Dad was a race car mechanic prior to the war. He was exempted from serving due to a medical issue but got it overturned by a second opinion. He enlisted in February 1942 and was assigned to 7th AD as a mechanic after basic training. He was later transfered to the 3rd AD, the 7th AD's sister division. He received training at Camp Polk Louisiana, desert training in the Mojave desert and Camp Indiantown Gap, PA.
In September 1943, the 3rd was shipped to England. Dad never gave any info on his time in England. He said they arrived on Omaha Beach about D+23 days. He gave a little info about getting the tanks cleaned of cosmoline grease, said it was nasty and hard to remove.
They were the breakout unit from there but he never gave any details of the combat he went thru. I once asked if he shot anyone, he was a .50 cal gunner on a halftrack, when the 3rd was moving in battle. His reply was, we took fire from treeline and I ran the. 50 across there twice, and there was no more fire.
In Aachen, the 3rd was in a refit mode and stalemate battle. The Germans were constantly attacking. In one skirmish, Dad was repairing a hit tank. A German soldier threw a grenade at Dad and he was hit by shrapnel. He was awarded the Purple Heart. It was never presented, I received his Purple Heart jedal February 2023. In 1978 I was stationed in Germany with the USAF. Dad came for visit and he and I traced some of his footsteps around Aachen, Gernany, the Battle of the Bulge and Cologne, Germany.
Battle of the Bulge
In the Battle of the Bulge, Dad told me of his friend Chester Arthur, a Native American tank commander in Dad's company. Chester had just picked up his 3rd tank and was headed out to battle. Sad said Chester looked down at him and said, "if this one gets hit, you will never see me again". Dad said it was the last time he saw Chester. In 2006 at a reunion of the 3rd AD, I eelsted this story to a member of Dad's company. The guy knew what happened to Chester. His tank was hit, he jumped from the burning tank and rolled onto a landmine. He was killed instantly. Chester is buried on his Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
Dad talked of the fog and frozen roads in the Bulge. One of his tasks was to put a radium button on the back of his jacket and lead tanks down the narrow, hilly, curved roads. He said fear jumped on you when you heard the tank behind you break traction and start sliding towards you. Jumping into the snow and rolling down the side of the hill was no fun, he said.
When we visited Cologne, we were standing in front of the Cathedral. Dad just turned in a circle looking up and around. I asked what he saw. He replied, when we left Cologne in March of 45, we left nothing standing that was usable. He couldn't believe how beautifully restored the town was in just 33 years.
After the war
Later in life, Dad was always cold, even in NC summers. He complained of his shoulders mostly. I read a book, Death Traps, about the 3rd AD in the Battle of the Bulge. This is when I learned of him laying on the frozen ground in the Bulge working on tanks and equipment.
I think that is the best I can tell of Dad's time in WW2, except, when he spoke of his division commander Major General Maurice G. Rose and his time with the 3rd AD, he always got a gleam in his eyes and a tear remembering those days.
Story by George's son JD