Segment 7


Charles Coolidge recalls going on through Rome and going as far as Roccastrada where the Germans turn and surrounded the Americans. He recalled they fell back to Naples to get replacements and learn how they walk at night so that they do not shoot their own men. It was important to learn how man in your unit walked at night and their traits. They did not have many men that did not wear a helmet and he was one of the few which made him easily recognizable. Coolidge learned from the British and particularly the tankers. You would never see them wearing helmets. The tankers would share their food with you and Coolidge recalled sharing their chocolate D Bars [Annotators note: Dessert bar or chocolate bar loaded with calories to sustain a soldier in the field that may be short on rations] with the kids. He recalled when they prepared to make a river crossing they made sure to have three D bars. Coolidge also recalls that if you ate one you were not very hungry that day. He also relates a story of training in Africa where they walked all one day and into the next day. He and another man in his unit did not carry water because they did not want the extra weight. When they took a break his buddy Matthews said he would give fifty dollars for a drink of water. That was a lot of money back then and Coolidge yelled to the mortars behind them that he would give fifty dollars for water and a Lieutenant heard him and told his men not to give Coolidge or Matthews any water. Coolidge told the Lieutenant that he was raised in the mountains and had sense enough to know that if there was a path going up the mountain in Africa then there would be water somewhere on the path. When they got moving again there was water not one hundred yards up the path and they stopped to fill their canteens and they never heard a peep out of them. When they entered combat Coolidge joked with that Lieutenant the invasion was nice and that everybody had water which irritated him. Coolidge recalls that the invasion of Southern France was different from previous invasions because they shelled it before they landed on the shore. He recalled that when they landed on August 15th 1944 in the morning and that it looked like a 4th of July celebration as far as you could see from four thirty in the morning until the landing. Coolidge got to thinking there was miles of shoreline in France and pondered on how they got that much stuff to the landing site. When they landed they were thinking they were going to land on sand. For several weeks they trained with the Navy for the invasion of Southern France and he felt that the invasion is not nearly as bad as what people let on that it is. He recalled that their casualties in Southern France were practically nothing. Coolidge drilled the Sergeant with him [Annotators note: I believe he is referring to the coxswain of the landing craft] that he had been let off in the past out in the ocean and that it would not happen again. He told him that the boat would be pulled up to the shore and when the gangplank went down it would be on dry land. Coolidge did not care what happened to his boat. By this time Coolidge was a Tech Sergeant or a Sergeant and told him that it would be on the land and was assured it would be even if the boat never gets off. That morning when they were going in they got about 200 yards out and the coxswain opened up the throttle and ran the boat wide open. When they hit the shoreline they hit rock. It scraped the bottom of the boat and they jumped off. Coolidge thanked him on the way off the boat and the coxswain called for them to help get the boat off of the rock which they did.


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