A WW2 Remembrance of an Old 2nd US Cav Trooper, 1941-1945, A Personal Account
I was “asked” to join the US Army in Jan of 1941. Got an extension until July of ’41 as I had some wheat out. I was inducted at Ft. Leavenworth, KS. and then sent to Ft. Riley, to serve with the 2nd Cav.
Was in several troops along the way and finally ended up in Machine Gun Troop. And for those of you who didn’t have horses in the Cav, we did and they got treated better than we did. But we did love those horses. Shortly after Dec 7, 1941 we boarded a train with the horses to guard the border in Arizona. And this was quite an experience. Finally during the spring of 1942 we were told we were going back to Fort Riley…only we didn’t take the horses with us. Got back to Ft. Riley and found that all the horse barns had been turned into tank barns.
From then on I became a member of the 9th Arm’d Div., 2nd Tank Bn, Co D. [editors note: the 2nd Cavalry Regiment was deactivated at this time and the men and equipment used to form 2nd Tank Battalion] We trained a set of rookies that were shipped off and then got a 2nd set of them which we kept. We went to the Desert Maneuvers and from there to the maneuvers at then Camp Polk, LA. Got to go to a parade in New Orleans with the tanks and that was something for a farm boy from Kansas. From Camp Polk we went to NJ where we left for Scotland on the Queen Mary. From Scotland we went to England where we drew new equipment and waited for our turn to land on the beach. After working our way through the hedge rows we went through Paris with our tanks. My youngest brother was killed in Oct of 1944 only a few miles from where I was but it took almost a month for me to find out. I had 5 brothers and 3 sisters and 4 of my brothers plus me were all in the service, 1 in the Pacific, one in Australia (who went in the service the same day I did and after being inducted at Ft. Leavenworth we didn’t see each other again for almost 5 years), 1 in Africa and Italy and the youngest brother John and I in Europe. In Dec. of 1944 we were ordered to the area around Bastogne.
Our light tanks were ordered to guard a road crossing and not to leave the area for any reason. When the big Tiger Royals started in on us it was something else. You could read a newspaper all night long with the firepower around you.
Finally about the 18th of Dec. we ditched our tank and threw a grenade in it and took off on foot with nothing with us as we were out of shells of any kind and no food. It took almost 2 weeks for the Germans to catch us but they finally did. We have snow and cold but nothing like they had in the Bulge. I have never been that cold since and never want to be. I am the only one left out of my tank – the other 3 did come back after being POW’s but they have all since died. I was on a forced march across Germany for most of the 149 days I was captured but finally did end up at Stalag IVB – there’s lots on the web about this POW camp and some pictures. I weighed about 185 pounds when I was captured and when liberated I weighed less than 90 pounds. I never saw a Red Cross pkg. and the best meal I had was cooked by some women who gave up their meal for us in a factory of female prisoners. It was barley and water and some awful looking bread but it was the best food I’d had in a long time. I am now almost 85 years old and have had some major medical problems this year but doc says I can still kick butt so guess I’m doing fine.
[Editors note: Since writing this article Sam has ridden on to Fiddler’s Green.]