Joe's Story as told on a Memorial Day from a Pulpit
First of all, let me say how honored I am to be on this pulpit. You don't know, if you've never been on a pulpit, how honored you can be. You can feel the Holy Spirit. An I am so honored. I'm honored that I am still alive for one thing. I'm honored that I have a chance to tell my story to some people that couldn't possible have heard it and couldn't possibly have known it.
Anyhow I'm going to tell you the story of a young kid who was in the Army right from high school. I was sent down to Fort Snelling and joined the Army. I had my choice of several services to go into. I chose the Army for a number of reasons. One of them was because they were going to send me to college for awhile. So I took that. But I had infantry basic first, 13 weeks of it down in Fort Snelling, Georgia, which was the hell hole of the world - it was called. If you ever went down there, you'd know why. There's no water, no grass, 117 degrees every day - just a wonderful place to be, if you like to breath dirt. And those little red chiggers that they had down there. You know you had tight leggings on and those little red bugs got in there, no matter where you were and they itch and itch. You had to take your bayonet and scrape them to get them off sometimes. Which is a ridiculous thing, but that's the way it was.
Then I went to Boston for school. I was learning to be a surveyor and all of the sudden there was a terrible breakthrough in North Africa in the little town of El Alaman. Germans broke through up there and they were threatening to push the British army into the ocean, in the Mediterranean. And so they call up Reserves. They wanted 10 divisions immediately to send over there. So they called people like me who had infantry basic.
They sent us to different units that were training all over the United States. I was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina and joined the Yankee division, which is the 26th Yankee division made up of the National Guard from Boston - 'all drunks'. It was, they were all drunks. They were all order than us and they were mean, nasty , and they treated us kids like dirt. And so we had quite a time with that. But that's where I had my training. This training from them - one day they were going to teach all us kids a big lesson. So, they set up a boxing ring out in the commons. And they had this guy by the name of Benny Violet, who was kind of a semi-pro boxer in Brooklyn. And Benny's out there in the ring dancing around you know, and going though the motions. And one at a time they had us rookie put on the gloves. They had us go up against Benny Violet. Well you didn't have much of a chance against him. Finally it was my turn. I told them I, "I don't want to fight the guy." And they look at me, "Oh, yellow, yellow." After I got all these Sergeants and everything giving me the yellow business. So, finally I said OK, put the gloves on. So I got in the ring with the guy and I hit him 5 or 6 or 7 times before he went through the ropes and they caught him out there. See, they didn't know that back in '39and '40 I was the MN state Golden Gloves Champion. And then after the fight everybody had their arms around all of us kids. Now we were OK see, So we didn't have to take any more of the guff. That ended it. But, silly what you have to do sometimes to survive even.
We got into combat. We didn't go in on the initial waves in June. We went in July. In some places they were only in 5 miles. Other places they were in 50 or 60. And I don't recall, maybe someone here know how far it is from Cherbourg to Paris. I would guess a hundred and twenty miles maybe. And we covered that last 30 miles there on trucks. There was no resistance and then the Germans pulled out of Paris so the city wouldn't get smashed, for some unknown reason. So we took Paris and then we moved to the town of Metz, where the line had pushed real sudden. Now Metz is a city in NE France. It's an old city which is half German and half French and they had a fort built there a long time ago which was built underground and it was all cement. They had enough cement on it where they couldn't bomb it out. They even tried with the simple bombs we had then. And so, there was a German division help up in there and they just left them in there and bypasses them. If was our job to surround Metz and just sit there and watch. Just watch them. If anybody tried to come out there, we'd grab them. So, we weren't there more than a few days. We had showers and clean clothes. Warm food even. And the Germans decided to give us everything they had in one last try.
That night we took the darndest shelling you ever saw. It was shhhhhhboom, shhhhhhboom, shhhhhhboom. It was coming in like the 4th of July when you see those fireworks going off. That's the way it came. They shot everything they had at us.
Then the next day, they surrendered and came up out of there. And that was kind of a silly thing they did, but they did. And our commander didn't treat them too kindly either when they came out because of that. So then after that we were sitting at Metz a day or two later and it was like November, latter November. And that us when the germans their little thing that is known as the Battle of the Bulge. How many of you have heard about that? All it was, was that Hitler was desperate. He took everything he had, including all the men and women that could walk, old men, young boys. We ran into kids 14 or 15 years old. We ran into women on the front line. And he put them in the army and they were to go all the way to Antwerp and split and make us sue for peace. That's what they were going to do. Well, it worked real good the first couple of weeks. They just went through us like a hot knife in butter, just poured through because we weren't ready for them.
It's the middle of winter. Snow was like this in that forest - colder than heck out there and Americans are in a Christmassy/Thanksgiving mood. And they knew this and that's the time when he tries to attack. They got through and they cam through pretty good until they ran out of gasoline. The Germans had planned on capturing our gas dumps. And they didn't get them. And that's what killed the German drive more than anything. That gave us time to get our divisions up there. Our division got up there - we half walked, we half rode. We were in a long line going down that road, there must have been 15-20,000 or us. And trucks would come pick up the rear 20 or 30 (whatever they could haul) and go back up to the front. Another truck would pick them up and dump them off up front and go back to the rear again and take more up front. And that is how they shuttle bussed us up there. I road, I don't know 5 or 6 times, something like that and walked the rest of the way. We got up there at night, it was unbelievable how cold it was out there in the woods.
Now you are going to hear me talk about a guy names Wayne McGee a lot. He was my foxhole buddy. And he and I went through everything there is to go through over there.And that first night our feet were so cold (all of us). We took our gas masks, we carried gas masks then. They didn't know if the Germans were going to use gas like they did in the 1st World War. So, we had them. So we threw our gas masks away and put our feet in the gas mask bag to try to get any warmth we could get. We cuddled together like young lovers you might say. You know to try to get some warmth - there wasn't any. We had no fur mittens. We had no fur boots and we didn't have warm coats. We had on our fatigue jackets. That's what we were wearing at the time. They didn't give us time to equip. And when they finally did send this warm equipment out in the field, the guys in the back grabbed it all and used it - the postal clerks and the cooks that didn't need it took all that warm stuff. We never saw it. We didn't get any.
So anyhow, the war goes on. The enemy was tough. The German soldier was tough. They were fighting their last battle over there and they knew it. But, they weren't half as tough as the weather. Fighting the weather is the worst thing of all.
When you're cold, and miserable, and hungry and scared, and all these things put together, and there is no relief in site - it's terrible. Try to imagine outside doing something and you're so cold your fingers are nipping - you know that you can go inside and get warmed up. But what would you do if you knew you were going to be out there another 120 days and knew you were never going to go inside. That's what we had to put up with and that's why war is so terrible. It's another reason why they take young people like we were, instead of older married men that had something to worry about. We had some married men in our unit and it was horrible when they got killed. I remember they had to send telegrams home and so forth.
I'm going to tell you a few things that happened out there in combat. Combat's not any fun. I want you to know that. You see it in the movies and sometimes they glorify it. And they always have the hero come out on top. You know, if it's Tom Hanks or if it's however - they don't get killed. But in real life, they do. We had 154 men in our infantry company. We were an infantry rifle company. That meant you carried rifles and you carried one bazooka to a squad of 12 men. And you had one Browning sub-machine gun. What it was, was a big heavy rifle that would shoot automatically. We had one of those, they called it a BAR> And that was our firing power. There was nothing between us and the germans. We were right on the front limes/ And when I tell you some of these things, believe it - it's true. Somebody asked me one time, how do you remember all that? Well, if you don't lie, you can remember what you said, because it just flows sometimes. Doesn't it Pastor, when you're giving a sermon it can flow.
So anyhow, we went into combat against these Germans and I have to tell you what happened one of the first days. This was after we were in the Ardennes Forest back in France. We got shelled one day. And it's the worst shelling of the war, I think. Our artillery behind us was trying to lob shells over our heads into the German line - and sometimes they were short. And this happened in every shelling there was. There would be some shells that would hit our own troops. It still does. And then the German artillery was coming at us full blast. We were just bing slaughtered down there. 76 of my buddies were killed that afternoon right around me and we were all in an area the size of this parking lot maybe. We couldn't dig foxholes because Patton had taken away our shovels a couple of days before that. He said, "You're not going to stop long enough to dig in'. I've hated the guys guts every since. He killed all those guys. He could have saved 90% of them I'm sure. All you need to do is scrape a little hole to get half your body in and you're safe. Shrapnel when it explodes - when the thing hits the ground if flies but it doesn't go parallel, it goes up as it leaves. So if you are in any kind of a hole, you're safe down there. It would take a direct hit to get you.
And I'm going to tell you a story about a fella by the name of Cigar Evans. We called him Cigar for obvious reasons, he always had one going. Cigar got blown up and he was in his hole. And we were going out the there and I saw Cigar laying there and it was a horrible site, just blown apart. He was still alive and he said to me, "Joe shoot me, shoot me, please shoot me". He was in such pain and he was gone anyway. I couldn't shoot him, could you? I couldn't so I didn't. I hope the medics were able to put him at rest before he died. That was one of the horrible things. But I saw a lot of smashed bodies like that. It got after awhile like its second nature. But that's what combat is. That's why it's so horrible and that's why you can't show it in a movie. Take a movie, the worst scene you ever saw and multiply by a thousand and it still isn;t as bad as actually being there. The fright and uncertainty and while this is going on remember, you've got to defend yourself too. You're shooting back. I don't know how many Germans I killed. Six I know for sure that were verified. I'm not bragging. We had a hand grenade fight on a hill. We wiped out 7 machine guns. I don't know how many I got. But I threw all 7 of my grenades in the hole. Another time, it was my time with the bazooka. I fired it into a building and I know they dragged 6 bodies out of there as the building collapsed.
So, you know, I feel bad about those German boys. They were just like me. And when we met them and took some prisoners once in awhile you've got an English speaking prisoner. They didn't like the war any more then we did. They hated Hitler's guts. What could they do? If you said anything, you'd be shot.
Well, it was just like here. They had the authority to shoot any soldier that deserted. And I think they did a couple. I know of one for sure. I'm sure they did. So, it's not fun. That is why we have Memorial Day. We are here in memory of those guys.
Now, I got a lot of metals. I bought some of them. They gave me 18 metals all toll. I got medals from France, from Belgium, from all over. And you know, but I'm not the hero and I want that understood. I know that I'm not and I don't want to be called one. I'm not a hero. Every hero I knew is dead. Those are my heros. And I cry on Memorial Day and I cry on Christmas Eve. I can't help it. And I'll never forget that and you know in a way I'm glad - it makes me feel good. It makes me feel holy. I know I had angels around me all the way. God was with me. I don't know if I was born again or not then. I officially got born again in 1980. But I was always a church goer and I was always honest. I never lied in my life that I know of and I'm not a cheater and I'm not a thief. And I think God took care of me. He's got something for me yet. I don't know what it is, but I am looking forward to it. You know, Genesis 6:3, I believe it is, say 'The time allotted to man shall be 120 years'. I claim it. Why not. I claim it. I claim good health during it too. Somebody has to be the last combat soldier living from World War II. And I claim that. I have a good head start on it because I was one of the youngest in combat. You couldn't be 18 and be in combat in Europe. It's impossible, the war was over before 18 year olds got there. I was 19. So I know I'm one of the youngest. So maybe my wish and dream will come true.
I want to tell you a few more stories. We lived on K-rations out in the field. K-rations come in a box the size of a crackerjacks box. And in that thing there's a different kind of food in a can a little bigger than a can of shoe polish. I'll use that for size. And in there one had meat they called spam, but it wasn't spam. Spam is a lot better than that was. There was that meat in there and one of them had cheese in it. I don't remember what the other one was. There were four all together and the boxes were color coded: red, green, blue and yellow. It depends upon which one you got. And in there was a little package of crackers, 4 cigarettes (I didn't smoke, but I use to trade them), and 4 sheets of toilet paper. And I think there was also a stick r two of chewing gum. And that was what was in a ration. And you had to eat - enjoy. That was it. So, we felt very blessed whenever we had a chance to get hot food. We'd walk miles to get it. They'd set a kitchen up 3 or 4 miles behind the line and somebody would take our place and we got to walk back there and get a hot meal. Once in awhile that happened. Like on Thanksgiving it happened.We got to walk back and it was such a blessing to have that.
During the war or during most of the combat that we saw a lot of it, even on the beach we saw a lot of it. We had a lot of skirmishes. We had a lot of people killed. The first night on the beach, we dug in and the German patrol camp came threw and threw a hand grenade in the hole next to me and he killed both guys in it. And me and a kid by the name of Winzy over in this hole, didn't even hear it. Didn't even know it until morning. We never heard it, we were sound asleep - exhausted. We wouldn't have waken if a train had gone over us. That's how tired we were. So those two were killed. He could have thrown it in our hole. I was so blessed there. The angels were watching over me.
Another time we were walking through the woods and you have to understand - I'm going to tell you what a German automatic pistol is. We called them burp guns because it sounded like a belch. It did - it went buuuuuurp. And when it did that, it'd shoot at least 50 shells. It's the fastest gun ever invented. Still is the fastest gun there ever was. We don't have one today that fast.
So when a German took that thing and raked it - it went like this buuuuurp. There is a bullet every inch or so. I got raked one day with a fella here and one here. We were going through the woods on a skirmish line and you're holding your rifle like this and and you're looking. All of a sudden a German stood up and he went buuuurp right across us. He killed both of those and I didn't get touched. It's impossible. It just cannot happen. Unless an angel had his hand out here and he did. I swear by it. It had to be because that saved my life 100% there.
Another time, I'll tell them about my friend Joe Hruesecky. Joe was a nice Polish lad from Pennsylvania and he cam yo us as a replacement. And he was a joy to be around because he was a total optimist. He pet saying was, "Stick with me, you'll be wearing diamonds". That's what he said all of the time. Somebody would be complaining and he'd say, "Come stick with me, you'll be wearing diamonds". Even when you get out of the army, "Come and see mr, you'll be wearing diamonds". I was standing on this step. Joe was right here and I was talking with him and I turned for a minute to talk to somebody here and we heard this thump, turned around and Joe was gone. A mortar shell apparently it him square on the top of the head and I didn't even feel the concussion. All that was there was a pile of guts and a bare leg on there kicking like this. And there were his dog tag over on the side. I saw a lot of those, but that one hit me real hard because the angel must have had his hand. He must have Pastor, there's no way I could come through all these calls.
I'll tell you the closest thing that I had - well, remember I told you about the shelling that killed 76 of our men in one afternoon. That's the one that took my hearing. There was a concussion grenade that went off. I estimate it was about where the red light is from here because it was right there. I can still feel it if I close my eyes. The concussion knocked us all down and I haven't heard since. But there was no metal in that thing thank goodness. Thank you Lord, or we would all been dead. We were protected over there.
I want to tell you what a German 88 is. A German 88 was the finest gun, they had the best weapons. Remember they started in 1932 building weapons. We started in 1940. Their weapons were better than ours. They had a thing called an 88. Ann 88 is about 31/2 inches. It was the finest gun. They could shoot straight up in the air or straight ahead like a rifle. That's what I ran into the day I got hit for the first time. We were going through the woods and I had a kid by the name of McCarthy with me. A nice Irish lad. Coal black hair, beautiful kid. And he was with me, he was a replacement in our company. And he kind of stayed on my tail like a young puppy because he had never done this before. We were in a skirmish, going through the woods, all of the sudden we walked right into a German tank up there about 100 yards ahead of us. An he had the gun pointed right this way and we heard his holler, "Anslie, Dre, Heil Hitler", BANG that thing went. We hit the ground. That thing came - it had detonated shells on there that would come 200 or 300 yards then explode. And that's what must have hit us above our head or near us. That shell went off and hit McCarthy right between the eyes. Killed him dead. And I caught one in the right arm here - it;s still in there now. A piece of shrapnel, xrays show it is in there and there's no sense in taking it out now. Rip a hole in your hand. When I got hit on that, I thought my arm was gone. You can take a little piece of metal lie that, coming 90,000 miles an hour, burning red hot, and when it hits you, you'd swear someone took a baseball bat like this and hit you. Because that's the way my arm felt. It did. I was afraid to look. I thought my arm was gone. And I looked over at McCarthy and I'm going to tell you one you can tell your grandkids. His hair was pure white. It turned white in 30 seconds. Now I'm telling you this happened. I've talked to some doctors about this and been told they have heard of this before. Anybody says it didn't happen- that's OK- I saw it and it did happen. His hair turned pure white. And when they went to get him, the medics said, "that's not him". He had black hair. And I said, "Yeah, that's him". Isn't that something how things happen. But anyway, there's another case where he got killed and I didn't. We were laying side by side. Angel had his hand out.
They let me take one so I could get a couple days off. I did. I got back, about 3 miles back. I got to sleep on a cot. at night and they sewed me up. And then, about 2 days later they gave me a Blue 88. And I told you what an 88 is. The Army had a pill that would knock you like this and it was blue. They called them blue 88s because they'd knock you out just like their gun would. And what they did was give you a blue 88, put you in a truck and take you up to the front lines. By the time it wore off you were back in combat. Yeah, they did. For a lot of reasons, they had to have experienced people up front.
I was a Private First Class at the time. I made Sergeant three times. In field positions because we kept loosing our leaders and they kept promoting up the rank. I got broke three times by a new Lieutenant who was a real jerk. He was. I still wanted to go back after the war and punch him. It was that bad. This is the kind of guy he was. I've got a note right here, let me read it. The first time we were in a holding pattern, in the Ardens, and like I said it was intensely cold there. And this McGee that I was telling you about, dug a nice big fox hole. We chopped through frozen ground and we got a hole about the size of a table and about that deep. And we put pine bows over it and we put some down in and we could sit down there and kind of cuddle. And we were fairly decent, warm and out of the wind. Quhar comes along, this Lieutenant, and looks and says, "What have we got here?' Well, he says, let's make this the command post and you guys go on up ahead and dig in again'. I looked at McGee and he looked at me and we said "yes sir" and we jumped out of the hole, took our shovels and filled it in and he said "You two are both Privates again." So we said, "OK, that's fine sir". We got our stripes back in about 3 days. Second time he broke me, remember I told you the story of this Joe Hrusecky. Right after Joe got killed we could hear the rumble coming. It was a tank and somebody said there's a tiger coming. The German Tiger is the most feared in the war at that time. And here comes this tiger over the hill. I don't know, 100 yards away and you've got clear vision of him. Quhar says to me, "Kovar, take your bazooka and get up there and kneel and pretend like you're going to shoot him, and maybe that you'll scare him off'. "Me kneel in front of a tiger tank?" I said, "No sir, you do it". "You're a Private." I said, "Fine, hey I'm a Private, but I'm alive." You know this is the kind of guy that we had. I've got to tell you the funny thing about it. McGee told him, "You know, you're a 1st Lieutenant and you have that nice big silver stripe, you should have that painted on your helmet really big so we can see it. When we are in combat we can't see it and we want to be able to take your orders." Oh, he thought this was a good idea. See, the German snipers are just looking for a target like that. I don't know if he ever did it or not, but obviously he didn't because he is alive. He's the kind of guy that puts himself in for the silver star after he became Commander of the company and nobody could stop him. That was his job. He could do that.
While we were in combat I received what I thought was good news. We had already crossed the Rhein River. We took a rope across, some of us. On the other side over there, we could see that the war actually was starting to wind down a little. We would ride on the tanks and when there was any resistance at all, we would jump off the tanks. The tanks line up, lower their guns and everything they can see. That stopped them. That's what I'd like to see them do today to those dogs over there. Level it and stop it so you don't kill one more American soldier. But they don't because Oh my gosh that's inhumane. You know it's better to let our soldiers get killed, that's humane. Anyhow, I called up to the office. The office was an old pill box. He said, "You lucky sun of a gun, you're going home." What me, I'm going home, why? Your appointment to WestPoint came through. I had applied for WestPoint back when I went in the army and my dad and a couple of influential people in town took the ball and started pushing it and they knew Gayle was the congressman at the time.
And Dick appointed me to WestPoint. I was to come home and go to WestPoint. That would get me out of the war and you know I turned it down cold. I said, "No, I don't want to go now, the war is over and I'm going home. I don't want to be in the army any more. I don't want to be in the army and be a career man, which is what you become." So I did turn down WestPoint, which is something.
When the war ended, we were in Austria. We liberated 3 concentration camps and they were horror camps. The picture that was there was so humble. When we walked through the door, the thing we saw was a bunch of sticks with heads on them. And we did't know what to make of that until we got closer, we could see it was human beings that weighed about 15-20 pounds, that were just barely alive and were standing there just like this. Everybody in those camps were completely start naked and there were piles of dead bodies that were piled up so high that you couldn't do that with a bulldozer. I don't know how they got there. Thousands and thousands and thousands of dead bodies laying everywhere. They did't even have enough courtesy to bury them. They murdered them. They gassed them. They starved them. They made them jump off what they called no-parachute hills. No parachute, they jump off the hill or else you get stabbed to death. Most of them chose to jump. Just a wonderful group of people they were. That Hitler and his group. The insanity there was just hard to believe. If God hadn't been on our side, my were we in trouble. God saved me there in a lot of things too.
Eisenhower came into camp. He made the Burgomaster, which is the mayor of every town to bring all the people from the town out and all the wives and some of the wives were Nazi wives, high heels, coiffures, and they looked at this with their noses in the air. They looked at these bodies. Eisenhower gave them orders for them to carry the dead, one at a time over to the burial place. We stood there. Yes, we stood there with our bayonets. He ordered us to put bayonets on these men. If they get out of line, stab them, put them in the hole. And you know what, can you imagine these haughty women picking up these bodies. He made them do it. And after awhile, after they carried them, they were all muddy and dirty. And it was wonderful to see that. And then they all claimed that they didn't know what was going on in those camps. Well, you know, who all has been over in Wisconsin, by the saw mills? Who's been over there? Well when you get within 20 miles of there, the smell is terrible. Isn't it? From that rotting wood. That's the way those bodies must have smelled. And they say they couldn't smell it and didn't know what was going on. They were lying. So we liberated 3 of those camps.
Then we got into Austria as the war was winding down. Everyone of us went into a town called Linz. There's two towns there. One of them had an equivalent of WestPoint and they had the big building and everything in it. We got to move into that building and sleep in those beds and stuff for about a week or two. And everyone of us was appointed one German prisoner to act as our personal butler, waiter, to use him for anything that you want, servant. I got the Austrian chess champion and he spoke very fluent English and he told us all about his chess playing and everything and how he hated the army. He taught us all a better game of chess. He could play 100 games at a time and win them all. He told us he had all his trophies that were gold and silver buried in his yard at home because otherwise the Nazis would grab all the metal they could get. So that was an interesting thing.
So we went down a little bit farther than that and we met the Russians over at the Elbe River. We had all kinds of trades with them. It was the craziest thing that you ever saw. They were like a bunch of little kids. If they had a jeep, you could get it from them for 10 cents, but they would tape the horn down just to hear it blow until the battery was dead. That's the way they were. That was their mentality. They put a net across the river which they did. They went upstream, dropped the hand grenades in and took the fish out of the net. Now that wasn't so dumb. It was good way to fish and get a lot of fish. And they love fish. And we had a lot of fun with them. We made a lot of trades with them. I must have had 30 or 40 guns, like some of these I have here like this Luger. We traded them and sold them to the Russians and our own Air Force guys who had no chance to get any weapons. They came in and gave us $200-$300 for a pistol. So, we made a few bucks doing that.
This Luger here, I followed a German Colonel when we were in town. He ran down this basement and I ran right down after him. I was going to get him and he shot himself in the head right before I got to him. He committed suicide. I took his pistol out of his hand and then I took the case off his belt. That's one of my trophies that I just prize. This gun is a 9mm Lugger and it's much more valuable that a 7mm. I just love that fun. But that's how I got that gun.
This is a German was helmet, right off a soldier in the field, if nobody has ever seen one. It's made out of steel, the same as ours. They're heavy.
I have two more things to tell. When we were in Normandy, right after we hit the beaches, they have what they call "Hedge Rows" there. Now you know what those are don't you? Those are boundaries between the different grape farms that have been built over thousand of years, literally thousands of years old. Those bushes have grown up until they are just like big trees and they piled rocks on top of them. Couldn't go through there. But on the other side would be Germans and we could see them running along that line. So we were using things like "click, click,click" When you're going along, which we did all the time and you saw movement on the other side of that thing, you "click, click, click" and you waited and if you didn't hear 3 clicks back, you would shoot your rifle in there. You tried to kill whatever it was, because we were the only ones that had these issued. The Germans didn't know we had them or they would have copied them I'm sure. "Click" and that saved a lot of lives because if you clicked the clicker you know it was your people here.
I am going to tell you about Christmas Eve. When we were in the "Battle of the Bulge", nothing is more lonely than Christmas Eve if you are alone. Nothing can be more lonely than that.. I cant't think of anything that is. Anyhow, McGee and I are in our foxhole and we were in what you would call a holding pattern and the hill kind of went down and it was kind of glistening from a little bit of moonlight on it so you could see a little. And down at the bottom of the hill was a huge woods and it was full of German soldiers. Almost as if on a queue, I don't even know what time it was-maybe 8 or 9 o'clock, I don't know, but it was black out. The shooting stopped everywhere. We couldn't even hear a bomb 10 miles away or anything going on. It got so silent as if a truce had been called and nobody knew about it. And the night got Holy. And McGee and I were crying anyhow. We were thinking about the fun everybody was having at home. All of a sudden we heard the German soldiers start singing "O' Tannenbaum" their "O' Christmas Tree" or whatever that is. And they sang the song through and we just listened to them and it was just wonderful and then they sang "Silent Night". And you talk about a holy feeling. We were in the tabernacle, let me tell you. We looked at each other and we were just like babies there. It was so heavenly. I know there were angels in the foxhole with me again. I know that. And they sang that song and there was silence again for maybe an hour and then the war broke out again. The shelling started and we were back in business. That night, up until a few years ago, I couldn't tell it without breaking up. I used to just sob when I would tell it. I've finally gotten to the point after 65 or 64 years where I can tell it. But what a night that was. What a night that was.
Anyway I want to tell you just a couple more things and then I's through. When the was ended, we had a point system to come home on. If you had 70 points you left for home almost immediately. Now you got a point for every month in the service, 2 points for every month overseas and 5 points for every medal that you had won. I had 69 points. Yes, I did. I really had 79 because I had 2 more bronze start that I didn't know I had. They were awarded to me and I've got the papers at home, the War Department issued me. They are predated ahead of that so I know I had them in February, March of that year and I didn't know it. So I had to spend another 6 months. We spent most of it on the Riviera in Southern France. Me and a kid from Philadelphia played cribbage. We figured we played over 3000 games. It's all we did. They couldn't make us do any drills or KP or anything. Try to tell a combat veteran, "You have to go peel potatoes" and it was some kid that just came over, some little lieutenant that didn't even shave and he was going to tell us that. So No Way were we going to do those menial tasks and close order drills after being in combat. We weren't about to take orders from a "shavetail" (a young lieutenant with no experience). Then finally our ship came. It was a liberty ship. The liberty ship was like a cork out on the ocean. 290 feet long and on the ocean that is a cork. We hit the worst storm the captain said he's seen when we came out of the Straits of Gibraltar there. What do they call that - The Gates of Hercules. When we hit that the ocean was rolling 50 foot waves. There was an aircraft carrier tight next to us and some guy got washed overboard. They didn't even try to turn around and get him, they couldn't or they would have lost the boat. So we sailed for home. When we finally, it was Christmas Eve, OK it was Christmas Eve when we saw the lights of Virginia Beach. I may cry yet. Wow, what a feeling. It is just like seeing the flag.
Anyway from there we came home. We came home real quickly. They got us out of the army. We got our time in, we were blessed. I want to see everyone here blessed the same way. We need to keep America free to do that.
Remember that. We have to do what's necessary. Sometimes, I'm not making political. I'm not endorsing anything, but I do say this that we have to support those guys and women that are over there now. Whether you like the war or not, I don't like it either, but we've got to support them and get them home. And that's the main thing we need to do.