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Thursday, November 12, 2009

More war stories

Had a talk with my uncle today. Sadie needed to ask him some questions about his war experiences. She was late for school so didn't get in on the whole talk. I would have been good for her to hear. I think. Need to get her to talk to her grandfather also.
My uncle was in the US Army from 1943-45. Said he spent a lot of time peeling potatoes and digging latrines... Uncle was a clerk. The clerk title was accounting, record keeping, administration, inventory, really general business management sorts of things. He made it to the rank of Sergeant Major. He said when he went in he kept quiet about being a farmer. The Army was looking for farmers to use in the infantry. He said he certainly did not want to drive a tank.
The disiclipine from the farm helped my Uncle. In basic training many people couldn't take directions or get ready on time. He would get up early and shave before anyone else. He kept quiet and did what he was told in basic and he did pretty well. "I was used to Grandpa or Uncle M. telling me what to do. When they said to do something you did it. It wasn't so much different in the Army."
He had been attending college and training as an accountant. He went to accounting school in Wyoming and then on to Texas where he was assigned to the third army headquarters staff. Then shipped to Europe. He said they moved pretty fast with General Patton. Every couple days they would pack everything up and load into trucks and head down the road. Then unload and setup really fast. (I thought he said 15 minutes?) Said that in the beginning they never spent more than three days in one spot. Everyone had a job. Latrine detail dug latrines, cooks set up to provide meals. Uncle was involved with messages. Messages would come in from different places and he would log them in to a book, then take the messages to the different tents. Said it was hard to do in the dark. No lights.
Said you could always hear the rumble of gunfire. You could see the bombing runs after dark. This was pretty spectacular. Said he couldn't believe there were that many planes in the whole world. He watched them bombing France from England. Said it was an amazing fireworks display.
He said the continual stream of Army traffic was unbelievable. Tank after tank rumbled by. Said when moving ahead there were dead bodies all along the road. "You hoped there were Nazi's but it wasn't always that way," he said.
Battle of the Bulge was a bad situation. He said it shouldn't have happened. He had a pretty profound experience at that point. I don't really think I ought to write about it. He doesn't know I write this.
The stress was pretty great in his group. They kept track of everything. Gas, ammo, materials. There was never enough gasoline. Patton was always yelling about that. Uncle's commanding officer had a breakdown from the stress. Had to be replaced.
It was a very interesting discussion.
After talking to him I was thinking about it. Uncle plays it all down. It was no big deal. Just doing my job. Never had a chance to be a hero. I've read about the 3rd Army's rush through Europe. He was pretty close to the action. Close enough that I would think you would be pretty worried at times. Not only that but all the logistics went through the headquarters people. He was in charge of logging and distributing messages. I'd say that was pretty stressful work. Now, I will admit that there is a difference between being on the front lines with an M-1, but I have a lot of respect for my uncle. He is really someone who always tries to do the right thing. I was looking at the two uncles and my dad today. They don't have that many years left. Hard to think about...
No- I did not get my switch wired today.
I got it almost finished and then my other uncle wanted to go down to check on the river. He left his little pickup and his bulldozer down there and was a little worried it would flood. I said we should just go down there and move everything to high ground. So I went with him.
Got back at dusk. I had everything hooked up and I turned it for the test. I have a windshield wiper delay wired in so that the foam marker runs for a short time and then pauses. There seemed to be a pretty heavy load and it didn't sound right. I did some checking and found out the air pump was locked up. I guess that would account for the fried wiring. Not enough to trip the circuit breaker but enough to fry the relays and the wiring.
I took it apart and oiled it. Think it will get me by. Now I need to tidy everything up. Not very happy with everything. But, kind of out of time. I have to make some money somehow.


  1. The stories all need to be told. Each major combat conflict in American history is profoundly different, dramatically altering the lives it touches. As much as he plays it down I'm sure he still dreams of it and could field strip his Garand in total darkness.

  2. Field strip his typewriter...
    Uncle was with General Patton's headquarter's battalion.
    When the Battle of The Bulge an officer came by looking for volunteers to reinforce infantry losses. He pointed at the guy next to my uncle and told him to pick up a rifle and come with him.
    They had almost no combat training as they were in the quartermaster corps. Their training was in logistics and accounting and typing.
    Uncle's Job was to type up the daily casualty reports. Shortly thereafter he finds his friend's name. Uncle said that his friend was not a Christian and was not "ready to go."
    It has haunted him that he did not volunteer and take his friend's place.
    My uncle used to make it his mission to visit people at the local hospital and rest homes and read to the patients and share his faith.
    I really need to go visit my Uncle again.


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