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71st Armored Field Artillery Battalion WWII

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Howard E. Camp Jr.'s War Years

*This is an excerpt from a very interesting letter written in 1992 by Howard E. Camp Jr. (Service Battery, 71st AFA Battalion) to his daughter Catherine Camp, who so generously supplied it. She added that he went on to head the American Red Cross Disaster Services.

 

 ……….   And the other item you requested, that I tell you about some of the places I “visited” during WW II.  Another 'WOW' !!! That was almost fifty years ago —— through the eyes of an eighteen/nineteen year old kid who really didn't know where he was half the time (and really didn't care). Some memories are good - and some are bad —— but all are fuzzy. But here goes (by the way - I'm not necessarily recommending you visit these places). Normandy, France (the invasion beaches of "Omaha" and "Utah”, St.Mer Egleise (sp), St. Lo), Le Mans, Mortagne (the "Failaise Gap"), Charters (another beautiful Cathedral town),Versailles, Melun, Paris (I spent a 36 - hour pass here – a wonderful place as I recall —— a good metro system, etc., lots and lots of museums), up to Compiegin and Ham (on the River Somme, through Cambri and St.Quentin, Conde', Sedan ( these past few places are very rich in WW I history —— but I didn't get to see too much of the old battlefields), Luxembourg City, Ettlenruck and Mersch, Luxembourg (we liberated Luxembourg) and then were the first American Troops to enter Nazi Germany at Wallendorf, Germany. We spent a cold, cold winter at places like St.Vith, Malmedy, Liege and Eupen, Belgium ( I recall spending many days and nights freezing in a snowy Belgium field (God only knows where - some place near Eupen). We amused ourselves by watching the German V-I Rockets (known as  “buzz bombs”) go over head and/or run out of fuel, fall and explode). Nearby — we spent a quite a bit of time in the Hurtgen Forest, Germany, (a real hellish place). During this same period, we spent quite a bit of time shelling Aachen. I never got into the city - but just saw it from a distance. This was the first large German city that American forces captured. (Another "by—the-way" - we did have special orders not to shell the Cathedral -— but how it managed to escape major damage from shelling and thousands of airplane raids is a modern miracle. We then went up to Heerlen, Holland (a coal mining town (where we took our first hot showers in three months at one of the coal mining miner's locker/shower rooms). I've always felt grateful to the Dutch for this bit of kindness).

         Across the Roer River to Munchen—Gladbach (saw Bob Hope in a USO Show here), shelled the daylights out of Dusseldorf (across the Rhine River), up to Krefeld and crossed the Rhine at Wesel. On to Halle, Mindend, and Herford. Crossed the Weser River at Hamelin (yes - the same town where the pied piper got rid of the rats, etc.). We traveled ("spearheaded") very rapidly at this point — day and night — so this part is quite hazy — but we did shell Brunswick and turned Northeast going through such places as Meine, Brome, Salzwedel, Dannenburg, Stendal and ending up at Tangermunde (on the Elbe River). we were the closest American Troops to Berlin (only 46 miles) - but had orders not to cross the Elbe -— as this was to be occupied by the Russian Army. I remember seeing thousands and thousands of German soldiers across the Elbe trying to cross the river so as not to be captured by the Russians (at this point - the Germans were deathly afraid of the Russians - civilians as well as the soldiers). The War in Europe ended. Our outfit (the 71st Armored Field Artillery, 5th Armored Division) pulled back to a small town outside of Mullenburg, Germany. Among the things we did was to transport captured Russian civilians that were forced laborers at the HUGE underground rocket plant (where the Germans made the V-I and V—II rockets) located at Nordhousen —- and drove them in trucks to the Russian occupied zone. We went through some beautiful German cities such as Leipzig and Dresden. Finally, I traveled (in back of a 6x6 truck) back to Le Harve, France — going through many, many towns in Germany and France (This is one big blur — and I really don't recall any specific places). Once again - a big "WOW" !!!! The above travelogue was brought to you through the courtesy of some 5th Armored Division maps and one very fuzzy memory. I really wouldn't recognize the vast majority of the places I mentioned -- but I do have vivid memories of some of the places such a Paris, the Falaise Gap, St. Lo, St. Mer Egleise, Eupen, Heerlen, Hamlen, Tangermunde, Mullhousen and Nordhousen. If I were to visit Europe again, I think I would want to see the WW II invasion beaches, St. Mer Egleise and St. Lo. I would also want to visit the great battlefields of WW I in Northern France and Southern Belgium (including such places as Flanders, the Marne, the Somme, etc.). In Germany - ride up (or down) the Rhine between Cologne and Koblenz (your aunt Betty was born here ). I understand that Southern Germany as well as Southern France are beautiful.    ………….

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 20:04  

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