Copyright © 2013 National World War II Museum. All rights reserved.
Charles Coolidge tells about taking sheep into a minefield to be sure there were no mines instead of sending men through it. He explains that early in the war that the Germans used a lot of mines and he thinks they may have thought it was kind of cruel later because children or mothers or anybody could walk into a minefield if you did not tell them it was there. He explains that the Germans had a lot of good qualities but had a bad leader and sometimes they let a bad leader go too far which is what happened. Coolidge recalled hearing the news about Hitler taking his own life and jokes that he hopes that what happened at least. Coolidge weighs in on the controversy regarding the abbey at Monte Cassino being occupied by Germans by saying that a machinegun came from there and he went to visit it after the war and was told by a man that they never had guns near or in the abbey. Coolidge responded that fifty four Flying Fortresses [Annotators note: B17 bombers. Also it should be noted that there were also B25 and B26 bombers on the raid] flew over and bombed the abbey and he asked the man what happened after that. The man was not sure and Coolidge told him that a machine gun fired after they passed the monastery. Now whether they were inside or along the outside wall the machine gun fire came from that direction and he pointed out where he was sitting on Mount Cario when he witnessed it. Maybe the Italians were using it instead of the Germans but someone was firing the gun. Coolidge says that it is a great honor to be a recipient of the Medal of Honor. It is nice to know you received the highest award and to him he was just doing his duty. If some people believe it was above and beyond the call of duty then he is glad they see it that way. If he had to do it again at that time or today and was able to do so he would still do it. He thought it was his job to do what he did. He may have overextended it to risk his life beyond the call of duty but he did it many times. He goes into another story for an example. They took a barn in France before the end of the war. They had taken this town and were about to take a farmhouse that they knew the Germans held. They were going to go to a certain point where there was a creek that ran through the terrain they had to cross over to get to the barn. If you went out of the barn a path lead to the highway and into town. They jumped off that morning and got almost to the creek or just to the creek where they waited for the Americans to fire off their barrage. When they fired the shells fell short and fell on Coolidge and his men. He fortunately realized what was going on and had all of his men in the creek get onto the bank before the creek so that the shell would go over. After the American attack to soften up the Germans the Germans opened up on the attack to prevent it. He had his men swap bank sides to keep the German shells from hitting them. After the shelling ended they ran to the opened barn and stayed there. A runner kept trying to leave to report back to the Colonel but the Germans dropped a mortar every thirty seconds. The GI was young and crying and so Coolidge jumped up and ask the Captain where the Colonel was located. Another man jumped up and told Coolidge it was not his job to go back and he was not going to do it. Coolidge asked again and said he was going so the Captain told him where the Colonel was located. He waited until he got a chance to see or hear the shell hit and explode where he was heading. As soon as the shell hit he started walking. He had learned not to run because with walking you can hear better just like with not wearing a helmet. He walked on out to the road and nobody shot at him. He made a left turn and made it to the town and found the Company Commander with a Colonel he did not recognize. Coolidge ask the Company Commander if he was ready to go and the other Colonel ask his Company Commander how he knew that Coolidge would take him there. Coolidge relates that his Company Commander said the correct question is will you go with him? Coolidge said he was ready to go and the Colonel said he was ready to go. They walked about one hundred yards and the Colonel ask where the place was located. About that time a shell came in headed for the town and went overhead and the Colonel hit the ground and got all dirty while Coolidge stayed there and kept his clothes clean. The Colonel got up with mud all over himself and ask where the barn was. Coolidge gave him the directions and then about that time another shell came in and the Colonel hit the road again while Coolidge was walking. The Colonel told Coolidge he wanted to make a run for it and Coolidge told him to go ahead and he would be walking right behind him. He got there and gave the shell time to hit before he walked to the barn. He stayed there with his men while the officers talked. Coolidge ask if they were going to sit around and talk all day or if he could take his men on back to the town. They told him he could take his men back to the town. Coolidge then instructed his men to watch every thirty seconds and time getting out of the barn and explained where the other shells fall while they make their way to town. He got all twelve of his men and himself back unscathed.
All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at http://ww2online.org/faqs.