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Old Hickory Recon, Memories of the 30th Infantry Division 1943-1945 - Marion M. Sanford

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#1 Old Hickory

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 11:48 AM



This thread is devoted to discussion of the book Old Hickory Recon - Memories of the 30th Infantry Division (1943-1945) by Marion M. Sanford, as told to Jeff Rogers.  The book covers Mr. Sanford's service with the 30th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized) during WWII.

Originally, the thread presented various recollections by Mr. Sanford that evenetually evolved into a book.   The book is available through Slipdigit, administrator of this forum.

 

This is actually Slipdigit, posting for Old Hickory.

 

He is a bit under the weather, but wants to get involved with the forum while he is recovering from his illness.

Old Hickory, Mr. Sanford, is a fine gentleman with whom I attend church. As indicated in his name, he served with the US 30th Infantry Division during the war, and was on the continent from June 10th to the end of the war. He was in the Recon Company of one of the regiments-he has told me which, but I let that slip my mind and he can verify it later.* Old Hickory is the nickname for the 30th Infantry Division.

Mr. Sanford, as I stated above, is having some health problems, but has made arrangements to tape his memories and good friend will be transcribing them. I will post them here as I get them. Later, when he gets home and has access to a computer, Mr Sanford will joining the forum to talk with us himself.

I know you will look forward to what he has to say; I have certainly enjoyed talking with him over the past few years.

*Edit - He was in company sized mechanized recon troop attached to the divisional HQ.


Edited by Slipdigit, 20 February 2014 - 04:15 AM.

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#2 PzJgr

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 12:20 PM

Excellent, send him our best wishes and a hardy welcome.
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#3 LRusso216

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 03:40 PM

I can't wait to read his thinking and look forward to him posting here. Get well soon, Old Hickory.

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#4 texson66

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 11:05 PM

Slip, please tell Old Hickory we all are looking forward to hearing from him! Thanks for helping him with the forum!
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#5 macrusk

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 11:50 PM

I look forward to welcoming Mr. Sanford when he is well and to reading about his experiences. Give him my best wishes.
Regards, Michelle

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#6 36thID

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Posted 18 April 2009 - 05:33 PM

I too look forward to Old Hickory joining this forum, get well soon !

#7 ghost_of_war

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 10:33 AM

Looking forward to it...
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#8 bigfun

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 01:50 PM

I'll be praying for a quick recovery! But not too quick that he can't spend a lot of time with us here! (kidding!)

Welcome! I look forward to seeing him here!
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#9 Old Hickory

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 03:26 AM

This is Slipdigit, posting again for Old Hickory. He has dictated about 11 pages of his recollections and I will be posting them for him. He says he will soon visit, as he gets better and when his wife can show him how to post here. In the meanwhile, here is some of what he has to say, as he spoke it. I'll post a couple of pages a day. If you have questions, please ask, he'll try to answer. If I am posting too much at a time, let me know and I will shorten the posts.

Words in [brackets] were placed by me to make the story more readable or to add pertinent information, as this was transcribed as he spoke it.

This is This is Old Hickory. I entered the army of the United States September the 2nd, 1942. Went to Ft. Riley, Kan Cavalry Replacement Center for basic training and we trained with horses. We were told we were the last unit in WWII to train with horses.

The Cavalry, at that time, was the pride of the army. Basic training was not easy in the horse cavalry We started the series off with how to drill. We’d gone about a week and the captain came out and said that we were going to have a parade. And said, “ I don’t expect you to look like a bunch of Marines, I want you to look like the United States Cavalry—better than the Marines.” So we went on with our training and we would usually train, work pretty hard on drill for the first few weeks of it.

And then we went to the firing range. The firing range was exactly 4 miles from our barracks. We would get up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning and have breakfast and run out there to the firing range .We’d leave there at 11:00 o’clock and come back in and eat lunch. After lunch we would run back out there and stay til about 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon. We’d come back in and have something to eat at the evening meal. Then we had to clean all our weapons. By the time we got in bed, it was 10:00 o’clock. We did that for three or four weeks, training like that.

I remember one morning, as we walked out of the mess hall, there was a bunch of fruit there on the table
and I picked up an apple and put it in my pocket. We were out there doing nothing, actually waiting to pull targets. I reached in my pocket and got the apple. There was a guy there, named Battenfield, that was a Pfc, but he was acting Cpl. He said, “Trooper, don’t you eat that apple.” And I looked at him and I went ahead and ate the apple. Well, I came up on Sunday morning, I came up on KP, got up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning and stable detail the next Sunday. That went on, not just me, but a lot of others. Acting Cpl Battenfield got a pretty good name for himself.

We went on through Basic. It gets cold in Kansas in October sometimes, we would wait until last call and then we’d jump in our boots, pull on our overcoats and run out for reveille every morning. One morning, I noticed the 1st Sgt was there. He wasn’t usually there, but he was there that morning. We all got nicely lined up and he opened ranks and said, “Gentlemen, remove your top coats.” And we stood out there almost 30 minutes in our underwear. I promise you that that was the last time that we didn’t get ready for reveille. The army always has a way of getting things done.

We went out one evening on a field problem and it was cold. It must of been in December and we came back in about 12:00 o’clock and we had hot chocolate in the mess hall for everybody. Those of you who remember, the old cups were almost a bowl to drink coffee out of. They gave me mine and I dropped it in the floor. The 1st Sgt yelled out, “Get that man’s name, rank and serial number.” And when pay day came, I owed 6 cents for that cup there. Course, I paid it and went on.

Basic training was a real enjoyable thing. I had a friend that was like I was, he grew up in the country and he could run and jump. We were running the obstacle course and the wall is 6 feet tall. A lot of people couldn’t get over it, but we could run and jump and roll hit the ground on the other side. We had finished the course and were there laying under the bush, resting a little bit. This Lt. came out and said, “I want to know something. We’ve got some “supposed to be good” athletes out there and they can’t get over that wall. How do you guys make it?” This guy spoke up and said, “Sir, it’s not much harder than what we did when we went in.” And it was really not much harder.



We went on and, after 13 weeks, managed to graduate from basic training and went down to headquarters. I was asked if I planned to go to OCS. I said, “I might, I don’t know.”

They said, “Well, we would like for now, if you will to go to mechanic school for wheel and track vehicles.” I told them I would. Then about that time, Christmas came up and all the cadre went home for a week. We were stuck at Ft Riley with nothing to do.

A little while before then, Pres. Roosevelt had asked Irving Berlin for a song and “White Christmas” was the song. He wanted a song that would last about 4 months. How long has “White Christmas” lasted? It’s still going on. We must have heard “White Christmas” a thousand times. The only thing we could do was that they would take us to town to a movie most days and that was our life for a week at Ft Riley, Kan. You might say that that was one Christmas that was not too enjoyable.

But anyway, immediately after Christmas, we went back to the school. I thought that I could do like I’d done in high school-just slide through. Well, after that first week, Lt called me in and said, “Trooper, your score shows that you’re capable of doing better than this. If you don’t pick this up this week, I’m going to give you a rifle and you’re not even going home. You’re leaving here and going somewhere.”

Each evening, from 7:00 o’clock to 11:00 we had a place where we could go and study. They were throwing it at us as fast as they could. Many, many nights after that at 1:00 o’clock in the morning I would be sitting in the latrine, where the only light was, studying. I made it through the course.

In February, we got through and graduated from the course. They picked 30 of us to send and we didn’t know where. All of us remembered acting Cpl Battenfield. We all paid him a visit and promised him if we ever ran into him again, that we would greet him. [Of] Course we never did see him again.

Thirty of us left Ft. Riley, Kan and got on the train and all we knew was that we were headed east and then headed south. Well, we went to Camp Blandon, Fla, They told us that we would join the Old Hickory reconnaissance troop. Each infantry [regiment] in WWII had a cavalry troop for recon and [there were] 16,000 men in a division.

We stopped in Jacksonville, Fla and you know how boys are, they take a drink sometime and do something and most of the group got pretty well lit. They came in and the Lt came out and greeted them and said, “Is any body in the crowd that’s not drunk?” A little ole boy in the back holds up his hand and said, “I hadn’t had a drop, sir” He said, “Well you go on KP in the morning, cause the rest of them won’t feel like it.”

Anyway we joined the Old Hickory Division at Camp Blandon, Fla. They said, “Since you already had Basic, you can help give Basic. We started helping give Basic to the rest of troops. They started off with 238 in the Old Hickory Reconnaissance troop. That was hard because it was hard to run in a sand bed. And that’s what we were in, in Fla.

They asked me if I wanted to go back to advanced mechanic school and I decided that it would be a good opportunity for me. Sometime in April [1943], I went back to the cavalry replacement center at Ft Riley for advanced training. I got into the advanced course and actually, it was real easy, because I had studied it already going through it to begin with. I went through that and then they wanted to send me to a tank school for 3 or 4 weeks.

They said , “We’ve got a 2 week course in blacksmith“ That’s one of the best things I ever did. I went to 2 weeks of blacksmith’s school. I learned more about iron in those 2 weeks than I thought I’d ever know. It helped me all my life in some of the things that I did. I learned what kind of iron was strong and what was not. Also, I took a couple of weeks of arc welding. And that was one of the best things that I had.

Anyway, it went up into the middle of the summer. The troop had finished the basic training and gone to the maneuvers in Tennessee at the Headquarters at old Camp Forrest at Tullahoma, Tn. They had started off with 238. They wanted 149 but they weren’t there yet. We went on Tennessee maneuvers and all over middle Tennessee, Murphreesboro, Fayetteville, Tullahoma and all through there. We didn’t have enough weapons to go around, so we went be a slab pile and cut us out a rifle and we used pine logs as anti tank guns. We trained on maneuvers. Our artillery was exceptionally good. We went through the obstacle course, [where] the fire [is] over your head, crawling under the barbed wire. Tennessee maneuvers was really fun. You went out on Monday morning. You got up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning and ate breakfast and got ready to go and went out. You knew that you were going to have - 2 sandwiches for lunch that day. One of them was probably going to be a bologna and the other one was going to be peanut butter and jelly. We were out for lunch. The evening meal was a cooked meal.

We would train night and day until Thursday evening. We were through until Monday morning. It wasn’t too bad, we all got to go to Nashville and do what ever we wanted to do. On Sunday, we would all, course, we slept in the woods, we had no tents. We slept on the ground. The 1st Sgt came out and walked through and said,” Alright, men, we’re going to church. Get up and get yourself ready.’ We would usually go top the closest church. A lot of times they would ask some of us to go home with them for lunch. We’d go home with them and get a good meal a lot of times.

We went on through maneuvers. When I joined on Tenn maneuvers, I came in at night and [was] going out for breakfast that morning, [when] I met the Cpt and he said, “Good morning, Cpl.” So they had promoted me to Cpl while I was gone to Ft Riley that last time.

We went on with Tenn maneuvers and winding up in November or first of December [1943] we would up the Cumberland River just across from Kentucky. We had a lot of things that we had to throw away, that we had to dispose of. There was a Keg and a half of 8 penny nails. The Captain came by and told me to get rid of those nails. I said, “Yes, sir.” I just couldn’t throw them away. I put them on the back of a jeep and took them up to a farm house and asked the farmer up there if he needed nails. He said, “I sure hadn’t got any, yeah.” We busted the wooden cases open and poured them out on the floor and went into his house and burned the case, so nobody would say he got them from the army. Then I went back and the farmer came back to where we were and asked me how many is in your group. I told him that 10 were in my section. He said, “We’re inviting your 10 to have a meal with us this evening.” We went to that meal and they had every kind of food that you could think of and it was a real, real good meal.

This short session happened at Camp Blanding, Fla. We were working hard and begin to come together as a unit. The chemistry was good and we got to where we were really enjoying the training we were taking. This is after basic training, we were taking special training. We’d go through the week, training hard and on Saturday, if we wanted to go to the show or whatever we wanted, we’d get a pass to Tallahassee, Fla. But a pass to Tallahassee wasn’t a very good thing because there were so many sailors there that you couldn’t walk.

We didn’t do that much. We’d come in around 11:00 o’clock, and go to the day room. Our 1st Sgt could really play the piano. He could play anything he wanted to. A lot of times, he would start playing and we’d hang around and listen and sing ‘til daylight the next morning at 6:00 o’clock. Then the 1st Sgt would say, “Okay, men let’s go get breakfast.” We had a friendship that was building while we were training and getting better and better.


Edited by Slipdigit, 20 February 2014 - 04:16 AM.

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#10 Old Hickory

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 08:12 PM

This is Posted on behalf of Old Hickory by Slipdigit. I think that y'all will like this one, it is fairly humerous.


Old Hickory.

I want to talk to you today a little bit about a cavalry reconnaissance troop and an infantry division in World War II. We were a small unit and there were 16,000 men in a division, we were part of a division. We had 149 enlisted men and 6 officers. The six officers were a captain, who was the commanding officer, a 1st Lieutenant was the executive officer, 3 platoon officers and one officer who was officer of the day and took care of things around headquarters.

We were highly mobile, we had 44 vehicles, 13 armored cars, 5 half tracks, two 2 ½ ton trucks and 24 jeeps. We had a lot of fire power. Our armored cars had a 37mm cannon on them with a .30 caliber machine gun and a .50 caliber machine on a ring mount and 5 half tracks and 2 GMC trucks also had .50 calibers on ring mounts.

We left Tennessee and spent the night in Ft Knox, Ky and went on to Atterbury, Indiana the next day. In November, 1943, we started getting ready to go overseas. We went to the firing range and did what we needed to do there. We had a huge Thanksgiving celebration that day and after that we did more of what we needed to do before we went overseas. We turned in our vehicles.

During Christmas, they let half of us go home for Christmas and half of us go home for New Years.

We came back after that and about ready to go overseas. One incidence happened, that I always remembered: One of the guys that went home for Christmas to New Years. Who, I’m not sure. He packed 8 pts of moonshine, home made corn whiskey, in his suitcase and brought it back. He kept it until the night before we were going to get on the train to go overseas. Of course, everybody in that barracks got high off of that. Until this day, they couldn’t figure out how they got that much stuff in there to drink that night. Nobody talked, nobody told.

We got on a train and headed north, we went to Boston, Ma. We got ready to get on a ship to go overseas. We were at Camp Miles Standish. When a group of young men gets a chance to go to town, they’ll go. Some of them went down to Boston Commons and [of] course got in trouble down there. There was a fight or something and the commanding officer had to go down there and get us. [He had to] Get everybody out of the stockade and bring us back. And they decided that Camp Miles Standish [needed to be] cleaned up, [so] they put us out there. They knew that we could drive vehicles[, to haul garage to the dump].

It was real cold at Miles Standish and while we were cleaning up and loading stuff on the back of trucks and taking it to the dump and doing all that stuff, someone for some reason or another, lit a fire in the back of the truck, [while it was driving around in town]. There was quite a chase with the truck and MPs and a fire truck coming also. They got the fire put out at the dump and decided that they did not need our help anymore! They told us then to stay at Camp Miles Standish “until we can get rid of you.”

Bye for now.


Edited by Slipdigit, 20 February 2014 - 04:17 AM.

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#11 Fgrun83

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Posted 23 May 2009 - 08:24 PM

Thanks for posting on behalf of Old Hickory the recounting of his time in the military is a really interesting and good read.

#12 Slipdigit

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Posted 24 May 2009 - 05:38 PM

I talked to Old Hickory at church today. He's not yet up to getting at the computer and learning what to do to post on the fourm. He left early from the worship service, I guess because he "ran out of gas."

But.....if you have specific questions, post them here. I will then email them to his computer-literate wife. He will answer them, she'll email them back and I will post them. Or, if I have the time at night, I can call him on the phone and talk to him directly. He is very interested in being involved in the discussions, given his present limitations.

It will be slow, I know, but it will allow him to interact with us.

Best Regards,  
JW :slipdigit:

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#13 luketdrifter

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 02:37 AM

Slip,
Just echoing what I'm sure has been said a lot...just tell him thanks. Thanks to him and his buddies for what they did.
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#14 ghost_of_war

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 11:39 AM

Agreed, thanks! I also enjoyed the read.....
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#15 Old Hickory

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Posted 25 May 2009 - 11:45 PM

Posted by Slipdigit on behalf of Old Hickory

This is Old Hickory.

On a cold morning, we boarded a sea going ship, the USS John Ericson, headed for we didn’t know where. We were going to places unknown. We spent most of the day gathering a large convoy. There were naval ships, and a lot of supply ships. Late in the afternoon, we left.

The sea was rough, the weather was cold. We were crossing the north Atlantic in the wintertime. I’ve never seen as many sick people from the rough sea as there was. They were laying all over the decks and everywhere else. Twice, during this trip, we thought we were in the midst of submarines-German submarines. They threw a lot of depth charges at them.

We went through this rough sea. The trip to Liverpool, England lasted 15 days. We got there late at night. The German Air Force was bombing fairly close to us. The next morning after daylight, we got off the ship and went through Liverpool, where we’d heard the noise, the sirens, and the anti-aircraft fire and bombs the night before. [Slipdigit-This as 23 Feb 1944]

We went to Chichester England. We were staying on this base with the 117th Infantry [Regiment]. They had the best places to live. We had to go through their living quarters to get to ours. They fixed their things up real nice. They put pebbles [on the ground] that said “117 Infantry.”

Shortly after we got to Liverpool, we went to Tidworth, England to draw our vehicles: 13 armored cars, 5 halftracks, 24 jeeps, and 2 GMC trucks. When we came back, the place to go in was not big enough for the vehicles we had and we tore out the name of “117 Infantry”. We spent a week repairing it and getting to where we could get in and out of there.

We started training, mostly physical training. They sent 4 sergeants off to get Ranger training and they came back and gave it to us. That’s the roughest training I had in the war. I thought they were going to kill us before it was over with.

They decided we needed to fire our 37mm cannons with armor-piercing shells, so we went up to Scotland to fire them. The first day we were there, one of the shells ricocheted over a hill and went into the top of a house. That stopped the firing of those things. There’s not many places that you can fire armor-piercing shells in England.

We stayed in Chickister a month or 6 weeks. They moved us out to a place where we were living with the people in England. That didn’t last but about 2 or 3 weeks.

Then they moved us to Slough, England, which is on a hill above Windsor Castle, on Lady Astor’s estate. We stayed in the houses [outbuildings], we didn’t stay in the castle. During the time we were there, we had to guard the gate on her estate.*** Several meetings took place between Gen. Eisenhower and high ranking people. They said that Sir Winston Churchill was there on a couple of occasions.

The story has it that one evening, Lady Astor was serving tea. She went by Sir Winston and said,, “If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your tea.” Sir Winston replied, “if you were my wife, I’ drink it”

We’d go on a picnic with the English people at Windsor Castle and ride bicycles and come back up that hill. We did that often until 2 or 3 days before D-Day.

***Although, he said in our discussions that he never had to server guard or KP duty while he was in England. He said he saw Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley and several other brass come in and out of the castle while he was there on several occasions.

Edited by SlipdigitBK, 22 June 2009 - 01:33 AM.

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#16 Slipdigit

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 01:29 AM

Can any of you Limeys or South Scots help me with the names of the towns in the above section? I'm sure we are spelling the names wrong (except for Liverpool and Slough) as he could only render them phonetically.

Best Regards,  
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#17 Old Hickory

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 01:39 AM

Slipdigit posting for Old Hickory. This section originally followed some discussion about Normandy. I decided to move it here.


This is Old Hickory, I want to back up a little bit and talk about life in England In 1944.

England had had a hard time with the German Air Force bombing them day and night in the blitz of 1940. In 1944, they were still bombing them England every night, sometimes in the daytime.

The main fun that they had in England was at the pubs at night. They would all go to the pubs and eat and drink that brown ale and bitters and whatever it was that they liked. It was warm beer, sometimes it was hot. They didn’t serve cold beer. They ate a lot of lettuce and a lot of Spam. The fast food was fish and chips, which they wrapped in a newspaper.

The money in England was much different than ours. They first time I tried to buy something, I asked the girl “how much” and she said, “Six, eight & ha penny.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. I said to myself that I was going to learn how to count this money. It was six shillings, eight pence and a half a penny. I did learn to count it.

The famous song in England at that time was “The Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover.” They said that the blue birds had quit flying over Dover because of all the air activities, the bombing and all of that. They usually went over Dover. This song went that tomorrow everything would be good.

They also sang “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” “As Time Goes By,”and “I’ll Walk Alone.” The big dance they did, and they did it every night just before they’d close the pub up, was the Big Apple. Everybody would get out and do the Big Apple.

I will say that England during World War II was the darkest place on the face of this earth. The days were long in the winter time because it was close to the arctic circle. It would be dark at 4:00 in the afternoon. It wouldn’t be light until 8:00 the next morning. I never got used to that. There was so much fog at night that you’d better not get far from where you were unless you had somebody to holler out to tell you which way to come back because we couldn’t have any light.

In the Spring the days began to get longer. In the summer just before D-Day, it was dark at 11:30 and it began to get light about 2:00. It was hard for me to used to the weather. I admired the British people very much, because they were tough. They went through a lot and still kept their heads up and were in good spirits.

I want to say one more thing before I leave. I went to Slough, England one time to pick up something from a hardware store. I looked for a hardware store all up and down the streets of Slough. I finally stopped and asked a bobby, a policeman, where there was a hardware store. He didn’t know what I was talking about. I kept trying to explain it to him and he finally understood. He said, “Oh, you mean an iron monger.”

As we waited on the docks at south Hampton waiting to go to Normandy, a Brig Gen walked up to where we were and asked the Lt, “ Were we ready?”

The Lt replied, “[There is] Not one in the crowd that wouldn’t spit in your face, if we asked him to.” I don’t believe that I would have spit in a brig. gen.’s face, but we were ready. The trip across the channel was boring and very dull.

On June 3rd, we dressed in full-dress uniform. We put on our wool uniform and then put fatigues on top of them. Those uniforms were gas impregnated. They stood up by themselves and they didn’t wear real good. That’s what we wore and a jacket. The clothes we had were: 2 pairs of underwear, one on and another one, we had 2 pairs socks and our jacket, a pair of long underwear. That’s the clothes we carried and one blanket.

We went to South Hampton. We thought we were going to Normandy, but we weren’t sure. We went down there on the 3rd and they briefed us and told us what we were supposed to do. Then they put us inside a barbed-wire fence and we couldn’t talk to anybody but each other. We couldn’t mention where we were going or what we were going to do. We knew that something was coming. We saw the airplanes flying the night before the invasion.

They had briefed us, but they didn’t take us out on D-Day. On the second day [June 7th], they took us out to get on something to cross the channel in. Well, they took us back in. On the third day, they put us on a landing craft, tank. That’s what we crossed the channel in, with a little barrage balloon going up from it and a 2-man crew. We didn’t get in on the third day, but on the fourth day [10th], we got on the LCT and started toward France. We got in sometime in the afternoon. The LCT that I was on lowered the front end of it and a jeep went off [the ramp]. That was the last time we saw that jeep; I don’t know how deep the water was. Two British guys were operating the LCT. One of them said, “I think it’s too deep, mate.” We moved down and we got in that time.

#18 Old Hickory

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 01:54 AM

Slipdigit here

Thank you all on behalf of Old Hickory for your comments and salutes. I talked to him on the telephone last night and I let him know how much you all are enjoying reading his "ramblings."

I have about 3-5 pages left to post, but he is recording more to be transcribed. I told him he could talk about anything. If he wanted to mention the correct tire pressure on the front wheels of a M3 halftrack, that is okay by us. Speaking of which, he said he loved the M3 halftrack, it was joy to operate and repair.

I'll wait and let him tell you why he carred a carbine instead of the Thompson he was originally issued. It is mildly humorous, but the main point is that not all things were cut and dried; then men did have some choice as to what they could carry.

Tomorrow night he talks about the Normandy hedgerows and the race across France.


30th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized
30th Infantry Division

#19 Fgrun83

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Posted 27 May 2009 - 04:26 AM

interesting choice the carbine, was that the only weapon he used, or preferred to use, or did he have any other "favorites"
You were a rotten pilot when we flew in Russia you're flying a desk now but you're still a rotten pilot!

#20 Old Hickory

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 02:58 AM

Posted by Slipdigit for Old Hickory

This picks up on June 10, after made landfall across Omaha Beach.

We went up [toward the front]. There weren’t any small fire arms going on, but there was artillery and mortar coming in real heavy as we were going off the beach. I rode the halftrack, winding around that steep hill. When we got on top, we had to stop because of the traffic in front of us. My vehicle caught [a]fire because of the way we’d water proofed it. I used my fire extinguisher and another man from another vehicle threw me one and I used it and there was still a little bit of fire. Where we [had] stopped, I looked over in a ditch and there was some water and mud. I thought I‘d jump down there and get some water and mud and put it out. I jumped down there and I looked to my right and about 2 ft from me was a sign with a skull and crossed bones on it. It was a land mine sign. I don’t believe I touched the ground until I got back on that vehicle. I said, “Let it burn.”

We spent that first night, all night, without light, cleaning the waterproofing off that we’d put on. Every evening for the first 27 out of 30 days, the airplane came, that we called “Bedcheck Charlie.” Of course he came that night, too.

We were in the hedgerows of Normandy. We spent the first few days getting everything cleaned up to go. Then on a Sunday afternoon, several days after we’d gotten there, the Germans counterattacked at St-Jean-de-Daye. That was our first action. They tried to cut the beachhead in two, but they didn’t get through.

After that, we started attacking. We’d stay behind the hedgerows and the Germans were behind the next hedgerow. A lot of times the land that was fenced in was not over half an acre, sometimes not that much. You could hear the Germans talking and I’m sure they heard us at times too.

If you tried to get in there with a tank, they had the only hole into it zeroed in with a tank gun that would knock it out. This fighting back and forth went on, back and forth. We weren’t taking any ground at all. Some Sgt welded a piece of boiler metal on the front of a tank. He made it 15-18’ long and cut some teeth in it. And the guy in the tank went up this hedge row and wiggled around and got that tank through the hedge row and then the tank carried bushed and trees with it. They started doing that with the tanks and they could get through. The infantry followed the tank and we advanced a little bit more that way.

Finally, they put bulldozers on the front of the tanks, so they could knock a hole in the hedge rows to get through there. This was cattle country where we were. Dead cows, dead horses were everywhere, from artillery fire. This went on until the 23rd of July.

Gen Bradley came up with a plan to bomb ourselves out of Normandy. For three hours [on 24 July], bombs fell. Then the wind changed and part of [men from] my division were killed by American bombs that afternoon. After three hours of bombing, they had to fill the holes up with the bulldozers so they could drive through.

The infantry finally knocked a hole in the German lines [on July 25]. Gen Patton had landed over there with a brand new army. His army went through these lines that they had torn out. That was the start of the advancement in Normandy.


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30th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized
30th Infantry Division

#21 Old Hickory

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 03:09 AM

Posted by Slipdigit for Old Hickory

We stayed there until the first of August. They pulled us out of the line. We got our first shower since we’d been there [51 days]. We went into one end of a big tent, stripped off, they sprayed us so lice and whatever else might be on us would come off and then we took a shower. We went out the other end and got brand new clothes. Without a doubt, that was the best shower I’ve ever had in my life!

Normandy was a bad time in a lot of ways. They had a good bit of rain and mud. The first piece of bread we got, we were eating K-rations, was about 7 weeks after we got there. They came by and gave everybody a loaf of bread. I ate mine that night. We did not have a kitchen set up for our outfit. We had a little ole gasoline Coleman stove in each vehicle and that’s what we cooked with. We made it through to the first of August. We had a few days rest. [He told me in a phone conversation that his unit had a kitchen attached, but after they left Sough, they did not see the kitchen until the war ended.]

My division of 16,000 men lost over 5000 at that time. We were short, we needed replacements. They removed the 1st Infantry division and put us in the line in a place called Mortain. We were going to hold the line there. The Germans decided they would counterattack with everything they had available. They were going to Avranches to cut us in two. Patton had gone into Brittany and was moving pretty well.

We were attacked. We had the higher ground on one hill [Hill 314]. The 120 Infantry had a battalion on this hill. For 5 ½ days they were surrounded. We kept hearing that we were surrounded. Well, we were on the other side of the hill holding a road block and we didn’t see a German the whole time.

The 120th lost over half their men. There were more than 500 men and more than 300 didn’t walk off of that hill. They did one of the most heroic things. The Germans knew that they could not come up that hill in day time because of our artillery. They were coming at night.

Our guys dug foxholes in the middle of the road. When a tank would come up at night, a man would jump out and try to get a hand grenade down in the tank. They knocked out tanks and piled that road up where the Germans couldn’t come up that hill because it was the only road there. That lasted for 5 ½ days.

During that time, 2 German SS came up and asked us to surrender. This Lt said he would surrender when all his bullets were gone and his bayonets were sticking in one of their bellies. They didn’t like that much, but they went back but they never took the hill.

One 2nd Lt, [Robert Weiss,] who was our artillery director wrote a book, Enemy North, South, East, and West . It’s a pretty good book. [Slipdigit- I’ve read the book too, it is very good.  Lt. Weiss' book is now available under the title Fire Mission]

Finally the battle of Mortain was over, the Germans were trying to retreat. We moved around for several days. We thought we were going to Paris, but command didn’t have any intension of going there.

We were going through some woods on unpaved, sorry roads and came upon a church. About 5 vehicles of us stopped and we got a call that a German command car was coming up that road. It didn’t hardly come out of their mouth when here it came with 4 men in it. He came by and shot one blast at us. A man standing close to me said, “I’m hit! I’m hit!” He pulled his hand away from his chest and he had a red mark where a bullet had gone across his body. It really didn’t hit him, it just burned him.

As that vehicle went by, everybody shot at it. The vehicle went a little way before it turned over. We counted way over 200 holes in it. Only 1 of the 4 men was hit, nobody else was, and he was hit in the leg. We captured the 4 men.


Edited by Slipdigit, 20 February 2014 - 04:20 AM.

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30th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized
30th Infantry Division

#22 Slipdigit

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 03:22 AM

interesting choice the carbine, was that the only weapon he used, or preferred to use, or did he have any other "favorites"


I just saw this Fgrun83. I'll either call him tomorrow or ask him at church.

I'll go ahead and mention why he carried the carbine. Old Hickory told me this while he was in the hospital. Old Hickory said he was not a big man back then, maybe 120 lbs. He originally was issued a Thompson, but he soon found that the weapon and additional ammunition was too heavy for him to run with. He felt that being able to run fast with the weapon would be important if he were looking for a hole to crawl into. So, he went to his CO and asked him if he could get a different weapon and the Capt told him to go to the armorer and get what he wanted. He liked the carbine and so that is what he carried. He was in a halftrack most of the time anyway that was armed with a .50 cal, so he really didn't have much use for personal weapon.
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Best Regards,  
JW :slipdigit:

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#23 Fgrun83

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Posted 06 June 2009 - 03:30 AM

Thanks slipdigit, makes a lot of sense.
You were a rotten pilot when we flew in Russia you're flying a desk now but you're still a rotten pilot!

#24 Triple C

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 02:50 AM

That was one lucky German officer! You would expect him and his entourge blown to Swisscheese after 200 rounds of 30-06.

#25 FieldHospital

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Posted 08 June 2009 - 10:52 AM

Hi Old Hickory. Pleasure to read your post. Thank you for sharing.

We live close to St Jean de Daye in Normandy and drive through the village daily, rebuilt, it's hard for us to imagine what you went through, but we thank you and your comrades.

Just north of St Jean de Daye, a house was used as some sort of field hospital/medical centre after the landings. Do you have any recollection of such a place? We are told it was taken from the Germans (most likely SS) by the allies.

Kindest regards and our very best wishes.

Edited by FieldHospital, 08 June 2009 - 12:31 PM.





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