8 min read

Charlie Company

Charlie Company
Charlie Wilson , my dad on the left & company

Pull up a chair my friends and I will tell you a story of the men in Charlie Company. My name is Charlie (of course, you're my Dad), and these engineers and I began our career at Camp White. We had our basic there and a tough one it was. Table rock mountain, fields of gumbo mud, it rained all the time my dad said, and an agate desert. That agate desert was so hard that you had to drill holes in the ground to plant anything. Marching 4 miles in 45 minutes became our stark reality, but the men from Alabama who had been up in Alaska did a fine job in getting us in shape.

We finished our basics with a week's problem in the field in freezing rain and cold. We learned early the Army did not know what cold-weather gear was. Looking back on it now, it all seems like it wasn't such a bad time after all, compared to what we went through in Europe.

Soon afterward, we moved across half of the U. S. aboard a troop train headed for Camp Howze. During that trip, we guarded the Battalions Vehicles. Spending most of the trip on flatcars. We arrived and found more rain!

It wasn't so tough for us at Camp Howze, we have been in the army for a while and could take it. Our housing was made of 2x4 walls with a form of tar paper on the walls with wire mesh to keep the wind from blowing it away. We had one stove for the building. And if we let the fire go out we were in for a long cold night while we waited for it to heat the barrack. Besides that, there wasn't quite as much fieldwork there. Of course, there were those enjoyable passes to Dallas and Fort Worth, weekends, too.

From the Great State of Texas, according to our Texas boys, to West Virginia was our next move and we found Bear Heaven, the camp of the four o'clock rain, more enjoyable than we had anticipated. We used the camp as a base while we traipsed all over the West Virginia hills, maneuvering with the 95th Division and performing all sorts of engineer jobs. After operating the rock crusher and feeding it by hand for a while, a two or three-day road job was a welcome relief. For a while, we thought we were going to spend the rest of our army career filling foxholes. Things weren't bad, though, all factors considered. The Gandi Club operated full time, guided by President Wayne Hurt.

Our convoy from West Virginia to Camp Pickett was delayed by a nifty party in Lynchburg. It was a royal introduction to the Southern hospitality we were to enjoy for the next few months. No one needs to be reminded of the weekend pass to Washington, Richmond, and Roanoke, if for no other reason than for the Baker Bus line. The second platoon's never-to-be-forgotten furloughs home were some other happy memories we have of Virginia.

Filling our POM requirements and attending specialist schools were interspersed with a week at Staunton river park and one at AP Hill. The latter was one of the wettest weeks we've ever spent. When that shipping order came, we were ready to leave as the orientation and training films were becoming tiresome.

Our trip to the staging area at Fort Slocum was rather subdued. I suppose everyone was thinking of the future. The processing was over in a few days and we spent the rest of the week doing New York when New York wasn't doing us. The food in that huge mess hall at Slocum was just about the best army chow we'd ever eaten and those WACs were certainly sweet dining companions. On October 20th, 1944 we sailed down the Sound to the Brooklyn docks and boarded the Saturnia. We ate continuously and in our spare time, gave the paratroopers a bad time. My dad told me he ate well, troops at that time only got two meals a day, and the food was terrible. But, my father being in "C" Company, was able to use up some of that officer food that was going to waste, of course.

Then we landed and had our first ride in those tiny English trains to Delemere Camp where we became post engineers. There, the Donut Commandoes went to work at the Red Cross and Farmer and his gang got out of making the few hikes we had. But they also missed out on company formations held at the Ring-of-Bells or some other convenient pub.

There was always some question in England as to who had the most food. Charlie company or the kitchen. Giles always had a turnip stew on the stove and Nick turned out to be quite the cook. Most of us didn't get to stay in much to sample the food though. We saw lots of England both officially and otherwise. Besides, those fences were meant only to keep women out not to keep us in!

Then we took off for a staging area and a bitterly cold ride across the channel. Even turnip stew would have tasted good as a substitute for those ever-present "C" rations. At Area X, our pyramidal tents didn't keep out much of the cold. The next day, at Area B, we discovered that pup tents in that mud hole had a way of disappearing. It was a good thing that we moved within a week, for most of our tents were beginning to sink below that sticky slimy mud.

Note from me. The constant drive of trucks over the roads made them almost impassable. The Army engineers came up with a formula of a tar and beach sand mix which was added to the roads to stiffen them up.

A bitterly cold, all-day, convoy brought us to the Maginot line. We discovered that the battalion was the first US unit to occupy that part of the line. The cold kept most of us hibernating in the miles of tunnels. One of the squads was sent into Belgium to act as billet guards for the next move, but they had to be recalled when orders came to move to Bouzonville.

There, a few miles from the German border, we started our engineer operations. Building roadblocks and guarding them as well as keeping the roads to the front open proved to be a 24-hour job in the worst weather.

Note from me. You need to understand that most of the supplies at this time are coming by truck to the front. I mean everything including the kitchen sink. 24 hours a day. You had over 200,000 men, and their equipment, that needed supplies 7 days a week. This war in my opinion was won by attrition, not because the Germans weren't good fighters. And the most important point, The sacrifice that the Russian people made fighting the Germans before we started our ground attack. Do not underestimate the value of the Russian army at this time in history.

Ron Wilson

Sleepless nights caused by enemy shellfire and a strange sickness came over the unit (must have been my dad's cooking) which kept most of the fellows running relay races to the big tent in the back of our billets made the stay there far more enjoyable.

Another long motor convoy brought us across Northern France, Belgium, and Luxemburg into Southern Holland, to Echt. There, our work consisted of spreading the remains of Waldfeucht, Germany, into holes on the roads we maintained. An accident with some Riegal mines cost the lives of Bodtcher, Coms, Ross, and Lt. jones, one of the worst tragedies of the entire war to Charlie Company.

Note from me. It seems to me that my father told me that while clearing roads and debris, one of the German tanks was blocking the road. Upon moving the tank, the Germans had set up a booby trap and it blew up killing several men.

Unfortunately, as the war goes on, we now are on the move in a motor convoy for Northern France. At Roermond, the 15th Cavalry Squadron showed up. In a hurry, we pulled up a lot of mines, this could have been a disaster. We did not pull all the mines all the time, sometimes we just roped them off and kept moving. Fortunately, we all made it out safely.

Here we go again, on the move. From Echt, we moved into the burgomaster's house in Breyell, Germany, but an easy life of comparative luxury ended when we moved back to Belgium to train for the Rhine Crossing. There at Maeseyck, men who had been to motorboat school (my father) received a post-graduate course with the 79th division. Remember, the 79th was camped above Charlie company there in West Virginia. What's not in the story is that they practiced over and over with the 79th moving men and equipment across the river and back. Unknown to them at the time, they were getting ready for the real thing. The Rhine Crossing!

The rest of us enjoyed ice cream and apple pie as well as a favorite dish, fried eggs, and potatoes, at the Belgian café.

The next m0ve brought us up to the Rhine. The night before the crossing we had a big steak dinner, courtesy of Glancy, who captured the steak on the hoof. We didn't get to see our billet much during the next four days.

Early in the evening when it was very dark outside, they began to move forward from their hidden positions. Trucks started moving forward at a snail's pace, with no lights visible. They sat and waited quietly until H hour as they got into position. Once the barrage of the big guns started, immediately they moved the boats into position at the same time the infantry was jumping into the boats, and off they went under fire. Because now the Germans were awake!

Charlie company did a good job on that river, especially in constructing a road on the far shore. We had our losses too, unfortunately. Houdyshell, Stubbs, Tierney, and Lt. Tumas were wounded quite badly.

After we moved across the Rhine our work consisted of road maintenance again, although we did get to build a wooden bridge named for Lt. Tumas. Our mess hall, set up outside of Dinsaken, was in an old coffin factory.

Soon, we were thrust into the toughest job of them all, bridging the Rhine-Herne canal. This made basic training look like a sissy party. After three attempts, at as many sites and each time stopped by heave fire or mines, we finally succeeded in getting a Treadway bridge that stayed across the second canal. After that, the Ruhr pocket was speedily cleaned out and we moved to Ascheberg for a rest.

In this quiet little town, we played softball and enjoyed a liquor ration for the first time. We were told it was made available by General "IKE" himself, for our efforts on the Rhine. We stayed in the rear area after that, possibly because the front was moving ahead faster than we could. We did catch up on the Elbe, but we were only kept in reserve.

As the war drew to a close our job became largely traffic control, keeping the surrendering jerries' moving down the roads in the right direction and pushing stalled German vehicles into the ditches.

With schnapps, vodka, and "buzz bomb juice", we celebrated VE day until the tragedy of Captain Tabor's death sobered us. Then, led by Capt. Deyo, we moved to Volkersheim, to that huge mansion that housed the entire company under one roof, where we cleaned up our equipment and started to prepare for the occupation of Berlin.

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