Heroes: the Army


"...On maneuvers in Louisiana, all planted fields were meant to stay out of, so they were considered lakes with no boats or other means to cross. One day about 10 of us, on break, watched a man crawiing on his knees and elbows crossing a planted field..."



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 Joseph Laska

  • Branch of Service: Army
  • Unit: Co. K., 407th Regiment,
    102nd Infantry Division
  • Dates: 1942 - 1945
  • Location: European Theater
  • Rank: PVT
  • Birth Year: 1925
  • Entered Service: Port Chester, NY



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From the Pen of

Joe Laska - 407-K


    Before the war men enlisted for one year. When the war started before his year was up one man said jokingly "I wasn't even asked if I wanted to reenlist."

    As a recruit, I found myself at Fort Dix with other recruits. An old army sergeant counted off 50 of us to represent this unit at the Catholic chapel down the street, as it was the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day. One man raised his hand, saying he was Jewish. The sergeant said "Today you are a Catlik" causing surpressed laughter by all.

    No one likes close order drill but there was one time it was fun for all. During our training anyone who wanted to give the orders was given his chance. This resulted in the men following orders as they heard them, causing half of the men going one way and half the other, sometimes marching into a barracks or into another group having the same problem. It was the only time close order drill was fun, enjoyed by all excepting the one giving the orders.

    In our early infantry training many men who were drafted were not fit for the infantry, mostly for being too old. One such elderly person who was in our barracks got a letter from home which said his 17 year old son was joining the army. Others in the barrack asked "What are you going to tell your son, now that you know what the army is like?" He replied 'What could your old man tell you when you were 17?"

    On maneuvers in Louisiana, all planted fields were meant to stay out of, so they were considered lakes with no boats or other means to cross. One day about 10 of us, on break, watched a man crawiing on his knees and elbows crossing a planted field. He finally got to where we were and claimed to have captured all 10 or us.

    Another incident on maneuvers was when a man on the other side hollered over to one of our men saying, "You have just been shot and you are dead. Who do you think you are, Superman?"

    Almost all men were seasick during the crossing. I asked one man if he was all right. He said he was OK but he did add that his false teeth had gone over the side. He happened to be on the same ship as I coming home. Again he looked sickly. When I asked if he'd lost his false teeth this time, he said they were in his back pocket now.

    During a break, several of us talked about what we would do after the war. One man said he was going to manufacture wheels. When asked 'Wheels for what?" He replied "Wheels for miss carriages."


----- Joe Laska



(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.)


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    image of NEW12 January 2005.
    A photo of
    Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment, 102nd Division. This image is on a page that is dedicated to Mr. Edward Marchelitis, Sr., by his daughter Carol. Most of the men in the photo taken on December 20, 1943 are identified on the back of the image.

    To view the photo of Co. A., 2nd Platoon, 407th Regiment as well as other photos of Edward Marchelitis, click on the image above.

    The family of Mr. Marchelitis is seeking information on his platoon.

    A special Thank You is extended to the daughter of Edward Marchelitis, Sr., Carol Marchelitis Heppner.



    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

    image of NEWGardelegen: April 13, 1945:
    Massacre at the Isenschnibbe Barn

    American Battle Monuments Commission: WWII Honor Roll

    National World War II Memorial


    The above story, "From the Pen of", by Joe Laska, Co. K., 407th., was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 53, No. 4, July/Sept. 2001, pp. 13.

    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 26 November 2003.


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