Tribute to Chad R. Patton
Branch of Service: US Army
Unit: Battery A, 872nd Field Artillery Battalion, 66th Infantry Division
The fall that I was drafted, I had signed a contract to teach 7th & 8th grade in the Galva School District for the 1942 - 43 school year. I had been teaching at Sharp's Creek School in Eastern Chase County for $65 dollars a month and decided to accept a teaching position at Galva because they offered me double, $130 dollars a month. After visiting with the draft board in Cottonwood, Kansas I was assured that I would not be drafted during the school year. I felt it would be unfair to the students to have to adjust to another teacher if I was called for duty. My interview with the Galva superintendent was a very short one. The Galva superintendent said that the last teacher before me only lasted a week, and he was concerned that I would have the same problem. After I told him that if he had to come down to straighten out my room, I would resign and he would owe me no money, I was hired.
Unfortunately, the draft board reneged on their promise, and on September 30, 1942, the day I turned 20, I received my draft notice. When the superintendent confronted me about the draft notice, he said, "I thought the draft board said they would not call you up during the school year." I had to take him with me to the draft board in Cottonwood to prove to him that I had told the truth. The board admitted that they had drafted me after saying otherwise because they found out that I was teaching out of the county. It was hard to get them to admit this, but finally a guy named McClellan confessed to my superintendent that they had told me that I wouldn't be drafted until the end of the school year. The chairmen was not going to say anything.
On December 3, 1942, I boarded a bus to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for induction. After 2 days, I returned home to the farm on Brush Creek. Then a week later, I had to report to Fort Leavenworth again to take a physical and prepare for boot camp. We stayed in big, long, tar paper shacks that slept 40 and was heated with a coal stove. If you slept next to the stove, you were really hot and if you slept on the other end, you were really cold.
Before Christmas of 1942, I headed for a five month stay at Camp Chaffey near Fort Smith, Arkansas, for basic training with the 14th Armored Division. There I was trained in Artillery Direction. At that time the artillery guns were hard to shoot accurately, so training was needed in order to be a good shot with a gun that size. I was also trained and scored very well in firing rifles, machine guns, and sub machine guns. After basic training, I put in for Officers Candidate School and was accepted.
However, we were also told that if we passed a different test, the ASTP test for the Army Specialized Training Program, we could go to college, but we would receive a reduction in rank to private. I promise myself when I went into the army, that any time they said "school", I was going. I had previously completed only one year of college at Emporia before starting to teach.
I was sent to Louisiana State University for one week in April, 1943, where I thought I was going into the ASTP program there, but they changed their minds and sent me on to Baylor University in Waco, Texas, for their Army Specialized Training Program. This was supposed to be an 18 month Engineering Program with a commission as a Second Lieutenant. I took 6 courses: math, chemistry, physics, American history, and military correspondence. The army closed the ASTP program in 9 months, (Jan. 1944) and I was still a Private, but I had 28 hours of college education.
When I came home during the Christmas of 1943 for a week, I gave Doris a diamond. Uncle Junior (Johnson) came to Wichita to pick up Doris. It was a matter of fact that we knew we were going to get married at some point. I bought the diamond in Waco. When the jewelers saw soldiers coming, they just hiked the price up on those diamonds. We thought we'd wait to get married until after the war. Of course, we had no idea how long the war would last.
In January of 1944, I went to the 66th Infantry Division in a Casual Detachment in Little Rock, Arkansas, at Camp Robinson. They needed a machine gun instructor and I was very happy to accept the position. In my last position I was in the recon section of a artillery gun crew; the person who scouts enemy territory and calls back with the new fire direction coordinates.
Doris came once to visit me in Little Rock in the spring. She had to spend the night with me which was a total embarrassment on her part. Not mine. She got there too late to go get a motel, and because of the curfew we would have been arrested if we were out on the streets after 22.00 hours.
In May, our whole division was transferred to Camp Rucker near Ozark, Alabama. We were engaged in advance training. Doris came to visit me by train in June, and she got the mumps on the way down. I had never had the mumps before, but she didn't give them to me. We decided that if we could get together again, we would go ahead and get married. Doris came down to Alabama again in September, and I got a three day pass, plus a weekend pass to get married. She took the train to Camp Rucker. When she arrived, the captain decided to give me an 8 day furlough. The chaplain married us on September 1st. Our ceremony was right before a Jewish service was to begin, and people were coming and going throughout the ceremony. Doris had bought a new blue dress for the occasion. We had a two day trip home on the train and had a good visit with both families before I had to head back to Camp Rucker.
In November, 1944, I was sent to Camp Shanks in New York for a couple of weeks, where many troops were preparing to board ships to head for England. The vessel I rode on was an English troop ship called the Britannic. We arrived in South Hampton, England in December and were put into camps. We thought we were to have several weeks of rest, training, and preparation before we were shipped elsewhere. Three days later, orders came for my division and others to cross the English Channel to provide reinforcements for the Battle of the Bulge. There were 2200 of us. We were not ready. Although I had taken time to get my gun cleaned and ready for action, other had not. We did not have any ammunition or supplies. Yet, the decision was made to load us onto ships at South Hampton and cross the English Channel for Cherbourg, France, on Christmas Eve, 1944. We were loaded up on a LST (Landing Ship Tank) with our machine gun which was mounded on a truck. I heaved up once going across the channel.
On Christmas Day 1944, we were immediately sent to attack one area of the Bulge. They put us in trucks and drove like maniacs. We drove all night. It had been raining and the trucks got stuck in the mud. After getting out of that mess, we drove some more to prepare for the attack, but someone finally realized that our division was in bad shape, so we were told to turn around and drive to an airfield in Rennes, France. Thankfully, there we had time to reorganized and restock our ammunition and supplies. It was there we reorganized as part of Patton's 3rd Army.
From early January until right before VE Day (155 days), my division fought to take the German submarines pens in the bays at Lorient and St. Nazaire, France. The two areas were about 65 miles apart. The pens at the two locations were made of 4 feet thick concrete bunkers with cannons that were built to protect German submarines, both from land and from sea.
When we overcame the enemy at Lorient on May 10, 1945, over 50,000 Germans were conquered in the St. Nazaire and Lorient pockets of France. We captured 8,000 Russians who were fighting for the Germans. The Russians who had been captured by the Germans said they were given a choice to go to work in the mines of Germany or fight against us. The story was told that if you worked in the mines, you probably never came out. Most chose to fight with the Germans.
When the war was over in Europe, the American Troops became Army of Occupation. My assignment was on the back of a weapons carrier with my machine gun as we drove into 12 to 13 German towns a day to make sure the Germans were gone and unarmed. All Germans were supposed to turn in any gun they might own to the city's mayor. I made several hits on places still occupied by German troops. We stayed in Kern, Colbenz, and Heidelberg while doing this patrol. This lasted about a month.
Then we went to Port Les Baux on the southern coast of France. The German prisoners that were captured helped us load ammunition and supplies on ships to send to the Pacific. After guarding prisoners at Port Les Baux, our division moved to Marseilles, France, to prepare for training to go to the Pacific. They kept delaying us and delaying us. They knew that the atomic bomb was going to be dropped, but they didn't fill us in on why we were being delayed.
When the war was over in the Pacific in August, they broke up our division, and I was sent to Paris at the United States Forces Headquarters. In Paris, my job was to work with the first IBM computers. Then I went to the United States Forces Headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, in November 1945, where I also worked with IBM computers. There I was promoted to Sergeant. I stayed in Frankfort until I was shipped home.
From Frankfort, I took a train to Belgium to an American military base called Camp Top Hat and we were staged to go home. We boarded the ship to head home in March 1946. I was company clerk on the ship during our two week voyage home. We arrived in New York and then went by train to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey where we were processed. After two days, I said goodbye to my army buddies and took a train for Fort Leavenworth where I was discharged. I got my teeth checked there, but they said it would be several days before they could take care of them. I decided not to wait, and I said goodbye to the Army. They gave me $100 dollars and I headed to Wichita, Kansas to see my bride. I got in to Wichita in the afternoon, took a bus to her house, and then we went out to eat. It was a understatement when I say, "It was good to be home."
Submitted by the Chad R. Patton Family