PART OF THE A&P PLATOON
Attached is a picture taken by a roving photographer while we were training for the Landing in South France. This photo 44
front row L-R James Anderson, Larry Corbett, Whitey Hilton, Norman Mohar, Edward Sudell.
2nd row: Gidio Ciavaglia. Louis Abruzzi, Edgar Archbold:
3rd row: Joe Bachusz, Hyman Cohen, Rudloph Smith: Back row: ? (Can’t remember), George Horton w/o helmet. Robert Breese, Paul Thome and John Yusko
There were a few changes made in our A&P platoon after we came back from Rome. For some unknown reason to me, Scott Shanks from Danville, Illinois thought he’d like it better to be in the A&P platoon. He was a jeep driver in the motor pool. McLean was hankering to be back in the motor pool. Mac was transferred to our platoon after the massacre on March 8th when our house got blown to bits. A&P duty is quite different than being in the motor pool. Jeep drivers were very essential and were always in some sort of danger but enough of their time was spent away from the actual front lines to make it a bit safer. Jeeps could go anywhere a man could walk mostly so a driver wasn’t in anything like a haven. Don’t misunderstand. He had to worry about running over a mine. I saw what happened to a jeep driver who hit a mine. He was blown out of the jeep and bodily thrown over a rock wall. The jeep was cut in two pieces but the driver survived. The jeep seat saved him .It served the same purpose as an aircraft’s ejection seat.
Scott Shank “buddied up” for the most part with Ed Sudell. They somehow ‘hit it off’- both were big and quite tall but from different ‘walks of life’ in the states. I think Scott was more of a farm boy. I remember when I first met him on the Casino front; he’d stand outside his tent and would start the day with mimicking a radio commentator of a morning farm show from Chicago. He’d say, with a ‘frog voice’, “Ladies and gentlemen of radio land, it’s a be-e-e-o-o-oooteeeful day in Chick-a-go etc etc.” Scott Shank was a ‘spittin’ image of JIMMIE DEAN the country Western singer–who is now of sausage making fame. JIMMIE DEAN’s SAUSAGE. He had the lanky body, but I’m sure he lacked the musical talent of Jimmie Dean. Not once do I remember him singing a bar of any song. Scott, I believe wanted more excitement in battle than the motor pool offered so he offered to ‘trade’ positions with McLean. Mac seized upon the moment but gave Shanks one last chance to refuse and to change his mind. I heard him ask,” Shank, are you sure, because this is a one chance deal.” Shank agreed. This was a ‘plum’ for Mac and a very ‘dumb’ thing for Shanks to do. Imagine such a trade! Shanks was a corporal and became a squad leader in our A&P platoon. He made a very good soldier. I don’t remember hearing him ever bitching or refusing any duties. He wasn’t my squad leader and that separated us somewhat. Squads usually worked together on details. When a detail was assigned it was usually squad sized. On special occasions a single A&P person would be assigned to a rifle company to march into whatever battle was coming up. With the 18 pounds of TNT pack on his back He was supposed to know how to use the TNT when called upon.
It was one of the most extreme duties to carry an 18 pound pack of explosives on your back. A block of TNT was about a quarter pound. In the pack were various detonators and igniters. Some igniters were ‘pull type’ which were attached to a fuse when yanking the toggled chord there was a spark made in some sort of flint which would cause the fuse to ignite. It would cause a cap to explode to detonate the TNT. It was up to the ‘expert’ to determine the length of the fuse which burned at an uncertain rate. The timing was all important. All of us were supposed to know how explosives were handled but that wasn’t always the case. If any of us showed a special ‘knack’–the squad leader nailed you for those details. I must have mentioned at some time to the sergeant that my Dad used to use black powder in the mines and that I actually saw my Dad crimping caps with his teeth! Did that make me an expert? The caps were the most vulnerable in the pack. You can shoot into a block of TNT and it won’t explode, but the caps are very sensitive–you just didn’t ‘think’ about it- that is, being vaporized. I was one of those who took my instructions from the engineers seriously and was assigned the task too often dealing with explosives and mines.
The trade of McLean and Shank changed my directions somewhat. I would see Mac only on occasion. He drove a jeep for a while on Anzio and was Colonel Bernard’s driver for a short time. Mac’s time as Colonel Bernard’s driver was cut short due to his own mouthy response to authority. Once the colonel asked Mac to get him a cup of coffee in the morning–, Mac’s response was, “Get it yourself”. Colonel Bernard didn’t need that kind of response on that morning. So Mac was out of a nice job hauling the Colonel around. That might not have been anything other than destiny playing its hand. In a very few days later the Colonel demanded his driver to tour closer to the front lines in broad daylight to see the troops and to survey first hand–as close as a jeep could get. I don’t think the Colonel was too prone to want to walk around in daylight closer to visit each foxhole of the Battalion. The jeep got too close. A sniper shot him in the chest. The bullet penetrated his rib cage narrowly missing his heart. Colonel Bernard’s days on Anzio were ended that day. Mac might have missed being the target by being ‘mouthy’ with the Colonel, but my experience with Mac was that he was uncanny in detecting danger and knew when the time was right or wrong. He might have taken the Colonel on a different route saving the Colonel’s being wounded. Fate has its way.
Mac now drove a Dodge 6×6 weapon’s carrier. It was bigger than a jeep and could tow a large one ton trailer. The whole platoon could mount the Dodge weapon’s carrier throwing much of their baggage on the trailer. Including favorite souvenirs until someone objected to the load.
Mac named his truck after our Commanding General. I painted the moniker on the grille above the radiator. “IRON MIKE”, somehow the name gave the truck a bit more horsepower. It seemed that the truck would growl the same way that Iron Mike O’Daniels’ jutting jaw and facial expressions suggested. Iron Mike looked every bit the general he was. No bullshit from him. I was never privileged to speak to him or have been in contact with him. I was always frightened by the higher officers. I guess you can call that respect-even awe at times. I admired “Iron Mike O’Daniels” too from the greatest distance I could. That applied to most officers. You could find yourself doing KP or latrine duty so danged fast with just a facial expression suggesting disgust! Like the night I bitched on Anzio in front of a Captain who stood next to me in the dark of the night about the so called “REST CAMP” in the sand dunes! I said “God dam, (and a few other expletives) I’d rather be up front”. The captain stepped up to me and said, “I’ll arrange it for you”. Then I saw his bars on his lapel!! Did I ever go into a whipped dog act! Geez, I said a million “I’m sorry sirs I didn’t mean it–I was just shootin’ off my mouth”. He somehow let it go! So I stayed as far away from the authorities as I could for safety. I was known for my ‘bitching’ quality.
I am in a dither about some of the changes which were made other than McLean and Shanks. Rudolph Smith came into the picture. He was my squad leader. When we got acquainted on Anzio and spoke HILL BILLY, we became quite fast friends.
We’d go to Naples together on a pass. There were other things we’d do which I will pass on not wanting this story to turn into a sort of tabloid of sexploits