Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

June 26, 2013

The incredible story of Clarksburg's Bill Smith

(Continued)

After the men were able to travel they put them on a racetrack where many tents had been set up. “We stayed in these tents on the track. That was in May and we had to wait until sometime in July to get out of there. Then when we got back to the United States we got to go home for 30 days. It was my first time. Because of the war escalating I didn’t get to go home after basic training. Resting for those 30 days gave me a chance to get some strength back.”

After the 30 days were up his next stop was to Aberdeen, Md. proving grounds. “We tested all kinds of vehicles there,” he said. “There was one that I loved. It was very much like a jeep except that it had half tracks in the back instead of wheels. They called it a ‘weasel.’” It was loved by the troops because it could go where Jeeps couldn’t.

Bill’s next assignment was Fort Benjamin Harrison. “They loaded us up and brought us to the Fort to guard the prisoners. These weren’t the Italian and German prisoners that were also detained there, the ones we guarded were American soldiers. Most had done nothing worse than go AWOL, but there were some hardened criminals there too.”

“I worked 12 hours a day and then got weekends off. We had 1,500 prisoners and they didn’t give us much trouble until they rioted the last of May 1945. Some of them tried to escape and they set fires. It was pretty bad. One of the civilian guards and a firefighter were killed at that time. We took the leaders of that riot to Leavenworth, Kansas. Early that fall there was another escape attempt and they beat another civilian guard.”

Bill was discharged from Camp Atterbury and decided to stay in Indiana. Several years later he met Anne at Camp Woodsmoke and fell in love. That’s how Clarksburg became his home.

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