Steve Silverwood
Great unit history! Glad to read it
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It's nice to have a chance to read a book where the author knows better, just gets out of the way and lets the people who were there tell their stories. Elson did a great job of organizing the stories, filling in a couple of blanks to round out the whole, but otherwise just letting the veterans get their stories out in their own words. Well done!
Steve Silverwood
Great unit history! Glad to read it
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It's nice to have a chance to read a book where the author knows better, just gets out of the way and lets the people who were there tell their stories. Elson did a great job of organizing the stories, filling in a couple of blanks to round out the whole, but otherwise just letting the veterans get their stories out in their own words. Well done!
Mike Whitfield
Excellent oral history
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An intimate picture of what these men went through, what they thought, how they coped, what they lost, little bits they recall about their brothers who didn't make it home. You also get a bit of the same for the wives and mothers they left at home. This book is well worth reading.
Colin Jory
A splendid book
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An awesome book. Its technique of reporting diverse memories of particular incidents is novel and is very effective in giving a realistic impression of what happened. The dominant memory which the book leaves is of the camaraderie of the tank crews, even though their chance of surviving 1944-45 uninjured was almost nil, and their chance of getting killed much higher than for ordinary foot-soldiers. One of the most impressive books about war and combat I have ever read. It should be made into a movie like "Saving Private Ryan".
Linda Martin
An "I was there" compilation of soldiers in WWII
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The author interviewed combatants who went from teenagers to experienced combat soldiers. The war is described from the point of view of tankers, an oversight by other writers. You can almost smell the cordite, hear the cannons roaring, feel the fright and the revulsion of sights thse young men saw. Highly recommend for any serious reader of war
Gregory Canellis
Oral history at its best
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Tom Brokaw became enamored with the D-Day veterans he was assigned to cover for the fortieth-anniversary of that "longest day." This materialized into THE GREATEST GENERATION. Steven Ambrose attended a reunion of E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment and was fascinated by their stories. This led to BAND OF BROTHERS. TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES belongs on the shelf of anyone seriously interested in the American GI.

Hill 122 (excerpt)

Jim Rothschadl

We were told in training, “Don’t freeze.” I guess a few guys did. They got so petrified or frightened they just froze. But I kept saying to myself, “Don’t freeze. Watch.” So I didn’t freeze. But I was damn scared.

The turret had a toggle in it that was electrical, but it also had a little  wheel so you could traverse the gun manually. When my tank got hit, the little wheel was right in front of me, and it knocked four of my teeth out.

The Germans were dug in on this hill, hundreds of them. They were close together, with lots of foxholes. And some were on top, working the machine guns.

I was firing the .30-caliber machine gun. I was a little heavy on the trigger. We were told to fire short bursts or the barrel would melt. Dzienis had a pair of big asbestos mittens, and he would screw the barrel off and put on another one. The barrel got so hot that it bent a little bit and the bullets were falling in front of the tank. Meanwhile, they were firing at us with small arms and rifle grenades. The grenades were magnesium. They would weld themselves onto the tank, and almost go all the way through. They would aim at the turret circle. If one hit there you couldn’t turn the turret.

Then the first big shell hit. It lifted the tank about two feet off the ground.

Flowers was looking for the gun. He told me to traverse from the middle to the right. I quit firing the .30 and switched to the 75.

Horace Gary, he was the driver, started swearing, “God damn it! Let’s get out of this sonofabitch, we’re sitting ducks!” And Flowers told me to traverse to the right. I was trying to pick out something but I couldn’t, through the periscope. I did see a heat wave, where the blast was from, and I fired one round in there.

A few seconds later, the second shell hit. There was this humongous explosion, and racket, and heat.

The turret was open. It immediately caught fire. And the shell went right on through. Those German 88s could hit the front of a tank and come right out the back. They had double the velocity of our 75s.

I was burning. I was trying to get up from my little seat. I thought just for a moment about unplugging the radio. But the tank was flaming inside. I got out by myself as far as my armpits. Then I fell back in.

Flowers helped me out. I kind of revived and got some air, and I got out of the turret as far as my belly. Then Flowers let himself off because there wasn’t enough room for the two of us. I saw him fall backwards onto the ground.

When I finally got out I let myself fall head-first onto the ground. My clothes were burning. I had my senses. We had been told in training that you’ve got to get the fire out. So I started to roll. Lo and behold, all of a sudden, plunk! I fell down into a hole. It was four or five feet deep, and there was a lot of loose dirt. I plunked down in there, and covered myself with this dirt. Otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here.

Jack Sheppard

Jack Sheppard

We pulled up to the road, all in a line, and fired at the hedgerow with the cannon and the machine gun, just raked it, and high explosive, all to hell. The platoon leader of the infantry says “Let’s go!” So we all go, tanks and infantry, the infantry behind the tanks. We get across that road, and my tank hits a mud hole and tips over. The right track had no traction whatsoever, so we were just sitting there. I had my head out the turret, and my carbine in my hand.

About that time, the other tanks disappeared over the hedgerow. Then a round came in from the right and hit the gunner’s periscope. It blew up, and blasted straight on through to the other side of the tank. All of the recoil cylinders in the gun had holes punched in them, so the gun couldn’t be fired. The radio was full of holes, and it didn’t work. So we had no reason for staying in the tank, and Gerrard had his right eye hanging on his cheek, he was in bad shape. He was not unconscious, but he was in extreme pain.

My hands were outside the cupola, and it busted the stock of my carbine and injured me a couple of places on the hand. It blew my helmet off, and knocked my captain’s bars off it.

We all got out and got behind the tank, and they were looking after [Louis] Gerrard. I was leaking blood all over my face, and we were trying to figure out what to do.

I said, “You all stay here and take care of his wounds, and I’ll go back across the road to see if I can get a stretcher and send it back.” I did that. But while I was jogging back, my jaw was flopping up and down, and I had a piece of shrapnel, how big is your thumb? It went through and knocked a tooth out, and it stayed right there.

Louis Gerrard

We couldn’t do anything, we couldn’t go anywhere, so Sheppard said, “We’d better bail out of the tank.”

I took my tank helmet off and put my steel helmet on, and was getting ready to come up, when “Balloom!” We got hit right on my side of the turret, and I practically flew out of the tank.

When I was laying on the ground, the rest of the crew came around me, and there was a medic. He was putting sulfa drugs on my arms, and somebody said, “Here come the Germans!”

Earl Holman started getting his gun, and somebody said, “Whatever you do, don’t fire,” because they would have mutilated us. There were 15 or 20 Germans.

I told the guys, “Get out of here, go on,” so they all went. Bailey stayed. He was the last one there, and I kept telling him, “Go, go,” and he got killed getting away. I laid there half-dead.

The Germans took the medic with them. And they took my wristwatch. My brother Jack had given me a ring with the word “Oran,” in Africa. He gave it to me when I was in England, and I wore it all the time. They tried like hell to get that off my finger. They couldn’t get it off, so they gave up on that, but they took my watch.

I didn’t say anything. The medic had told me to play dead, so I was just dead when they came. All I could hear was German. I didn’t know what they were talking about, although I could understand the word “eie.” They must have been commenting about my eye.

I was thinking I was going to get killed by these Germans coming, and I was thinking about my mother, what would she say? She took it hard when my oldest brother was killed [Gerrard learned on June 6 that one of his brothers had been killed in North Africa], and I thought, now she’ll get word another one’s killed.

The Germans grabbed me by the heels and put me up on a hill. I think they must have done that so somebody could find me. I don’t know what the reason was, but they did that. Then they heard something and they were all in a big rush, they took off real fast. I was expecting a bayonet in the back or the chest, or a shot in the head. I didn’t know what the Germans were going to do.

Charles Nuccio

We had a fellow named [James] Bailey, they never did find him. Bailey was a maintenance man. A funny thing about him, every time he worked on an engine, he always had screws and bolts left over, but the tank worked. His downfall was that he had more German equipment on him than he had American equipment, and our thinking was that he got captured, and when they found all that stuff on him, they just – we found his brains in his helmet. We never did find his body. They probably cold-bloodedly killed him, finding him with all the German stuff he had on him.

Kenneth Titman

We were coming into this open field. Three tanks were together. When we got in there, the German 88s got us. They hit my tank and it exploded, and I hollered “Abandon tank!” The tank was on fire. I looked around and I saw all these tanks running, one tank ran in front of me and hit the tank on the left and both exploded. That’s what I saw.

I jumped out of the turret and hit the back deck. Blood was coming out of the top of my combat boot, and I knew I was hit.

When I got down off the tank and looked up, I saw the loader coming out of the turret, and he was on fire when he hit the ground.

I knew [Kenneth] Cohron, my gunner, didn’t come out, because the 88 hit him directly and I had some of his flesh on my helmet.

[Clarence] Morrison, the driver, put the tank in reverse. The assistant driver dropped the escape hatch, and the tank had power enough to back off, and the two of them got out from under the tank. I don’t know where they went after that.

When I got out, I went for a slit trench, and when I got in it, here comes a bunch of Germans, and they stuck a gun at me.

I said, “Alles kaput,” and they saw my leg was all shot up. They put me on a litter and took me back to the rear.

Abe Taylor

Michael Vona

Before we went, Abe [Taylor] said to me, “Mickey, saddle up. This is it.” And I said in Italian, “Oom-gatz.” Saddle up. I hung out with certain guys. You didn’t know all of the platoon, because you didn’t hang out with them.

Just like the first 25 miles in basic training, I carried the company flag. I got a pass for that. I said to [Frank] Perry, “Come on, Frank, let’s go.” Boom! We went to Phenix City, we were shooting pool. Oh, Jeez, they had kids over there, 12-year-old prostitutes. They were paying all the churches off to keep their mouth shut.

“Hand to hand combat [looking at a diagram of the battle].” That’s me. I was hand to hand. I had a pistol at my head. It went “click.” And we fought. The guy scratched me all up. See, these things you hate to say but you’ve got to say it because you want to know. He really gave me a good wallop. Besides, I was hit with a grenade.

Now we’re fighting. You ought to see the words I was using. He scratched me all up. If you want to know the language I used, I can’t say on account of my wife is here, you know what I mean? And there was a medic on this side, on the left of me. Now on that left side there were quite a few guys in holes. But I don’t know if Dzienis was there.

My buddy Taylor, I saw him fly out of the tank. He was up in front near the wall. And then when I got hit with the grenade, that’s when this guy started beating me up but then he put the pistol to my head. I grabbed ahold of him, and the pistol clicked. So I’m fighting and I’m swearing, he was scratching me, and I’ve got him by the neck. I’ve got one hand trying to hold where the pistol was, and I’ve got him by the neck – as small as I was, I was 129 pounds, but he wasn’t that much bigger. He had a helmet on, but I think it came off because we were fighting. I don’t remember if he had blond hair, black hair, blue eyes, or purple hair. I figured I wasn’t gonna last anyway. That’s the way you think.

Him and I, we really had it out, he was scratching me, and I was whacking him. I’m hollering, “Shoot the son….” you know, SOB and all that crap, “F” and all those words.

I used to play the harmonica. I mean, you can laugh it off at times, but it’s hard, it’s there all the time. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t know who shot the German. There was a  medic there, it could have been him. But I saw a bunch of guys – later on, as darkness came – there were Germans walking up and down. Now, the guy that I was fighting with, he’s on top of me. I jumped in a hole and I pulled him in the hole on top of me. Morrison was in a corner of the hole. He was hurt in the eye. I talked to him and he was all right, and I was smoking, with the German over me. He was still alive. He was still groaning. I thought later I should have given him his last rites.

I said, “I’ve got to see what this guy’s got.” I put my hands in his pocket. I see English money. I said this bastard took it from the English. Then I waited until it got dark. I said, “Morrison, we’ve got to get out of here.” Because I saw these guys walking back and forth … but we had a cover over the foxhole.

I got his luger, and I’m looking for ammunition. He hasn’t got any. All he had was a bayonet. I gave that to Morrison. I said, “Morrison, we’ve got to get out of here. We’ve got to take a shot. Either we get it or we don’t.” I was shitting my pants, too, you know what I mean, like everybody else was. Then I heard somebody starting to cry. You can’t blame that, I mean.

It was Dzienis. Dzienis was directly across from me. The poor kid. I was a kid myself, I was 24, but Dzienis wasn’t a type like me. I was a runaround. Not a runaround, I was a good boy, for my age. But I had more freedom I guess. He was like a mama’s boy. But he was a nice kid, believe me. So I crawled up to him. I said, “Dzienis, I can’t take you back. You stay here, they’ll probably pick you up, or I’ll try to get somebody.” As we came back, the tank that was against the wall, that was Flowers’, it was still burning. I said to Morrison, “Let’s start walking toward” – I mean not walking, we’re lying down, and you’re crawling, and he’s got that bayonet – so we start hearing noises. I said, “Uh-oh, let’s not go near there.” There were a lot of people talking. There was light from the [burning] tank. Now we get to the wall. I said, “Morrison, we’ve got to get over this wall.” We don’t know what’s over the wall. You lose direction. I thought it was the Germans, but it wasn’t. Morrison ran into an American guy. But when he went forward, I went to the left, and I passed out, because I’d lost too much blood. That German, what a wallop he gave me in the head. And not only that, I was scratched. It took them I don’t know how many months to clean that all up. I’ve still got a hunk of steel in me from the grenade, in my chest. I’m saving that for the next war.

Jim and Elizabeth Rothschadl

Jim Rothschadl

I lay there for quite a while. My hands were all burned, and my face. I stuck my hands into the dirt.

Meanwhile, the goddamn devils were firing at us. I could see tracers going over the top of the hole.

After a while the firing stopped, to almost nothing. By that time it was almost dusk. Flowers had crawled from where he was laying by the tank to a hedgerow that was about 25 feet away. There was a hole in the hedgerow that was made by a bomb or something. Flowers crawled through there and lay down on the other side.

Then he began calling my name. I could hear him plaintively. He usually called me “Corporal Rothschadl,” but several of the times he said, “Jim, Jim, please come over here. Please come over here! Corporal Rothschadl,” he said it many times, at least a dozen times, by the time I crawled through there.

In addition to my burns, the tendon on my right foot was cut. I don’t know if it was a gunshot or a shrapnel wound, but it cut the tendon. I could take my foot and pull it up until my toe touched the leg.

And it didn’t hurt. I crawled over there. I was dazed, but I had my faculties. I kept following his voice. I came through this hole in the hedgerow and there he was, laying flat on his back.

Jim Flowers

After we got on the ground, there were a few infantry soldiers and a few of the tankers. We can’t stay where we are, with these burning tanks and the Germans over on the other side of that hedgerow shooting at us. The only thing we can do is get over on that side of the  hedgerow with them. So I gathered up whatever we had, and we attacked that hedgerow, and got over on the other side. It was messy, but it didn’t last long.

We ran the Germans off, and then we moved over a distance and got into a field on the right side of where my tanks were burning, and that’s as far as we’re going.

By now, the blood is squirting out of my foot, and my face and hands are burned, all the skin is falling off my hands. So I had Gary, my driver, help me get my belt off. I had coveralls on over an o.d. uniform. I got my belt off and put it around my right leg above my knee, and picked up a stick, and we twisted the stick to make an improvised tourniquet.

After we got that done, I had him reach in my coverall breast pocket and get out my package of morphine syrettes.

There also was an infantry soldier with us who had been hit real hard in both legs.

Jim Rothschadl

On that side of the hedgerow was a pie-shaped field, about four acres in size. We were laying there, it was still daylight, and there were some infantry boys with us. And then goddamn, they started firing at some Germans that were coming across a hedgerow on the other side of this field. There was a hell of a firefight going on.

Pretty soon things quieted down, and by now it was getting dark. Flowers told everybody who could walk to try to go find help.

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