Memoirs of A Soldier
Sherman flamethrower lets loose
By Michael D. Martin, E.C.P.D. Retired
My dad, Pvt. Karl D. Martin, was a front line combat soldier in World War II...he was with Bravo company, 272nd combat team of the 69th division, George Patton's 3rd Army...A few years ago I sat him down in my living room and cut on the tapes...I was a cop...skilled in interrogation. In the next few hours the old man blew my mind away.....I knew he was tough, but I never suspected what I heard. He never opened up before that...
I had a book "the regimental history of the 69th Division....it the book there is a picture of a German general that was captured at Pansdorf......I never knew that dad's squad were the boys that took him, or that the dress sword hanging on my wall, was the sword...of that general. I would like to include a few excerpts, or stories of battle my dad told me about..I do not want them to be lost...these are true stories of a Spray, NC boy in battle.
I recall that the new thing called "Television" tried to invent heroes for the American youth back in the fifties. There was Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rodgers and Lash Larue. John Wayne and Randolph Scott.....remember Randolph Scott???
My brother Steve and I had no need for Tinsel-town heroes, we had our dad. He was always our hero. My dad served in Bravo Company of the 272nd combat team of first Bttn, 69th Infantry. and dad fought in every battle of central Germany in World War II.
The only way I know to write this is some chronological order. The 69th Division departed Camp Shelby Mississippi on 15 May 1943 and headed to the front in Belgium. Dad was actually at Camp Blanding, Florida finishing up a thirty mile forced run when they topped a hill and saw many transport trucks on the road and a Captain standing in the middle of the road. As the drill Instructor brought his boys to a halt, dad heard the Captain tell the DI that the Germans had broken our lines in Belgium and every boy was needed at the front. The DI was instructed to load his boys onto the trucks, which was done. At that time, the boys were the 14th infantry. They were shipped to New Jersey and put aboard the "Ille De France" a French liner and off to Europe they went. Most of the boys had never been on a ship before and soon, seasickness was rampart...Thousands of sick boys hanging over the railings, the hallways were slick from the boys that could not get to the rails...dad said it was the most horrible, smelly mess a man could imagine and he added his part.
As they transversed the Atlantic, they were joined by other ships and were in a convoy protected by an aircraft carrier and some destroyers. As they approached the coast of Scotland, they ran into a German submarine "wolfpack" that attacked and one torpedo blew the fantail away from the aircraft carrier. In the next hours, the sky was filled with strange looking fighter planes, diving and firing into the seas and dropping bombs into the sea. Huge tugboats came out from the English coast and tied onto the aircraft carrier and towed it to port as these British fighters and bombers protected the convoy. This was dad's first taste of battle.
It was late at night when they debarked in Scotland and they were put on funny looking small trains and the boys mostly fell asleep as the train ran from Scotland to a port in England. There they were put onto small ships and ferrys and crossed the English Channel, again at night and they were offloaded at the port of LeHarve, France and again boarded funny looking little trains for the Battlefields in Belgium.
They reached the "jump off" place in Belgium, A place called "mud Flats" as far as the eye could see, there was an ocean of mud a foot deep. There they were told that the 14th infantry was to be included as replacements for boys of the 69th Division who had been killed in battle.
They were also told that the German Engineers had measured every meter as they retreated and the German 88mm Gunners knew exactly where to drop their shells and the only way to stay alive was to stay hard up against the German infantry where their gunners could not drop these huge shells. To stay under the umbrella of the trajectory as the 88's could not fire directly into advancing troops. General E. L Rhindhart told his boys, "If you let their infantry push you back, you are dead! you got to stay nose to nose with Jerry......if you don't, you're dead. A few days later, dad and some buddies were sloshing thru mud flats when they heard 88's coming in...There were a few water filled shell holes and they dived into the closest one....the shells passed on overhead and they looked up to see an old battle hardened sergeant standing on the edge of the crater, laughing at them...Sergeant Al Yeatts from Westerfield, Conn. Yeatts explained to the "green weenies" that when you heard the 88's coming, they made a strange whistling sound, as long as they made that whistling sound, they were passing overhead. If they suddenly changed pitch and sounded like a who-who-who, they were coming after you and you had about two seconds to get flat or in a hole, if you could find one. I thank almighty God...dad wound up in Sgt. Yeatts squad.
A few days later, after assembling, the boys were to push into the Eiffel Forrest, there was only one problem, The battered remnants of German General Seth Detrich's sixth Panzer Army was still in the Eiffel, and they did not want to leave.
II. Malmady, The Eiffel Forest and the Push to the Rhine River
The boys of the 69th passed thru Malmady, France...actually.. Malmady was just inside Belgium, This is the place where, on December 17th 1944..the 291st American Engineer Battalion was captured by German General Jochim Peipher's first Panzer. Peipher was under orders from Berlin not to take prisoners and first Panzer took the 291st to a field near Malmady and executed our boys....they took our boys to a field and machine-gunned them to death, a whole battalion who were not even a rifle company....as the 69th passed thru Malmady on their way to the battlefields in Belgium...their battle cry was "Remember Malmady" the unspoken word was that no quarter was to be asked, and no quarter given to soldiers of first or sixth panzer...many a good German boy died because of the actions of a few. Third Army took gallons and gallons of blood for every ounce that stained the frozen fields of Malmady. No quarter asked...no damned quarter given...
My dad told me "during the war, I took hundreds of German prisoners, I never shot one of them" a lot of fellas did, they would take the Germans off to provost and would come back claiming the Germans tried to run.....we knew it was not true, but we remembered Malmady and no one said anything......we remembered Malmady and pushed on.
Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper on the witness stand, June 17, 1946
III. The fighting near the German cities of Dalheim and Betenrode
This fighting took place in the midst of one of the most bitter winters in european history. Boys dug foxholes for protection only to have the foxholes fill with rain and freezing snow, ponchos and blankets were soaking wet and frozen long before morning and the freezing wind seemed to cut your faces. A soldier woke in the morning with snow frozen to his clothes and in some instances, the snow provided insulation. Teeth chattered twenty four hours a day and one soldier left his foxhole to take a leak and could not find his way back for half an hour. There was no electric lights and the night was as black as a widow woman's heart and no well digger in America was ever so miserable....and more than one boy just gave it up and froze to death in his foxhole. One pitch black night, in the middle of a blinding blizzard, the boys of Bravo Company dug in for the night on the edge of some sort of a field. The next morning at dawn they were awakened by the roar of a German fighter plane taking off. It was a hidden airfield and they captured the air crew. The boys were concerned that the German fighter would come back to strafe them but the air crew said no. he only had a few gallons of fuel and he was taking his fighter east to avoid capture. Considering that Marshall Zukoff"s first Ukrainian Division was holding the ground to the east, this might not have too smart. Millions of Russians had been killed on the eastern front and the Russian army usually was not too hospitable to German prisoners.
I hope you understand, the battles were over sixty years ago, and the German town's names were a blur, even then. The 69th rolled up on a German Town and there seemed to be no activity in the town and civilians said the German Army had pulled back. Captain Joe Lipscus took Bravo Company in to take the town. Dad said the town looked like Bassett, Virginia. It was a small town in a valley, surrounded by tall hills. as the boys of the first battle patrol approached. The Germans had dug in to freshly plowed fields on the side of the hills. A small American spotter plane flew overhead and suddenly the pilot spotted the German machine gun emplacements and he began diving and throwing out hand grenades. He forced the Germans to open fire before they wanted to. Still, boys were hit and fell and bravo company broke into a run as there was no cover between their position and the town. Dad said he was running along as best he could when shells began to land around his feet and he danced around to avoid being hit and lost his footing and fell into a ditch. Sgt. Al Yeatts ran up and yelled "Martin, are you hit?" No sir, I don't think so! "Then get the hell up from there and let's get outta here!! dad said he scrambled up, embarrassed at having fallen and they ran to the cover of the first building.......and the fight was on.
IV. Ambush at "no name city"
We rolled up on this large German town, or small city, I do not know which. it was in the bitter winter of 1944-45. We were preparing for the assault on this city and one morning and old man came into our lines and asked to see the commanding officer. He was the Burgemeister of the town and he said he did not want his town destroyed. He said that the German Army had pulled out the night before and the citizens did not want to oppose the capture of the town. ( in later E-mails from Captain Joe Lipscus, I learned that this man was an American WW! soldier who decided to stay, and therefore, he was trusted)....
The 272nd was in second line that day and the 271st was up...the 271st sent a battle patrol into the town to secure the area and when they got into range...German infantry opened up on the unsuspecting boys....several boys of the 271st were killed outright and many were seriously wounded. The regimental Colonel, Walter Buie called up his artillery and told his chief of artillery...you will place your artillery here, you will began your bombardment at the rear of the town and walk your shells forward to our side of the town. I do not want any of these bastards to escape. Do you understand me sir?? When we move into this damn town, I do not want to see one damn stone sitting on top of another!!! They murdered our boys!!! You may commence at your earliest sir !! the sooner the better.
V. The King Tiger Tank
When our boys landed at Normandy on the 6th of June 1942, The American Army had the "Sherman tank" which was designed to take on the German "Tiger" Tank and the Sherman was a good tank. What they did not know was that Germany had developed the "King Tiger" which was a battleship on tracks and the king tiger slaughtered our tank battalions in France and Belgium. Our boys developed battle tactics where four or five Shermans took on one king tiger and even then the outcome was in doubt. American soldiers soon learned to distinguish between the sound of a Sherman and a Tiger and the boys on the ground knew when to disappear. Infantry could do nothing against a king Tiger. Normal anti-tank bazookas were useless in most instances.
This story is about the push towards the great German Industrial city of Leipzig, there were several smaller cities to be taken before Leipzig could be assaulted. This was still in the cold winter of 1944-45
Bravo Company of the 272nd had moved into the no name city and were in battle patrol, moving down a street when they heard the unmistakable sounds of a German tiger, or king tiger coming up the street. A battle patrol would normally put about half the men on one side of the street and the other half on the other. When the boys heard the German tank coming, half the boys ran into a building on the right and dad's squad ran into the building on the left. Sure enough, a German Tiger Tank came rumbling up the street...when he got to a place between the buildings, he stopped and every boy puckered up real tight. The turrent turned slowly to the right and fired an .88 mm shell into the building across from dad's position. then, slowly the driver put his tank in gear and moved away up the street.....dad thought...all my buddies are killed, but a rifle company does not mix it up with mechanized artillery unless they have a death wish.
The Tiger moved down the street and the boys ran out to see about their dead buddies, all these boys came out, dazed and covered with white powder, plaster....the German shell had passed thru the building and exploded on the outside of the building. No boy had been killed, but none of them could hear for a couple of days. Later, the patrol moved out and found the same Tiger Tank, Scuttled by its crew on the side of the road because it ran out of fuel. Bravo Company captured the crew the next day.
VI. The fight near Pansdorf, Germany
Dad said that they moved into Pansdorph and the fighting seemed to peter out and Yeatts squad moved into a house and settled down with a fire....heat, a missing element of battle, dad went out to a tree in the back yard to take a leak
As he was relieving himself, a German soldier raised up in the nearby graveyard and opened up on him with a machine gun. he fired high and clipped off branches over dad's head as dad jumped behind a tree. The German put in another clip and began to knock off bark from the backside of the tree, which suddenly seemed inadequate. Dad was on one side of the tree and shells were slamming into the other side of the tree. Dad screamed to his buddies for help and the mortar squad came out and set up a mortar, dad said he saw the angle of fire and thought....oh god...they are gonna kill me too
These fools are gonna kill me too! The squad slammed a round down the tube and the mortar woofed. the shell came down in the graveyard and the German disappeared. Dad said he did not know if the boy was killed or wounded or just ran away but he was glad to get back inside the house....a few moments later, a German 88 mm shell landed too close and they spotted a German Tiger Tank pulled back over the hill with just his turrent exposed, and he was firing into the house where they were. Dad ran into the courtyard and began digging a foxhole, but the ground was frozen solid and he had only gotten about a few inches down when an American Sherman tank rolled up and engaged the Tiger. The Sherman stopped just over Dad's foxhole and every round blew him out of his foxhole, he was afraid the German Tank would score a hit on the American tank and kill him too.......talk about caught between a rock and a hard place!!!! After several exchanges, the German tank withdrew....and the American tank crew laughed at him...It's ok buddy...we got your back!!!
VII. The Fight at the Werra River Bridge
I guess none of this is in chronological order but when the 69th division moved up on the Werra River Bridge, it was important to capture the bridge intact in order to get American tanks across and not give the jerries time to regroup. Bravo company was led by Captain Joe Lipscus and as the Company approached the bridge, Lipscus was standing in the middle of the street urging his boys forward. Get across boys, Move, Move...as Yeatt's squad approached the western end of the bridge, German engineers blew the bridge. The whole bridge raised up in the air and settled. Bravo Company took shelter as chunks as big as Volkswagens fell around them. The spans of the bridge fell into the water and the supports held. Stuff was falling everywhere when Lipscus yelled at Yeatts, Sergeant Yeatts, did I tell you to get your asses across that damned bridge??? Now! sgt. Yeatts..do it now, take that damned bridge!
Dad said they moved out and ran to the end of the bridge, they ran up the span and down into the water, chest deep and climbed up the next span and down the next. German sniper fire was intense from the buildings on the eastern bank of the river and boys were getting hit and falling into the water. With sixty pound battle packs, they did not stand much of a chance. When a boy went into the water you could see bullets hitting all around him untill one scored and he went under. Bravo Company crossed and established a bridgehead on the other side and began to return fire at the snipers and the rest of the combat team crossed. Many a good boy was lost crossing the Werra River Bridge.
VIII. "Someone tell my mamma, they have killed me here!"I think dad said this must have been Kassals, Germany. Bravo Company had been in the thick of the fighting for Kassals and Bravo Company was in the formation of a battle patrol moving thru the streets of the city when one of dad's buddies was out front as point.IX. When Dad Got Hit
A German sniper hit him and he fell in the street and crawled behind some cover, the boys took cover and called for a medic, they gave covering fire for the medic but the sniper killed the medic too. Every move made by bravo company drew fire from the sniper and the boys were pinned down. Sgt. Yeatts gave orders for his boys and took Al Braverman and they moved behind some buildings towards the sniper and the rest of the squad kept pouring fire into the area of the hidden sniper, another team moved off to the left. Yeatts always carried the .45 automatic and Braverman carried the BAR..
The Point man was still laying in the street, bleeding out and no one could get to him, the medic was dead. After many minutes that seemed like hours, the boys heard the Thompson .45 and the BAR open up for several bursts and the all clear was given. The boys rushed to their fallen buddy and in his last few breaths, he asked that someone tell his mother...."they have killed me here."
Dad said this was either Bad Elms or Bad Kosen, memories are dim after sixty years. Dad was detailed to a Motar squad of Bravo Company and his job was to bring shells to the motar crew. when a battle started the mortar crews were moved up and the ammo truck was moved back to a safe location to prevent a hit that would have lost all the ammunition. It was the job of the runners to bring mortar shells foreword to the crews.
To accomplish this, the runners were given a light carbine rifle that did not weigh as much as the regular M-1 and they wore a vest that had three pockets in the front and three pockets in the rear. They moved all thru the battle, several of them, bringing shells to the firing crew. Dad said at this particular German town, German infantry could been seen moving forewords over a broad plain and the motor crew deployed foreword with the rifle companies and he ran the three hundred yards or so to the rear to the ammo truck, along with others to bring shells to the crew who were firing constantly. in the midst of battle, the German artillery was dropping on them too and as he ran past an old German building with tile a tile roof he heard shells landing all around him and the tiles of the roof were flying all around and a German shell hit way too close to him and he was knocked about three flips into the air and landed thinking he had been killed. he was dazed and disorientated as he crawled up to a standing position and the first thought was, his boys needed him. and dad ran to deliver his shells.
Dad was bleeding from his face and his hands and neck and his whole body stung like he had been in a beehive. but his buddies were more important. after the fight simmered down, dad went to an aid station and got patched up with bandages and disinfectants. The next morning they moved out. Dad said they saw a whole valley of dead German soldiers. Dad never asked for a purple heart or medal for his wounds, thinking of the boys who were killed, he said he was lucky and after all, in battle a man does not fight for home, freedom or apple pie.......he fights for his buddies.
X. The Death CampI apologize for not being able to name this town, the names of German Towns were strange and unfamiliar sounding to American boys in 1945, now, sixty years later the names of the towns are lost to the veterans who fought there. The things these soldiers experienced and saw are branded in their minds forever.
Dad said the 272nd was moving into a German city when they met unexpected stiff resistance. After the fight was over, he could look back and see they were protecting something. When they finally moved in under sporatic fire they found a large building on fire. There was a fence around the building and guard posts. there were humans hanging in the wire. As the 272nd moved up they found it was a fairly large prison compound and as the Germans realized it was lost, they herded all the prisoners inside the building and closed it up.
Then the Germans placed bales of hay or other materials around the building and soaked it in fuel and set fire to the building. Those souls who managed to break out and run to the wire, were machine gunned to death. When Bravo Company arrived at the compound, the wires were full of recently murdered people. Later, after the war, when the fighting was over, the 272nd was moved to the area of Buchenwald. Dad saw the Camp while the smell of death was fresh and they took German prisoners to the fields and made them dig up the bodies of thousands and the Americans made the German civilians from the nearby towns walk thru the camp and see what Hitler was capable of.
Let no fool ever tell you the Holocaust did not happen, my dad saw it first hand, in the first camp, even while there was a firefight going on at the rear of the camp. I guess that's why dad sometimes screams out in his sleep at night, even now.
XI. The RussiansSometime in late 1944 or 1945, President Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill met at what was billed as the treaty of Malta. There they decided which areas would be controlled by whose army, once the fighting was over. Shortly after this treaty, our President Roosevelt died and maybe, just maybe, this is why the limits of the agreement did not filter down to the boys of the 272nd combat team. Harry Truman took over as president and I guess he had his hands full. The American Armies were supposed to stop at the Elbe River and the Russians were to occupy all lands lying east of the Elbe. But the boys did not know that and on the fourth (approx.) of May 1945 the 272nd crossed the Elbe under very light resistance and took other towns. German soldiers fleeing the Russians would come into towns occupied by the 272nd, not knowing the town was in allied hands. They would come in by the hundreds, riding bicycles, with their rifles slung over their backs and the Americans would just step into the streets and level their rifles and these German boys, having been whipped to death by the Russians were glad the war was over for them and they happy to surrender to Americans instead of the Russians.
After this, the 272nd moved east for over a hundred miles, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they were in Russian territory. Bravo Company billeted one night at a fine German farm and the boys raided the henhouse and stole all the eggs and one boy removed the lining from his helmet and the eggs were broken into the helmet and cooked over an open fire and the boys had a feast of scrambled eggs. The old German farmer complained to the Captain and the next morning, Captain Lipscus lined the thieves, including daddy up in a line and dressed them down for stealing from the farmer and told the men that the American Army did not make war or steal from German civilians.
That night late, the pickets began to report hearing tanks coming, lots of tanks were coming. The rumbling became louder as the night wore on and they were not American Shermans. Bazooka teams were sent out front and the machine gunners were digging in and the infantry took positions, sappers and scouts were sent out to observe. Everyone knew that they had ran into a German column of tanks fleeing the eastern front and there was going to be a major battle at daybreak, and it was not going to have a good outcome. Some boys wrote their last letters home and put them inside their jackets, this was gonna be real bad. The one heroic thing I heard in this story was.......not one soldier suggested a retreat.
As dawn broke, radio transmissions came back from the scouts that the whole road was filled with tanks and they were definitely were not ours.
Every boy puckered up real tight and most spoke to their lord for one last time, the scouts came on the radio again and said "Captain, these sum bitches are Russians...and there's one hell of a lot of em." All the boys were pulled back and awaited the arrival of the tanks.
The first Russian tank rolled up and a Russian Colonel jumped off the tank and surprised the Americans because he was mad as hell, he stomped, he spit he maybe have cursed, but no one had any idea what he was saying. Captain Lipscus knew there was a boy born in Poland in the unit and he sent for him. The boy made a fair translator and told Captain Lipscus that the Russian Colonel said his column was going to pass and they would kill anyone who tried to stop him. He was assured the Americans had no intention of stopping the column and he settled down a little, When he understood that the Americans had no idea where they were supposed to stop, he became friendly and offered his trucks to transport the Americans back to the Elbe, a distance of one hundred and ten miles, The boys were thankful.
At that time, some Russian soldiers came to the farm and took the German farmer's cows, his chickens and all his wagons of hay, the rest of his eggs, his ducks and geese and carried them off to feed hungry Russian soldiers. The American boys loaded onto Russian trucks and every time they thought of the old German farmer, they howled with laughter, all they took was a few eggs. They were transported back to the Elbe, where the 69th "officially" met the Russian Army.
XII. The Bank at KassalsI think this was Kassals, Germany. When the fighting for the city was over, the 272nd held an area of the city that included the remains of a large building. The boys figured out that this had been a bank. One GI said "I'll bet there are some American dollars in there, That's our money and we should liberate it."
Well, they did have some expert demo guys in the regiment and they blew the bank vault and went in. There were no American dollars to be found, but there were millions and millions of German "Reich marks" in the bank. The boys, dad included, hauled out the German money and used it to warm themselves, start fires and to cook food over, it made great fuel and fire starters. When the fighting was over, they found out that the Reich marks still had value.....talk about a bunch of sick GIs.....
XIII. The Reunion 69th Division, Myrtle Beach, S.CThere are many more battle tales I can tell, but you get the Idea of what it was like. a few years ago, my dad decided to attend a reunion of the 69th division at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Dad drove to South Carolina and walked into the convention center and there were hundreds of old men there and someone shouted..."Look fellas!!! There is Karl Martin!!"Dad said this was his proudest moment as he met old comrads, fellas he had soldiered with sixty years before still remembered him. I took him to the reunion at Hampton, Virginia two years later and sadly, most of these men were gone. This is the greatest generation and we are losing them at the rate of a thousand a year. Most of the boys who fought their way across Germany.......are gone now.
XIV. The Command HQ at Pansdorf
The 272nd combat team moved into Pansdorf, Germany under fire and moved into the center of the town. There was a brick building that had been identified as the German command post. Sgt. Yeatts squad was the first to reach the building and they crashed thru the doors and entered to capture a German officer. Sgt. Yeatts took his P-38 Luger pistol and dad took his sword. Markovich, being from the Bronx, New York.....
Naturally took his wallet. dad said he did not know what Braverman or John Montgomery took, but they took something...they drug the officer out by the scuff of the neck and turned him over to provost and moved on into the teeth of the battle. Later the Americans discovered that this man was a German General of the Luffuffa, and the man in command of the defense of Pansdorf, Colonels, Captains and Majors had their pictures made with this man and his picture appears in a book "the regimental history of the 272nd" which I have......I also have the General's sword, on my wall, courtesy of Pvt. Karl D. Martin....my dad.
XV. Old "Blood and Guts"General George Patton commanded Third Army in World War II and he was a brilliant military commander, he was General Dwight David Eisenhower's right arm as the Armies pushed across Germany and took city after city. The News took notice and named Patton as "Old Blood and Guts" and he pushed his boys to the limits a soldier could attain.
Dad rode halfway across Germany on the back of Patton's tanks and only got off to offer battle. In the evenings when the boys were in the trenches or the foxholes, they read reports of their war and they read of the exploits of "old Blood and Guts" Patton.....The boys laughed and said yea, its his guts...but its our blood that's moving this thing along.
XVI. The fight at Leipzig, GermanyThe 69th Division moved into the fight for Leipzig, a great industrial city and the German Whermacht and SS troops made a last, desperate stand. The fighting was horrific and desperate as the German boys tried to hold a last bastion of the Third Reicht. Bravo company pushed into the city and established a billet and the tired boys fell down to sleep in a cold building when Captain Joe Lipscus walked in......Martin!! I am glad you volunteered! pick a couple of men, Jerry has cut our land lines!! you will take a squad and find the cut.....Hubba Hubba soldier!!!
Move...dad said, "I drug my tired ass up and picked Johnny Montgomery and Calvin Cooper and we went outside where Captain Lipscus had us a jeep. In the Jeep were three guys from communications and it was dark as pitch when we left, shinning the lights on our telephone lines to try to find the cut......a few miles thru the city, we ran into a battle patrol of German soldiers, they opened up on us with machine gun fire and we jumped from the jeep, Montgomery's rifle was cut in two by a German shell and the Butt of the rifle went sailing thru the air....
The Jerries did not know how many of us were here and we did not know how many Jerries were there, We yelled out for the Jerries to surrender, They did not understand English and we did not know what they yelled back, They were on one side of a huge pile of rubble and we were on the other, We could hear the Jerries moving because the rubble was falling as they moved. I unhooked a grenade, I yelled "Grenade" to my boys, I pulled the pin and threw it over the rubble.....the rest of my boys threw grenades and the jerries screamed something, we charged over the rubble to find one badly wounded boy, the rest had ran off and left him, he was just a kid. I searched him and took a pocketknife off him, I still have it today....We called in and told HQ we were attacked and had a prisoner, we were told to come in and we did. I do not know if the boy lived or not, he was hit pretty badly.
The next morning, Bravo company moved thru Leipzig east and we saw American boys lying dead in the streets everywhere. As we approached the railroad station where the SS troops had put up a fanitical fight, tears streamed down the faces of even the most battle hardened man...our guys were lying dead everywhere, every clump of rubble, every tree stump, anything that could have offered the last bit of shelter....there was a dead GI and the one thing that made us all cry.....all of our fallen boys...every one...had his face to the enemy.
XVII. Roll Call of HeroesMost of these old boys are gone now, but in the bitterest winter in European history, they manned the battle lines and whipped the greatest army on earth. These men put their faces to the enemy and pushed the enemy back every step from Belgium to the Elbe River and beyond.Remembrances of their deeds would not be complete, if I did not mention the names I have from the tattered pages of Dad's book.Mortar SectionEdward Mitchell 3232 Broadway NYCStanley Markos 310 Saratoga St. Cohos, NYBill Rollyson Greenbriar Dr. West Va.Fred Oilberg 4553 N. Laverigne Chicago, IllBob Fisher 1296 Washington Street Waldpole, Mass.Sgt. Al Yates Wethersfield, Conn.Johnny B. Montgomery Germantown, No. CarolinaRay Goodwill Franklin, Penn.Roy F. Dovan 425 N Ashland Ave Goose Bay, Wisc.M/Sgt H.M. Spillman Corydon, Ky.Rodrick McCormaick Koshkonony, Mo Machine gunnerDick Dwyer Naples Terrace Bronx, NY Machine gunnerDick Hadley Minneapolis, Minn machine gunnerClarence Minton Saltville, Virginia machine gunnerLee Hootman Newcomerstown, Ohio machine gunnerTom Murray Prov. R.I. machine gunnerAl Braverman Bronx, NY BAR manKarl D. Martin Spray, N.C. Mortar Section
XVIII. Roy J. Martin
I have written several stories about my dad, Karl Martin in the second World War, but uncle Roy J. Martin was a front line combat soldier too. Dad had sons, Roy had daughters and his service was largely forgoten, a father does not tell daughters what a father will tell sons. I recall asking Uncly roy about his times in combat back in the fifties.
Uncle Roy Martin married Polly Jones and they lived on Morgan Road near Dehart and Southern's Store, later, it was Burke's and Vestal's store and now it it is Melvin Chilton's Garage. On the 6th of June, 1944 Uncle Roy found himself assigned to the 29th U.S. Infantry and he found himself on a ship off the coast of Normandy watching the greatest invasion in the history of the world. Boys streamed onto the beaches of Normandy and died by the hundreds, or thousands. in the next few days, Uncle Roy was put ashore with his units, as replacements for the boys killed on the beaches. Roy's company pushed inland and found themselves in something called the "Hedgerows" of France. These were thick bramble and bush that was allowed to grow between the fields in France. Uncle Roy said he was in a battle patrol, moving into the hedgerows when he felt the sting of a hornet in his upper leg and when he tried to make another step, his leg collapsed under him and he fell. His buddies began firing and called for a medic, the last thing he remembered was a medic injecting him with morphine and he woke on a hospital ship in the English Channel.
Roy said all he wanted was, to get back to his buddies and in six weeks he was able to walk again and he was transferred back to the front, which had now shifted to northern Germany. After several weeks, they were pushing into the German city of Aachen and as they moved across the plains in front of Aachen, a German .88mm shell landed way too close and he was hit and tossed into the air.....This time, he wound up in a hospital in England with a kidney torn away. Roy recovered and was on hand for the fall of the Third Reicht and had many photos taken of him with his platoon, several of these, I have.
Years later, in his eighties, Uncle Roy suffered heart attacks and his kidneys failed. It was discovered that one kidney had been damaged beyond repair by the German shell, he only had one kidney, and it failed...he had no backup kidney to take over.....I guess that German gunner killed him after all. Somewhere in his boxes of memorabilia, there should be at least two purple hearts, I remember that dad said that Grandma Rosie had a great dinner to celebrate when her two sons were home from the war and invited a preacher. These two boys were used to living under combat conditions and talking to soldiers. The meal was to be the first with her sons just returned from the war. The preacher blessed the meal and part way thru, dad said.."Roy, this is damn good! Pass me some more of them g-d---ed buscuits.....Poppa Nick choked, Rosie turned purple and the preacher just got up and left........no one understood a soldier's life.
I hope you have found these stories interesting, and If you want to see the man, go to Dick's Drive Inn on West Washington Street. Go in the door and turn right into the dining room and look to your left for the picture of an American soldier with his .45 Automatic jammed into the ribs of a German POW....That soldier is Pvt. Karl D. Martin Bravo Company, 272nd combat team ....that's my dad. I framed this picture and was grateful that they would display it with hundreds of vets pictures, This dining room is a tribute to the American soldier and I wish it was not so far from my home. When you eat a meal there, you are amongst good company.
(Note: To see a copy of that photo, please click here.)
Michael D. Martin
Contact Michael Martin at email@example.com