First Lieutenant, United States Army, September 1943 - May 1946. 102nd Division "The Ozarks" - 407th Infantry Regiment - 1st Battalion - Company D - 4th Platoon.
I was assigned to a troop transport; six officers to a stateroom designed for three. As we sailed at night past the Statue of Liberty darked by the 'black out', a chill went through my body. I was Officer of the Day and had been the only one allowed on deck. We sailed in a convoy with three other transports and two destroyers directly to Cherbourg, France. The trip took 13 days. The 102nd Division (approx. 3000 men) was the first to land directly on the Continent. We were transported in trucks to St. Mere Eglese, north of Cherbourg, where we pitched our pup tents, lining them up in perfect rows. It rained for 27 of the 29 days we lived in the tents. Our tents were pitched on straw over which we laid our sleeping bags and foot lockers. Our leather boots never dried out, and we were thoroughly soaked for those 27 days. From there we rode in boxcars (the famed 40 & 8 train with cars barely big enough for 8 horses much less 40 men and baggage) to the Belgium-German border.
We traveled to Gardelegen where 1000 displaced Polish and Germans were killed when the Germans set the "death barn" they were locked in on fire. Our first military action was to relieve the British on the left flank of the First Army. I was commander of a 81mm mortar section and set my two mortars beside the British mortars. My first mission was to provide cover for Lt. Danielson and his platoon that was sent to review enemy territory ahead of us. When he called back for cover, I was to fire my mortars and surround him with mortar fire. This we did, but never heard if it was effective as they were all captured.
We were in Angern, Germany on May 8th, 1945, V-E Day. I was then assigned to be Salvage Officer to trace back over battlefields to recover any ammunition, rifles, clothing and anything else left behind. I commandeered a barge on the Elbe River to bring back cooking pots for a Prisoner of War cage. We were not allowed to cross the Elbe (on Eisenhower's orders) so we waited at the river while the Russian Army approached from the opposite side. About 200,000 Germans fleeing the Russians crossed the river to our side and became our Prisoners of War...that is the reason we needed the cooking pots and other supplies.
While waiting for the Germans to walk across the bridge to our side, I commandeered a German auto and painted a big white star on both sides. As I was driving along the top of the dike, some Russians on the other side thought they would have a little fun and started shooting a machine gun in front of me. I quickly drove down the protected side of the dike! The Russians then invited our officers over for a drink. I was Officer of the Day and had to stay behind which was fortunate for me. Our men were not familiar with Russian vodka which is about 160 proof alcohol. I had to send a detail of men to help bring back our drunken officers!
Mother died of cancer July 14th 1945. I received notification from my commanding officer that she was seriously ill and was given a 30-day furlough. (Dad had to Red Cross contact me, but they failed. He then went through Senator Butler who called the Secretary of War and finally got in touch with my commanding officer). I took a bus to Paris to fly home. By the time I arrived in Omaha, mother had died. I was to return to action in the South Pacific, but the US dropped the atomic bombs on Japan leading to an end to that war. I then reported to Camp Robinson in Arkansas.