Segment 8


Charles Coolidge recalled that when they landed on Southern France there was little opposition after the major shelling the Germans took beforehand. He only recalled one gun firing at them in his landing area but there were some firing further away. He says that in 30 days that they moved 500 miles. They were losing people along the way but making good time. He says he never figured out how they had time to go in to the Vosges Mountains or why they got up there. Coolidge felt like if they bypassed everything else then why couldn’t they bypass one more mountain. He recalled he had access to four jeeps and a weapons carrier for his company to move along the route at such a fast pace. Coolidge recalled that the people along the way seem to love the Americans. He recalled one woman asking why it took them so long to get there and he responded telling her that we did not know they needed help and that they should ask for help if they want it.[Annotators note: There is a brief break in the interview and then it picks back up with October 1944]Coolidge recalled serving at Hill 623 and returning there years later with his son and his daughter in law and his wife to go to some of the areas he used to fight like Hill 623. They rented a German car and drove into Italy down to Salerno. They looked over the terrain there and went to a hotel that is on the beach area now. Coolidge notes that after sixty eight years [Annotators note: at the time of his interview] it is difficult to remember some of the small details. He can recall certain instances in places but he could not recall houses he stayed in or people’s names or he would have written a book. He recalled at Limburg during the war [Annotators note: Germany] and they went in at night with snow that was eight to ten inches deep. They went through the town and into the woods with the guns. The next day they went back to the rear echelon and got into the end house. Next door towards the town was another house that was occupied from the railroad that goes behind the houses with about a twelve foot drop-off. The Germans were staying in the second house while Coolidge and his men were in the first one. Coolidge notes that they never went out the front door that faces the street but instead went out the side door on the house. The Germans only had a front door and a back door in the house they occupied across the street. Coolidge notes that he and his men always went out their back or side door away from the street and the German home. After they were there for a few days, Coolidge went out the front door with a runner named Pete who was just eighteen. After a few days he talked to Coolidge and told him he could not make it anymore. Coolidge ask him what he meant and he said he could not take the war anymore and was going to go back. Coolidge told him he would never make it because he would shoot him if he had to in order to keep him from leaving. He stayed with Coolidge instead and started being his runner. The Germans eventually started shelling that house with Coolidge and his men in it even though it was just across the street from them. The kitchen portion of the house was knocked out by a shell and as the shellfire kept getting closer then Pete decided he was going to go downstairs. Coolidge who had never been downstairs because he was afraid if they went down then a German could come in and toss a hand grenade in on them and there would be nothing that they could do about it. Pete went down the stairs and Coolidge decided to follow him and when he got down to the level of the floor and took another step the house was hit by a shell that landed in the bed that Coolidge had been laying in and blew the candles out in the house. Coolidge and his men all survived it and Pete stayed on through with Coolidge until Coolidge left the war. He feels had he let Pete go back to the rear then he would have lost his pride or his heart and soul. Pete came from California twice after the war to see Coolidge and became a baker and had a wife that was a school teacher. Coolidge had another guy come to him in the platoon that came to him when they were making an attack on a city in France. They were right in the middle of the attack and Coolidge had to stop the platoon and this GI was screaming and hollering and Coolidge told him to give him his helmet. Coolidge wrote him a note and told him to go back and to give the note to the medical officer at battalion headquarters and tell him to read it and to let him know that Coolidge meant every word that he said on it. He went on back and Coolidge did not hear from him again for a month or two until he was in the middle of a poker game when all the men playing the game with Coolidge started looking up. Coolidge was looking at his cards thinking he had a pretty good hand. Coolidge realized everyone was looking up so he looked up too and saw this GI [Annotators note: Coolidge says his name but it is difficult to understand what the name is] and ask what he was doing there. The man was in an MP uniform and said he had been looking for Coolidge since early that morning to thank him and wanted to know what he wrote on the note. Coolidge said he could not remember what was on the note but that he would try. Coolidge recalled that they were in the middle of the attack and this GI started yelling. He remembered being mad but not at the GI but at the doctors that sent him back up to the front when he wasn’t cut out for it anymore and had been sent back three times before. Coolidge recalled putting on the note telling the medical officer in charge that he had sent this GI back three times and each time he ends up being sent back to the front. Coolidge told him that if they sent him back again then they better be ready to come with him because if he comes back without the medical officer with him then Coolidge would come back to the rear and make the medical officer come up front. The GI understood and said when he handed the medical officer the note he gave the note to an ambulance driver and told him to take the man back and to not send him back to the front lines. They believed what Coolidge wrote and the medical officer knew Coolidge and that he would follow through.


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