Deep in the Heart of Texas
By Mack R. Ferren
Yoo Hoo! In Hood Country
In the summer of 1944, General “Yoo Hoo!” Ben Lear reviewed our marching at North Camp Hood, he was the only General that did so. He may have been the only one who had time on his hands. Why “Yoo Hoo?” He was playing golf in Arkansas when he saw and heard some GI’s passing in the back of a GI truck calling “YOO HOO!” to some pretty girls near the golf course. He had the Military Police take out after them; the newspapers picked it up, and had a heyday with it. I’m not sure what ticked off General “YOO HOO!” It could have been jealousy, or he dubbed, or sliced, or hooked a shot. Some golfers have to blame it on someone. The disgusted public picked it up, and the newspapers captioned his new nickname with editorializing. “What the hell was General doing out on the golf course when there is a war on?” The public was short of fickle that way about what their Generals do during time of war.
I don’t know who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, the truck loan of GI’s or General “YOO HOO!”
Anyway, it made us sort of proud to be marching with military bands playing and all those sharp commands being given like “Eyes Right” when we passed the General standing on his reviewing stand. He was probably saying to himself about Arkansas at the same time, “I’se right”
DIT-DAH SCHOOL IN OUR OURFIT
I took a 107th Cavalry Radio School at Hood. I really liked it, it was taught by a Mexican GI, and I really liked him. On break I would sit and listen to him talk, and I was always interested in languages. I would play him with questions about Spanish. He taught me Spanish words, and pronunciation. This was my third radio school in the service. This school lasted from July 27 to August 28.
DESTINY ORDERS A SWITCH
We were scheduled to get on a train in LeHavre, and go to our staging area, a tent camp called Lucky Strike. We disembarked into a LST boat, arrived on shore in the darkness, loaded on trucks instead of the train. Orders had been changed, and I believe, divinely changed.
We drove about twenty miles or so to Camp Luck Strike. Sitting in that canvass covered truck in the middle of January almost froze us to death; I have never been so cold in all my life. It seemed the ride was endless. WE finally arrived there, and when we dismounted it was with considerable effort, I was stiff with cold. I could hardly walk, On top of that we had to stand waiting in that subzero weather a long while to be assigned to tents.
We were told that we were the fist troops to come into the camp. We finally got into our tents pre-dawn, we set up canvas cots, got our sleeping bags, put them on the cots, took off our combat boots, crawled into the cots. WE got warm then, and we slept until 11AM. And it felt good.
The troops, who took our place on the train met with death and injury when the train was sabotaged, wrecked. It was a Divine switch for us. While we were in our cots sleeping they were going through maiming, pain, suffering, and death, plus freezing. And how long did it take for help to get to them? It makes the torment of the cold and freezing we endured a light thing. Why were we spared? Only our Heavenly Father knows.
A SUICIDE AT CAMP LUCKY STRIKE
One of the most unusual happenings at Camp Luck Strike was that of one of the GI’s in F Company, a Mexican kid, got up on a tank, while he was standing there he pulled a trigger on a .45 pistol and killed himself. Why? It was told that he was afraid to go into combat. That was so useless, I don’t know of any 107th trooper who killed by enemy fire in combat. We had some killed by accidents, and we had a number severely wounded who could have died, but didn’t. But who knows, he could have been stressed by some heartbreaking bad news from home. He could have been pressed into military service and shouldn’t have been. Only our Heavenly Father knows.
Pre-dawn, about 3am, 26 March, an attacking party of German soldiers almost got the jump on us. They were up the small road form the farmhouse, almost even with our lines when they were detected. They had stealthily, carefully, taken down all our trip wires in the dark, except one, before they were detected. They were Germany’s top combat soldiers with many years of training and combat experiences. They had penetrated only about ten years from being even with our lines when they were detected by either Forrest Renslow, 22, of Cumberland, Wisconsin or Sgt. Lee Thomas, of Lorain, Ohio. Both GI’s opened up with their weapons, Forrest with a thirty caliber machine gun, Lee with a fifty caliber. I was in the dugout with Forrest. He opened fire with the machine gun, firing to the right almost straight at Sgt. Thomas on our right flank. I stood to Forrest’s right, as rapidly as I could pull the trigger, firing my semi-automatic carbine straight at the gun flashes. And they were slinging lead at us, too. Neither Forrest nor I was hit. It was a rapid-fire battle.
The German soldiers were strung up and down the road firing at us. The only thing we could see was gun flashes. A group of them had rushed forward shouting in German. There was one German who had a machine gun with a bipod, he ran forward, fell to the ground not more than 15 years from Lee’s left, precisely to take out Sgt. Thomas. Unfortunate for the German, he hit that last trip wire; he got off one abbreviated burst of just two rounds made inaccurate and terminated by the trip-wire explosion. The raiding party left dragging their casualties with them leaving trails of blood. We put this together when daylight came. One could read the desperation as they pulled along, hugging the ground, dragging their casualties as well along the road. It wasn’t a pretty sight. None of us was hurt, but we were shaking right after it was over, calming later. By the grace of God we had survived their best. And they were professionals, somebody was watching over us. Who was more professional? It could have gone the other way, you know. We did not rejoice. We just looked.
August 10, 1945, we started boarding the USAT General Leroy Eltinge at Marseilles, France on the Mediterranean.
Destination: The Philippines via the Panama Canal to make the invasion of Japan.
Pre-shipped where our vehicles waiting for us in the Philippines (inside my M-8 Amoured Car was a German Army rifle which I had stowed away for my arrival there, some GI in the Philippines inherited it, and he as welcome to it.
Au Revoir, Europe!
Still vivid is the scene of our moving out into the Mediterranean, and still strong is the picture of Marseilles becoming smaller and smaller until it disappeared from view, and now we were surrounded by water, and only sea in all directions. We passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, and we where out in the Atlantic Ocean. Sometime later we passed the Azores over 899 miles from where we stated. We passed to the south of the islands, and we could barely see them. I had not known then, but later in life I learned that the Azores had been reached by European sailing vessels before Columbus Discovered American. It had never occurred to me that Christopher Columbus wasn’t just a shore hugger! I had a lot to learn. August 21, 1945, The good ship U.S.S. Leroy Eltinge will arrive at HomptonRoads, Newport News, VA ” A line ran huridly downward, looped a giddy loop, scrawled excitedly further down, ended with an arrow pointing to the big letters, “U.S.A.” Everybody got up yelling with excitement, shaking hands, and anything to express joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Steve Karas, of Byesville, Ohio, was one of the best 60-millimeter mortar men I ever knew. We had called upon him occasionally to fire mortar flares at night when we suspected the enemy was trying to come in on us.
Five days before Resurrection Sunday, pre-dawn 27 March 1945; I detected a sizable enemy patrol coming inn to attack us. They had returned with a vengeance follow-up from the previous nights defeat. I opened fire with my 30-caliber machine gun, and all hell broke loose directed at me, gun flashes from the startled and angry enemy punctuated the darkness. Forrest Renslow ran quickly to my aid. The bullets and tracers were flying, the smell of gun powder was acrid, and dirt was flying all over kicked up by the enemy bullets searching for me, and holes were punched into some dirt-filled bags near me. I was hit in the head by German hand grenade shrapnel, knocked to the bottom to the trench. It was like someone had hit me in the head with a club, and the blood was just squirting. I recalled thinking;” I’ve got a bullet in my head! I’ve heard of people living for a while with a bullet in their head, so I don’t have anything to lose now.” I jumped up. Forrest asked, “Do you want me to take the machine gun?” I said, “No, I’ll do it!” I told Forrest” Move those bags so I can get them on the left!” He did, even when a spray of bullets tore into the dugout eating away at the crude top we had on the dugout, just inches above our head. I crouched as low as I would get, aimed the machine gun about knee high, hoping to get the enemy whether he was standing or crouching. That finished the attack from our left.
Relief had come from my right, Sgt. Lee Thomas in the next dugout about fifty yards on our right flank had opened up with a fifty caliber machine gun, but fifty yards on my left flank there was one of our positions with a thirty caliber machine gun, idle. The two GI’s were in the dugout cowering down, hiding, and doing nothing, fear frozen. An enemy flanking attack toward me was being staged almost in front of them. They could have easily taken out my attackers. Sergeant Robert Ailes, age 31 (one of the “old men”) of Dayton, Ohio rushed into the dugout, shouting at the men, “What the hell is going on!” The men answered him, “There is a fire fight!” He could see tracers in the darkness from an automatic weapon, being fired at me. He described, “He would fire a burst, the gun would lift, he would fire another burst. By the time I got my machine gun into position it was all over.”
We finished the battle. It became eerily quite, and then Steve Karas started firing the mortar in back of us to get the retreating German soldiers. Then E Troop opened up with their Seventy-five millimeter artillery from their tanks quite a distance in back of us joining Steve Karas in his mortar work. They had the coordinates. It was awesome. In later years, Riley Bailey, of Davis, Oklahoma in E Troop told me that they zeroed in nearly on top of us and worked outward the catch fleeing Germans. He told me the E Troopers were really concerned that the close-in support might kill us too.
I was taken back to the aid station where they held me for a while. While I was there the German artillery opened up on our positions. I heard with alarm the blasting of the German artillery. The enemy was furious. It was told me that the German artillery placed 200 rounds into an area equivalent to two blocks. They had to have rage to use up munitions they could ill afford to waste. I was really glad I was out of the target area. I was told later that the mortar of Steve Karas was hit by German artillery shrapnel, totaled.
I was taken further back to a larger facility where the medics shaved my head on the side where I had been hit. They stitched me up, and patched me. Thank God there was no bullet in the head, and that the hand grenade shrapnel did not pierce the skull. While I was there the ambulance brought in Steve Karas. German artillery shrapnel had hit him during the barrage, he was in terrible pain, and the wound was about the size of your thumb in the back near a kidney, I thought, “He’s not going to make it!” It was 27 March 1945.
In later years I learned from Robert Ailes that Steve Karas survived. I was so happy, but I so regret I never saw Steve again. I really liked him. Sometime after that Mike was put on shipboard, the Arcadia Hospital Ship, transported to South Carolina. They moved him on to West Virginia to the Newton T. Baker Hospital. After a long hospital stay Mike Patrick was discharged form the Army at Newton T. Baker in October 1945
In a seven-day period from 26 March to 1 April 1945 there were four occasions on which I could have been killed.
Thanks for including me in your e-mail list. In compiling our family history, my father, CHARLES H. KLEIN, told me the following story about his 107th experience. Please feel free to post this to your great web site. He’s 97 and still goes into the office every day.
“Harold M. Baron, who lived across Lexington Avenue from us, did me the greatest favor. On a warm day in June, 1923, as we passed each other on the street, he, dressed in his fine Culver Military School uniform with sharp billed hat, asked me to do HIM a great favor. We were buddies, both of us being 15 year old neighbors. As I admired his uniform, Harold confided that his mother had just signed him up for summer school at Culver. Trouble was, Harold, only a few days before, had signed himself up to join the Ohio National Guard. He faced quite a dilemma and asked me if I would do him a great favor by taking his place on the roster at the Helen Street Armory (Helen and Burnet, Cincinnati, Ohio).”
“Without discussing this with my family, I headed for the Armory. Once there I sought out the most official looking soldier and told him of my friend’s woe and my desire. Sergeant Lawill looked me up and down, pulled a clip board from a peg on the wall, and then, after vigorous erasing, penciled my name where Harold’s had been. Doing my friend, Harold, the favor of taking his place was also a great favor to me as it began my long tenure as a member of the Ohio 107 Cavalry.” In 1935, Charles was mustered out due to a change in command. He had risen to the rank of Master Sergeant.