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Date Posted: 17:33:37 02/13/04 Fri
Author: Frank Zalusky
Subject: WWII - My Life in the Service, Jeeps - including one I hit a landmine with
Brian: Here are a few notes that I had written down about my life in the service. As time and memory permit I will add to this about the years spent in the hospital and the mischief we got into.
Department of the Army
I volunteered for the draft to join the airforce, but they sent me to the artillery Btry B 273rd FABN at Camp Beale, CA. Was asked if I wanted to go to OCS. Told them I wanted the airforce. They sent me to Stanford University for the ASTP Program. I was at Stanford until December 1943. We were set to go on leave for Christmas. School was out and we were just sitting doing nothing. We couldn’t leave the campus until 5pm. If we waited until then we would miss our train home and lose a day of leave. We decided to leave two hours early. When we returned from Christmas leave we were charged with one day AWOL and were terminated from the program. I returned to the artillery and took the airforce exam and was sent to Sheppard Field, TX. I was assigned to 604 Training Squadron and went through basic training again.
Then up to Iowa State Teachers College for schooling and training. We finished our ground school and college courses on a Friday and were set to start flight training on Monday. On Saturday morning we mustered and were told that everyone who had entered from the ground forces were being released from the program and were being transferred out of the cadet program and sent to the infantry. That's where I hooked up with the 97th Division at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. There I took basic training for the third time.
We were assigned to HQ 1st Bn. 387th Infantry Regiment 97th Division.
One incident that I have confirmed was wiring up a house for use as a CP the next day. The house was stilled occupied by the Germans upstairs. We were down in the basement working so that when the area was taken the next day it would be ready to install the communication equipment.
One night while out laying wire, two men in front carrying the wire and I was approximately ten yards behind staking, I noticed the men in front disappear down to the ground. So I did likewise and shortly what looked like six old men in long coats hunched over crossed between us. Each carried a burp gun. We let them go about their business as my M-1 was on my back tangled in the webbing of the gear I had on. Besides it's no match for the guns they were toting.
Some things I remember seem like fantasies. I did earn the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart and Bronze Star so maybe some of the things are true. As I said I don't have much to tell as I don't remember most of what happened.
Crossing the Sieg River
I was lying along the riverbank with a bunch of G.I.’s firing at a castle like building across the river. The engineers were preparing the boat for me to load the jeep. The firing had died down so I went to the boat and drove the Jeep on to it. I was sitting upright in the drivers seat when we shoved off. We got about half way across when the machine gun from the castle opened up. I could see the tracers coming down the river towards me and I dove out of the Jeep into the bottom of the boat. The gunner did a pretty good job of messing up the front of the Jeep, but we made it to the other side. I unloaded the Jeep and examined the front. Many bullet marks. I disabled the Jeep by removing the butterfly from the distributor, put it in my pocket and headed back to the boat, but it was gone. So I spent time in a hole waiting for the boats return. In the meantime I was joined by three Germans as prisoners.
Later that night the boat came back to get me and I brought the three Germans with me and turned them over to the first officer I met on the other side. Went looking for Lt. Kegley and found him sitting by the side of the road.
The next morning April 9,1945 Lt. Kegley and I returned across the river to recover the Jeep and continue laying wire across the open field to the highway about a half mile away. Much of my memory ended there, but Kegley says he jumped out of the Jeep to clear a snag in the wire when he heard an explosion turned around and I was landing with the Jeep on top of me. We were following a marked line made by the sappers checking for mines. They did this the day before, but during the night the mines were reset while we were on the other side. Byron Briner was the next driver to enter the field and he too took a mine. Then Ken Bailey’s turn came and he said no way until the field was checked again. They sent a team out and cleared 28 more mines, which had been placed on the marked lane.
My memory of the explosion was nothing. I remember rolling head over heels in beautiful white clouds. Then later I awoke shivering, lying on my back and I could see my left leg hanging over the steering column. The Jeep was held off my body by the wire reel in the back of the Jeep. I don’t know what happened to the three boxes of grenades I had in the Jeep. One was phosphorus and two regular. I did notice that a jacket was lying over me and it had Lt.’s bars on it. So evidentially Kegley covered me to keep me warn.
In 1994 at the reunion Sgt. Rhyne said I spoke to him as they were loading me on the Jeep for a trip to the hospital tent. This I don’t remember, as when I assumed consciousness in the field hospital I couldn’t see anything. This lasted for many days. A nurse helped me write a letter to my mother.
I stayed at the field hospital for nine days. The usual time is three days as you were either shipped out or were dead. When I finally left they told me they couldn’t move me as they figured I would die along the way, but after the nine days they figured it was ok to send me to the rear and on to England.
I don’t remember the trip to England, but I woke up in a clean bed in a hospital they say was about forty miles from London. I was there for VE day and could see the lights turned on that night. While there I was put in traction with a sand bag for weight on my left leg and plaster from the waist down on the other leg. Arms, legs, head and everything else was wrapped in bandages. I was just lying there when some visitors with children arrives. As things happen one of the kids spotted the bag of sand hanging from my bed and came to examine it. He picked it up in his hand and was looking at it when someone shouted and the kid dropped the bag and I just about went through the ceiling. Talk about rude awakenings.
I finally was shipped to Scotland where the night didn’t start until about two a.m. and the sun came again around four o’clock. I was in full body cast so couldn’t move anything but my hands. I had the orderly’s stand me in a corner and push a table up to me then the ambulatory guys would sit and we’d play cards.
Finally it was my turn to return to the U.S. of A. I was loaded into a C-47. We made one landing in Iceland and had a meal aboard the plane then we left for Presque Isle, Maine. From there I was sent to Gardner General Hospital in Chicago.
Other items that I remember.
Sgt. Ralph Goss the motor Sgt. said they took both of the jeeps and made one usable piece of junk.
After the stint at ASTP I was sent to Camp Roberts, Ca. before going back to my Artillery Bn. We were sent to an area near San Luis Obispo, CA. to pick up jeeps that had returned from the Asian theater. We would drive them to Camp Roberts for salvage. They were very beat up. Some ran on one lung, two lungs or three. None had four operating cylinders. It was a job trying to coax those junkers up the Questa Grade and on to Camp Roberts. We made many trips and had fun doing it.
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