I volunteered for the army on 03/12/1943 and was inducted on 03/19/43 I was appointed group leader for local board # 4 for the trip from Detroit to Ft. Custer, MI.
My next stop was Ft. Jackson, S. C. where I was assigned to “A” Battery 590th F/A Bn 106th Infantry Division.
The reason I am putting my service record on paper is to give the members that replaced us in the Division what happened to us after being transferred out of the Division.
I want to say that we were stunned by the news that we were being taken out of our units. We had just completed Tennessee Maneuvers and were sure we would be going to the ETO. What happened is history. Our noncom’s saw us off and the 106th Division Band played as we were boarding our train. We were moved to Ft. Meade, MA. We were told at Meade that we would be going to the ETO as replacements for the invasion of France. We stayed at Ft. Meade for about a month. Ft. Meade is where we saw our first German POW’s living the good life when you compare what happened to our comrades in our beloved 106th that were captured at the Bulge.
Our next stop was at Camp Kilmer N. J. where we were moved by train. We all were given a one day pass to New York City. Shortly after that, we were all put quarantine for the rest of our stay at Kilmer.
On 07/14/44 We were told we would be shipping out the next morning. We were moved by train to Pier 90 at Staten Island where we boarded the HMS Aquitania. It took took all day into the evening to load all of us. I was lucky, I was assigned to a bunk outside on “B” Deck. We had 2 meals a day. Mine was at 10:00 Am and 8 Pm. We sailed that night unescorted. We arrived in Scotland on 7/22/44. We were moved by train to Brauton, England which is in the south of England.
We were assigned to the 26th Replacement Depot. Each day we would walk . We saw a lot of the country side. We also did target practice on targets in the English Channel. In early September we were put on orders to move to France. We were moved by truck to Southhampton and loaded on a ship for the trip across the Channel. We were sent to Omaha Beach where we went over the side by rope ladder to a LCI. It was not a cake walk with all our equipment on our backs. The good part was that we didn’t have any Krauts shooting at us as they did on D-Day.
In my mind, that beach along with the other ones is Hallowed Ground. As long as I am on this Earth, I will never forget the feeling I had walking up the hill from the beach. On our left was the Temporary Cemetery were all the G.I.'s that were killed on that beach, plus all the ones that were killed in Normandy are now all buried in the Permanent Cemetery which looks down on Omaha Beach. There are 9, 386 G.I.'s that lie in that Cemetery. The Cemetery is operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission. We were moved by Truck to a Replacement Depot just outside of Le Manns. While at that Depot, 16 Military Police Battalions were Activated to work with our Troops that operating the Ports, the Red Ball Express and the U. S. Military Railroads. The reason for this was the Pilfering going on in the movement all our goods coming into the Country by our friends and Allies the French.
Military Police Instructors were brought in to teach us in military Police Procedures. This was where in one stroke, I transformed from a Field Artillery Communications Pvt. to a radio operator in Hq. Co. of a Military Police Battalion. I served in the Hq. Co. of 3 of these Battalions, the 385th, 400th and the 385th. All 3 Battalions that I served with were assigned to protecting trains. We were also part of the ”Communication Zone of the European Theater of Operations” along with the radio operations we also had our switchboards hooked up with the French telephone system. Being part of Hq. Co. meant that we had good living quarters. If we were in a large City, the Hq. would be in a large building or hotel. When we were in small City, we would take over houses. A large part of our enlisted men were from Line Units and had been wounded before we were activated . In the units I was in we had men from the 82nd and 101st Airborne and other Divisions. I was one the few that had not seen combat. Being younger than most of them I felt honored to be among them. I was in Beasancon, France where our Hq. Co. was in the 1st French Army, Hq. Building when the Bulge started. I can’t recall the date.
We were awakened
about 4 am and told to get dressed because we were going to the French
Army Hospital to give blood. When we arrived there,
When we found out about the bulge, I still did not know that the 106th was involved in it. Shortly after I received a letter from my Dad and he told me that the 106th had been mauled and took the brunt of the first wave when the battle started. He knew I felt bad when I was pulled out of the 106th. He told me He was happy I was not there. I guess he had a better Idea what I missed. I was sick when I found out what happened. I have to tell you that I felt guilty that I was not there with them. As time went on and I found out more about the 423rd I wondered if anyone from “A”Btry had survived.
Several years later when I found out about the 106th Association. I joined and was reunited with my buddies of “A” Btry. Getting back to my travels. I served in England, France, Luxembourg and Germany. we had radio stations in Nancy, France, Marseille, France, Luxembourg City, Strasbourg, France, Mainz Germany, Frankfurt Germany. Hanau, Germany where I bumped into my cousin by chance who was in th 246th Combat Engineer Bn. His unit had been pulled back from the line for rest and to be reequipped. Shortly after that he was wounded for the 2nd time. He had gone in on D-Day on UTAH Beach with the 29th Div. My last duty was in Bremerhaven Germany where we relieved the 29th Infantry Division that was being brought back to the States.
We took over their quarters which was a two block apartment complex. We operated out of the German Naval Academy. We were in charge of the City and we shared duty of the Port with the U. S. Navy Shore Patrol It was good duty. The war was over. Our radio network had shut down. We took turns on the switchboard. The train riding was also over. Our guys were now doing M. P duty in the City. This is where I spent Christmas of 1945.
I was relieved of duty on the 5th of March 1946 and Boarded the Merchant Ship SS LEIGH Victory at the Port Of Bremerhaven on March the 8th and Sailed for the States. We arrived in New York on March the 25th after a very rough crossing. I was so sea sick I didn’t get out of my bunk for 4 days, . It was a nice sunny day at Staten Island when we arrived. We were greeted by a welcome home boat as we entered the NEW York Port which was nice. We waited almost 6 hours for our train to arrive.
We boarded our train about 6PM and were taken to Camp Kilmer, N. J where we were treated to a steak dinner on Arrival. I spent 3 Days at Camp Kilmer and was moved by train to Camp Atterbury, Ind. where we had check ups and our records were checked over. I received my separation money and was Discharged on the 25th of March, 1946. I served 3 years and 13 days. It was some ride. I went in at the age of 18 and came out at the age of 21. I served in 5 Countries.
I have often
reflected on why I was spared the ordeal that the ones that stayed and the
ones left with me that were assigned to combat units while I was assigned
to the 3 MP Battalions
I served as my Father did before me in WW I, who volunteered for the U. S. Army when WW I started and served in the much Decorated 2nd. Infantry Division He was Co. D of the 2nd Combat Engineer Bn. He fought in 7 Major battles and was Awarded the Purple Heart. This is the way my father, a teenage immigrant from Crete, Greece became a Citizen and I might add a Patriot who loved this Country.
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James D. West