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Re: Memories of World War II

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Thanks.  My father and 4 uncles also served in Europe and the South Paciific.  They were all lucky to come home.  Many did not.   What kind of world would we have today but for the sacrifice of so many?

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Today we commemorate the anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944.

74 years ago, facing a wall of enemy fire, and against all odds, over 150,000 soldiers successfully executed the largest amphibious invasion in history to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.

 

 

Today we recognize the soldiers who took part in D-Day and helped bring WWII to an end. Take a minute to thank one of the heroes who made it home, and remember those who didn’t.

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Thank you Boots! My 94 year young dad was also an antiaircraft gunner in World War II. He arrived in Normandy 1 month after the big battle and he said there were hundreds of bodies still floating on the beaches. He went on from there to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Reinlisted and was stationed in Trieste Italy were he meet, fell in love and married a beautiful Italian girl, my beloved mother Ida. Both are living well and enjoying life in the great state of Arizona.

Thank you for your service and thank you for writing your memories.

sincerely,

Patrick Q.

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I am so glad you made it.  I two am a veteran but did not see action.   Since our time on earth is short I wonder if you know my Jesus?  He will forgive, and save, and take you to Heaven when the clock winds down.  I am glad I asked hin too 45 years ago.

Tom Higgins
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Thank you for sharing your story with us and especially thank you for your service!

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Memories of World War II

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As I See It - Chouinard's view: Month of May brings memories of the war

 

The month of May has a lot of meaning for me. Nature is coming back to life and each year, at this time, I have to give thanks to the Lord for surviving another one. That’s what life seems to be – a matter of survival.

 

When I entered the service, the Army put me on an anti-aircraft artillery gun battalion. We were sent to El Paso, Texas, where we learned all about this gun. I was selected to be a gunner on one of the four guns.

 

Our battalion had four batteries, each with four guns. We never associated much with the other gun crews. We lived and stayed together most of the time. There were nine crewmen on my gun and I was the corporal, second in command. Our gun was a copy of the German 88, which was a well-respected gun throughout the war. I doubt if our gun was as superior as theirs. They could drop a shell in on us on the first shot.

 

Our gun was towed by what was called a caterpillar vehicle that had full tracks, no wheels. Being the gunner, I traveled inside, up front with the gun sergeant.

 

We sat on a little bench with our legs a little extended. The gun crew sat in the rear on similar benches but they sat four on one side with their backs against a wall and four opposite them with their knees practically touching. In the middle, stood one of the crew members to man a .50-caliber machine gun on a turret. Needless to say, they were pretty cramped.

 

When D-Day neared, it was always in our mind with some fear as our guns weren’t ready to hit the beach. We were in a field with the 29th Infantry Division that hit the beach that day.

 

We were in the process of greasing our guns so that they wouldn’t misfire if they got wet. We traveled across the English Channel on LSTs with a large armada.

 

Believe me, our hearts were in our throats all the way, seeing all those vessels heading for the beachhead. We got there about a month before Gen. George Patton came in.

 

In the meantime, the war was going along slow fighting in hedge rows. When Patton arrived, my outfit joined him. Then, I was a member of the Third Army. We traveled through France with the 4th Armored Division and in Germany we traveled with the 11th Armored.

 

We moved constantly. Once an objective was taken, our outfit would set up guns around that area for protection as we protected important things like airfields and bridges.

 

I was a frontline soldier throughout the war but I was very thankful I was not a rifleman. I was thankful because the infantry suffered high casualty rates.

 

As the war progressed, things were changing. After we crossed the Rhine River, which was our second real big obstacle, things got a little better.

 

German soldiers, fearing that they were losing the war, would surrender to us a lot. We’d set our guns down in a field and soon afterward, out would come German soldiers with their arms up, surrendering. They wanted to make sure they were given up to Americans, not Russians.

I wasn’t interested then in picking up souvenirs but some soldiers would take things from the prisoners as mementos. The only thing I brought home was a German bayonet. I didn’t want a firearm because I didn’t think I would want one in the house after the war.

 

Of course, we lived on rations. We would set our guns down, dig a foxhole, set up a pup tent and we’d live right by the gun. We would do whatever we could until we got any calls for action.

 

We had a radar truck that would scout the sky for enemy planes. They would signal any plane they would pick up on the radar screen and signal whether friend or foe. If unfriendly, we’d get a call to action and we would have to shoot into the air at targets we couldn’t see.

 

So our shells would be set to go off at a certain distance, hoping the flak would do some harm to any plane. We really didn’t know what effect we had. During idle times, we would search around the area for farmhouses for eggs or vegetables we could collect. Each gun would set up a little fire pit and have a little fire to heat hot water for coffee and washing purposes; that served us well.

 

While in southern Germany, we set our guns down as usual in the field. Next to our gun site was a pretty good road that passed by. Across the other side was a farmhouse that I got a chance to visit.

The lady in the house could speak English, so we had a nice conversation for a short while when seeking eggs. Next morning, I walked over to the same house rather early. As I entered the kitchen door, the woman said to me, “We had a visitor during the night.”

 

She nodded her head to the hallway; I looked down the hallway and there was a Nazi soldier standing near the door so I raised my gun and I said, “Halt.”

 

The soldier froze and pointed to the room inside. I walked down to that open door and sitting there was a German officer and he said to me, “Get me a ranking officer I can talk with.”

 

I immediately left and went to headquarters and told them about this. Of course, they sent someone over and soon after this, a great big battalion of German soldiers came out of the field with their hands up.

 

So here we were setting up guns in this field unaware that the Germans were so close in the woods. Thankfully, they were giving up to us Americans. This is how things went until early May 1945 when we set up guns in the field next to the small village of Lintz, Austria, and that’s when we got word the war was over.

 

When we got word the war ended, of course, we felt greatly relieved, we had survived it. But in the back of our minds, there was the thought that we may have to go to the Pacific.

 

Now that I have survived the winters and the war, my next thought in May is Memorial Day. As a kid, we used to have Legionnaires come to our schools and talk to us about World War I.

 

We never, ever, imagined that someday we would be called to war. So today, having Memorial Day means so much to us veterans and we are so grateful that schools, organizations and people are taking the day and celebrating.

 

I feel so grateful because I could have been one of those statistics. So the month of May has a lot of survivals in it that I can’t help but recall each year.

 

 

boots army.jpgArmy Brothers (R: Robert (Boots) ChouinardBoots 2016.jpgRobert (Boots) ChouinardRobert "Boots" Chouinard

 

94 year old Veteran

 

Karen M. Fernandes
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