Written By: Carl A. Wood, a member of Co. A., 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion, Company A, 2nd Armored Division in World War 2.
Wow! Being asked to write about my experiences with the 2nd Armored Division can be difficult. Putting about 3 years into a few pages about something that happened so long ago. I just hope that I am up the challenge. Before I was assigned to the 2nd Armored. I spent about 6 months at Ft. Knox and Ft. Campbell, Kentucky before shipping out from Ft. Kilmer, New Jersey. What I learned at Ft. Knox was how to assemble weapons, drive a jeep through mud knee deep, they never got stuck, crawl on my stomach, somebody could fire 30 caliber machine guns 6 to 12 inches over me and the greatest of all saluting a 90 day wonder. Everyone knows who they were.
After all that I was shipped out to North Africa, was in a replacement depot for about a week, seemed like years, then I was assigned to A Company of the 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Was there for about 3 or 4 months, while there I met a lot of real fine men, we had a company commander, a man in his fifties, an ex-marine, and he though he was far superior to a common army man. However, I will never forget one incident that we all enjoyed. As one of our daily "chores" we were having inspection, the Company Commander took the rifle of a corporal, (canít remember his name) inspected it, handed back to the corporal, corporal wouldnít take it, after trying to get the corporal to take the rifle three or four times, he said, "Corporal why wonít you take this weapon", corporal replied "Its not the way I gave it to you sir", the bolt was not pulled back, which was required when you give the rifle for inspection. The bolt was pulled back, the rifle was handed to the corporal and a red faced Captain moved on down the line.
Nothing of consequence really happened while in North Africa, we were bivouacked in a field close to Oran, made it into Oran one time , which was enough. Slept in pup tents after we made sure the tarantulas were gone, bathed in water heated in 50 gallon drums during the day, swam in the Mediterranean Sea, also known as "The Sea in the Middle of the Land ", pulled guard duty and all the other duties, like KP etc. When we left we were required to leave the area the way it was. As we were leaving I can remember seeing Arabs digging up the area we left hoping to find something of value. Where they come from I donít know.
In the meantime, the Sicilian campaign had started. A Company was held in reserve, when the battle for Sicily ended we were sent there to pull MP (military police) duty. We shipped out from Bizerte and landed in Palermo, Sicily. While in Palermo we had Italian prisoners that waited on us hand and foot, did our cleaning, our laundry, anything that came along, they were more than pleased to do all of these things for us as they were fed well, and treated well, also the war was over for them. We were ordered to out post a radio tower and believe it or not I listened to the World Series. Being a St. Louis Cardinal fan, I couldnít have asked for more and they won the world series.
Stationed in Sicily until November , 1943, we left for England , on the water 20 to 25 days, about all we did was eat, exercise, play cards; and some of the men fed the fish. When we reached the United Kingdom we were stationed at Tidworth Barracks on the Salisbury Plain. While there we never knew what it was to sleep, they certainly put us through the paces, everyone said they were getting us ready for the kill. Most all of us had appetites out of this world. I went from 150 pounds to 190, didnít take long to lose it after we got to France. I had one furlough in the 3 years I was with Uncle Sam. Took that in London with a friend , McMahon from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area. Mac never made it home. Lost his life when we were in the Bulge. I think the same time Sgt. Emery L. Jeffares lost a finger, Iíll never forget he said! "Iím on my way home". His home was Georgia. If my memory serves me right, he thought Dinah Shore was "IT".
After about six months, the dreaded day came. They claimed they would darkened the skies with our planes they almost did. I have never seen so many planes in the air at one time, how the Germans lived through that Iíll never know, but they did. Our company landed on D + 4, can remember riding off of the LST into deep water up in the Jeep, but it was waterproofed good and we made it to the bank without any problems. Earl McCullough was the driver, Sgt. Albert Carver operated a 30 caliber machine gun and I had a BAR gun (Browning Automatic rifle). One of the first things I saw was 2 German soldiers sitting upright in a vehicle larger than jeeps with no faces. It was nothing but pulp. Looked like a GI had taken a machine gun and pulverized them.
We were sent on patrol immediately, we were all very nervous "putting it mildly", but we had 3 days and nights of hell. Its hard to remember the order of things but Lt. Thomas ( a fine man) was killed by a land mine, the road we were on , the Germans had zeroed in on with air burst and they were good at it. After the three days we were "pulled back" to get a little rest. Being a private I had the "privilege" of pulling guard duty. While on guard, I heard the sound of soldiers marching, I hit the ground, it was pitch dark, you couldnít see anything, anyway a "platoon" of about 30 men marched right me. I donít think I breathed. They were Germans. It was night our artillery was firing about 3 fields over from where we were, remember the 5 to 6 acre fields with the hedgerows, anyway enemy planes came over and dropped their bombs, they hit the field between us and the artillery, but the smoke and dust covered the area;. After the planes gone it was very quiet except for picks and shovels. No one had dug in the night before as we felt we were OK away from the front line, at that time there was not really a front line. All we had done was covered our vehicles before we sacked out. The next morning there was not any fox holes as no one could see what they were doing. Should have got an "E" for effort though.
I canít recall whether this happened the same night or not but during the change of the guard. Private Duhon killed Sgt. Schaefer accidentally. Duhon almost went out of his mind over the incident and later lost his life. Near the same time we lost a tank .driver got out was seriously hurt, our medic , a Swedish man from Minnesota came to the rescue, his Red Cross arm band was in plain view and a German killed him with machine gun fire. I canít remember any other details as everything was chaotic. I was still the third man in the jeep with Earl McCullough and Sgt. Carver, out on patrol several times, however one day Pvt. Robinson was in my place, out on patrol, he was killed. Earl McCullough and Carver were seriously injured, they never returned to the company. To this day I do not know why Robinson was in my place.. I guess it just wasnít my time.
After the St. Lo break through, we had the Germans on the run, we traveled through France and Belgium with only a few skirmishes. We did lose our platoon lieutenant and armored car driver, Robichaux. Robichaux was driving the armored car and the lieutenant was riding on the drivers side, if my memory serves me right , Swonger was walking on the other side of the armored car. The armored car was hit, flames flew into the air and I think the flames blinded the Germans so they could no see the other vehicles. They did more firing but did not hit anyone else. The recent pictures on Kosovo, reminded mo of our trek across France to Belgium. The people were so overjoyed to see us, they give us wine, liquor, flowers and the best kisses. They lined the roads and we enjoyed every minute of it. If the citizens werenít out to greet us, you had to be very vary, Someone else was still around.
We made it to the Netherlands ( Holland ) without too much difficulty, l can remember sleeping in a Dutch home, slept on the kitchen floor, open the kitchen door and there was the stable with the cows. The family had two daughters, probably in their late teens and very, very chubby. The odor from the stable was a little strong but being inside was great as it was terribly cold at that time.
Its so hard to remember the sequences of events but while we were in Holland, had a little encounter with the enemy, I think they were Dutch soldiers. I imagine Sgt. Euan Green and Sgt. McElwaney will remember this. We were in a field where there were two or three haystacks. One of our tank men, operated a 50 caliber machine, got shot. Sgt. Green and I went around one of the hay stacks, and their was a soldier with a grenade in his hand preparing to throw it at a tank. Sgt. Green hollered get down Carl, he had the presence of mind to have a hand grenade. When the soldier heard the voice he was startled , didnít throw his grenade but it and the one Sgt. Green had went off the same time in the fox hole he was in. Sgt. McElwaney and I got one out of another foxhole that our tank had fired on with a 75 MM , he came out , but could hardly walk, but we took him prisoner. I never knew how our 50 caliber machine operator mad out, he had been shot through he abdomen.
Seemed like a short time after that we were ordered to outpost a town near Aachen, Germany. We went through the village and as we got to the far side all " Hell" broke loose. I was driving the Company Commander at the time, we hit the ground as did everyone. Not one of us was hurt but a couple of cows were grazing right by at the time, l they were both killed. They shelled us incessantly, had flat tires on our vehicles, did fine some bales of hay that we put around the jeeps and armored cars. We held this town for 3 or 4 days , our company Commander us to stay off of the main St. as the Germans were zeroed in on us. However he and the 3rd platoon lieutenant were apparently discussing something and absently walked around the corner of a building into the street. They were both injured very badly, I donít know how they made out as we never saw them again, at the same time about 15 or 20 men ( myself included ) had taken cover in a cellar entrance. I will never forget this, a huge piece of smoldering shrapnel slammed through the door, ripping it apart, came down the steps and never hit anyone, we were on both sides of the door against the wall, how lucky can you get. We were told the reason we were just to hold the town, was that our gasoline supplies were low and we had to hold for a time. I believe this is the time Capt. Hartford took command of the Company.
Anyway the Battle of the Bulge started shortly and we moved south, I think we lost more vehicles from the ice and snow than we did from the enemy the first day or two. In our moving south I recall seeing a field with many 7th Armored tanks that had been knocked out by the Germans. I guess that made an impression us, because I had a half brother in that division. He was not hurt and I saw him that day or the next.
After the Battle of the Bulge it seems we drove across Germany without too much difficulty. We liberated a lot of English prisoners somewhere in Germany, they all wanted cigarettes, which we gave them. We tossed packages of cigarettes until we all run out. The prisoners seemed to be in real good health. I can remember we spotted an enemy plane, small reconnaissance type. After a lot of firing we knocked down the power lines. They were hot. The farmer came up the road , turned into his house, the horses he was driving stepped on the lines trembled and fell to the ground. I have often though that we were awfully lucky one of our vehicles didnít drive across those lines. I have no idea where this happened , but it wasnít long before we were in Magdeburg, Germany on the Elbe River. We stopped there , waited 2 weeks for the Russians, when they arrived, I met a Russian soldier ( oriental) . I put my hand out to shake with him , he had no idea what I was doing, he finally got the message and we shook hands. The Russian soldiers soon got paid, we were prepared for them. I sold a watch with a shining bracelet to one of them for $300.00. There was a lot of wheeling and dealing for about 2 weeks, then the Russian government refused to honor their currency .so after that we were allowed to send our pay home plus 10% or 15%. I "guess" American taxpayer absorbed the cost, anyway it was fun while it lasted.
In a short time we were ordered to go to Berlin, were there until October, 1945 when I shipped out for the USA. While in Berlin it was "spit and polish". The Potsdam Conference was held while we were there. Reviews were held for President Truman, Winston Churchill, Generals, Marshall, Eisenhower,, Bradley, Patton. . Preparing for one of the reviews , we had to take the armored cars to have them washed , after they were washed we were returning on the autobahn and Loren Guge was in charge, so he gave the sign to speed up , well we did, if I recall we cruising about; l50 miles per hour and met the battalion commander. Word was waiting for Guge when we returned . Everyone thought it was al lot of fun except Loren. He tells me , he doesnít remember m but it happened, wasnít long until October , 1945 rolled around an I left the division, shipped out from Antwerp, Belgium, came back through Camp Kilmer, N.J. Where I had shipped out from. It was great to be home. P.S. The 90 day wonders turned out to be OK guys.
Being on a troop train in Belgium, it was extremely cold, train stopped every mile or two. Why were we on a troop train, where were our vehicles? Does anyone make "good" coffee like we had then. That was the first coffee I had ever tasted but it was cold that anything warm would have been good. Those sanitary cans would have a hard time getting by the health department today.
How we all loved the sight of our fighter planes. How we had to change the color of the panels we had put on our vehicles every day. How we goofed one time , got strafed by our own planes, thank goodness no one got hurt.
We got served a Christmas dinner at the time of the Battle of the Bulge, was it the Red Cross or the Army: I know it sure tasted good.
How the Germans changed the road signs at the Battle of the Bulge to foul us up. When we were being shelled with mortars in Germany and one of our tanks with a bulldozer on the front buried them alive. They were firing from a bunker so he just put the blade down and took care of the situation. The firing stopped.
Sgt. Frederick Morse with A Company maintenance section. He is mentioned on Page 216 of the book "Hell on Wheels ". The 2nd Armored Division by Donald E. Houston. I was in A Company, but I donít remember him. Captain Hartford is mentioned on page 265. He was a 1st Lieutenant then.
The American plane (bomber) that was shot down when we were in Normandy: the plane split in too parts , several men parachuted out. It didnít happen right over us but about Ĺ mile away.
Bob Hope and Jerry Colonna entertained us in Berlin. If I remember right; he had a pretty girl or two along.
The thee little children that took their hands and tried to get food from our garbage can. It was in Berlin, Iím sure if you saw it you would never forget it.