9th Division Veterans(Brief Division History - Commentary)
During the spring and summer, 1942, the 9th changed greatly. It learned a new type of warfare sending unit after unit aboard transports in Chesapeake Bay to stage amphibious attacks on Solomons Island. It gave freely of its experienced personnel to form nuclei of new divisions. On July 24, 1942 Brig. Gen. Manton S. Eddy became C.G. and on Aug. 9 he was promoted to Maj. Gen. He was to lead the 9th to Africa, Sicily, England and France.
During the summer, soldiers raced up and down nets on mock landing-craft, across — and often into — MacFayden's Pond on footbridges, and slashed at one another with bayonets as they had been taught by Marine Col. A. J. Drexel Biddle. Famed military observers visited the division weekly, some of them well known — Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Gen. George C. Marshall. Others were little known to Americans then, but since have become world-famous Field Marshal Sir John Dill, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, and Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark.
Then it came. In early September the 39th Inf. Regt. was alerted. The 39th Combat Team, commanded by Col. Benjamin F. Caffey, moved out on Sept. 17, 1942 to a POE. Later the 47th and 60th Combat Teams exchanged barracks for tents on Chicken Road, Ft. Bragg's Reservation. On Oct. 14, 1942 the 60th Combat Team, commanded by Col. Frederick J. deRohan, shipped to a POE and was followed Oct. 17 by Col. Edwin H. Randle's 47th Combat Team. On Dec. 12 the remainder of the division sailed from New York Harbor.
Observers who saw the 9th Div. in action in the Mediterranean considered it probably the crack
U.S. Army unit in the North African theater. Tom Wolf (NEA)
Condensed Source Material: Nat'l Archives
Lawrence T. Faulkner
The first veteran to join the project, I originally met Larry at a 9th Division reunion in the summer of 2003. I was looking for veterans who might have remembered my father aboard the Thomas Stone, (AP-59). Several years later after exploring the possibility of making a documentary, I called Larry in 2006. Upon introducing the idea, he was very enthusiastic, and suggested I contact his old 9th Division buddy, Joe Barnett, who also joined the project. Larry and I finally met at his home in California, Sept. 2008. I visited and interviewed Larry on two occasions; again in early December 2009, which included a trip to Sacramento to see veteran, Red Phillips. Larry and I have become close friends. His support for this project will never be forgotten. A platoon sergeant in E Company 39th Regiment, Larry survived all eight campaigns with the 9th Division from North Africa to France. Basically fearless, his stories were most vivid and graphic. He was decorated numerous times, and actually volunteered for action in North Korea after the war where he received a serious injury to his eye. Larry passed away August 14th 2014.
Joe M. Barnett
Joe Barnett, (39th Regiment), was admired and respected by all his men. He became a platoon sergeant and guided his troops through many tight situations. He also saved several civilian lives as well. To this day, Joe attributes his survival on one thing alone; his absolute faith in God Almighty. Joe was awarded a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross. One of Joe's closest friends, Ed Garvey, recommended Joe take charge of a platoon that lost it's leader during the nightmare at EL Guettar. It wouldn't be the last time Joe was called upon to fill in for other officers. Joe's first son Edwin, was named after Ed Garvey. Edwin wrote a book documenting his father's stories throughout the war. The book is called "Green Banana Stories," and covers his father's combat history with the 39th Regiment, 9th Division through all eight campaigns. Joe's wife Jean was watching some archival footage I sent them, and low and behold, she spotted her young husband in the Hurtgen Forest! A one in a million find! I first visited with Joe and Jean in Sept. 2008, then again in Jan. 2011. Joe passed away October 4th 2015.
When John Sabato, (39th Regiment) received his orders to ship out on the Thomas Stone in 1942, his furlough had been canceled. John planned on spending time with his beloved new wife, Shirley. Despite his best efforts to stay out of harm's way, John became an expert mortarman and marksman. His popular reputation among officers and Generals made him a well respected officer. He saw action in North Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium, and Normandy. He survived everything from a torpedo attack, malaria, bullet and shrapnel wounds, and the loss of many friends. His only desire was to return to Shirley. He was awarded 2 Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star for valor, and a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant. He was a life long member and past president of the 9th Infantry Division Association. John passed away July 21st 2006, shortly after our interview.
Edward served in the 47th Regiment. He occasionally suffered from PTS as he related stories of combat in El Guettar North Africa March 1943. In one story, he was ordered to recover the remains of a fallen comrade. All that was left were tiny fragments of skin and bone. Ed was hit by friendly fire, (temporarily blinded), and hospitalized in Algiers. Edward's story about Benson Force collaborated with two other 9th Division veterans, as they witnessed 1st Armor shot to pieces March 28th, 1943. Edward's interview took place in March 2009, with special thanks to Rob Coccagna. Edward passed away September 25, 2011.
Bill F. Buemi
Bill Buemi, (47th Regiment), was raised on the tough streets of Cleveland and had no second thoughts pulling the trigger against Germans as he witnessed his buddies being massacred at Kasserine and El Guettar in North Africa. He was a 'BAR' man in his platoon and was shocked at the effectiveness of the 88, and the MG42. His accounts were gripping as he described the carnage around him. I visited Bill during a five state road trip in the winter of 2010-11.
George Harris was in the 39th Regimental Combat team aboard the Thomas Stone when it was torpedoed in the Straits of Gibraltar November 7th 1942. After the torpedo strike, he remembers manning a 57mm anti tank gun which was strapped to the bottom of a landing craft and used to provide temporary protection for the crippled ship and departing LCV's. "That's when I became a man overnight." George's son Raymond discovered me on the Internet and helped set up the interview in February 2009.
George J. Minarik
George Minarik, (47th Regiment), was witness to horrible carnage at El Guettar March 1943. He spoke freely about his experiences in graphic detail. As a machine gunner crouched in a fox hole, his buddy directly beside him was vaporized in an instant. Blinded, shocked, and in total disbelief, he mustered all his strength to come back to a horrible new reality: "All I could do was lay silent, stricken with grief, until I could get my thoughts together." Mr. Minarik was 90 years old, and his entire family were present when I met him Memorial day 2011. Daughter Nona was very helpful coordinating the visit. George passed away Oct 19, 2012.
George Pedrick Jr.
George Pedrick Jr. was 94 years old when I met him! He was also aboard the Thomas Stone November 7th 1942 during Operation Torch. His memory was sharp regarding the battle of El Guettar 1943. In one amusing story, he tried to shoot down an ME109 with his own carbine: "Things were really hectic, the Regiment and commander Colonel Oakes were never given a fair chance to accomplish their objective." He also remembered having to deal with a problematic Colonel by the name of J. Trimble Brown. "Brown was a elitist type from Philadelphia." The Colonel was described by other men as being odd, and not completely trustful. The misadventures described by George Pedrick and others would eventually lead to Brown's demise, as covered in the story. Interview, February 2009, special thanks to Rob Coccagna.
Tony Varone, (Interview November 2009), was in the 39th, 9th Div., Anti Tank Company Co. C. His unit was rushed to Kasserine Pass Feb. 1943 in an effort to assist with evacuation. This effort did not involve the 9th Division as an entire fighting battalion, but because of the criticality of the situation, many different units were called in for help. At El Guettar, at some point during the confusion and smoke, Tony suddenly found himself in a deathtrap. He stood directly beside a comrade who was decapitated by an 88 shell burst: "I froze, and just stood there. I didn't know what to do, until I finally took cover. I just couldn't believe our guys were getting wiped out like that."
William J. Voller
William Voller was 93 years old when I interviewed him early January 2011. Mr. Voller had been interviewed before by the Military Channel Series 'Patton 360.'
He was a 2nd Lt. in the 60th Infantry 2nd Battalion and saw combat at
El Guettar Maknassy, Sedjenane, and Bizerte. His his unit flanked and captured
an Italian regiment who gave up the fight during action at Bizerte. The unit, 2nd Bn. 60th Infantry, 9th Div., was cited for extraordinary heroism April 23rd & 24th 1943 in the Sedjenane Valley. William Voller passed away November 16th 2014.
Henry G. Phillips
I first learned about Mr. Phillips from author Rick Atkinson in 2005, "An Army At Dawn." 'Red', as everybody called him, was enthusiastic about the project when I called him in 2006. He offered a great deal of advice. As a former president of the Ninth Infantry Division Association, its historian, author and regular contributor to the Octofoil newsletter, he was a wealth of knowledge. Wounded at El Guettar, while leading a machine gun platoon, he later wrote a critical account of the misfortune; 'EL Guettar Crucible of Leadership, 9th U.S. Infantry Division Against The Wehrmacht in Africa April 1943.' I immediately obtained all of his works, and went right to work trying to locate some of the veterans who were quoted in his books, as well as others. As we developed a reciprocal relationship of research, I tracked down the family of the late Walter M. Oakes, (the 39th commander captured at El Guettar). Red later wrote a tribute essay honoring him. Finally in early December 2009, I flew to California, (2nd trip), to conduct our interview.*Special thanks to William Sauers. Red passed away August 18, 2011.
Anthony W. "Andy" Andriola
Anthony Andriola was 94 years old when I interviewed him. He was one of the first men drafted from Nutley N.J. for the war effort, and served in the 9th Division Medical Battalion. His combat experiences scanned all eight campaigns. The most notably tragic aspect of Mr. Andriola's interview was the fact that even after more than 65 years, he still suffered from PTS. Most of this was attributed to his experiences in the European theater. He remembered how difficult it was to seek cover from incoming 88 shells in North Africa, due to the rocky soil. His extensive collection of memorabilia included many photographs which showed numerous German vehicles, tanks, and artillery destroyed or captured in Tunisia. Other photographs illustrated the horrors of Dachau, and it's liberation. Interview March 2009, special thanks to daughter Patty, and Rob Coccagna. Anthony passed away March 24, 2011. Watch a preview here.
Anton Dietrich, (interview November 2009), was in the 39th Regimental Combat team and gave his own description of the torpedo strike on the Thomas Stone: "All of a sudden, in the middle of the night, early morning, there was a HUGH bang which shook and vibrated the entire ship!" "We didn't know how extensive the damage was for some time." Anton's first disturbing experience occurred in the Sedjenane Valley, North Africa, when one of his platoon friends was shot right between the eyes by a German sharpshooter. The incident affected Anton for quite some time. His memory was sharp when recalling some of the the odd circumstances surrounding Colonel Brown. "When all of a sudden we heard: Cease Fire, Cease Fire by order of Colonel Brown!" According to Anton, the Colonel may have become excited, perhaps fearful, when bullets started to fly in all directions at El Guettar. Watch a preview here as Anton talks about the impossible Landing Craft Journey.
Bernard A. Bennick
Bernard A. Bennick, good friends with Red Phillips, (interview December 2008), was in the 47th Regiment. He served as a 1st Lieutenant and saw plenty of action in Tunisia. In the aftermath of Kasserine Pass, he gave a most gripping account of dead GI's burned, charred, and stiff, still clinging to the tanks they hung on. The scene was etched in his mind as he recalled how horrible it was. During the battle of El Guettar, he described a 'forced march' straight into the ambush, or 'mouse trap' as Red Phillips called it. "We just weren't prepared for what happened." Bernard passed away December 18, 2009.
Karl F. Ballwanz Jr.
I met and interviewed Mr. Ballwanz at the July 2009, 9th Division Reunion held at Bangor Maine. Karl was being cared for by his loving daughter Johan, and grandson Timothy. They both stayed with us as we conducted the interview. Karl's memory was reasonably accurate as I'm always prepared with notes for cross-reference. He spoke openly about the 39th Regiment's dislike for Colonel Brown, and the reasons why. He painfully recalled a story about one of his comrades who took a direct hit at El Guettar. Karl passed away February 21, 2011.
Wilbert D. Goldsmith
I met Wilbert, 'Snuffy', (as everyone affectionately called him), and wife Judy during my Sept. 2008 California trip to see Larry Faulkner. Apparently Snuffy had some amusing stories about the ladies in Algiers. He had a good buddy who spoke fluent French, and so this naturally gave them an advantage with the women. He had a strong recollection of walking through the narrow alleys and backstreets, as they were escorted to a Madam's home. Snuffy and his buddy had a great time! Interview 2008, special thanks to Art Lyons.
Arno H. Heller
Arno, a 39th Regiment replacement, was 90 years old when we met. He and his wife drove a few miles to meet me where I set up my usual make-shift studio in a hotel room in New York. Arno's stories were especially interesting as he was German born and left Germany just in the knick of time. In Tunisia, he specifically remembered the incessant German air raids, and shrapnel raining down from the 88's. Interview, May 2011. Arno passed away Jan. 21st 2016.
Charles W. Johnson
Charles was in the 15th Engineers A Company, attached to the 39th, (interview August 2010). He was 93 years old when we met! Many of the veterans who lost their wives, suffered dearly from the loss of so many years together. Charles was happy to see me, as we spent the entire day talking about the war. He saw action in Algiers, El Guettar, and Kasserine. He drove a 1 1/2 ton truck, (troop carrier), 'Deuce and a Half', as they called them. He specifically remembers carrying the 39th into El Guettar that early morning of March 28th when they walked into the 'mouse trap'. "There were rocks all over, and not enough shovels. The Germans were looking right down at us!" "They shelled and strafed us, and dropped bombs, it was a real tough time." Charles also remembers when his ship, the Leedstown, was sunk in Algiers harbor. What came as a complete surprise, was his story about actually seeing the Thomas Stone get hit by the aerial torpedo. Charles passed away April 21, 2015.
William H. Messick
When I first talked to William Messick, (HQ. Co.47th Regiment), and son, Blaine, William was recovering from treatment for cancer. I postponed the visit until Mr. Messick was able to feel up to it. In a memorable interview with Bill Messick, he described getting shot in his leg, while 10th Panzer over-ran their squad at El Guettar. Bill spent the rest of the war in German prison camps: "I remember thinking if I sneak right up to them, I could probably wipe out that small squad with my Thompson. But then I realized if I did that, others would have killed me right then and there. My buddy actually carried me up to their position, and we both surrendered. When the German doctor attempted to pull the slug out of my leg without any anesthesia, I shouted in pain. He then administered pain relief, and the next thing I knew, I was in a prison camp in Italy. The treatment was not good, and all I wanted to do was get back to my mother and father." Interview, August 2009. William passed away Jan. 28th 2013.
Edward A. Mowbray Jr.
Edward A. Mowbray Jr., (interview June 2009), was 90 years old when we met. He served in the 47th Regiment, and didn't really care for Army life. In fact, during action in North Africa and Europe, he actually preferred being overseas, away from the boring regulated life of the barracks. He was bright, articulate, and surprisingly, (unlike some others), didn't feel that paralyzing fear in battle. He told a very interesting story: "I remember when I tried to snap this guy out of his panic when we were being shelled at El Guettar. This guy had his butt up in the air, hunched over, providing a great target. I shouted and yelled at him. The noise of gunfire, shelling, mortars, and bombing was so loud, it was deafening. You couldn't hear a thing. I finally had to kick that guy in his ass to get him to take cover." Mr. Mowbray struck me as very pragmatic, fair, and amazingly level headed in his demeanor. I imagined how this personality carried him through the entire war.
Albert Perna was in the 39th Regiment and survived the entire war from North Africa to Germany. His story telling style was animated and wonderful. He was captured at the Battle of the Bulge, interrogated and punched in the face by the SS for refusing to tell them what they wanted to hear. Al initially trained with the 13th Armored Division, and was not stationed at Fort Bragg, as many other 9th Division soldiers were. He too, remembers the confusion and chaos which punctuated the battle at El Guettar. For me, the highlights of this interview, were Al's most supportive family. They actually posted notes on the front door: 'Please Do Not Ring Door Bell.' Most people don't realize the amount of work required to capture decent sound and video. When we thought Al was finished with his stories, there was another, followed by another. We talked for almost 5 hours! I connected Al with Matt Carroll's 9th Division Reenactor Group, where Al was featured as a key speaker. In fact, Al has been talking to school children for many years, sharing his war stories. Interview January 2009, special thanks to Rob Coccagna. Watch a preview here as Al talks about the Italians in North Africa.
I also met Charles during the July 2009, 9th Division Reunion held at Bangor Maine. He served in the 39th, and appeared on the History Channel in November 2009. We spoke several times previously on the phone. He introduced me to his author, Barry Basden, and kept me updated about his visits with the History Channel staff as they were preparing the series: "WWII in HD." Communicating with Barry, gave me a unique opportunity to share research and discussion regarding certain details in his book, "Crack! and Thump". My goal was to get pieces of Charlie's story as correct as possible, as I'm preparing a re-creation based on Charlie's dramatic account regarding Hill 772 at El Guettar. As Charlie recalled: "We thought we were going against a few exhausted Italians. So I gave instructions to my corporal to shout the command, (in Italian), "Come Out and Surrender!" "When I saw that German come out and respond "Ja?" "I knew we were in for it." Charlie impressed me so, that words are hard to find when it comes to describing him. An extremely tall and lean individual, when I saw him walk into the room at Bangor, (before meeting him), I knew this had to be Charles Scheffel. Charles passed away June 24th 2011.
I met Mr. Taff in June 2010. He was in the 39th Regiment L company. His unit was called out to render assistance at Kasserine Pass. One of the officers in his squad was killed, and they had to turn back after receiving overwhelming fire. He remembered how difficult it was for green inexperienced troops to cope with such a baptism of fire. Many of his buddies were killed or captured at El Guettar. He was on the Leedstown, en route to North Africa November 1942, (the same convoy with the Thomas Stone), when it was torpedoed. Herbert survived all 8 campaigns, and was wounded in Germany.
Michael J. Yednak
Mr. Yednak, (interview April 2009), was in the 47th Regiment. He revealed an interesting story which collaborated with 9th Division veterans, Joe Barnett,
and Edward Sarnocinski. On March 30th, at approx. 12 noon, Patton called for his 1st armored Division, (Benson Force), to assist the 9th Division which had gotten bogged down in their attempt to take, (and hold), Djebel Lettouchi. The 21st and 10th Panzer Divisions were in a perfect defensive position to inflict serious damage, which they did. The Germans held the high ground and took
full advantage of the situation. Michael Yednak recalls: "We watched as each
tank got hit, and caught fire. They started to back up one by one, and
eventually gave up the effort. We had to struggle on without the armor." Michael passed away December 20th 2011.
Louis M. Prince
Louis Price, (interview July 2010), was an officer in the 60th Field Artillery, 9th Division. He graduated from Princeton University before he enlisted. Most memorable for me, was his articulate manner, and willingness to repeat certain stories for clarification. Louis wrote several detailed diaries through out the entire war. His story about General Patton was most interesting: "I realize many people were critical of General Patton. We were first introduced to him at Fort Bragg when he gave his now famous speech which was very inspiring. He was a great speaker, but he had a habit of using 4 letter words regardless of the fact there were ladies present. People in those days didn't use 4 letter words like that. It was quite a shock. Some of us thought it was funny, others thought, if he uses this kind of judgment now, what kind of judgment is he going to use in combat? However, it's my opinion, we needed someone like that to provide the leadership so desperately needed to win the war." The 60th Field Artillery Bn. was cited for conspicuous gallantry and heroism in battle Feb. 21st, 22nd, 23rd, of 1943 for repelling vastly superior forces in Thala, North Africa.
Nicholas J. Dimella
Nicholas J. Dimella, (interview May 2011), fondly recalls father Connors as they both lived in New England: "After we landed in North Africa, father Connors pulled out a bottle of wine, and said mass in the light of a full moon. This really boosted our morale, and we ate cold beans that night." Nicholas talked about Major Hanks during battle in the Sedjenane Valley: "He was great with a map, and set up coordinates for the 26th, 34th, and 60th Field Artillery. The code word was Geranimo." Nick Dimella passed away June 26th 2016 at 96 years old.
Joseph E. Reedy
Joseph Reedy, (interview December 2008), lived in the back country of Templeton Pennsylvania. Mr. Reedy served in the 47th Regiment. He took part in eight battle campaigns, beginning in North Africa against Rommel, the invasion of Sicily, the landing at Normandy on D Day and was present when the United States liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp. He was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery, pinned on him by General Eisenhower. He was also awarded the Purple Heart, pinned by General Patton himself. Talking about General Patton, Mr. Reedy recalled those hot days in the desert of North Africa, when Patton required that all men wear neck ties: "Man it was HOT, General Patton made us march in the blazing heat wearing our ties, and then it got very cold at night." Joseph passed away January 6, 2010.
Joseph A. Gurli
Joseph A. Gurli, (interview May 2011), was inthe 34th Field Artillery. This particular trip to New England was memorable for me as I visited 3 veterans in the spring of that year. I first made contact with Mrs. Gurli and the nursing staff at Lighthouse Care Center in Revere Mass., where the interview was conducted. Social Worker Mary Anne McGuirk was extremely helpful, and provided a quiet room for the interview, and lunch. Mr. Gurli suffered from Dementia, but was able to relate several valuable stories. He repeated an interesting story several times which clearly pointed out General Patton's frustration regarding German air attacks in North Africa. While on patrol in his Jeep, an ME109 strafed them. His buddy tried to shoot it down with a 30 caliber, but couldn't. Patton, outraged after witnessing this, ordered the man be busted down to Private. Joseph died June 5th 2011, 2 months after the interview.
William H. Nelson
Mr. Nelson, (interview New Year's Day 2011), was another memorable trip to America's heartland. During the winter of 2011-12, I visited 5 veterans in 5 different states. Mr. Nelson's daughter Sharon, was extremely helpful and actually provided video of the 9th Division's trip to Tunisia in 1995. On New Year's day, I was treated to a family dinner. William Nelson was in the 39th Regiment K Company, and was a platoon Sergeant. Wounded at EL Guettar, he remembered an interesting story regarding his introduction to the Afrika Korps: "It was early morning and we were on patrol when suddenly we heard the sound of a Volkswagen Kübelwagen approaching. I told the 3 guys I was with to get off the road and out of sight. So we all hid behind some very large prickly pear cactus. We could see two German officers in black leather coats get out of the vehicle as they took out their binoculars. We were all pretty scared at time. Finally they drove off, and we tried to find out where the rest of the squad was." William passed away March 30, 2012.
Gilbert E. Gricoskie
Mr. Gricoskie's interview took place in his home in the coal region of Pennsylvania, September 2008. His daughter and son in law were present as we conducted the interview, and had a nice dinner afterward. This interview would become the basis for a dramatic re-creation and include 9th Division veteran Larry Faulkner. Gilbert was a replacement in the 39th Regiment. He vividly recalls the nightmare of El Guettar, when his group was over-run by the 10th and 21st Panzer: "The gunfire and shrapnel was so thick, sparrows fell from the sky. It was terrible. I was hit in my right arm, right foot, and a bullet went right thru my leg. I was basically left there by my sergeant who told me, we can't take you with us. You'll be picked up and treated fairly as a POW. Sometime later I heard Larry's guys, and they picked me up using rifles as a make-shift stretcher. They carried me all the way down to the aid station, and saved my life." Gilbert passed away November 18th 2008.
Eugene E. Edwards
I went to see Eugene E. Edwards, (2nd Bn. HDQRS.. 60th Infantry 9th), in October 2010, then again in October 2011. He survived all eight 9th Division campaigns. A few of his stories collaborated nicely with other 9th Division veterans; he spoke about their introduction to Axis Sally, and the seeming lack of air support given to ground troops in North Africa. His memory was accurate as he described in great detail how shocking it was to witness American equipment destroyed at Kasserine: "Men, material, and equipment were strewn everywhere. Bodies were charred as they got caught in their steel death traps. The only aircraft I saw in more than a week of combat was a lone P40. He just flew over, banked and disappeared. We frequently had to run from ME109's as they came down strafing and bombing." Axis Sally: "There we were every night in the desert listening to my little Victrola radio I had wired into the dash of my truck. We liked the music, but got tired of all her bullshit as she repeated: "We know were you are right now in this hot and steamy dessert. Private John Thomas, isn't it a shame under such a beautiful full moon, your girlfriend is out tonight with your neighbor David Harris."
Martin M. Gross
I met Dr. Martin Gross at the July 2009, 9th Division Reunion held at Bangor Maine. I had set up a little studio in the corner of my hotel room where the interview took place. Martin was actually schooled as a dentist, but due to personnel shortages, he served as a Medic in the 9th Division. Martin was in the 39th Regiment. One story in particular, detailed his dislike for General George Patton: "A crazy, dangerous order was given for us to drill in the blazing desert heat while wearing full wool dress and ties. Many men passed out, one or two even died from this lunacy. I also remember General Patton expressing prejudice against other races of people. None of this bode well for me. I wasn't a big fan of General Patton's."
Emil J. Dedonato
I was in touch with Mr. Dedonato several years earlier before finally meeting him in December 2011. As of 2012, he still served as the president of the Florida Chapter, 9th Division Association. Emil was in the 47th Regiment and held the unofficial title of; 'Message Center Chief' during the conflict at El Guettar. One of his duties was to contact battalions & regiment HQ's with attack orders. He remembers when Patton drove over to his HQ as the crisis developed: "Patton was in a huffy mood and stormed over to see Colonel Randle in his Jeep. It was obvious he wasn't pleased with the initial results of the night attack. I'll never forget Colonel Randle's instructions as they moved into El Guettar: "Where we're going you won't need a physic!"
Biography and partial diary courtesy of John Delmore in 2009. Thomas Delmore, 34th Field Artillery, wrote a detailed diary regarding the fighting at El Guettar: "It was in this battle when we met up with "Fire Point Joe" & "Lamp Light Charlie", the boy who wouldn't let you sleep at night because of his repeated attempts at dropping flares over our positions, trying to find out where our guns were located. During this battle I had my closest date with death, but thanks to your prayers I never did get to keeping it. One morning, while on duty, I heard the hum of a plane in the distance. It was about day break & one really couldn't tell whether the plane was friendly or not. Just about the time I decided to call Bn. Hq. to let them know that an unidentified plane was in the area, I heard a weird whistling sound. I knew then that it was a Jerry over my head. In the few seconds I had to think, whether to jump out of the command car I was in, and run to my fox hole, or would it be best to stay right where I was & just pray. Thank God something made me stay in the car, because the bomb dropped about 40 yds. from the car. I never would have reached my hole in time, because I would have surely been hit by fragments of the bomb which had fallen all around the car."
Orion C. Shockley
In 2009 I connected with Patricia L. Grayem, daughter of Orion C. Shockley, who was a Captain in the 47th Regiment. She had compiled and edited a diary written by her father, and it was published in 2007. Of particular interest was Captain Shockley's introduction to General Patton during and after the obvious confusion and losses at the battle of El Guettar: "Generals Patton and Gay started down from the crest when the enemy started to shell us. Both generals crowded into foxholes and escaped injury. However, two of the other men were wounded. After the barrage was over, Patton, who had a rather high squeaky voice, said, "Well, come on Hubert, no more war around here." Hurriedly they sped away from the area. They didn't offer to take the wounded men back with them, although they had room and the men were not stretcher cases. This face-to-face encounter with Patton certainly did not endear him to me. His strategy was to attack down the valley regardless of casualties and hope to break through the enemy lines. Our tanks at that time were no match for the German tanks, as our 75-mm guns did not always penetrate the German armor. They had 88-mm guns which were of higher velocity and inflicted considerable damage on our tanks."
During my New England road trip in the spring of 2011, I visited the homes of 3 veterans, including a stop to meet Mary Lovell and her family. She had already begun her own personal journey, editing and compiling her father's well documented diary of his combat experiences with the 60th Field Artillery HQ Battery. Frank Lovell is also featured on Yuri Beckers' tribute page. Historian and author, Yuri Beckers' family, (only an hour's drive from the Hurtgen Forest), has been instrumental in assisting Mary actually retrace her father's travels through Germany. Yuri and I have also collaborated in our research efforts. Frank Lovell's diary entry: "Tuesday March 30, 1943, 9th Day at Front Bivouacked with Service Btry near Maknassy, Tunisia, N. Africa . They laid flares in a gigantic circle and bombed and strafed Maknassy. They bombed the hills near us with those leaping bombs (personnel bombs). It was quite a sight to see the tracers coming down and going up. None of our men fired. They flared and bombed up the road by Sened. It was quite a time and no one slept." *It's interesting to note that Frank Lovell's account of the 'personnel bombs', is well collaborated with other veterans
I've talked to, who also called them; 'Bread Basket Bombs.'
*Selected photos and memorabilia provided by the veterans and their families.
This independent documentary is not intended to be a comprehensive account of the war in North Africa 1942-43. The completed film will feature rare interviews from veterans connected to the story. The search to locate veterans within this time frame was very difficult. With no funding and a small film crew who sporadically assisted with re-creations, the bulk of production falls upon one individual. Contributions of any kind are welcomed. email@example.com
Photos, illustrations, art work or interviews may not be reproduced, copied, stored, manipulated or redistributed without the expressed permission of the author.
Jacqueline Borock, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Fraticelli - North Africa 1942-43 Survivors' Stories © 2015