Beyond the Story



Lloyd John Keleny in England, 1945

Lloyd John Keleny in England, 1945

The Third Armored Division

The Third Armored Division was the Division that my father, Lloyd John Keleny, was in. This is not to be confused with the Third Army, which was Patton’s army. The Third Armored, with the nickname of the Spearhead Division, was under the First Army, VII Corps to start out, when they landed on the Normandy shore on June 29th, 1944, 23 days after the initial Normandy invasion. The First Army had 11 infantry and 3 armored divisions under it (the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th).

The Americans had many advantages over the Germans; they had field phones so the infantry could talk to the tanks; the 1st Army had its own air force―the 9th Tactical Air Command (TAC) with 400 combat aircraft; much of the German artillery was pulled by horses, ours was pulled by trucks; ammunition was in short supply on both sides, but the Allies had more than the Germans; the US had photo reconnaissance and could read German radio traffic after they broke the Enigma code, plus the French resistance gave us timely German troop information.

Interesting note: there were a few black artillery battalions in the Cobra battle.

Despite all this, there were 36,700 casualties in the hedgerow (or bocage) fighting of Operation Goodwin (started July 19th, 1944 to break out of Normandy) and Operation Cobra (started July 24th).

My father was drafted on November 11th, 1942. He did his basic training at Fort Sheridan, Ill starting on December 11th. He went to Fort Bragg, NC then on December 25th to Alliance Nebraska into company 326th of the Glider Infantry, but his motion sickness got the better of him and he couldn’t complete the training because of it. He then went to the “state university at Vermillion, SD” in April 1943 for cadet school (ASTP- Army Specialized Training Program), but I can’t find out why he never finished that training. As mentioned above, he was sent overseas with the 3rd Armored Division in the infantry and landed at Normandy on June 29th, 1944. When my father left the army he was a staff sergeant in charge of a squad of men in a halftrack who went ahead of the army to find out where the Germans were located.

The Third Armored was, as it sounds, an armored company, made up of many tanks (usually Shermans) and half tracks. My Father was wounded twice, first on September 22nd, 1944 on his hand and on his back. He went back to duty on November 7th. His second wound was in his knee and took a bit more rehab. His was wounded on February 15th, 1945 and returned to duty May 2nd, 1945. This was when he was at Cheltenham,   England for recovery (so that’s where I put Malcolm to recover from his wounds).

A cousin of mine, Molly Meuer, had written my day in 1996 to ask him about his time in the war. I will put down the reply to her questions (I have left his grammar and punctuation as he had it in his letter).

3/18/96

“Greeting – Molly Meuer

… As I started to answer your questions I realized that it has been 53 years since the end of world war II. Some of my memories seem to be as vivid as the instant they occurred and some are starting to fad from memory.

I thank you for the opportunity to pass this information on!

I know that you will get a good grade – Your typing is real neat!

Thanks again

Your Great Uncle Lloyd J Keleny

[ I don’t have Molly’s questions, but here are the answers]

 

#1 – On Dec. 7, 1941 I was with my father and Mother, in a car, and heard that the Japanese had Bombed Pearl Harbor.

#2 – I was drafted and the number they gave me was 36286901 – this number was put on what we called a dog tag – they were hung around our neck – for identifying the Dead! The tag also gave our type of blood and religious affiliation.

#3 – No – I was not a bit scared to join the Army. Though I may have been apprehensive not knowing what lay ahead.

#4 I think that the turning point in the war was the Naval Battle of Midway.

#5 – The Worst Battle, in my mind, probably was the one I was in that occurred during our attempted Spearhead into the German position. Somewhere past the French town of St. Lo France. It occurred at night. I was in the 3rd Armored Infantry and at night, when the circumstance was right, I would crawl under one of our tanks to sleep. Well, to shorten this a bit, let me just say that they shot 3 tanks from above me and each tank caught fire when hit with an armor piercing shell, probably a German 88 antitank gun did the damage. That is why our Sherman tanks got the nickname of Ronson, after the Ronson lighter, because they lite up so quickly.

The worst Battle I believe was the “D” Day landing on June 6th, 1944 – onto French soil – I was not in this landing –

#6 – I was in the service for a total of 3 years. My experiences over seas would be way to numerous to relate here. The answer to Question #5 is just one of many experiences.

#7 – No I did not have a lady back home – if you mean a girl friend.

I wrote letters to my Mom and Dad.

No I don’t have any of those I sent home.

#8 – The Tow Big Battles that I was in are – the closing of the Falaise Gap in France and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.

#9 – They were shear hell at times, but not all of the time.

#10 – Yes I was wounded. The first time I received small pieces of shrapnel into my left hand and a larger piece hit my back.

The second time I got wounded I received a piece of shrapnel into and just above my left knee joint.

Both were caused by the exploding of a mortar shell – one a ground burst, the other a tree burst.

#11 – When my squad was not fighting we set up a camouflage net above out half-track and lived under the net. We had blankets but no sleeping bags.

#12 – I got a chance to visit Paris just before out unit was shipping home. I took a bus tour and some of the historical sites that I saw are – the Effel towere – It was still closed. Statue of Joan of Ark, Nortre Dame, Le Saare – Coeur, The Bastille, Arc de Triomphe, napoleons tomb (Rose Marble)

#13 – I observed the people and culture of England, France, Belgium, Lurenberg, and Germany. Everything I saw was educational in itself.

#14 – During actual battle one’s emotions run from fear to elation – a controlled fear and a controlled elation – that one is still alive.

During free time one would be in a rest area and able to take showers eat regular meals and enjoyed the relative safety of the area.

#15 – I ended up as a staff Sergeant with 9 – soldiers assigned to my squad. One drove the half-track

I like the comradere. I dislike going into combat for I knew that I’d lose two or three of my comrades, either killed or wounded.

#16 – I was most happy when President Truman ordered the dropping of the Atomic Bomb. Out third Armored Division was slated to be in on the invasion of Japan and many more thousand of Americans and Japanese would have died.

#17 – I was never homesick – though I often thought of home.

#18 – Received two purple hearts

#19 – I guess one can say that not running to the rear, during combat, was heroic in itself.

#20 All the Battles that I was in were significant to me.

With Regards

Your Great Uncle

Lloyd J Keleny

 

*********************

 

 

My Uncle Bryan Linden remembers (my father’s nephew from his oldest sister, Evelyn Linden [and Ed]):

Opening the box at 328 W. Johnson (where my dad lived):

Your dad sent a box, long and narrow box about 12 in wide to Lloyd from Lloyd. Grandpa was fussy about opening the box. Sent from overseas. It had a Mauser (spelling?) rifle, binoculars in leather case, helmets: German, French, and Belgium, a German luger (gun) and a German flag. He was rooting around in a German tank and round the luger and the binoculars.

 

Cartoons:

He sent many cartoons back and the women were looking around trying to find the message in the cartoons.

Recording by Evelyn Knight titled “Grandfather’s Clock”:

When Dad come home, he bought a 78 (record) called “Grandfather’s Clock” by EK. All the way home on the ship that is all they played.

The Occupation:

He was in the occupation in Krichberg (spelling?). [We have a picture of my Dad standing by a Lion there]. It is behind a hospital or sanatorium. He carved his name in the Lion. In an archway into the square of the town there was a door that they all carved their names into. Maybe around Reginsburg (spelling?).

The Army kicked out the people’s homes and Dad would fish with his 45 Tommy Thompson gun. The river was alongside the town. He would shoot into the water and pick up the fish.

He shot deer. Some meat had got bad with maggots on it and an old German lady took it and cleaned it up. After that he felt obligated in helping them with their subsistence. They were Roe deer

Kicked down door:

His normal MO. He would stand back, throw a grenade into a room then enter. They were trapped in a ger. Town. That time there was steps down to a door. He was going to throw a grenade into a low window. He kicked the door down, an old man, woman and civilian family huddled in a corner

In that same town, Dad was a lean-to, he was standing with buddies around somewhere. Out from behind a haystack was a German with a large gun and pointed it at Lloyd. He told the German to drop the gun and he did.

They would always get trapped waiting for the army to catch up to them.

Take Prisoners back:

One time, Dad had some prisoners – 5-7 – He said, here take these guys back (make them prisoners). A short time passed and the other soldier was back. The other soldier took them to the river and shot them. Lloyd never said a word

-Picture in Stars and Stripes:

Dad said he saw a picture in s & S. A German soldier draped over a tiger tank. He had seen it – the clothes were burned off him, there was excrement everywhere, but the paper showed him fully clothed

-Shrapnel in back:

He didn’t know he was hit. He was walking along and a buddy said he had blood and he had to get it taken care of. Might be the same time he got it in his finger. Knee wound was a different time.

Sleeping in a chair:

When he was home, your Dad was sitting in AC’s chair (AC is his father ―Arthur Connelly). The family was having cake and ice cream and Brian was bringing it to Dad. Brian nudged him and he threw his arms up and broke the dish with ice cream. He admonished Brian for waking him up, and made him cry. (Bryan was a child at the time.)

*****************

If you’re interested in knowing the different Military units, they are as follows:

Squad  – 11 men lead by a sergeant or corporal

Platoon – consisted of 2 or more squads, commander is a Lt.

Company – Unit consisting of 2 platoons, lead by a captain

Battalion – made up of 2 companies, commanded by a Lt Colonel, maybe part of a regiment

 

The different ranks in order are:

Private

Private first class

Corporal

Sergeant (and there are many derivations of Sergeant (staff, 1st class, master, 1st, s. major, command s. Major)

2nd Lieutenant (Lt)  – wore one gold bar

1st Lt – one silver bar

Captain – two silver bars

Major – gold oak leaf

Lt Colonel – silver oak leaf

Major General – silver spread eagle

Brigadier General – 1 star

Major General – 2 stars

Lt General – 3 stars

General – 4 stars

5 star General

 

The AVG and the Nurses:

Writing a story that encompasses World War II is a large undertaking. It was a bit daunting for me if I thought about it too long. So most of the time I tried not to think about it. I just did my research and decided as I went what I’d include and what I wouldn’t. Of course, writing the story around my primary character helped me narrow things somewhat―I couldn’t stray too far from Rose’s world. But to pull in the pacific side of things I put Rose’s brother in as a Flying Tiger, working in the AVG―the American Volunteer Group.

As I mention in my “Afterword” section of my book, I have an Aunt Kay who was married to a Flying Tiger, Fritz Wolf, so that seemed like a natural way for me to show a small part of the PTO―Pacific Theater of Operations, vs the ETO―the European Theater of Operations, or the CBI―the China, Burma, Indian (theater). I was able to get a few things from Kay: a few stories like what I mention about them having to pay their own way home if they left the AVG after it was disbanded, and a few pictures of Fritz and the P40 plane he flew (the one with the tiger mouth).

A small aside about that tiger mouth. It was actually first done on planes in North Africa, I think it was on planes owned by the English. Someone in the AVG saw a picture of these planes and stole the idea for their planes. The Chinese were actually the ones that named the group “The Flying Tigers.” Disney even came up with a flying tiger logo.

The group wasn’t in service for very long, and they weren’t part of the Air Crops (the service didn’t change their name to Air Force until sometime after the AVG was disbanded on July 4th 1942). What I right in my book is all true – they were hired to work for the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company – but their real mission was to help support the Chinese army and keep the Burma road open across “the hump,” the Himalayan mountains―a main supply route for the Chinese government.

The men of the AVG worked under a man named Claire Chennault and I’m sure a book can be written about him alone (and probably has). He appears to be quite a character. What other retired captain in the US Air Corps would take on a mission from Chiang Kai-shek (Generalissimo) when the Chinese were at war with Japan. The pamphlet my Aunt gave me, “Flying Tigers, American Volunteer Group – Chinese Air Force, A brief history with recollections and comments by General Claire Lee Chennault,” says that his official job was adviser to the Central Bank of China, and his passport listed his occupation as a farmer!

If you want more detail about the AVG, the CATF (Chinese Air Task Force), and the Army Air Force in China at the time, the book I found very interesting and helpful was “Days of the Ching Pao” by Malcolm Rosholt. The back of the book has a picture of the Chinese flag and some Chinese writing on it. It is what was sewn on the back of the flight jackets of all the crew so that if they were shot down or had to jump from their planes, everyone know who their were. It stated ‘The person who wears this is a member of the air force, an American, that he has come to China to fight and if he needs help, to give it to him.’ It also had the name and seal of Chiang Kai-shek on it and the name of the pilot with his registration number.

Another aside: Chiang Kai-shek was married to a woman (formerly Soong May-ling) who graduated from Wesleyan College in Macomb, Georgia and interpreted for her husband.

Another interesting tid-bit about our time over there, the Chinese built the air strips by hand. They crushed the rocks by hand, carried the broken stones in baskets (one on each side suspended by a stick they held across their shoulders) and pulled large concrete rollers taller than any of the men who pulled it, to compress the air fields.  They also emptied the US latrines and used the waste for their fields. Waste not, want not!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A lot of things impressed me about this time in history. First, I think is the number of lives that were lost on both sides by both the military and civilians alike. Coming in right along with these vast numbers of lives were the way the civilians were specifically targeted by both sides. I don’t know my history of WWI enough to know if that went on as much as in “The Good War,” but I don’t ever remember reading about that. Of course the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan threw those statistics out of the water when they were unleashed.

An interesting point about those bombs. Most accounts of soldiers of the time were glad the US dropped those bombs. They knew it saved them and the lives of the men they were fighting with. But I’ve also read more than once and even from the Japanese side of things that it almost took that much show of force to get the Japanese to surrender, that their conviction to fight was so fierce that they would all have fought to the death. We will never know.

Europe was a mess when the war was over, as were many other countries, and it’s a testament to the people in those countries how they have rebuild their homes and their communities to what they are today.

Of course, I can’t say enough about the unsung heroes of WWII, the women of the ANC and actually all the women who served overseas in both the Pacific and European theaters as well as the many women who worked for the military at home. (There were also many women who worked for the Red Cross that gave their lives to the service of our country.) The women of the armed services didn’t get the same benefits as “real” military personnel when they were wounded or killed, because they technically weren’t really in the service until 1947. These women didn’t even warrant a salute by their lower ranking male counterparts. These women had what was called “relative rank.” This was a temporary rank that allowed them to wear the appropriate military insignia but did not give them the same military privileges as the men. Of course, they also did not receive the same pay (maybe half what a man made at the same level). A second lieutenant, which is what all nurses started out as, would earn approx. $88/month ($70 base pay and $18 subsistence allowance). A male second Lt would earn $140 base pay and $37 subsistence allowance. And because of this, when they came home, they were not allowed into the veterans organizations such as the VFW or the American Legion.

There were more than 350,000 women who volunteered to serve in the armed forces in WWII, 59,000 of those were nurses of the ANC. Sixteen were killed because of enemy action, 70+ were held as POW’s of the Japanese, and more than 200 died while in military service, 17 as flight nurses and some while flying planes in the states for the Air Force as WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots). There were also the WACs (who started out as WAACs―Women’s Army Auxilary Corps) or Women’s Army Corps; the WAVES―Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, for the Navy; MRs―Marine Corps Women’s Reserve or Marine Reservists; the SPARs―Semper Paratus Always Ready, for the Coast Guard.

Besides the Pacific and European theaters, nurses also served in, Burma, India, China, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, England, Australia, Iceland, Russia, Greenland, Liberia, and the Belgian Congo in Africa. The Air Force unit in China that my character, Michael, was in had 4-6 (I can’t remember the exact number) of nurses.

The picture on the front of my book is of three women of the 95th on leave in New York City before they were shipped out overseas. The woman on the left is Blanch Sigman. Blanche was the first chief nurse of the 95th and thus held the rank of first lieutenant. Marcy said Blanch was always afraid of dying and strangely enough, she was one of the women who did die when the 95th was bombed at Anzio, Italy.

 

Blacks in WWII

From the movie “Miracle at St. Anna” that Spike Lee produced about a black regiment in Europe a few years ago, there is not a lot out there to the general public about the role blacks played in the war. For that matter not much is written about the Asians groups either, such as the group that Daniel Inouye (the distinguish Senator from Hawaii) was a part of―the 442nd Regiment Combat Team, and all Japanese unit, who fought bravely in Italy and would come to be the most decorated single combat unit of its size, with 8 Presidential distinguished unit citations and over 18,000 individual decorations. As I’m sure most of you know, the service wasn’t integrated in WWII.

That was the same for the nurses in the service. The Army Nurse Corps didn’t start accepting black nurses until 1941, even though they had served in WWI and then they only let a limited number in. By the end of the war, only a little over 500 African American women had been allowed to serve. Some served in the states, others went to the Pacific, Africa, or England and they treated mostly black soldiers.

Interesting bit of news here: The blood supply was segregated as well. Blood taken from African Americans was labeled “A” and could only be given to black soldiers. And black soldiers were not allowed to use blood donated from whites.

In my story I mention that Lilly Mae’s boyfriend, Joseph, is in the Army. He is in a unit that is working on building a road from the states to Alaska. The US government was afraid if Japan launched a full-fledged attach on Alaska, we would be a poor position to supply a counter force with no land access. Japan did attack the Aleutian Islands. Six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island and occupied the Aleutian islands of Attu and Kiska. These islands were retaken in May and August of 1943. I fudged this a bit related to timing. The Army started work on this road in March of 1942 and it was completed in October of that same year, though it was not useable for regular vehicles until 1943. From what I can tell, after the road was complete the Army turned it over to civilian contractors to make it useable for regular vehicle traffic. I don’t know what unit Joseph would have been in (there were three black regiments that were in on the construction, one being the 95th). More of that information will come in book III!

There were not many black units in the service that actually saw combat. Most were kept state side or worked on the support end of a unit, as stewards on ships or submarines, working in the kitchen and in the ammunitions areas.

There was a black tank battalion, the 761st, who fought under Patton. Some of the Tuskegee Airman did go overseas on the Mariposa with the 95th Evacuation Hospital staff and they were segregated from them as I mention in my story. They were given this name because their training took place in Tuskegee, Alabama. On January 16th, 1941 the Air Corps was first opened to blacks. The first class started in June, 1941. Of the 13 men in that first class, only 5 graduated. There were more to follow.

Because they were black, they were not allowed to enter into the war until June of 1943, so these men had many more hours in the air at home than their white counterparts. These men also fought long after their white counterparts were rotated home. Most white pilots went home after 50 missions. There were not enough blacks pilots trained for this to happen for the Tuskegee Airman. For example, Walter Palmer was not sent home until he had flown 158 missions.

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