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• The

744th
Railway
Battalion

C\ Memories from
World War II
By Louise Greenfield


...............------------------------
• All Rights Reserved
Copyright (c) 1985 by Louise Greenfield


Reproduction of this book, in whole or in part,
by photocopy or other means, is strictly prohibited.

For information, address:


Mrs. Louise Greenfield
19970 Lathers Avenue
Livonia, Mich. 48152
u. s. A•


SCS/IJIIl

WAR DEPARThtENT
The Adjutant General's Office
, Washington

AG 314.73
OB-I December 14, 1942.

SUBJECT: Organization History.

. TO: Chief, Historical Section,


War College.

1. ' Report is made of the

redesignation of t.he Rail",ay


... as the t .C. ;Jer AG
')20.2 (11-25-42) OB-I-$?-M dated December 1, 1942. Engineer
Communications, lias
Reserve unit and allotted to the Fifth Service Command by Table Tables
of Troops' pertaining to C-3, WDCMP, published i n July, 1923;
ized October, 1924; Engineer Batt.ali.on redesi gnated. Bat.:t.ali.on.. .
(Re.ilwe.y Operating) --ir; AG 320.2 Engineera dated June 20, 1933. The
Bat talion 1-.'3 s redesignated the Bat.talion &nd as signed
to the Fifth Service Commend per AU (2-8-41) M (Ret) M-C, d6ted
February 21, 1941.

2. It is desired that any additional historical data be trans-


mitted direct to The Quartermaster General at the earliest practicable
date, and a copy of action taken be furnished this office.

By order of the Secretary of War:

Adjutant General.

Copy furnished: REC'O HlsmrucAl SEeJJt. C. 'I r r 1 7 1942


The Quartermaster General .
LIST OF m':ITS

773c1 Field Artillery 3atto.li on Uilotorized ) (4.5 Gun 'l'rnctor- d r ;lwn )


3339th i *3986th, * 751st, *645th , 334 5th, *641st , * J90 5th
nnd (i,un rtermas ter Truck Conpnnies
391st -".E t i a ircr" ft Art Llery .:-·, ut of,mt ic k eapons Bc"! ttali o!l ( S eEli - mob ile)
*6 53d Or dnanc e Ammuniti on Company ,
9llth Ordn':lnce· Automotive £..l2i ntenance Compnny
1 56tli Ordna nc e Tire Repa ir Cor-rl?'lny .
265th Fielcl.;ttt ilJ.ery Bat t.r3liol}. ( Llotoriz ed ) (240 rum EO'Ni tze r, Tr : cto:c- dl' :"wm )
*582d, *5 99th , · *646th, ' *626th , *619th a nd *592d Ordnance .iv"ilJ;1Unition
*3897til , *3860t h , aild *39l4th C'7[lsolin& Supply Compan i es
·278th Field i\rt illery Bc:1'.:.t n lion (Mo tori z ed-) ( 240 run HO"Vli tzer, Tr a ctor- dr 2vm )
*4114th , . 3621 st , 38S5th, 3612th, 388')th , 133d, 3595t h -?l1d 3601st Clm r t. c 2."'i'l.::'. ste r
'i'ruck Companies (Henvy)
3 002d Ord.nanc,i 3<lS0 Depot Cor.rpsny
3509th Ordne.nce ilieciiuJrl AlltOL1ot i ve Company
1 28th Artille ry GUn Battalion (Mob iie) (Type A)
3001 st : a nd 3005tll Or dnan ce B-..tse Depot Compa.ni es .
3566th :.H 1CJ508th Ordnanc e j,iediU::l Auto:notive j" Ia intenanc e Companies
83th , 567th, *308th , *574th anc:. 'Vu;irtermuster Rai1head Compa ni es
423 2d a nd 4237th Qua rt e -'nmstGr St uriliz f:l tion Compan i es
121st und 135th Signal Rtldio Int e lli gence COI:1panies
28th u:l<i 66th I.1edicn l I.epot CompGnies
*434th Zngineer Dlunp Truck Compony
*953d Service Company
*898th f'i w:;rt er m.::.; ster L::mndry Co;np(:my ( Semi-mob ile)
* 2.5Bth , *5 26th , *672d, *2·57th , *656th , *658th , *535th , 300t il , 278th, 279th ,
*5 34tll a nd *596th Port Companies
0,u 3.rt ernaster Laundry ,Company
740th Rg'ilwn y Operating Batt a l .i on .'::'r anspo r t: lt i on .Cor ps
764th Ro. ilwo.y 8hop Batta li on , r.i'r (1.ns;;ort!'ition Corps
7;22(.'" 723d 744th Ra ilway · Tr <lnS port2tion Corps
5 '
bth ".
v: : 0ill l
, C[L
. . t c nance. vO:TI]")
l ' :' .i::l.ln " C:n.y
46uth Cr d!lD.!lce
i3"33d Go nvnl e s cent
335th : e p ot (; o:.',pr\:lY
340th , 33 2d ; JJ3d, J 14t h , 358th , 136t h 338t h Tr uns Jor t nti on C0r ps

3d L h o: lice l Ilo3:'tor Jn tt o. li on
l i e, l et }J:} t t::l lion
65 flt h . ;-'!lCJ 261+th Ficl.d Hrtillery l,t, tli 0n:-; (l.Io t orizGcl) (8 - illCi:. EOllJ i t :,: o r)
dr
....
c
. ' . : "1 )
"",_.,
I \ ( . , ., .• \
546th fi l31d ;'.rtill c. ry I l:uto r i 30d, 155 !:in l,un.l.rU CK- UrinJll j
Q74't'J' '7 7b' th [I nC' 66'7 t h .l"i pl u
/ . , : .&- . .. .. .;_..... ... (iut ori z""d )(1 5S
rF.T ·' ct r:l';?.rl)
977 tn .r i e lc1 .:.. r t i1l 0ry :.b t ( Lil) (1 ') 5 nL1 Li-un:

uu l ist ::.cl
Fa B;:; 1 to Incll
..- .... , .. '. ... ... , ., ......... ., . _.. , ,
vee LfL
. "'--'T,.r ',
U-: ES r:"I "" _ . -J ."i.\.I _ ..l v '"\._.,CJ.:..J (C (lrlt ' d)
1 2 4 )
6
- - --_ . - No . Off \'[0 ___ !}gfL _ _____ _ _ .____
b tl & n'l Det, E 9-12 15 Ap r 44 12 2 9 23 ::0.. B: no De t , 32d Ora. Gp ,13 Feb 46
325th ·Jrci Gp
li'l & Det, Seattle, .Wash B 9-76 9 No v 44 1,2
J 51st Ord Bn
5 1 6 12 Ho..
1:
no.. De t ,3J l st Ord En . (, 46
355th Orci 3ase fortla nd ,Ore g B S-325 4 IJ;ay 45 1
Aut omo t i v e 1'; <3.i n t 3n : 26 2 85 113
c. Sv Cc ?or t 18.ncl , Oreg B 9-316 4 I'Lay 45 (lC) (3 (1+0 ..
."10.. e, Sv Co , 622(1 Ord ..."i{ . Bn , 23 Fov ·
995 th Ord Ba se Portland ,Oreg B 9-327 4 l-la.y 45 1 (6) (22 ) (23 ) .3021 st Ord :Base :::: n gir.. c Rebu il d Co,
Engin e Reouild Co 23 I'Tov 45
Ord Base B 4 .viay 45 1 (6) (22 ) (28) 302?d Ord 32.S !? P<:' bui l d. Co ,
Engine Rebuild Co 20 45
99 7th Ord Base Portl a nd,Ore g B 9-328 4 May 45 1 (1+) (13 ) (17) Oni 3p.se Po'·rer '1 RebuiJ
Pow 3r Tn "..soui 1(1. Co C,) , 2 ;- 17 0v 45
3]9th Ord NAi'-1 Co Portlancl,Oreg B ('-127 lq Hay 44 1 4 16 20 37 G th OrO. I, Co , =? () Feb 46
H'l H'l Det, Los Angel es , Gn.lif 3 10- 22 l.t. J ?...n 45 10 13 l.t.67 th (\ : . Gp ,
:>J' . 22 Feb 46
46 7th Gp
.Q4 3d Ofl Base PortlFl.nd ,Or eg :3 J.O- ')67 26 Or::t 43 1 4 g 12 6q 1s t ()' . :51" se DST-' ot Co , )l
4t,):', ift·"lY 46
Depot Co
*361st Q,H Sv Co Oak1ar,o. , Ca lif 10- 67 ?t) Feb 44 4 ?O8 212 Sv Co , 15 Fcb l.t.6
.363d Q,M Sv Co Po r th.nel ,Or eg :3 lO- 67 ?S 44 l.t. 11 15 y ;v ,)}1 Sv Co , 20 4S
H'l t p 20 111 ''is u
43 1,2,3 1 167 "' 0 t .r:q Co , "'1st ilia,jor P0rt , 'I'C,
A".jor Port, ':'C 22 J a.n 46
h ; Det, 426th Portb.nd, Oreg :P 2 0 'Sep 44 I, ? ,3 Eo P. Eq De t , l.t!.lth Ar:!ph Tr }{ Bn ,
TC A.rnph :'rk B::l
15 Dec 45
Hq ,42 2d ::'C :: r a ffic Portl A.no. , ::-:re:e.' 'Q ") r, -C')OO 2q Sep 44 1,2,3 75 75 "',..,
_v 'l'raf fi c Regu l pt ing Gp ,
Eo. ,
Regub.t i ng Gp
10 Feb 46
744th Ry Ou ng · LL's :'n gel ef' 10 Sep 45 20
- 1 91 121 Le s s a tchd. ch 744th Hy ' Opn g 3r
E:3Gtn -"-mP!l 8m Diego, Ca,lif B V J '3.n 46
29 May 44 1,2,3,4 7 20 ),r.:ph '='rk Co , :':'C , 25 J im 46
Co, =·C - I
*Ee gr c personn e l
(
DEPARTMENT OF THE AFleiY
The Adjutant General's Office
Washington 25, D. C.

AGAO-I 322 Org Res


(12 ivjar 48) GHGCT-N 25 I',iarch 1948

SUBJECT: Allotment, Redesignation and Activation of Certain Units of the


Organized Reserves

TO: Commanding General


Sixth Army

Letter, this office, AG 322 (9 Dec 46) AO-I-GYGCT-I·i, 23 December 1946,


subj ect as ab ove, as aIi1€ndcd, is furthe r amended by changing so much of
Inclosure 1 as pertains to the "744th Ry Opng Bn, TC" to show th e unit
affiliated lIJith t he Southern Pacific Re_ihvay Company. 10s Angeles. California.

BY ORDER OF TnE SECRETARY OF THE ARliY:

Adjutant General

Copies furnished:

Chief, Army Field Forces


Chief, Historical Division (3 copies)
General (Attn: Heraldic
Section) (3 copies)
Directors of
Organization and Training, GS
Personnel and GS
AIR
(
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
Offic e of The J\.dj uknt General SUSPEN SE
Washington 25, D. C. DATE

AGAO-I 322 Org Re s (30 Aug 5l)G3-M 4 October 1951


SUBJECT: Inactivation and Or ganization of Units of the Organized Reserves

TC: Commanding Generul


Si xth Arm;)'
Chi ef of TrtJ.l1s porta tion

1. a . The 744th Transportation Railway Operating Ba ttalion, pr es ently


s ponsored by th e Southern Pacific hail ro 8d, San Francisco, Californin, wil l
be inactiyat0d a t th e earliest practicable date by th e Commandi nG Gene r al,
Sixth Army, and the affili a tion agreement amended t o show r e t en tion of a
tra ining uni t.

b. Concurrently with ina ctiv ation, the unit is tra nsferred to t he


control of th e D0partment of the Army.

c. Record s of the ina ctivated unit wil l be disposed of by shipment


to the Commanding Of fice r, K[;.nsas City R3cords Center, 601 liardesty Avenue,
Kansas City 1, Missouri, Attention: Fi e ld Records Livision, in accordance
with provisions of SR 345-920-1, 15 March 1949, as ame nded .

2. Concurrently with the above inactivution, the 6744th ORC Tr ansporta-


tion Railway Cper a ting Battalion (Training ) will be organized by the Commanding
Ge neral, Sixth Army, in accordance wi th Office of the Chief of Army Field
Forces, Civilian Components Training Me morandum Number 6, 10 October 1950.

3. Equipn,ent render ed eXC8S S will be disposed of in £lccordonce wi tb


current proGedur e s .
4. Obligate fund s t o the ex t ent necess ary from Organized Reserve allo-
ca tions 8...,aj11..1 bID
to your he5dquc..rtero .

5. Whe n the actions dir ec t ed herein have been ac complished, r eports


indicating th e da t esand stations thereof will bc submitted to this office ,
Attention: AGAC-I; the As sistan t Chief of Staff, Ci-3; and the Chi ef of Arm;;-
Fi eld Forc es.

B, ORDER OF ThE SECRETaRY /J


Copies furnish ed:
Adjutant Gene al
Chi ef of Army Fie ld Forc e s
Assistant Chie f of Staff,
G-3 (RE: 9- 6/225)
Chief of Military history
.
.. .
( (

1. This Office r ecommends t hr? t The Adjutant General publish direc -


tives t o a ccornplish t he follo . . iing:
a. 744th Transportation Hailway Oper2t ing Batt alion (affiliated
Southern Railroad ) be redesignate d 734th Transportation Rail-
way Operatin€; Batt .:!lion effective (earliest pract i cable date), and concur-
rently, 731st Transportation RailwaJT Operatin g Pattalion (affiliated: wi. th
Chicago, St. Paul and Pacifi c Railroad) be redes ignated 744th
Transportation Railway Operat i ng
b. 744th Opereting Battalion, Transportation Corps
(affiliated with Chi ca go, IvIilwpukee, st. Paul and Pacific prior to 15 July
1947) be redesignated 731st Railway Operating Battalion,
Corps, effective 15 July 1947.
c. So much of paragraph 7, letter, AG 322 (9 Dec 46)
Subject: Allotment , Redesignation , and Act i vation of certain units of the
Organized Re serves, dated 23 December 1946, and Inclosure ' thereto, as pertains
t o 744th Railway Operating Battalion, Corps, be rescinded, '
and that the 744th Railway Operat i ng Battalion, Transportation Corps, be
constituted effective 23 December 1946. .

d. 322d Transportation Railway Operating Battalion be consolidated


with 744th Transportation Railway Operating Battalion effective 7 August
1947.

e. 725th Railway Operating Battalion,


filiatSd with Chicago, Island & Pacific) be reorganized :
as 725th and 737th Railway Operating Battalions, Corps, ..
effective 16 July 1947. \
'., .
. .1
.'
f. 737th Railway Operating Battalion, Transportation Corps, be'
779th T:ransportation Eailway Qp sr2.ting Battalicn -effect.ive
(earliest practicable date). ·
.
g. 715th Engineer ,Battalion, Railway Operating, (therl affiliated
\vith Delaware, Laekavmnna and ,Western Railroad) be disbanded, and · concur-"
rently, the 74lst Engineer Battalion, Railway Operating (then ...:
with the Illinois Railroad) be redesignated ?15th ·Engineer Battalion,
Operating, 2? November
(

j . 61 6th Engi n ee r Battali on , Ra ilway Oper a ting, (then affiliated


l'rit h the Souther n Pacific R2..ilro ad) be t o the Regul a r Ar my and
consolida t ed with the 57th Encinee r Battal ion , RCl ilvlay Operating , effective
21 Februa r y 1941 . ,

k . 6llt t Engi n ee r Bat t a lion , Ra ilway Op e ratin g , (then affiliated


va th the ChicC?,go, St. Paul, Mi nneapolis & Clnaha Ra ilroad ) be allotte d to the
Re gular Army and consolidated with the 56t h Engineer Battali on , Rail way
Ope rating , eff e ctive 21 February 1941.

1. 612th Engine er Battalion, Ra ilwa y Operat in g, (then affiliated


with the At cheson , Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad) be allotted to the Regular
Army and consolidated l'iith the 5 5t h Engi neer Railway Ope r at i n g,
effective 21 February

m. 663d En gi neer Battalion, Ra ilway Shop, (affiliated with the


eee & St. Louis Railroad) be allotted t o the Regular' Army and consolidated
with the 81st En gi ne e r Battal i on , Ra ilway Shop, effeCtive 21 February 1941.

n. So much of letter, AG 320.2 (12- 22-41) MR-C, Subject: Consti-


tution of Engineer Battalion, Railway Operating , da ted 2 January 1942, which
constitutes the 759th Engineer Battal i on , Railway Operat i ng, be rescinded
and the followin g substituted therefor:

613th Engineer Battalion, Railway Ope r atin g, (affiliated vath the


Missouri Pacific Railroad) be allotted to the Regular Army and
redesignated 759th En gineer Battalion , Railway Operating, effec- .!
tive 2 Jan1l..?ry 1942.

, ' SO much of letter, AG 320.2 (8 February: 1941) M (Ret) dated


21 February' 1941', Subject: Redesignation , Constitution, and Disbanding of
Engineer Railway, Uni ts ,_ as concerns the following units be amended as follows
effective 21 February 1941:

Constitute ar..d , (!0l)Cl1,!'Oi."1t1y red p- sign 9.te:

'6 6:3d Batt alion, R;n lway Shop as 756th Engi neer Battalion,
Railway ' Shop
Battalion; Railway Operating, as 751st Engineer
, Battaliqn, Railway Operating . "_
6l3th Engineer futtalion, Railway Operating, .as 748th Engineer ,>,
Battalion, Railway Operating
61lth Engineer Battalion , Railway Ope rating, 'as 750th En gineer , ' "
, Battalion, Railway Op eratin g . f

, 6l2th Engineer .Battali on, Railway as 749th Engineer


Battalion, Railway Operating ,
:\' 6l7th Engineer Battalion, Operating, as 732d
;,:: Battalion, Railway Operating ' .
( (

p. 726th Railway Operat i n g Batta li on , Transportation Corp8 ,


(affili ated with Wabash Ra ilroad) be dis ban ded effective 18 June 1943 ,
and concurre n tly:, cor:sti tute 72 6t h Railway Oper 2,tin g Ba ttalion , Trans-
portation Corps.

q. So much of letter, AG 320 . 2 (2-8- 41) J[ ( Re t) dated


21 Februa!y 19 41, Subject: Redesignation , Constitution , and Disbffi1ding
of Engineer Railway units, as constit utes the followir;g be amended to
r e constitute them:

55th Engineer Battalion, Railwa;}r Operating


56th Engi neer Battalion , Railway Ope r ating
57t h En g ineer Battalion, Railway Opera ting

.., , +' •.'

" .

.,

'.u

,3

THE MILITARY IMPORTANCE OF THE RAILROADS

The role played by the railways during the Second World


War was one of great importance in all theaters of combat, but
particularly so in Europe. All battle planners, regardless of
which side was doing the planning, had to take the railroad
situation into consideration.

Where rail lines operated unhindered, the vast


quantities of war supplies were delivered on or close to
schedule. Where rail service was delayed and later destroyed,
the armies depending on it were greatly compromised and
eventually defeated in the field. All major forces had their
railway troops for construction, repair, operation, and
defense. During their retreat, some even had specialized
detachments charged with demolishing the facilities they were
leaving behind. For example, the German railway troops had
what they called the "Trackwolf" , three locomotives dragging a
huge hook which tore the ties out of the rail bed, rendering
the tracks useless to the Allies. Whenever they had time to
use the Trackwolf as they retreated, the Germans did so.
Let's compare the hauling capacities of trains versus
trucks. General George S. Patton badly needed gasoline to
continue his ground offensive. The "Red Ball Express," as the


trucks were named, took gas to the front because the French
national railways, the SNCF, was thoroughly damaged. But this
was at great cost because the trucks were often disabled due to
lack of maintenance stemming from constant use.
The biggest drawback, however, was that Gen. Patton
was not getting enough gas for his military transport and
armored vehicles. Railway repair troops were put to work and
in a few months, the SNCF was partially restored and the trains
began delivering twelve times the tonnage provided by the Red
Ball Express.
On the ground, the objective of many a major offen-
sive was to secure a certain railhead or a line between vital
facilities. The first strategic air raid by American bombers
was directed against a railway objective: The Sotteville mar-
shaling yards near Rouen, in occupied France. The date was
August 17, 1942, and the 8th U. S. Army Air Force, still
virtuallly an infant, could muster only a dozen B-17 heavy
bombers for this, its first strategic mission.

Both sides knew, early on, that vulnerable railroad


installations particularly bridges, yards, and engine termin-
als, were to be prime targets. All the ships, guns,
tanks that a nation could produce were useless 1f they could
not be delivered to the troops. And, once at the front, they

• were useless if they could not be operated for lack of fuel,


ammunition, and spare parts.

I
Most railway troops were not military career men, yet
they often performed seemingly impossible tasks under appalling
conditions and with inadequate supplies. without them, the war •
would never have been won. They were as vital to victory as
the combat troops, whose story has been told in scores of
books. There are, however, very few books about railwa y
troops.

The story that follows, told by the men of the 744th


Railway Operating Battalion themselves, is an effort to remedy
this lack and to record for a younger generation a picture of
what these valiant men went through.

2

• SoTTEvAST
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During the 1950's the steam locomotive passed from
the American scene, replaced by the diesels, which in their
turn fell from grace, to be supplanted by car and plane. In
fact, all in all, railroads have altogether passed from the
scene as a way of travel, and young people growing up today
don't know anything of what it was like.
In the early years of this century, for many boys
growing up in small towns the whistle of the train made them
come running. They loved the noise, the dirt, and the power.
The train brought new merchandise and new faces, and when they
were a little older, boys realized it had the capability of
taking them away to distant cities, places of unknown glamour,
adventure, and opportunity. Householders often set their
. clocks by the coming of the morning or evening train.

Steam engines required coal and water, and made lots


of dirt, spewing soot over everything in their path. House-
wives living near the tracks had great trouble keeping the
curtains at their windows clean.

For those who don't know, and those who have forgot-
ten, the following picture is a reminder of the smoke that
poured out along with the noisy power of a steam locomotive.

Louise Greenfield
Apri 1, 1985

• 3

To help us understand how the Army went about setting
up the railway outfits, Captain Cyrus S. Broadstone has pro-
vided us with an organizational summary, as follows.

The 744th Railway Operating Battalion was one of 36


battalions, 10 Railway Grand Divisions, 10 Shop Battalions and
2 General Headquarters organized to form the Military Railway
Service under the Army Transportation Corps.

In most cases the units were sponsored by an American


Railroad to give them hands-on training, such as the Chicago,
Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific (commonly called the Milwaukee
Road), parent company of the 744th.

All units were activated under a Department of the


Army Publication called a T.O.&.E. (Table of Organization &
Equipment) which listed personnel and operating equipment
authorized and a T/A (Table of Allowance) which outlined the
individual clothing, equipment and subsistence per man.

The T.O.&E. of an Operating Battalion called for


approximately 24 officers and 850 enlisted personnel. This was
. broken down into Battalion Headquarters (4 officers), HQ CO. (4
officers and 150 Enlisted Men), A Co. (5 officers and 200 EM),
B Co. (4 officers and 150 EM) and C Co. (6 officers and 350
EM) •

Also a medical detachment was added to each battalion •


which consisted of a doctor, a dentist and 10 enlisted men.
An operating battalion is comparable to the personnel
required to operate a division of a large railroad.

HQ Co. Duties: To provide food, housing, station


agents, dispatchers, communications and administrative
personnel.

A Co. Duties: The maintenance of Way (Tracks, etc.)


unit.
B Co. Duties: The Maintenance of Equipment(Engines,
Cars, etc.)
C Co. Duties: Provide train crews, yard masters, etc.,
who handled actual operation of the trains on the assigned
sector.
A Grand Division compared to a civilian railway General
HQ. They had approximately 100 officers and men assigned. On a
civilian line they would have the same duties as Superinten-
dent, Roadmaster, Trainmasters, and various VP's. The units


usually had 3 to 5 Railway Operating Battalions and a Shop
Battalion under their jurisdiction.

4

While the above strengths are approximate, most
operating and shop battalions were usually over strength with
up to 40 officers and 1,000 men assigned to them.
Military Railway Service (MRS) was established with HQ
in Paris and was later extended with a 2nd MRS in Frankfurt,
Germany. Each was commanded by a General, with the required
staff of officers and men.

About 50% of the officers of the 744th were


commissioned directly from the Milwaukee Railroad and probably
a like per cent of enlisted men had worked for them. No doubt
that up to 90% of all members had rail experience or related
jobs.

The 744th was activated at Ft. Sam Houston, San


Antonio, Texas, on December 21, 1943 and probably ranked about
20th in age although it was put into service in France before
many of the others. The letter from Dept. of the Army,
Transportation officer, later sent to the President of the
Milwaukee Road, explains why.

After approximately 2 1/2 months of basic


training at Ft. Sam Houston, the Battalion moved to Ft.
Snelling, Minneapolis-St. Paul, in early March, 1944. To a lot
of men this was like being sent home. Technical (Railroad)


training was continued on the Milwaukee Road. During the next
3 months many more men from that area were added to the roster.
When the long expected "D" Day, June 6, 1944, arrived,
the 744th began preparing for the trip to Europe. In late July
the 744th boarded a train for New York Port and Camp Shanks.
After a few days of further preparation there, they were loaded
aboard the steam ship, John Ericsson (formerly the Swedish-
American Liner "Kungsholm").

After a crossing of the North Atlantic with over 100


other vessels which requirted 10 days, this convoy, said to be
one of the largest up to that time, broke up in English waters
and the John Ericsson put in at Liverpool. Troops were loaded
on a train for an all-night trip to Southampton. The John
Ericsson carried a total of 5,000 troops including the 744th.

Two nights were spent in a staging area at Southampton


before being loaded aboard an English Ship operated by a Hindu
Crew, for the Channel crossing. The Battalion was landed on
Utah Beach on August 25, 1944. Although the German cannon and
fortifications were still in place, it was with thanksgiving
that this beach landing was made unopposed and without incident
except for some wet feet and lost equipment.


After a hike of a few miles, the battalion set up
tents in an area where the fields and hedge rows of Normandy
were devoid of population because of the recent activity of "D"
Day. within a couple days a fleet of trucks loaded up the men

5
and travelled during the darkness of night to Folligny, a rail
yard near the coastal town of Granville and was superimposed on •
the 718th R.O.B. for a few days.
I

Folligny is where the troops bivouacked in an apple


orchard and endured some very adverse weather. (Editor's Note:
When the men meet for their reunion every June, they never fail
to mention their stay in the apple orchard, usually with great
hilarity.)

The next move was from Folligny to Vire and shortly


thereafter to Argentan where HQ and HQ Co. set up, sending
parts of other companies to Mezidon and Surdon, and supervi-
sing the disbursement of detachments and details to stations
and yards in other areas as needed.
On December 12, 1944 the battalion moved to Belgium.
During the time consumed in this movement, the Battle of the
Bulge (The Ardennes Offensive) had started and the train on
which segments of the 744th were being moved ran into the
danger zone and had to be withdrawn. This was accomplished,
however, without any losses.

Headquarters Company and C company established them-


selves at Charleroi. B Company was sent to Brussels and A
company to Louvain.
For 10 months, with time before and after VE Day, •
which was May 8, 1945, when the Germans threw in the towel, the
744th remained at a status quo in this area, operating rail
lines and furnishing detached personnel as needed to units
driving on forward after the breakthrough.
The 744th received battle stars for Northern France,
Ardennes and Rhineland campaigns.

The following passage is taken from the August 4, 1945


issue of the 744th COURIER, published after VE Day while the
men were still in Europe. It gives us an interesting account
of the men's activities.

BATTALION RECEIVES SECOND GOLD STRIPE


CELEBRATES FIRST YEAR OVERSEAS

On August 22nd this year, the 744th ROB will celebrate


its first year of operations in the European Theatre of
Operations. A year of "blood, sweat, and tears." A year in
which the Battalion set records surpassed by none in the ETO.

yards
York.
On August 1st, two sections of trains pulled out of the
at Fort Snelling, Minnesota and headed east toward New
Ten days later these same men filed into the holds of

6

the USS John Ericsson and sailed out of New York harbor, bound
for Europe.

• August 22nd, eleven days later, the convoy that the


John Ericsson accompanied filed into the narrow channels of the
Liverpool harbor and disembarked its troops. That night the
men of the 744th were spirited across the blacked-out English
countryside, and the next morning found themselves billeted in
squad tents in an embarcation point near Southampton.

Forty-eight hours later the first group of men from


the 744th, led by Lt. Col. Walter J. Hotchkiss, marched up the
shores on Utah beach head and into a new adventurous life.

From the collection point on the Utah beach head the


battalion moved to Folligny, France, and started operations.

No man of the battalion will forget the following


months of tedious operations--Strange roads, foreign names,
insufficient equipment, long wet nights, and hours upon hours
of flagging and switching. Sweating out queues miles long,
runs for coal and water, shak y road beds and battered engines,
stalls and mishaps were common everyday happenings for these GI
railroaders.

Short sleep and long calls became the order of the


day--Folligny to Vire and on to Argentan and Surdon; Around the


horn to Cherbourg--work, sweat, cuss, and gripe--"Come on, get
up, you ' re called." "Called hell; I just got to bed!" "I know,
but we've had 14 trains since you got in, so you ' d better get a
shake on." "Well of all the )&( %#@!!"

Despite all the hardships the men carried on. Mail


came through, food improved, and quarters became better. From
the cold, wet apple orchard the battalion moved into box cars
and set up light housekeeping.

The fall season passed and the battalion settled down


to a cold, wet, and muddy Normandy winter. Headquarters moved
from Folligny to Vire, operators were spread from Vire in two
directions. The battalion was operating or assisting in the
operation of the lion's share of road from Cherbourg to Surdon.
Again Headquarters moved--this time to the battered and beaten
rail center of Argentan, France.

For almost four months the battalion operated through


the war-torn Normandy Base Sector; finally, in December, 1944,
the 744th packed bag and baggage and headed in a northerly
direction toward Belgium.

Although living and working conditions improved when


the battalion settled down in Belgium, the men hardly had time


to notice the change, for it was shortly after the troops
arrived in Charleroi that Gen. von Rundstedt began his great
drive through the Ardennes toward Antwerp and Brussels.

7
A great portion of the "C" Company GI Railroaders were •
sent to Antwerp to help clear the dock areas of supplies while
the remainder of the Company was sent to Namur and Libramont to
move supplies threatened by the onrushing Jerry.

While the men in the forward areas suffered strafings


and bombings, those in Antwerp sweated out one of the most
terrific V-I and V-2 rocket bombardments in the history of
World War II. Almost every day hogheads (engineers) reported
strafing or the loss of a train along the line. Things were
hot, but supplies went on to the front lines at any cost.

And then, almost as suddenly as it started, the great


German push stopped, and was reduced to the original lines. On
May 8th the much longed-for day came. "La Guerre Fini!"

The war was finished, but the work continued for the
MRS. After a brief well-earned rest, a detachment of men from
"C" Company headed toward the front and into Germany to help
the 740th ROB move supplies and displaced persons in occupied
Germany.

Today, although work is lighter than during the days of


the push, operators, round house crews, and GI Railroaders from
the 744th may be found at almost every major terminal and
supply depot from Brussels to Liege or Mons. What the next
year will bring no one knows, but all will agree that the 744th •
will continue to set a fine record as it has in the past.

8


EDITOR'S NOTE:

Since Col. Walter J. Hotchkiss was the leader of the


744th ROB it occurred to me that it would be very appropriate
to include him in our book. The Colonel, of course, is ninety
years old now and has not attended our Reunions for some time.
However, this past summer I wrote him two letters asking for a
contribution to this book.

In reply to my second letter, I received a response


from a family friend saying he had moved into a nursing horne.
Since I couldn't get anything from him, I decided to get
stories about him from other people, and that is what I have


managed to do .
All the men respected Col. Hotchkiss. In the twelve
years I have been attending Reunions they have often mentioned
him, and always with a great deal of fondness in their remarks.

--Louise Greenfield

• 8-8

CAPTAIN JOHN W. McREYNOLDS, of A Company

Col. Hotchkiss was of medium height and stocky build.


He was gray-haired at the time of the war, and the rest of us,
being young ourselves, considered him old. (We laugh about
that now, being 40 years older ourselves. )

Later on we were to notice he was very strong


physically; he could withstand the rigors of cold, wet, and
discomfort just as well as any of us. As time went by, we also
realized that the Colonel, having worked on the Milwaukee Road
for many years and being a good administrator, was well-
equipped for his job of making the 744th do an effective job in
our assigned sector after we got to Europe

In 1944 the Btn left Fort Snelling, Minnesota and went


to Camp Shanks, New York, the stage for embarkation. At this
point in time, Col. Hotchkiss was very irritated and became
more and more so, nothing we did pleased him. He left a day or
two ahead of us to board the transport ship with an advance
party. A few days later Major Shea took us to Staten Island
and after we got settled on board, we found the Colonel to be
in the best of moods. He was affable, happy, everything was
wonderful, he was like a changed man.


We were given to understand that at an earlier time,
perhaps a year before, he had gone to port with another unit
and was turned down due to being over-aged. He was afraid it
would happen again at the last minute, and that's what had made
him so cranky.

Now, safely on board, he discovered he was the senior


Colonel of all the units. We had some officers there who had
combat arms, but Col. Hotchkiss was made top dog and troop
commanders of the same rank had to obey his orders. This
further sweetened his mood. It made him feel important and
increased his self-confidence and made him more effective all
around.

After landing in France (we landed at Utah Beach on


August 25th, that was D-Day plus 81) we went to Folligny and
set up in an apple orchard. Col. Hotchkiss visited at a higher
HQ to get his orders.

When he returned he was back to his usual high


standards of profanity. He said, "Men, you are going to be
told to do lots of things you can't do because you haven't got
the equipment, but Blankety Blank Blank, you are going to do
them whether you think you can or not." This was more typical
of his style. He went on, "I will not accept any Blankety
Blank Blank excuses, I don't care what they are, I will accept


only results."

9
He was so forceful he had us all cowed and we went out
and did it. Sometimes it was tough, railway equipment and •
supplies didn't always cross the English channel fast enough,
but we scrounged around and did what we had to, we didn't want I

the Colonel on our tails.

Now that it is established that Col. Hotchkiss used


colorful, forthright language, here's another example,
furnished by JOHN MELONAKOS of Headquarters Company.

We were over in France. Jim Misener was a truck


driver. He had taken the chaplain's jeep and disappeared. He
was gone long enough to be considered AWOL (Absent Without
Leave) . The MP's (Military Police) were looking for him. He
came back on his own. That's what saved his neck.

When this happened I was stationed in Btn. HQ.,


which was in a box car. One day the adjutant told me to go
over and take notes. Col. Hotchkiss was there, and Major James
Shea, and the adjutant was Capt. Richardson. Also in atten-
dance were Master Sgt. Mayhall and Sgt. Coy Gilbert. The topic
was Misener and whether he should be court-martialed.

The officers were discussing how strong the case was


about Misener's stealing the jeep. Misener staunchly claimed
that he had not stolen the jeep, he had borrowed it to get •
bread to feed the men, and had gone into Vire or Argentan to
perform this errand. Col. Hotchkiss wanted to throw the book
at him, but the other officers argued the case wasn ' t strong
enough.

Major Shea said, "We can't do it, Sir," and went on


to explain the Regulations. There were three kinds of
court martial, special, general, and summary; he discussed
them all and told how our case fell short.

The Colonel didn't want to give in. I ' ll never


forget what he said. "You can bark like a fox, you can shit a
streak around the moon, but you can't convince me Misener isn't
guilty."

That happened forty years ago and I can still remember


that part of it, though my memories have grown dim about the
outcome. I'm pretty certain there was no court-martial.
Misener probably got KP (Kitchen Police) duty for a month. But
I still get a good laugh out of what the Colonel said.

10

The following incident about the Colonel is provided by


ROY VOBEJDA, Tec 4, C Company .
The 744th was known as the Queue Breakers because of
the good job we did clearing up the initial backlogs at the
yards on the coast. Supplies were pouring across the Channel
and backing up at the ports.
The English had this section of railroad they were
operating with a different system, they used positive blocks
(stations). They had telephone connections between every two
stations and when a train went in they turned the light on the
semaphore to red and nobody else could enter the block until
the next station man said that the train had cleared that
block. Then, of course, they would turn on the green light and
your train could proceed safely.

Our Col. Hotchkiss did not agree with this type of


railroading in wartime. He thought it held up trains
unnecessarily. So he took it over, all by his lonesome,
engines and territory, too, and we all carne in.

It was a real cold night, half snow, half rain. There


was a dispatch office and the Colonel was at the dispatch board
all by himself, trying to get the trains rolling. There must
have been eight or ten guys in this place, because it was the
only spot that was warm. He had a press-to-talk bar down at


his feet and of course you could hear both ends of the
conversation.
After we'd been there a while, General Gray called up.
General Gray was the superior commander of all the railway
battalions of the Army Transportation Corps. He said, "Colonel
Hotchkiss?"

"Yes?"
"This is General Gray. I hear you took over the Eng-
lish railroad over there. Where did you get the authority to
do this?"

Colonel H. was a sort of excitable person and sometimes


he would stutter. So he replies, "Well, well, well, they
weren't doing their job."

"What do you mean? They've hauled 950,000 tons of


materiel."

Colonel H. said, "Sir, you're, you're, you're full of


goose turds."
General Gray carne back and said, "Sir, are you implying


I'm full of shit?"

11
Colonel H said, "Well, God, God, Goddamnit, you know
what goose turds are, don't you?"

And that's the way their conversation went.

DOMINIC (NICK) SALVIOLA remembers this about the



Colonel.
At the beginning of WWII Col. Hotchkiss was a middle-
aged man with many years of experience on the Milwaukee Road.
I wasn't in close contact with him during the war, but I know
he always went to bat for his men. There were many occasions
in Europe when we'd be in other areas and other colonels would
want us to wear Class A uniforms to eat in their mess halls.
The Colonel would speak right up to the other brass and
say, "What kind of chicken shit army is this? My men work hard
at a dirty job, they haven't got time to be fancy."

Often he would come round and inspect the engines and


ask if we were getting enough to eat. He knew we were often
gone on long hauls and the mess kitchens would be closed when
we got there. We appreciated the way he looked after us.

Sometimes the guys would get into trouble but, as I


recall it, he'd let them off easier. That depended on the
offense, of course. Sometimes people kidded him and called him
the Great White Father, but they always respected him. He was
an outstanding superintendent.

Dave Greenfield, T/5, C Company, recalls that Colonel


Hotchkiss had quite a hesitation in his speech. He remembers
the following as being typical of the way he spoke:

"God damn it, uh," PAUSE "What the hell is he doing out
there, uh" PAUSE "What the shit are all those trains waiting
for, uh" PAUSE "Which way is that train going, uh" PAUSE "Is
it, uh" PAUSE "Going up the hill, uh, or down the hill?"

EDITOR'S NOTE;
Col. Hotchkiss went back to railroading after the war,
returning to the Milwaukee Road. After he retired to Sun City,
Arizona, he always kept a roster by the phone and whenever any
of the men contacted him he'd check off their names. He was
always pleased to be remembered.

As of March, 1985, we hear from his son that the


Colonel has made a satisfactory adjustment to living in the
nursing home.


He can't see or hear, and he misses not being
able to read, but he can still get around pretty well with his
walker.

12
TIS HARRY C. GABRYS, A Company

• Going into the Army was, I'm sure, a big adventure for
all of us.
high school.
I was eighteen years old and three months out of
I was inducted in October, 1943. I was sent to
Fort Sheridan, Illinois, with the rest of the inductees at that
time.
From Fort Sheridan, I was sent to Fort Sam Houston,
Texas, to join A Company of the 744th ROB for basic training.
Near the end of our basic training, we had a 3D-mile
hike, and we bivouacked overnight. While on this broken-field
march, we saw our first German prisoners being held in Texas.
They called us to attention when we marched past the camp so we
would not shout at them as we marched by.
After we completed our basic training in Texas we were
sent by troop train to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, for additional
training on the railroad.
While enroute to Fort Snelling by troop train, I
believe when we stopped in Kansas City to change train crews,
they made us fallout to a little close order drill and
exercise by platoons. There was a row of business places
across from the station and the people were very patriotic and


wanted to do something for the GI. They got permission and we
were marched across the street single file into the bars for a
glass of beer or pop. I believe they said they did this
every time a troop train carne through, which must have been
quite regular.
During the time we were at Fort Snelling, we were
involved in ceremonies where families of servicemen were
brought there to receive posthumous awards on behalf of their
sons or husbands. We also marched in Minneapolis for the July
Fourth parade.
I was in A Company, which was in charge of repair and
maintenance of tracks, signal systems, and bridges. There was
plenty of repair needed in France. The French national railway
was known as SNCF and 80% of their lines had been destroyed by
D-Day. The Allies had bombed hell out of them to destroy
German shipment of supplies, now we had to fix them up so we
ourselves could send supplies on them.

A short time after arriving in France, a part of our


platoon was sent to a small town called Briouze on the road to
Argentan, I believe. We were billeted in some empty building
in the rear of a courtyard behind a church and convent. The
people in town, and in all the towns, were always glad to see


us as they had just been liberated from four years of German
occupation. We had two cooks and one KP from HQ Company there
with us.

13
When our Chaplain and his driver carne by to have his
service with us, we joked with him saying, "We don't need you,


we've got the nuns and their chapel here every day." Our cooks
always shared our extra food that was left with the children
from the town, because their families sent them to get whatever
they could. Our cooks always traded to get whatever was avail-
able from the people in the towns, and they gave away whatever
they could.

Soon after arriving in one small town, we saw a jeep


with "Military Government" painted on the sides. I asked about
it and found out each jeep carried one officer, who was a
lawyer, and his driver, who was his clerk. They would announce
to the local people, through the mayor, that they would accept
claims for war damage. The U. S. would pay. Good old Uncle
Sam, paying for the damage done liberating the French and the
rest of the countries.

We moved through Northern France and into Belgium to a


town called Manage which was near Liege. Belgium was not torn
up as badly as France because the fighting to liberate the
country was not as extensive. While we were in Belgium, there
were some A Company men sent to replacement centers to be
transferred into infantry companies.

I was transferred to the 750th ROB Company A in


Nuremberg, Germany. They had men on detached service at German
saw mills. A truck driver and I made three trips weekly to
these mills to deliver orders, supplies, and mail to them.

While in Nuremberg, I was able to get into the Palace


of Justice where the War Crimes Trials were being held and saw
some of the prisoners.

Later I was transferred to the 556th Military Police
Battalion which was guarding the cargo being sent by rail to
keep it from being pilfered. There were two-man guard teams,
and we covered between wursburg and Frankfurt, Germany.

Then I was transferred to the 83rd Division, Company F


which was on border patrol at Colberg, Germany, on the U.S. and
Russian border line. I carne horne with the 330th Regiment of
the 83rd Division in March of 1946.

14


BILL HANKINS is a modest fellow, and I think it only
fair to preface his stories with an item about him that
appeared in the 10 Sept 45 744th ROB CHEMINOT, page 2,
column 2.

LT. HANKINS NEW COMMANDING OFFICER OF COMPANY C


1st Lt. William T. Hankins assumed command of Company C
on 28 August. Joining Company C soon after the activation of
the battalion, Lt. Hankins has played a big part in making the
company one of the best transportation companies in the MRS.
As assistant trainmaster, Lt. Hankins has been in
charge of several detachments that have accomplished outstand-
ing missions. Under his supervision the boys worked during the
V-bomb raids in Antwerp. Our congratulations and best wishes,
Lieutenant, on your advancement.

****
Lt. Hankins remained in the Army, served in Korea, and
retired with the rank of Captain. Here are his stories.
While at Fr. Snelling all personnel of C Company were


required to stand formation early each morning, that was unless
they were working on the railroad. One morning in June, I
noted that Sgt. Bryon was missing. It was determined that he
was still in bed, and in compliance with my orders, he was
bodily escorted outside and into the swimming pool. The
swimming pool was directly behind our barracks, and was full of
very cold water. No repeat of this performance was required.

FOLLIGNY, VIRE, AND OTHER PARTS OF FRANCE


When the 744th ROB arrived in Folligny, C Company was
bivouacked in an apple orchard. This was a great place to be
during that cool and rainy fall (that is to say, no combat
going on nearby.) We started operating trains immediately and
our Commanding Officer elected to send an officer on every 6th
train dispatched. The first five trains would have the more
experienced crews, the thought being that an officer might be
of assistance to the crews with less experience.
I left the first day at 2pm on a diesel engine. The
only one of the crew that I can remember is T/4 John G. Miller,
the engineer. John had some trouble with the air brakes at
first, we were able to clear up that problem pretty well by the
time we reached Le Mans. We had no maps or any idea where we
were going. We were told to just stay on the tracks and go
forward, we were promised that at some point someone would stop

• us and receive our trains.

15
At Vire, France, I was able to obtain a map of that


portion of the railroad, by tracing one off a map that a civil
affairs officer, stationed at Vire, furnished me. We finally
arrived in Le Mans in about 18 hours. The crew were given a
short rest before being dispatched on another run. I was
befriended by one of my OCS (Officers Candidate School)
classmates who was stationed with the 706th Grand Division in
Le Mans. He allowed me to sleep on the floor in their
building, and eat in their mess. A short rest, then back to
Fo11igny with another crew with T/4 Paul S. Beckett as
engineer. As the second engine of our train was operated by a
French engine crew, Beckett later said that they apparently
went to sleep leaving the throttle open, pushing him all the
way.
NOTE: Most of the trains required two engines, for two
reasons--because of the heavy loads and the steep gradients.

Soon after our arrival I was sent to Surdon, the end of


our division's assigned sector. The 723rd ROB operated the
line between Surdon and Dreux. Steam engines require lots of
water, and due to a water shortage in that sector, all avail-
able diesel locomotives were assigned to them. Our unit deliv-
ered the trains to the 723rd, at Surdon, with 2 steam engines.
Three diesel engines were required to replace the two steam
engines. Early one morning, I observed three diesel engines
with an engineer and fireman on each locomotive, trying to
start a train. Unable to coordinate their movements, they just
couldn't do it.

diesel
As I had trained with the 725th at Camp C1airborne,
Louisiana, as a conductor,
locomotives.
starting the train,
I had considerable experience with
After observing the futile attempts at
I asked the 723rd yardmaster, Lt. Curley,

why he didn't jumper the diesel engines together. As he did
not seem to understand, I explained that each locomotive was
equipped with an electric jumper cord that could be used to
connect the engines. This would then allow them to operate in
unison, and in addition, it would require only one engine. I'm
not sure who received credit for my suggestion, nevertheless it
was adopted.

While at Vire, France, I had a detachment of 70 men,


and our responsibility was to operate the yard and keep the
trains moving forward. Our mess was located in a box car
adjacent to the Red Ball Highway. While in the mess car one
morning, I was approached by two strange soldiers who asked if
they might have something to eat with us. They were told that
they or any other solder were welcome in our mess. After these
two soldiers finished eating, they departed, returning in a few
minutes with some hams and turkeys. As luck would have it,
these soldiers were driving reefer trucks transporting fresh
meat to the forward areas. For the next few weeks, they made


our mess a regular stop and we profited by the fresh produce
that they contributed for use in our mess.

16
During my stay in Vire, the assistant town commander of


Granville, (Granville was a port that was being operated for
shipment of coal, an American-operated port supported by a
garrison consisting of all elements of a command, a
' le visiting me one Friday, ,invited me, to V1Slt over
etc., ) , wh 1 h t loom
the weekend. He tempted me with promlse of a nlce 0 e r ,
clean sheets, a bath tub or shower, a night at the club and
much, much more.
Being a good so ld ier, and having lots of respect for
Col. Hotchkiss, I decl i ned. On that very saturday night a
German submarine slipped into Granville harbor; of course, they
took the garrison by surprise, the Germans w7re to be
retreating back into They thelr tlme ln
ing up much-needed supplies a n d a contlngent of much-surprlsed
American officers as their gues ts. Moral of the story, had I
accepted that fun invitation, I would have been among those
captured, and I would not hav e had to worry about Col. Hotch-
kiss, I would have been a g u est of the Germans in the Guernsey
.Islands.

BELGIUM

In December 1944 I was dispatched to Antwerp with 25


train and engine crews, to assist the ROB operating in that
area. We were assigned the movement of trains from North Yard,


(Antwerp Port Area), to Sh i neport Yard, (North Antwerp). As
our men had not had time to change their French money, T/ Sgt.
Augustus G. Owens and I took their money to the finance office
in downtown Antwerp, for exchange for Belgian francs. While we
were standing at the counter a German V-I rocket came rumbling
over. When the noise shut off all of the finance personnel
made a dive for the under side of their desks. After the bomb
had exploded and the glass from the ceiling finished tinkling
down, they came out from under their desks looking foolishly at
us two brave soldiers. standing there. (We didn't have any
desks to get under.)

Josaphate yards was located in Brussels, Belgium, and


in the same vicinity was a huge British-controlled coal dump.
Lt. Joe Welch and I were in the yard office at Josaphate Yards
one morning in late December 1944 when a British Brigadier with
his Aide came into the office and jumped on Lt. Welch,
informing him that it was his responsibility to control the
security of the coal dump. Lt. Welch, very cool and collected,
got up and invited the Brigadier outside for a discussion on
the subject. Once outside Lt. Welch said, "You S.O.B., you
have the nerve to jump on me in front of all the men in our
office, I'm being more courteous to you. Now you S.O.B., get
out of here, and guard your own coal dump!"

• 17
GERMANY (Capt. Hankins continued)
Lt. Guisinger and I took 25 train and engine crews to
Bonn, Germany, in July 1945, to assist the 740th ROB. (This •
was after VE Day, during the Occupation.) We were assigned the
operation of trains between Bonn and Herbistal, Belgium. This
was an exciting time for most of us, but a sad one as well. We
lost a good friend, TIS Hosterman in a train wreck, and
Pfc Eugene J. "Mike" Kolasinski lost a leg, as he slipped under
an engine in the Bonn railroad yards.

(Later on, in 1946 I had a letter from "Mike" telling


me that the railroad had taken him back, which was his heart ' s
desire. Also, the government had given him a brand new 1946
Chevrolet, especially equipped and that he was doing great with
his artificial leg, dancing, swimming, etc.)

While in Bonn, I did get a few laughs out of it when


Lt. Guisinger and driver, Chester J. Parchem, returned from a
mission. They were instructed to liberate 200 bottles of
cognac from a castle. They accomplished their mission,
returning with crates of cognac stacked high on the back of the
jeep; unfortunately Lt. Guisinger also returned with a
cauliflower ear. In their haste to get away, they had backed
into a building and the crates of cognac had tumbled down on
Lt. Guisinger, bruising his right ear.
On our departure from Bonn, Germany, we decided to take
a vacation sight-seeing tour through part of Germany. The men •
had worked long hard hours and needed a rest. We assembled our
caboose's assigned crews for each shift and departed. Our
first stop was Bingen, Germany. Fortified with wine, cognac and
other beverages, we proceeded on our journey. A few days
later, out of food and drink, we arrived back at our
headquarters at Charleroi, Belgium.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Other men remember this trip, which
was along the Rhine River. Dave Greenfield remembers seeing
the Bridge at Remagen. This bridge, a railroad bridge across
the Rhine River, which is rather narrow at this point, has a
significant history. As the Germans retreated, they blew up
all the bridges behind them. On March 7, 1945 in the face of a
rapid advance of American troops, the Germans planted charges
on the Bridge at Remagen, but it failed to blow up. The Amer-
ican soldiers were quite startled to see the bridge intact. The
Germans were on the other side, trying to blow it up, but
failing. American infantry of the First Army ran across. The
Germans dropped their arms and the first soldier across cap-
tured 100 prisoners. In the little town up the river, Linz,
the people hung white sheets out their windows to indicate
surrender.

This angered Hitler, who dismissed Gen. von Runstedt.


The bridge was shaky, but it was usable. It was to collapse on

18
March 17, ten days later, but by then engineers had built


several others nearby.
A movie was made about this incident, entitled The
Bridge at Remagen. In 1977 Dave Greenfield and John Melonakos
travelled to Remagen. At that particular time it was very
difficult to find the location; the Germans are not proud of
this episode and there were no signs to help the tourist find
the spot where the Bridge had been, particularly since they
never rebuilt it. However, by dint of walking along the river,
the location was eventually found. All that remains is, on the
Remagen side, two huge round stone stanchions, on the Linz
side, two more stanchions, and slightly beyond them, the
entrance to the tunnel into the mountain, which has been
completely sealed up.
The military significance of the Bridge at Remagen is
that having escaped destruction it was available for sending
equipment across, thus shortening the war.)

CAPT. HANKINS Resumed


On returning to Charleroi, I was sent to Brussels,
Belgium to clear up the backlog that they had received from
Bonn. While in Bonn, we had moved an entire engineer dump or
depot from Bonn to Brussels. The engineer equipment was to be
unloaded and processed for shipment to the Pacific Theatre.


Although both American and captured enemy equipment was loaded
on the cars at Bonn, the U. S. Engineers would only unload the
American equipment.
Soon we had 150 flat cars partly loaded with captured
enemy equipment on a siding at Ath, Belgium. A Belgian
civilian offered to buy all of the German equipment, his offer
was in the sum of $250,000 in green backs. All I needed to do
was turn my back and he would take care of having the cars
spotted and unloaded. Having viewed the military prison at Ft.
Leavenworth, Kansas, from the outside I had no desire to see
the inside, so turned him down. After returning to Charleroi I
was informed that the cars did get unloaded, how or by whom I
have no idea.

After our move to Nancy, France in October of 1945, we


did some work on the rail lines Nancy through Metz to
Luxembourg City and Strasbourg, France. At about this time,
the point system really got into high gear. You needed over 48
points to get discharged. As Commanding Officer of C Company,
I spent a great deal of my time in the local finance office
cashing payrolls and changing currencies.

One evening at the hotel, the finance officer


approached me with a proposition; he would make up a bogus


payroll for $300,000 and give it to me. I was then to process
it through the finance office as I would any other payroll. On
the day that I received the money I was to meet the finance

19
officer at the hotel, give him $150,000 and he would give me
the receipt that I had signed when I received the money.
Again, the thought of the prison at Ft. Leavenworth cleared my •
conscience, and allowed me to turn him down.

On or about 15 May 1945, I had to order all trains


stopped at Mons, Belgium until they dispatched one of our
supply trains. This was done by placing a red flag on each
track guarded by an armed soldier. Although this action was
not desired by me, for it caused considerable anguish for
commuter passengers, it did have a positive effect, the
accelerated movement of U.S. supplies and equipment.

(Editor ' s Note: There will be more stories from


Captain Hankins later on.)

Capt. John W. McReynolds, A Company

THE CONVENT

In the fall of 1944 Battalion HQ remained at Vire, but


A Company was moved to Argentan. I found things crowded at
Argentan and to make the work go better I distributed the
platoon by the squad at little towns along the rail line. One
such squad, including Harry Gabrys, went to Briouze, which as
best I can recall was between Vire and Argentan, a little wa y
west of Argentan. It was a tiny village of 200 or 300, almost
entirely levelled by the fighting. We sent a cook along with •
the squad, but the Sgt. didn ' t go with them, neither did I,
till a few days later.

When I arrived there, to my dismay I found my squad


living in an old barn in the back of a convent, which was part
of the village school and the church. Some of my men were a
rough, tough bunch--not all of them, mind you, but a few were--
and most of this bunch were Protestant. I could just see
trouble brewing.

However, upon checking it out, I learned the Sisters


seemed really very happy to have the men there. No doubt they
were glad to see the Germans gone. And I'm sure the cook
slipped them some food from time to time.

At any rate, the men stayed there about a month, I


believe it was. Actually, they were living better than most of
us, their housing was intact, the rest of us were living in
chilly, damp ruins. Their relations with the Sisters and
townspeople continued to be amiable. When the time carne that
we moved to Belgium, the Sisters were just as sad to see them
leave as if they were their own people. The men could have
caused trouble, but they were good boys.

20

CHRISTMAS IN MANAGE

• At Manage, Belgium we had some Catholic boys who went


to Church whenever they had a chance. Before Christmas some men
carne round to me and said they would like to get up gifts for
the children at the orphanage. I told them okay, but you fix
it so it's voluntary, don't make anyone give unless they want
to.

As it turned out, practically everybody contributed and


gave up their candy rations. There were jawbreakers, chewing
gum, candy bars, broken cookies and stale cakes that had been
on the road three months. (The cakes and cookies had been
baked at horne by loving wives and mothers and sent through the
mail, held up God knows where, because war supplies got the
priority over packages from the States.)

Money didn't mean anything to the men because you


couldn't buy anything, the civilian economy was so severely
disrupted.

I didn't go along to make the presentation, it was


their deal and they went alone. They returned and told me the
people had been simply flabbergasted, they were so pleased . and
surprised. The children were especially thrilled; these were
wartime children who, believe it or not, had never tasted
chocolate.

• Soon after,
to thank us,
the Bishop sent us a fancy, flowery scroll
all in French, which of course we couldn't read.
A litle later the priest sent us another flowery scroll.
saved them, of course, but all those things were lost when
something happened to the company records.
We

VIRE, FRANCE

Vire was just flattened out, it had been so badly


fought over. It was a railroad junction and had been a primary
target of the Allies. We bombed it out to disrupt German
supply lines and then soon as the Germans got out, had to fix
it up for our use. The tracks were completely gone and the
train station was, in a word, devastated.

"A" Company brought in bulldozers and simply pushed all


the debris to one side. We then laid down one track and kept
on repairing. The rain was continual that fall in Normandy--it
probably is, every year--and we had to keep working on the
roadbeds because they kept washing out.

We had, primarily, stearn engines. These were shipped


from the States KD (Knocked Down), assembled in England and
shipped across the Channel as complete units. At the landing


point on the Normandy Beach tracks were laid down ready to
receive them, and they were simply rolled down and taken away.

21
• • •
AT WAR'S END, ALL 35 TRACKS Of JUVISY MARSHALING YARDS, LOCATED JUST OUTSIDE PARIS, WERE COMPLETELY DESTROYED . HUNDREDS OF WRECKED PASSENGER
AND fREIGHT CARS AND UPROOTED TRACKS CLUTTERED THE YARDS' 27 ACRES
As for , myself, I was single and had nothing to rush


back to, and I didn't have enough points, so I was assigned to
another unit and served with the Occupation Army in Germany .
One of the main things we did then was to try to get all the
roads open so civilians could be fed, so that DP'S could be
returned to their homes, also POW's. Of course, other units
were concerned with rehabilitatiing the German nation.

T/4 Roy T. Vobejda, C Company

There are many tales that can be told about my friend


Harold Bishop, who was also my fireman. Bishop was put on
guard duty and the mess hall was set up along side the cars and
all the officers went to town. When they came back, it had
been raining and it was muddy and Bishop hid down between the
wheels of the boxcars and told them to advance and be recog-
nized. I guess the officers had been having a little party and
weren't fast enough in identifying themselves. Bishop let go
with a shot in the air and they all hit the mud.
So they sent one officer ahead, he crawled on his hands
and knees, and he stood up, all covered with mud, and got
recognized. Bishop made everyone of the officers do the
thing. Later on at a meeting it was remarked that if Bishop
was on guard duty, you could be sure you were safe from any
unauthorized personnel .

• BURT BLAIR and The Accident


Burt Blair was a brakeman, he came from Indiana. He
used to sit up in the boxcar and try to twang his guitar like
Chet Atkins. He was a happy-go-lucky guy with no sense of
responsibility. One time he stole the Chaplain's jeep.

They were supposed to show us a movie one night and


they got the mess tent set up for it. The movie never showed
up. Chaplain Paul Rice was there with his assistant. Chaplain
said, "Ah, I've got a captive audience. I want to give a ser-
mon, and my theme will be, Thou shalt not steal the Chaplain's
jeep."
Anyway, it was in Bonn, Germany, that a new man joined
us; I think he'd been a paratrooper, he had those beautiful
black boots with parachute cord laces that he was very proud
of. He'd been wounded and they put him in a railway battalion.

He went to board the train at Bonn just as it was


coming out of the yard onto the main line and there was a lurch
between the engine and the coal tender. It was quite a kick
there. He missed his footing and fell down and one of the
wheels of the tender ran over his foot. It didn't cut it off


completely, but it cut it across the instep and all of the
cords in his foot popped up like a mushroom. But Blair was
there and he hollered for blankets and whipped off his belt and

23
applied it as a tourniquet to his thigh to stop the bleeding.
He rolled up somebody's jacket and propped it under his foot.

It was fifteen minutes or so before the ambulance


arrived. They asked, "Who did all this?" I pointed to Blair.
They said, "Very good, we couldn't have done better ourselves.
We'll take him just like he is." And they picked up the
blankets. I never heard what happened to that soldier. Yet it
showed that in an emergency our happy-go-lucky Blair had
learned his first-aid lessons well and could practice them.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: According to information supplied by
Capt. Hankins, the injured man was Pfc Eugene J. Kolasinski and
he lost his leg as a result of this unhappy accident. For
further details, see Capt. Hankins' stories earlier in the
book.)

NEW YEAR'S EVE IN BRUSSELS

Now I'm going to tell the story of my most embarrass-


ing moment. It was New Year's Eve in Brussels, Belgium. Moose
Neavolls and I and some others went to this tavern and there
was a bunch of English in there, and some people from the
captured countries, Yugoslavia, France, Belgium, of course, and
some Germans. When midnight approached, the piano player
played the French anthem, and all the Frenchmen got up and sang
their anthem, then the Belgians, and the Luxembourgs and the
rest of them.
When it carne the Americans' turn, the piano player carne
over and apologized for not knowing the Star-Spangled Banner.
We said, that's okay, we'll sing it. Although there were five
of us, we only got halfway through and then had to fake it
because from that point on we didn't know the words or the
tune.
Everybody looked at us and remarked, My goodness,
they're soldiers over here fighting for their country and
they don't even know their own national anthem. I've often
thought, if we'd tried America the Beautiful, we might have
saved ourselves the embarrassment.
The next day we were in formation because the officers
expected after New Year's Eve there would be a few men who
wouldn't make it back. We were standing there, we had our
carbines with us. Eighteen German planes flew out at no more
than 500 feet over of us. We all stood there with our mouths
wide open. There was nobody in the whole outfit who fired even
one shot. They were fighter bombers and proceeded down to the
airport nearby and tore up the English Lancasters. Only four
aircraft got off the ground, and they were Canadian. It was
the only dogfight I ever saw close up. Most dogfights in WW II
were so high that unless they had vapor trails you couldn't
follow them. Of course, all four Canadian planes were knocked
out, but they got six or seven German fighter planes first.

24
• ROY VOBEJDA continued

THE BUCK SERGEANT


One of our troops was a buck sergeant.
sharp and he always liked to play soldier.
He was very
I remember one
time, way back in Vire, when it was nothing but a bombed-out
town, someone had dug up 25 bottles of wine and we'd had a
party. At two o'clock in the morning he had us marching up
these cobblestone steps.
Well, anyway, one night he sat down and wrote a letter
to his brother, telling him all the things he'd been doing in
the war zone, including the girls and the booze. At the same
time he wrote his wife a letter. About three weeks later he
got a letter from his brother, which said, "Good Lord, what are
you talking about, calling me honey and darling and all that?"
He didn't understand this, and also he was wondering why he
hadn't heard from his wife. It turned out that inadvertently
he had put the letters in the wrong envelopes. Last I heard
she'd filed for divorce. In those days you couldn't get a
divorce unless you had good cause, and I guess the letter was
good cause. I don't know what happened to him. You hear about
things like this happening, but this I know to be true, I was
there .

• THE INCIDENT OF THE BREAD

In Mons, Belgium the Women ' s Auxiliary of the Railroad


Men got an old portable German barracks and erected it down at
the end of the platform where the civilian passenger trains
used to come in. They set up a soup kitchen. On the black
market a bowl of soup cost you 100 francs. At the women s
kitchen it cost you ten centimes, or ten cents.

One day when I got off duty I went and got a bowl of
soup. I couldn't describe it, but it was like a pea soup, and
with a small loaf of bread was very filling. I asked for bread
and the lady asked me if I had a ticket. I said No, I don't
have a ticket. She replied, No ticket, no bread, because it is
rationed. There were four or five Belgian railroad men in
there at the time with their leather bags. They offered me
some half-loaves of bread, and I accepted a couple and ate my
soup.

When I got back to Brussels I saw Chappy Baker, the


yardmaster, and asked him to get me some white flour. The next
time I came back, he told me, I"ve got the flour; it's too
heavy to carry, bring your engine over. He had two bags, each
weighing 222 pounds. We put it on the cow catcher and I


returned to Mons to the military yards. I cut off the engine
and tried to get the man in the tower to ' switch me to the old
passenger tracks. He kept saying he couldn't understand my
French, which was not the best, I admit, but I was waving my

25
hands and feet and he shculd have guessed what I wanted. So I


took out my .45 and pointed it at him and told him once more
and this time he got the idea clear as a picture.

When I got to the barracks I called the cook out to see


the flour. Her eyes got big as saucers. She called some men
and had it carried in. She opened one of the bags, took a
pinch of the flour and ate it. She was obviously thrilled and
said to me, Monsieur, I will bake you the nicest cake you ever
tasted. But I told her No, all I want is when I corne in, to
have bread without a ticket. And I assure you that from that
time on, when I went into that old barracks, I got good
treatment and bread without a ticket.
INCIDENT DURING THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE

In Charleroi, Belgium Lt. Hankins sent Barter and me


out to transport a load of Screaming Eagles (paratroopers) to
where the fighting was. We took them to Bastogne. There was a
truck there waiting to take us back to our base at Charleroi,
or we could take the engine back. We could hear the sounds of
war.

Personally, I felt safer in the engine. And it had


been a pretty trip up, going through little towns with the
awnings over the commuter stops, and no trouble, so I said to


Bartie, let's take the engine, but first we got to back her up
to a place where we can turn the engine around. It'll be dirty
with the coal blowing back on us. Bartie says, I'll corne with
you.
So we backed up and that nice litle town we had passed
through was nothing but a shambles. While we were gone they
had bombed that place out completely. About two miles on this
side there was a spur going off to the right-hand side. We went
up to throw the switch and saw it went down to a cement
factory. So we threw the switch and carne back out, it was like
we'd gone round in a Y shape. We were now headed in the other
direction.

We got to the next town, I don't know its name, there


wasn't a sign to be seen, but it was full of activity. We
pulled our engine up on the pit, cleaned the fire, put in coal,
put in water. There were other trains in the yard; one of
ammo, one of gasoline, and a hospital train. The gasoline
train had nineteen cars of gas and one boxcar with 3 Wolfhead
Division guards on it.

Suddenly a German ME109 carne in and a Lieutenant was


corning toward us and everyone was doing some fancy ducking as
those 25 millimeters were busting allover.


The Lt. carne to me and said, where's your fireman,
where's your fireman?

26
I said, right there behind me.

• He said, get on to that engine and hitch up to


gasoline train and get the hell out of here.

I asked, where will we go?

He said,
that

I don't care where you go, just get it out of


here before it explodes and kills us all.

As he hurried away another MEI09 came in and shot up


part of the depot. We backed on to the gasoline train and
headed out just as fast as we could.

When we came to the main line there was a tower and


they headed us across and we went down, down about 25 or 26
kms, I mean we went down, right straight down a big long hill
into a great big yard.

We cut off the train and we told the buck sergeant and
the two Pfc's who were guarding that we were leaving them
there. They said their orders were to stay with the train, so
they stayed. We went on home to our base.

It was about five weeks later, and I believe the Battle


of the Bulge was done. I was in Bonn, Germany and the callboy
told me to go to work. I went to the office and there were two


CID men there and they sat me down, one in front of me, one
behind, and they kept asking me, what was the price of a gallon
of gas. I said, I don't know, I never sold any in my life.
They kept asking, playing cat and mouse, cat and mouse.

Lt. Hankins was there and I said, Hey, tell these guys
if have something on me, tell me straight, otherwise let
me go to work.

Lt. Hankins said, He's right, tell him, there's a train


waiting for this guy.
They said, We're talking about nineteen cars of
gasoline that you had during the Battle of the Bulge, which is
unaccounted for.

I said, Oh, hell, I know where they're at. You get me


an engine out of St. Martin and I'll take you there.

They said, Do it.

We got Bishop to be fireman and got into a Citroen


automobile and drove from Bonn through Charleroi to St. Martin.
We got a locomotive and went on the main line. When we got to
the tower I had them switch us and we went down into the canyon


and there were the gasoline cars.

27
Of course those guards had women there and they were
very unhappy to see us. These CID men were in civilian
clothes, by the way. One cf them ladder and one •
of the wolfhead guards kicked hlm on the chln and knocked
him right off.
He said, Lcok, no civilian is going to come up here.
If you are somebody, show me your ID.
In the meantime they let the girls out on the other
side and they took off.
Once we get in the boxcar, we saw their living
conditions. They had ham, they had eggs, they had a radio, and
until a minute ago, women teo! Man, they were living like
KINGS!
One of the CID men said, Where are those women?

He said, Well, they were displaced persons, they


weren't Belgiques. He said that because you weren't supposed
to fraternize.

The CID man said, I suppose from the looks of this car,
with the ham and everything, that some of those seals are
broken, and you have sold the gas.

He said, Why don't you go look?

They went down the line, and every seal was intact.

The CID man said, Do you realize your families have


been informed you are missing in action?

No, we just know our orders, we are not to leave the


train except under certain conditions. And he began quoting
them.

Well, the CID men wanted me to pull all those heavy


cars up that steep hill with just one engine. I told them I
needed two engines, but they wouldn't believe me, they thought
I was being lazy or something. So Bishop and I got ambitious,
put in a good fire, and away we went. I knew the first time it
slipped, that's where it would stay, . and a few miles up the
incline, that's what happened.

They told me to get another engine, and I told them to


get the damn engine if they wanted it. So they got it and we
pulled the cars to St. Martin.

I think about the incident sometimes. If I didn't know


where I was, if I didn't know the names of the towns, how did
these guys know it was me who had hooked up to nineteen cars of
gas in the middle of what in Vietnam we'd call a firefight? I •

28
had gone from Charleroi to Bonn, Germany, how did they track me


there? I never thought too much of the OSI for CID, I thought
if they caught you they were just lucky, but in this case they
linked me with it. I give them full credit on this one.

(We'll have more stories from T/4 Vobejda later on.)

T/4 JOHN MELONAKOS, Headquarters Company

We had left Camp Shanks, N. Y. and boarded the


troopship John Ericsson on August 10, 1944. Most of us were
bunked in the lowest hold of the ship. Cots were tiered four
high. The trip was rather uneventful as we zigzagged across
the Atlantic.

One morning I heard some commotion a few bunks away.


One of the men was complaining that someone had stolen his
false teeth. He would hang his teeth on a nail at the side of
his bunk each night before bedtime. When he arose that
particular morning, his teeth were missing.

A couple of days later, we found out what had occurred.


Another soldier with false teeth would also hang his teeth at
the side of his bunk each evening. That one specific morning,
he automatically reached for his teeth and apparently he


grabbed the complainant's teeth. When those teeth didn ' t fit,
he thought some practical joker had bent them out of shape. He
was so angered that he threw the teeth overboard. He later
found hiS own teeth and realized his mistake.

INCIDENT IN WURZBURG DURING THE OCCUPATION

Just prior to the defeat of Japan in August, 1945, I


was transferred to another ROB in Namur, Belgium. I had only
been there a month when papers came through transferring me to
the 750th ROB stationed in Wurzburg, Germany.
Wurzburg was a university town that had been virtually
levelled by the British Air Force. The only buildings standing
were the University buildings. These had been converted to
hospitals by the Germans. Large Red Crosses had been painted
on the roofs and the British avoided bombing them.

After the German defeat American soldiers were billeted


in the University buildings. People were living in basements,
there were no stores, nothing. About a mile away there was one
small building intact and there we had our Btn HQ. This was
one of the few structures above ground.
Concurrent with my transfer to Namur and to Wurzburg,


two men from HQ Company transferred with me. One of the men,
"Junior" Payne had befriended a German POW in Wurzburg. The
POW, I think his name was Fritz, and he worked in the Army mess

29
h o..l i . rh
POW was of German and Italian parentage and spoke English
fairly well.
During one of our discussions, we talked with great •
interest about obtaining souvenirs and other mementos. These
appeared to be scarce in wurzburg. The POW had heard of a
Polish DP camp across the Oder River. This was about four
miles from our billet. We were advised by some of our people
not to make the trip as the bridge was hazardous.

We decided to make the trip regardless. If I had known


its true condition beforehand, I would not have made the trek.
The bridge swayed, and broken slats and slats damaged from
gunfire and bombing caused us to inch our way across.
When we arrived on the opposite side of the river, our
POW "friend" directed us to the DP camp, about one and a half
miles away. The camp contained hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
Polish DP's. Junior Payne and I spoke no Polish but Fritz did
have some basic knowledge. He located one of the tent-like
structures which held 10 to 15 people.

We gestured that we would like to exchange cigarettes,


candy and some canned goods for any wartime objects. In the
interim, the DP's were plying us with liquor. I restrained
myself somewhat but Junior Payne was feeling the effects of the
drinks. There was much discussion among the DP's and it began


to look to me that some of them acted unfriendly.

At the same time I was beginning to feel that maybe


Fritz wasn't on our side. We asked him what the talk was
about. From his limited knowledge of Polish, he sensed that
the DP's were going to forcibly take our possessions and he
felt that we might be harmed. I told Junior Payne what I
thought was "going on" and even in his condition, he understood
the possible danger.
He pulled out his P.45 and laid it on the table. The
DP's were taken by surprise by his action, and backed off.

We left the area rapidly and sometime later were back


in Wurzburg without any of the desired souvenirs, but felt
fortunate that we were not injured or worse.
Perhaps we misread the signals. We'll never know.
After the war I tried to contact Junior Payne but was not
successful. I wrote him a few letters but he never answered.
Then I asked Baker, who lived in a nearby town, to inquire
about him. He did so, and asked at the gas station. The
attendant said, "Yes, I know him, but take my word for it, you
don't want to see him." And so I let it go at that.

30

JOHN MELONAKOS, continued

• CHAPPY BAKER
In HQ Office someone had to be on duty 24 hours a day.
Early one Sunday morning, in Charleroi, I was in the office
alone when two men carne in. They were wearing civilian clothes
and they were big guys. They said, "Get on the phone and get
hold of your colonel." I wasn't inclined to obey them, after
all, there were in civilian clothing, but they were very
authoritative and I did what they said.
I couldn't get hold of the Colonel, the only one I
could get was Sgt. Mayhall, who was master sergeant of the Btn.
When Mayhall carne, they identified themselves as CID men and
said they were investigating the Black Market (the stealing and
selling of government property, usually to civilians for big
bucks). They said, "We have found the middle echelon guy, he's
one of yours, but we want the big guys, and we want him to
assist us. Now get Chappy Baker in here."
The Sgt. called him and when he got there, the CID men
sat him down and showed him some papers, saying, "We've got
proof here that you sent these large amounts of money horne. We
have your signature here transferring these funds from Brussels
to New York. But we want the big guys. If you assist us in
breaking up this black market ring, you'll get off easier."

• here."
Chappy said, "Yes, that's my signature, so what?"

They said,

Chappy said,
"We've got the noose around your neck, sign

"The hell I will, I'm not signing


anything." And he walked away.
I did know that Chappy had lots of money on him. He
was always friendly toward me, and when I'd run into him in a
bar, I'd pullout my two little 20-franc notes, and he'd pull
out this roll of I,OOO-franc notes, big enough to choke a
horse, and buy drinks for everybody.

Chappy was the yardmaster in Brussels, in a perfect


position to do what the CID men said he'd done. One time a
reefer car of sides of beef carne in and he had it put on a
siding. With an engine it was taken down to a spur track
somewhere. He sold the meat to a Belgian, who took it during
the night. The next morning the engine carne back and picked
up the empty car. It's believed he also did the same thing
with coal cars.

Other soldiers told me he mentioned having a house of


prostitution in Florida, which presumably someone was running
for him while he was in the Army.

31
- - - - - - - -- - - -- - -- - -- - - ---_ _- --- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- --
..

Later on, a very strong rumor had it that when he went


home he had $40,000 in U.S. money sewn in the lining of his
jacket. Supposedly he knew of some place in Brussels where he •
could convert francs into U.S. dollars. At any rate, when he
walked off the gangplank and his foot touched American soil,
the FBI picked him up. No doubt he went to jail.

After we started having reunions we sent out notices to


everyone, and I recall that in 1951 we had a letter from
Baker's wife. She said, "Don't send any more notices, my
husband died in 1949." She didn't say where, but I wonder if
it was an Army prison. At any rate, he didn't live too long to
enjoy his money.
(Another story from John appears later on.)

TIS FLOYD M. DE YOUNG, C Company


THE APPLE ORCHARD
Shortly after we landed on Utah Beach we were marched
to an apple orchard and it was raining like crazy (did all the
time, as we learned later on). Sgt. "Tex" Owens said we were
to pitch our shelter halves after counting off for distance,
but I for one was pretty scared, first night in France, didn't
know what part, soaking wet, tired, and hungry. I said to heck


with it, so I took my shelter half, sat on part of it with my
back up against an apple tree, with the triangle end of my
shelter half over my head, and went to what I thought was slee p
but was mostly fear.

When I woke up in the morning, 10 and behold I had been


sitting all night on one great big cow plop (quite fresh) so
that was the end of my shelter half, much too smelly to fold
up, so I left it. That's what you call the spoils of war, and
I do mean spoiled.

COGNAC
Some of the guys had been buying cognac from some
farmer and I asked them to tell me where they got it. They did
and so I went to see how it was made, but I should have stayed
where I was, because once I had seen how it was made I didn't
dare drink it.

Here's why: The farmer shovels the cow manure out of


his barn into a two-wheeled cart, hitches the horse to the
cart, then hauls it out to his apple orchard and spreads it
around with a pitchfork. When he is all unloaded he proceeds
with his pitchfork (the same one he shoveled the dung with) to
pick up apples, put them in this same cart, and take them to
the yard where he has a big vat-like container. He then un-
loads the apples into this vat, unhitches his horse, hitches •
him up to a long arm that extends out of this vat and the horse
goes round and round grinding up or pressing the apples into

32
juice, later to be fermented into cognac and put into bottles.

• I looked at one bottle he sold to a guy and there were


small particles floating in it.

needless to say, I didn't want any.


GETTING A HAIRCUT
I drew my own conclu-
sions as to what they were, and you may draw your own, but

As you probably know, when we left for overseas,


courtesy of the Army we received a nice haircut (a baldy). So
I for one could hardly wait for my hair to grow so I could get
a haircut, of a more normal length. Now we had been in France
about six weeks and I thought my hair was long enough for a
haircut, so I went into Folligny to get one.

The barber did not have any mirrors (he said the
Germans took them). Anyway, I told him in my best French
(lousy) to just take off a pitty pur (meaning just a little
bit.) Well, having no mirror to look at, I had to trust him (a
big mistake, believe me).

Needless to say, a two-months growth shot and I was


right back to being a baldy again, not that I was going to a
party or any thing, but it would have at least kept my head
warm .

• PFC. HENRY L, FALCONIO, JR.

particular job in the service.


C Company

You sometimes wonder how the Army selects you for your
The first time I had any
connection with railroading in any way was my first train ride
to Chicago to enlist at the age of 18. Knowing I would soon be
drafted, I decided to enlist in the signal corps. After
finding out that you would go straight into the infantry if
your grade average dropped to C or below, I decided to wait and
take my chances with the draft. My trip to Chicago was the
first time I had ever been on a train, and where did I end up?
Sure enough, in the Army 744th Railroad Operating Btn. How-
ever, I don't regret it a bit; I met and worked with some of
the finest men I have ever been associated with in my life. It
was an education and experience that I will never forget.
LIVING IN A BOXCAR

While serving with the 744th ROB in Germany in WW2, I


was working as a brakeman on the railroad with four other crew
members. All the crews would get some kind of railroad car to
fix to live in, and whenever our company moved to another
all we had to do was to hook up to the train. no
packing was necessary. We had an old German boxcar which we


had fixed up as our horne away from horne. To make them as
and nice as possible, we would make midnight
(that was going out, not necessarily at midnight,

33
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -----

but anytime to pick up anything we could carry off and not get
caught). We ended up with five hand-made beds, a table,
chairs, closet,and just about everything we needed, including a •
German-style pot belly stove used in German bunkers.
To preface this story, I was born in Universal,
Indiana, a coal mining community, and in a year or so our
family moved to Westville, Illinois, another coal mining town.
So I was born and raised around coal mines and my father was a
miner. I became very familiar with the bituminous (soft coal)
which is a very dirty, dusty, and soft type of coal.
One day while loading coal into an empty coal car, my
father noticed a piece of anthracite (hard coal) which was left
in the car from a shipment from another part of the country.
He brought it horne and explained the difference to me between
hard and soft coal. The anthracite is very hard, slick, and
actually clean coal as it did not rub off on your hand like the
soft coal. I was about nine years old at the time and was
impressed, taking it to school to show the other kids; then the
baseball-size piece of hard coal was put on the shelf to be
forgotten until years later.
NOw, to get back to the subject of this story. While on
one of our many trips to find things for our boxcar horne, I
discovered a coal car full of that nice, smooth slick, shiny
coal I remembered. I told the other guys that we should take
as much as we could of this back to our car to use in place of •
the wood and soft brickettes (a soft coal pressed into blocks
the size of concrete building blocks) that we were using for
heat. I explained that it would give more heat and be cleaner
to handle. They all helped and we brought a huge pile of the
shiny coal to our car. We had the stove fired up as it was
cold weather, so I proceeded to load up the stove with our new-
found fuel.
After loading up the stove I went outside to join the
other members (fortunately we were all outside). After a few
minutes,there was a terrific explosion and a cloud of thick
black sticky soot filled the boxcar and rolled out the door.
When the smoke cleared, we found the stove pipe had blown apart
and the stove door was blown off, quite a mess to say the least!
We discovered that our new fuel was actually chunks of TAR,
the type used for melting and spreading on roofs and road
repair. Needless to say, I had a lot of cleaning up to do and
never did live down the razzing I got from the crew about me
being a coal expert--they never took my word for anything again.

TRADING
While stationed in Charleroi, Belgium, with the 744th,
I would trade my cigarette rations to other crew members for
their candy rations as I was a non-smoker. I would write back
horne to ask my mother to send me cartons of cigarettes to trade •
for candy. She was reluctant to send them as she thought I had

34
started smoking, of which she disapproved. I assured her I had


not, but later when I had a chance to trade for a new 32
Mauser gun which I thought would make a good souvenir, I
requested some more. However, as she also disapproved of guns,
I couldn't tell her why I needed so many more cartons. It took
a lot of letter writing and convincing to get her to send the
cigarettes before I was able to get my souvenir gun.

NORMAN R. FEHRMAN, Headquarters Company

While on the ship going across the Atlantic the rumor


was strong that in Europe soap was a very good barter item,
even better than money. Ordinary consumer items were scarce
and the civilians would trade almost anything for soap. So I
bought all the soap I could afford, which was quite a bit.

When it came time to disembark at Liverpool, we had our


packs on our backs, our rifles over one shoulder, and,
supposedly, our duffel bags over the other shoulder.

Well, there was no way Norman R. Fehrman could swing


that duffel bag onto his shoulder, it was too heavy with all
those bars of soap. I'm sure all the men remember how steep
the ramp was. I had to drag mine; I think everyone else was
carrying his.


I got rid of that soap as soon as I could; I believe I
just gave it away. I wised up and switched to cigarettes,
which were much lighter and still served the same purpose as a
medium of exchange.
Later on after we landed in Europe and managed to
settle in one place for a while, we GI's befriended some of
the local people. The kids were always begging for chewing gum
or candy, which they called bon-bons, or for cigarettes for
their "Papa." Sometimes they would teach us French and we'd
teach them English. You couldn't help feeling sorry for the
people. They all looked gaunt and skinny, as if they hadn't
had decent food for a long time. Their clothes were shabby and
they never had enough fuel to keep their houses warm. The
Belgian kids in particular looked very malnourished. We were
glad to help them out when we could.

T/4 DOMINIC (NICK) SALVIOLA, C Company

I was born and raised in South Dakota at North Sioux


City, which was the location of the Milwaukee Road's "West
Yards." My father had worked as a boilerwasher and gandy
dancer on the Section. (ED. NOTE: Gandy dancers are the crews
that go out and inspect the tracks and roadbeds and keep them


in good repair.)

35
..................------------------------
Nick Salviola Continued

My first brush with railroading came early as I spent a •


lot of time visiting with and listening to the section men talk
of sex, sports, politics, and sex!

My friendships with section men and switch men resulted


in my getting a job shoveling snow for two weeks during my high
school senior year. Thus began my service years on section.
At the outbreak of the war I hired out as a locomotive
fireman. I was single but was granted an occupational
deferrment for one year. Near the end of the deferrment period
I wrote a letter to a military battalion in Louisiana, asking
about enlisting. A Major Richardson suggested I at home
until I was inducted.
I was also corresponding with a Milwaukee-Sponsored
Battalion commanded by Col. Hotchkiss and Major Shea. That's
the outfit I joined. Being experienced on the railroad I was
sporting stripes within several weeks after being inducted.
This tripled my pay and thus began my locomotive engineering
for the 744th.
I recall a goof-up wherein a certain recruit told them
he was a conductor in civilian life and he received a sergeant's


rating. When they found out he had been merely a conductor on
a street car, they busted him back to a buck private and took
away the extra pay.

Major James Shea plays an important part in my memories


of military railroading from our first meeting one evening in
his office before being inducted at Fort Snelling, throughout
service in Europe, and into civilian railroading after service,
to a last reunion in Milwaukee.
Here's a war-time incident I would relate. We had
stopped to take on water at Couliboeuf in northern France about
midnight. We had a coffee while the tender was filling with
water. We whistled out a flag. (ED. NOTE: Meaning, signalled
a flagman out to protect the rear of the train. SEE Dave
Greenfield's story, A Flag that Scared the Hell out of Me.)

When ready to proceed, we whistled in the flagman


several times; received no highball (engineer looks out to get
a hand signal from flagman), but we whistled off and proceeded
on the assumption the rear end was napping in hind boxcar.
After proceeding for several hours and arriving at a
manned station we were flagged down by the operator who
informed me, "The Colonel wants to talk to you on the phone."


Picking up the phone I said, in proper military
fashion, "Sir, this is Salviola."

36
From the other end of the line came, "God, God, God

• damn you, Salviola, don't, don't sir me."


wishing to acknowledge understanding,
sir," which antagonized him further.
I replied, "Yes,

He told me that I had left part of the train back in


Couliboeuf and to go back and get it. How the train got
parted, I don't know.
But as I was closing conversation, on the other end of
the line, the Colonel was muttering, "And to think you are a
Milwaukee man."
After the war I had many occasions to visit with
Colonel Hotchkiss and Major Shea because they returned to work
for the Milwaukee Road. They were my division managers at
different times.

When Jim Shea came to Sioux City he set up an


appointment at the roundhouse for us to have a bull session
about the war. Among other things, we talked about taking
water at the Vire River, the expression "Round the Horn, no
relief here, " etc.

To explain a bit ... because of the lack of water tanks


on certain lines, the trains had to stop at rivers for the
engine crew to fill up the tender with water drawn from the
river. The Vire River was at the bottom of a gully of some
depth, and a pump with hoses some 50 or 60 feet in length had
to be used.
"Round the Horn, no relief here," meant that we picked
up full trains in Cherbourg and took them to the end of our
sector and then brought empties back to Cherbourg. All our
crews were stationed in Folligny, and quite often we went round
in a sort of loop, bypassing Folligny and our scheduled rests.
In Cherbourg, when we got in, we signed in at the
bottom of the list and were supposed to get eight hours rest.
When your name came up, even if it were only three hours, you
had to get up.
This brings to mind something Col. Hotchkiss did. We
told him we were not getting enough rest, sometimes working
three or four days straight, so he got on the phone to the
Colonel in charge of the Cherbourg yards.

He said, "God, God damn it, my men are complaining they


are not getting enough sleep up there in your yards. God, God
damn it, you know regulations say the, the men must g-e t 8


hours rest before setting out again. You, you're full of goose
turds if you think I'm going to put up with this. You, you
go by the regulations or I'll, I'll call up General Gray."

37
Another thing Jim Shea and I tried to figure out was
why any soldier would want to throw a hand grenade into the
whorehouse in Argentan. There was some damage, but luckily no
one was killed. Probably some poor guy thought he didn't get •
his money's worth.

I hold memories of my 744th career very dear. But more


special are my reunion memories. In all these years, I have
missed only four reunions! We are all especially thankful to
those men who first started our reunions and kept them going.

Among others, I recall Bill Bonow of Wisconsin Rapids,


Wisconsin, who had much to do in organizing our first reunions.
In closing, a vote of appreciation for our ladies who
go through the reunions with us.

With love,
Nick Salviola

ANONYMOUS

AWOL and ARMY PRISONERS


While we were still at Ft. Snelling, there was a cer-
tain guy in our outfit from Detroit. He was the screw up of C
Company. They called him AWOL He was an Arab,
dark, a small man, and very hairy, his chest and arms
covered with hair.
very
just

He never bathed. His face was always shiny with a sort


of greasy sweat. When the men couldn't stand his body odor any

longer, they'd grab him and take him down to the shower.
They'd take a GI brush with long stiff bristles, and using
strong yellow fels naphtha soap, give him a good washing.
But he never learned. He never bathed, and after a
while the men would grab him and give him another bath.

He was given a leave and went home and didn't return


on time. He had married a young cousin, and used his marriage
as an excuse. They further learned she was a minor, only about
fourteen years old. They wanted to court-martial him, but for
some reason it fell through.

Later on, he went AWOL again. They finally found him,


asleep in the basement of the barracks. Here again, they
wanted to court-martial him, but since he'd been found in the
barracks, on Army property, they couldn't do it. They solved
the problem by transferring him out.

He continued to screw up, and it was strongly rumored


that in Europe he was shot by the Army. They say Eddie Slovik •

38
AWOL_____ and ARMY PRISONERS Continued

• was the only American GI executed by the Army during WW II, but
that's not so. Just ask the MP's who handled prisoners.
In France there was lots of trouble with men going AWOL
and others selling truckloads of supplies. In 1945 we began
reading about these problems in Stars and Stripes, the Army
newspaper.
The offenders would be arrested, picked up in Paris by
MP's, then taken to HQ in England. Stories had it lots of
these prisoners were colored. At the court-martial there would
be a colonel, a major, a captain , and either three or five more
officers. Evidence would be taken, witnesses would be heard.
If the men were convicted, they might be sentenced to death.
If it was murder or rape, they definitely were. If it was
stealing government property, they might also be shot, it
depended on the officers presiding. They could shoot you or
hang you for just about anything during war time. You should
see the Articles of War Book, it covers everything you can
think of.
At any rate, there was a story in the Stars and Stripes
about some prisoners awaiting trial in England who were thrown
into pits dug in the ground. Their food was thrown down to them
and they slept in the mud .

• We treated our German POW's better than that.


remember standing guard on German POW's at Ft. Sam Houston,
Texas; these men were supposed to be doing hard labor.
they were mowing grass and raking driveways.
coffee breaks.
magazines.
Hell,
They'd stop for
They ate the same food we did, read the same
I was disgusted to learn the Army was treating
I

their own worse than the Germans.


To return to the American GI prisoners in England, we
do have to remember they had been convicted of very serious
crimes. However, the way they were mistreated eventually drew
attention, and some of the officers responsible were court-
martialed themselves.

The following anecdote is furnished by a different


soldier, who also wishes to remain Anonymous:

The head cook at Charleroi, Belgium was named Kowalski.


On one occasion he sold the company's ration of meat on the
black market. We figured that must be what he did, because for
one week we had nothing but powdered eggs at every meal. After
that we referred to him as Black Market Kowalski •

• 39
T/4 GEORGE ANTHONY, C Company
When World War II began, I was an engineer on the •
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. When the Allies set their sights
on fighting Hitler in Europe, guys like me with experience on
the railroad were suddenly very desirable fellows and so of
course I got drafted.
I went through boot camp with the rest of the outfit at
Ft. Sam Houston, Texas and then we moved on to Ft. Snelling,
Minnesota, to give technical training to the inexperienced
recruits. We lived at Ft. Snelling but were sent to the
railroad yards in downtown Minneapolis and st. Paul and worked
with the regular trainmen of the Milwaukee Road.
At Ft. Snelling I knew this soldier, Jim Chandler, who
had a very beautiful wife. She was a hostess. When he went
into the service, they made an agreement, "You don't ask me any
questions when you come home, and I won't ask you any." One
time she came up for a visit and he told her, "Gee, honey,
I ·' ve got a date for tonight. Do you want to come along?" She
agreed, and darned if the three of them didn't go out together
to dinner and the movies.
We left the united States August 11, 1944 and arrived
at Southampton August 23. Some of us had been scheduled to go
to Cardiff, Wales, for extra training and our equipment went
there. When General Patton said he could take Paris if he
could get gas, we were shipped right out and our equipment •
never did catch up with us. All we had was an .03 rifle.
August 25th we hit Utah Beach, which meant we landed on
D-Day plus 80. We were loaded with a full field pack and had
to climb down landing nets to the landing craft and from there
into the water, after the craft got near shore. The weather
was rough and some men were injured. Because of the injuries
the landing was stopped until the next day.

The first crews to run trains were chosen in


alphabetical order, so of course I got chosen for one of the
first trains. The trains were mixed trains, including the gas
that Patton wanted, and ammunitions. They gave us rations for
four days and told us, "We don't know where you're going or
when you'll return. Stop and fill your tank at any water
station you see, we don't know where the next one will be."
. -flew
German recona1ssance planes few over at night taking
pictures. Because of this we were supposed to have no lights
at night, and one time here comes this engine with a headlight
on the track. That engineer got chewed out pretty good by the
Colonel.


Upon one occasion an Infantry Captain wanted to ride
with us and we said, "Sure." He asked, "Where do you stop for

40
the night?" "We don't," we told him. "But I don't see a
headlight," he said. "You won't," was our reply. He got very


nervous about accepting that ride, but he had orders to be
somewhere, so he did. We could not see the track at night. I
told him, "The only difference at night, you can't see the bad
spots so you don't slow down."
One time we met Chaplain Rice (we were pulling a
hospital train) and he had a portable piano and asked for
requests. Someone asked for the Beer Barrel Polka, and by
golly, his assistant pounded it out.
Do you know I got Josie and Mac married? (Note: this
refers to Lorimer McCallister and his Belgian wife.) That's
because I could speak French. I went to her Dad and cleared
the way and helped with Army permission forms. Mac had to
promise not to take Josie out of the country until she was 21.

BARTERING

Bar soap was a great barter item. We'd use it with the
local people to get hot shaves, steaks, ice cream. Cigarettes
were even more useful as a barter item. This one time I took
the train to Paris. There was this fireman working with me
had a lot of cigarettes to sell. It took a handful of money to
buy a carton--5,000 francs, or $100. He's standing in this


crowd, selling the cartons, stuffing handfuls of money into the
pockets of his fatigues. There was this little French kid
standing beside him and every so often the kid would reach in
and steal a handful of money. I saw what was going on, but I
didn't say anything.

Lots of GI's sold everything personal that they'd been


issued. Sometimes we didn't get home for days at a time. Wine
crates were used for footlockers and some guys had them stuffed
full of money.
TRAVELING WITH THE BRASS
In Belgium, I was used as an interpreter for
Lt. Hosler, who was Road Foreman of Engines (this means in
charge of the people who worked the engines--engineers and
firemen.) As he had to ride all special trains, he took me
along both as interpreter and engineer. I did work on trains
for both Patton and "Ike" as well as other VIP trains. We
always got fed good on these jobs as these guys ate the best.
However, we had Patton's train from Charleroi to Antwerp.
After arriving at Antwerp we went back to the diner to eat.
The Chef served us "corned-woolly", corned beef. When we
complained, the Chef said, "It was good enough for the general,
so it's good enough for you."

• 41
GEORGE ANTHONY Continued


THANKSGIVING DINNER
At Thanksgiving time in 1944 we were headquartered at
Argentan, France. The Army had a traditional dinner of turkey,
dressing, and all the trimmings. We had 8 or 10 trains on the
eastbound main track waiting to get into Argentan. So we could
eat, they held all westbound trains and Col. Hotchkiss had the
cooks put stoves on hand cars, pulled by a motor car. They
carne down the track and stopped at each engine and caboose and
served the full-course dinner to each man--including pumpkin
pie. We really appreciated what the Colonel did because the
long hours we were working, we were not getting very many good
meals.

Speaking of eating, we had a 24-hour mess hall at the


town of Couliboeuf, France. We stopped there to take water on
the engines and could get a little bite to eat. We furnished
the rations for the cook by "moonlight requisition" from the
trains. One morning our train was there just before breakfast,
so we "called the flag." I was engineer, Jim Chandler,
fireman; Dick Mancini was head brakeman; Corky Fleming was
conductor; and Tom McClure, flagman.
On the engine we watched the air gauges to see when
they squeezed a little air off the rear end to let us know they
were on the caboose. On seeing the air gauge drop, I
"whistled-off"/ and departed.

At the next telegraph office we received a message from


the train dispatcher for Brakeman Mancini to protect the rear
of our train as we had left the Conductor and Flagman at
Couliboeuf. After giving us the "false signal" that they weie

on the caboose, they stayed behind to get a good breakfast at
the mess hall. They also had a good laugh.
MORE BARTERING
In December of 1944 when we arrived at Charleroi,
Belgium, we heard that you could get ice cream in town. We had
no Belgian money but we had plenty of soap, which was one of
the best things for selling or trading. Sam Blue and I took
some soap and went into town to sell enough of it to buy some
ice cream. It was about 9:00 p.m. and Sam went up to a nice-
looking lady who was probably in her forties. Sam asked her,
"Vous voulez du savon?" This means, "Do you want some soap?"
He forgot to use the word, "buy." The lady looked at him
sweetly and in perfect English replied, "Thanks, but it is too
late tonight." She had misunderstood Sam's intent and like I
said, you could trade soap for "anything."

42

TIS DAVID GREENFIELD, C Company

• EDITOR'S NOTE: To those of you who may ask, "Why are


there so many stories by Dave in here?" I address this
explanation.
In the early stages of collecting material for this
book, response from the men was very slow. Since Dave was
living right under my thumb, so to speak, I leaned on him
heavily for stories. Later on, when I checked with him about
details, or for definitions of railroad terms, my questions
quite often triggered additional memories. This explains why
there are so many stories from him. As for you other men,
those of you who did not contribute, you had your chance!

BASIC TRAINING
On my first trip to the Induction Center, I was
rejected by the Draft Board because of an existing skin
condition affecting my hands and feet. I was classified "l-A
Induction Deferred" and returned to civilian life. Nine months
later I was called again by the Induction Center and this time
they said they were taking me and would put me in limited
service. They gave me a choice of joining the Army, which
meant induction in three weeks, or the Navy, which meant having
only one week at home. I chose the Army because I could then
stay home for Christmas, 1943.

• At the appointed time, I said good-bye to my Mom and


Dad and got on the train at Royal Oak, Michigan, and we went to
Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. After a few days I was told to gather
up all my gear and report to the railroad siding. We boarded a
troop train headed for Ft. Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas.
I was assigned to C Company of the 744th Railway Operating
Battalion. We arrived about January 15, 1944 and stayed for
two months of basic training.

You might expect it to be hot, but it wasn't. In fact,


while we were there they had their first snow in many years; it
even was mentioned in the local paper.

The barracks was a two-story affair and I stayed


upstairs. It was one long room full of double bunks, one on
top of another. On each floor a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO)
had a small sleeping room at one end. At 5:30 A.M. he'd blow a
police whistle to wake us up. It would be dark outside, and
we'd go out and line up for roll call, then do calisthenics for
half an hour. This would take place on a large paved area.
Then we would go to the Mess Hall for breakfast. After that
there would be lots of marching and drilling and sometimes long
hikes and rifle practice.


Our training included going through obstacle courses.
The one I remember most vividly was crawling on our bellies
through a field of barbed wire while they shot live machine

43
guns over our heads. They told us, don't stand up, that's live
ammo, you could get killed. Since I had other duty I missed the •
original go-through. When I made it up, it was raining and I
had to crawl through a sea of mud. I was so thoroughly covered
with mud that I simply went right into the shower room with all
my clothes on and let the water rinse me off.

We also had rifle practice. If you missed the target,


something called Maggie's drawers would be waved in the air.
They had a man back there to do the waving; he used a painted
wooden cut-out in the shape of a woman's drawers. We also
learned to disassemble and re-assemble our rifles and guns.

DRILL SGT. WHITE AND MIKE CHEREP

One morning at Ft. Snelling while C Company was being


"indulged" in exercise a hilarious event took place. A group
of us were formed into a circle. Drill Sgt. walter White took
his place in the middle of the circle. Under his instructions
we were to do push-ups and keep up with him.

As we continued this tedious task to his commands of


"Hup, two, three, four," one Mike Cherep suddenly collapsed,
seemingly from sheer exhaustion. Sgt. White halted the
exercise and decided to make an example of Mike.

"Stop fucking up, Cherep," he said, among other choice •


words. After chewing Mike out thoroughly he demanded that Mike
]Oln him in the middle of the circle and, as the rest of us
watched, he demanded that Mike keep up with him or face the
consequences. They started off together, with Sgt. White
keeping a watchful eye on Mike.

After about thirty or forty push-ups Sgt. White began


to pant heavily and visibly falter while the rest of us GI's
were egging Mike on to greater glory. After about ten more
push-ups Sgt. White collapsed and lay flat on the ground while
Mike, to the cheers of us lowly peasants, continued merrily
along, without apparent effort.

Moral: Don't fuck around with a fuck-up.

INSPECTIONS -- A PICNIC -- AN EASTER PARADE

From time to time we'd have inspections. The officers


would give us notice the night before and we'd get down on our
knees to scrub the floor and we'd clean the windows and get rid
of all the dust. We'd get everything sparkling. We'd shine
our shoes till you could see your face in them. Cots had to be
made so tightly that they could drop a quarter on it and it
would bounce up to a certain height.

44

There was a footlocker at the foot of every bed for


your socks, underwear, personal belongings and field equipment,
which would be your knapsack, tent, canteen, leggings, etc.
In your locker, everything had to be in a certain
place. Shirts and field jackets had to be hanging with the
left shoulder facing out. Every button had to be buttoned.

One time the sergeant found that I'd neglected to


button one button on a shirt cuff, and for this he gigged me.
In this case, being gigged meant I was restricted to the post
for 48 hours. Usually, when the day's work was done we could
go off the post into town.
John Melonakos remembers an incident when we were in
parade dress. He was standing with his hands behind him in-
stead of at his sides. He got gigged for that.
On one occasion when we were standing in the ranks the
Sgt. asked, "Does anyone know shorthand?" John Melonakos did,
and I urged him to say so. He was a little reluctant, but
eventually he stepped forward. The Sgt. said, "Good, we are
short-handed in the kitchen, Melonakos, report to the cook."

Another time we were standing in the ranks and the Sgt.


said, "Does anyone have a civilian driver's license?" We urged


Mac McAllister to step forward, and he did.

The Sgt. said, "Good, we need someone to drive a wheel-


barrow, let's go."

Occasionally on Saturday and Sunday afternoons there


would be no field hikes or other practice scheduled, so we'd go
to the Day Room. In our barracks the Day Room had a ping pong
table, a pool table, a radio, books, magazines, sofas and
chairs to sit on.

On this one summer Saturday Sgt. Wilson came in and


said, "I need six volunteers to go on a picnic today." By now
we were wised up and the old Army wisdom of never volunteering
was fixed in our brains. Everybody guffawed and said, "Aw,
come on, Sarge, there ain't no picnic, that's bullshit." But
he kept insisting it was a legitimate offer, that we'd go to
someone's house and there'd be free food and drinks.

I volunteered and eventually some other guys did, and


they put us on a truck, and it turned out to be the real thing.
The Vice President of Minneapolis-Honeywell had this big estate
with beautifully landscaped grounds. There were stables, and
horses we could ride if we wanted to, croquet, tennis courts,
a swimming pool. Small tables with snacks were laid out here


and there, and there was a Filipino man-servant who went around
continually with a tray of drinks.

45
The VP did this every weekend, as part of his war
effort. He had some daughters, and they and their girl friends •
mingled with us. There were 18 of us all together; besides the
six of us from the 744th, there were six men from the Wold
Chamberlain Air Field and six naval cadets from the University
of Minnesota.
The weather was warm, it was a fine day, and we had a
grand time. At the end of the day there was a picnic feast for
everyone.

At that time, in Minneapolis, they took a survey and


learned there were 30,000 more women than civilian males in
town. And of the civilian males who were there most of them
were too old or too young to be in service, and consequently
the wrong age to be escorts to the young women.

When we'd go to the Red Cross dances, there's be six


girls to each man, and you could pick and choose. Oh, it was
fabulous.
So that more girls could get a chance to dance, cutting
in by the women was permitted. They had a broom and a girl
took it and if she tapped your partner, your partner would have
to take the broom and cut in on someone else.
I remember being in town on Easter Sunday and walking
down the main street during the Easter Parade.

all of them wearing pretty new hats,


heels, and knee-length skirts.
was!
From curb to
curb the street was full of women in their new spring outfits,
little white gloves, high
Oh, what a beautiful sight it

46

THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE


Not being a combat unit, we didn't participate in the
Battle of the Bulge, but at various times some of us got
uncomfortably close. About December 15, 1944, we were in
France. We had no idea the Germans had stopped retreating and
were attacking the Allied lines near Luxembourg. At that time
we were being moved from France to Belgium, and what we heard
on the radio--BBC broadcasts--was forty-eight hours old.

When we completed our move to Charleroi, Belgium, they


sent a train crew on a truck towards Luxembourg. They left
early in the morning and returned late the same day, still in
the truck. The Captain asked, "What the hell are you doing
back?" They said they'd turned a corner and facing them was a
German tank, so they got the hell out quick.

As the German advance continued many non-combat units


were alerted. We were issued extra clips of ammo and
transported to Namur in case the German advance was not halted.
We waited there for orders and I remember seeing some airplanes
in a dogfight. Fortunately for our unit, the Germans were
stopped and we were sent back to Charleroi to resume our daily
task of taking trains on supply runs throughout our sector . .

Somewhere during this time I was the only GI on a train


heading toward the front. The rest of the crew were Belgian


and spoke French. We met a train returning to Charleroi and
they babbled excitedly to our crew. When they translated for
me, I learned that the other train had been strafed by German
aircraft. We kept going ahead, toward the area of the
strafing, because that was our orders.

It was evening when we approached a town and I could


hear bombing, and my nerves got tight. It was dark in the
caboose. My Belgian companion had a carbon wick lantern. The
bombing continued, we could hear it constantly, and every time
a bomb went off there was a concussion in the air which would
blow the lantern ·out. My nerves didn't get any better when the
Belgian told me this was the spot where the other train crew
said they'd been strafed.

We pulled into town and stopped. This was the end of


our run, the train would be turned over to the crew of another
railway battalion. As we waited in the caboose, we suddenly
heard a loud roar like an airplane diving. We both leaped for
cover, going under the benches. The noise got louder and
louder and I thought this was it. Eventually, however, the
noise began to lessen and we got up our nerve to look out the
window.

We saw an American GI truck going up a steep grade next


to the tracks and realized that was the sound we'd been
hearing. What a relief.

47
Naturally, I didn't care to remain in that vicinity
overnight so I asked the yardmaster to get me right out. He •
said I could deadhead back right away (deadhead means you don't
work, you just ride). There was a train ready and I hopped on.
I was in the boxcar directly behind the engine.

Coming out of the yard there was a steep up-grade and


the train stalled. We needed more power and the Belgian crew
had the firebox door open as they poured in the coal. This of
course lit up the engine. We used no lights, as George Anthony
mentioned in his story, but it is tough to keep the engine
going without opening the firebox to put in coal when
necessary.

So the engine was lit up and suddenly we were being


shot at, there were flashes of small arms fire coming from the
nearby wooded area. The Belgians quickly shut the firebox
door. We backed down the hill into the yards and with the help
of a pusher engine we got up the hill and on our way without
being shot at again.
It happened that two of the men in our battalion were
stationed at Ciney, which was the furthest the German advance
got to. Because of that our battalion got a battle star for
the Bulge. That counted as points at the end of the war,


toward going home.

The weather was lousy throughout the Battle of the


Bulge, cold, cloudy, and lots of snow coming down. That had
been Hitler's advantage, what he counted on, because we
couldn't get in fresh supplies to our troops. But I remember
the day the weather broke. Very cold, but the skies were clear
and our bombers started coming in from Britain. Did they send
the aircraft over. All day long, sixty bombers in a group,
some of them dragging gliders loaded with supplies. The noise
was intense from the aircraft engines. It went on all day
long. They bombed the hell out of them.
A FLAG THAT SCARED THE HELL OUT OF ME
Somewhere in France during a night-time run we had to
stop for water. We had been warned to be on the alert because
some German POW's had escaped and might be nearby. The night
was bright with moonlight.
On such nights it was my custom to always stay in the
shadows whenI walked back to protect the rear of my train.

As rear brakeman, or flagman, it was my duty to walk


back far enough to ensure that any oncoming train would be able
to stop in time before colliding with the rear of my train.
This was necessary in war time because the automatic signal •
systems had been destroyed. When the train stopped, the
engineer would "blow" me out with a certain whistle.

48
to it at one or both ends by a switch; it is used for
unloading, bypassing, etc. A switch is a movable section of •
railroad track by which a train is changed from one set of
rails to another. Cars destined for the depot were deposited
on the rail sidings.

The Army Engineers hired Belgian civilians to do the


warehousing type of work, and they needed a train crew of five
men to operate the little engine and push the loaded cars onto
the appropriate depot tracks.

The 744th assigned five of us to Col. Smith. These


were George Nimee, Arthur LaTendresse, George Gilbertson, Leroy
Crowder, and myself, Dave Greenfield. We were billeted in the
tavern for three months. The family was named van den Driesse,
consisting of Mama, Papa, and Lea, an unmarried daughter in her
twenties. We used to add our rations to their food, and every
night Mama cooked us a nice hot meal. In passing, I'd like to
mention that I formed a close association with them that lasted
a number of years after the war.
At the depot there was a main gate where the Belgian
workers were let out at 4:30 every day. Every now and then the
guards would pull an inspection and examine the worker's lunch-
bags, usually cloth bags slung over their shoulders. Occasion-
ally, if suspicious for some reason, they would search the


worker.

One time they found a Milky Way bar under a worker's


hat. He was fired on the spot. Another time they were doing a
body search and found an odd lump under one of the worker's
trousers. They made him drop his pants and discovered a candy
bar hanging from a string tied to his most private part.
Another worker fired!

Within the warehouse there were certain restricted


areas--probably where they kept the best booze--and to keep
workers out, Col. Smith had his men plant small explosive
charges. When someone reached in where he wasn't supposed to,
the charge would go off. I don't recall if the charges were
strong enough to hurt anyone, but soldiers would come running
to see what was going on.

Another time a trainload of 40 or 50 cars of goods came


in and one of the cars had been ripped open. It was rather a
small hole; I reached in to an arm's length, but could feel
nothing there, except in one area. I pulled my arm out and
discovered a tiny smear of chocolate on my fingernail. There
must have been candy bars in that particular car.

It must have been hard for Belgian civilians not to be


tempted by all the goodies they handled. Many of them had been
semi-starved during the German occupation. In the beginning, •
before the Germans attacked England, and before America got in-
volved, the Germans had raped Belgium of food for their war

50
effort. The starving Belgians made the newsreels and the

• u.s. and other countries, not as yet involved in hostilities,


had sent food over. The Germans had, as I can best recall,
been shamed into letting the food actually go to the Belgians
to help them survive that awful winter.

Having been half-starved for six years, deprived also


of all normal consumer goods, it must have been very tough for
even the good ones to keep their hands from getting sticky.
As a matter of fact, they were still starving. It was
a common sight to see them at the big garbage cans outside our
mess halls, digging through the slop, hoping to find bits of
edible food. They longed for cigarettes, too. Whenever there
was a line-up of GI's--for instance, waiting to get into a
movie, civilians would stand around watching them smoke. When
a soldier was finished and flipped his cigarette butt away,
several people would pounce on it. The winner would strip off
the paper and put the tobacco into a small drawstring bag,
until he accumulated enough for a smoke.
It was also very common for kids to beg for candy.
Bon-bons, they'd say. Sometimes along the tracks, people would
hold up baskets, hoping the engine crew would throw them lumps
of coal, which sometimes they did .

• 51
DAVE GREENFIELD continued

THE MILLION DOLLAR BATTALION

The following story is not about our outfit. It is


about the 724th Battalion which operated in and around Paris.
While I may not have the details exactly as they were, still
basically the story is true and has been documented.

Our battalion, the 744th operated from Cherbourg on the
coast to Surdon, France. Another unit took the trains, with
their original loads, further in toward Paris, I don't recall
exactly where. At this particular point the 724th picked them
up and took them on to Paris. They merely switched train
crews.

Army officials became aware of the fact that in one


certain month the men of the 724th sent home money orders
totalling over $1 million, more than the payroll for the entire
month. This triggered a CID investigation. The crew lived in
box cars and the CID would come in, unannounced, and begin
looking through footlockers for contraband. What the men had
been doing was stealing government supplies and selling them on
the black market.

A court martial was held. Those indicted were thirty-


five GI's and five officers of C Company of the 724th. The
five officers got off without penalty, and the thirty-five men •
were found guilty. Sentences involved dishonorable discharge
and being shipped back to the States to do hard labor in Army
prisons for periods of five to twenty years.

However, they were offered an alternative. Instead of


going to prison, they could undergo one week's infantry
training and then be sent to the front lines. It is my under-
standing that all the GI's chose the infantry training.

A buddy af mine said some of these guys were made MP'S


and he saw them directing traffic behind the front lines. Talk
about lucking out! Obviously, the money these particular men
had sent back was waiting for them when they got home.

THE LONGEST FLAG IN THE HISTORY OF THE 744TH

Mezidon, France, was a water stop. The coal cars held


thousands of gallons of water to produce steam. At five
o'clock one morning, in a very dense fog, we were approaching
Mezidon. We were running on the "wrong main" (opposite track,
going the wrong way). We had been directed to do this by the
previous station, probably because there was some switching
taking place on the main line.


There was a small river running by the track; this was
where the Mezidon Station took water for the locomotives. I
was the flagman at the rear and Leroy Crowder was the

52
conductor. As I've mentioned, the flagman's job is to protect

• the rear of the train .


At one point the fog lifted a bit and we saw a spot on
the river that we thought we recognized as being close to
Mezidon. Leroy said I had better get off here.
be an awful mistake.
It proved to
However, I jumped off with my fusies and
the caboose disappeared into the fog, leaving me all alone.
Later I heard our train arrive and our engineer blowing out the
flagman with the "wrong main" signal. Sound travels long
distances in the fog, so I thought my train was close by.

I heard a train corning toward me in the distance,


getting closer and closer, and I lit my fusie. It turned out
to be on the right track (we were on the wrong one), and I
waved them on toward the station. That train disappeared into
the fog.
Twenty-five minutes I heard another train blowout
their flagman. This train was corning from the opposite
direction. That meant there were three trains picking up
water, or waiting to.
Suddenly I heard a train whistle blowing to call in" the
flagman from my direction. But I couldn't determine if it was
my engine or the other one. Finally they blew the "wrong main"


signal and I knew it was me and I started to walk. I walked
and walked. Where was my train? It had sounded so close. I
walked and walked. About two hours later I met Crowder corning
through the fog looking for me. As it turned out, I'd gotten
off the train about five miles before I should have, and
therefore I gave the longest flag in the history of the 744th.
ST. LO, FRANCE
St. Lo, France, was one of the most bombed out towns
I'd ever seen. It was nothing but holes and rubble. Actually,
it was where the Americans made their break-through into the
German lines, the beginning of the big push into Germany.
Allied forces had bombed the hell out of St. Lo. In fact, the
bombing created so much dust that the secondary waves of
bombers couldn't see the lines and they dropped their bombs on
the wrong side and killed many American soldiers.

A cute thing happened one day as we approached St. Lo.


Our caboose had just crossed a road when we carne to a halt near
the end of town and I was about to jump out to flag. I noticed
a Frenchman dismounting from his bicycle. He put it down, and
turning his back, began urinating.

A woman carne down the road, holding a large milk can in


her hands. The man saw her, and I thought he'd be embarrassed,
but not missing a drop, he switched hands, and with a big
smile said grandly, "Bon jour, Madame," and reached out to

53
shake hands. She, not turning a hair, smiled, said, "Bon jour,


Monsieur," shook hands with him and kept on going. After she
left, he switched hands again to finish urinating.

Obviously they must have been neighbors! In France,


men relieving themselves along the side of the road was a
commonplace sight. I hear that it still is.

DONALD O. HOFF, Tec/4, C Company

GETTING MY RAILROAD TRAINING

I was drafted when we were living in Madison, Wisconsin


and sent to Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. The month was December. I
thought in Texas I would spend a warm winter. WRONG! On
bivouac at Camp Bullis, we slept out in tents during a snow
storm! The natives said it was the only time it snowed in the
Panhandle! Don Guisner had a rattle snake in his tent the next
morning. Boy, did he do a quick roll-over.

We arrived at Ft. Snelling, our next assignment.


Minnesota was a long way from Texas. But -- it was warmer
weather in Texas now and the cool Minnesota summer was a pleas-


ant change. At Ft. Snelling, I was told that I would be an
engineer on the railroad. Well, I couldn't even spell the word
and had never been on an engine. They gave me an exam to pass
-- along with the answer book and said, "Don't make it too
perfect."

There I was, a locomotive engineer, and now I had to be


trained. I got to ride the caboose on the Milwaukee Road from
Minneapolis to Duluth and back, so now I knew what it meant to
ride a train. A week later I was sent to Pigs-Eye Yard to work
with a switching crew. There I got to ride a donkey engine.
Was I getting good training! (EDITOR'S NOTE: The problem here
was that the regular railroad men didn't want to be bothered
training the new recruits.)

I thought to myself, if I do get overseas, I'll end up


in an MP outfit. No way will I be an engineer.

BUT -- when we got to France, I was assigned to one of


the first crews out, and on a FRENCH engine. No one in our
outfit could figure out all the valves. I found a French
engineer and my high school French helped us to understand each
other. For some cigarettes and food, he stayed with me for
quite a few runs and I got to be an expert on a French locomo-
tive. My assigned fireman, a big raw-boned kid named Witcamp,
could really shovel coal to keep that engine running.

My next engine was an English one. You couldn't keep a •


fire going because of the lousy coal and no way to shake the

54
.PN 55


grates. Everyone hated those engines.

I finally got a GI engine and named it the "Mary Jean,"


after my wife, just like the airmen named their planes. That
engine served me well.

MEMORIES OF OLD FT. SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS

We were to have mounted on each water tank behind the


engine, for overseas assignment, a 50 caliber cannon and
machine gun in a turret. In order to become experienceo in
using them, we had to practice with them on the gunnery range
at Ft. Sam Houston. A jeep towed the targets behind a hill. I
had to get in the tank and can you imagine 6 ft. 6 in. me--
tall and lanky then -- trying to get down in a cockpit type
unit built for a 5 ft. 6 in. person. The officer in charge
insisted I get in. I tried to reason with him (it was impos-
sible to reason with an officer of the old Army).
So I pushed and tugged my way in. I fired my rounds,
can't remember if I hit a thing! Then the fun began. When I
tried to get out, I was stuck! Three or four fellows tried to
pull me and with nothing to get hold of they almost pulled" my
arms out of their sockets. And -- I couldn't move.


I sat in the Texas sun for a couple of hours until
Ordinance got over to take the turret apart and I finally got
out. The remainder of the week I got to drive the jeep with
the kite. Being tall had its problems in the service.
COMING HOME TO CAMP SHANKS, N. Y.

We arrived back from overseas and had to have physicals


upon arrival. There was also a group of new inductees going
out at the same time we were corning back. When the doctor in
charge finished with me, he stamped my form -- Unfit for
Overseas Duty.
It was then I dug out my dog tags and waved them to
him and said, "You're too late. We just got back from France."

He laughed and replied, "We must have been hard up


when they sent you."

JOHN MELONAKOS, Another Story


I was stationed in Fuerth, Germany, which was like a
twin city to Nuremberg. I was in Btn HQ office on payday when
the soldier who delivered the payroll carne in to have the


adjutant sign for it. We were paid once a month, in cash, and
I can't remember for sure, but Dave Greenfield says it was
Occupation Money printed by the Allies in the form of German

55
marks. He has a souvenir mark in his scrapbook, so I can't
argue with that.

The driver went to his truck to get the money and it •


wasn't there. It came in a big cardboard box or something like
that. He said he'd left it on the seat of his truck. The MP's
were called.

They came swarming in and made a search of the area.


They interrogated everyone, including the driver. Their search
didn't turn up the money, and. since drivers often pretended to
have their trucks stolen, but had actually made high jack
deals, they gave careful attention to the driver.

About three hours later a German woman found the money


a mile or so away, near the railroad tracks, and she turned it
in. It was then speculated that someone stole it, but when
they saw the MP's rolling in, they panicked and dumped the
money. I don't know what happened to the delivery man, but he
was probably demoted. Certainly he must have been taken off
that particular job.

Here are more stories from CAPT. HANKINS.


FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS

One morning, while the 5th Platoon (Lt. Hankins platoon •


leader) was engaged in early morning calisthenics, I noticed
one of the soldiers in the 2nd rank, left flank, was having
difficulty bending over. While Sgt. White was directing the
exercises, I moved over to see why he was having trouble. I
discovered that he had a fifth of gin in his left front pocket,
which prevented him from bending over. Just as I picked up the
bottle, someone from behind me said, "Having a little drink,
Lt.?" And there stood Col. Hotchkiss. Although thoroughly
surprised, I was able to satisfactorily explain the presence of
the bottle of gin.
We concluded our basic training at Ft. Sam with a field
trip to Camp Bullis. Our return from there to Ft. Sam started
with an 8 mile march the evening before, with a 20 mile forced
march into Ft. Sam the next day. Most of the men completed the
march with considerable enthusiasm. I was amused as we arrived
on the outer fringes of Ft. Sam. A civilian along the route of
march asked if we were in the infantry. One of the soldiers
spoke up and said, "Hell, no, we are in the Transportation
Corps."

FOLLIGNY, FRANCE


On our arrival at Folligny on 27 Aug 1944, the troops
were in need of new clothing. As our supply line had not as
yet been established, some other action had to be taken.

56
------------------ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Leaning back on my OCS schooling, I remembered that cargo


tallied off a ship was in limbo until tallied into a warehouse .
We dispatched a 2 1/2 ton truck to Cherbourg, with instructions
to locate coveralls/fatigues on the dock and load the truck to
the brim. This action was accomplished without incident and
supplied the much-needed clothing.
One morning, Lt. McKenney (B Company) and Lt. Stark and
I (C Company) started on a trip to Lison, France, to purchase
boots. We were riding in a C Company weapons carrier driven by
Lt. McKenney. While trying to pass a French civilian
automobile, our driver lost control, and ran into a hedgerow,
overturning. Lt. McKenney sustained a crushed left arm, Lt.
Stark a back injury and I a chest and left arm injury.
For me, the most crucial time was while I was pinned
under the vehicle, the spare tire resting on my chest. As I
began to lose consciousness, I could think only of my wife and
our yet to be born son. After I lost consciousness, a truck
load of soldiers carne by, lifted the truck off and pulled me
from under the vehicle. Lt. Stark and I were eventually
released from the hospital for duty and Lt. McKenney was
evacuated to the States.

The field hospital that we were in was very


uncomfortable, due to the cold. Much to our surprise they had


no coal to burn in their tent ward stoves. Their sole source
of fuel was peat, a very poor fuel substitute. On our release
from the hospital I offered to load their trucks with coal if
they would send them to Vireo I know of three Dump Trucks that
we loaded for them, and assume that after we left additional
trucks were loaded and sent along.

MARKING CLOTHES

While at Ft. Snelling, Lt. Winfree directed that I


formulate and supervise all C Company personnel in the marking
of names on clothing. This required directives using much
begging, coaxing, cajoling, persuading, and a hell of a lot of
forcing. This tedious task was, I believe, pretty well
accomplished. With this background, now my story.

One night in Surdon (October 44) two C Company men and


I were stretched out on canvas hospital stretchers in the
bombed-out railroad station. The conversation centered around
our trip from New York to England via the U.S.S. John Ericcson.
They told me how much they had hated me and the clothes marking
program while at Ft. Snelling, and how wrong they had been.
They said if they had not had their clothes marked they would
never have been able to sort them out while on the ship. I
told them I knew how they felt at the time, and any and all
information and instructions had been for their benefit •

• 57
SURDON, FRANCE
One morning, while a train was standing at the station,
I noticed the conductor who was
caboose was holding a bicycle and talklng to a
the caboose. As they were
close behind the
As
the train started to leave, the conductor threw the blcyle onto
the Frenchman was

screaming his lungs out and shaklng hlS flSt.
On investigating, discovered that this conductor sold
his bicycle to a French at,each stop. He would then
hold onto the bicycle untll the traln started, then retain it
for sale at the next stop. This sort of thing was not
condoned.
AN ARGUMENT OVER A FRENCHWOMAN -- ARGENTAN
While in Argentan, October 44, witnessed two Negro
soldiers arguing over the attentions of a blonde French girl.
They were trying to outdo one another by giving her cigarettes.
Finally one of them said, "I'm going to get my gun." They both
left, one carne back with an M-l rifle and the other a German
machine gun. The soldier with the machine gun was the first
one to fire a burst, killing his fellow soldier instantly.
Later, an officer from the engineer unit that the soldiers were
from, told me that the dead soldier had 15 bullet holes in him.

GETTING TOUGH WITH A CIVILIAN STATION MASTER


In late summer of 1945, Lt. Guisinger and I were sent
to Ronet and Namur to supervise the rail yard at Ronet, and
operation of the ramp trains at Namur. Orders were to get men

and materiel forwarded to the Pacific Theatre of War as fast as
possible. The ramp trains were re-deployment trains for Amer-
ican troops being sent to the various ports in France and
Belgium. One day a ramp train departed late, and presumably
messed up connections at the port, and of course I caught the
devil for it.
As soon as I could, I spoke with the civilian station
master about the delay. As he would not assure me it would not
happen again, I told him I would just have to stop all traffic
so that our military ramp trains could leave on time. He
laughed and said, "You wouldn't do that." I then asked him if
he had heard about the Lt. that stopped the trains at Mons, he
said that he had, I told him that I was that Lt. He
immediately changed his mind and assured me of no more delays.
As long as I was there, I saw to it that he kept his word.

58

GEN. PATTON AND HIS PAPER ARMY


In the summer of 1945, while in Mons, Belgium, I
received a telegram from the Commanding General of the 15th
Army, it was addressed to 2nd Lt. Hankins. It directed me to
forward certain supplies to the 15th Army. This was a paper
army under the command of the then, out-of-favor General George
Patton. He had made some statements about denazification poli-
cies which the government didn't like.
The 15th Army was a small outfit reviewing military
operations. I of course did not comply. I only wish I had kept
this telegram, as it was such a completely out-of-channels
directive, it is doubtful if anyone would believe it. My
orders were supposed to corne from within the Transportation
Corps.
Later on, while we were in Bonn, the MRS introduced a
leave special, "The Burpee Bullet," to transport leave person-
nel between Bad Godesburg, Germany and Brussels, Belgium. The
dispatcher of the 740th ROB asked me to supervise the first
trip or dispatch out of Bad Godesburg, and to ride the train to
Herbistal, Belgium. Although we had one crew assigned to this
train, (T/ 4 George B. Abdill, the engineer, is the only one of
the crew I can now recall), they were not on duty. .

When I arri v ed at the station, I observed a 1st Lt.


whom I did not know in a heated discussion with the crew.
After the Lt. left, I then introduced myself to the crew and
told them my purpose for being there. I then asked who the Lt.
was that they'd been talking with. They told me that he was an
inspecting officer fro m the 15th Army , (commanded by
Gen. Patton).
Before the train left, I introduced myself to this
inspecting officer, who informed me, in no uncertain terms,
that he was representing Gen. Patton, and that he was not at
all pleased with the train or the crew and that he would
report this to Gen. Patton. After about twenty minutes of
lording it over all of us, he looked up at the engine and said,
"I'll also report you for not hav ing a number on the front of
the engine."

By this time it was apparent that he knew nothing about


trains and since I had taken all I could stand, I said, "You
dumb S.O.B., I hope you do put that in your report, then I will
be able to tell the General just how little you know about
railroading. You may also tell your commander that we don't
want you in this area again; however, we will welcome any
intelligent, transportation-oriented inspector at any time."
This was the last I heard from the 15th Army.
Note: Of the American stearn locomotives that were


shipped to Europe, none, to my knowledge, had numbers on the
front of the engine.

59
CAPT. HANKINS Continued

TREATMENT OF COLLABORATORS IN BELGIUM

After V-E Day the Belgians who had been taken into
Germany as slave labor were returned to Belgium, by rail,
through Mons. Each train load was met and processed by a
selected committee, who had records of all Belgians who had

collaborated with the Germans.

When a collaborator was discovered, he or she was


required to kneel on a two-by-four ladder and hold a chair over
their head. Any time that they lowered the chair, they were
taken outside of the building and thrown to the waiting crowd.
After they had been pummeled around by the crowd, they were
then taken back and again placed on the ladder, with their
chair.
Should a collaborator be discovered at 8:00 A.M., they
must remain in the required position until all passengers on
the train were processed. It usually took about eight hours to
process a train of about 400 passengers. After processing of
the complete train, those who were classified as collaborators
were taken to the jail high on top of a hill. The next morning
at 5:00 A.M. they were executed by firing squad. The Chief of
Police invited me to witness an execution but I turned down the
offer.

On several occasions, I did hear gun fire that seemed •


to be coming from the direction of the jail. The jail at Mons
was on a hill directly behind the yard office. The gun fire
followed the morning after a train of returnees had been
processed. I can't emphasize enough the hatred that the
Belgian people had for those Belgians who cooperated and/or
collaborated with the Germans.

60

PFC LESTER L. LOHMAN, C Company


When I went into the service I decided I might need a
wrist watch, so I purchased a medium-priced one that lasted me
until one day I looked to see the time and found I had only a
case and no works.

I looked around the spot where I thought I lost it but


by that time they had dumped a load of lumber. I moved a great
deal of the lumber and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the
works to my watch. I put it back in the case and it ran until
I got home again.

THE WAYS OF THE ARMY

I went in a Private and came out a Private First Class,


but as Dick Wilbur always says -- We Won the War.
I had diarrhea for about a month or more and got so
thin my bones used to rattle when I walked. Decided to go to
the Company Doctor along with another buddy who had back pains.
On the way back to camp we compared the pills we had received
and found them to be exactly alike.
The Company Cook cured me by giving me five pounds · of
cheese and a loaf of bread.


DETACHED SERVICE WHILE ABROAD
Detached service was the name of the game with me as I
never did spend much time with the main body of C Company. You
might think it was better that way; in some ways it was, in
others it wasn't. We were on our own and had to look out for
ourselves or do without.
We landed on the beach in France, started setting up
our tents a few miles from the beach. At about ten or eleven
o'clock that night orders came for us to move on. We rode a
truck all night and arrived in an apple orchard the next
morning. I was sent along with a headquarters man to a station
where we had to keep the supply trains moving and spacing them
so no accidents would occur. All signals and phone
communication had been destroyed in the bombing. After about
three weeks we returned to the apple orchard and I was sent on
a new assignment to a place called Vire, France, which was a
junction point.
The assignment was what we call a yard job; Captain
Winfree knew I'd been a yard man back in the States and I did
most of my work in that capacity. There were thirty-one of us
on this assignment, along with A Company who were busy repair-
ing the badly damaged track.


The main body of C Company moved to Argentan, France;
after several months in Vire we were called back to join the

61
Company in Argentan and moved on to Charleroi, Belgium, passing
through Paris on the way.
I did not stay long in Charleroi, Belgium but was sent •
to Schaerbeek, Belgium which was just north of Brussels. Five
or six crews were sent to move tanks south to Brussels which
had priority as the Battle of the Bulge was in full swing.
After completing this assignment I was sent to Brussels
with about five or six crews. I think there were about thirty
of us on detached service; we were once again living in boxcars
where B Company had their headquarters. We worked in an engi-
neer depot setting in empty cars for loading and making up
trains of supplies going to the front. We made train after
train of pontoon boats that were used to cross the Rhine River,
but the engineers got a citation and we got nothing, which was
normal for a railroad battalion.

GETTING INTO BETTER QUARTERS AND FORMING A LIFELONG


FRIENDSHIP
After a month or so with B Company we had to give up
our boxcar home. B Company told us they needed the cars for
their own personnel. Lt. Hankins and Sgt. Owens were given the
job of finding rooms for us in private homes. They stood on
the corner trying to overcome the language barrier and
explaining to the people passing their need of rooms. A lady


came up to them and in perfect English asked if she could help
them. She told them she had two rooms in her home that she
would let us use, and then took them down the street getting
more rooms as she could explain in French what was needed.
This lovely French lady was Ann Marie Ballester with
whom I have been corresponding for over 40 years. As you must
have guessed Ralph Robblee and I got the rooms in her home. We
found just her and her Mother living in this beautiful 17-room
home. Because of the German Occupation they had little food,
so we would bring them coffee and canned goods that "fell" out
of the cars while being switched. I remember one night we
brought home some oranges, to their great delight, it was a
fruit they hadn't seen in years.

"Mother," who could not speak a word of English,


insisted Ralph and I have tea with her in the garden. We had
to put on our class "A" uniform. She had a rose garden with
hundreds of roses, every color and variety.

They said if we would bring them soap they would wash


our clothes; we wanted to send them to the GI laundry but they
would not hear of it. I guess we were so clean we were afraid
to go to work.

After Mother Ballester passed away Ann Marie sold the


big house and moved into an apartment, where we visited her in •
1970.

62
Isabella and I took a tour of Central Europe in August

• 22, 1984, and while we were in Brussels left the tour just to
see Ann Marie.
taken care of.
She is now in a Rest Home where she is well
She is now 91 years of age and very alert. We
spent an afternoon with her talking about events of past years;
she got out her bottle of cognac to celebrate the occasion.

I talked to Lt. Hankins at our reunion in Grand Rapids,


Michigan in June, 1984 and he still remembers standing on the
corner when this lady came up and asked if she could help.

THE REST OF MY TOUR, AFTER THE 744TH WAS BROKEN UP

After eight months in Brussels we completed our work


and returned to Charleroi where the 744th was broken up and I
was sent to another battalion in Karlsruhe, Germany. Here we
lived in a bombed-out ammunitions factory; the factory was flat
but the offices were intact. We spent a month there then moved
on to a place called Siechenheim. Some men worked trains of
troops going home making round trips, but I worked in the yard
and made trips to Augsberg on the mail train, several former
744th men were there.
General Patton's wife landed at the airport at
Siechenheim which was just across the tracks from us. She
had been in the U. S. when he was hurt in his command car that


hit a truck, or vice versa. He died from the injuries a short
time later.
On our recent trip we visited his grave in the American
cemetery in Luxembourg. We also visited Bastogne in Belgium
where they have a museum and a film that tells the story of the
Battle of the Bulge. They have a beautiful brown marble
monument with the men's names carved inside, row upon row of
them. Other Europeans may have forgotten us, but the Belgians
remember, with gratitude.

The time came for us to move on again, this time to


Esslingen, also in Germany, a very nice city on the Neckar
River. Esslingen was an assembly point, I guess you would call
it, and after our points caught up with us we left there and
went to Antwerp, Belgium to Camp Top Hat for about six weeks
waiting for the boat that never seemed to come. Some guys said
that they were still building it.
We lived in sixteen-man tents and about froze to death
as the weather was still cold. We went through a bad snow
storm, and a wind storm that kept us busy putting in tent pegs
that were popping out as fast as we could put them in.

At last the happy day came and we sailed for home on


the S.S. Zanesville; it took 11 days and it was a rough
crossing; I think the boat was out of the water most of the
time.

63
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - ---------

We docked in New York and were sent to a camp in New


Brunswick, New Jersey and then on to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, and
we were discharged April 4, 1946.

T/4 WILLIAM R. McCOOL, C Company


IN THE STATES

After the 744th was activated in San Antonio, Texas at


Fort Sam Houston where the men received their basic training,
we zig-zagged across the country by rail to Fort Snelling.
When the train backed into Snelling, we were in about four or
five feet of snow. There was no snow removal equipment there
at that time. We walked from the rail yard to the barracks.
Some of our southern boys had never seen real snow. They
played in the cold stuff like kids in a hay stack. The winter
didn't seem bad because of the low humidity, but sometimes the
temperature was as low as 35 degrees below zero.

While at Snelling we took half of C Company to a CCC


camp north of Minneapolis for rifle training. (EDITOR'S NOTE:
CCC refers to Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President
Roosevelt's programs to provide work.) At that camp there was
a small lake named Fish Lake. After chow one evening three of
us went to the lake to look it over. We rented a boat, bait •
and poles at the dock even though the man told us there were no
fish "in season" at that time. Walter White, Pat McGovern and
I caught 110 fish of all kinds. I had never fished before but
the other two knew all about the sport.
We took the catch back to the mess hall and the cook
opened up the kitchen for a gigantic fish fry. We sent a 6x6
into the nearest town for bread and beer. The guys cleaned and
cooked fish and other stuff to go with it. We had a great
time. Next day more guys went to the lake after mess and were
caught by the game warden. He was going to arrest them for
their illegal catch but we were due to go overseas soon and
they told the warden that if he locked them up, it would
prevent their departure, so he let them off.
When Esther Williams carne to Snelling to entertain the
boys, with a swimming exhibition, we jokingly told the boys,
"Don't drink the water!"

ENGLAND
We went from Snelling to Camp Shanks, N. , Y., an
embarkation point. We were trained for emergencies on a dummy
ship (such as going down a rope ladder into a smaller boat.)
We went by train to a boat in New York harbor. Our ship was a
Swedish luxury liner (Kungsho1m) converted into a troop •

64
carrier. Greta Garbo had a suite of rooms on the ship which


were restricted and locked. I wonder why!

Our sixth or seventh day out in the Atlantic the ship


had engine trouble and stopped during the night for repairs.
The convoy continued on but a few destroyers stayed with us and
when repairs were made we caught up with the convoy. We felt
much safer nestled in with the flock. We arrived in Liverpool,
England. As I recall, we spent eleven days at sea.
Our outfit was taken to a rail station and 41 hours
later arrived in a marshalling area near Southampton. When
some of our buddies went to a fence where there were several
English girls, I told them to get back to the area and for the
girls to leave. I said, "You whores get the hell out of here!"
They replied, "We ain't whores, Yank, we's prostitutes, them
whores they gives it away!"
Shortly we were loaded into a banana boat, manned by
black men wearing sheets. I guess the boat was from India.
(NOTE: Yes; the crew were Hindus.) While at Southampton, I
acquired by moonlight requisition a Limey jacket which I wore
most of the war. Pat McGovern had liberated several cans of
food and a 5-lb. block of longhorn cheese. He had them on his
back pack when he came aboard the banana boat. He thought we
might not have rations for several days after we hit the beach.


When we arrived in France, we descended by rope ladder
to the landing craft below. The nose of the landing craft
dropped and we rushed the beach. However, the water was over
our heads and Patty was so heavily laden with survival food
that he couldn't stay afloat and down he went. Several of us
grabbed him and got him ashore. Food, not war, almost did
Patty in. Though I must say, his food sure tasted good the
next day.
FOLLIGNY
We went to the village of Folligny where the Germans
had had a quartermaster or armory depot. There were under-
ground tunnels everywhere. Our boys tore down wooden buildings
to make floors and walls for our bivouac area in an apple
orchard which lay a few hundred feet past the rail yard. The
floors and walls were covered with our pup tents, creating a
four-man hut. Our mattresses were filled with grass, straw,
hay or whatever was close at hand. Our first crew left for
points south in France the first night there.
Later we moved into box cars which housed eight men.
Double-decker bunks were built in each corner of the car. The
main door of the cars were blocked open and doors from
passenger cars were fitted in. Our men cut windows in the


sides of most cars, even had curtains, usually made of
parachute silk. French furniture showed up in some of the
cars.

65
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - ------ - - - - - -- - -- -

We had a mail car, a bar car, a supply car and a mess


car. You could hook an engine to a whole train of billets and
move all at once, which made movement of our outfit simple. •
The latrine was moved by flat car every time we moved. We had
built the five-holer at Folligny.

I was an engineer and John Alba from Brooklyn, N.Y. was


my fireman. We left Folligny after the second day for points
south. Not knowing where we were headed, our instructions were
to keep going until stopped. From Folligny to Vire and branc h
off south (to the right) to Mayenne and Le Mans. At Vire, left
went to St. Lo which was still war zone, but south right was to
support the troops corning out of Italy and the Mediterranean.
We hauled all kinds of supplies and troops, tanks, and
bombs. We had no lights to see our way, so we had to depend on
good tracks and judgment. Each rear end of a train had a red
light for us to watch out for at night. This light hung under
the last car and was not visible from the air. Our locomotives
were sometimes foreign and at that time were seldom American.
Later we had good power sent over -- American locomotives were
superior i n many ways, mostly because they were new.

EVENTS IN NORMANDY

Our first trip to Mayenne was very eventful. One day


coming around a bend to the left Alba told me to hold it. I
big-holed the air and slid inches from the train ahead, which •
was stopped without a flagman being out. A young Lieutenant
came out of the station there and chewed me up one side and
down the other -- it was a near-miss rear-end collision. He
told me he never wanted to hear of me getting killed and I told
him I went along with him 100 per cent.
On our many trips we were often forced to stop at
villages to ask for water for our engine. The town folks would
usually get out the man-powered fire engine and pump water into
our tank. Alba carried a harmonica with him. He tap danced on
the deck of our engine, made a speech (in English) and played a
few selections on the mouth organ. He played Lili Marlene and
the French national anthem. He kept the French peasants and me
amused most of the time.

We had to more or less live by our wits and off the


land. When our train reached its destination, it was unloaded
and we returned mostly with empty cars. I was often involved
with hospital trains which carried wounded and dying men.
Sometimes we had prisoner trains bringing German prisoners to
internment points.
During the apple season we many times passed orchards
where stills for making Calvados were set up. They were wood-


or coal-fired stills which made the booze right in the orchard .

66
We would stop and swap coal for jugs of their best. It was


like our Mountain Dew, only it tasted like it was made in an
old inner tube .

One trip out of Folligny to Cherbourg I saw a guy up a


telephone pole and recognized him as a friend of mine from Camp
Croft, S.C., way back in 1941-42. It was Lou Ivanish, a
lineman from B Company. I stopped the train and had an old-
fashioned reunion along the track in northern France.

Our first trip into Cherbourg John Alba and I decided


to sleep in an old French passenger car. We were told those
cars were reserved for the men of another railroad battalion.
We had been on the road many days and were really tired. We
told them we were sleeping in the cars corne Hell or High Water.
We did so. We were ordered back to work next day well-rested.
Soon we were both scratching. We spent several days corning
back to Folligny with lice and crabs from those reserved
passenger cars. DDT powder and a bath did the trick.

Other stories could be written about the northern


peninsula, but finally C Company moved to Vire, France. At
Vire we could run to Argentan which had been blown off the map
by our Air Corps. One track had been laid through - the
devastation. At Argentan we could go back north to Caen, back
to Cherbourg, and like a triangle back through Folligny to Vire
and Argentan.

A SWITCHMAN'S MISTAKE

One night we were leaving Vire for Le Mans when our


switchman did not line us up to go south and so we were headed
north on the St. Lo branch. We had no idea of where we were
but we heard lots of gunfire close by. In the dark we hunted a
side track and pulled in. We banked down our fire, filled the
boiler with water and went up on the hillside and dug in.

In the morning we heard a roar and not ever having


heard that sound, thought it was some German machine. To our
surprise it was the very first diesel we had ever seen. Our
Major Shea and a couple other officers plus the engine crew had
corne to find out what had happened to us because they knew we
had gone the wrong way.

Alba said, "Good morning, Major."

Shea said, "What the Hell is good about it? Don't you
guys know where you are going?"

Our answer was, "Where the tracks go." The diesel was


hooked on to us and backed us down the tracks back to Vireo

67
Once at Mayenne we saw our first GI steam locomotive.
There had been at one time a turn table with work pit beneath •
for turning engines, storage, and placing on another track.
The table had been blown up and the hole remained. A soldier
was to use the new engine but, not knowing about it, asked for
instructions. A young lieutenant instructed him but told him
wrong about the brakes. While backing the engine up he applied
what he had been told was the air brake or independent air.
Instead it was the sander and he couldn't stop in time, backing
the engine into the hole and wrecking it. The brake for the
engine was a steam brake located in the upper right hand corner
of the cab.

Sometimes a lesson was a hard pill to swallow.


THE BRITISH WAY

Once while going across the north from Cherbourg to


Caen, which was the British sector, we came upon a red signal
on the plains with a vision of at least a mile. It was open
prairie. Down the track from the red signal was a small
shanty. Under cover of my fireman I went to investigate the
reason for us to be stopped. With myoId 30.06 in hand, I
flung open the door of the hut and to my surprise found four
Limey soldiers inside.
I asked, "What the Hell is the idea of tying up the war
by stopping us, with nothing in sight?" •
Their reply was, "It's tea time, Yank."

While coming the other way from Argentan to Caen one


night we encountered another set of red signals two then
farther on, only one red light. We passed the two and stopped
at the one.

A Limey sergeant boarded our engine and said, "You


passed my signals, you are in trouble, Yank."
I told him to screw himself and on top of that to screw
the Queen.

His reply was, "My God, Yank, you cahn't even approach
her."
I was reported but nothing ever came of it. Capt.
Winfree in his soft southern accent often said he was there to
"HEP" us and if we ever needed help to see him. He was a man
of his word.

SWEET REVENGE
On another occasion, when we were coming out of Cher-
bourg to Vire, after the St. Lo branch was cleared, we stopped
for water short of St. Lo. A brand new outfit from the States

68

had set up their mess tents along the tracks. Not having had a


good meal for a week, we took our mess kits and asked for some
chow. We were told that they had food only for their own
troops. They refused to feed us.

Now, our locomotives have in the lower part of the


boiler a sediment ring called the mud ring. To get rid of the
sediment in the boiler, there is a blow-down valve which ejects
all the mess from the mud ring. While leaving St. Lo and
passing their tents, I reached down and opened the valve.
Imagine 200 lbs of steam pushing muddy water against garbage
cans, tents, pots, pans, and blowing them all into vast devas-
tation •••

Again I was reported and forgiven.

BRIDGES COULD BE A HEADACHE

One night while going into Vire we were told a bridge


had been blown up, to go to bed because nothing would be moving
until the bridge was replaced. During the night I dreamed the
call boy called us to work. Packing my gear, I wakened my
fireman who objected, but packed his gear also. We walked
through the dark to the yard office. There they wanted to know
what the heck we were doing there. I told them we had been
called. They said I had dreamed the call, to go back to bed.
My fireman could have decapitated me .

• That same bridge caused some confusion after one leg of


it had been repaired. Our orders said to stop at the bridge
when headed west, cross over to the east-bound track, align the
switch and again to cross to the west-bound track, stop and
realign the switches for the east-bound, and proceed on to Vire
on the west-bound track.

Moose Miller misread the order. He crossed to the


east-bound and came in on the wrong track. Eldridge was leav-
ing Vire on the east-bound. Moose headed straight for him.
Eldridge hurried up and reversed his movement. Moose got
stopped very close to a head-on collision. The Major and Col.
Hotchkiss broke Moose from Sgt. to Cpl., to never running an
engine again, back to Sgt. and forgiven for his wrong-way trip.

UNHAPPY INCIDENT AT GUILBERVILLE

While working out of Argentan to Vire, we came out of


Cherbourg on the st. Lo branch. Between Guilberville and Beny
Bocage was a badly bombed bridge over a deep valley. The bomb
holes below looked like small thimbles of water. One night we
stopped at Gilberville for water for the engine and a peanut
butter-orange marmalade sandwich for us. A cook car was set
up there to help feed us. It was around 2:00 A.M. when we


pulled in. We put the water pipe into our tank and went in for
the sandwich and coffee. When the tank was full we left.

69
The conductor and front brakeman decided to ride the
head end to Beny Bocage. I had used the brake all the way from
Cherbourg and felt no need to test it. The run was nick-named
Monkey Mountain. We started down the hill toward the bombed-
out bridge at the bottom. I applied the brakes but to no
avail.

We went faster and faster. At around forty miles per


hour the conductor asked if I couldn't hold it and I replied,
"No." I put air into the emergency, known as the "big hole."
We had no brakes applying on our train. The conductor and
brakeman both jumped off in the dark with very bad results.

My fireman asked, "Mac, what will we do?"

I told him, "My father said to always stay on and ride


it out."

We went across the rickety bridge and up the hill on


the other side. Finally we rocked to a stop.

All along our rail system we had young kids placed


in the woods along the track with walkie talkies and telegraph
equipment to assist the movement of the trains. These kids had
the roughest job of all because they were vulnerable to all
kinds of danger. When we came to a stop we went back to find
our conductor and brakeman who had jumped off, while our kids
telegraphed Beny Bocage for an ambulance. We cut off our
engine and hauled them to the ambulance and returned to bring
in our train.

The reason for not having any brakes was that while
we were in having coffee at Gilberville, a collaborator or a
German had closed the air brake angle cock at the rear of our
engine, leaving us no air with which to brake.

I GET A NEW BRAKEMAN

In time, John Alba was made an engineer and I was


given Warren E. Zickhur from Milwaukee as a fireman. He was a
kid right out of high school. His mother wrote and asked me to
look after her boy. Before he became a fireman, he had been
injured on the St. Lo branch when he was a brakeman-flagman. A
rear-end collision threw the caboose in which he was riding off
its frame and he landed up on the hillside. They thought he
was trapped in the wreckage.

Later, when the track and wreck crew were working, one
of the crew went up the hill to relieve himself. He heard
moaning and found Zickhur, who was in bad shape. After a stay
in the hospital and R&R (Rest and Recreation) he became my
fireman. We spent the rest of the tour of duty together.

70
BUZZ BOMB ALLEY

• Our outfit moved to Argentan. From there we worked


the northern peninsula-Normandy Brittany sections. From Argen-
tan we moved to Charleroi, Belgium. Our C Company cars were in
a track along the canal.
other side of the canal.
Battle of the Bulge.
The main part of town was on the
We worked out of there until the
Half of our crews were sent to Dussel-
dorf, Germany, the other half to Antwerpen. I went to the
latter.

Buzz Bomb Alley was its nickname. Every fifteen


minutes a bomb hit the city. Hitler supposedly said that he
would capture Antwerpen by Christmas or blow it off the map.
He succeeded in neither. The Buzz Bomb was the V-I and the
rocket the V-2. You could hear the V-I because of its motor-
cycle sound and when the motor quit you knew to run for cover.

One night while in Antwerpen five of us went into


town and after a few(?) drinks started walking back to our box
car horne when suddenly we realized there were only four of us.
We back-tracked and found Judecki down in the bottom of a bomb
hole. Walking along in the dark he didn't see the hole. The
fact that we had been drinking had nothing to do with his
disappearance into the hole.
A COW GIVES MILK

• In one of our early trips from Vire to Mayenne, on a


pleasant day, we spotted a milk cow in a field. At this time
it was unusual to see any livestock. Not having had fresh milk
forever, I stopped the train, gathered up the five canteen cups
from the crew. Two of us probed our way across the field as we
were not sure but that it might be mined, with the intention of
milking the cow. The cow really needed milking. Despite this
we, never having milked a cow, carne up empty.

Luckily an old French woman carne down the track.


With her hand waving by her ear, she exclaimed, "Ooh, American
crazy." Meaning it was dumb not to know how to milk a cow. She
indicated it was not her cow, but nevertheless she did the
milking for us while we held the cups.

When we returned to the locomotive we pulled clinkers


from the fire box and pasteurized the milk. In our rations was
a packet of cocoa, similar to today's instant cocoa mix; each
of us mixed his packet into his canteen, and enjoyed the very
best drink of cocoa we had ever had. Tres bien!
A COW HITS A LOCOMOTIVE


One day we carne upon one of our trains stopped. They
were on the track headed in the opposite direction of a two-way
section of track. We stopped to assist them if they needed
help. The engineer was Willie Gearhart. When we got to them

71
we found out that a cow had run into the side rods of the
locomotive, bending some of the rods and stopping their engine. •
Hide, bones and guts were twisted among the rod system.

We started to help them and decided to save some of the


steaks. I had myoId K-bar knife and had a little experience
in butchering. While still stopped, we fried steak for all the
crews. By taking the bent rods off the damaged side and the
corresponding rods off the other side, Willie was able to
proceed with his train and well-fed crew. And likewise we
continued on.
A PRIEST
At Christmas time in 1944 the Germans were dropping
parachutists at night who were dressed as civilians to infil-
trate our holdings. Warren and I were coming from the docks at
Antwerpen headed for Liege. It was early in the morning and
foggy and cold. Walking down the track toward us came what
looked to be a priest. I called Zeke to come over to my side
of the engine to see the priest.

Being a Catholic, Zeke, as the priest walked by, said,


"Good morning, Father," who replied in perfect English while
gesturing the Sign of the Cross, "Bless you, my son."

We were travelling very slowly and when we were just a


couple box cars past the priest, we heard the sound of a Thomp- •
son submachine gun and looking back saw the body of the priest
beside the track.
We stopped and seeing American infantrymen walked back
to find out why they had shot a priest. It turned out they had
challenged him and asked for the Password of the Day and when
he turned to flee they shot him. When he fell his robe came up
and exposed his S.S. uniform.

BARGAINING FOR BREAD

One time we saw a French woman coming down a dirt road


toward the railroad crossing carrying what looked like french
bread -- a large loaf in each arm. We stopped the engine at
the crossing and proceeded to try to bargain for some homemade
bread. Not understanding what we were wanting, she shook her
head. When sign language didn't work, I took out my K-bar
knife to show her I wanted a slice of bread.

At this point she was willing to give me all the bread


because she figured I was going to kill her or do her harm. I
whacked off part of one loaf, gave her rations and chewing gum,
and we departed. We shared it with our crew and she went away
satisfied with her booty.

72

More Stories by Roy T. Vobejda

• One of my first trips was to Mayenne, France. The trip


took about eight hours.
Bentfield for brakeman.
keep up the steam.
fireman
I had Barter for a fireman, and
Between the three of us we managed to
At that time Barter was training to be a
but most of his training time was spent asleep on the
engine.' Bartie was like most young trainees, he figured that
if he could work 12 to 16 hours a day for Uncle Sam he could
spend the rest of the 24 on the town.

A PONTOON BRIDGE
Our train at Mayenne was made up of 36 cars carrying
German prisoners. The first two cars were 40 & 8 boxcars.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: In France, the box cars had 40 hommes, 8
chevaux written on the side, meaning each car could carry 40
men or eight horses.) The next four were open high-side gon-
dolas, then two more box cars, and so on for the length of the
train.
About ten miles out of Mayenne the railroad bridge over
a large river was destroyed by the Germans so there we sat,
while the Combat Engineers were working day and night, stopping
work to fight, then back to work replacing the bridge. There
was enough food to feed the prisoners for eight days, but by


the time we had been there for ten to twelve days things were
getting rough.

Since food was short we would throw two or three cans


of C-rations into each car and then watch the battle of the
"Super Race," who did not look so super, fighting like a pack
of starving dogs over the food.

If my memory serves me right, it took about 18 days


before the bridge was completed and the engine fire was
restarted.

When I saw the Commanding Officer of the Engineers and


talked to him he told me the bridge was built on pontoon boats.
I asked if it was safe and he said he didn't know for sure, as
it had never been done for a railroad bridge before. But he
thought it would hold, if the engine could make it.

I asked Barter if he wanted to make the ride with me,


but I knew what the answer would be. So after building up the
fire, Barter walked over to the other side of the bridge and
waited for me to bring the engine across. I was not too happy
either. I stood crouched on the seat box ready to jump out if
we started to fall, and slowly proceeded across, with the
bridge swaying from side to side. It seemed like ten miles but


I made it. My only regret is that I did not get the Captain's
name or the number of his outfit. You know how it is, when
you get a FIRST you would like some proof to show later.

73

AN UNSCHEDULED VACATION IN PARIS
The QUEUE BREAKERS, as the 744th was nicknamed, was
ordered to Cherbourg to aid another Railroad Btn. get rid of
their backlog. We arrived and gave our names to the
dispatcher. Then I decided that unless they called my name
correctly I was not going to answer. As no one could ever
pronounce my name from the spelling, crews were called until
only two were left and none had even remotely sounded like
Vobejda. Later the call boy informed the two crews left,
Johhny Lear (Russell Storey was firing for him) and me that we
were released and to go back to our outfit. Instead we went to
the yards and got ourselves on board an ammo train headed for
Paris.
As our train proceeded to Paris we sawall our crews on
every siding along the next 50 miles. We carne to a water-stop
and Johnny Lear went to see what was ahead of us. He carne back
and told us that there was a Hospital Train ahead and we should
change trains, which we did "toot sweet" (our version of the
French for "quickly.") This was because Hospital Trains were
always rushed through.
Our next stop was in the outskirts of Paris. A small
bridge or trestle was blown out, that's why we halted. The


crew fixing the span were Slavics and when a Lieutenant ordered
them to push us across on their handcar they did, even though
just the rails supported us.

As we went down the bank to get to the street, a very


large Frenchman with a very large horse pulling a very large
wagon loaded with champagne was going down the street. I
started emptying my duffle bag and chasing after the wagon. By
the time I caught up to the wagon the bag was empty, but not
for long, as I immediately started stuffing it with bottles of
champagne. My clothes from the duffle bag were picked up by
the guys as they carne along behind. What a sight that must
have been from the high railroad embankment.

I am not clear just how it happened that we carne to


this particular cafe, but the cafe opened into a large
courtyard with rooms upstairs across the courtyard. Also there
was the rear of a bakery and several other businesses opening
into this courtyard. Anyway, we got rooms. Paris had fallen
only five days before and the woman running the cafe did not
even know which money was legal. So we paid her in both
invasion money and French francs.

To my surprise and joy the room across from mine was


occupied by a young lady. I cleaned up and went and introduced
myself and the young lady and I had a few drinks from one of
the bottles of champagne. Our only problem was that I could
not speak a word of French and she could not understand a word •
of English. So sign language was the order of the day.

74
She kept saying "posta" and after two or three attempts


to get me to understand her she led me down the hall to a room
where a young fellow of about 18 or 19 came to the door and
asked us in good old USA what we wanted. I found out that
"posta" meant Post Office.
She went "posta" and my new-found friend and I polished
off a few bottles of champagne. In the course of the evening
he told me that he had deserted from the Army, where he had
been a Red Ball truck driver. The Red Ball was the name of the
U. S. Army truck route from the coastal ports through Normandy
to the front lines. He had been adopted by the woman who ran
the cafe.

It seems that when a city is liberated all legal


records are dug out of the ruined churches and they can be
doctored to show what you want them to show if you have the
cash and the know-how. So to adopt him she had paid to have it
recorded so that if questioned she had proof in the records
that the adoption had taken place years ago.
I asked many more questions, most of which were
answered to my satisfaction except how he could avoid the MP
roundups that sealed off a block at a time rounding up AWOLS.
He told me that there were at least four ways to get out of
there without getting caught. After another bottle of


champagne I asked to see one of the escape routes .
He took me to the back of the bakery where there were
two large stearn or hot water tanks. One could be opened in
half, and inside was a stairway that led to the Paris sewers.
At the foot of the stairs was a small boat which we got into,
after kicking out a few of the largest rats I had ever seen.
with the aid of a carbide lamp we went to a dead end in
the sewer and a trap door opened and a ladder carne down out of
the opening. How they knew we were there I will never know.
Maybe a bell or light or something signaled them. I still
wonder about it when I relate this experience.

We went up the ladder into a shabby bar with rather


sinister-looking people, like you see in the movies, sitting
around. He had told me not to open my mouth while we were
there, so I sat in a chair and did not utter a sound. After a
few minutes we left, departing the same way we had corne in.

Back down in the sewer I asked how we would find our


way back. He told me to look at the street signs and I was
surprised to see that there really were street signs in the
sewers .

• 75
CANADIAN TANKS
One day while we were in Belgium we were waiting on a
siding. We saw some burned Canadian tanks in a field close by.
As it was a warm day I decided to investigate. I crawled up on
the top of one of the tanks and opened the latches. They could
be opened from inside or outside.
After a slight struggle I managed to open the hatch
with one big tug. Inside were the burned bodies of the, tank
crew. Although the weather was not what would be cons1dered
hot, the inside of that tank was like an oven, and the smell
coming out knocked me right off the rounded dome onto the
ground. Now I knew what my mother meant when used to say,
"The smell was strong enough to knock you over"!

HAROLD BISHOP
Harold Bishop wound up with a handgun. To keep
him out of trouble I would hide his pistol but within a day or
two he would have another one.
One day I was walking toward our caboose when I heard a
series of shots. Out in the middle of the compound was the 1st
Sergeant dodging, ducking, and making tracks. I
looked to see where the shots were coming from only to realize
that they were coming from our caboose.
As I was a block away the MP's were already there
for a pistol when I arrived. Bishop was sitting with
drunken smile on his face and denying that he even had a
pistol. The MP's went through the caboose with a fine-toothed
comb and then searched the grounds, but came up empty-handed.
When no weapon could be found they left.
I asked Bishop where the gun was. He went over to the
stove which had a newly built fire in it, with a lot of smoke
and not much fire. In the smokestack was a damper. He had
taken a piece of stiff wire and made a hook on each end ; hooked
one end over the damper and the other over the pistol. All he
had to do was reach up and unhook the wire and there was the
pistol, not even warm from the fire that he had built just
before the MP's arrived. .. '
.
.>
,

PURE DUMB LUCK


Sometimes the only reason some of us are still around
is pure dumb luck. Some call it an act of God, others call it
faith, but whatever you call it, it cannot be expfained.
One day I was on a familiar stretch of track, I had
been over it several times. There was a long hill with a road
crossing in the middle; about a mile further on there was a
sharp left curve. Coming down the hill in broad daylight, for

76
no reason I reached over and took some air out of the brakes


because of the road crossing.

Why I did that, I will never know. There was never


any traffic on this road and also this was a manned crossing,
so no traffic to worry about. I asked myself what I was doing
braking for a clear crossing. Disgustedly I released the air
and sped toward the curve. Around the curve I was startled to
see a caboose directly ahead. No flagman, no nothing.

Normally I would not have been able to stop soon


enough, but due to the fact that the brakes were warm from the
air application a few moments before, we carne to a stop about
two feet from the caboose, where two brakemen were asleep on
the floor. You should have seen the look on their faces when
they saw a locomotive almost in the caboose with them.
They had been flagging all night so the conductor had
told them to get some sleep and he would keep watch. He went
out behind the train a little way and sat down against the bank
on the side of the roadbed. Unfortunately he fell asleep in
the warm sun and had not put out a warning at all.
At our next reunion I plan to ask what their treatment
of the conductor had been. One thing I feel sure of, you can
bet they never trusted him to guard the train again!

• 77
PFC. DICK WILBUR, C Company

BASIC TRAINING IN LYING


At Ft.Snelling Captain Winfree found a sizeable amount
of junk and garbage in the basement of our barrack. As punish-
ment the entire barrack personnel were given the "No Pass

Weekend" treatment.
I had planned to meet my wife, my cousin and his girl
in Minneapolis that weekend. I was able to reach my cousin by
phone and told him to come out to the Fort -- and see if he
could get in to see the Captain and to tell him he was my
brother, that he was just back from sea-duty and hadn't seen me
for two years. Until then my cousin hadn't even been out in a
row boat.
Kelly came out of his office and said that the Captain
wanted to see me. I went in, smartly saluted and was told, "At
ease," which I wasn't. Kelly had smiled, the Captain smiled
and my cousin and I smiled and shook each other's hand
enthusiastically. (It was difficult as I had seen this heroic
sailor, back from enemy waters, just the night before.}

It worked, though, and I believe I was the only one to


receive a weekend pass. While getting dressed to leave for the


weekend I slipped and introduced my cousin to Judecki and a few
others saying, "Meet my cousin."

Judy said, "I heard he was your brother."

nOh, he is," I said, "Cousin is just his nickname."


Needless to say we had one hell of a good weekend in
Minneapolis.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

On our second day in France, I slipped on the wet truck


tail gate and fell solid on my knee cap on the hard pavement.
I remember that Col. Hotchkiss yelled, "Don't crowd, give him
air."

I was carried up a small hill to some other outfit's


medical tent, the medics were awakened and asked, "What the
hell do you want?" The "carry boys" said that they had a man
with a broken leg.

"Shoot him," the medics said.


Needless to say, my leg got better fast. After having
my knee well-wrapped, I hobbled back to the cow-platter
orchard, of which my blanket smelled for several months.

78


Early the next morning our crew was called. Several
days later -- when I thought we must have made an end run
around the German forces and should be entering Russia -- we
arrived at Le Mans, a distance of some 150 kilometers.

The next morning, having time before our crew was to be


called, I walked uptown: beautiful old city, hardly a soul
around until an MP jeep pulled up, took my name, rank, outfit
and my serial number. They said the town was off limits and it
would be reported.

A few days later, Doc Dawkins came up and said, "What


the hell did you do?" He said that he just got through being
bawled out by the Colonel and that at the end of the "bawl-out"
the Colonel had said to him, "Watch out in the future, Wilbur."

I tell you it is good to have a friend who will take


the blame for you --even though he didn't know it at the time.
VOULEZ VOUS DANSE AVEC MOl?
Remember the invitation to the 744th for a dance party
in Brussels and our special train? I went with Doc Dawkins and
our first stop in Brussels was at his girl's apartment. (Doc
had a girl at every stop San Antonio, Minneapolis, a rail
crossing guard's daughter in Normandy, and now a real good one


in Brussels.)

All the time I was fantasizing about the beautiful


girls I would meet at the dance. Being quick at learning
foreign languages it only took me train time between Charleroi
and Brussels to learn, "Voulez vous danse avec moi?"
After picking up Doc's girl we went on to the dance
which we found had started and stopped at about the same time.
A brawl had started and the party was cancelled. To have
stayed would have put one in a much more dangerous situation
than being a brakeman on a Don-Hoff-run train. We then piled
into a truck, stopped to get something to eat, and then being
the last off the truck, and the night being pitch dark, I
couldn't find where everyone went.

I looked around for a while, no luck, returned to where


the truck had been, but it had moved. I decided to walk to the
station and on the way a Gl from an infantry outfit joined me.
I told him I was looking for the train station, and so was he.

Shortly I saw an MP jeep approaching and I got out on


the road to stop it and try to bum a ride.
The Gl asked, "What are you doing?"

• I said I was going to see if the MP's would take us to


the station.

79
He said, "Like hell you will, I'm AWOL." The last I


saw of him he was running down an alley trying to beat the
Olympic 100 meter dash record.

This year the wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding


anniversary. I was telling a friend at our party about the
above incident when my lovely wife, Mack, who gets lovelier
every year, made the remark, "Don't feel bad about your fantasy
of the girls at the dance. I don't think they missed much.
Your French may have been beautiful, but you have always been a
lousy dancer."

SUMMER, 1945, BONN, GERMANY, C COMPANY CONTINGENT

Early one morning I stepped out of my "boxcar home" and


watched a train pulling out of the yard, gathering speed to
make the hill just out of town.

Besides myself there were a few other observers, Jim


Fitzgerald, a couple of officers, and a few Germans.

All of a sudden there was the tinkling of a piano, and


then the boxcar-caboose came into view with the boxcar door
wide open.

There was Sgt. Olney, beating out some jazz on an


upright piano. On one of his knees sat a young German girl
attired in full GI uniform including cap. She held a bottle of •
wine in one hand and seemed to be singing to whatever tune was
being played.

The officers -- and others -- stood with mouths open as


the train passed.

Later I understood a wire to the next station relieved


Sgt. Olney of duties for the day.

I remember at the time thinking Gee, Sergeants get


everything, while we PFC's don't even have a piano.

****

(Well, as I may have been heard to say while still in


the service, it was us privates who won the war. )

80


TIS (MAC) LORIMER MC CALLISTER, C Company

PAUL MILLER AND THE BLIND PIG


One of my jobs as truck driver was to bring the crews
back when they had delivered their trains to the designated
points. A PFC at the time, I was paid the magnificent sum of
$72 per month. I worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week.

There were two drivers per truck, and we were supposed


to work twelve hours on, twelve hours off. It didn't work out,
because there were three trucks and four drivers. They never
hesitated to wake you up when you were sleeping if they needed
you.
The trucks had a far from comfortable ride. The tires
held 65 Ibs. of pressure, that made for a tough ride. The
crews rode on plain wooden benches . that folded down. The
driver's seat was metal, on a pedestal, and he sat on a canvas
cushion about 20 inches square and two inches thick, stuffed
with horsehair, which soon matted down to a mere half-inch.

These trucks had standard transmission, five speeds,


with a two-speed axle. They were sprung to carry five tons,
but when carrying only two tons of men, they rode rough.


The country roads were in terrible condition bombed
out and then simply leveled over hastily with a bulldozer,
leaving lots of holes. In the city the streets were equally
bad. Most streets were made of granite cobblestones, very
uneven after five years of no care. Pleasure riding it wasn't.

One time I came in with some crews and we went to the


Mess Hall. They ran a 24-hour Mess, we could go in for coffee
and sandwiches any time of day.

Paul Miller was there, doing KP, with piles of potatoes


to peel. He was on permanent Kitchen Police at the time. Sgt.
Wilson had it in for him because Paul's IQ was about 15 points
higher than his. Wilson had washed out from the Air Corps, he
couldn't cut the mustard. He disliked Miller and his idea was
that if someone were smarter than you, it was wise to keep him
out of sight where he couldn't get any favorable attention.

So he put Miller on KP. There was, strictly speaking,


no such thing as permanent KP according to regulations. If you
weren't assigned to some other job, you had to take your turn.
They would take the roster and go down the list in rotation.
The 1st Sgt. tended to assign guys who were goof-offs, and of
course it was used as punishment for specified periods of time
when a soldier had transgressed.

• No one was officially given permanent KP, it was a sort


of "until I change my mind" thing.
advantages to KP.
In fact, there were certain
It wasn't combat.

81
This was certainly a
plus. You got three hot meals a day and you slept in bed at
night. Men in the field ate K Rations or C Rations and had no
bed at night. On KP you could keep clean. It was, however, •
drudgery -- tedious, unpleasant, menial, and boring.
So Sgt. Wilson had Miller in the kitchen all the time
and on this particular night Paul was kind of down.
You couldn't blame him. He didn't go in the Army to
languish in the kitchen, he wanted the adventure, whether it
was dirty or not.
There was a farm across the road, and we thought it was
deserted until we noticed all the jeeps parked in the back. It
seems some MP's were running a Blind Pig there. They charged
50 francs to get in. Paul suggested we go over, so he and I
and another guy walked over.

We paid our franc and went in. It was packed in there,


noisy and smoky. Paul ordered a double Calvados.
"Gee," he said, "this tastes just like apple juice,"
and ordered another. And then another. Then he passed out,
just like that. My buddy and I walked him home and put him in
his bunk. The next morning Sgt. Wilson saw that Miller wasn't
on duty, so he came after me, he knew we were friends.
"Where is that Miller?" he demanded.
"Don't ask me," I said.

Paul recovered okay, but some guys didn't. Often that


Calvados was raw stuff, they didn't bother to age it long

enough. It burned your throat all the way down and sometimes
the GI's went temporarily blind.

There was one occasion I was driving somewhere and an


MP stopped me. He said I would have to turn around and take
another route to where I wanted to go. I asked why and he told
me that some GI had been drinking Calvados and went berserk and
blind and was shooting up the town. They didn't want to kill
him, just catch him, and it was taking some time to do it.

HOW TO DRINK CALVADOS


Frenchmen always carried some Calvados with them. They
carried their own lunch, too. They'd have a baguette (a skinny
loaf of bread) in one pocket, a piece of cheese or sausage in
another, and a bottle of Calvados. They didn't drink it
straight, however; they would put one-third into a cup of
coffee. That concoction kept you going for a while.

82

FRENCH REPARATIONS

• France was not a hostile country. They were an


occupied country which had been liberated. A deal was made and
the French government charged us by the ton-mile for coal and
water and also for the services of the French crews. They had
to, they were dead broke after four years of German occupation
with the German soldiers stealing, or shall we say, in nicer
language, "requisitioning" whatever they pleased.
At Caen, in Normandy, the British had a railway sector
in their charge, which they ran with British engines. They
also had a different block system, which drove our guys nuts.
And as Mc Cool says in his stories, everything stopped at tea
time.
THE CASE OF THE BAD HEADACHE
Frank Guzzo was a driver from California. He was a
truck driver and as such he was a courier. This meant that
every night he had to go to HQ and pick up orders for the next
day. Orders always had to be in writing.
Part of my job was to drive men to sick bay, which was
28 miles away. Frank complained of a very severe headache,
after four nights in a row of driving at night without lights.

• The medics tested his eyes and discovered he was blind


in the right eye, and determined he had been so since birth.
This of course explained the headache.

He had pulled a trick to get in the Army, and for you


to understand that you have to know how it was in the States in
the 1940's. If you were a man between the ages of 18 and 39,
and you were not in uniform, or about to be, you were thought
of in a number of unflattering ways. You were 4-F (physically
unfit for military duty), a draft-dodger, or a queer or freak,
and people treated you with contempt and ostracism. And the
girls wouldn't date you.
Frank Guzzo didn't want to go in and get killed but
still he wanted to go in. When came time for his eye test, and
they tested his left eye, he closed his right eye and read the
chart with his left eye. When they told him to close his left
eye so they could test his right one, what he did was close his
right eye and read with his left. The examiner didn't notice
his little trick.
But now, having officially discovered his impairment,
the Army sent him home to be medically discharged. That wasn't
so bad. He kept his uniform, he kept his mustering-out pay,

• 83
and he was a hero. Not a decorated hero, but a hero at least
in that he'd made a valiant effort to serve his country and had •
put time in overseas.

PRISONERS OF WAR

Folligny was designated as a place to feed and water


the POW's who were passing through. They were being sent to
Cherbourg to work on the dock and live in a POW camp. The
train was shunted off onto a siding. The men were being
transported in gondolas, which were open cars without a roof,
but with high sides that came up to your armpits. There were
about 40 or 50 men in each car, and there were about 15 or 20
cars making up the train.

I'd been sent on my truck to bring K Rations for their


feeding. The train was being guarded by MP's who camped out in
the caboose.

The prisoners hung out of the cars begging for wasser,


wasser. Some of the GI's poured water out of their canteens
into any tin can or other container that was handy and sold it.

The MP's said, "You can sell them anything you want,
but we get half." They were standing right there to watch you
and collect their half, and those MP's had footlockers stuffed


full of money.

These prisoners had just been captured, and the only


things taken from them had been their weapons. They still
had medals, watches, belt buckles with iron crosses, rings with
swastikas on them, jeweled rings taken from French people, and
Fre.nch money.

When the train stopped in Vire there was a restaurant


right across the street and I remember GI's buying french fries
and selling them to the prisoners. I also remember someone
selling them dubbing (a thick stuff we used to waterproof our
boots) and telling them it was lard which they could spread on
their bread.

This sort of stuff was not officially allowed, but for


a short while some of the guys got away with it. You could go
to the APO (Army Post Office) and send any amount of foreign
money home by way of money orders.

One guy sold a trainload of coal to a civilian. He got


$50,000 or $60,000 for it. I believe he got caught trying to
send the money home.

Suddenly the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)


agents started coming around asking, how did you get all this
money to send home? Everyone would say, I won it gambling. •
And they'd say, yeah, 76 guys gambling on incomes of $90 a
month. Come off it.

84
But under those particular circumstances, you didn't

• really think it was a crime. Those Krauts had stolen it from


some Frenchmen, you didn't know who, so you couldn't return it
to them, it might as well be you who benefits by selling them
water or whatever.
A BAYONET AT MY DOOR

Returning to Vire one rainy night with a "cargo" of


tired, dirty, hungry train crews I was inserted into a Red Ball
convoy crossing the St. Lo bridge at the going speed of five
miles per hour.

The truck in front of me stopped suddenly -- so did I.


The vehicle behind me smacked my truck in the rear. All of a
sudden there was a GI at my side door (canvas) he had a
bayonet in his hand and he was angry -- he was going to "stick
me" for stopping in front of him.

What he didn't know was that the jar had awakened and
angered my "cargo." They piled out, picked him up, tossed him
over the side of the bridge, climbed back in, and we went on
our way. The rest of the convoy continued after some one took
over as driver for the empty vehicle behind me.

Remember, night driving in a theater of war was done


without head or tail lamps. In their place we had "cat-eye"
slits letting out just enough light so you can be seen by
another driver.

TWO BOTTLES OF GOOD SCOTCH

One night, raining again, lots of rain in Normandy in


the fall, Paul Inman and I were on our way back from Cherbourg
with 300 cans of gas. It was somewhere near Carentan that
there was a car alongside the road (olive drab sedan) and a
raincoated GI waving us down.

We stopped and asked what the trouble was. The car was
disabled and his "passenger" was tired and he wanted to know if
we would give him a tow to the nearest u. S. installation.
Naturally we said, "Sure," and towed him about four to six
miles and turned into a field hospital -- just like M.A.S.H. --
only muddier. We stopped in front of a tent and the driver let
out his "passenger" and they went into the tent.

We unhooked the car behind and were about to drive off


when the driver came back and asked us to step inside for a
moment .

• 85
His "passenger" was none other than "IKE"! He shook
hands with us, thanked us, and asked the Captain present in the
tent if he could spare a couple bottles of good Scotch for us. •
In a moment we each held a bottle of White Horse Scotch in our
grubby hands.
We left for home (Folligny). Naturally we were late
and Sgt. Wilson was very angry and was really spouting off at
our lame excuse. He didn't believe a word of it, that is until
I presented him with my bottle (I didn't drink). He sure
cooled down in a hurry. Whether or not he believed us I'll
never know, but he knew that 12-year-old Scotch just doesn't
sit by the roadside waiting to be picked up.

AN ORPHANAGE
Pvt. wesley C. Yeko couldn't be trusted with a railroad
job or guard duty as he got sleepy very easily, so he was given
to me to take along whenever I went for provisions or gasoline.
Wes and I got along fine, we were both nineteen years old.
One day we had gone to Villedieu for 10-in-l rations,
we were stationed in Argentan at the time. On our way back,
loaded with 7 1/2 tons of rations, we got stuck in a convoy of
tank-retriever armored tractor-trailers, hauling disabled tanks
back to Ordnance for repairs. These huge diesel vehicles travel
about 10-15 miles per hour, each carrying two 35-ton Sherman


tanks.
At a traffic circle in La Fontaine, we turned off onto
a dirt road to get away from the noise and fumes and looked for
a quiet place to park in the shade and eat. We pulled into a
long driveway leading to a once grand country house.

Immediately we were surrounded by children, aged three


to ten, and some nuns. It seems as though this was an orphanage
for kids whose parents didn't survive the war.

One of the nuns spoke English and we were invited


inside and sat down to tea and cookies. Very weak tea and
stale cookies, but they wanted to express their gratitude to
the u.S. for liberating them.

Wes and I talked it over and left a dozen cases of the


10-in-I's we were carrying. We were thanked profusely.

We went on our way and when we got back Sgt. Wilson


didn't believe us. He thought we sold the rations. We
explained that if we were going to sellon the black market we
would have sold the entire cargo, including the truck, and
headed for God knows where -- but certainly not back to
Argentan.
He finally believed us when we offered to take him back •
to the orphanage.

86

A CLOSE CALL
When we left Argentan to stay in Charleroi, C Company
left by rail, but the battalionis vehicles left the next day.
Dean Dornberger headed up the convoy and Paul Miller and myself
brought up the rear in a weapons carrier.

We arrived in Antwerp and parked at the train station


and walked to a transient billet and mess hall, situated in a
school. We ate and then went to sleep on cots in the gym.
i
Sometime later the V-2 s started corning in and the
plaster started falling and the dust was terrible, so we
decided, cold as it was (December) that we were not about to
stay and become statistics.

We walked back to the station, got in our trucks and


pulled out of town a few miles and finished the night in
i
the
back of the 6x6 s.
In the morning we drove back for breakfast and found
that the school was now an enormous pile of rubble -- it had
suffered a direct hit. Luckily everyone had gotten out soon
after we left.

A LITTLE BARTERING IN FOLLIGNY, AUGUST, 1944

• Most of the company, at first, lived in pup tents in an


apple orchard. I, as a truck driver, had to be near HQ and I
was billeted on the fourth floor attic of a bombed-out building
with a hole in the roof as big as a jeep.
half as a blanket.
I used a shelter

Our only source of water for washing and shaving was


one rain barrel -- always dirty. So when we needed a face wash
and shave we went to the local barber in town. For one bar of
face soap he would wash you completely from the neck up and
give you a shave. The hot water felt wonderful.

The local cafe had a stone floor, long tables with wooden
benches, an open fireplace, and candles for light. We would
stop at the meat market (boucherie) to buy a steak, the price,
one pack of cigarettes, our cost fifty cents a carton.
We would take the steak to the cafe and for another
pack they would cook the steak and furnish potatoes and a
pitcher of cider. After eating cold C rations for days and
Limey food before that in Southampton, this food tasted
heavenly •

• 87
A SUSPICIOUS INCIDENT -- OCTOBER, 1944, VIRE, NORMANDY

Paul Inman and myself were heading back to Vire from


dropping off some train crews at Surdon and we were shunted off
the main highway by British MP's. We were told to take an
alternate route, using secondary roads to get back to Vireo

This was night time and we were traveling on a severely



bombed road running through woods, near Domfront. Suddenly we
saw a lantern swinging in the road and a small disabled pickup
truck (civilian) whose cargo was tarp-covered. We stopped and
Paul got out the passenger side and went around the back to
make sure we were safe -- he had his carbine.

The civilian asked if I could tow him to town. It was


odd. His truck was crossways in the road. I sensed a high
jack. U.S. trucks and what they carried brought very good
prices on the black market.

Paul came up behind them and fired his carbine in the


air their hands went up. We searched them and found weapons
on them (probably looted from dead German soldiers). We
emptied their truck -- about 20 cases of 12 liters each of home
made Calvados -- pushed their truck off the road into the woods
and returned to Vire -- local heroes -- confiscated free booze
is a real prize.

gasoline
A FEMALE HITCHHIKER, CHARLEROI, BELGIUM, JAN. 1945

I was on the way back from Antwerp with a load


(300 5-gallon cans).
the Antwerp port.
I went for gas once a week
It was for our company vehicles.
of
to •
Around Nivelles, about halfway between Brussels and
Charleroi, I stopped to pick up a hitchhhiker -- a girl. It
was cold and snowy. I asked her, in English, her destination.
She replied, in French, "Hopital, Gosselies."

She took off her scarf and it was evident why she was
going to the hospital. She had been in a bombing and had lost
her left ear and part of her left lower jaw and all the skin
and flesh on that side of her head.

Until that moment, the war had been ever-present in my


life -- but at a distance. All the bad things of war were
outside -- the bombed-out towns, the wrecked tanks and trucks,
the long lines of refugees walking away from or toward their
homes, depending on where it was safer.

This was different -- this girl (about my age) in the


front seat of my truck was a real live victim. I'm sure it
wasn't her war, but nevertheless she was permanently damaged by


it.

88

I took her to the hospital, only about two or three
miles out of my way, in silence. As she got out and was
saying, "Merci," I gave her all the gum, candy and cigarettes I
had with me -- it was still not nearly enough.

She and millions of others like her paid a high price


for liberty. All it cost me was a few years out of my life --
I was a lucky one.

WHAT WE REMEMBER

It's funny how one remembers only the adventure and


good times of the Army -- except for a few special painful
ones. It's a good thing, because if we remembered all of the
bad and only the bad -- we'd all go insane.

The experience of the Army was a priceless one for me,


it made me truly a part of my country, a feeling shared by all
who served in the Armed Forces of the U.S.A. -- I wouldn't give
it up for any price.

(Mac) Lorimer McCallister


TIS AUS 36894174
744th ROB Co. "C" 2nd MRS
USFET APO 350 NY NY

• 89
How it all ended •••

After V-E Day in May of 1945 there was less need for
railway troops in Belgium and northern France, and so during •
the latter half of 1945 the 744th was broken up and its men
were redeployed. The Conquering Army now had to be turned into
an Occupation Army.

Those soldiers with 48 points or less were not eligible


to go home, and they were assigned to other battalions, most of
which were stationed in Germany.

Those with more than 48 points were sent home on a


continuing basis, those with most points going first. Many of
the returning soldiers opted for 52 / 20, 52 weeks at $20.00 per
week. Others took advantage of the GI bill to buy homes and
attend college. This was one of the things that caused a big
proliferation of the middle class during the post-war years.

Some men of the 744th Battalion liked the Army well


enough to stay in. Lorimer McCallister re-enlisted for three
years so that his bride, Josie, could remain with her family.
Roy Vobejda and William Hankins also stayed in.

On the other hand some men hated the Army.

The story is told of one such soldier, who upon learn-


ing he was going to be mustered out, said he was going to go
home, take off his uniform, burn it, and never think about the •
Army again.

****
For other men, if not at the time then in retrospect,
it was a tremendous experience, a witnessing of a monumental
event. It was a great sense of adventure, of going across the
ocean and seeing cathedrals and cities they would never have
otherwise seen.
There was misery, hope, fear, and endless excitement.
There was a special sense of kinship, of closeness to your
buddies with whom you shared these things.

For a small special group of men, forty years later,


it is still an exciting memory. It is the desire to keep their
memories alive that keeps them coming to the 744th Reunions
every year.

90

AN ACCOLADE FOR THE 744TH R.O.B.

• After the war, Major General Frank S. Ross, Chief of


Transportation, saw fit to write a letter of special thanks to
the President of the Milwaukee Road. Copies of it were forwarded
to all the men by Col. Hotchkiss on March 28, 1946. The text of
the letter follows:
APO
8 January 1946

My dear Mr. Scandrett:


The 744th Railway Operating Battalion, which was sponsored by
the Chicago, Milwaukee, st. Paul & Pacific Railroad departed
from this Theater several weeks ago. At this time I wish to
express the appreciation of Army Transportation Corps to the
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad for sponsoring
this unit.
Departing from New York Port of Embarkation on 11 August, 1944,
the battalion landed at Liverpool, England and without further
training in England moved across the Channel to Utah Beach
head. Landing on the 25 August 1944 it went directly into
operational duty, taking over the Vire, Argentan, Mezidon,
Surdon division with Battalion headquarters at Vire and


Argentan. It was at this section that it was given the
nickname of "Queue-Busters" for its superior job of relieving
congestion in the Cherbourg peninsula during the early phases
of the offensive following the break-through.
On 12 December 1944 the battalion moved to Charleroi, Belgium
in time for the Battle of the Bulge. Many members of the
battalion distinguished themselves by helping to move trains
from the path of the advancing German Armies. After the break-
through the battalion operated all lines in Belgium
Charleroi, Liege, Louvain, Brussels, Mons, Jeanmount to the
French border until late 1945 when it began to process for
redeployment from this Theater.

I have written to you personally because I feel certain that


you will be glad to know that the Chicago, Milwaukee, st. Paul
& Pacific Railroad made a distinct contribution to the Army
Transportation Corps' operations in Europe. I will greatly
appreciate it if you will pass on to those in your organiza-
tion, who were responsible for the 744th, our debt of gratitude
to them.

Sincerely yours,
(Signed)
FRANK S. ROSS


Major General, U S Army
Chief of Transportation

91

Page 2 THE STARS AND STRIPES Mon(Jay, Jan. 7,I94(
-- --- - .$
A 43-Point Outfit Gets lhe News

\
, ,
-.j"'''
('. :.'.', . WAR . DEPAR'lMENT .',; .
·The General's O:ff1ce
'. '. . '\. Wash1ngton

December 12, 1942.


.. ,
. \

.. , "..
.SUBJECT: Organ1zat10n

TO: Chief, Historical Section,


College.

1 • . Report i8 made of the '

.. ," redeslgnat10n of
", },. /'. __ as -.
, J. 320.2 OB-I-SP-M dated DecemOe.;- 1. 1942. The 609tJLEnitineer .
__ n.s as an ". '
" Resene ,unit and allotted to the Sixth Service Command b-f Teble itEr., Table s
of Troopa peftaining to Ap?endix G-J, WDCUP i n July, 1923;- orgun-
. 1200 April, 1924; redesignatsd Engi.nee:r Battalion
AG 320 . 2 Engineers dated ?cO, 19n ... -'"
"lngineer »as r edesign&ted the &tta !.ion und .
from the Sixth Serv ice ?er AG 320.2 (2-B=lI ) M (Ret) M-C,
dated February 1941 .

2. It is desired that any additional historical data be trans-


mitted direct to The Quartermaster General at the earliest practicable
date, and a copy of action taken be furnished this office.

By order of the Secretary of War:

Adjutant General.

Copy furnished:
The Quartermaster General.
/

War Department
Waahington 25, D. C.

AG 314.7
OB-I 1.-"c. .-1... 7.,

SUBJECT: Organization History.

TO: Chief, Hietorical Section,


war College.

1. Report 1s made of the Or clE:: rj,n: ' i ::,to actj v e r.1 ili ts ry
S3rVlce OJ. 1:;:1(,
• ... ' , -' . .... t-3. t es OJ...co 711 I' 1-'
r'l :-'
i.. i.. - • 1
Y'ay
':1atta liDfl , Tr an sp or t a tion Cor ps , at ort ;::'8ln 'l.'c; xas ,
on 1 4 Le ce mue r 1 943 , pe r !, " 322 ( 2 43) d B,ted
11 1 943 .

2. It is desired that any additional historical data be transmitted


diroct to The at the practiceb1e date, an&
a copy of action taken be furnished this office.

:By ord.er of the Secretary of '-lar:

AI tA/
.djutant General.

Copy furnished:
The Quartermaster General.

24- 53 il8 OASC a