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US Army

Give me the Jeep!

Give me the Jeep!
 
I was twenty years old and had just finished junior college when my draft notice came to me.  I was living in Albia, Iowa where I had grown up and my family lived.  Several of my contemporaries from the area joined up and we were off to Camp Swift, Texas for basic training on February 1, 1943.  I was then assigned to the 527 Army Engineers Company LP (light pontoon) and trained extensively in the US to build Bailey Bridges.  Probably because of my ability to type, I was subsequently assigned to work in supply as a clerk.
 
By September 1, 1944, our company was ready to go oversee.  We were sent to CampShanks near New York City.  Just prior to our departure, we were allowed leave and ventured into New York City to the USA in Times Square.  At the USO, we were offered tickets to a new play on Broadway called "Oklahoma" but declined because that didn't sound very interesting!  From New York City, we sailed by ship past the Statue of Liberty to England.  Two weeks later, we were sent to Normandy then sent to Dinant, Belgium by truck convoy.  At this time, the weather was beautiful Fall days.
 
From Dinant, we spent two months at Vielsalm, Belgium doing routine engineering tasks such as road maintenance, building squad huts for the 2nd and 106th Infantry Divisions, logging and building Bailey Bridges (temporary bridges to replace destroyed bridges.)  We lived in fear of buzz bombs – bombs filled with explosives that would drop to the earth and explode when they ran out of fuel.  Hitler boasted of his "secret weapons": buzz bombs were wreaking destruction on London, jet engine airplanes that out flew our planes, rockets that were unstoppable.
 
We had a not so "secret" weapon of our own.  It was named the General Purpose Vehicle or GP, for short which became, "jeep" after a cartoon character.  The jeep was liked by everyone who used it.  If the Jerries (Germans) captured a jeep, they painted a black cross over the white star on the jeep's side.  It was useful as a point vehicle on a motorized march.
 
You could use it as a command car.  Throw two or three litters on and it was an ambulance.  It was used for a scout car and went ahead of a convoy where it left off road guides at key points.  It was a great stand-up bar for eating a can of "C" rations or a box of "K" rations.  Its motor could even warm up the can!  Because it was an all-terrain vehicle, it simply went around traffic grid locks.
 
The jeep was soon to play a role in saving my life.  On December 20, 1944, Colonel Houbart ordered Captain Anderson to move every available man and establish a strong point at Vaux les Rosieres.  This ended my supply clerk duties.  My engineer company was ordered to block a crossroad.  Our weapons were one 50 caliber machine gun, M1 Carbines and a couple of bazookas (rocket guns).
 
We were dug in on a hill at supper time on December 22, 1944.  A unit of the German Fifth Parachute Infantry Division attacked.  They were supported by two Tiger Tanks.  They were sporting 88mm High Velocity cannons.  My friends George Dickerson, Guy Ware and I were manning the machine gun.  Being an important weapon, the tanks went after our machine gun immediately and sprayed us from above by tree top bursts.
 
 
I was wounded in the forehead by one of the first explosions and was knocked out for several minutes.  George Dickerson was knocked out and had ringing in his ears.  When I awoke, I couldn't see and panicked because I thought I had lost my sight.  Dickerson calmed me down when he told me he had bandaged my head over my eyes!  We were in a bad spot as there were no medics, snow had just poured down on us and it was very cold.  To lay still was to freeze to death.I decided to make my way back one half mile to Rosieres to where I thought the Company CP was located.
 
Not finding anyone from the military, I knocked on a house door and was taken in by an old man.  I slept the night on his floor.  The next morning was clear and sunny.I went out to seek help.  A constable, wearing a blue uniform and a kepi hat took me to another house, where I met a lady who spoke English.  The lady took me into her kitchen and went out onto the highway.  I heard the familiar sound of a jeep downshifting.  I saw that the lady had stepped into the road to flag down the jeep traveling at highway speed.
 
The jeep carried four soldiers.  They put me into the passenger seat and I was taken toward first aid.  About 2 kilometers down the road, we were blocked by an abatis (felled tree defense).  After studying the problem, the other three passengers got out and walked under the trees.  The driver folded down the wind shield flat on the hood and told me to get down.  Forward we went with me scrunched in the seat, the driver laying horizontally out the left side just clearing the trees by inches.WOW!  Five kilometers ahead was the first aid station and the beginning of my recovery and subsequent discharge from army life.  Hitler could have his secret weapons, give me the jeep!
 
Source: Bulge Bugle February 2004 
George R KESTER

527th Engineer

Light Pontoon

Company

VIII Corps

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium