Some where’s further up the valley as we chased the retreating German army; we came to a Rail Road station. It seemed to be a little hostel along the rail road. I can remember the cross arms which they have at all crossings. I was always on the alert scouting for a safe place to duck if there would erupt a fire fight. I saw a railroad culvert; it was built of concrete and would make a safe place in case of a shelling. I went over to ‘check it out’. I was stunned by what I saw under the culvert. It was maybe thirty feet long and ten feet wide, as I said constructed all of concrete. There were about forty GIs dead head to foot side by side in their own blood. They were massacred by the retreating German soldiers. The group must have gotten caught behind their lines, or else the Jerries just couldn’t handle them in their retreat so their solution was to kill them. Some one’s loved one was there dead. It would never be known how he died
I have a list of towns we passed. I wrote the names in my note pad as I rode on the Weapons carrier. Most little towns had the names carved on a stone at the entrance to the town. It shows I was riding a bumpy road. I have trouble now finding these small burgs on a French map. They’re there, I know because I wrote down the names. Carpentras was one after we had the Besancon battle.
We stopped for a night and day held up by a battle at a quarry somewhere. There too was a typical farm house with a few out buildings. Close by was a German 88 field artillery piece disabled by the German soldiers to prevent its further use. It might have been booby trapped too.
I was scouting around for a place we might park a jeep. I saw a corrugated building about 14×20 size. I walked around to the sliding door and there was a sign! MINEN! That is mines! A Frenchman came running out from somewhere and was screaming the same, Minen Minen! You listen to those words with great care! You don’t monkey around. It’s serious business. Down to brass tacks.
I told the Lieutenant about the mines and he ordered me to take a detector and disable them. I took a man with me and the mine detector and of course the tool of choice is a bayonet for probing. I carefully surveyed the door to see if I could detect trip wires or a firing mechanism. I found nothing so I slid open the door ever so gently. The Frenchman was horrified and was peeking from a safe distance around the corner of his house. I thought to myself about the Frenchman, “you stingy bugger, you must have a cache of wine barrels in that shed”!
But the shed was empty. There, though, in the tracks of a gerry vehicle was noticeably disturbed ground–it was a dirt floor. I swept the sweeper over the mound. Back and forth, up and down. I thought I heard a scream on the Mike. I decided to try the others and I convinced myself that surely these were teller type mines and placed right in the tracks so that a jeep would hit them and Blooey! After checking the mounds I had to then begin to probe. I did it ever so carefully. There was nothing solid in the dirt to indicate a mine. I probed and removed the dirt ever so carefully—I found paper and a pile of German crap! BUT–listen to this! The engineers told us that sometimes the Germans would do that on top of a mine so that the mine would go undetected by further probing!! True! So being the dutiful soldier that I was, (breaking my arm patting my back) I uncovered every single one of those “MINES”. I was sure I heard that detector speaker squeal over every mound! I determined that since the mine detectors squeal over metal and Iron that the German soldiers must have been on a Spinach diet! (which is rich in iron). Then I showed the French man what he was warning me about. You can imagine the facial and body expressions he made.
This story isn’t ended yet! The GI who was with me carried the story back to the Platoon and I was ridiculed to no end. I’m telling you, that I should have gotten a medal not for the humiliation but for my ‘devotion “to duty! Yep as a GI dog face you take a lot of shit!
We stayed that night sleeping on the floor of the house. All the platoon slept but that was one night I just could not fall asleep. The battle at the quarry lasted quite a while. The German army was getting stiffer and tougher as we went along closer to the Father Land.
This was surely a different war than on Anzio. The Berlin Bitch described Anzio beach head as the world’s largest self-contained prison. This type of war was what we were better trained to do. The South France seemed to be a “rout” for the time being. Actually these are foolish words. The German Army could stop us anytime they chose to throw up a road block which was done quite often. They weren’t giving up land that easily. We saw lots of territory in a short time.
Sometimes the war was even a bit of fun. The souvenir hunting was fun–we had first access but who could carry all this stuff? We walked right on by treasures knowing there’ll be more ahead. Everyone by now had a pistol and wrist watches, Most of their watches weren’t worth having except the Omega like the one I liberated from the German Captain on the second day in France.
Whitey Hilton got hold of an OPEL Buick which was a miniature 1927 Buick –it was a nice little coupe. He tried to knock out the rods by ramming it around in circles and reckless driving. It began to smoke all right but it just wouldn’t give in. He had his own private demolition derby in a grassy opening. Others of us tried also to ‘blow’ the engine. No one gave one thought to the poor Frenchman who owned it. I wish I had that OPEL here–It’d be worth a million!
As we rode grabbing up real estate, I wrote the names of towns in my note book—I mentioned that I guess. On one day after a counter attack, we took a bunch of prisoners and all of their equipment. One of the “things” captured was a little one man tank which had a model A Ford motor in it. The guys from the wire platoon (I seem to remember a wireman by the name of Sullivan) rammed it around, smashing it into trees and really ‘testing’ it. I wish I had that miniature tank here at home.
On this day our commanding officer was interrogating a German Officer. I stood very close by.
The German was in first class regalia and stood erect at attention. When being asked a question he’d only give whatever information he was to give under the Geneva Convention–whatever that is–rank and name and not much more. The German made Major Osgard really mad with one of his answers or lack of answer. I saw Major Osgard who himself was a very tall strikingly handsome Officer smack the German’s face back and forth with the back of his hands like you’ve seen in the movies. Slap slap! The German officer stiffened up even more at attention and clicked his boot heels and that was the end of the interrogation. I think the German officer was lucky it was all he got. I’ll bet that in our prison camps he was fed better and had a blanket. They had not much mercy with our GIs when captured. I can’t recall how many days plus D-day was this or most other incidents. I must interject this memory. We passed a disabled Sherman tank which was still burning. In the front of the tank we saw a hole in the nose about 3 inches in diameter. A perfect shot by a German anti-tank gun. Just ahead in the bend of the road was the anti-tank gun demolished with the whole crew strewn around and about it. I know that the knocked out tank might have fired a round at the same time at the anti-tank gun or the following tank nailed it. It was a good feeling to see the German Anti-tank gun crew blown to hell for knocking out our Sherman and most likely the crew inside. Once on fire they are a death trap.