Segment 11


Charles Coolidge recalled in either January or February of 1945 that the Company Commander called him to come down to the Company CP [Annotators note: Command Post] and when he got down there he was told that there was one pass that was going to the United States. Coolidge was on the front line and he knew the 81 millimeter mortars are about a half a mile behind. He figured it was no big choice there and it was just for the men that made the first invasion and it was between only four of them including Coolidge. The Company Commander said he had a choice that he had to make of who he would send to the states and Coolidge replied saying goodbye. The Company Commander said it was not him and Coolidge ask why not. Wyatt was standing behind Coolidge and was a good friend [Annotators note: It is assumed that is the last name of the GI] and he said he was the one that had been picked. Coolidge ask the Company Commander how he based his decision. He replied that Wyatt was married and Coolidge was not which made since to Coolidge so he told his friend to have a nice trip. They were laughing about it but it really was a tough decision and the guy was married but he was not on the front lines every day and night like Coolidge for 20 months. The Company Commander said he had another pass for a trip. Coolidge ask where he would be going this time and the Company Commander replied that the four people that qualified have a chance at it. Coolidge ask how he would pick and the Company Commander said he had a deck of cards and wanted Coolidge and the men to cut the deck. The four men stood in a line and each took a card. Coolidge picked his card and never looked at it but put it behind him where Wyatt was still standing behind him. Coolidge popped the card as he put it behind him and Wyatt got in his ear and said he had a hard one to beat. Each of the guys threw their cards out and Coolidge had the Jack of Spades and won. This trip was a ten day pass to England. Coolidge thought that sounded good. Ten days to get there and ten days there and then ten days go get back. He went ten days over and took ten days in England and then came ten days back. Coming back he still had his blanket which they carried everywhere they went. He got on the two and a half ton truck to make the three hundred mile drive back to the front lines. A Frenchman walked up to him and ask him how much he wanted for the blanket. Coolidge told him one hundred dollars even though two MPs were standing nearby [Annotators note: Military Police]. The MPs told Coolidge he better not sell the blanket. He replied he was not going to sell it but was going to give it to the man. He gave the man the blanket and ask the man what his gift was to which the man replied one hundred red dollars. He gave Coolidge the money and the MPs walked away. It was all just a matter of how you word things. Coolidge thinks he returned to the unit late March. When he got back the Americans were concerned about the remaining Germans going up into the Alps and fighting. He had already experienced the mountain fighting in Italy and so he was assigned to a new non-com school [Annotators note: Referring to Non-Commissioned Officers] to train them how to fight in the Alps. He thought that sounded good and left for the school and stayed there thirty days. The last day they were preparing to leave and go to the front and it was May 1st 1945 and there was a man cleaning his gun with oil on his hands and happened to have one shell in the chamber and he slipped and the gun went off and he shot himself in the knee. It did not kill him but it ended the war for him which was almost over anyway. Coolidge left to catch up with his old unit and when he got back to it they told him he could have a jeep and a driver and could go anywhere that he wanted to go which suited him just fine. He gave them the jeep back and decided to just stay in town and if he needed a jeep he would call for one. He stayed there until they figured out when to have his Medal of Honor ceremony which ended up being around June the 19th or 20th of 1945. Coolidge recalled that at the ceremony he was the only person receiving anything and afterward Colonel Owens who he got to know pretty well already invited Coolidge to his quarters for dinner and cocktails at the officer quarters area. Coolidge did not drink and they knew that and were going to see what he did so he took a sip and they all clapped for him and then they ate. Coolidge recalls that the K Company Sergeants put him in for the Medal of Honor and wrote it up and did so very carefully. It was sent back to be redone or reworded and was a big deal to the Company Commander who ended up getting killed when they went along a ridge of a mountain. The rifle companies had already gone through but Coolidge and other companies were skirting along this lower ridge. Coolidge recalled that the Germans were falling back on the mountain but he could hear hobnail boots coming towards him. Immediately when he got to where he heard it he stopped his men and pulled up into the woods. The men began to complain and mumble about it some but they listened and got off the path. Soon after the Colonel and the Company Commander came to check where they were and went into a minefield. The Colonel stepped on a mine and got wounded but the Company Commander was killed when he stepped on one. Coolidge recalled trying to rush in to help them but that the Germans started shelling them and a shell hit a tree limb above his head and went off. All the shrapnel went up but the smoke wiped him out. They decided to get out of the area as the Germans dropped more in the area. They moved up and he found someone and ask what was going on. There was an officer there that had a German prisoner and spoke perfect English saying that he would rather be dead than be a German prisoner. Someone had ask how long the German had been saying that and the guard said ever since he had been guarding him. The guard was told to grant the request of the German. That caused some commotion up ahead which is what he arrived at. This was right near the end of the war. Coolidge tells too about his Silver Star which was earned for standing up in battle and telling his men not to shoot a German wanting to surrender who ended up having seven more German troops surrender that were right behind him. [Annotators note: This story was previously annotated] Coolidge says that this did not happen just once but it happened another time. Another time a German stood up and Coolidge told his men that if they take one prisoner then they may get several more. He recalled hearing that the Japanese would fight to the end but by the end of the war he felt like the Germans had learned their lesson especially once the Allies had air superiority. He recalled seeing aircraft and the more bombs they dropped the more the morale of the GIs would build up.


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