A series following the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. This updates the series Following the 10th Armored that I did five years ago. The beginning posts set the stage for 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europewith the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.

# 19- Performing a Miracle

Before we get to the next months and the 10th being sent overseas, it is good to take a quick review of the US Army before the war began and the miracle performed in a short period. To say the strength of the US military was low would be an understatement. Politics, including isolationism, had to some extent tied the hands of President Roosevelt. Many hoped that the other European nations would take care of Hitler and Mussolini without US intervention. Roosevelt and others managed to finagle different ways of building readiness for what they felt was inevitable. It may only be through the lens of history that we can see that FDR and Churchill were correct and that Hitler’s advances were certainly one of the greatest threats to world peace and democracy that had ever been seen. It was a tightrope that they walked with finesse.

Even with that, however, in the months after Pearl Harbor, the United States was in the war but without a large and broad-based military. It was only the pre-Pearl Harbor draft which gave the foundation for what would become a huge fighting force. New armies and divisions were being created as long-range plans were developed and implemented in Washington for a war across both oceans and very far from home.

The 10th Armored Division was officially activated on July 15, 1942, at Fort Benning, Georgia. My dad’s 80th Armored Medical Battalion was an organic unit the 10th Armored- where the 10th went, the 80th went. When the 10th was created the new commander, Major General Paul Newgarden held a competition to give the unit a nickname. They took the name “The Tiger Division”. For the next year, Lester Nichols, author of the 10th Armored’s history, Impact, writes that the
training was especially rugged. There was the Tiger Camp with its night problems, forced marches, endurance tests, 'dry runs' and firing problems.
10th Armored Division, December 1942-  Fort Benning, Georgia
A division is somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 soldiers. Fort Benning and the many training camps like it, became small cities providing more than just training. They also sought to provide entertainment, activities, sports, and more than enough “fun and games” to keep the troops occupied when they weren’t too tired from the training that Tiger Camp provided.

In late June 1943, the Division packed up and left Fort Benning for what has become known as the Tennessee Maneuvers. These maneuvers were at the heart and soul of turning the American Army into a world-class fighting force.
The Tennessee Maneuver Area was a training area in Middle Tennessee  selected because the terrain resembled France, Belgium and Germany. In June 1941, Major General George S. Patton conducted maneuvers with the 2nd Armored Division in the Manchester, Tennessee vicinity, where he soundly defeated the opposing forces, using large-scale armored fighting. These maneuvers led to the creation of the Tennessee Maneuver Area.

In June 1942, Governor Prentice Cooper, announced that nine counties would be used as a maneuver area by the Second Army, and was eventually expanded to twenty-one counties by the time of closure in 1944. Cumberland University, in Lebanon, Tennessee was the location of the Headquarters for the Army Ground Forces field problems, commonly known as the Tennessee Maneuvers. (Nashville was the principal trailhead.)

Between 1942 and 1944, in seven large scale training exercises, more than 850,000 soldiers were trained in the Tennessee Maneuver Area.

The 10 Armored was there with the 101st Airborne Division, the 80th Infantry Division and the 83rd Infantry Division through June, July, and August 1943. (--Link)
Between the wars, German officer Erwin Rommel, as a young military attache, had visited Nashville and Middle Tennessee to study and follow the cavalry campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to help him develop a pattern for the use of tank units as cavalry. This is part of what led General Patton to choose the area for his training in 1941.

Over the hills and valleys of twenty-one counties “Blue” and “Red” armies engaged in weekly strategic “problems,” with troops moved in and out according to a calendar of “phases” that lasted about four weeks apiece. In the military’s scenario Nashville was Cherbourg, without the bombing.

Maneuvers paused at noon on Thursday or Friday, when a light plane would fly over the mock battle lines, sounding a siren. Then thousands of soldiers would seek recreation in Nashville and the county seat towns. Facilities were limited, despite the best efforts of the U.S.O. and the American Red Cross; movie theaters and cafes were packed; drug store soda fountains were forced to shut down twice a day for cleanup. Each army PX was strained to the limit. Churches opened their doors and set up lounges; schools opened their gyms for weekend dances. The Grand Ole Opry had never drawn such crowds than during these months when Middle Tennessee hosted the army’s preparations for the eventual invasion of Normandy in 1944. (--Link)
According to Nichols the maneuvers themselves were

the scene of combat with chiggers, choking dust, sleepless nights, sore backs and aching feet. As always, the ‘enemy’ was constantly pursued. The battle umpires, too, were on hand to declare tank, track and truck ‘knocked out’ by a hidden ‘enemy’ anti-tank crew. (Impact!)
Other personal reports from other units indicated that the maneuvers were tough and often see as the toughest thing they ever did in the Army. Bob Wells who trained with the 100th Division through Tennessee Maneuvers wrote
In Tennessee we were as ‘in the field’ as we could be. When we slept it was in our pup tents, but each week for, as I remember, six weeks, we had problems Monday through Thursday. It was cold and wet, and I for one learned a lot about keeping myself together with no roof or facilities. (--Link)
Wells then records a poem written by and for the 35th Division vets. It begins:
The Tennessee Maneuvers
The devil was given permission one day,
to select a good place for the soldiers to play.
He looked around for a month or more wanting a place that would make them sore.

And, at last was delighted a country view
where the black walnut and the hickory grew, and vowed that Tennessee could not be beat
as a place for maneuvers in rain, snow, and sleet.

He scattered the rocks so the men could not sleep
and brought weather so cold it froze the sheep.
He then sent some rain, the bed rolls to soak
and a few cards and dice, so the men could stay broke.
And the final stanza
Now we’re on the last problem we’ve all done our part,
and at the end of this week the furloughs will start.
Then the men will go home with tall tales to tell
of the things that they did through this six weeks of hell.
35th Divisionaire. March 2008 Association Newsletter
The first week of September 1943 the 10th left Tennessee and settled at its new home, Camp Gordon near Augusta, Georgia. Here they would continue to train, grow and develop into a highly effective unit for the battles that lay ahead. Tiger Camp and lots of training continued.

By mid-May 1944, 75 years ago, training and planning were coming to an end. The war was waiting, and it appears as if they were ready. The US Military was working miracles and more were to come.

#18- An Awful Shock

    •   May 4, 1944
Buddy called at 9:45 from Georgia saying he was married on Wednesday [the previous day, May 3.] Well the shock was awful
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman

It may be that the shock is simply that he married someone other than the one he had been dating for years. It may have sunk in that the “friend” grandma mentions speaking to in a phone call from Georgia 13 days earlier is now Mrs. Harold Lehman.

Here we meet Dora Moldawsky. Her parents, Sam and Anna, came to the United States from Eastern Europe, most likely the Ukraine. It was the early 1900s, probably around 1904 before the Soviet Union, but not before the pogroms. That is no doubt why they made the trip to the United States. How they entered is a piece of the myth. In those mists of childhood overhearing, I remember something about them posing as brother and sister, even though already married.  All genealogical research points to them already being married when they got here. It makes an interesting story. Legal, illegal, or semi-legal immigrants, they came through the golden door of Ellis Island in New York Harbor next to the uplifted lamp of the Statue of Liberty.

Sam and Anna had three children. Dora, the youngest, was born in 1913. I have some pictures of Sam from the 1940s- a tall, handsome man, tanned and well dressed. Anna was the typical Jewish, eastern European Bubbe, grandmother. Sometime in the late 40s or early 50s, Sam had a leg amputated. Family lore had it due to diabetes, but a cousin later discovered other possible causes.

They were observant, Orthodox Jews. They kept Kosher and Sabbath. When we visited, the strict separation of meat and milk, for example, was hard for my brother and me to understand. Mom was not observant back in the Gentile wilds of Pennsylvania, Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform. When we were in Brooklyn I don’t remember any time when anyone went to services on Friday evening or Saturday morning. It is quite likely that at least the men went, but, since Sam died when I was nine or ten, it wouldn’t have been unusual for us not to even notice what was happening.

Sometime in her late 20s, Dora did her version of running away from home. In 1940 according to that year’s census records, she was still in Brooklyn, working as a bookkeeper at a wholesale dress house. In some magical and mysterious unknown way by 1943 at age 30 she ended up in Augusta, Georgia. Different versions of the story claim she was working as a secretary or did accounting or was a club singer in Augusta. Maybe all three. What is clear is that while there she met a GI from Pennsylvania who was eight years older than she was. That adds a certain amount of rebelliousness to her character. It would take a great deal of what her family would call chutzpah for her to be on her own, in 1944, and then get married to a gentile! This was as “mixed” a marriage as any other in 1944.

Sam and Anna must have loved her, though. They did not disown her. Beula’s diaries mention Harold and Dora both going to New York to visit and then, after Buddy was deployed, Dora coming to spend time with his family in Pennsylvania. Later pictures show Sam and Anna visiting in Pennsylvania with my brother and me, their two youngest grandchildren.

What we have here is a story with a glimpse into a far-different time. We have Harold Lehman, a run-away gentile from Pennsylvania standing at the Jewish USO of Camp Gordon, Georgia, marrying Dora Moldawsky, a run-away from her Brooklyn family.

People have asked me what it was like to grow up Jewish in Gentile, Bible-belt, Pennsylvania. My immediate answer often was, “I have no idea.” My brother and I grew up culturally Gentiles. I was living in the midst of my family’s home area. As I have mentioned before we were the 7th or 8th generation from my family tree in the West Branch/Pine Creek Valley. And they were all culturally, if not actively practicing Christians. Christmas was a big holiday in our family with a tree and a midnight Christmas Eve/Day party where my brother and I were awakened. We went out to open our presents, delivered by Santa Claus, with family and Dad’s workers there.

I know there was an awareness in the community that our mother was Jewish and that therefore I was, in some way or another, Jewish. Before 1964 each school day started with a reading from the Bible, the Lord’s Prayer,* and the Pledge of Allegiance. When I became aware of such things, I noted that I was always given a passage from the Old Testament. Socially, and practically, though, I was far more Gentile than Jewish. That does not mean I wasn’t aware of “Jewishness.” It was just far more prevalent and obvious to me that I was part of a Pennsylvania native family. I have no idea how others in town felt.

Seventy-five years ago today none of this was on the table, at least in any way I can see. Knowing my family, I am sure there was a great deal of uncertainty, fear, perhaps even anger, at what Buddy had just done. I would guess they had some of the same stereotypes and prejudices, especially about New York City Jews, as were common in the day. Beula never mentioned in her diary that Buddy’s wife was Jewish. I have a hunch that, like many a mixed marriage today, the tension would have been incredible. It is May 1944 and he is only a few months away from shipping out to Europe. As if that wasn’t enough stress, they would have to get used to a new and very unfamiliar family member.

*Footnote: Many years later, living in the Midwest, I learned that in a number of places in the United States this daily Bible reading and reciting the Lord's Prayer was NOT the practice. I had a roomful of church members look at me like I was crazy and dreaming when I said that we did that each morning. The reason was simple- there were Christian groups in the community that were not allowed to pray with others, Christians or not.

#17- A Hint of Something To Come

    •    April 21, 1944
At 6.45 in the evening Buddy called from Augusta and his friend was there and I talked to her.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
This is the first mention in the diaries of Buddy’s friend. Did Beula know that she was more than just a “friend” and was she using the euphemism to ignore the implications? Dad was 38 years old, never married. His brother Carl, 42, the eldest, was to be married by the end of June to his very long-time girlfriend.  His sister Ruth, 40, the middle child, had been married about 10 years. Dad had a history of a long time girlfriend that I have mentioned in other posts, whose tires he reportedly slashed when angry.

For all practical purposes Buddy was a small-town boy He spent most of his life in his hometown along the banks of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the nearby Pine Creek in North Central Pennsylvania.

The West Branch rambles through the Allegheny Plateau, before heading east at Lock Haven. Forty or so miles later it breaks south at Muncy leaving the valley. It will join the North Branch a few miles further and form the main river to the Chesapeake Bay. The east flowing section is in a wide, fertile valley, the transition between the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Province (- Link) to the south and the Allegheny Plateau (- Link) to the north. For those 40 miles Bald Eagle Mountain (- Link) bounds the river and the valley. Powerful, tall and green, the mountain is the edge of the world from either direction.

Then there is Pine Creek (- Link). Don’t let its name fool you. One historian commented that it deserves the name river rather than creek. It can be a powerhouse of liquid- or a rock strewn stream. It runs eighty miles from its start beyond Ansonia. It flows through the Allegheny Plateau heading south having carved what is known as The Gorge or the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. It flows into the Susquehanna a few miles from my hometown, near the site where an ancient Elm stood for centuries until felled by Dutch Elm disease. Under that elm, the Tiadaghton Elm, on July 4, 1776, a group of illegal settlers known as the Fair Play Men signed a declaration of independence from England as the same thing was happening in Philadelphia. (- Link)

Pine Creek is the Tiadaghton- its native name. We were always told it was the largest creek in the world; the major tributary of the West Branch of the Susquehanna. Pine Creek is the wild place, the wilderness on which one’s life foundation can be built, a wilderness at the bottom of a majestic pine bounded gorge. Get your feet wet in Pine Creek, the saying went, and you will always return.

Both Dad’s parents grew up in the same area on neighboring homesteads. The town, and the whole valley from Williamsport to Lock Haven as well as up Pine Creek was filled with all kinds of distant- and not too distant relatives. Everyone knew everyone.  Nevertheless, as I said in post #2, I have little concrete information about his childhood and young adult years.

As a small-town boy, he did become familiar with the city when he went to pharmacy school in Philadelphia. But his feet had been in Pine Creek. After his graduation in 1928 he returned home to the West Branch Valley and lived with his parents in the house where he had spent much of his youth, worked at a local pharmacy that he and his father eventually purchased.

I am sure that it would not have been too much to assume that Dad was going to marry someone local.

All of this was now several years past when Beula got to talk to Buddy’s “friend” 75 years ago. When and how he met this friend is lost in family history. From information in Beula’s diary it appears that Dad was renting from a family in Augusta, about 9 miles from Camp Gordon and probably working in a hospital at least part time. Sixteen years later the family would stop in Augusta on a return trip from Florida and visit with a family who we were told was where Mom was living at the time. I can only guess that it may have been the same place. Who knows? Sometimes facts are not possible to discover.

What Beula and Bill or any of his siblings knew is pure, uneducated conjecture. Now, 75 years later we know where it was about to go.


◆ April 1944
◆ 75 Years Ago
    ◦    Adolf Eichmann and the Nazis offered the Hungarian rescue worker Joel Brand the "Blood for Goods" deal, proposing that one million Jews be allowed to leave Hungary for any Allied-occupied country except Palestine, in exchange for goods obtained outside of Hungary. The deal would never be made because the Allies believed it to be a trick and the British press slammed it as blackmail,
    ◦    A two-day meeting between Hitler and Benito Mussolini was held near Salzburg, and
    ◦    "It's Love-Love-Love" by Guy Lombardo and His Orchestra topped the Billboard singles charts.

#16- Medical Training

◆ April 1944
◆ 75 Years Ago
Less than two months before the planned Allied invasion of France, American and British warplanes soften German defenses on the Normandy coast. (WW II timeline)
    Things will soon get far more hectic, surprising, and involved for my dad and his family. At this point 75 years ago it was all still in limbo. Through mid-April the only mention of Buddy this month in my grandmother’s diary was that she either received a letter from him or sent him one or a “box,” most likely of food. During this break in the action I have been researching the how and what of training for medics. I have found a number of helpful manuals and reports on the Internet. One is The Instructors’ Guide for Medical Department Mobilization, September 1942 and the other is part of the series on World War II history, this volume from 1974 on the Army Medical Department Medical Training in World War II. They give a clear picture of what the US Army Medical Department faced in the early years and how they developed the world class medical units that were indispensable. First, some background from the pre-war years as reported in the history.

    Training facilities of the U.S. Army Medical Department in 1939 reflected adaptation to peacetime medical requirements. From a World War I peak of over 340,000, the Medical Department’s strength had been reduced to a little over 11,500 officers and enlisted men by June 1939. … The five Medical Department field units that existed were either understrength or skeleton organizations; trained enlisted cadre could not have been provided in case of mobilization.
    Had the Medical Department been confronted with mobilization in the summer of 1939, the problems of creating a functioning organization capable of providing both routine health care and field medical support might have proved insurmountable. [Emphasis added.] The 2-year period that intervened provided an opportunity to adjust the program for the crisis that lay ahead. (Medical Training)

    Training that already existed was expanded slightly starting in 1939 after the start of the war in Europe when Germany’s invaded Poland. A report about the later development of replacement training centers on the website of the WW II US Medical Research Center clearly states the purpose:

The ultimate purpose of all Military Training is the assurance of Victory in war! An Army must be trained to do its job in the most effective manner if it is to reach victory with the least possible losses to the country. … Attached medical personnel and Medical Department units must be prepared to support the offensive spirit and actions of the Armed Forces. … Units must be trained to function effectively in any type of military operation. The well-trained medical unit will increase the offensive spirit by assuring combat personnel of adequate medical service at all times.

Medical personnel were therefore trained to be aggressive, resolute, and thoroughly capable…While the basis of initial training was the individual, the ultimate requirement was teamwork, from the smallest unit to the largest. (— Link)
    In order for that to happen, there was a basic program for medical personnel training. It appears that after the draft was begun in late 1940, the training looked something like this:
[E]nlisted men were to receive 13 weeks of basic training. [It] was divided into two phases: The first, a period of basic military training; and the second, a period of basic technical and tactical training. After 2 weeks of basic military training at the beginning of the cycle, the trainee was expected to be able to display and care for his uniform and equipment, to understand military courtesy, and to have acquired a fundamental knowledge of such basic military subjects as individual defense and march discipline.

The third to 13th weeks of the program were devoted to basic technical and tactical training. Training in basic military subjects continued, but after the second week of the cycle, the program stressed basic technical subjects that would prepare men either for specific duties or for further training at a medical unit or installation. During this period, men were also trained to march and execute tactical movements, to establish and operate battalion or regimental dispensaries, and to maneuver with the combat arms in the field….

Individuals qualified to be trained as technicians were selected at the end of the fourth, eighth, and 12th week of the cycle and sent to Medical Department special service schools or to enlisted technician schools for 8 to 12 weeks of technical training. (Quora)
    From other sources I have found that the Army earmarked medic candidates from the very first day they joined the Army. Sounds simple enough, but the truth of the matter is that in that time referred to as the period  of “Limited National Emergency”
Although there was extensive study and planning for the expansion of the Army Medical Department [during that period], little was actually done. …  The Army Medical Department was also handicapped by lack of funds to construct troop housing and classrooms at the training centers and to expand facilities at the technical and advanced technical training schools. The shortage of instructors at the training centers and technical schools was a chronic problem. Training equipment had to be improvised or simulated. Irregular arrivals and unscheduled transfers of trainees resulted in vast fluctuations in enrollments. (— Link)
    Looking at the 1942 Instructors’ Guide gives a decent outline of what the training was supposed to look like.

1) Basic Training- weeks one and two
The preliminary training of the individual enlisted man will be stressed. At the end of this period he should be able to wear properly, display, and care for his uniform and equipment; understand and correctly practice indoor and outdoor military courtesy; and have an applicatory knowledge of the essentials of all basic subjects prescribed in this program.
2) Technical Training- weeks 3-10
Emphasis is placed upon fundamental technical subjects which will fit him for actual practice or further training in a medical unit or installation. In addition to the technical subjects, specialist training, tactical and logistical training is begun. Fundamental technical subjects were covered such as establishment and operation of stations, collection and treatment of casualties in the field, the operation of regimental and battalion dispensaries; and the preparation for participation with the associated arms in field exercises and under combat conditions. 

3) Tactical Training- weeks 11-13
This period should be devoted largely to field and applicatory exercises. At the end of this period personnel intended for tactical medical units should be able to march and execute tactical movements with facility, establish and operate stations, collect and treat casualties in the field during day or night, operate battalion or regimental aid stations, and participate with the associated arms both in field exercises and under combat conditions.

4) Specialist Training- weeks 14-26
For a surgical technician this would include everything from nutrition and hygiene to ward management and air raid procedures. (Instructors' Manual)
    It appears that in the last quarter of 1941 the basic training portion was shortened to 11 weeks. But by then my dad would have already completed both basic and specialist training as outlined in the Manual.

    My Dad was part of the initial mobilization in the two years of 1939-1941. As I talked about in an earlier post, he registered for the draft as required on the first day in October 1940. His enlistment date was January 13, 1941. I assume that because of his own civilian training as a pharmacist he went though both basic training and medical orientation as listed above. The one thing that supports that assumption is a picture I have of medics from the hospital at Camp Blanding, Florida in late August 1941, over seven months into his year.

Buddy in upper right corner (cropped)

As I have said elsewhere, I have no diary from my grandmother to confirm any information. So far I have hit dead ends on following him in that first period of service. If, as I assume, he was trained in his eventual specialty- surgical technician- this all would have taken him until mid-July 1941. Did he stay for further training or to develop skills? Camp Blanding is not listed as a medical training facility in anything I have found. Was he sent home early since the space was needed for increased training when the draft was extended in 1941?

    All I know for sure are the dates above, the picture from Camp Blanding, and that by January 1942 (perhaps earlier) he was home and remained at home until activated in August ’42 into the 80th Armored Medical Battalion. Now, in April 1944, he was a medic with the 10 Armored Division’s medical battalion, no doubt “enjoying” these last months before going overseas. D-Day was less than six weeks away and then everything would change.

#15- January - March 1944: The Greater War

While my dad, with the 10th Armored Division and 80th Medical Battalion continued training, there was a great deal of activity elsewhere. In the first 3 months of 1944, 75 years ago, some actions in the greater war:

January 1944
◦ 16: General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived in London, returning from a week of rest and planning in Washington, D. C., and assumed command of the European Theater by General Orders No. 4. His new title was Commanding General, U.S. Forces, European Theater of Operations.

◦ 20: The Royal Air Force drops 2,300 tons of bombs on Berlin,
     and   The U.S. Army 36th Infantry Division, in Italy, attempts to cross the Gari River but suffers heavy losses.

◦ 22: Allies begin Operation Shingle, the landing at Anzio, Italy, commanded by American Major General John P. Lucas. The Allies hope to break the stalemate in south Italy, but they are unable to break out of the beachhead and the line holds until late May. The minesweeper USS Portent commanded by Lt. H.C. Plummer, hit a mine and sank southeast of Anzio, Italy.

◦ 27: The Siege of Leningrad ended after 872 days, as Soviet forces finally forced the Germans to withdraw. Some 2 million died, mostly of starvation and disease.

February 1944
◦ 1: U.S. Marines mop up on Roi and Namur in the northern part of the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands.

◦ 2: The Narva front near the east border of Estonia is formed between the Soviet and German forces.

◦ 3: American planes bomb Eniwetok in the Marshalls, later to be a major B-29 base.

◦ 4: Kwajalein, the world's largest atoll and a major Japanese naval base, is secured.

◦ 5: The American Navy bombards the Kuril Islands, northernmost in the Japanese homelands.

◦ 8: The plan for the invasion of France, Operation Overlord, is confirmed.

◦ 17: American Marines land on Eniwetok.

◦ 18: The light cruiser HMS Penelope is torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Anzio with a loss of 415 crew,
    and    American naval air raid takes place on the Truk islands, a major Japanese naval base, but they will be one of the bypassed fortresses of the Japanese outer defense ring.

◦ 19: Leipzig, Germany is bombed for two straight nights. This marks the beginning of a "Big Week" bombing campaign against German industrial cities by Allied bombers.

◦ 26: The "Big Week" bombing campaign comes to a successful conclusion; the American P-51 Mustang fighter with its long range proves invaluable in protecting American bombers over Germany.

March 1944
◦ 3: German forces around Anzio, having failed to drive the Allies from the beachhead, go over to a defensive posture.

◦ 6: The Allies receive intelligence that the Japanese may be about to attack Western Australia, causing them to greatly bolster defenses there. When no attack comes, forces return to their regular stations on the 20th.

◦ 16: United States XI Corps arrives in Pacific Theater.

◦ 17: Heavy bombing of Vienna, Austria.
March 20, 1944
◆ 75 Years Ago Today
The Royal Air Force drops 2,300 tons of bombs on Berlin.
The U.S. Army 36th Infantry Division, in Italy, attempts to cross the Gari River but suffers heavy losses.
◦ 24: Heavy bombings of German cities at various strategic locations last for 24 hours.
-- Wikipedia

# 14- A Year of Change Begins

    •    January 6 , 1944
Had a letter from Buddy and a picture of the meds in his division. Gee it is good.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
Note: Picture is cropped. Buddy is in center front.
We are now in the middle of March. Not much of consequence has happened with the 10th Armored so far this year. They are still in Georgia training and training and then more training. My grandmother’s diary is very brief and understated, as always. There’s not much about what my dad has been up to. Beula mentioned letters about every third day. Usually all she says is that she got a letter or that she sent one.

What was Buddy doing? What was the role of a medic in training? He has been with the 80th Armored Medical Battalion of the 10th Armored Division virtually since the beginning. He was also not a “new” recruit or trainee, having had his original training following the draft in 1941 prior to Pearl Harbor. I am continuing to research medic training, but I would think that by this point he was well-trained and as ready as it was possible to be after over 18 months on active duty. (If anyone has any stories or information from family or friends about this, please let me know!)

Two other diary entries give a brief and tantalizing glimpse at what might have been happening. The first:

    •    February 1, 1944
Buddy may get a furlough. wants to go to NY. Sent him $100.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman

Why is Dad going to New York instead of home on furlough?  There is no hint in the diaries so far that he has been dating anyone or that he was interested in anything except the military. It is a more than educated guess that this diary entry hints at something that will make a huge difference in coming months.

The second entry, 75 years ago last week gives a slight glimpse at what might have also been taking up his time.

    •    March 10, 1944
Letter from Buddy. He said he is working in a big hospital in Augusta
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
Was this common? Remembering that he was not a new recruit, was he as trained in the duties of a medic as he needed to be and could go off-base? Or, and perhaps more likely, this was part of the training. From later information I have found that in Europe he was a surgical tech. His own profession in civilian life was as a pharmacist. It is very possible that they had him working in a civilian hospital to learn that aspect of the medic’s role. It even appears that he may not have been living on base. In the back of Beula’s diary is a listing of  his general’s name (Wm. H.H. Morris- commander of the 10th at the time), a phone number, and “the name of the people he rents from.”

This whole section highlights what for me has been my biggest regret in doing these posts- that I have come to this interest too late for many things to be found. It is only after I began this that I learned of 10th Armored reunions, now ended as even the youngest surviving veterans would be in his early 90s today. It is exciting to do the research I have been working on, but the many missing links are tantalizing and make me sad.

As far as the 10th:
 Checking in on the Tiger’s Tale monthly newspaper for the Division at “Camp Gordon”:

The February headline was that the division’s “Bond Drive Goes Over Quota.” The original goal was to sell $50,000 worth of US savings bonds. As of the middle of February they had raised $55,500. That is almost $800,000 in 2019 dollars! The top unit was the 11th Tank Battalion which bought over 10% of that at just over $7,000. Dad’s 80th Armored Medical Battalion was 11th on the list with just over $2,000 purchased. At that time an enlisted man’s pay started at $50/month and went as high as $138/month (between $700 and $1900 in current dollars.)

US Savings bonds were the government’s way of borrowing from civilians with the promise to pay them back. On February 1, 1935 legislation was signed that allowed the Department of the Treasury to issue savings bonds. In April 1941 they became known as Defensive Bonds to finance World War II.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Defensive Bonds were informally known as War Savings Bonds. US Savings Stamps in denominations of 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 and $5 featuring a Minuteman statue design were also sold to be accumulated over time in collection booklets which when filled could be exchanged to purchase interest bearing Series E bonds. All the revenue coming in from the bonds went directly to support the war.  -- Wikipedia
(When i was an elementary school student in the 1950s, Savings Bonds were still popular. There was still the feeling of a patriotic and civil responsibility to bring in your dimes, quarters,  or even dollars to purchase the stamps. They are still available, sold only online and have different restrictions.)

An interesting story on page 2 in March told of two underage soldiers being discharged. The older of the two was just six months shy of his enrollment-eligible age of 18. He couldn’t “see why age has anything to do with the qualifications for being a soldier.” He had faked his mother’s name on his application- and she is the one who turned him in. He hoped to convince her to sign permission now. The younger one was only 15 years old and turned himself in since he was afraid of the consequences of falsifying his age.

Also in March we hear of two members of the Division who had previously fought in the Spanish Civil War- both on the Republican side, also known as the Loyalists, against Franco and his Nationalists.

There’s “gossip” of events in different battalions and companies and lots of news about sports and activities.  There was
    •    Basketball championships,
    •    Ping-pong, volleyball, wrestling,
    •    Boxing, polo, bowling,
    •    Rifle team and plans for the summer.

When you think about the task of keeping 10 - 15,000 troops occupied, especially in off-duty hours, this all makes a lot of sense.

And one little piece of trivia I saw:
The fresh milk for the division comes all the way from St. Paul, Minnesota.”
In a front page column in February, the General reviewed the high standards for the Division, his own take for the troops on the standards set by the Army. These were called “Preparation  for  Oversea  Movement  of  Individual  Replacements"("POR"). As the General wrote:
If you are POR qualified you are fit to fight and rarin’ to go; you are physically hard and tough; you can drive a tank all day and take the bumps; you can run, jump, hit the dirt and you can take advantage of cover to get up on your German or Jap enemy, surprise him with blade or bullet.
But the reality of war was also included in being POR Qualified. The General continued:
…your identification tags are correct and your wear them, your clothing and equipment are properly marked, well cared for and you are proud of them; you are protected from disease by inoculations against small-pox, typhoid and tetanus, taken within the past six months. You have provided your dependents with insurance and allotments; you don’t know where you’re going but you do know what you’re going to do when you get there; you are confident and ready.
D-Day was less than 90 days away, though no one yet knew the timing. The 10th Armored was less that six-months from leaving. For the 10th, a lot was still ahead. For Buddy and family, changes were on the way.

Buddy's War: Interlude

Over the past few months I have posted the first of the series following my dad in World War II. The next two years will be the remembrances of the 75th Anniversary of the big actions and winning of that war in 1944 and 1945. My dad was a medic in the 80th Armored Medical Battalion, an organic part of the famed 10th Armored Division. My goal up to this point was to catch up to the calendar dates to match the 75-year anniversary. I have given some background and some of the family history.

These will continue as I move forward. I also  hope to fill in some of the gaps in the earlier story. Since I have been following some of the entries in my  grandmother's diary, that left one whole year out, 1941- there was no diary. I am hopeful at finding some more information about his training and plans that year before Pearl Harbor. If nothing else I am digging into the training and activities. the Army was involved in.

I will also try to fill in some of the earlier information on the formation and training of the 10th Armored Division. It was officially activated in July of 1942 and my dad arrived with them in August. They had two full years of training until the fall of 1944 when they left for Europe. I will be filling in some of the background and activities during those two years as we move into the early part of this new year.

My main goal, though is to go through these next 22 months of World War II with my dad and his band of brothers.

As has been the case before, here is what was happening 75 years ago this week in 1944 in World War II:
  • January 4: The United States launches operations behind Axis lines, delivering weapons and supplies to anti-Nazi partisans in France, Italy, and the Low Countries.
  • January 7: In preparation for the invasion of France, Allied planes drop airborne operatives into the occupied country to help train their partisans in guerrilla tactics to support regular troops.
  • January 9: Winston Churchill meets with Free French leader Charles de Gaulle to discuss the role the Free French will play in the Allied invasion of France.

#13- New Year's Eve 1943

◆ December 31, 1943
◆ New Year’s Eve
◆ 75 Years Ago Today…
Hitler delivered a New Year's message to the German people admitting… that 1944 "will make heavy demands on all Germans. This vast war will approach a crisis this year. We have every confidence that we will survive." British Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee broadcast a New Year's Eve message of his own to the people of the United Kingdom. Attlee declared that the "hour of reckoning has come" for the Nazis but urged the British people not to be complacent, stating: "We do know that in 1944 the war will blaze up into greater intensity than ever before, and that we must be prepared to face heavier casualties.
I hope next year will bring peace for everybody. Hope we all stay well.
— Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman

#12- Christmas 1943

◆ December 18, 1943
◆ Seventy-five years ago this week
Heinrich Himmler ordered new rules for arrest and deportation of Jews in Germany, revoking most previous exemptions for Jews who had married Gentiles. Most Jewish spouses were ordered deported to the nominally Jewish city of Theresienstadt in January, rather than immediately to concentration camps.
On the homefront, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette reported ongoing war news from both Europe and the Pacific and updated a railroad “strike” possibility from the non-operating union, including word that the government was considering taking over the railroads. Behind the headlines it was a Christmas season.

Beula sent Buddy a box on the 20th and did some sewing on the 21st.

They trimmed the Christmas tree on the 22nd and did some baking and cleaning on the 23rd.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Ruth and Fred and Carl and Mabel came around. She reported it was “awful cold.”

Letters came and went from Buddy still in Georgia.

A war-time Christmas.

#11- In the Greater War

In dealing with my father’s story of involvement in World War II, I don’t want to overlook the fact that during this time there was a lot of war happening. In 1943 the Eastern Front collapsed on the Germans, fighting was fierce in the Pacific, and Italy and Africa were centers of heavy warfare. The Germans continued their “Final Solution” when they were able. While many of the troops destined for Europe in 1944 were still in training, the war was as active as it had been. Here are some of the notable events of 1943: (Link)

◆ January 14, 1943
The Casablanca Conference between the U.S. and Britain begins. Roosevelt and Churchill agree that Germany must surrender unconditionally, and plan the Allied invasion of Sicily.

◆ January 31, 1943
Over 90,000 German troops at Stalingrad surrender to the Soviets. It is a significant turning point in the war against Germany.

◆ February 8, 1943
U.S. troops complete the capture of Guadalcanal from the Japanese .

◆ April 19, 1943
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins after German troops attempt to deport the ghetto's last surviving Jews. About 750 Jews fought back the Germans for almost a month.

◆ May 11, 1943
The Trident Conference between the U.S. and Britain begins. Roosevelt and Churchill decide to delay the Allied invasion of France and in its place plan the Allied invasion of Italy. In Alaska, U.S. troops land on Attu in the Aleutian islands to retake it from the Japanese .

◆ May 12, 1943
Axis forces in North Africa surrender.

◆ May 16, 1943
German troops crush the last resistance of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and kill thousands of Jews. The rest are sent to the Treblinka concentration camp to die.

◆ July 10, 1943
Over 160,000 Allied troops land in Sicily, beginning Operation Husky.

◆ July 25, 1943
Benito Mussolini's fascist government is overthrown in Italy. The new Italian government begins peace talks.

◆ August 15, 1943
U.S. troops retake Kiska island in the Aleutians.

◆ August 17, 1943
Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, is successfully concluded when American troops take Messina.

◆ September 3, 1943
British troops land on mainland Italy, beginning the Allied campaign in Italy. American troops land six days later. The new Italian government formally surrenders.

◆ September 10, 1943
German troops occupy Rome. Mussolini soon declares himself the head of a new fascist Italian government in German-occupied northern Italy.

◆ October 13, 1943
Italy declares war on Germany.

◆ November 20, 1943
U.S. Army troops land on Makin island in the Gilberts. The next day, U.S. Marines land on Tarawa. Within four days, both islands were secured, but at the cost of thousands of casualties.

◆ November 8, 1943
The Teheran Conference between the U.S., Britain, and the USSR begins. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin meet together for the first time.

◆ December 1, 1943
The Teheran Conference between the U.S., Britain, and the USSR is successfully concluded. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agree that the Western Allies would invade France in June 1944 and that when it began the USSR would launch a new offensive from the east.
◆ December 5, 1943
◆ Seventy-five years ago today.
The Allies began Operation Crossbow in an all-out effort to stop Germany's V-1 rocket program. The first launch sites targeted were near Ligescourt, France, where U.S. Army Air Force B-26 bombers made an unsuccessful attempt to put a dent in the program. (Link)
◆ December 24, 1943
Dwight Eisenhower is named supreme commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces.


#10- Building an Army

◆ November 28, 1943
◆ Seventy-five years ago today:
The Tehran Conference was held. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Iran to discuss war strategy.

In the early 1940s the United States faced a seemingly daunting task. Build a world-class military from next to nothing. Beginning with the first “peace time draft” at the end of 1940 and then expanding almost exponentially after Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US Armed Forces underwent a transformation perhaps unprecedented in history. From top to bottom the military needed to become an unbeatable force. The reason was simple and now, almost 80 years later, almost overlooked. By Pearl Harbor, the United States was all that stood between world peace and the demolition of everything Western Civilization stood for! One of those who answered the call in 1941 was a surgeon names Brendan Phibbs. Over 45 years later he wrote a memoir of the time, The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II. I came across it in my research this past summer and was blown away by its power. It was another piece of information about what my Dad was facing. In the early chapters of the book he reflects on the world at the beginning of World War II.
It’s hard today to remember the glow that bathed our armed forces as the country hitched up its weapons for the Second World War. It was a springtime, a virginal encounter when a generation distracted and sometimes desperate could turn happy and relieved to the ancient simple virtues…. Because sometime during the twenties and thirties the United States Army had disappeared. While the rest of the world rumbled and flamed through a tortured decade, [Old pictures of the US Army] certainly didn’t seem any match for the well-drilled hordes that thumped and banged their way across the newsreel screens, flaunting the terrors of Germany, Russia, Italy, and Japan…. Out of the radiant past came the army we have forgotten.
Help was needed. The pictures from Europe and the Pacific were horrendous. How could the United States compete with that kind of military power that was at once brutal, overwhelming, and in control of a great deal of the world?
Maybe we should never use total black or clear white to symbolize the capering of the human animal, but in 1942 we … knew we were marching out against the closest approximation of total darkness the planet had ever known.

We were a reenactment of American history, from Louisburg to Chateau-Thierry, a levee en masse around a skeleton of barely competent professional soldiers, when somehow, always, the carpenters and salesmen and tavern keepers and foundry workers got themselves sorted into ranks, most of them to become adequate and some of them to become heroes…. It was going to be our army, we were prepared to love it, and I suppose we would have felt even more strongly if we had known what we really were: the last American crusade, an army marching out with the cheers and blessings of a whole people, to save our country and the world from black, unrelieved villainy.

We were marching out to become the last people’s army in the history of the United States of America.
— Brendan Phibbs, The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II. 1987.

As we move into 2019 (and 1944) I will expand on some of the ways the United States accomplished this miraculous task. To the point of this series I also did some digging into the needs for medical personnel as well as training the medics in combat. On Quora I found some of the history of the process:
The Army, on the other hand, primarily managed their combat medic training pipeline by earmarking medic candidates from the very first day they joined the Army. Medics went through a combined basic training, infantry class, and medics school, taught continuously for the student. Prior to the war, Army Medic training (combined with basic training) was 13 weeks. In the 4th quarter of 1941, the Army truncated the school to 11 weeks. Since 1942 saw the enlistment of millions & millions of men, Army Basic/Medic school was cut to just eight weeks for ten months. November and December 1942 saw the program extended back to 11 weeks; May to August 1943 increased the class to 12 weeks. From August 1943 to war's end, combined basic training/medic school stabilized at 17 weeks. Whatever curriculum was cut short, was picked-up by field training detachments after the apprentice medic arrived at his first duty station. (-Link)
From a U.S. Army history of the growth of the medical corps in World War II came this information:
Despite the country’s desire to avoid involvement in another European war, the US Army had been gradually expanding in the years before Pearl Harbor, from 191,450 troops when Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939 to about 1.5 million when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. The National Guard had been mobilized in 1940, the same year Congress approved a peacetime draft. Guard units faced several obstacles, however. Industry was not producing enough military equipment, and troops had to train with limited quantities of outdated items. Medical training itself was a bottleneck; for instance, not enough brick-and-mortar hospitals existed to provide full training for all newly enlisted men, and courses had to be shortened to ensure at least some hands-on training for all enlistees. (-Link)
In short, there was a lot going on in those years- and by the end of 1943 U.S. Military personnel were fighting and dying in many areas.

They had only just begun.