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World War II Veteran: William Tyner (Bill)

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Time Frame: ca. 1940's

Bill Tyner was a forward observer in the 928th field artillery battalion of the 103rd infantry division. He tells us about various skirmishes with the Germans before his battalion ended up in Austria. One night, when Bill had just come back from the front, another unit told him about a wounded man, who was lost in the dark and the fog. Bill led the group that found him and got him out of there so he could get to a doctor. Bill was awarded the bronze star.
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Transcript

Tossed and rolled in the North Atlantic it was terrible. Most of them got really sick but I didn't. The little destroyers out the sides protecting us they bombed black corks out there.

But you never got sick?

No, I never did.

You were born and raised near Shenandoah?

Yes seven miles south.

And how old were you when you joined the army?

Oh about 19 I guess.

Tell us about when you went overseas.

Well we ah loaded up from Texas we were in Camp ____ Texas. They took us on the trains to Camp Shanks, New York. We had one night in town in New York before we went over -- before we boarded the ship, and then we were about 15 days on the water going over to Marseilles, France.

And how was it on the water?

Really rough, tossed and rolled, and tossed and rolled. My gosh, terrible. Most of them got really sick. They weren't ride the boat back. They didn't want to get on the boat to come home.

What happened when you landed at Marseilles?

Well they got off the ship and gave us our bag to carry and started marching ____ quite a ways away and suppose to make it up there and bed down for the night. A lot of them didn't make it. They had to bed, bed down along wherever they dropped. Cause some of them were pretty sick.

From the travel?

Yeah, from the boats. Cause it was really rough. Just tossed and rolled and we were on the water for about 15 days.

How much gear did you have to haul? How heavy was it?

Oh our duffle bag was full of stuff. All our clothes but the rest of the stuff ah, our equipment and everything was- well we got most of our equipment after we got over there but came over from North Africa and I helped, helped drive trucks and jeeps and stuff out to get our division equipped and ready to go. Go up and go into the, into the lines.

Tell me about the first time you were on the lines?

Well, it's kind of, kind of scary. Ah, I'd been in several battles. You just gotta take care of yourself the best you can. I was a forward observer in the field artillery. So our little party went along with the infantry and when they needed fire power to put on the enemy why that's what our job was.

In what division and unit were you Bill?

Battery A, 928 Field Auxiliary Battalion of the 103 Infantry Division.

What was the scariest time you went through with your unit?

Oh I suppose during the winter months they kind of pulled back didn’t do so much. Tried to straighten the lines. They’d have a skirmish with the Germans every once in awhile - snipers and stuff. I remember one morning being out tank, tanks out ahead of the infantry and the German's zeroed in on those tanks. It was dark when we went but when it got light you could see tanks burning out there on the, on the prairie. And those boys where just scrambling for their lives. And that's where one of our forward observers - a lieutenant - got wounded pretty bad and one of our men took over the firing of the guns.

What did you do after you got back?

Well, I was sent home to Camp Campbell Kentucky. I was transferred from the 103 infantry division from Austria where we ended up to go to the fifth division to get ready to go to Japan. And the of course the war ended when I was home on furlough in August and so I didn't have to go. Went back and sent right home on another furlough and eventually got out and started picking corn.

Tell me about the day you found out the war had ended, you didn't have to go back.

Well, it happened when I was home about August 8th when they dropped the big bombs over there and, and that's when they really called the war to an end and that was really about it. The Japanese they got them down on the ship and they surrendered.

Did you have a celebration?

No, I don't, I don't know. I was here in Shenandoah I don't remember they did do much celebrating that I know of. There's a lot of service men around home, back home. I don't remember there was much celebration going on then. The war in Europe ended about May 8th. We ended up in Austria -- Innsbruck for the end of the war. A convoy of troops took off for the Brenner Pass to hook up with the fifth infantry which is coming up out of Italy and that the end of the war in Europe.

Where you ever wounded?

Yeah. I had shrapnel in the leg. It healed, healed up it was just a big flesh wounds and I was sent back to a hospital and I recovered pretty fast and shipped back to the front.

How long were you in the hospital?

Oh I don't think over three weeks or so seemed like. They healed me up pretty fast. I know I rode home.___ those nurses sure looked good.

I bet they did. I bet your mom was happy to get that letter.

They never did hardly have anybody out front. We was allowed, we never got much of the USO Shows. We never got any of the USO Shows or anything. Now that was a time when you could kind of remember home and be with other Americans.

Did you get many letters from your mom, from your parents?

Oh yeah. Yeah. Mom wrote everyday and other people did too. My future wife ____ she wrote ______. We weren't engaged or anything then but I was getting letters from home and that's sure a big help yeah.

How long did it take for a letter to get from home to you?

I don't know. I can't tell you. Well, I don't think it was too long.

What was that like when you were in the middle of fighting and you got a letter telling you about what was going on during Shenandoah?

Well, brings back good memories. I wish you were there. Get it over with. I always felt, feel sorry for a lot of the dough boys. They took the brunt of it and we were right behind them if they needed fire power. That was our job to direct fire on the enemy.

And what was your job at that time?

Well I was a radio man really, I, communication. Communication is everything in Army. Even the infantry carries a pack radio and ours was a six-stem? radios that mounted on our jeep, but to get them to the front on of us would carry the battery pack and one ah would carry the radio and we could and they weren't the best communication and then they would the wire crews laid telephone wire and that was the best if you could, if somebody was always ____ over the wire and breaking it or something. So it keep the wire crew really busy to get that, but that was the best communication and that was, that was ah something that the Germans couldn't always intercept ya know. Radio communication they could intercept that and- try to tell what's going on. We could pack it pretty fast and keep up with, keep up with the infantry.

I got the bronze star. Well, we were out at the, been out to the, on the, bluff at an old ____. We had an O.P? out there kind of like the bluffs around the Sydney? here and ah, and ah the infantry had ah O.P. right down the side of the hill a ways from us and ah they had just changed. One company had come in to take their place so they, they were ____ reserve and they had man wounded there and we had just come back from the front where we were at and they wondered if, and it was getting dark, it was foggy, and ah, they wondered if ah anybody could ah, direct, take, find him in the dark. And I said well I think I can. So they got stretcher and four dough boys to man it and a lieutenant and wandered out there in the foggy dark and found him and got him out of there. He was wounded and needed to get him to a doctor. I don't know what his wounds were but that was ah something I did and I said I can do it.

Congratulations. Anything else you want to tell us?

Well, ah, we ended up at _____, Austria. It was a nice village and a nice house that we stayed in with a barn down where in the country they put up hay and gardens and truck? gardens and cows. They bring their cows right into the barn, or the house. There was about 11 or 12 Russians that were there. Had worked there during the war and they were milking cows one day and one of our men said well Bill get down here and show them how you can milk a cow. They just stand back and laugh and, but they didn't want to go home because some of those Russians came later to get them and they really didn't want to go home.

Our 103rd division had Innsbruck, Austria surrounded and there was a _____ of German troops was up there and they did, they surrendered. They didn't even wanta, they wouldn't even let us fire a shot at them, and then they ah, loaded up a jeep and took off for the Brenner Pass to hook up with the 5th army, and that was the end of the war in Europe, and then, then they had a point system where they took some of us little younger guys didn't have enough points, they sent us to the 5th division to come home and get ready to go to Japan. They let some of the 5th Division to fill up the ranks before we left and ah, but as I said before the war ended and they said I didn't have to go to Japan.

We just gotten home and getting ready to train, my ____ to get ready to go.

Was that the end of your service then?

Well, they sent us home on another 30 day furlough and cause they didn't have enough time to get everybody out at once, and then they had us come back and I finally got, finally got my papers and got home on November 4, 1945.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

 


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