Heroes: the Army
"...A recent battle has left numerous dead German bodies strewn about our holes. The bodies are black, bloated and the gas in their intestines growl all the time. We cannot get out of the holes in the day time as the Germans have direct observation and fire on our positions..."
Maxwell "Max" Martin
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: Co. C., 405th Regiment,
102nd Infantry Division
- Dates: 1942-1945
- Location: European Theater
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1925
- Entered Service: Hannibal, MS
A Snapshot of My Time With the 102nd
Max Martin, 405-C
Morgantown, WV, Oct. 1943 -- The recruiter comes to the high school and I sign up as an aviation cadet at age 17 after passing the written and physical tests. I am to be taken as soon as I reach 18 and graduate. By the time I graduate, 30,000 cadets are turned loose and I am assigned to the infantry, so I never got to the Air Corps.
Jan. 1944 -- Clarksburg, WV Hundreds of naked men, except for shoes and a folder, parading around the armory as the men take the army physical for induction into the armed services. Quite a sight.
Feb. 1944 -- Camp Swift, TX We unload from the train on a siding inside Camp Swift. Our new home. I am assigned to the 379th Field Artillery for basic training. The weather is cold and windy. We receive our weapons, the M-1 Garand rifle.
March 1944 -- Camp Swift. TX Dominos! That is what it looks like. On a break, hundreds of men lie down on the ground to escape the cold Texas wind, and each cradles his head on a body part of another Gl. The pattern is just like dominos. No one protests the invasion of their privacy. In another situation, such an invasion would provoke protest.
March 1944 -- Camp Swift, TX I am assigned to the unit I will be with for the duration, 1st squad of the 2nd platoon of 405-C. ASTP boys and new recruits are assigned to the 102nd to bring the Division up to full combat strength. Training now shifts to group tactics.
May, 1944 -- Bergstrom AFB, Austin, TX My brother, Lewis, is stationed at this base. Two other brothers are in the AF assigned to B-24 Heavy Bombers. Lewis is assigned to C-45 cargo aircraft and is to fly this afternoon. I check out a parachute and go along for the ride. The training flight takes us to Brownwood, Waco and back to Austin. It is dark when we return for a night landing. The pilot lands short of the runway and the plane bounces back into the air and then bounces onto the runway
As they say, any landing you can walk away from is a good landing.
May, 1944 -- Camp Swift. The 20 mile hike. Hot Texas sun. Sweating GIs. The ambulance follows. Only a few fail to finish. Capt. Lozano and Capt. Estes (Co. B - KIA) running friendly feud. As we approach the camp at the end of the hike, Capt.
Lazono orders a quick pace to show how strong the men of C are (hoping to show up B)
Summer, Camp Swift -- Poison Gas Attack. No, not by the enemy but by our own training operations. About 12 or so of we GIs are herded into a small building where the "gas attack" (actually a training exercise) takes place. We enter the building and put on our gas masks. The masks are adjusted carefully and then a gas is injected into the building. Immediately we can tell if our masks are fitting properly or not. After a few moments were are asked to pull off our masks and take a good whiff of the gas. This causes a lot of sneezing, eye watering and running noses along with coughing. Three or four different kinds of gases were used so we could identify the gases in combat conditions, if ever used.
August, 1944 - Fort Dix, NJ -- Sunday and I am staying in camp, sleeping late, taking it easy. A Sgt. assigned to garbage duty. All day we hop on and off the truck dumping garbage cans throughout the base. Moral of this story is never, never stay in camp on a Sunday.
Sept. 1944 At Sea -- in the Atlantic, aboard the SS Lief Erickson. To avoid seasickness, Capt. Lozano volunteered all of C company to do KP duty. The first night, three of us are assigned to wash huge metal food containers- A nasty job. We give the Swedish crewman in charge a hard time. He requests we not be sent back. Next, the bakery Hot. HOT. This we didn't like. Again a hard time. Again, don't sent them back. Next to the hold to bring up supplies. This we like. An American Gl in charge. "OK, guys, get the job done quickly and we can all sit around and gab and eat ice cream and peaches. This guy is talking our language. We stay on this assignment the rest of the trip.
Cherbourg, France -- We unload from the boat out in the harbor onto metal barges. It is raining cats and dogs. We truck inland into the fields of Normandy with its hedgerows. Four men to a pup tent. It rains nearly every day we are here (about a month.) To avoid the wet, first down is the raincoat, then the overcoat, then whatever clothing we had in our duffel bags. Still the dampness came through. The cool, damp weather makes for a healthy appetite. One morning I ate 15 pancakes. Today, one is enough. Four candy bars and one carton of cigarettes is our weekly PX ration.
October, 1944 -- We entrain at Valognes into 40 and 8s (40 men or 8 horses), small French style boxcars. Our M1s, duffle! bags, gas masks, etc. go on the floor and 39 GIs pile on top. At night there is not enough room for all to lie down, so about 8 or 10 men stand in the open doorway. T/Sgt Campbell (KIA) shines a flashlight in the dark boxcar, and when one man turns on his side, he directs one of the standees to the hole. Before morning all have found a spot to lie down. We are on the train for three days shunting from one track or siding to another due to American bombing effort to disrupt the transportation system prior to D-day. We detrain at Charleroi, Belgium. Many of the men have the Gl's.
October, 1944 -- A small German town near the Holland border. We of the 405th are temporarily assigned to the 2nd Armored Division. We man the front lines at night and hole up in the cellars of houses in town during the day. The front line is a series of foxholes. Ours is in an orchard. A dead horse keeps us company, lying on its back feet straight up in the air. Apples are on the ground. The front is quiet except for the constant artillery barrages of both sides. Allied and German, constantly going overhead. The Germans shell the town, usually air bursts for harassing effect. The civilians are mostly herded into the church cellar. The German civilians are allowed out for one hour in the AM and one hour in the PM. During these hours we can freely roam the town without fear of artillery as the Germans know the civilian hours and refrain from shelling during those hours. From our ten-in-one rations, we give a young German girl the ingredients to make us a cake. The cake tastes very good and all 12 men of the squad share the cake. There are three duds (88s) in the second floor of our house. BAR man Marker (KIA) carried the duds under his arms and move the duds to the back yard. We are here one week.
Siegfried Line Bunker - Nov. 1944 - It is night and our platoon, the 2nd, is inside a German pillbox. We are here behind our own front lines as German patrols at night have been infiltrating through our front lines and occupying the pillbox and firing on our front line from behind, using the pillbox as cover. Sometime after midnight a German patrol appears and a fire fight results as T/Sgt. Campbell sends us out to the foxholes around the pillbox, to return their fire. After a short engagement, the German patrol moves on, having been denied their fire base.
Palenberg, Nov.7 Rest Camp The rest camp is in one of the better houses in Paelnberg. The windows are blown out and there is no heat. Coffee and donuts, and a few magazines are all the camp has to offer. But it is more than we have back at C Company.
About Nov 18 -- Near Beeck C Co. is in foxholes about 1 and 1/2 miles southwest of the small village of Beeck. A recent battle has left numerous dead German bodies strewn about our holes. The bodies are black, bloated and the gas in their intestines growl all the time. We cannot get out of the holes in the day time as the Germans have direct observation and fire on our positions. The second day in the holes, we hear a motor roar and the tat, tat, tat, etc. of machine guns as four Me-German fighters strafe our holes. The planes sweep up into the clouds and are gone. Only for a moment. Down they come again, disappear into the clouds, then back for another pass. On the third pass, there is a big difference as five P47 American Thunderbolt fighters are on their tail. All go up into the low hanging clouds and are not seen again.
About Nov. 20 -- Near Beeck We are in a march to get to the new front line about one mile ahead. The company line winds like a snake down the gradual slope. On the way you pass German foxholes, now abandoned. In one is a dead German. He is straddled with his midriff over the wood brace of the foxhole, head and feet hanging down into the water in the bottom of the hole. (It has been almost constant rain in Nov.) Only his rear is showing. What a position to die in. It is as if he was saying "This is what I think of you world."
Somewhere in Holland - Late Nov. 1944 -- I am on a table in a school room. The room is the operating room and the table I am on is the operating table. The bullet in my thigh is extracted and I am awake during the operation. The doctor shows the slug to me. The shrapnel wound to my scalp has already been bandaged. Everyone leaves. I am not alone. I look over to one side and I see a body, male, of a Gl, also on a table. The body does not move nor does it seem to be breathing. It is pock marked with numerous chunks of flesh sliced from its body from head to toe. Some German mortar shell, artillery shell or grenade must have hit near this Gl. I still wonder if the Gl was alive or dead. A shot of morphine puts me under before I could ask someone.
Somewhere in Holland, late Nov,1944 -- This school has been tuned into a hospital. The cots in my room are lined up cot to cot with barely enough room for the ward men to get through. It is Thanksgiving. For some unknown reason two German POWs, also wounded are in the middle of the room. Many of the GI's are upset. Some of the Americans, wounded and intense pain, groan. "Get the bastards out of here." Then there are comments about the two Germans getting a Thanksgiving Day dinner.
To appease the Americans the ward man scolds the two Germans in heated tones. The two Germans protest heatedly in return. While none of the parties could understand the other in words, the tone and gestures did the talking. But the two Germans got the same Thanksgiving Day dinner, turkey and all the trimmings, the same as everybody else.
Liege, Belgium - Dec. 1944 --This is a real hospital. I am here three days. Every night buzz bombs (V-1s) visit Liege. We can hear their motor, sounding tike a motorcycle engine. All is well until the motor stops, then there is the "hold your breath" moments until the bomb hits with a loud explosion. The windows rattle. Silence. Then, later, another buzz bomb and another and another, etc. These are area bombs, nobody, least of all the Germans who fired them, know where they will hit. When the petrol is gone the bomb falls, wherever that may be. The Germans just aim for a city and hope for the best. A real terrorist tactic, with nearly all civilian casualties.
Birmingham, England - Sometime in late January, 1945 -- After recovering from wounds received in the battle for Beeck, another Gl and I were on our way back to the front lines. We have a 24 hour pass. We meet a Canadian Gl (on crutches) and the three of us head for lunch. Not having much money, we look for a cheap place. We find one, and head down the cellar of the building. On entering it is apparent that this is not a cheap place. A head waiter greets us and informs us that this is a private club, members only.
Before he can exit us, he receives a signal from someone, and we are seated at a table appropriately set with tablecloth and silverware. We have a good meal and a drink. The waiter informs us that the gentleman at the bar, a club member, was paying for our meal. We ask to be introduced. A gentleman with graying hair came to our table. He had been a captain on a destroyer in the English navy during WWI. It was a nice gesture on his part and I still remember his kind act.
On a train, in a 40 & 8 box car, enroute from Le-Havre, France to a reple depot in Givet, France, it is cold in January, supposedly one of the coldest of record for a January. Another Gl and I hookup. He is young. I am 19 and so is he. The trip is three days long to go about 100 miles. The tracks and bridges of the rail system are still feeling the effect of American bombers. My new buddy wants to go AWOL and wants me to go with him. He says - let's jump off the train in some town, find some girls to hide us until the war is over. He says he has had enough of the front lines. (He was wounded and was on the way back). I declined.
The train stopped and at one of the stops my new buddy does not get back on. I can still hear the refrain of his favorite song he sang over and over again. "There'll be a jubilee down in Memphis, Tennessee and we'll shout alleluia all the day." I still wonder how he made out, This trip there are only about 10 GIs in the box car instead of 40. We who were wounded and are returning to the front are kept separate from the green replacements for the entire trip back to the front.
Mar. 1,1945 -- I have rejoined the company. I don't know anyone of the present five members of the 1 st square. Of the original 12 members of the first squad, 2nd platoon, I am the only one to return. Five were killed, and seven wounded of the original 12, Even some of the five present members are replacements since crossing the Roer. I rejoined the last part of February. Today we are on a march from Viersen to Krefeld.
Last night, while in Viersen, just before dark, I spotted a Cub artillery spotter airplane in the sky. Suddenly six artillery shells burst near the plane. The plane falls from the sky, nearly straight down, but recovers just before hitting the trees. A miss and a good escape. On the Krefeld road we pause; off to our right front near a grove of trees are German tanks. Several of our Shermans are near us. One is about 50 yards nearby, just in front of a brick building. A German tank fires and it hits the roof of the building, just above the Sherman. The Sherman quickly hides behind the building. We press on.
Mar 1, 1945 -- Krefeld. We are in the woods at the edge of the city. The walking wounded are coming back from the front line, some holding bloody bandages to their head, others to legs and other body parts. We are now to move on through the woods and we reach a large cement wall about eight feet tall. As we pause, someone shouts "counterattack." We quickly reform on a line facing the direction of the expected attack. The attack does not materialize. We dig in.
Information came to someone in the company that four of our tanks had been knocked out by 88s and this apparently prompted the counterattack shout. After dark, we move from our position and the 1st battalion starts moving down a dirt road through a field. The battalion moves forward, then moves back, forward, then back, finally the order is to fall out. Most of the men are exhausted and lie down. It starts to snow. Soon, all the dark objects lying in the field are covered in white. The order to move comes again and we move into the outskirts of the city.
March 27, Krefeld. It is dark. I step into a building through a broken window. As I extend one leg through the broken window, I feel something soft inside. The soft thing curses and mutters "watch it. I sit down on the broken window glass and looking around the room I make out the faint images of many GIs in the room sitting with their back to the wall and most are smoking cigarettes. After a short time, someone sticks their head through the broken window and softly says: 1st squad outside. I climb back out the window and am joined by five other members of the squad. The voice belongs to a Sgt. from another company. He explains that we are to do a night patrol. During the day, several German machine gun nests were firing from the steel works.
Out battalion must move down a road from the city outskirts that is open and would be exposed to direct fire from the machine gun nests the next morning. We are to determine if the nests are still there. We start out in the dark night, walking upright. Half way to the steel works we go into a crouch. A third of the way from there we get down on hands and knees and move forward. Nearing the steel works, we go down to a prone position and crawl onward. We have now crossed open field, and two go forward to scout out the area where the nests were seen. The rest stay put, guns at ready to give supporting fire if necessary. After a short wait the two come back and say "They are gone." With relief we stand up and walk back. I climb back through the broken window, careful not to step on the soft thing, lay down on broken glass and promptly fall asleep.
Krefeld, - after March 3rd Our division has been placed in corps reserve. The division has been in constant combat conditions since last October. We are billeted in a German apartment of three rooms. There are six of us in the squad and there are three Germans in the apartment - a couple and their 30 something daughter. We stay in the living room and they stay in the bedroom. We freely mingle with them and they with us. Food is scarce for the Germans so we leave something on our plates for them each meal. They have gladly furnished their plates for us and wash them after we are finished eating. One day I looked in the kitchen and found they had placed the plates on the floor and the dog was licking the plates clean. What a food chain, us, them and then the dog.
Krefeld, March, 1945 - We are making a raid on German housing. We start at dawn, knock on the door and after entering, search for hoarded food and guns. On one search, I am on the third floor, the attic, of a building, and as I open the door to a small bedroom I see a young girl on the bed in night clothes, still and chalk white. Glancing at the ceiling I see a hole in the roof where a shell has exploded. The dead girl is young, perhaps 10 years old. The big question is, why haven't the Germans in the house (many families live here), done anything about the girl? We find an old man in the hall, and through an interpreter, ask questions. The old man is disinterested and starts to walk away He is turned around and given a harsh lecture . Krefeld has been hit by our bombers and perhaps this is why the dead girl was just a ho hum matter to them. But it disturbed us. As the weather warms, the smell of the dead buried in the rubble permeates the whole city.
Wesel, 1945 -- Three of us are on convoy duty in this heavily bombed city. The Rhine River has been crossed at Wesel and our division is to pass over to the east side. Our job is to stand with a sign pointing to the right road at a fork in the road. The road has been bulldozed through the rubble as the rubble in the streets is just as deep as it is inside what is left of the buildings. Only by sighting down a line and guiding by sight of some building sides still standing can one determine where the streets have been. It takes three days for the division to pass, round-the-clock.
East bank of the Rhine river, 1945 -- As we travel, we see the remains of gliders to our right and left. Most of the gliders are broken open. Some are in the trees. We wonder how many casualties resulted from the wrecks.
Enroute to Hannover, April 1945 --We have been walking for three days. Up at dawn, walk 'til dark. Along the way we search woods and fields for Germans left behind as the armor broke through ahead of us. Most of the walking is over plowed fields and through woods. Our job is to flush out and clean up any Germans left behind by the armored advance. We cover about 70 miles in three days and close in on Hannover. The 84th is engaged north of us in front of Hannover. We enter a southern suburb. Directly ahead of us are six 88-mm artillery pieces. Fortunately the battery is abandoned. We have lucked out.
A small town somewhere in central Germany -- C company is deployed just outside this small town fading a farm field with woods off about 700 yards. A DP (displaced person) just freed by our taking the town has passed information that a large formation of Germans are in the woods. Another company is to pass through us to attack the Germans in the woods. Four Sherman tanks support the attack. The attack goes forward with the troops firing intermittently at the woods and the tanks stop and fire as the attack goes forward. There is no return fire from the Germans. The troops enter the woods and after awhile return with a lone German prisoner. As the prisoner reaches the town edge, the DP is waiting. The prisoner, an elderly 50+, has his hands behind his head as the DP punches the German in the face and knocks him down, then kicks and stomps on him. Several GIs pull the DP off. The German had been a guard at the local DP concentration camp and the DP was getting even. But what about all the Germans who were supposed to be in the woods? An entire battalion was deployed
On Elbe River near a demolished railway bridge on rail line between Hannover and Berlin.-- Late April, 1945 We have just made an early morning attack against this beachhead held by over 200 Germans. We hit their lines just before first light, gained total surprise, and after about a 10 minute fire fight we eliminated the beachhead on our (west) side of the Elbe. We have killed 60 Germans and captured 126 according to the division history book. We see many escape to the east side by using the superstructure of the bridge that is sticking above the water. Intelligence reported that about 100 Germans in the beachhead. Actually, over 200 were there. C Company made the attack with the assistance of two machine guns from D. G & H companies were on standby in case we got into trouble, but were not needed. This is the last battle action of the 102nd Division.
Our platoon, the second, stays in the area for a week. We amuse ourselves by throwing German helmets down the river bank and shooting them with the Mauser rifles the Germans used. I noticed one German just outside the farm house door, lying on the ground with a big barrel chest. No apparent mark on him. In a fox hole of the German front line, we see the remains of two German Wermacht. Someone had dropped a grenade into this hole during the attack. One body has no face and no lower arms. The other has a leg off at the knee and one arm half off. Such is the power of a hand grenade in a confined space. This is a usual contrast, some bodies have no apparent mark while others are mutilated. We retrieve an envelope from one of the remains; inside is a letter and a picture. The picture was of a family of four. Father, mother and two children. We could not read German. The war ended two weeks later.
Arneburg on Elbe" Late April -- Our squad is doing guard duty in a cannery. Across the street is a labor camp of Polish DPs. They worked in the cannery before we arrived. They are behind barbed wire, so the camp looks like a small concentration camp. They are housed in buildings equivalent to our army barracks back in the states. They have a central latrine with showers and hot and cold running water. To keep them happy, the Germans permit men and women to cohabitat. From some of these arrangements children have been born. We use the showers but we house ourselves in the cannery. One day, about 30 German engineers and scientists are given to us to guard. We place them in the crawl space under the cannery for the night. The next day I borrow a "grease gun" (45 cal. submachine gun) and march them down to company headquarters. I wonder if any of them found their way to the U.S. to participate in our space program.
Langewssen, East Germany - about June, 1945 -- We are housed in one of the better houses in town. The people who own the house, an elderly couple who have one son in the Wermacht, were ordered out and now reside in the hayloft of a small barn on the property. When we first hit combat, most GIs were in their mid and upper twenties. Now many are young -19, 20, 21. Not many of the original C Company members are left. The young ones are full of vinegar. So the house took some abuse. While here, the son of the couple who own the house returned, having been released from captivity. He came into the house, looked around and sat on the stairs and cried: "Mein haus is kaput." We had no sympathy for him, considering what everybody else in the war went through, we figured they got off easy.
Stutzerbach, East Germany - June, 1945 -- Our squad is stationed in this little town to do guard duty at a Kreise line. This Kreise corresponds roughly to a county line in the USA. German civilians are required to have a pass signed by and American officer to pass from one Kreise to another. Our job is to stop all road and train traffic and inspect for passes. One car we stop is unusual. The driver, after we stop him and inspect his pass, goes to the rear of the auto, lifts up the trunk lid, and inside is a charcoal burner. He stokes up the charcoal and climbs back into the auto and departs. The auto runs on the gas generated by the burning charcoal. German ingenuity.
Tiftern, Bavaria, about July, 1945 -- The army does not know what to do with so many soldiers (the war in the Pacific is still going on). So they send us to school. Many of us take a course in German. We trade cigarettes for eggs with the farmers. One cigarette for one egg. Most German girls speak good English. The fraternization ban is over now, so some socialization with the German girls takes place. Lysacht field has been dedicated in honor of S/Sgt. Lysacht who was killed in action. Here photos of each platoon are taken with the field sign in the background. Here, too, we usually eat our meals. It is the delight of the German who cleans septic tanks to bring his "honey wagon", drawn by a horse, down the street at noon. The stench does not mix well with the aroma of the food. Here we live in a doctor's house. He is still in captivity as he is in the German army. His wife and two daughters have moved to the Catholic Nunnery located nearby. The two daughters become "girl friends" of two squad members. As we moved through Germany, it was our usual practice to take over a house for the night, or week, or month, or more. We would give the residents 20 minutes to get out, carrying anything they could on their back, and we moved in.
Passau, summer 1945 -- We again get to ride a freight train. This time we go to Passau for the Bob Hope show. Frances Langford and Jerry Colona are part of the show. As we pull into the Passau station, we notice another freight train full of Polish DPs parked on another track. They are destined back to Poland. The show is being held in the local auditorium. We wander back of the building and find a kitchen set up by some outfit. Talking with them, we find we can go in a back door instead of waiting at the front door where a big crowd of GIs are waiting. In we go, quietly, so not to be discovered. We go to the balcony and get a view direct and up close to the stage. Best seats in the house. We stay "ducked down" until the front doors are opened. Then like a thundering herd of cattle, the GIs rush in. It was a good show, and we had the best seats. See what a little wandering can do.
Kasendorf, Fall 1945 -- We are housed in a kind of resort hotel and in another bar/restauranVhotel combination. I have been placed in charge of the "Day Room", a place in the hotel when men can write letters home, loaf, and play cards. It is located in the lobby of the hotel. There is also a bar and a dance floor. Food is scarce, but beer is plentiful. We set parties one night a week. Kasendorf is a small town, with about 200 GIs. There is not enough girls in town for all. So we advertise in Kulmbach, a larger town about 10 kilometers distant, by placing posters around and citing a place were girls can be picked up to come to Kasendorf for a dance. To prepare for the dance, we take a jeep to Bamberg and bring back kegs of beer in the jeep trailer.
For food, several men are sent to the woods to shoot deer. They are successful and the cooks slaughter the deer. We take the jeep to a farmers field to load up sacks of wheat. Thence to the mill. Thus we have deer burgers and beer for the dance. To get the girls in Kulmbach, we have "appropriated" an air cooled engine truck with canvas over the bed. We take the truck to Kulmbach, pick up about 15 or so girls and go back to the dance. After the dance is over, we take the girls back to Kulmbach. What a way to run a dance.
Kulmbach, Nov. 1945 --Someone searched the company records in the regimental personnel office. My name came up as I had two years of typing, book keeping, etc. in high school. At about this time, with the war in the Pacific over, personnel were being transferred between divisions, the high point men in the divisions being deployed to the USA, and the lower point men to the divisions still in Germany. I replaced one of the high point men. My ASR score was 46, rather at the low end. Still assigned to C Company, I go back only once to visit the company.
Weiden, winter '45 -- We are stationed in former Wermacht Barracks. The barracks are nice, much nicer than any we had in the U.S. Four men to a room. Since our jobs at regimental personnel involve some knowledge, and we wilt be going home when our turn comes, we are all given "helpers." I have three, as do all the rest of the office. We are to train them as our replacements. Two of my helpers are Japanese Americans, and several other Japanese Americans are in the office. This creates some tension. At the Red Cross club (cokes and donuts), a ruckus breaks out between one Japanese American and a Gl. After this ruckus, everything seems to settle down.
Flossenburg --I go to visit the men of C company who are stationed in this former concentration camp. Now German SS troops are housed in the camp. Quite ironic, the former proud, tough, SS "death head" troops are the inmates. C company men are the guards. I tour the camp and inspect the ovens used to cremate the inmates who died. Flossenburg is, I believe, considered one of the "holocaust" concentration camps.
Bayreuth, winter '46 -- Now we are housed in a farmer hospital building. During this period of time the 102nd is receiving men and sending others out, in preparation for returning home. The 405th regiment is to stay, taking over the division sector. Later the 405th also departs. We have more money than we can send home. Currency control is in effect and no more money can be sent home than one makes.
Most of us are loaded with German marks, but nothing to buy, the stores are empty and there is no food in the restaurants. So we get haircuts at German barber shops about twice a week, and get our clothes cleaned as a German cleaners rather than washing them. We give large tips just to get rid of the marks. A policy change, now noncoms are allowed a hard liquor ration. We inspect the Bayreuth opera house, famous for the operas produced here. We are not impressed. Theatres at home are much nicer.
Bremerhaven; April '46 -- Going home. While being processed in this port city, we ride the trolleys. The city has been heavily bombed, but is showing signs of coming to life again.
At sea, aboard a Liberty ship - April,'46 -- Some other men of C are also aboard ship, being in the same point category as I. We are bunked in the hold of the ship. The food is good. but there is nothing to do. The usual spring Atlantic storms are rough. We, at times, are in the hold with the hatches secured and not allowed on deck due to the high seas. The ship rides up atop a wave, then slides over with a loud bang as the ship's forward bottom hits the sea again and the sides vibrate. We hope the welds hold.
At home, 1947 -- A package arrives from the US Army. It has been one year since! was discharged. In the package is my personal small duffle bag, with my ASR # 35560034 on it, also my name, but no address. Inside is my camera, and other personal items. Someone took the time to look up my address from army records and sent the bag to me. I still have the bag.
Palm Bay, FL - 1997 -- 'Were you ever in an accident before?" asks the X-ray technician. "No, why do you ask?" I replied. 'There is a piece of metal showing on the X-ray in your thigh," she said. The exact spot where the bullet located when I was wounded at Beeck some 53 years ago. Riding my 10 speed in Palm Bay, FL, I caught my sandal in the back wheel and was flipped over the handle bar, landing on my thigh and shoulder. Nineteen stitches in my ankle and elbow are part of the result. The X-ray of the pelvis area and thigh was a cautionary event.
I reflected back, to Nov. 1944. A sugar beet field near Beeck, Germany. It was here that C company of the 405th Infantry was decimated by fire from artillery, mortar, and small arms fire by Germans who occupied a hill with an unobstructed vision and field of fire on our advance to the Siegfried line. I was a casualty that day (as was most of C company) with a gunshot wound to the thigh, and later a piece of shrapnel that pierced my steel helmet and cut open my scalp.
As I write this in 1999, I have a piece of metal that will stay with me the rest of my life as a reminder of those times with the 102nd Division. A doctor said scar tissue has formed over the piece of metal and should cause no problems. Just a little souvenir, a little reminder of WWII.
----- Max Martin
(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, "Images: A Snapshot of My Time With the 102nd", by Max Martin, Co. C., 405th, was originally published in the 102d Division "Ozark Notes", Vol. 54, No. 4, July/Sept., 2002, pp. 4-11.
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 25 March 2005.
Story added to website on 26 March 2005.
September 5, 2002.
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