PAPA'S WAR
For my Grandson Brenton

Copyright 1997 - 2000
 


 
 
 
 



 
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 PART 1
  The Impact of a Childhood Friend on my Military Service
  The Torpedoed Tanker
  A-12 or V-12, the Big Decision
  Civil Defense Activities
  Red Flash!
  A Most Unusual "Educational" Opportunity
  Camp Blanding, Florida, Induction Center, July 1943
  The Train Ride to Texas
  North Camp Hood, Texas, Basic Training
  ASTP, Denton, Texas, Winter '43 - Spring '44
  Morton's Time in Service

 PART 2
  Camp Howze, Texas, The 103d Infantry Division Signal Company
  The Troop Train to Camp Shanks
  Camp Shanks, New York, Port of Embarkation
  The Atlantic Crossing Aboard the Henry T. Gibbons
  Marseille Harbor - Oct.20, 1944, Marseille Staging Area
  The Move up the Rhone River Valley to the Front

 PART 3
  Near St.Diè, France, Nov. 11, 1944 - Baptism of Fire
  Roosevelt's Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1944
 Maisonsgoutte, France, November 25, 1944
  Le Howald, France -- Friendly Fire
  A Potpourri of Ups and Downs
  The Sniper
  Struthof Concentration Camp
  Epfig and Ebersheim, France
  Redeployment for the Attack on the Siegfried Line, Dec. 5, 1944
  The Attack Toward the Siegfried Line
  The Maginot Line
  Climbach, France
  Bobenthal, Germany
  Start of the Battle of the Bulge

  PART 4
  Redeployment to the Flank of the Bulge
  Farebersviller, Lorraine
  Return to Alsace
  Imbsheim, Alsace, February, 1945, The Winter Doldrums
  Back to the 411th
  The Big Push, Head 'Em Up and Roll 'Em Out, March 15, 1945
  Muhlhausen: The Messerschmidt, the Focke Wulf, and the P-47

 PART 5
  The Second Siegfried Line Assault
  Landau, Germany, SHAEF Reserve, Occupation Duty
  Bensheim, Germany, 7th Army Reserve, More Occupation Duty
  The Return to Combat, April 16, 1945
  Ambush, April 24, 1945
  Never Argue With a Tank
  What to do With a Crate of Eggs
  Across the Danube and South Toward Austria
  Landsberg - The Concentration Camp
  Southward to Innsbruck

 PART 6
  Brenner Pass
  Incident in Colle Isarco, Italy, May 4, 1945
  Fulpmes, Gries am Brenner, VE Day, May 8th 1945
  Innsbruck Occupation, May & June 1945
  Innsbruck, The Luftwaffe Airfield, Booby Trap
  Innsbruck, Recreation
  A Retrospective Look at the 103d Infantry Division
  Goodbye Cactus, Hello Red Diamond
  Homeward Bound on the USS Le Jeune

   PART 7
  R & R Leave
  Camp Campbell, Kentucky
  Don Benz Gets Even
  Dalton R. Coffman, --- At It Again
  Hi-Jinx at Camp Campbell
  Out At Last
  University of Florida, February 1946
  The Final Chapter - and Dalton R. Coffman is Still Involved

 EPILOGUE

 POSTSCRIPT
  First, Our Radio Team
  103d Division Signal Company Commander:
  103d Div. Signal Company Motor Pool Officer
  Radio Section Master Sergeant
  Radio Section Tech Sergeant
  Radio Section, The "Coolies"
  Other Signal Company Enlisted Men
  ASTP Buddies
  High School Friends
  Unidentified Major and T/5, 88th Division, 5th Army

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 BIBLIOGRAPHY

  About the Font

Computer Graphics

 ADDENDA

  A Sentimental Journey, The 50th Anniversary
  The Liberation of Alsace, May 1994

Ceremony, Washington, DC April 27, 1995, The 50th Anniversary
  Of The The Liberation of the Concentration Camps

 Reunion of the 103d Infantry Division,
  Williamsburg, Virginia, August 16 - 20, 1995

Reunion of the 103d Infantry Division,
  Columbus, Ohio, September 11-15, 1996

ASTP Memorial Plaque Dedication.



 

ABOUT THE FORMAT

     This narration is intended to present a series of personal snapshots taken over a period of time. Hopefully, there is a balance of the good times and the bad. Like a photo album, it does not purport to show or tell everything. In some places there are many snapshots closely spaced in time and in others there may be relatively long periods of time that are unaccounted for. Like pictures in a photo album, some of the events described may have been very important to me and others of merely passing interest. I will leave it to the reader to decide which is which.
 



 
 

-----  PREFACE  -----

 This first hand account of some of my experiences in World War II was written for my grandson Brenton Colen Kelber who has shown a strong interest in History and World War II in particular, or, as he calls it, "Papa's War." As this is written, he is only eleven years old and does not have even the major events of that war sorted out in his head. Brenton will grow up quickly so I have not written "down" to his age level. In time, he will come to understand the things that he may not understand now.

    The big picture of the global events preceding and during that war are too complex and bewildering for a boy of his age, or, perhaps for any of us, to comprehend. If only a few of those events are mentioned in order to provide the necessary continuity for this story it does not mean that I am unaware of the efforts and sacrifices of other servicemen over and on the land and on and under the sea, but front line servicemen have a very myopic view of a war.

    The average soldier has no grasp of the "big picture." He only sees his own private little corner of the war. If in this narration, it sometimes appears that the 103d Infantry Division, the 103d Infantry Division Signal Company, and the 411th Infantry Regiment, were the only participants in the war, that is only because that was the tiny corner of the war in which I was immersed.

    Memories fade with time and while the events described really occurred, I have found it hard to remember names and place all of the events precisely on a calendar or on a map. I trust that I will be forgiven for minor errors as to time, place, and individuals involved.

     I also pray that nations will eventually learn to get along with one another and that there will never be another war involving America's young men but, while some of the idealism of my youth remains, the cynic in me says that it may not happen in Brenton's lifetime.

 Nuclear weapons have made global war too horrifying to contemplate but we probably stand a good chance of being drawn into an escalating brushfire  conventional war, if, indeed, any war can now be characterized as conventional.     Even without nuclear engagements, wars are now fought with weapons so smart that there is no place to hide from them. They can be launched from highly mobile platforms hundreds of miles from their target and follow you right into the very room in which you have sought refuge.

  Papa's War was an incredibly primitive war by today's standards but it was just as deadly. It just took longer to do the job.

    Warfare is not a game.

    It never was.
 



 
 

----- PROLOGUE -----

     Brenton, there were millions of American soldiers, sailors, and marines who fought in World War II and some of them were incredibly brave. Some of those truly brave men were my friends and some of them did not survive the war. They are forever young. That is why I go to the Memorial Day and Veterans Day services every year, to honor the friends that I lost in that war.

    I received no medals for heroism and was not wounded in action (except for a scratch from a mortar shell fragment that was too minor to report), although there were plenty of times when it seems nothing short of a miracle that I was not seriously injured. I was just an ordinary soldier but I thought that you might like to have a record of the small part that I had in World War II.

    Brenton, you have always shown an interest in World War II, or as you call it, "Papa's War."  We have spent many hours together while I explained what a really evil man the dictator of Germany, Adolf Hitler, was and how he conquered and enslaved almost all of Europe and eventually drew the entire world into a war so big that it involved hundreds of millions of people.

    The United States managed to stay out of the war for a long time while at the same time providing a lot of aid to the countries that were our friends in Europe. However, when Japan hit Pearl Harbor, our naval base in the Hawaiian Islands, with a sneak air attack on Sunday, December 7, 1941, it was only a matter of a few days before we were drawn into the war with Germany. So it was that we found ourselves in two wars at the same time. The first one, against Japan, was fought by the Army, the Air Corps (which was then still part of the Army), and Marines on dozens of islands in the Pacific Ocean and by the Navy all over the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The other, against Germany, was fought by the Army and Air Corps on the continents of Europe and Africa and by the Navy all over the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea. We also helped our allies in such far away places as Russia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, China, Burma, and India.

The United States was not prepared for war but recognized the danger and was already drafting men into the armed services through the Selective Service System when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred.

    Men started enlisting heavily right after the attack and enlisted in waves with every big news story about the war. It was difficult for the armed services to handle such an irregular flow of men joining up so it was decided that all men would have to go into service through the Selective Service System. Each branch of service determined how many men it needed each month and the Selective Service System called up the required number.

 Some months, all of the needs could be met by men volunteering for immediate induction. In other months, men had to be drafted to meet the quotas.

    When I was graduated from high school, I volunteered for immediate induction and was called up on June 28, 1943 but my story starts a lot earlier than that.
 
 

*****



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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