company ate hamburger for the next few days - furnished by the cow that I shot! Needless to say - "Killer" was my nickname for quite a spell.
Remember the "bouncing Bettys" threat? Raymond "Groucho" Conley from Michigan, and I were returning to the gun areas after repairing some communication wires that had been disrupted by German artillery and mortar fire. I snagged my boot on something and went headfirst into the ground. All I could think of as I fell was a "bouncing Betty." There was no explosion. Maybe I had not moved the trip wire enough. Carefully, I felt back on my boot top - it was a wire, but a communications wire. For some unknown reason, I took out my wire pliers and cut that wire into four pieces - got up and joined Conley back to the guns. I do not know which artillery battalion that wire belonged to, but at that moment I didn't care.
Never expecting to bump into a general officer, let alone see one, I was afforded the opportunity while pulling early morning guard duty just outside Prummern, near the road leading to Beeck. While discussing the usual matters of concern with my guard buddy, Aniello DiSabello from New York, and commenting on several blackened areas that dotted the terrain in front of us, now covered with snow -- a jeep appeared on the road coming out of Prummern. When it got abreast of us it stopped, and a slightly built GI got out and walked toward us. He definitely was rear area, because he was immaculately dressed and his "steel pot" looked too new. The GI turned out to be General Fox - up front to wish the forward position guys a Merry Christmas!
Still near Prummern, 'Mother Nature' called one evening, and I left my company's fire direction center to look for a suitable spot to get the job done. Picking a small beet field a short distance away, I dropped my clothing and squatted down. Before I had finished, Jerry decided to send some 'time fire' over, and the first shell exploded directly overhead. I hunched closer to thhe ground, and when the snow around me started kicking up, I upped my pants and headed for cover slipping on the snow and ramming my knee into a protruding rock. Limping into the fire direction center, I had to fend off helping hands who thought I'd been hit. My fatigue pant's leg came very close to being slit down the side to see where I was wounded. I wasn't.
In the town of Wurm I had my closest encounter of the first kind. I do not recall what it was I had to deliver to the O.P., but I remember you had to enter via the back way so you would not be seen and bring on some enemy fire. As I started to leave the O.P. house, I heard a shell coming in. As I stepped to the back door leading to a protected, walled courtyard, the shell hit and the explosion picked me up and sent me sprawling into the middle of a large manure pile. I wasn't hurt but it took quite awhile for the stink to wear off!
Quick to hit the ground when it was called for, I always seemed to drop out from under my helmet and it would come down on my head or back and then roll away. I was forever scrambling around to get it back on my head. One afternoon while checking wire along the bluff road above Beeck, enemy mortars started to send some fire into Beek, then turned their attention on the road. One exploded nearby, and I did the obvious, but before my helmet came down on top of me I did three body rolls and landed in a slit trench near the road - three fourths full of water! When you are trying to keep from drowning in practically a water-filled, slippery-sided slit trench, you don't take time to answer Joe Wyzga who is yelling where are you! My sudden disappearance and silent act must have given Joe a direct-hit picture. When he found me and helped me out of the trench - man, did he chew me out!
In the celler of a shelled-out house in Flossdorf, just before the large artillery bombardment, my close buddy Ernie Wade, Jr. from Virginia, and I were trying to relax and get a few winks. The enemy was trying his best to see that this did not happen by sending in occasional artillery and 88 fire. Each time a shell landed there was a lull in the celler...
At this point the story ends...a section of this edition of the Ozark Notes was missing...the section containing the remainder of this story. If any other 102d Division fellow out there still has his copy of this edition in tact [Vol. 43, No. 3, Spring 1991] and would care to forward the remainder of this excellent tale, we would appreciate it.
----- Jack Brody
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
Interested in some background information?
Check out the related links below...
United States Army, 102nd Infantry Division
102 Infantry Division
History of the 102nd Infantry Division
Attack on Linnich, Flossdorf, Rurdorf - 29 Nov -- 4 Dec 1944
Gardelegen War Crime
Gardelegen: April 13, 1945:
Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn
American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll
National World War II Memorial
The above story, "War's Respites", by Jack D. Brophy, Cannon Co., 405th., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 43, No. 3, Spring 1991, pp. 4 - ???.
The story is re-printed here on World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words with the kind permission of the 102d Infantry Division Association, Ms. Hope Emerich, Historian. Our sincerest THANKS for the 102d Infantry Division Association allowing us to share some of their stories.
We would also like to extend our sincere THANKS to Mr. Edward L. Souder, former historian of Co. F., 405th Regiment. His collection of stories of the "Kitchen Histories Project" series entitled, Those Damn Doggies in F, were responsible for bringing the stories of the men of the 102nd Division to the forefront.
Original Story submitted on 28 October 2003.
Story added to website on 18 November 2003.
September 5, 2002.
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