Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Features

June 18, 2013

WW II veteran recalls time in service

Greensburg — Last week William A. “Bill” Smith of Clarksburg let me hold his Purple Heart and his Bronze Star. He let me try on a WW II steel helmet liner and then the actual steel helmet. They were incredibly heavy. I felt the history behind those medals and helmets. Bill was in the 85th Division / 337 Infantry Regiment / I Company. The 337 Infantry Regiment was called the Custer Regiment after General George Custer who was killed in 1876 at Little Bighorn.

Bill, 88, is up early mornings to make coffee for the Clarksburg volunteer firemen. Profits from the coffee goes for flags to place on the graves of firemen. Bill was a volunteer firemen in his adopted town for years.

George Morgan, also of Clarksburg, said Bill is one of the town’s finest attributes. “He and Anne are both a delight to know. He came to Clarksburg from Pike Township in Indianapolis but he has dedicated the last 30 plus years to the service of Clarksburg.” His wife Anne Cooper Smith is a native of Clarksburg and was the Clarksburg Postmaster for many years.

George said that Bill is responsible for the enormous display of historic Clarksburg photos in the community room.“There were already some large composite photos of graduating classes from 1943 to 1967 that came from the high school,” said George, “but he has made a labor of love to collect more and more.” Mel Fox said Bill is a fascinating person to talk with and that I simply must see his World War II collection. She introduced Bill and his wife Anne to me.

Bill entered the service in June 1943 from his home state of Pennsylvania; He took basic training at Camp Croft in South Carolina, a WWII Army Infantry Replacement Center near Spartanburg. Without getting furlough, he was immediately sent to New Jersey to join the 85th Division. From there he was sent to Newport News to get on board his ship, which turned out to be a British ship.

On the ship for about nine days, he only remembers being very sick. At first it was the shots he had to take before going overseas and then seasickness kicked in. The British gave him some kind of crackers with raisins in them and some Pepsi on the last day. He finally held that down.

They landed in Casablanca, Morocco. Bill said he was aware of the movie “Casablanca” that had been released in 1942 staring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman but was unaware of the historic meeting that had taken place there in January 1943 between Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt. It was the first time an American president left American soil during wartime.

Bill spent Christmas 1943 on board the ship and then they were loaded onto “cattle cars” to travel by railroad from Casablanca to the historic city of Oran, North Africa. Bill said the cattle cars were actually box cars with the emblem 40/8 stenciled on the sides meaning that it would carry 40 men or 8 horses.” It was miserable way to travel. It was primitive,” he said, “with straw in one end that was the bathroom.” The veterans organization 40/8 got its name from these cars.

At Oran, the men took the amphibious training needed to make the landings they would soon be making. They lived on the beach in tents. Once they had that training, they went to Naples. “We landed at Naples and went up to Minturno in southern Lazio, Italy. We put out a line and the Germans had their line and we had to stay there until we could go forward as planned sometime in May. On May 15, there was a big push to join two forces together. They made me an Italian runner. My company sent me to deliver a message by foot.

“To run faster, I left my heavy gun behind and took off. We had the low ground, the enemy the high ground- making me a pretty good target. I heard a loud noise behind me and soon realized that I’d been hit. Turned out I’d been hit with shrapnel. Shrapnel is hot. It burns. I thought I could hear American voices, but my small gun that I got to take with me got hit too so I couldn’t fire a shot to let Americans know my location.

“They’d been taught in case of injury to take pills and put powder on injuries. “I took the pills and tried to dust powder on my back. When they finally found me, they took me to an old farm house.”

Next week – more about Bill’s service.

1
Text Only
Features
  • nws-gb041614-Shelter Spotlight pic 2- (Pics share cutline) Shelter Spotlight: Pets of the Week GREENSBURG - Another week brings more animals currently housed at the Greensburg/Decatur County Animal Shelter in need of loving permanent homes. This week, the Daily News presents Fred and Ivan. Fred is a three year old puggle mix. According to shel

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY 1741 - Frederick II of Prussia defeated Maria Theresa's forces at Mollwitz and conquered Silesia. 1790 - The U.S. patent system was established. 1809 - Austria declared war on France and its forces entered Bavaria. 1814 - Napoleon was defeated at the

    April 12, 2014

  • ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY 0193 - In the Balkans, the distinguished soldier Septimius Seversus was proclaimed emperor by the army in Illyricum. 0715 - Constantine ended his reign as Catholic Pope. 1241 - In the Battle of Liegnitz, Mongol armies defeated the Poles and the Germ

    April 9, 2014

  • nws-gb040914-Shelter Spotlight pic 2- page 12 (both pics share cut) Shelter Spotlight: Pets of the Week GREENSBURG - Another week brings more animals currently housed at the Greensburg/Decatur County Animal Shelter in need of loving permanent homes. This week, the Daily News presents Melody and Henry. Melody is a wonderful young cat. She came to the sh

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY 0896 - Formosus ended his reign as pope. 1541 - Ignatius of Loyola became the first superior-general of the Jesuits. 1581 - Francis Drake completed the circumnavigation of the world. 1687 - King James II ordered that his declaration of indulgence be

    April 4, 2014

  • nws-gb040214-Shelter Spotlight pic 1- page 10 (Both pics share a cut) Shelter Spotlight: Pets of the Week |GREENSBURG – Another week brings more animals currently housed at the Greensburg/Decatur County Animal Shelter in need of loving permanent homes. This week, the Daily News presents Peter and Suzie. Peter is a two year old toy fox terrier and Chihuah

    April 2, 2014 2 Photos

  • nws-gb032814-Shelter Spotlight pic 1 (Both pics share a cutline) Shelter Spotlight: Pets of the Week GREENSBURG - Another week brings more animals currently housed at the Greensburg/Decatur County Animal Shelter in need of loving permanent homes. This week, the Daily News presents Scarlett and Nathan. Scarlett is an eight month old female cat. Shelt

    March 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • toDAY IN HISTORY 1457 - Gutenberg Bible became the first printed book. 1622 - Indians attacked a group of colonist in the James River area of Virginia. 347 residents were killed. 1630 - The first legislation to prohibit gambling was enacted. It was in Boston, MA. 163

    March 22, 2014

  • ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY 1349 - 3,000 Jews were killed in Black Death riots in Efurt Germany. 1556 - Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake at Oxford after retracting the last of seven recantations that same day. 1788 - Almost the entire city

    March 21, 2014

  • nws-gb032014-Severe Weather Preparedness Week lightning jpg March 16-22: Severe Weather Preparedness Week-32 Governor Pence has issued a proclamation declaring proclaimed March 16-22, 2014, as Severe Weather Preparedness Week. 2014 is the 40th anniversary of the April 1974 Super Outbreak, still the largest tornado outbreak in the U.S. and the third largest

    March 20, 2014 4 Photos