103d INFANTRY DIVISION WORLD WAR II ASSOCIATION

103d Infantry Division History: Stories

The opening line of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities pretty well sums up the camaraderie, escapades, and memories leading up to deployment into combat and the subsequent horrors of war. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way." What follows here are stories, told by the men of the 103d Infantry Division (Cactus), as they remember their experiences during their time assigned to the Division.

Stories from St. Die & The Celebration of November 24, 2014

 

During the late days of November, 1944, the intensity of Allied operations rose in the hotly contested battles aimed at pushing the Wehrmacht back into Germany. The Germans, who had fought fierce battles in southern France, began their retreat north toward the French and German border. St. Die des Vosges, located on the Meurthe River, was a vital crossing point for the Allies. Coming under increased pressure from US forces advancing on St. Die, the Germans faced the reality of having to evacuate their positions in the town. Realizing that staying would cause them to become surrounded, preparations were started for the retreat. Unfortunately for the town of St. Die, the Germans had no intention of leaving the town intact for the Americans, instead opting for a "scorched earth" approach; they burned most of the town. Prior to leaving, the population was rounded up and deported to Germany for use as forced labor. By the end of November 17, 1944, Wehrmacht forces along with elements of conscripted forces from Nazi occupied countries, successfully destroyed most of the houses on the east bank of the Meurthe River. At the same time, German forces blew the four bridges crossing the river. The Germans began moving rail equipment toward the homeland of Germany while at the same time destroying what remained after the Germans left. Although physical structures were destroyed, the liberation by American forces gave the citizens of St. Die a burst of hope as they welcomed the 103d Infantry Division with open arms. It was shortly after the war that the plans were put into action to rebuild the town. Now, 70 years after the 103d liberated St. Die, the citizens celebrate their liberation from Nazi oppression.

 

Here is a picture of the town as the 103d Infantry Division entered on November 22, 1944, along with recollections of this event, and pictures of the celebration that took place November 22, 2014.

 

I Never Walk Alone by Wayne B. Olson

 

Many a World War II veteran ponders how to start his story of events encountered during combat. More often that not, deciding where to begin is clouded by so many painful memories and scenarios too difficult to recall. The physical and mental stresses endured by these men, fighting in the most horrific war in the history of mankind, are too painful to recount. Only now, after some 50 years, are the men of this nation's Greatest Generation opening up to tell their stories; stories that will become their legacy and document this critical time in our country's history. This is the story of Wayne B. Olson, "I Never Walk Alone", a Forward Observer with the 928th Field Artillery.

 

Memory of the Last Weeks by Immanuel J. Wilk

 

T/4 Immanuel J. Wilk, 103d Signal Company, captured his experiences during the last weeks of the war. The story "Memories of the Last Weeks" was written while the 103d Infantry Division served as occupation forces in Innsbruck, Austria. This is is T/4 WIlk's story.

 

Personal Account of PFC Edward F. Defoe Co B, 408th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division by Tom Swope

 

PFC Edward Frank Defoe, Company B, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division, tells his story of how he learned about Pearl Harbor and his subsequent induction into the Army, ending up in the 103d Infantry Division. Personal Account of PFC Edward F. Defoe by Tom Swope.

 

Personal Accounts of Sgt Vaughn A. Johnson, PFC Arthur J. Clayton, and PFC Clarence O. Swope

 

Many of the Veterans of the 103d Infantry Division have told their stories through interviews and recordings. It is extremely important for future historians, researchers, and family to have access to these personal accounts, as these men are indeed eyewitnesses to history. A large collection of interviews and recordings exist in the Library of Congress through the Veteran's History Project of American Folklife Center. The Veteran's History project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans. The son of PFC Clarence Swope, Company B 409th Infantry Regiment 103d Infantry Division, Tom Swope has contributed many interviews, which are available through the Library of Congress. Where possible those that involve 103d Infantry Division veterans are posted below: Personal Account of Sgt Vaughn A. Johnson HQ CO, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division; Personal Account of PFC Arthur J. Clayton; Personal Account of PFC Clarence O. Swope During his time as a POW.

 

Reflections of a Daughter: "Ode to Thaddeus Francis Partynski by Julie Partynski

 

On December 5, 1940 Hitler's Army began its invasion of France. For nearly four years, the French people lived under Nazi occupation. They longed for freedom, but the prospects were bleak. A scant year later, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor put the United States into the midst of World War II; a conflict that would go down in history as one of the bloodiest wars experienced in the history of mankind. In November 1944, the 103d Infantry Division entered the war. On November 15, 1944, the mission was handed to the 103d Infantry Division to seize and hold the high ground southwest of St. Die, France. Meeting heavy resistance all the way, elements of the 103d Infantry Division crossed the Meurthe River and took St. Die on November 22, 1944. The Germans were in a scorched earth mode and left St. Die burning as a vendetta against the citizens choosing to set fire to the building where cartographers had first given the name America to a new discovered land far away. On November 22, 2014 St. Die celebrated the 70th Anniversary of its liberation from German occupation by the 103d Infantry Division. Several members and descendants of veterans from the 103d Infantry Division attended this celebration. Prior to departure, one venerable veteran's daughter wrote a tribute to her father. This is Julie Partynski's tribute to her late father, Thaddeus Francis Partynski, Headquarters Company, 3d Battalion, 411th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division, "Reflections of A Daughter: Ode to Thaddeus Francis Partynski."

 

Staff Sergeant Joseph DeLuca Interviewd by Tom Swope, Library of Congress Transcript

 

This is the oral history of World War veteran Joseph De Luca, Jr. Mr. De Luca served with the US Army's 103d Division, 411th Regiment, Company C. He served in the European theatre and his highest rank was Staff Sergeant. I am Tom Swope, and we recorded this as Mr. De Luca's home in Wooster, Ohio on November 1, 2001. Mr. De Luca's was 76 years old at the time of this recording.

 

Diary and Memoir of PFC Clarence O. Swope: Co B, 409th Infantry Regiment

by PFC Clarence O. Swope as told by his son Tom Swope

 

To any of our men from Company B, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division (Cactus):

 

This diary of my experiences with Company B was written over a period of time beginning in 1943. I did not write during combat, except during breaks in our travels. I expect some errors on names and plenty on spelling. This is the story of PFC Clarence Mike Swope who was captured in early December 1942. Events leading up to his capture are described in his own words:  "About 2 a.m. on December 2nd, we heard tanks coming down the road and the fellows said it was probably our own T. D. outfits. As they got closer, we could hear that they were coming from the opposite direction of our troops, so we kept watching. Pretty soon we could make out 4 or 5 tanks coming toward us: they were enemy tanks. We took to the buildings, most of them empty. We fired on the tanks and tried to scare them off. It turned out to be what seemed like a whole division, so we were caught red-handed without any anti-tank weapons. We could pick off accompanying infantry, but we couldn't scratch the tanks. We kept fighting, but they came right up on us." This is "Mike's" story about his experiences during World War II.

 

Memories of Fighting Days in France & Germany by TSG Earl P. Hale, G/411th

 

Earl P. Hale was married to Jean Whittington Hale, December 30, 1942 and had one daughter, Mary Lee, in 1946. They lived most of his retirement years in Oklahoma City. In April 2011 his wife of 68 years died and he lived with his daughter and her husband on ten acres just north of Ada, Oklahoma. He too passed from this life, September 30, 2011 just 5 1/2 months later. He did not talk much about his time in WWII until he started attending the 103d Conventions. He attended the dedication of the Monument to the 103d in Gainesville, Texas in 2006. The story was submitted by TSG Hales's daughter, Mary Lee Looper, and was written by TSG Hale, her father. This story is a compilation of two letters he wrote about his experiences, compiled by his daughter Mary Lee Looper. One was to Lt. Charles Clark, Brunswick Maine when he was in his last years of life and asked Earl if he would share some of his experiences in war after he (Charles) was wounded and sent stateside. The other letter, more like a journal, was his effort to remember good times in his life after his wife, Jean Hale died in April 2011. He really missed her and to help him make it through the days, and daughter Mary Lee suggested that he write down the good memories he had with her. He started writing and kept on until he had handwritten twenty-one pages in the journal. This story is from those pages.

 

Mud & Guts by Arthur J. Clayton

 

Arthur J. Clayton was a replacement sent to Company B, 409th Infantry Regiment via England. He and others were tagged to replace the men of Company B, the Germans had captured in December 1944. This is his story from the time he landed in England through the war with Company B, 409th Infantry Regiment. "Mud & Guts" is one soldiers recollection of what he experienced during combat with the 103d Infantry Division.

 

My World War II by Frank Rogers

 

The first time I wrote about my World War II experiences was in 1996, over 50 years after the fact. At 71 years old, I still had many vivid, detailed memories of what I had gone through. On the other hand, I had only small fragmented impressions from some events adn periods--like flotsam washed up on a beach. To try to sort out my memories and put them in chronological order, I referred to dates, place names, activities, and events I had copied from our company morning reports after the war in Europe ended. I found out much later--thanks to Bob Leslie, a machine gunner in our company and one of the few of us still living into the 21st century -- the information in the morning reports does not agree exactly with the official records. I also went back to our regimental history for a refresher on the chronology of events, though my purpose in writing this account was not spell out tactics or strategies, except to provide context to what I did and saw. Rather, "My World War II" this is my memory of my personal experiences as a soldier in World War II serving with Company G, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division.

 

Cane do Attitude: Daughter Finds Practical Humor for WWII vet Dad by Charles Stanley, The Times, Ottawa, Illinois

 

Never underestimate the ways a daughter can make using a cane a very attractive proposition; even if you initially don't want to do so. Read this story about Company M, 114 Infantry Regiment veteran Gilbert Pote of Ottawa, Illinois. And by the way, oh my what a beautiful cane he received from the Eagle Cane Project of Illinois.

 

French Woman Adopts Grave of SD WWII Soldier by Jill Callison

 

As far as battles go, the Battle for Selestat wasn't impressive, say like the Battle of the Bulge. But for the men who fought with the 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) it was hell on earth.  These men had been in combat less than a month. Now they were up to their eyebrows in Germans, tanks, and bullets. The first day of December 1944, proved costly for the men of the 103d Infantry. There were 213 total casualties, of which 27 where killed in action. One of those killed was a young man from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Corporal Francis J. Los. He left behind a wife and two daughters. Today he lies at peace in the Epinal American Cemetery in France. The French in the Alsace Region have always held a special place in their hearts for the 103d Infantry Division for their role in driving out the Germans. In November 2012, a program was started where volunteers could adopt the grave of an American serviceman who died fighting for France's freedom. A young French girl took on the honor of looking after teh grave of Corporal Los. As she went about her honored duty she began to wonder about the man who was buried at Epinal. Did he have a family? Where was he from? What did he look like? That began her quest for answers, which led her to Jill Callison a reporter for the Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This is the touching story of how Ms. Callison was able to assist the young French girl who only wanted answers about the man buried in the grave she watched over.

 

Captain Willie W. J. Barrios, Captain Charles T. Boyle, Captain Marshall G. McBee, Captain John L. Tanner, and Captain Howell B. Thompson

 

Officer Training is an essential part of Leadership development in all branches of the Army. During WWII, young officers received their training OJT, and that means on the job. That took its toll as the average life expectancy of a replacement 2nd Lieutenant in World War II ranged from 6-9 days. Those who survived, were promoted and for those who decided to continue a career in the Army they were faced with a post-war mentality that often made decisions in somewhat of a vacuum. Major Garry Thompson wrote in his Master of Military Arts and Sciences Thesis, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 2002, "Following major US conflicts the Army's difficulties with training resources, poor morale, and readiness have been consistent. Additionally, the army leadership's message to Congress has been relatively unchanged throughout each period." Major Thompson is addressing the difficulties of downsizing after a major conflict, which after World War II was done more with the idea of getting the troops out of Europe rather than a systematic plan. The challenges of career progression were daunting, and I'm sure that many a good officer marched off to his Infantry Advanced Officer Course classes wondering who was directing this chicken outfit to send combat veterans to class to learn how to fight. But, as good officers , followed orders and made the best of the time they were given, understanding the absolute essential need for a well trained force. Fortunately for the leadership at the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Georgia there was a deliberate effort to collect as many lessons learned from those officers who experienced combat first hand. These are papers written as part of each officer's writing requirement for the Infantry Advanced Officer Course they attended at Fort Benning during the period following World War II. The papers cover personnel experiences of each combat officer who served with the 103d Infantry Division.

 

Papa's War

 

This first hand account fo some of my experiences in World War II was written for my grandson Brenton Colen Kelber, who has shown a strong interest in History and World War II in particular, or as he calls it, "Papa's War." As this is written, he is only eleven years old, and does not even have the major events of that war sorted out in his head. Brenton will grow up quickly so I have not written "down" to his age level. In time, he will come to understand the things that he may not understand now. The big picture of global events preceding and during that war are too complex and bewildering for a boy of his age, or perhaps for any of us, to comprehend. If only a few of those events are mentioned in order to provide the necessary continuity for this story, it does not mean that I am not aware of the efforts and sacrifices of other servicemen over and on the land and on and under the sea, but front line servicemen have a myopic view of a war. The average soldier has no grasp of the "big picture." He only serves his own private little corner of the war. If in this narration, it sometimes appears that the 103d Infantry Division, the 103d Infantry Signal Company, and the 411th Infantry Regiment were the only participants in the war, that is only because that was the tine corner of the war in which I was immersed. This is Pierce Evan's Story.

 

The Cactusmen

 

Some of the boys of the 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) were in shock. They had been sent off to college to study Engineering and were operating under the impression that Uncle Sam was going to commission them Engineer Officers. All of a sudden, in March 1944, the Army Specialized Training Program was canceled, and these college men were handed an M-1 rifle and unceremoniously welcomed into the US Army's Infantry. They trained hard at Camp Howze, Texas in Infantry Regiments, Engineer Battalions, Artillery, and Medical Detachments. As suddenly as they had gone from college to Infantry, the orders came for overseas. Once at sea they learned their destination - Marseille. From there they would motor march north to the Saint Die des Voges area and enter combat on November 11, 1944. The men of the Cactus Division were given their orders:  push the Germans back and breach the Fatherland itself. This CD Series, The Cactusmen tell the little known stories of how the American warrior moved through Northern France to penetrate the Reich; the stories are from the GIs themselves, in their own words. From induction through the end of the war, the men who fought with the Cactus Division remember their times of agony, joy, and their deepest thoughts while engaged with the Nazi. Luke Martin, one of those men, sums up The Cactusmen in these words:  "It captures the reality of the situation and puts you in the mud with the GI. It's the best description of what went through our minds that I've ever heard.

 

The Album of Remembrance

 

The stories presented in "The Album of Remembrance" are experiences of former soldiers of the 103d Infantry Division of World War II. Many are stories direct from the veterans, some are submissions sent into the Association Historian by surviving family members. The stories are from those who had the dirties, most dangerous, and most important job of all - combat soldiers fighting a war to preserve peace for their nation, as wells as, free much of Europe from the Axis tyranny. The World War II Combat Infantryman suffered a casualty rate far exceeding any other part of the Army. Infantrymen were only 14% of the Army's overseas strength, yet the Combat Infantry casualty rate was 70% of the Army's total battle casualties. Entering combat on November 11, 1944, the men of the 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) suffered 848 killed in action over a period just short of six months, and anther 5,914 casualties. The physical and mental stress these men endured in indescribable, these stories will provide some insight into what they went through. A soldier could not just get up one morning and say, "I quit." The only way out was to be killed in action, wounded, injured, captured, hospitalized, or go missing in action. These are their stories and those of The Girls We Left Behind.

 

Jenner's Diary

 

This is not a commentary or a story about a bunch of heroes. It isn't as general as a division or regimental history, where battalions, companies, and batteries do all the fighting and winning. It is more or less a detailed account of a field artillery battery and the men who made it click; men who sacrificed pinstripes and tweed for khaki and HBT; peace and security for combat and doubt; homes and families for pup tents and buddies. It isn't about the volunteers who flooded the army recruiting centers. It is just a down-to-earth diary of the hundred-odd men who accepted the call with plenty of good-natured bitching and turned from John Q. Public to G. I. Joe after running the gauntlet from Louisiana maneuvers to Valley Creek School and then on to combat. It isn't a story about heroic conquest or bloody battles, but just a diary about a few of the men who helped carry the ball and at the same time, tried to live in hope that they would one day return to a life to which all were accustomed. I recall Captain Boydstun's speech to us before we entered combat, and the prayer that we would be good soldiers, and not try to be heroes because heroes took unnecessary chances that might cost them their lives and prevent their being good soldiers. As recorder for Charlie Battery, I kept necessary records and I feel it is my task to make these records available to you. I visited Joe Byars in Tampa Florida in April 1979, I sent him a copy of the places we fought. I feel it is an honor to those of you who made these events and places, to give you a backward glance at where we spent the winter of 1944-1945. If it only helps bring back some of those pleasant, as well as those miserable times we shared together, I feel I will have fulfilled my task as Battery Recorder and Historian.

 

I kept a diary until the "Battle of Bastogne." From them on, until V.E. Day we moved so fast, I recorded only our locations. During the Summer of 1973, with my wife and four children, it was my good fortune to revisit a portion of the places we fought. It was a nostalgic experience for me, but unfortunately a "ho-hum" adventure for my children, after the excitement they had in visiting the great cities of Europe.

 

The balance of my report is almost verbatim as I wrote it in 1946, I regret it too almost 35 years to get it into print. Gerald E. Jenner, Corporal May 1979.

 

An Account by A World War II Combat Infantryman

 

"War Stories" is an account of some days and nights spent in Vosges Mountains as told by Thornton Dorsey, Jr. K Company, 3d Battalion, 411th Infantry Regiment during his experiences with the 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) in 1944-1945. The story was assembled with affection by Frances Dorsey in 1995.

 

The Military Career of John E. Walters

 

During John Walters' senior year, when he took the test for qualification for Navy ROTC and the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) little did he know what the future held for him. He subsequent decision to go into the Army's ASTP route seemed like the right way to go, since he felt the Navy would create an environment where water would splash on his glasses. John Wlaters had no idea that his ASTP program would terminate and he would receive a subsequent assignment to B Company 1st Battalion, 410th Infantry Regiment of the 103d Infantry Division (Cactus). This would take him into war in Europe, where in November 1944 John's world was turned upside down as he found himself a Prisoner of War, captured at Itterswiler on November 30, 1944. This is his story.

 

John O. Tapio Interview

 

T/SGT John O. Tapio, initially assigned to HQ Co, 2nd Battalion, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) and later transferred to HG Co, 1st Battalion, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) sat down to an interview with his son Rick Tapio. This is the interview.

 

 

My War

 

It has been said that an army division headquarters is nothing more than an enlarged fox hole. We were always located ahead of the artillery, and were often under fire from enemy mortars and air attacks. We might have been safer in a fox hole. Lots of things were happening fast. our division had taken over the concentration camp at Dachau, uncovered mass graves and freed prisoners. We had rescued some political prisoners, including M. Daladier, former French Prime Minster, the French General Weygand and his wife, General Bor, the Polish resistance leader, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth, and many others. Lt. Col. West had gone into Innsbruck, undercover to contact the German command in the hope of arranging for their surrender. The press were swooping down on our headquarters for stories. This is the story of SSG E. G. Keefer who served in Division Headquarters, G2 in th War Room of Generals Haffner and McAuliffe.

 

Hände Hoch

 

Hande Hoch, is the Word War II diary of Charles G. Rahn while he was a Prisoner of War in Germany from the time of his capture as Selestat, France in December 1 1944 until the day he returned home on June 2 1945. Hande Hoch is German for hands high, or in the old west vernacular, "get 'em up." Charles was held in three different POW camps in Germany: (1) Stammlager XII-A in Limburg, Germany just north of Frankfurt am Main; (2) Stammlager III-B in Furstenberg, Germany located just south of Frankfurt am Der Oder; and (3) Stammlager III-A in Lukenwalde, Germany just south of Berlin.

 

 

Flight Ops

 

His flying career started when with graduation from OCS at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. From there LT Geneback went to the Pre-flight school at Pittsburg, Kansas.  There he spent eight weeks going through the basic maneuvers with light aircraft.  Upon graduation from this training, LT Geneback was placed on flying status as a Liaison Pilot.  From Pittsburg it was back to Fort Sill to undergo eight more weeks of flight training. After completion of the Fort Sill training, he emerged a full-fledged ‘Liaison Pilot’ ready for the Hells of Battle and raring to go. At this point newly assigned Liaison Pilots were referred to as Fledglings. This is his story.

 

Company I, 410th Infantry Regiment 103d Infantry Division Edited by Robert Quinn

 

For 45 years I carried around memories of the war by myself. During this time I was in touch with only one Company I soldier, John Wagner. In the summer, 1993, Wagner called me to say he had heard that the 103d Division Association was meeting in suburban Chicago. What an occasion to meet men with whom we had shared many wartime experiences. I shall never forget that reunion. Many there agreed that the living members of Company I should do something to honor those who had died in the war. In Spring, 1994, two Memorial Plaques were placed in the Alsatian towns of Hohwarth and Uhrwiller; places where the Company had fought and lost many members.

 

 Carroll Webster had kept a list of our casualties. “Bear” Walters related how he had kept a small notebook, which he later sent to me. It was a record of day-by-day events during the war. He also sent a full-page copy of the “Cactus Route” map from the REPORT AFTER ACTION book published in June, 1945. Arnie Marzullo contributed some records he had obtained from the National Archives.

 

 These, together with information gathered while coordinating the Memorial Plaques project, amounted to enough material to fill a book to be shared with other Company I members, their children, families, and the next-of-kin of those had lost their lives in 1944-1945.

 

This book is dedicated to those in our Company who gave their lives in the war. "They all deserve some form of immortality."

 

 

410th Company B Dinner Book

 

On May 30, 1943 the officers and men of Company B, 1st Battalion, 410th Infantry Regiment sat down to a Sunday dinner. This is the menu, along with the roster of all those present that day.

 

 

Cactus Caravan

 

TO THE MEN OF THE CACTUS DIVISION

 

The basis of teamwork, of all military effort, of success in battle, is the individual soldier - self-reliant, enthusiastic, alert, well-trained and proud of his willing discipline.

 

The results of combat are the fruits of the combined efforts of individuals.

 

Each soldier of every component of the Division must realize that his individual action may be the decisive factor in the final result.

 

The Cactus Caravan is, therefore, most appropriately dedicated to the individual soldier of the 103d Infantry Division.  CHARLES C. HAFFNER, JR., MAJOR GENERAL, DIVISION COMMANDER

 

Bruyers To Brenner

 

This little booklet is written for the bereaved of our killed and for the wounded who have not returned to us. Nothing can take away the pain that you have suffered and are suffering. I know, for I suffer with you and the pain of my son lost in Normandy is always with me. It is hoped, however, that the knowledge of the glorious record that this Regiment has made will in some way alleviate your pain. Our dead and wounded helped to do this; they will always be a part of us. DONOVAN P. YEUELL, COLONEL, 411th INFANTRY, COMMANDING

 

H. K. Brown's WWII 1944-1945 Diary

 

The 103rd Infantry (Cactus) Division left Camp Howze, Texas during the last half of

September 1944. I, Hallet K. Brown, known as H. K., was a member of the 410th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion (Company D). Company D,  a heavy weapons company, consisted of one mortar (80 mm) and two machine gun (.30 caliber) platoons. I was the first gunner, responsible for carrying the tripod and firing the gun, of the eighth squad (8 members), second section, second platoon. This is my diary.

 

My Little Corner Of A War

 

This war was a time when all of us in Company “D” were being tested.

We made discoveries about ourselves and each other. A bond was formed that was fired in the furnace of this test. There was a kinship born that lasts, even now, for all of us. JOHN R. "JACK" DURRANCE, CO D, 1ST BATTALION, 409TH INFANTRY REGIMENT

 

40 Days of Combat and One Day in Hell

 

The day of Hell was an unsuccessful attack on the town of Sessenheim in Alsace, France, on January 19, 1945.  This prose is dedicated to all the men of Company L, 411th Infantry, 103d division who participated in this action, with special recognition to the members of the First Rifle Platoon and Weapons Platoon who were isolated in Sessenheim and spent 6 months of hardship in German Prisoner of War Camps; to Sergeant Joe Bowden, who was killed in this action; to Santos Garcia, who lost a leg carrying my message back to the Company Commander; and especially to my life-long friend, Jack Scannell, who gave me 50 additional years of life. LT WILLIAM D. (BILL) SPROESSER, L COMPANY, 3RD BATTALION, 411TH INFANTRY REGIMENT

 

The Cactus Division Second Battalion 409th Infantry Regiment History

 

This book is dedicated with the greatest love and respect to the men of the Cactus Division who fought - and many of whom died - in the actions herein described. Let us not forget it.

 

The Story of Pvt Harry Nixon's Capture and His Time As A POW

 

"I remember vividly the fateful night of December 1, and the early morning of December 2, 1944, before our capture. Moving along the Ill River on the outskirts of Selestat, France. Hearing the eerie sound of a German motorcycle on the other side of the river, as we were inching our way along, moving across the river , fighting our way, and fighting our way into the town. We captured 10 or 12 German soldiers and placing them under guard in the basement of the house we had occupied. While on sentry duty outside the house, a German soldier approached toward me and I surprised him, capturing him and placing him with the other prisoners. I remember artillery shells going over our house and knocking out the bridge we had crossed to get into Selestat. Then the ominous grinding sound of several tanks coming down the street in front of our house. We tried to dig in amongst the onions and potatoes in the attic. The turrets rotated in the direction of our house and one of our guys with a BAR opened up from the attic, trying to be a hero. The tank shells piercing the roof reminded of the 4th of July, here on the 2nd of December. A sergeant next to me sent me downstairs with a message for another sergeant but the firing resumed, knocking me sprawling down the stairway where I landed heavily on my left hand. It was learned later that my wrist was fractured, but that fact not determined until after I was liberated from a POW camp. This is my story of the 103d Infantry Division "LOST COMPANY" as we just disappeared that night, captured by the Germans."

 

Some Fading Memories of WWII by James Huston Murphy

 

The first news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that infamous Sunday, December 7, 1941 began to crackle on our Philco radio.  I was 17 years old, at home with my parents in Macon, Georgia.  We listened, trying to comprehend what was happening. My older brother Bill had recently graduated from North Georgia Military College where he had earned an officer’s commission in the Marine Corp reserves.  We knew we were at war. My stories, like everyone who was over there, could go on and on.  Some are good.  Most are dreadful.  War is Hell says it best.

 

And Oral History With Robert Leslie, Company G 409th Infantry

 

"My service career made me a better man. I can put things in perspective. Before that, I was opinionated - maybe because of the way I was raise, the town I was raised in, my peers. We had 42 killed and one medic who was attached to the company. The war made me more self-secure. I'm just as good as you are. I had gone through combat. I had made it." From the ORAL HISTORY PROJECT, Album of Remembrance, 103d Infantry Division Association.

 

World War II Experience of Earl Parker HQ 410th

 

This is a story of the experiences of Earl Parker from the time he entered the service to the time of his discharge. This interview gives a great overview of what the typical GI went through during the tough times of World War II.

 

Interview with PFC Gustavus Enyedy Jr., Library of Congress Transcript

 

 This is the story, as told to military historian and descendant of a 103d Infantry Division (Cactus) veteran, Tom Swope. The story is about the combat experiences of PFC Gustavas Enyedy, Jr. What is amazing about Enyedy’s unit, 2nd Platoon, I Company, 409th Infantry Regiment, is that they had only 5 men wounded in action and zero killed. What makes this amazing is that the company itself, I Company, had 8 KIA and 67 WIA. PFC Enyedy went on to write a record of his WWII combat, which contains over 200 photographs, astounding in itself as Gus had to carry his rifle, a camera, and film during his time in combat. The book, COMBAT DIARY is available on this website for order.

 

Interview with PFC Clayton Rippey, Library of Congress Transcript

 

This is an oral history of PFC Clayton Rippey, Company B, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103d Infantry Division (Cactus). The interview was done by Tom Swope, son of PFC Clarence O. (Mike) Swope, who was Mr. Rippey's foxhole buddy during WWII.

 

 

 

Click here for a Reading List of books and stories of the 103d Infantry Division (Cactus).

 

 

Click here for the Battery Press and Military Books price list.

Dale Center for the Study of War & Society • Department of History • College of Arts & Letters

The University of Southern Mississippi • 118 College Drive #5047 • Hattiesburg, MS • 39406

webmaster Dr. Kenneth Swope