Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Schuylkill County World War Two Soldier and Sailor Combat Stories

WW2 Photos....

In todays blog I am including more stories from the Pottsville Journal during World War 2. They will consentrate on infantrymen and sailors in combat. We must remember to write these men and women back into history, their stories cannot be forgotten.

Frackville Soldier Helps Maintain Repeater Site.
January 1945

Armed only with carbines, while German 88 shells whined overhead and the enemy encircled their installations, operators of the U.S. Army Signal Corps repeater station on a vital communications line in Belgium stuck to their posts at the height of a Nazi counter attack. Among these soldiers who were later rescued by an American infantry platoon and unit of tank destroyers was Sgt. Vincent Banonas, of Frackville. “We had heard the increasing noise of the 88’s fire and the enemy planes had been after us a time or two, but we were busy and someone had to operate the repeater station, “ Sgt. Banonas said. “ When we received orders to abandon the installation, taking some equipment with us on a truck and destroying the rest, only one road was open, and the platoon of infantry and tank destroyers had just cleared that.” Before entering the service in December 1942 Sgt. Banonas was an inspector in the factory of the City Shirt Company Frackville. In December 1943 he came overseas to England, and in July 1944 landed in France.

Mess Sergeant Helps Evacuate Hospital
January 1945

Tech Sgt. William F Stephenson, Pottsville a mess Sgt. With the 130th General Hospital in Belgium, was one of the volunteers selected to keep that institution in operation during the recent German offensive. When allied and enemy gun fire threatened the safety of the patients, Col earnest H. Parsons commanding officer ordered all communications stopped, patents evacuated and the hospital stripped to bare operating necessities and called for battlefield casualties. Nine doctors and 33 enlisted men, cooks and maintenance men comprised the volunteers. On Christmas Day in the center of hotly contested territory Stephenson’s staff of cooks prepared a turkey dinner for the hospital personnel patients and invited some tank and infantry soldiers from a nearby field. “They were the most surprised men I ever seen,’ Said Stephenson. “No one ever expected a General Hospital to operate in the middle of a battlefield.” During the emergency he doubled as a litter bearers, and a shock team aid.

Frackville Marine Receives Bronze Star For Heroism.
January 1945

Somewhere in the Pacific Marine Corps Corp. Weldon J. Rupert of Frackville was presented with the Bronze Star at A Pacific base. Rupert bravely drove some heavy equipment to the front lines on Saipan and Tinian despite being subjected to heavy enemy fire.
Rupert a member of an engineering company of the Fourth Marine Division enlisted d in June of 1942. A former truck driver he has served with the Fourth Marines Division during both the Marshalls and Marianas Campaign.
His Citation Reads:
“For meritorious achievement in action against the enemy on Saipan and Tinian, from June 15 to August 1, 1944. As a driver of a truck crane and heavy machinery trailer combination, Rupert was constantly engaged in hauling heavy equipment, particularly large bulldozers to urgent the front line engineering projects. Despite the difficult terrain, bad roads and the excellent target which the equipment presented to frequent heavy enemy fire, he disregarded his own safety in order to accomplish his hazardous missions. His unusual ability and imitative, courage and tireless energy were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Army Nurse from Pottsville Sick in Hospital.
January 1945
Lieut. Margaret Cake, of the Army Nursing Corps, one of the first Army nurses to land in France after the invasion, and who has been on duty with the Armed Forces in France and Germany is now a patient at a General Hospital in England suffering from infectious jaundice. Lt. Cake was taken from Germany and moved to a base hospital in Belgium before leaving by plane to England on December 31.
Lt. Cake and her husband Jack, VanGundy, also an officer in the Medical Corps were in the same medical unit in France and Germany.
Lt. Cake hopes to return to her unit after a rest of six weeks.

Landing In Leyte

Mary D Soldier sees heavy fighting on Leyte, PI.
January 1945.
One of the longest combat records of this war was made by the 12th Cavalry regiment 1st Cavalry Division of which PFC Louis P. Zalusky, of Mary D is a member. Landing on D Day on Leyte, his regiment struck off through the swamps and rice paddies, meeting little opposition as they went. Then the regiment went up into the mountains where resistance was often fierce and prolonged. For days the weary mud covered soldiers plodded forward hacking their own way across jungle covered ridges. Often food was dropped to them men by airplane. At other times it was carried on the backs of men who had to fight at the same time, Pvt. Zalusky is a Browning Automatic Rifle man in a troop which fired upon almost point blank by a Jap field piece. There Pvt. Zalusky had plenty of opportunity to use his rifle against the well dug in Japs. Despite these many difficulties, on the seventy second day on Leyte, the regiment reached the opposite shore of Leyte, having fought their way completely across the island.

Fighting in the Mountains of Italy

Port Carbon Soldier Under Fire while resupplying the Infantry.
January 1945

Corporal Lewis Madenfort, Port Carbon helped carry vitally needed rations, water and ammunition to a unit of the 349th “Kraut killer” regiment, 88th Division “Blue Devils” while fighting in the Apennine Mountains on the fifth army front in Northern Italy recently. Members of the carrying party, with the heavy supplies on their backs, followed the doughboys as they pried the fanatical Germans from the heights. One of their toughest assignments was scaling jagged Mt. LaFine, where the doughboys had exhausted their food and ammunition. As the troops fought it out on one side of the peak, the supply men were dodging mortar and artillery fire while scaling the other side.

Editors Note:
From the 88th History
(Moving up the "Blue Devils" concentrated in the San Piero area north of the Sieve River and prepared to go in on the Corps right flank, on the right of the 85th and passing through units of that division. The 349th and 350th went into assault positions during the night of 20-21 September and kicked off against the Gothic Line at 0500 hours on the 21st - the 351st being held in reserve.
Comparatively light resistance, encountered in the first few hours when the 349th took Mt. Frena by a surprising flanking movement, stiffened as the day and advance progressed. Early on the 22nd, the 1st Battalion, 350th, command post was raided and Lt. Col. Walter E. Bare, Jr., and all of his staff except the S-2 were taken prisoner along with operations maps and journals. This occurrence did not materially hamper the advance, however, and other favorable gains were made during the morning.
By 1700 hours on the 23rd, the 349th had taken Mt. La Fine, a commanding terrain feature, and beaten off three Kraut counterattacks -- one of which was of two-battalion strength which had been forming in a valley until smashed by accurate and heavy 337th and corps artillery concentrations. )

Pottsville Chaplain Dean Stevenson, Captures four German Soldiers. February 1945
Four German soldiers surrendered to Chaplain Dean Stevenson a Pottsville native on the Fifth Army front in Northern Italy recently. Stevenson who serves in the 91st “Powder River” Division was driving along a road when two Nazis appeared brandishing white flags. He stopped, loaded them into his jeep and turned them over to the POW enclosure. On another occasion, Stevenson entered a barn looking for a wounded American soldier. Instead he found three “jerries” two of them wounded. The wounded pair surrendered, the third escaped. Chaplain Stevenson was assistant pastor of the church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, for three years before he entered the army
Schuylkill Haven Soldier Earns Bronze Star for Bravery
February 1945
Tech 5 Lewis D. Krammes, of Schuylkill Haven. Has been awarded the Bronze Star for heroic achievements in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States in France on November 9th 1944. The citation reads :
“During the attack on Moyenvic, France, on November 9, 1944, Company A, 101st Engineer Combat Battalion, advanced on the town, swept the roads for mines, and constructed a footbridge top facilitate the progress of our infantry units. Enemy fire caused many casualties. T5 Krammes, Company a aid man, in utter disregard for his own safety and under strong enemy artillery fire went about rendering efficient first aid to the wounded and dressing numerous wounds. Later, though not called on to do so, he entered the town of Moyenvic which was being intermittently shelled and administered first aid to the wounded infantrymen, and organized their evacuation to the battalion aid station. His initiative, his unusual devotion top duty, and his commendable solicitude for his wounded comrades reflects high credit upon Tech 5 Krammes and the Armed Forces of the United States.

Mt Fighting In Italy

Minersville Soldier Earns Bronze Star For Bravery
February 1945
Pvt. Peter P. Bertasavage, Minersville recently was awarded the Bronze Star for heroic achievement in action in Northern Italy. He serves in the 168th Infantry regiment of the 34th “Red Bull” Division. When communication wires were broken by German artillery fire during an attack on a key town, Bertasavage and a comrade volunteered to lay new wire and maintain it during the action. Although repeatedly told by battalion commander to seek safety, they remained exposed for more than three hours until the mission was completed.

DSC Awarded to New Philadelphia Squad Leader…………… February 1945
Because Sgt. Peter Armstrong of New Phila, moved his heavy 30 caliber machinegun unaided to within 15 yards of Japanese position and enabled his platoon to disperse and knock out the position, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the commanding General of the 10th Corps.
Sgt. Armstrong is a squad leader in machine gun platoon of the 1st Cavalry Division now fighting in Leyte. He landed in one of the first waves to hit Leyte. And also participated in the Samar invasion. He was awarded the DFC for action during the Admirality Islands Campaign early in 1944. During an advance on Japanese positions his unit suddenly received vicious fire from enemy machine guns and small arms, from hidden positions. One of the gunners in his squad was wounded so Armstrong, also wounded, seized the machine gun and carried it into the face of the enemy to a spot where he could do material damage to the japes. His heroism enabled his platoon to place mortar fire which eliminate the Jap position.
His family was notified in April that he was wounded March 19 on Manus Island, of the Admiralty Group, in the South Pacific. The telegram stated his wounds were slight.

Distinguished Service Cross
a. The Distinguished Service Cross, section 3742, title 10, United States Code (10 USC 3742), was established by Act of Congress 9 July 1918 (amended by act of 25 July 1963).
b. The Distinguished Service Cross is awarded to a person who while serving in any capacity with the Army, distinguished himself or herself by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor; while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing or foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing Armed Force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.

The German Soldiers in the Field

Mt. Carbon Soldier tells of Narrow Escape From Germans
February 1945
Corporal James W. Ebling, Mt. Carbon, who is serving with the American forces in Belgium, wrote an interesting letter to Tom Dee, of Mt. Carbon, telling of a narrow escape from the Germans.
“My buddy and I had quite an experience which we will never forget, “he wrote, “This incident occurred near the Siegfried Line about three weeks ago, (the letter was written on January 1, 1945). Somehow we got trapped in our fighting hole by the jerries. No possible means to escape except to wait for darkness. The Germans moved in on us before we realized what had happened. We huddled in our hole sweating the hours which seemed like days. The night was foggy, damp and rain fell continuously. We had no sense of direction and we had no compass. We could see the Germans walk past our hole and we watched and we waited for one of them to look in and see us. I will never know why none of them ever looked in. I knew God was with us every minute of the day. As we waited patiently for darkness we were afraid to smoke or even move a muscle. We had one K ration between us and we shared it. And it tasted just like a chicken dinner with all trimmings. As the hours passed slowly we could hear various pieces of equipment moving, also the boom of guns and whistling of shells. We prayed that one would not hit our hole.
As my buddy and I lay huddled in our hole afraid even to talk. I thought of a lot of things I did in the past and prayed that God would see us through. About 2 a.m. we decided to make a break for our lines. With artillery as our only guide we started across no mans land. We left behind everything except the clothes we needed to wear. We were unarmed, hoping if we ran into any Germans they would give us have a chance of coming in alive. We walked as fast and quietly as possible, going through mud and water, snow and rain; crawled through barbed wire and hedges until we ran into a heavy machine gun emplacement of our own. We were never so glad to see an American soldier. I have sent home a Purple Heart from a wound received on the left arm from apiece of shrapnel, It was only a small cut.

U.S.S. Reid

Pottsville Naval Officer Survives Sinking of Destroyer U.S.S. Reid
January 1945

Unharmed crew members struggling in Pacific Water off Leyte after U.S. Destroyer Reid sank December 11, performed just as American T4adition demanded, shouted cries for help for wounded fellow sailors and forgot their own troubles.
Lieut. Wayne F. Haviland is the Chief engineer of the Reid, he was one of those who struggled in the water for more than a half an hour after Japanese planes scored three direct hits on the destroyer and sank it within a short time.
“The attack off Leyte was nothing new for the Reid, “ He declares, “We had been under air attacks before but our gunners were good, our crew and engineering gang were the finest, opur morale was the best.”
“we were steaming full speed with guns blazing when the attack occurred.” Lieut. Haviland relates, “Some 10 or 11 Jap planes came in and we exacted a heavy toll before the bomb hits splashed across their mark. Even when the anti aircraft crews continued firing with water up to their waists.”
The local officer climbed up on the side of the ship, jumped off and swam swiftly away to avoid wreckage suction. A strafing Jap planes splashed bullets across the water among the struggling victims before it to was downed.
“There was no example of panic,” Lieut. Haviland says, “I heard no shouts of any kind except those directing the rescue crews to wounded men. The rescue work was efficient and I wasn’t in the water more than a half hour, though it seemed a great deal longer of course.”
The life and death of the 1480 ton destroyer of the Mahan class commissioned in 1930, reads like the hero ship of Noel Coward’s “In Which We Serve’s. which saw extensive action before its destruction.
The Reid participated in a bombardment of Kiska, operated during the hot days of Guadalcanal and underwent air attacks in sorties in the Coral Sea. It also operated in the New Guinea campaign, and captured a Jap vice admiral’s flag at Holianda.
Lieut. Haviland graduated from Pottsville High School in 1934 and Lehigh University in 1938. He enlisted and was commissioned an ensign in July 1942. He had been the chief engineer of the Reid for the past year and a half.

Editors Note:
In the summer of 1944 the REID returned briefly to Pearl Harbor, before rejoining the Seventh Fleet and MacArthur's return to the Philippines at Leyte. The Japanese defense of Leyte was intense by air and by sea. The last major naval engagement in the Pacific was fought in the Leyte Gulf when the Japanese marshaled its remaining warships in a showdown battle. The decisive defeat in this battle rendered the Japanese Navy ineffective for the remainder of the war.
But the Japanese still had an awesome and increasingly effective weapon remaining: the Kamikaze or suicide plane. The U.S. Navy acknowledged that "if the [suicide] plane is not shot down or so severely damaged that its control is impaired, it almost certainly will hit its target."
In the REID's final two weeks in the waters around Leyte, the crew was able to sleep only an hour or two at a time. They were called to battle stations (condition red) an average of 10 times a day. It was a period of near constant combat.
In her final hours on December 11, the REID was protecting a re-supply force of amphibious craft bound for Ormoc Bay off the west coast of Leyte. About 1700 twelve enemy planes approached the convoy. The REID was the nearest ship to the oncoming planes. Planes 1 and 2 were shot down by the 5" battery. Plane 3 exploded about 500 yards off the starboard beam. Plane 4 hooked a wing on the starboard rigging, crashing at the waterline. His bomb exploded, doing considerable damage forward. Plane 5 strafed the starboard side and crashed on the port bow. Plane 6 strafed the bridge from the port side and crashed off the starboard bow. Planes 5 and 6 apparently had no bombs or they were duds. Plane 7 came in from astern strafing and crashed into the port quarter. His bomb exploded in the after magazine blowing the ship apart. All this action took place in less than a minute.
The ship was mortally wounded but still doing 20 knots. As the stern opened up, she rolled violently, then laid over on her starboard side and dove to the bottom at 600 fathoms. It was over in less than two minutes. 103 shipmates went down with her. The survivors were strafed in the water by Japanese planes before rescue.
The Record
The REID was in the war from the very first day at Pearl Harbor. She participated in 13 amphibious landings, 18 shore bombardments, shot down 12 enemy planes, sank one submarine, captured eight Japanese prisoners, steamed over 220,000 miles and expended over 10,000 rounds of 5" projectiles.
The USS REID DD-369 was a 1500 ton destroyer of the MAHAN class, 341' in length and almost 35' in the beam. She was originally fitted out with five 5" dual purpose guns, 50 cal. machine guns and 12 torpedo tubes. Later, one 5" gun was traded for twin mounted 40mm guns and the machine guns gave way to 20mm guns. A crew of 168 put the REID into commission, 268 were aboard when she went down, of whom 165 survived.

The Greatest Experience of His Life
January 1945

With three of his tanks destroyed in battle following the Normandy invasion on historic D-Day T/5 Melvin C. Lewis, 30 of Pottsville has recovered from his wounds received in July 1944. Lewis has returned to the United States after serving a year in the European theatre of operations. As a reward for his bravery he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. He also has the Purple Heart award, European-African Middle Eastern campaign ribbon with three battle stars.
Lewis was a tank retriever. His job was to salvage American tanks that had been disabled by dragging them away with one he was operating. He received the Bronze star award as a token of recapturing a tank from the Germans. Later Lewis drove tanks into battle. But operating them was nothing new for him. Before the war he was a tank test driver for the U.S. Army. Lewis participated in D Day invasion in an LST boat, which departed from England. He said he was slightly sea sick. The enormous amount of men, equipment and supplies that he saw bewildered him. “It was the greatest experience of my life.” He confided.

German Soldiers in Action

Local Soldier Helped To Beat Off Nazi Drive.
April 10, 1944

With the Fifth Army Italy, A small force of German Infantry men recently filtered behind the left flank defenses of the Allied Fifth Army’s Third Division in the Cisterna sector in an effort to soften up resistance and pave the way for a major frontal assault. The operation failed, but the fighting which was among the bitterest to take place on the beachhead, lasted over 12 hours.
A member of the company who, together with his buddies shared the brunt of the flank attack and finally turned it into a costly setback for the enemy is Private George Hartstein, Pottsville. An infantry rifleman who has been with the division through the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and finally with the 3rd Division regiment that spearheaded the landing s on this beach head.
The German infiltrations, which constituted a striking force of some 50 men, were spotted by artillery observers further in the rear. They immediately notified and alerted the company. Most of the frontline riflemen fell back to cope with the sudden threat to the stability of their position, but the element of coordination was not lacking in the German Strategy. At that moment Tiger Tanks came roaring down the road just left of the company;\’s flank, firing into the small barricaded farm houses along their lines, which were used as combination artillery Ops and sleeping quarters for some of the men of various platoons.
The tanks, which had clear coasting and firing for the first 15 minutes, suddenly caught a blasting barrage of heavy artillery, together with mortars and 75s and drove them back, one tank catching fire and stalling about 70 yards up the macadam road.
“We have three machine guns raking the road and they blasted every kraut that climbed out of the tank.” Harstein Said. “What’s more , that tank was a godsend. It blocked the road and the other tanks wouldn’t veer into the field because they knew we had it mined.”
Meantime, the German company in the rear was virtually encircled and had taken refuge in an irrigation ditch. Every time they attempted to fight their way out they were driven back by withering automatic weapons and rifle fire, and finally decided to establish a temporary defense in the ditch and hold it until their infantry units broke through and rescued them.
About 11:30 after the enemy tanks had succeeded in leveling everyone of the company farm houses and killing some of the men who were in them, German artillery threw smoke shells all along the Fifth Army company’s forward line while half tracks came down the road carrying cargoes of troops, unloading them 200 yards in front of our own defenses. Many of them stepped on mines and perished instantly in the explosions that followed s, while mortars and artillery continued to fire into their ranks, inflicting many casualties and successfully breaking the back of the assault.
“Five krauts got into the draw just in front of one of our machine guns, the hard hitting infantryman said, “and the gunner had to drive them out with hand grenades before he was able to use the machine gun on them. He got everyone of them at point blank range of 25 feet.”
“At 3:30 in the afternoon riflemen got up within grenade throwing distance of the entrapped Germans and tossed two grenades into the ditch before they surrendered. Ten were dead, and the others were injured and fiercely beaten.”
By sundown under an intensified hammering from mortars and artillery and searing machine gun fire, the German armored vehicles and remaining infantrymen retreated in to their own second lines of defense. The attack was over. Strewn over the battlefield were numerous charred and riddled bodies and scattered limbs. The road was hazed over with smoke from a smoldering tank and two half tracks.
“They told us we killed and wounded over 50 percent of their entire attacking force.” Harstein declared, “and we captured many of them. The next day we watched the Kraut litter bearers spend all morning picking up their dead.”

New Philadelphia Youth Missing in Italian Sector
March 1944

Private Martin P. Toomey, 19 from New Philadelphia is reported missing in action since January 30, 1944 in Italy.
Toomey is an infantryman attached to a famous Ranger unit, It is believed he was one of 900 rangers who were caught in a trap above the Anzio beachhead, near Rome. Toomey was a buddy of PFC Joseph Alabek of New Phila. Who is also listed as missing in the same area. The two soldiers left New Phila together to enter the service, were assigned tot eh same camps, went overseas together, both received Holy Communion in Italy on Christmas morning and both were reported lost since January 30.
Pvt. Toomey entered the service March 30, 1943.

Pottsville Soldier Earns the Silver Star
March 1944

Technical Sgt. George L, Harvey, 27 from Pottsville has been awarded the Silver Star for heroic action during the invasion of Italy. Technical Sgt. Harvey risked his life to help save the lives of American sailors when their ship was bombed by enemy planes while unloading cargo at an unidentified port in Italy. Harvey helped pull out sailors blown into the water until he was knocked unconscious when he struck his head against the side of a ship while swimming toward shore with a wounded sailor. He was revived on the beach and rejoined the soldiers in the rescue work.
Harvey entered the service in May 1940, and was assigned to the Army Air Corps as a mechanic. He left for overseas in May 1942 and was stationed in England until the invasion of North Africa. Following the campaign in Africa he went into Italy.

Two Pottsville Brothers Meet Overseas.
April 1944

Weathering storms and U boats in the Atlantic Ocean, fighting of a night attack by Nazi fighters in the Mediterranean Sea, climaxed by a reunion with a wounded brother at a base hospital somewhere in Italy, are some of the thrilling incidents experienced by Seaman First Class Reynold Davis of Pottsville.
A member of a gun crew aboard a ship carrying vital supplies to our fighting men, he was at sea for four months. The most thrilling part of the trip was meeting his brother whom he had not seen for more than six years. Technical Sgt. Robert Davis, the brother, was wounded in action in North Africa and was recuperating at a hospital in Italy.
“After learning from an M.P. that my brother’s unit was located a few miles away from the port in which we landed. I received permission to try and find him,” Reynold said. “When I located the outfit they told me he was at the hospital. Bob was up out of bed and doing some chores when I came up on him. I walked up cautiously and tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hiya Bud” when he turned around and saw me he almost fainted.”
The two brothers spent a five day furlough together seeing the sights of Italy.
Bob told his brother he was wounded in North Africa when his unit was caught in a trap by the Germans and they had to make a run for it. It was every man for himself. While running he was hit in the left leg by several machine gun bullets but kept on running. Then there was a hollow thud and the next thing he remembered was being lifted on a stretcher. He had been hit by shrapnel in the other leg and forehead. He gave his brother a souvenir which he prized greatly, a carton of cigarettes with a piece of shrapnel lodged in one of the packs of cigarettes.
Bob was carrying the carton of Cigarettes in the pack on his back. The jagged pieces of shrapnel went through the pack and ripped through nine packs of cigarettes and lodged in his pack. The cigarettes saved his life. He has fully recovered from his wounds in both legs but is expected to undergo an operation for the shrapnel lodged in his head.
The adventure experienced by Reynold on his first trip is one he will never forget. He visited eight ports including one in the Caribbean area, before leaving his cargo in Italy. The convoy fought off attacks by U-Boats. He was later told that according to a British report two enemy U-Boats were sunk. Upon reaching the Rock of Gibraltar the convoy was escorted into the Med. By English corvettes. On February 7, the Germans made another attempt to sink the convoy, this time sending as swarms of fighters and bombers. “The attack was expected” Reynold said, “and we were all set for them when they came over. It was about seven o’clock in the evening when they came over. Our fighter protection consisting of Spitfires, was in the air all afternoon, and went after the Germans as soon as they spotted them. I was manning a 20 mm gun during the fight. The attack lasted well into the night and both sides scored hits. I saw one enemy plane just off our port bow disintegrate in a huge ball of smoke and flame. Another plane could be seen falling in the darkness leaving a trail of fire behind it. No bombs struck our ship but a ship not more than 200 yards away was hit. In the darkness we were unable to see the attacking planes but kept firing to put up a protective barrage. The Nazi method of attack was to send in planes at low height to strafe our ship and draw our attention from the bombers which flew at great height.
The convoy got through safely and we unloaded at a port in Italy and after seeing my brother I was glad to head home, “ He said. “ The air attack was two days before my wedding anniversary and was my baptism of fire.
The greater part of the journey home was made in bad weather. Although to an experienced sailor it is heaven against U-Boat attacks. Reynold expressed greatest admiration for his captain, a typical sea veteran who has been at sea for forty years and during World War 1 had been torpedoed several times and under fire scores of times. The captain wears an old battered Navy cap which is all he managed to salvage after a torpedoing and will not part with it for love or money. Seam Davis said it’s a pleasure to serve under him.
Seaman Reynold entered the Navy September ,1943, he was assigned to an armed guard unit and went to sea in January, There is also a third brother in the service a member of the Merchant Marine.

Tower City Soldier Spent Several Terrifying Hours in A Castle In Italy.
April 1944

Enduring American and German artillery by night and Yankee dive bombers attacks by day Staff Sgt. Alex McCammon, 27 of Tower City spent several hours in an ancient castle on the Fifth Army front in Northern Italy.
McCammon a squad leader and seven comrades from the 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th “Red Bull” Division were trapped in the castle after they wrested the strongpoint from the Nazis in a daring assault through withering machine gun and artillery fire. McCammons men gained entrance to the castle by crawling through a waist wide breach in the lofty, sturdy wall which surrounded it. Inside they were confronted by more than 20 hysterical Italian men, women and children who had converted the building into a shelter against air attacks and shelling.
During the night the enemy shelling was augmented by terrifying artillery and rocket fire from American positions. Some of the men suffered minor injuries from falling stones, timber and plaster.
“We couldn’t blame our artillery for shelling us, because they thought we had been captured.” McCammon said.
Early the next morning American dive bombers attacked the castle and its solid walls cracked from the violent concussions. Both sides unleashed furious artillery barrages. In the morning the American troops approached the castle.
McCammon said, “We almost mistook them for Krauts, Boy I was never so happy to see anyone in all my life. All of us had given up hope of ever getting out alive.”

Editors Note:
The 133rd Regiment was instrumental in the fight for the Cassino.
.1 The Regiment occupied positions in preparation for the attack across the Rapido river to Cassino. Cassino was extremely well fortified, the enemy skillfully employing the terrain features to best advantage.
Jan 24 - Feb. 21, 1944 The Battle for Cassino. The Regiment played a leading role in this famous battle which was one of the toughest of the war. There were many cases of outstanding valor and the fierceness of the battle can be gauged by the over 50% casualties suffered by the three Battalions.

Minersville Soldier Makes a Strange Capture.

Pvt. Daniel Weiderhold of Minersville, captured a German who literally pulled his leg on the Fifth Army Front in Italy recently. Weiderhold serves in Company L, 362nd Infantry regiment of the 91st Powder River” Division. Behind a bank in a prone position, he was scanning the area to his front when he felt a tug on his foot. He paid no attention until the tug was repeated. Turning around he saw behind him a 6 foot Jerry, cradling an automatic pistol in his arms. The Nazi gave an embossed grin and Weiderhold escorted his prisoner to the rear. “I guess he was just tired of the whole works” said Weiderhold, whose home is on Twin St. Minersville.

Tower City Soldier Awarded Medal for Heroic Achievement
March 1944

Corporal Walter P. Kauffman, Tower City was recently awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Heroic Achievement in action on the Fifth Army Front in Italy. The action for which the Corporal was decorated took place in the vicinity of Mount Trocchio on January 21 and 22, 1944. Kaufman a range Corporal in an anti aircraft battalion fighting under ll Corps, was in an assembly area prior to an attempted crossing of the Rapido River, when the unit was heavily shelled by the enemy, causing the death of one man and the wounding of several others.
Although slightly wounded himself, Kaufman declined medical attention until assured all others had been treated. Refusing to be evacuated, he proceeded to the river with his battalion and assisted in digging gun emplacements. Not until the following morning and upon orders from his superior officer did he leave the area. Kaufman already wears the Purple Heart Medal for combat wounds.

Minersville Soldier Keeps the Army Moving
February 1945

Sgt. Joseph Sitkus of Minersville is serving with the Fifth Army on the Italian Front. Recently during a blizzard Sgt. Sitkus was a very busy man. He wheeled his ten ton wrecker up and down the Futa Pass, the snow basket of the Appenines, helping tanks up and down the steep grades, a nudge here, a shove there. He picked up 15 disabled vehicles in his four mile beat and towed them back to a snow post.

PT Boat on the Move

A Gunner On A PT Boat
February 1945

Southwest Pacific Area. Feb 8, 1945 Blazing away almost simultaneously to the right and left at enemy luggers west of Cebu Island in the Central PI, a Seventh Fleet PT destroyed four of the small enemy coastal freighters in a running moonlit night battle December 29.
At his battle station the 37 mm cannon, aboard PT 190 was Joseph Robert Dallago, 19 a Gunners Mate third class, USNR from Schuylkill Haven.

“To Dallago and his mates aboard the “Jack of Diamonds” the action wasn’t something new. Their boat is a veteran of the battle of South Leyte Gulf. In the fight they were under the gunfire of a Jap battleship, several cruisers and destroyers.
In the latest action the PT patrol made a clean sweep of a Nip inter Island convoy. Closing to a few hundred yards, they poured steel and incendiaries into the largest lugger until it caught fire.
The Jap crews returned the fire but were no match for the speedy PT’s. When Dallago’s boat came around to make a run on the second freighter, a third was detected on their port side. Gunners shot up one and then whirled their guns around to bear on the other.
Bothe were left dead in the water. Meanwhile the remaining Nip ship was racing off in a vain attempt to escape. At full throttle the PT took chase. Under light gunfire from the enemy craft two strafing runs sufficed to set the lugger ablaze and leave it sinking in the water.
The entire enemy convoy had been destroyed. A few small bullet holes in the PT was the only damage suffered.
Dallago enlisted in the naval reserve Nov. 17, 1943. He has been in the South west Pacific area for four months and has participated in 16 combat patrols in the New Guinea and Philippine area.

St. Clair Boy Fought Hand to Hand Battle With 4 Nazis
March 4, 1944

Pvt. Joseph B. Porter of Shaft Hill, St. Clair a member of the anti aircraft artillery school at Camp Davis knows how it feels to tangle with the Nazis in close fighting. In the cold wastes of Spitzbergen, above Norway, with three other Americans, he bumped into four Germans, and when the ensuing hand to hand fighting ended there were three dead Jerries and one prisoner.
Porters back still hurts from a Nazi rifle butt, but it turned out to be a very lucky blow-one that he wont forget in a hurry. As his elbow struck the ground, his automatic rifle discharged and mowed down two of the Nazis
This all came about when Porter volunteered with six other paratroopers to wipe out German communications to pave the way for the main task force. Just a short time before, he had also volunteered with three troopers to destroy a German radio station which was making a nuisance of itself in Greenland. As a result of this venture he was snow blind for 15 days, during which time he lived on dehydrated food, which eventually grew very distasteful to him. During this expedition, the temperature dropped to below 50 below, three dogs died, and Porter and his party had to take refuge in an ice cave.
During the fortnight in the cavern, the band supplemented its rations with polar bear steaks and an occasional snow shoe rabbit. Joe recalls that the meat was quite a relief from the GI issue even though it did taste a little gamey.
As if he hadn’t experienced enough excitement, his ship was torpedoed on the way back to the states, and pieces of shrapnel bit into his hip and one leg. He got back January, 8 1944 after a period of hospitalization the 20 year old veteran was once again assigned to the AAA school, from whence he had got his start in military life.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Hi Stu-

I'd like to ask you about the origin of your photo of the 1945 landing on Leyte. Would love to hear from you.