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BILL COLLINS' WWII MEMORIES, Page 5

  
Max Rosenberg of Erie Pa. Another member of our tent, he worked in (S-2 Intelligence), liked to play Bridge and could hardly wait for the 3rdof the month to come. We were paid on the 1st and for the next two days many of us would spend our time playing Black Jack or shoot Craps until we had lost all our money. Then we would play Bridge for the rest of the month. Max, Joe Blyskal, Jim Denham and myself usually made our foursome. Max and his newly married wife came to visit us in Greenfield after he had graduated from college, and was then working, writing the history of the Air Force at Wright Field in Dayton Ohio.
   
S Sgt Kirk Miller worked in (S-4 Supply) from Ury West Virginia, was the quietest man in our tent and probably the best worker in our tent. Kirk and Bill Davis scrounged up enough scrap lumber to erect a Shower. It had the appearance of an "Out House" constructed with a ladder on the outside so we could carry buckets of hot water to the top to supply a great treat for the GI taking the shower. Located at the rear of our tent we were the envy of others and would also permit them to use it. But they had to bring their own water! ! Kirk was not a gambler so he always had money to loan to us gamblers after we had lost ours. He never charged me interest!!
   
Sgt John Chovan, of Clairton Pa. who worked in (S-2) was the victim of a practical joke that was not funny. John had not graduated before entering the service and spent his leisure time studying and reading his textbooks, accumulating the credits he would need when the War was over. While we were at Florennes Belgium during the "Battle of the Bulge", as the Germans made their big advance toward our Air Base that was overflowing with Bombers of the 8th Air Force. Weathered in by snow and bad weather we were on special alert. John was the Charge of Quarters. One night when someone called reporting we were surrounded and advised everyone to destroy all material before the Germans would arrive. Chovan threw his books in the Pot Bellied Stove. We never heard who made the call but God Help Him if Chovan had found out! John and his wife and children drove to Greenfield to spend the weekend for our 370th gathering in 1956.
   
Cpl Jim Denham from Hamilton Ohio worked in Group Special Service providing athletic equipment to the 3 Squadrons. He was also a card player who liked to gamble and play Bridge and was also a good Friend. On the Shipshead Bay, the troop ship we returned home on, I held four nines and won a big pot in one of the poker games and for the first time I became a Banker!! After the war Jim became a History Professor at Miami University in Ohio.
   
Cpl Tom Karatosis of Toledo, OH, was the Colonel's driver and had control of the only Staff car in our Group. Tom also liked to go to Brussels where he had met a good friend. One night while the Colonel was busy, Tom invited me to go to Brussels, which was about an hours drive from Florennes. So away we went. However during our return to the base it really snowed and by the time we were home several inches of new snow was on the ground and the Colonel noticed car tracks the next morning. Tom explained he had made an early run to the fuel dump and the Colonel accepted his answer.
   
On July 19, 1944, the 370'h moved from Andover to Weymouth, Dorts, England, to board a transport ship to cross the English Channel. We boarded the transport at night, carrying our backpacks with a blanket wrapped up in a half Pup tent and carrying our Carbines with extra ammo. The transport could only get about a mile from the French coast so we had to disembark by climbing down the side of the ship on a rope ladder into the Landing crafts, to take us to the Omaha Beach. About halfway to the shore the Landing Craft, I was on stopped moving, while the other crafts went on to the shoreline. About 30 minutes later one of the craft came back with a long rope and after moving quite a bit away, gradually pulled us closer to the shore. Finally the LCL moved without help from the other craft. I was later told they believed we were caught on a German Mine and had to ease us off The LCL lowered its front end about 100 yards from the beach where we waded to the shore.
   
The cliff we had to climb from the beach to the top of the cliffs, on Omaha looked like it was a mile high. The beaches were still full of remains of trucks, tanks, LCL's and all types of war equipment. The odor and stench of battles were still present. Once we had reached the top, our Group was assigned to an area and told we should dig our foxholes, because the Nazi Air Force would be coming in for their nightly staffing. Cpl John A Gifford, a lawyer from Boston, dug our foxhole together. However about midnight when the bombing began I broke out my entrenching shovel and dug deeper. I cut the heck out of my left thumb and still carry the scar.
  
Joe wrote "We landed at the battle-scared Omaha Beach on the afternoon of the 23rd. Again, duffle bags with all our belongings had to be carried and if I thought the hike at Camp Shanks was bad it was only because I did not know what lay ahead. First of all, we disembarked from the ship to a LCI, a smaller boat that took us to the beach, and then our walk began. The hill in front of us was so steep, I never thought I could make it, but strangely enough, no one fell out, not even me. When we reached the top of the hill, I noticed a little to the left and not too far away, a field with countless white crosses, a grim reminder of D-Day."
  
The 373th Fighter Group landed on the same day and I visited with Major Roger Donahue, a Greenfielder who had transferred to the Air Corps after being called up with the 37rd Infantry Division. The 15 minutes talking about home helped both of us.
   
Our first stop was named (A-3) located at Cardonville, France where runways, recently made by the engineers, in the fields of France, made flying a very hazardous job, but our pilots kept flying day and night.
   
"It's almost impossible to visualize field conditions. Just imagine coming upon a filed and setting up living conditions for a number of men in a hurry. Just pitching a tent doesn't solve the problem. You have to provide toilet facilities, bathing facilities, and all other necessities. The infantrymen naturally ran into a great many more difficulties since they necessarily moved more often. The helmet, we found, had many uses, the most popular was a washbasin. The more ingenious boys set up a shower abridgment, out of an auxiliary gas tank. Hose, pump, and showerhead. To heat the water, we used gasoline soaked in sand, which burned for quite a while. There was very little privacy, since it was sheltered only by the side of a hedgerow (which are common in Normandy and about which much has been written) but was exposed to the filed where civilians were often milking their cows as we washed. Our desire for cleanliness, however, must have been greeted than our modesty, because we continued taking our showers as long as we were at this location" was how Blyskal described our stay in Normandy.
     
Joe added this about our stop neat La Vielle, France, "On our next stop near the town of La Ville where I arrived on the 15th of August. We set up our tents in an apple orchard      offices on one side in large tents, Officers on another in wall tents and pyramidal and the enlisted men in a third in pyramidal. Naturally, Officers were immune to physical held in putting the tents up. After sleeping on the ground a few days, we were finally issued cots."
   
Joe added, "Another incident that happened here provoked a great deal of "bitching". One day an officer ordered us to police up the orchard we lived in by picking up all the fallen apples. It was accomplished but not without a lot of displeasure, which was evident by letters that were written that night. I had written a "lulu" because the next day the officer who censored my letter called me in and told me it violated censorship regulations. When I asked him to point out the violations, he admitted he couldn't do it, adding, "You got around that very nicely". However he did not like the tone of the letter and would not pass it. Rather than press the issue, I rewrote it."

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