We walked in single file for about three days stopping at night then continuing to march slowly during the day, there was always the sounds of distance bombing an gunfire as we moved inland. We were always on the alert for planes and were strafed one time by the German's about midway on the march, one soldier was wounded. On the fifth day in the morning we arrived at an open field on a bend of a gravel road, it had a gate big enough for vehicles to enter and we all marched in and were told to take a break. About an hour later we heard the sound of planes and bombs exploding way off somewhere, then we heard the sound of trucks approaching. There were in all about three hundred of us. A sergeant called our names to go to different areas of the field to wait, we ended up with about twenty different groups after he finished calling names. My best friends were all going to different units.
We were not able to talk or say goodbye to many of our friends as we were scattered all around the field, and could not leave our group to talk to to our friends. Another truck had carried our duffel bags form the beach area and they were dropped off in a big pile, we had to dig our duffel bag out of this pile , you can imagine three hundred duffel bags in one big pile, this took about an hour. We were loaded into 6x6 trucks army trucks.
For about an hour we traveled slowly on the road, it was shelled out in some areas and been repaired in other sections, there were large craters and we had to go off the road to go around some of them. Going around these large holes made our trip longer than it would have ordinarily have been. Finally we arrived at an open field surrounded by a forest. There was many armored vehicles sitting around the edge of the field with full camouflage nets over each vehicles. The trees along the edge of the field gave excellent coverage for the vehicles along with the camouflage It was 18 June1944.
We had arrived at the site of our new army unit that we were being assigned to. It was the 2nd Armored Division, Company A, 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion. We were all ordered to get off the trucks and line up to be assigned to a platoon in the company. The first thing I noticed was a soldier digging a large hole in the middle of the field it was square, I was to find out later this soldier was being disciplined for firing his rifle accidentally, this was his punishment. This hole was six foot wide six foot deep thus you get what they call a six by six, one of the forms of punishment for enlisted men. If you ever dug one you don't want to dig another one. You are sweating like hell digging the hole and you buddies are walking by giving you that what did you do to deserve this look. I was assigned to an armored car, my immediate superior was Sgt. Fleming McCormick, the rest of the four man crew was Francis O'Neill, radio man and driver. Luther Shields, assistant driver, Earl Wagner, gunner and he rode in the turret with Sgt. McCormick.
The armored car would only hold four crewman, that is all that would fit inside. That made me have to ride on the back of the armored car immediately back of the gun turret. I did not know until much later that actually what the 2nd Armored was doing was preparing for combat with a twenty percent reserve, in other words we were in combat but our next transfer if we survived to that point was to take someone's place that was wounded or killed. Sometimes the men were wounded or killed before they could be in placed in a scout car or become member of a designated crew. So instead of waiting for replacements we already had them, this kept the armored vehicles with full crews most of the time.
Coming into "A" company that day 18 June1944 were 15 replacements including myself, there names were the following: Otto F. Zitko, Ellis Littlejohn, Charles Pepe, John Taylor, L.G. O'Barr, Howard Swonger, Lavier Hatt, Vance Nelson, Boyd West, Sgt. Dee Kirkland who was in charge of us, Leslie Herbig, Francis Woods, Virgil Tatom, Thomas W. King, James G. McWilliams, Eugene Zubey, and on the 19 June 1944 the following men were also accepted into the company: Elmer Hissey, Clyde Hiatt, Herman Emas, Tull Watts, Joe Patton, Treffie Lemire, Richard Coon, David Moses, William Druschell, Claude Grindstaff, John J. Davis, Arthur Larson, William Nawrocki, Roy Gebenini, James Buschini, Harrison Green, Albert Chelich, Pete Garcia, Clarence Warner. Out of these I had probably known about ten of them in England before we arrived. Almost all of us would be riding as an extra person in some vehicle, we were mostly all privates, one was a Sgt.
Here we were assigned to a unit that most all the personnel of company "A" had been in the Africa campaign, although in a limited action it was a not a combat role. I was not looking forward to the days ahead, knowing that we would be in combat shortly, I was assigned to a unit that I knew none of the personnel, many of the men were from the south.
In the armored car which I was assigned there was exceptions, O'Neill, was from New York City, Luther Shields was from Oklahoma, Earl Wagner was from Pennsylvania, Fleming McCormick was from Georgia. We did not know at this time just when we would be committed to combat, actually no one knew but we did know that it would be soon. I had a carbine at the time that I joined the company so I was told to keep the carbine, it was light and handled easily. A carbine, called a M-1- it fired a .32 commercial cartridge, had limited power and was designed to replace the pistol, you had a better chance of hitting the target with this than a pistol.
I found the crew that I was joining was taking a wait and see attitude toward me, they were waiting to see I guess if I could handle my part of the duties they would assign to me, I was the only private in the crew. We were eating what we called field rations, C-rations everything out of a can, no fresh food. Cigarettes were included in a little 4 cigarettes pack, the brands were Spuds, Twenty Grand, Picayune, Lucky Strike, Camel, Old Gold, Chelsea. Most of the time in this location our unit sent out friendly patrols to other army units nearby just to keep contact. One platoon of another company of the battalion went behind enemy line on patrol. So our morning reports would read something like this while we are in bivouac here, patrols maintained contact throughout the day with friendly troops. Weather changeable, morale excellent. We did vehicle maintenance, armored cars had six drive wheels, the wheels in the rear were in tandem, so you actually had three wheels aligned in a row on each side The armored car was called an M-8 and it had a Hercules rear mounted engine had a 37 millimeter M-6 cannon in the turret and a fifty caliber machine gun sitting on a mount on the turret. We did not get all the 50 caliber's until we reached Normandy , we got some from a Beach Brigade( a salvage outfit ). You could get anything you wanted, as long as it had not been inventoried there, that is how the scout sections received their Bar's and everyone else got there 45 Colt automatic's. When we got to Berlin and fell out for our first review A Company was the only company completely outfitted with Colt 45's, "B" and "C" companies had Sub-Machine guns. The armored car could move out at a top speed of 56 miles per hour and could go about as fast backward as it could forward, the problem was being able to steer backwards as you had to be guided by the armored car commander, you had no rear view mirror. Most drivers had a good knack to run the car backward, simply by watching the alignment of the vehicle and keep it straight or turn to fit it into a suitable area for concealment from the enemy.
During the time we were bivouacked here I was able to get to know some of the men, some were hard to know, of course everyone had the thought that this was just about the time that we were going to be committed to combat, the days were counting down. Lt. Cook was our platoon leader, he had been a Greyhound bus driver and had a bad back, and was always seemed to be in pain on different occasions, he would later leave the company because of this. We were continuing to run friendly patrol to the units around us to be sure that there had not been any Germans infiltrating back to this area.
The vehicles were supplied with bright colored panels of all different colors, they were about 6 foot wide and 4 foot long , these were to be put on your vehicle during the day, they had rope to tie them on the scout car and the larger vehicle so that they would be visible from the air so that our planes would be able to identify us when they were looking for enemy columns to strafe, and would not attack our column by mistake. It was right after this time that the 8th Air Force made a strike an General McNair and about 300 other American soldiers were killed by this attack of planes.