World War II Veteran: Kenneth Lubben (Ken)

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Time Frame: ca. 1940's

Kenneth Lubben served in the Army as a PFC in the 546th Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion, called the coast artillery corps at the time. He served January 1943- January 1946. They trained in the Mojave Dessert for 15 months, and traveled to Europe on the Queen Elizabeth and continued training in Scotland and England for D-Day. Ken tells us about meeting General George S. Patton, and the work of the 15th corps as part of the 3rd Army.
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The next day, which it took about 5 days to get overseas, we ended up landing in Scotland and then we went down into England, and that's where we had the rest of our basic training. And then we started practicing for D-Day. They issued us our clothes, our ammunition, our guns. Everything had to be cleaned up because it was all packed in grease and [?] at that time. Everything had to be cleaned up so that it was ready for the invasion. At that time, on June 6 the days were exceptionally long. We had 11:30 at night on June 5th, and on the next day 2:30 in the morning it started getting light again. So our one gun was about 150 feet from the middle of that airbase in [?], England from the center point, to make sure nothing followed those planes back in. It was all C-46's and C-47's that hauled paratroopers from there over to the channel for D-Day. They also had what they called a horse and glider. It was strictly a framework for that type of thing. They knew they weren't going to get em back cuz they didn't have a motor. The planes when they did their practicing they'd swoop down, and they would hook onto a big nylon loop, and that nylon loop would fasten to that horse and glider. So the plane never stopped. It just came down and caught that thing and as soon as there was enough pressure they lifted up and they'd go. And then when they got overseas they'd unhook from the plane and the Germans had poles and trees stuck in the ground. So when they would hit them they would just end up crashing. Had a few guys that even got hurt that way. But that's the way that ended up for D-Day. So they lost about every one of those, plus a few planes. We were set up to make sure nothing happened to that airbase. We one of our pilots and at that airstrip they have a runway and kind of a ribbon off to the side. One of those planes that was right close to where we were having our tents came in there one day, this was about 3 days after D-Day, and he started counting the bullet holes in his plane. He had 47 small arm bullet holes in there from the rifles and machine guns that shot at him while he was over there dropping troops.

47 holes?

Small arm bullet holes, rifles. So that was his part of it. And one time there was one man who come in, flew in, who landed on one tire. One of em got shot out so he only had one wheel to use. But got the plane down no problem. I just put a new tire on it. And he was ready to go again.

Wow!

Good pilots.

How many guys in your unit and what was your unit like, that you worked with day to day?

We had 15 guys on our gun crew. We had a 40 mm and an M51 that we called the quad 50s. There's 4 air cooled 50s on a quad 50 and those have a lot of fire power. An M51 will probably shoot 3200 rounds a minute. So it took a lot of ammo to keep those things going. Each gun crew as we called it had one 40 mm and one M51 and we had 8 gun crews in each battery. And we were in battery B. We had A, B, C and D battery so that had a total of about 750 men in the 546th.

What was a typical day like for you? I mean I'm sure there was no typical day, but normally...?

You mean state-side or overseas?

Overseas.

Overseas you got up and everybody had their shift and you come out during the daytime with a full crew. At nighttime you had a minimum crew for each gun. We had one time we were on convoy and we had stopped and a P47, and American plane came in and he started like he was saluting us, like he was flipping his wings and pretty soon started straight for us. So orders came to get him out of the sky. So the gun crews got onto him, we knocked him down. We thought we might get court marshaled because it was an American plane we shot down. But come to find out about 2 months later they told us that it was not an American pilot, it was a German pilot. They had taken, fixed the plane up. He had American identification, American uniform, watch, dog tags but the fingerprint didn't match so we knew it wasn't an American pilot. That was one of our highlights on our part you might say. We had one time in [?] Belgium there was an old fella that came up one afternoon, all dressed up, started talking perfect English. We got to talking to him and I said "where are you from?" and he said "well, I'm from Iowa". I said "so am I, what part?" "Northwestern part." "So am I." Come to find out after talking to this guy about 5 minutes he had family over here at Remsen and during the war or before the war he was over there visiting his family and relatives. But when the Germans come in that area they wouldn't let him notify his family. So his family didn't know for about 6 years if he was alive or dead. After the Americans took over the area and then they got to the Red Cross and they notified his family over here at Remsen that he was still alive.

Wow.

Our basic training was out there in the Mojave Desert and we had one time when we were short of water and we didn't know it at the time, but we were supposed to see how far and how long we could go on two canteens of water twice a day for 15 men. We used to cut the top off a barrel cactus and dig the pulp out of there. You either squeeze the water out of there or just chew on the pulp and you get moisture. Then they told us later that we were test troops. We were scheduled to go to Africa but the tide turned when we were home on leave in June so we didn't have to go back so they put us back out there in the Mojave Desert. So we spent 15 months out there till we went overseas. Then at D-Day we were still up around that airbase there. And then later on when they got it clear enough in Normandy, that's when we ended up going into Normandy. That's when one afternoon everybody that had 3 stripes or more was designated to go to area so-and-so. At 13:00 hours the Jeep pulled in, two stars on the front. This guy gets out and stands on the hood, had the bull dog look, you know. "Any of you people know who I am?" They didn't. They wouldn't say they was scared. So he says "The 15th Corps had just now become the 3rd Army. I'm General George S. Patton and all you SOBs are working for me". Plain words. Only he used full words, he didn't use the letters you know. So that next morning when we left that area and we were leading the 37 mm half-track outfit, and 300 and some days later we were at Linz, Austria where we met the Russians. We had one time that we ran out of fluid and fuel, so they shut us down for three days. The only thing we had fuel for was our machine gun and it took an electric motor to keep it running. We never had a truck that had a fourth of a tank of gas. We were that far ahead of our red-ball express transports and they wouldn't let us move anything. But after 3 days they finally caught up to us and filled up all our tanks and extra cans and stuff and we got going again. That was the only time we stopped. And then on the 6th of May then we met the Russians in Linz, Austria. That's when they said that's it, its over. Then we come back into France again and we had what we called transportation corps. They give us some more trucks so we started hauling troops and things and supplies back down to Marseilles, France so they could be shipped back to the United States. And I got back about the 6th or 7th of January in '46. And I got home the 14th of January '46.

 


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