In january of 1944 we were on the high seas from america to england, and entered that part of the world through a port in cardiff, wales! We were stationed in the wiltshire barracks near devises, england for approximately 6 months before crossing the english channel in about the middle of july 1944. We landed at “utah beach”.
At the time i was serving as the company clerk for Co. “C” of the 137th ordnance maintenance battalion (4th armored division). I had met chaplain ray in england several times, and i played my trumpet to play the military bugle “church call” to call the fellows in from the fields to attend each church service. Chaplain ray was a southern baptist minister from bonham, texas. He was a large husky man, and would often challenge the men to wrestle with him, and made them promise that if he “threw them down”they would come to our church services. The chaplain was a 1st lt. And he would take off his bars before wrestling with the men, and i have never seen anyone be able to throw the chaplain. Most of the men would also keep their promise, and would start coming to our church services.
After we crossed the channel and landed at utah beach on the cherboug peninsula around the middle of july about a week later the chaplain came driving up one day alone in his jeep, and located me, and asked me if i would consider working with him as his assistant. wow i thought here is a first lt. asking a little corporal “if” i would consider working with him as his assistant. i thought to ,myself” gee if this 1st lt is “asking me”, and not “telling me” i perhaps could ask him if i could pray about it first before giving him an answer. chaplain ray said “i want you to pray about it first” i asked him how much time i had before he needed an answer, and he said “we are all moving out as a division tomorrow morning at 4 am, and i need to know before then”. wow i took him up “on the deal. I prayed about it, and the lord said to me to “go” so when he drove up again around 3 am i told him i was going with him. that started a whiole lot fof experiences that “changed my life”, and “almost” “took my life “!! this all happened during the time of the “big breakthrough” of the third army driving south out of the cherbourg peninsula around the middle of july 1944.
Thousands of our planes flew over our lines opening up a large hole in the german lines (operation “cobra”) our divison was assigned to the extreme right side of the third army line as we (the 4th afrmored division) drove south we approached the town of “coutance” france. the chaplain & i were in our jeep together as many many german soldiers surrended, and came walking out of the woods down to the road with their hands up! about ths time the chaplain asked me if i would drive back to our medical battalion, and pick up our trailer that we normally pulled behind our jeep. I suggested to him that i also take three of the german prisoners back with me to the prisoner stockade. he said that would be okay so i motioned to three of the german prisoners to climb in my jeep (forgetting that my carbine was on the floor behind me), and two fof the prisoners actually had their feet on it as we traveled along toward the rear.
I didn’t have any fear as long as i saw the long lines of our vehicles moving beside me, but after about ten minites i, suddenly, found myself alone in the jeep with three german prisoners, and no american vehicles (tanks, half tracks or jeeps) were passing beside me.i realized i was in a very dangerous position so i immediately turned the jeep around, and headed the other way that i had just come from. just as i got turned around i happened to look down the road about 10 yards, and there i say 4 or 5 german soldiers with their guns pointing right at us, and i knew that if i drove the jeep just a few feet trying to excape they would fire. Without thinking i bowed my head resting on the steering wheel, and had a quick prayer which was simply “lord, I am in your hands. amen”.
It took only a very few moments for several german soldiers in an adjoining field to open a gate, and motioned for me to drive through, and get off the road. My three prisoners disappeared immediately, and soon i heard someone calljng in german someone’s name, and out of the woods comes a very handsome german officer who happened to be a german field doctor who was taking care of his wounded german soldiers back in the woods. He got in with me, and drove my jeep, and we drove through the woods to an old barn. He opened the door about a foot, and another german officer from the inside came to the door, and i could really smell a strong odor of beer.
The two officers talked for awhile, and then much to my surprise he said to me that i could over to that next hill, and join my comrades!! Well i never thought i had any comrades in the german army, but when i went where he pointed there i found 8 other american soldiers who had also been captured and they were all from our 46th medical battalion. They were glad to see me, and i was glad to see them. The first thing we did after they found out i was a chaplain’s assistant was to have prayer together in a circle.
Then we decided to dig ourselves in in a deep & long “slit trench” (foxhole) that would hold, and protect us all for we figured that we may eventually come under shelling by our own men! The german kept two guards on us all night until about 3 am in the morning when we were all awakened, and told to get in our jeeps, and by then we had three jeeps, and a german soldier got in each jeep as the driver. We had devised an excape plan, but as they drove us out to the road we saw this big “tiger” tank getting into position to bring up the rear of the column. Anyhow we ended up in the city “rennes”, france after a night & day of driving the back roads. There we were interviewed, and for some reason they sent me to an old school building right there in rennes that had been turned into a hospital for wounded, & captured american troops! An english major had been placed “in charge” of the hospital, and i was assigned to the “seriously wounded” ward. I remained in that position for four more days working primarily with english captured soldiers. I had a hard time understanding their english “cocknie” language.
I often had prayer with the wounded men. The fourth day there we got orders to move all the seriously wounded men to the building’s basement for the american were approachingf, and the hospital would probably take some shell hits we got the serious wounded down into the basement, and the building was hit twice, but nothing serious. then one morning about 3 am some of us were all looking out our through the barbed wired windows, and saw the most beautiful sight i had seen for many a day for there down on one corner of the city near our building we could see a jeep with three stars on the friont of it indicating that an american general was near us. It wasn’t long before we greeted the americans, and the half tracks, and tanks began pulling the barbed wire off of our windows, and we began helping them load our patients into the army ambulances. What a great time that was for everyone! I was anxious to get back to my chaplain, and asked the english major if i could take off, and he asked me if i could remain one more night ot help out, and tomorrow make my move,
The next morning i found an “mp” who got permission to drive me to my old 126th ordinance company, and from there i was able to send a mesage by radio to my chaplain, and in a few hours he drove up, and got in the jeep, and simply said okay “o govenor” tell me all about it” (he always called me “o govenor” ever since a little french boy in one of the french towns we had liberated came up to our jeep holding a bottle of beer, and said to me “have a drink o govenor”. Anyhow, i shared my experiences with the chaplain, and we drove down the road together, and had a lot more exciting experiences together which have all had “a positive influence” upon my life, and eventually after the war influenced me to enter into the christian ministry. I am now serviing as the chaplain for the fourth armored division, and our next meeting maybe our next convention which is coming up in sept. of 20o9 in washington, dc, may be our last national convention for our men are “passing away”.
The experiences that i had as a chaplain’s assistent with chaplain ray greatly influenced me and caused me after the war to prepare for the christian ministry which is what i did for 36 years. It has been a great experience! god bless you all! The good chaplain is now gone, but someday i hope to see him again in god’s heaven.
Chaplain Jack G. Ammon