Me and Harry (Mostly Harry) by OE Starnes. To read the full piece click on the link below.
Me and Harry – But Mostly Harry by OE Starnes
In May, 1943, I finished my second year of college, age 19 years. I probably
would have been drafted into the Army during that Spring had I not voluntarily
enlisted on December 7, 1942, a historic day.
In June, 1943, I found myself in Infantry Basic Training, Army serial number
14,189,335, near Tyler, Texas. After the customary 3 months, I was sent
to Texas A & M under a program called “Army Specialized Training
Program” which meant that some entrance test taken on induction
suggested that I could be educated for service as an officer in the Corps
That boondoggle soon ended, as of March, 1944, as they needed foot soldiers,
not engineers, so off to the 103 Infantry Division, 409th Regiment, Company
A, 4th Platoon, 4th Squad. In short, I was a machine gunner. After further
training and maneuvers, I shipped out for Europe, via Fort Dix, New Jersey,
disembarking in September, 1944 at Marseilles, France, which had just
been liberated from German control. German observation planes flew overhead
as we walked ashore, with our spotlights shining and our antiaircraft
guns firing. My spirits were not particularly buoyed at that moment.
We were committed to combat in the Alsace Lorraine area, and then fought
on through the Fall and early Winter of 1944, entering Germany in early
November. I recall our advancing through forest lands, and approaching
our platoon leader, asked where we were. He had a map. He replied we were
in the Black Forest of Germany-Schwarz Wald. I’d heard of the Black
Forest, an ominous term at best, since childhood. I received faint solace
from his geographical response.
–And so it went–We advanced deeper into Germany, crossed the
Rhine River, and the German Army was in general disarray, and retreating.
We did not have it as tough as the troops coming in on Omaha Beach, and
fighting through the hedge rows, when the Germans were at full strength.
We hit occasional fierce pockets of resistance, and had many casualties.
We crossed the Rhine at Ulm and turned south, into Austria, and into the
foothills of the Austrian Alps, Garmisch Partenkirschen, Oberammegau,
etc., into March and April, 1945, being told that the war in Europe was
nearing an end, and our destination was to go south to Innsbruck, and
through the Brenner Pass to meet up with the 5th Army coming north from Italy.
On May 1, 1945, Adolph Hitler committed suicide. On May 2, 1945, one day
before my 21st birthday, I was shot by a sniper in a village outside of
Innsbruck. It was not a serious wound, but it required me to be carried
back to a field hospital to have my head sewed up. I got back to my unit
on May 8, 1945, and by that time, the war in Europe was over. Happy days
are here again—-, but not for long. What about the Pacific, the
Japanese? That war was still going full bore, or so we were told.
Our Infantry Division was split up, I was assigned to a chemical warfare
battalion, training with 4.2 inch mortars, biding time until we could
be shipped to the Pacific. What a doleful prospect!
Earlier in the Spring, the word came to us that President Franklin D. Roosevelt
had died. He had been by President since I was eight years old, I’d
heard his comforting voice on the radio, I'd seen him in person in
Asheville, and I was saddened, and shaken, and then even more so to realize
that Harry S. Truman was our President. We had seldom heard his name before
this, Roosevelt having only recently been re-elected for the fourth time.
So much for me, and now on to Harry, . . .