Heroes on the front
LEWISTOWN – Those who fought on the front lines of World War II saw the unimaginable firsthand. Three local men were infantryman in the Army at that time.
Harry Bubb, of Lewistown, was drafted on Nov. 4, 1942, and did his basic training at Camp Wheeler near Macon, Georgia. After training, he was sent to New Jersey. He was shipped out to North Africa where he landed on March 5, 1943, as a member of Company C, 9th Division, 60th Infantry.
“We went up all along the coast of North Africa. We went to Algiers, Morocco and Tunisia,” he said.
Bubb first saw battle in North Africa and admits it took him awhile to adjust to a combat environment.
“At first when the shells started coming over it took us awhile to get used to it,” he said.
Once the campaign in North Africa was over, Bubb was shipped over to Sicily, and it was there he came across an item that reminded him of home.
“I found a (Lewistown) Sentinel in the latrine and asked around to see who was getting it sent to them. I found out it was Melvin Learer, also from Company C. He was killed in the war and I often go visit his grave at Mount Rock Cemetery because my wife is also buried there. I stop and say a few words,” he said.
After Sicily, Bubb was sent to England where his unit prepared for the D-Day invasion. He landed in France four days after D-Day.
“After four days we were only a mile into the beachhead. We landed at Omaha Beach. After we got off the boats we were in water up to our necks and had to hold our guns above our head. While we were going the Germans were shooting at us,” he said.
Bubb was wounded twice during the war, once from a “potato masher” – a German hand grenade – and from an artillery shell fragment that went into his side.
Raymond Long, of Port Royal, was one of the soldiers tasked with replacing wounded soldiers like Bubb. He was drafted in 1943, and was trained at an Infantry Replacement Training Center in Florida. He said he will never forget what a sergeant told him his first day there.
“The sergeant, he told us, ‘You will be trained here for 16 weeks. Then you will be sent to Europe to replace the soldier that was killed, wounded or captured,’ I never forgot that. That sunk into me,” he said.
Long was shipped over to England in early 1944. He said saying goodbye to his family was tough.
“It was a little tough when it came time to leave. I knew in three weeks I would be in the front lines. So I told (my parents), ‘In three weeks I am going to be on the front line but you got no worry. I’ll be back.’ I guaranteed them I would be back … but that’s hard on parents. It’s hard on wives. It’s hard on families,” he said.
Since Long was an Army replacement, he wasn’t assigned to an outfit right away. He was eventually assigned to the 63rd Infantry in the 7th Army. Long spent his first day on the front lines in a trench.
“Now things started to hit me a little. I saw a bloody bandage. I hopped down (in the trench) with this guy and it must have rained a little because he had built a little dam to keep the bloody water awayI spent the rest of the day with that guy and (the Germans) kept shelling in there all the time,” he said.
Long described another mission he had – collecting the bodies of his fellow soldiers.
“My sergeant told me to go along with him that night. So he said, ‘Well, there is a dead solider laying on down here by the river’ and he said it was right in front of the Germans. He said, ‘We have to get him tonight.’ I went along with him and he found the solider and the guy was laying on his back with one leg up over his chest and another along side him. It was a pretty nasty thing to look at. We picked him up right in front of those Germans. They didn’t see us,” he said.
Long was in Rothenburg, Germany, when the war ended, and remembers the moment he found out the Germans had surrendered.
“On the eighth of May we were in this big gray building with a stage on it. I was standing halfway through the chow line and someone had a radio set up and this soldier came out on the stage and he threw his mess kit up towards the ceiling and jumped up high and said, ‘Boys, she’s over!’ A lot of guys got out of hand a little bit,” he said.
Dale Pecht, of Siglerville, was drafted in 1944 and, along with Long, was trained at the Infantry Replacement Training Center.
“After training I came home for 10 days and then we went overseas as replacements and I got in with the 95th Division. At the time they must have been in France because we were in the Battle of Metz,” he said.
Pecht, along with members of his division, were sent a personal letter by Gen. George S. Patton recognizing their heroic effort during the Battle of Metz. Despite that, Pecht remains modest.
“I wasn’t the only one who got one of those letters,” he said.
The 95th Division was under Patton’s Third Army and remained in contact with the enemy for 103 days straight and, when not fighting, still came into close contact with the enemy.
“Me and another guy were on guard one night. We both smoked. The Germans, we could hear them. They were down across the hill and we had a big blanket … when we wanted to smoke we pulled the blanket over us so they couldn’t see the cigarette smoke, ” he said.
Despite being in close contact with the enemy, Pecht said he found no time to be scared.
“What’s the use of being scared? But, I’ve seen stuff I wouldn’t tell you,” he said.
The 95th Division fought in the Battle of Metz, the Battle of Hamm and the Battle of Dortmund. During the Battle of Metz the division received the nickname “The Iron Men of Metz.”
“We captured a German colonel and he said, ‘You are just like iron men, you can’t be stopped,'” he said.
After the war, Pecht, along with some of his division were picked by Douglas macarthur to prepare for war in the Pacific, but while he was training in Mississippi the war with Japan ended.