58th A.I.B - Co. 'C' - Personal Story
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  15. General comments


While we were in the United States, the Class A, wool, olive drab dress uniform with a billed cap was worn during the winter months and in the summer months these were replaced by khaki, cotton uniforms with an overseas cap. These uniforms were worn for all inspections, while off-duty on passes or on leave and anytime we were outside the company area. Both had an 8th Armored Division patch sewn on the left sleeve just below the shoulder.

During training we wore green fatigues with the 8th Armored patch over our left pocket. These fatigues were either one piece jump-suit overalls or two with a shirt and pants. We never wore our khaki, cotton summer uniforms or the green fatigues after we left the U. S. in 1944. Overseas, we always wore our class 'A', dress wool uniforms. These were always the uniform of the day, worn at all times and were even worn in combat.

Several of us were in the Army Specialized Training Program before it was cancelled and we were sent to the 8th Armored Division. I was sent to the University of Detroit for my training. This was an engineering training program where we were sent back to college to take engineering related courses. We wore our class A, wool uniform - shirts and trousers only - to all classes but without the blouses. In colder weather, we also wore either green field jackets or the long, regular issue overcoats.

There were no Army laundry facilities available there so when we took our wool uniforms to be cleaned, we had them pressed with military creases in the back of the shirts. These were three vertical creases running down the back of the shirt. While the regular army cadre in charge of us didn't like these creases at all they had a difficult time in stopping us from getting them because putting us on report didn't accomplish much since the only time we had off from school was Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning anyway.


During training, we wore shoes with leggings until about the middle of 1944 when we were issued combat boots. The shoes always had to be polished but some of the later issue combat boots had a rough leather exterior which we thought was the greatest thing the Army had come up with for a long time because they did not have to be polished.

Overseas, we wore our combat boots almost the entire time, even when we were on leave as far as I can remember. We made several long mounted marches in Jan. 1945 across France and Belgium. We sat in the back of our half-tracks with our feet on the metal floor and had a very difficult time keeping our feet warm. The winter of 1944-1945 was reported to have been one of the coldest of the last 75-100 years and many men suffered from frostbite and frozen feet during these marches.

At some point during these mounted marches, we were issued 4 or 6 buckle Arctic's as they were called. They were rubber clad galoshes to help keep your feet dry. We would take off our combat boots, put on two or three pairs of socks and put our feet in the galoshes after stuffing as much hay or straw in them as we could. This helped quite a bit in keeping our feet warm. The Army, as it usually does, also provided us with what were called shoe-pacs. The only problem was that they were not issued to the front line infantry until everyone in the Quartermaster Corps had a pair. I think we got ours in late March or early April when they didn't do us much good.

Coats, jackets and sweaters:

The winter of 1944-45 was one of the coldest on record. We wore about anything we could get on during our move across France and into Holland in January, 1945. We received some sweaters from the American Salvation Army that had been knitted by the women in the United States and given to them. They were great and fitted under our short, green field jackets. The field jackets were field green in color and made out of a canvas type material with a cord at the waist to tie them after they were buttoned. They were colder than hell without a sweater under them when it was very cold. The cuffs were open loose fitted so the jackets didn't help a lot. The tankers were issued waist length, blanket lined, zippered jackets with knitted cuffs and collars which were much better than the green ones. Occasionally, some of our men would get a short pass to Paris or some rest area and they almost always returned with a blanket lined tanker jacket which they said were donated by some quartermaster flunky in an alley someplace. Finally, we had a long, wool, overcoat that we wore over everything,especially at night, when it got really cold. We also wore the overcoats when we had to sit for long periods in the back of the half-tracks during road marches.


We had garrison hats, with a bill, which we wore when we were on leave or on a pass, and an overseas cap, with colored piping which we wore at other times. The infantry piping was a pale blue color on the overseas caps. They were always worn on the left side by all Armored units. We were issued knitted hats for use under our steel helmets and liners and also were issued some kind of hood that covered even the steel helmets. They had a flap that would go under the field jackets and we used them when it was really cold.


Food was available sometimes in great quantities and sometimes it was not available at all. Usually it was very good unless you couldn't get any. In the ASTP, we had our own civilian cooks and the chow was excellent. After we joined the 8th Armored Division, we were in company barracks and had our own mess hall. Meals were served family style by the men on KP (kitchen police). Our cooks were some of the best around.

After we reached the continent, chow was intermittent at times. We carried older 'C' rations (which some of us thought came from World War I), then 'K' rations which were much better and finally we began receiving the newer 'C' rations which were the best of them all. In addition to the food, the dinner ration box also contained a small roll of toilet paper and a small box containing four cigarettes. One way to identify the age of the rations was to check the cigarettes. If the tobacco was dry and slid out of them when you tried to smoke one, you knew that the ration had been around for a while.

Class 'A' rations were what the kitchen cooks fixed and they were always welcome if we could get to the kitchen or the kitchen could get to us. The kitchen kept drawing rations for us even when we were not there to eat them. When we returned, it was like a big party and the cooks would cook several days of rations at once and we could get our choice.

One of the most memorable meals, if you could call it that, was once when we captured a German farmhouse. We had been having powdered eggs in the mess tent for as long as I could remember and here we were in this house with a very large pantry full of fresh eggs and other goodies. I remember eating at least a dozen and a half fresh eggs and much black bread before we had to move on.

After the war ended and we moved to Czechoslovakia we did not fare well at all where food was concerned. We were lucky to even get powdered eggs sometimes and when we did we sometimes didn't have enough gas for the kitchen to cook them. The quartermaster units were supplementing their income by selling most of these items on the black market. We almost never received any gasoline and finally we drained the tanks of the half-tracks to use in the kitchen. I was in a town called Klatovy then and the other platoons were in a different, small towns. They started off by hauling us to the kitchen in trucks for each meal and ended by having us walk the two or three miles there to eat. We did stay in good shape though.

Basic training:

Basic training lasted for 12 weeks and was designed to give you basic army indoctrination and training and also to get us civilians into some kind of physical shape. Most of us were in poor condition even considering we were mostly around 18 years old. I received medical basic training in Camp Grant Ill., in the 130th Medical Training Battalion. Camp Grant was located just south of Rockford Ill.

We did everything in basic training that the infantry units did except we didn't have to carry a rifle. We carried medical supplies instead. Our classroom subjects consisted of medical training such as giving shots, setting fractures, bandaging wounds, etc. We also had basic classes in anatomy and other medical subjects. These were interspersed with the usual guard duty, kitchen police (KP), and hikes. We were issued a small notebook in which we were to record information we learned that we would need later for giving medical assistance.

Camp Grant also had some prison barracks for prisoners of war. They were located on the edge of camp and we saw quite a bit of them. Our training often took us on long hikes and we passed the POW barracks each time we left or entered camp. The POW's were usually laying around in the shade or playing volleyball or soccer and they would always stop what they were doing and come over to the compound fence and yell (or jeer?) at us as we passed. It was bad enough having to take long hikes without all the spectator comments, which we didn't appreciate in the least.

Army Specialized Training Program:

I do not think there is any doubt that the ASTP program probably saved my tail during the war. If I had been in a regular basic training program as an infantry replacement, I would probably gone overseas sometime in 1943 as an infantry replacement and been in the war at least a year before I finally got there.

The choice offered at the end of basic training was not hard to make. I selected ASTP because I could return to college and not have to go to a hospital or go to OCS. I was not old enough to be an officer and I didn't look old enough either. I was a very young looking eighteen-year-old. As a matter of fact, the last time I had to show my ID to get a drink in a bar I was 26 years old.

I was shipped to the University of Illinois for assignment to an ASTP unit and wound up at the University of Detroit. We had engineering classes from eight AM to about three PM when we went outside for two hours of physical training. I don't know how smart we were but we sure were sure in excellent physical shape. If we didn't pass a standard set of periodical physical tests we were shipped out of the Program back to our old outfit, the infantry, or someplace else.

Reveille was at six every morning and classes started at eight. We had to march in a group everywhere we went. In the evenings we had dinner around 5:30 and then had to go to study hall for three hours every night from seven to ten o'clock. The only time we got off was after inspection on Saturday morning until the seven o'clock study hall on Sundays. This was not quite true because the University had a maintenance tunnel containing steam, water, etc. running from the campus across the main street beside the campus. It came out in an area containing bars and pool halls and those with enough nerve could sneak out for an evening of fun and games if they dared.

The ASTP cadre were a bunch of regular army men I believe. They treated us mostly like we were smart-assed college kids - which we were - but were not too hard on us. We did aggrevate them occasionally over our uniforms though. We always wore dress wool uniforms without a blouse in class and we liked to have the cleaners put three creases up the back because they looked very sharp that way. I do not know if these were military or not but they did bug the cadre when we wore them.

Our classroom instructors were about like any other college, some were excellent and some were duds. I was in a group of 8 men which for some reason were designated as Section Eight and we had all had some college before joining the ASTP Program. Our calculus instructor was a Jesuit priest and was one of the best instructors I ever had in college and he treated us like adults. He taught in a very small room and when he gave us a test, he said we were on the honor system and would leave the room. I never once saw any of us cheat on one of his tests.

On the other hand, we had a physics insructor who was a complete dud. He taught in a very large lecture room and when he gave a test, he would separate us by at least 10 or 12 rows. This could not go unchallenged of course so we would figure out ways to cheat on his tests. On one test we would all get exactly the same answers. On the next one the right half of the room would get identical answers and the left side would get a different set of identical answers. He would walk around the room tying to catch us cheating but to no avail. He never did find out what we were doing or how we did it. Ah! life in college was much different (and more fun) than that in the Army.


Going on maneuvers in the army is quite an experience - especially when you were in college a couple of days before. There are many things to learn from how and where to set up your pup tent to how to clean your mess kit, rifle, and self. Pairs of soldiers set up pup tents. Each of us had a tent half which we used to roll our blankets, mess kits, spare underwear, etc. when we were marching and then used them to set up a tent with at night.

Picking the right spot for your tent can make a lot of difference in how comfortable you will be at night. You look for a slightly high spot and definitely avoid any sandy spot. If you pick a low spot, you will get very wet if it rains very much. You always dug a small drainage ditch around the tent if you expected to stay there for any length of time. Sand is just about the hardest thing you can find to sleep on. It is very hard to rearrange so you can get comfortable. If you picked the right spot, you could sleep reasonably well for the night specially if you were tired from the days training exercises.

Latrines were dug near the bivouac area after you stopped for the day. They were a little hard to get used to as they were merely a foot or so wide and you had to straddled them. Sometimes the supply truck supplied toilet paper and sometimes you had to use the small roll of sheets that were packed with your rations. If the half tracks were near, it was also a major plus because we usually had toilet paper and many other supplies that we needed but they were not always close enough to get to them. Finding a latrine at night was also a lot of fun.

It was not always easy to get hot water for morning washing up and shaving. On maneuvers we had to be careful how we used government equipment so we couldn't build fires and heat water in our helmets as easily as we did overseas. The same was true with trying to keep clean. The army had some mobile shower units that showed up occasionally but were few and far between overseas. Overseas I doubt if we got a shower more often that every two or three weeks so we would heat water in our helmets, strip to the waist even when the temperature was 10 to 15 degrees and wash off. I do not know where the name came from but that was called a whore's bath of which we took many.

The main thing we learned on maneuvers was how to take care of ourselves, how to set up tents to sleep in, how to survive when living outside for months at a time. I was on maneuvers for about two and a half months before we moved back to barracks again.

Weapons and vehicles:

An armored infantry platoon was made up of five squads in five half-tracks. There was a headquarters squad, a machine gun squad, a mortar squad, and two rifle squads. The half-tracks of the headquarters and machine gun squads had fifty caliber air-cooled machine guns, and the half-tracks of the other three squads had thirty caliber machine guns - either water cooled or air-cooled. In addition, the machine gun squad also had a thirty caliber machine gun mounted on each side of a large ring mount that went clear around the inside of the half-track.

The individual arms carried by the men varied considerably and were based on the type of squad you were in. All five half-track drivers were armed with forty five caliber machine guns that were called 'grease guns'. These had clips that held up to thirty rounds. Most of the riflemen carried thirty caliber M1 Garrand rifles which held an eight round clip. The machine gun and mortar crews usually had thirty caliber carbines with clips that held over ten rounds but I can not remember just how many. The platoon leader and platoon sergeant usually had either carbines or forty five caliber pistols.

The men sat in two rows facing each other in the back of the half-track. The seats were made of a canvas material with a zipper most of the way around. You could put anything inside that you wanted to help make it softer. The seats laid on metal compartments with lids that could be raised for storing things in them. The back rests had canvas covered pads to lean back against. Between the back-rests and the sides of the half-track were two 40 gallon gas tanks and on each side of the gas tanks were wells where we stored ammunition, bazooka rounds, hand grenades, rifle grenades, flares, extra rifles or carbines, and anything else we could use to blow up something with - even ourselves if we were not very careful.

The half-tracks had a door in the back that I suppose some designer figured we could use for getting in and out of the half-track. As far as I can remember, we never used these doors. We had ours welded shut and had a large metal rack welded to the back covering the door. The rack was about two feet by two feet by the width of the half-track in size. We used it to hold musette bags, bed rolls, blankets, rations, extra clothes, loot, and anything else we thought we would need or could use. We also had a small rack welded just behind the fifty caliber machine gun mount and had a small wooden box made to fit it. We used this for rations, cigarettes, cognac, wine and anything essential we wanted to get at in a hurry. The half-track also had fittings to hold a canvas cover but we never had or used one as long as I was in the company.

These were the things that my platoon had originally but after we were in combat for a while, we pretty much wore what we wanted in order to keep warm and carried what we wanted in the way of weapons. You can look at some of the pictures and see some of these things. I was a radio operator and started with an M1 rifle, picked up a carbine when one became available. And ended up with a 'grease gun'. I was always looking for something lighter to carry. I was never able to find a forty five caliber pistol however. Our extra guns were in the boots in the side of the half-tracks in case someone needed another one.

I think other squads and platoons outfitted their half-tracks to suit themselves, too. I do not think that I ever saw two of them looking just alike. This was not just true for the infantry. The tankers also fixed up their tanks the way they wanted and no two of them were just alike either.


Tanks were the main attack force in an armored division. They were used to fight other tanks and enemy forces that you might encounter. They were also used in support of infantry in defensive positions and sometimes as artillery if more firepower was needed. In particular, I remember that our tanks were sent up to the Rhine River to fire at enemy fortifications across the river. They were used as artillery to soften up the German positions prior to our crossing the Rhine.

They had a five-man crew made up of two drivers, a gunner, a loader and a tank commander. Inside they have a rack to hold ready ammunition. Extra ammunition was carried under the floor of the turret. The ready ammunition racks were U shaped and just the right size to hold straw wrapped wine and cognac bottles. Some of our tanks were very nice to carry looted wine and cognac for us - for a fee of course.

Tanks were nice to have around under certain conditions but usually we liked to stay as far away from them as possible. If there were any enemy tanks or artillery around they always shot at the tanks first so maintaining a respectable distance was a desirable safety measure. Anytime we were moving up in an attack, the tanks liked to have the infantry as close as possible. We avoided them mainly because the tanks had a limited view from the driver's slots and if you happened to get wounded in front of one, it was hard for the driver to see and avoid you. Since we liked to stay as far away as possible, they sometimes managed to get us closer by passing out some wine.

It was a one way love affair mostly with the tanks. They loved to have the infantry around but we were not so hot on the idea most of the time. They were big, noisy and easily seen. We were scared when they were too close to us and they were scared when we weren't close enough. They also usually drew artillery fire when they were around so we tried to keep our distance if possible. We were a little provoked once though when a tank fired over our foxholes and hit a fence post directly in front of us. One man in my squad, Bob Edge from Grosse Point, MI, was wounded and this did not help our relationship with the tankers too much. Bob had a captured German pistol on his belt which the shrapnel hit otherwise he could have been killed.


Half-tracks were armored personnel carriers. They usually carried a squad of ten men made up of a squad leader, driver, assistant squad leader, and eight riflemen or machine gunners. They were lightly armored with about a quarter inch of steel. This amount of armor was supposed to stop rifle fire but would not stop much else. We tested the armor plate one time to see what it would stop. One of the men in my platoon fired a .30 caliber armor piercing round into the side of a half-track once. One look at the hole it made improved our exit speed considerably.

All half-tracks in our outfit had names stenciled on the side of the doors in addition to the division designation letters and numbers stenciled on the bumpers. C-58 was the designation for Co. C, 58th Armored Infantry Battalion.

I have tried for a long time to try to remember the name for my half-track but I have forgotten it. I know that they all began with C though. (One thing has always puzzled me though. In all the film programs shown on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and The Arts & Entertainment Channel, I never recall having seen a unit designation on any vehicle except for one program about the Third Infantry Division. I think they use a picture that fits the program and the actual unit marking could cause problems if someone saw what they were.)

Half-tracks had two forty gallon gas tanks - one on each side. The backs of the seats on each side leaned up against these gas tanks. Under the seats were storage areas for our gear and we had little zippered cushions, like stadium seats today, to sit on. We would put anything soft we could find into them and it improved the sitting considerably. Blankets were nice for this if you could steal one someplace or get one from someone who had been killed or wounded. It was too much trouble to use your own blankets because you needed them every night. (I brought my army blankets home with me and they are as good today as they were 55 years ago.)

There were several different kinds of half-tracks. My squad had a command track with a winch on the front bumper and a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a ring-mount on the right side of the driver's compartment where the squad leader sat. Other half-tracks in my platoon had a large roller on the front bumper and a .30 caliber ring mount that went around the entire inside of the vehicle where the riflemen sat. There were other half-tracks that had four fifty-caliber machine guns mounted in the back and were used for anti-aircraft. Our company didn't have any of these.

Needless to say, anytime there was any action, we bailed out of the half-tracks as fast as possible and hit the ground. With 80 gallons of gas, ammunition and racks for land mines around the outside of the vehicle, the safest place to be when tanks or artillery were shooting in the vicinity was as far away as possible. I do not think we ever carried any land mines though - only an idiot would carry them. That was one of the Pentagon's dangerous dumb design features. Another dumb feature was the door in the back that I do not recall anyone ever using.

Sometime after we left England we started making (unauthorized?) modifications to our vehicles. The door in the back was welded shut - when we were in a hurry to get out, we didn't want to waste any time by time using a door. We also had a large metal rack welded behind the door. We used it to carry our bedrolls, musette bags, rations, loot, and other official gear that we thought we would need quickly.

We also had a wooden box installed just behind the .50 caliber machine gun mount where we carried cigarettes, candy, more rations, and other unofficial items (cognac, etc.) that we had looted or felt might come in handy. We also gave some of these items to other guys we passed that need them. Each man in the squad got a free carton of cigarettes each week and since only about half of us smoked we carried the spares in our box.


An armored division was composed of between 10,000 to 12,000 men. There were 15 battalions of which nine are combat units with the other six being support units of medics, ordinance, reconnaissance, engineers, military police and quartermaster. The combat units are the tanks, field artillery and infantry. The division is organized into three combat commands, which correspond to a regiment in an infantry division. Each combat command had one infantry, tank and field artillery battalion and usually a company of the various support troops attached. The combat commands were called CCA, CCB and CCR. The 58th A.I.B. was a part of CCR.

Spearheads which you read about in the history books were an armored column made up of alternating tanks and infantry units with the field artillery in the rear which could be called upon as needed. One combat command usually was divided into two spearheads. We would usually have three or four tanks, a platoon of infantry - five half-tracks - then more tanks, more infantry etc. The units in front always got the brunt of any action so they were rotated every few hours or depending on the circumstances. Usually if we ran into anything, they shot at the tanks first and the infantry in the half-tracks had time to get out into a ditch or other cover.

When the lead units ran into resistance, the infantry would bail out of the half-tracks and go in on foot. We were always glad to get out of the half-tracks because they were not very heavily armored and were too close to the tanks, which were usually the first things to get shot at. You didn't have to look into too many shot up tanks before you appreciated being in the infantry, strange as it seems. In the infantry you got shot at individually.

Spearheads were only used when there was light resistance. They were not used against heavily defended positions. If the foot infantry would knock a hole in the German lines, a spearhead would go through to exploit it. They were used mostly in flat country, which had more maneuvering room.

Air Force bombers and fighters:

B-17 bombers were used a lot over Germany. We would see them almost every day going to or coming from a bombing raid someplace. They were usually so high that all we could see was the vapor trails that they made. The B-17's were daylight bombers so we could see them frequently but the British bombers were out at night. We could hear them frequently but seldom saw them go over.

The fighter airplanes were another story though. They usually flew at low levels most of the time attacking German columns, trains or anything else that moved on the German side of the lines. There were several types around and were sometimes hard to identify. The P-47's and P-51's were the most evident. Our spearhead column had four P-51's attached and they were a big help most of the time. When we would run into a German column or a bunch of tanks, we could call them on the radio and they would show up in less than 15 minutes. They were great to have around as long as they could tell which side to shoot at which was not always the case.

Guns, grenades and ammunition:

An armored infantry company carried a lot of firepower compared to a regular infantry company. My platoon of five squads for instance had two .50 caliber, five-.30 caliber and five .45 caliber machine guns in a platoon of about 55 men. Most were mounted on the half-tracks but we had the mounts if we wanted to take them off and use them for defense at night or at other times. The .45 caliber guns were called grease guns and were carried by the half-track drivers.

The company also had one 81 mm and two 60 mm mortars and several rocket launchers nicknames bazookas after comedian Bob Burns' musical instrument. We also carried many grenades, both fragmentation and white phosphorus, and several land mines.

Most infantrymen were issued the M-1 Garrand rifle which weighed about 9 pounds. They got pretty heavy after several miles on a hike. There also were a few Browing Automatic Rifles (BAR's) and .30 caliber carbines. The carbines were much better to carry because they were smaller, weighed only about half what a M-1 did and the ammunition clip held about fifteen rounds compared to only eight in the M-1. You had to keep and maintain what you were issued in the States but once we got in combat we carried about anything we wanted to and could find. I carried a .45 cal. grease gun or a .30 cal. carbine most of the time.

We had a company inspection once where we had to line up all the machine guns on their mounts in front of each platoon. There were so many of them that they extended five to ten feet beyond the platoon formation in each direction. One armored infantry platoon had more firepower than a company of regular infantry.

Combat in general:

Combat went from periods of fear and terror to periods of sheer boredom. The trouble was you never knew when one would end and the other would start. Each time we went up to the line there was a lot of fear and anticipation because you never knew what you were going to run into but after you got there you were usually too busy to worry much about it.

The training we had in the States was very good but it is amazing how many other things you learned about survival and how fast you learned them. You very quickly learned from the sound of an artillery shell which direction it was going. You also got so you could tell how far away the incoming rounds were going to be and whether it was necessary to dive into a ditch or not. The main exception to this was the German 88MM rounds. They were so much faster incoming than the others that hit the ground first regardless of where you thought it was going to hit.

As you walked down the shoulder of the roads, you constantly listened for strange sounds and looked for small depressions in the ground where you could jump if necessary. These were the kind of things you learned from experience and no amount of training could prepare you for. You got so you could hear every little noise and could react instantly. I think that is why there were more casualties among the replacements than the more experienced men. We could get in a ditch while the new men were still wondering what the hell was going on.

As a footnote, about three months after I got home, I walked into a drug store that was just across the road from some railroad tracks. When trains stopped nearby for some reason, the man in the caboose would walk back a ways and put two charges on the tracks which would detonate when a following train crossed them to alert the engineer that another train was up ahead. A train came by just as I opened the drug store door and when the first charge went off I was on the floor before the second one discharged only a fraction of a second later. Of course the people in the store thought I had collapsed and I felt like an idiot. I was still ducking even a couple of years later when I saw the movie 'Battleground' for the first time.

Patrols at night were a different matter. On patrols you tried to find the Germans by listening for a safety to click off or a round being put in the chamber of a gun or someone talking or smoking a cigarette. Patrols were always risky at night. They could see you but you could not see them, which made it very nerve racking. Patrols were usually made to see how strong the Germans were ahead of us or to capture prisoners for interrogation.

Sometimes we would read news articles about things being quiet on the front with little activity except for a few patrols. What a crock - especially if you were one of the ones on patrol. Patrols were probably one of the nastiest things we had to do and were to be avoided at all costs. There were a few men of course who liked running around in the dark but most of us didn't like it at all.

Passes, furloughs, and train rides home:

There were several kinds of passes and furloughs that you could get. An overnight pass let you go into town for the evening but you had to be back before reveille at around 5:30AM. I didn't take many of those because there were so many soldiers on pass just outside the base that it usually was more trouble than it was worth.

It was much better to get a weekend pass or better still to get a three-day pass. On a three-day pass you were limited to a radius of about 300 miles. This was fine for the men who happened to live in the area but the rest of us had to settle for trips to towns that had as few soldiers as possible and still far enough to get away from the base. No one gets any passes in basic training. In Detroit in the ASTP unit we usually got weekend passes every weekend unless we were in some kind of trouble. In Louisiana, Leesville and DeRidder had about 2,000 civilians each and there were 45,000 troops in Camp Polk so it was a waste of time to go there on a pass. On weekend or 3 day passes you could at least go to Lake Charles or Shreveport which were 75 to 100 miles away.

Furloughs were nice to get but they were few and far between. While I was in Detroit, I had a seven-day furlough and went home for a few days. I took a friend, John Carter, from Nashua, New Hampshire with me. I can't remember exactly what time of the year it was since we were either in ASTP or just starting but I have some pictures of the trip and the weather looks nice. The train we left on was so crowded that we had to stand all the way from Detroit of halfway to Columbus. By the time we left Ashland, KY the train was so empty that we almost had a whole compartment to ourselves. I guess no one wanted to go to West Virginia.

Most of the ASTP men got two-week furloughs over the Christmas holidays because the University of Detroit closed for them. The eight men in my class unfortunately didn't get to go because we were supposed to be transferred to another college with an upperclass program. For some reason we sat there for two weeks and never went anywhere. It could possibly have been that they heard the ASTP program was going to be cancelled. In any event, it was the best two weeks I had in the army even if I didn't get to go home for Christmas.

We were on duty during this period but didn't have to do anything but report for reveille at 8:00AM each morning mainly to see if we had received shipping orders yet. The people who ran the mess facilities felt sorry for us so they would fix each of us breakfast to order at anytime we wanted to go in for it up till about 9:30AM. The evening meals were the best chow I had in the army because the cooks went all out for us. All they wanted to know was how many of us would be there to eat.

The last furlough I had was from Camp Polk and was in September 1944 just before we shipped out. It was for fourteen days I think but I know I got five days travel time because it was so far to West Virginia The train ride home took over two days and was on some of the most decrepit railroad cars I have ever seen. They looked like something out of a western movie. Part of the way was in a car so old it must have been in the Civil War. It had a wood burning stove in the middle for heating. It was a long, dirty trip but worth every minute of it.

Life in the field (food, sanitation, comfort, etc.):

Life in the field on maneuvers can at best be described as tedious. We lived in pup tents and ate out of mess kits most of the time. The ASTP group joined the division on maneuvers the first of March 1944 and we lived in the field until the middle of May.

It took two shelter halves to make a pup tent so you always had a partner in misery. You had to try to get a good spot if you could find one. We looked for a spot that was high enough to keep out of the water if it rained, had good drainage and was as far away from sand as possible. Nothing is worse than sleeping on sand. If there were any chance of rain, we would dig a small drainage ditch around the edge of the tent to help divert any water that ran off the tent. If you were dry and warm, you could sleep pretty well.

Food was another item of discontent. The army was still trying to get rid of old World War I canned food I think so on many days we received these old style 'C' rations. Later, we began to receive the newer 'K' rations and they were really pretty good. When we were not actually running a problem on maneuvers, the company mess tent was set up so we could get some good hot food. That was nice unless it rained then it was miserable because there were no tarps that you could get under so you had to eat in the rain or go back to your tent and try to eat.

We had a great kitchen crew in our company. They went out of their way to provide good hot chow at every opportunity. We didn't appreciate them too much in the States but when we were on those long road marches or had a break in an attack, you could count on them showing up. We were stopped on one of our long road marches one time and here came the mess jeep with a big 30-gallon kettle of hot coffee and some sandwiches. This was not unusual but this time it was about 2:00 am and the temperature was below zero. We were trying to sleep but were glad to get up for them.

The English, French, Dutch, Germans and Czechs:

The English people were as nice and as pleasant as you could want. They were as friendly and often invited us into their homes for meals or snacks. I do not know if they would have been as friendly if they had seen what we were doing to their beautiful countryside with our training exercises and the tanks chewing up everything in sight. We were stationed near Tidworth barracks on the Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge but the plain looked like a large mud hole by the time we shipped out.

The French didn't like us, or probably anybody, very much. I think that they were mad that we had to invade the continent through France and tear up so many of their towns and villages. They were probably still upset that they had had such a sorry group of generals in charge of their army when the war started that they needed help in kicking the Germans out. As we passed through French villages, you could see houses with windows missing and roofs with holes in them. This was several weeks after they had been shot up. I think they were waiting for the Americans to come and fix them.

The Dutch were charming and also very friendly to us. When we stayed with a family in Maastrich for a few days, we were served cocoa and snacks from their own rations, which I know, were very lean.

Germans were very reserved. They knew that they were on the losing side so they did things for themselves. Sometimes we would come up to a small town that had not displayed sheets from the windows as a sign of surrender. After a few rounds of tank fire, the sheets would usually come out very rapidly - usually after the damned SS officers in town had run out the back and left. The next morning before we could get organized to leave the German civilians in the town would be out fixing the holes.

The Czechs were the most reserved of the people I met in Europe, This may have been because they didn't know whether we looked upon them as enemies who helped the Germans or as liberated friends who were victims of circumstance. The war was over by them so I got to know a few Czechs fairly well; they were very friendly and nice once you got to know them. I have always felt very friendly to both the Dutch and the Czechs.

Occupation duty, etc.:

German cities at the end of the war were a complete shambles and in most cases were just big rubble piles of bombed out buildings. Prisoners of war were first put to work clearing the streets so they could be used. Most of the rubble was piled back into the bombed out buildings until the streets were cleared and trucks could get through. After the streets were clear, the trucks could get through to haul away the rubble so rebuilding could begin. This was still going on when I came home.

Concentration camps were one of the big horrors of Nazi Germany. Any son-of-a-bitch who says that they did not exist or that it is a propaganda ploy was either not there or has another agenda, which the facts do not fit. The only thing that I do not like about references to the Holocaust is that there may have been six million Jews executed but there were also about six million other Europeans executed which fact is rarely mentioned.

Post-war homeless refugees were all over Germany and Europe after the war ended. It took several years to organize the camps and find places to relocate them to. This also was still going on when I shipped home in early 1946. I know it went on for a long time but after I returned home, I didn't have as much contact with it and it wasn't an item that the newspapers covered with much regularity.

I guess you would call duty in Duderstat, Germany, Pilsen, Czechokslavia, Grafenau, Germany, and Linz and Salzburg, Austria occupation duty but about all we did was try to entertain ourselves and stay out of trouble. In Duderstat we had a large resort by a lake in our territory and we had some great parties there. We played softball and swam a lot in Pilsen. In Grafenau we did very little that I can recall and in Austria I was assigned to the 330th Infantry Battalion as the S-3 (training) non-com so I got to make up training schedules for the companies. It was nice to have something to do for a change.

The army had an occupation ribbon for troops on occupation duty but I guess we didn't qualify. I guess there is a difference between combat troops and occupation troops. In any event, we never qualified for an occupation ribbon, I guess, since we never received one.

Note: I finally received one in 2005 when I found the 58th AIB on a list of units on occupation duty and applied for one. I posted the list of units and dates required for receiving the German Occupation Ribbon on the website for anyone who qualified and wanted one.

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