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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Assault on Germany

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Landing ship. Click on the picture for a big picture and you can see a 105 mm Howitzer being transported to the beach.

A picture of a 105 MM Gun being transported to the beach

Spotter plane.

I have funny story about this plane. When we were in Darmstadt during the occupation the plane landed at a grass field and when he was to go back to where ever he came from I had driven him to the field. He asked me to retard the throttle after he spun the prop. Unfortunately I had forgotten if you pushed or pulled it. When the engine started I gave it the throttle instead of slowing it down;. I darn near took off. However he ran around and got the engine slowed down before it had moved.  He didn't say goodbye either.

Before moving inland the 39th had a few hours to enjoy the beach. I never got a chance to ask him about t his part of the invasion.
Later This; is after Southern France and Colmar winter campaign.

The Division was assembled in secret to prepare for the invasion. of Germany. Bill was sent up close to the line for radio relay. When the 3rd broke through the Siegfried line in 3 days, Bill was able to take a look at the line fortifications. Very impressive until there was a breakthrough. Just like the Maginot line. They guns pointed one way and with the enemy through the line the guns were useless. A lot of work by concentration camp and other prisoners went into this useless project. But Bill was impressed. The resistance was sporadic going into Germany Bill said he crossed the Rhine river on a pontoon bridge and they stopped for the night 5 miles past the river. Bill and his unit came under artillery fire that night and one duck (amphibious) was destroyed when it caught fire with a guy under the duck couldn't get out of his sleeping bag fast enough and almost burned to death. Later Bill did a dirty trick on his friend Aho. After the shelling he know there would be another one so he asked Aho to come on duty a little early. Sure enough an hour later there was another shelling. Bill was concerned enough to call Aho to find out if he was OK. He was.

Photo above. Camping out in the Colmar battle.

Another photo during the Colmar Battle.

Next morning on the way to Schweinfurt they stopped at a small village where they were to stay for a few days and kicked the owners out of their house because they needed it. They were in Germany now and niceties no longer applied. Pretty standard SOP for conquering armies. Although it was against regulations for a German Soldier to be billeted in a French house with unmarried girls living there. In Russia I don't know if it also applied although discipline was so strict there would not be independent rape and pillage. This was the privelege of the Nazi rulers.
The strange part was that the owner was an x American soldier from the 1st World War. He didn't take too kindly to this development so the Sgt gave him the standard 10 minutes to leave. Like the house I stayed in in Salzburg. This still didn't please the man who continued to protest. Finally Gunderson put the butt of his rifle against the mans chest which convinced him to leave right now. The next day the home owner came around to ask if he could have his radio. This was denied. I think it was in Stroyans account where he said the Army notified the men that niceties were out the window when it came to the treatment of the Germans. This policy continued on into the occupation I can verify from my own experience. Although it might not be the policy in Iraq I can see from accounts it is hard to get that out of a soldier even though the military is trying to win over the Iraqi's hearts and mind.

By Bills account it took all this time for the army to supply the artillerymen with carbines which I had had from training days. Strange.

Although the war was winding down it still was a dangerous place. Under some shelling when in a Germans house George Tierney was so excited it took him about 15 minutes to get his pants on. He vowed not to take them off untill the war was over.

Another story about George by Bill who was aware of his nervousness of course. The war coming to a close I suppose might have had something to do with it. Who wants to get killed in the last few days of the war. (or any time for that matter.) They had pulled into a place about midnight and instead of just climging into a sleeping bag George started digging a foxhole. By morning he was still digging but had dug only about a foot down.

The residents of the now resort town of Bad Kissengen didn't want their town destroyed so they decided to disobey Hitlers orders to resist to the last so met the Americans outside and surrendered the town. I don't know if Bill was a part of this or this it came from the book "The Third Infantry in WW2". I mainly want to make this Bills story of the war not too much from the book. There are thousands of books on the war. Two of the best "Hitler's War" and "Churchill's War" by David Irving.
The Germans were starting to surrender in droves. Smart move

Bills story of the war continued when they got to the Outskirts of Salzburg there was a time in this period he didn't say much. He didn't say much after the incidents with George and had hardly any pictures for me to show. . The men were able to get some of the grime off at a lake resort near Salzburg in a sauna after the war ended. An experience not available in Cottage Grove Oregon I'm pretty sure at that time.

The battalion was stationed in Hallein for a short time n some old Austrian barracks. The war was over now. Some duties consisted of guarding prisoners being taken by train to Munich. After about 3 weeks Bills battalion and the entire division was moved up near Kassel. I was with the 3rd by now in Divarty having joined when it was in Salzburg. Bill's 39 FA guarded some prisoners while there in Kassel. I have a picture somewhere of Kassel which was totally destroyed. A poor one. I was driving for the ex officer and may have been near Bill but didn't know it. I have some pictures when the Col. was visiting one of the Battalions althoug I didn't say which one.

Bill lucked out on the troop ship home. He was not assigned duties because he supposedly didn't have a bunk. Although a friend did find one for him unknown to the brass who assigns duties.

This pretty much concludes the wartime stories by Bill Sheldon that are in the book by his wife Virginia. He told many more of course but I do not remember those. Virginia remembers others but at this time I am not able to include them. Bill never told me many of the real bad experiences. You can read them in Bill Stroyhan's experiences . Stroyhan's will be entirely different because it is in the form of a diary, It will also be in PDF. I don't have any pictures from him but I can include some from Bills collection if applicable.

After the war.
The Society of the 3rd Inf. Division