Entering the Service

Sicily through Normandy

Holland and the Battle of the Bulge

Final Months of the War

Spending Christmas at War

Training and Deployment

North Africa to Italy

United Kingdom


Normandy to England


Battle of the Bulge


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(interviewer) All right. May 2, 2013.
If you would sir, could you give me your name for the camera?
(Clinton Riddle) My name is Clinton E. Riddle.
I was born February 24, 1921.
(interviewer) My birthday’s February 2. (Laughs)
(Clinton) Great men are born in February.
(interviewer) That’s right.
(Clinton) Washington, Lincoln, and a few more.
(interviewer) That’s right.
Let’s start off—if you would, could you
tell me a little bit about where you were
born, and where you grew up, and what
your life was like before the war?
(Clinton) I was born in Loudoun County, and I was the
only child in our family—and later, we bought a
farm quite a distance out from Sweetwater—about
five and a half, six miles—and there wasn’t any
neighbors close by for me to play with—and
I become a bookworm.
I used to read every book I could get a hold of.
At one time, I’d read every book in the
school library, and I still continued—loved to read.
And then, I—about ten years old, our lector
died, and dad never took me out on the farm to work.
He left me at the house, and so, I was
mother’s little girl when I was growing up.
She taught me how to cook, and sew, and embroid,
and crochet, and knit—and all that good
stuff, and I’ll skip on to—I graduated
from high school in 1941, and I—last year
in school, I took a course called, “Occupation,”
and I took Department Store—Department Management,
and I got two credits for it.
I worked there until Thanksgiving.
The war was escalating, and I enrolled in
Anderson Aircraft School in Nashville, and
there, I learned to build airplanes.
I knew that sooner or later, I’d be drafted.
The contract stated that they were not drafting
out of the school, but after staying there
for a week, I found out they were drafting out.
I came home, and I waited until I was
drafted—the tenth of December, 1942.
I took my basic training at Camp Wheeler,
Georgia—off of Macon, and I applied for Clerk School.
I decided I’d get me an office job and
wouldn’t have to go on combat field.
And—I made real good in Clerk School.
In high school, I took a commercial subject—I
took shorthand, and typing, but only made
about thirty-six words per minute.
But there, I made seventy-six words per
minute—I was really trying real hard.
Since I was in there, I decided that I’d
apply for OCS, Officer Training School—went
before the board and everything, and they
shipped me out before I had the opportunity
to go to Officer School, so that made me mad
at the Army, and when I arrived at Fort Bragg,
North Carolina, the headquarters of the 82nd
Airborne, one of those sergeants came out, cursing.
He said, “What in the world? Who sent these clerks up here?
What we need are machine gun and mortar men,”
so there went my office job for certain, and
I became more angry at the Army, and I made a
resolution right then that if I had anything
to do with it, I was coming back when the war was over.
I didn’t want any responsibility.
I didn’t want promotion.
I didn’t want to be held accountable for nobody.
I just tried to do what they told me to
do and be the best soldier I could be.
So, after a period of time, they put me in
EMPs, and I stayed in there for a while, and
they discovered I was two inches too short.
I was only 5’6’’, and you had to be
5’8’’ in order to be EMP, so that’s
how I ended into the B Company, 325th Glider
Infantry of the 82nd Airborne, which I served
throughout the entire war.
We—I joined just at the time they
were preparing to go overseas.
We moved to Camp Edwards, and there, they setup
sand tables and set up the contour where
we were supposed to land in France, and from
there, we took the Santa Rosa ship, and our
convoy joined with another, and it was a huge,
huge convoy—the twenty-eighth of April—of
1943, and we land in Casablanca, May 10 of
’43, so I served in French Morocco, Algiers, in Tunisia.
The first camper we had—we pitched pop
tents—it was in a huge wheat field.
The German had sown acres and acres of wheat
by airplane, and the natives was out there
with a sickle, trying to harvest it, and—oh, it’s so hot.
I got up out of bed with a flue when I entered
the Army, and I continued to have the flu,
and coughing, and carrying on to land in Africa,
and the hot son baked it out of me shortly.
It was so hot there that, eventually, we began
to train overnight instead of daytime, and
then, trying to sleep in those pop tents
during the day was almost impossible.
I was put on KP one day, and had run out of
soap—and the only way I had to clean greasy
pots and pans was to take out desert sand and—and scrub it.
Well, about half of the company got dysentery,
and it was awful there, we thought.
About all we’d done, mostly paraded for—I
think during that time, we paraded for about
twelve big generals—foreign and Americans, and
then, we moved by glider from French Morocco
to Kairouan, and it was even hotter there.
They let us pitch our pop tents in an olive
grove to camouflage from the air—had a pop
tent under each tree, and we was on British
rationing—they liked to—starved us to death.
I’ve actually went back for seconds—for
turnip green juice—believe it or not, and
the only way we had of cooling our water was
to fill a canteen, put a GI sock on it—and
wet it, and hang it up, and let the air evaporate
the water out of the sock and draw the heat
out of the water.
And we—were preparing for the invasion of
Sicily, but if you remember your history,
our own Navy shot down about twenty-four
C-47s, and we didn’t have enough tow planes to
pull the gliders into Sicily, so they took
us up on the beach to train us amphibious
landing, and we learned—I loved that up there.
I could swim good in that salt water, but
eventually, they got enough planes that they
flew us into Sicily—and they say the Army never
makes a mistake, but we landed at Gaiola,
right in the middle of battle.
We were supposed to land in Palermo,
instead, we landed in Gaiola.
When they found out where we’d landed, well,
they, again, took off, and we landed in Palermo.
Well, Palermo, we took a landing craft and made
the invasion of Italy—and after proceeding
up to the mountain, quite a ways, they returned
us back, and we landed at Red Beach, and climbed
the Sant’Angelo Mountain—it took us all
night long to climb that mountain, and we
called it “The Battle Above the Clouds.”
It was—it was a real high mountain outside
of Naples, and after that battle, we went
into Naples, and I helped to set up the first
city government there—they’d bombed out everything.
We set up food lines, and water lines, and so forth.
We were staying in an old school building,
and by the way, from Italy to Ireland—I
went into old school buildings, and I found
a composition book, and I made a round to
all the boys, and had them to sign it in their
home address, and I’m glad they did, because—and
years since then, I’ve had a lot of relatives
to write me to know if I knew so and so.
For instance, one lady from Oklahoma—I’d
been to her grandfather’s funeral, and she
got my name somewhere, and wanted to know if I knew him.
So, all I had to do is open the book, and
I had where he’d signed it, and I made a
copy of it and sent it to her, and I
got back the sweetest letter from her.
She says when she opened it and saw his handwriting,
she broke down and began to cry, and I get
a lot of those requests like that.
Getting back to Italy, we went out through
the Gibraltar straits at midnight—without
running lights, and Axis Sally—you’ve heard of her?
She said, “We know who you are, and you’ll
not get out alive,” but we slipped through at midnight.
All you could see was a little rock up on
the—Gibraltar—rock, and we didn’t know
where we was going, but we made a big circle.
At one time, we were—two hundred miles of the
United States, and some of the boys said
if they knew we were so close, they’d jump
overboard and try to swim to shore—(Laughs)—but
we ended up in Ireland—that was the first
of December, and we stayed there until the
first of February.
The days were so short, it began to get light
about 9:00, 9:30 in the morning, and about
3:00, 3:30, it began to get dark,
and rain, rain—day after day.
The old—commander of the division—not the
division, of the regiment, would be out
there with his boots on, on one of the (s/l
nodes)—having us double time with our thumbs
up in that mud. (Laughs)
And eventually, they moved us to England—to
Leicester—or Lah-cah-ster, as they pronounced
it there, and it was a big tent city.
There were six of us who stayed in each
tent, and I’ve got pictures of that.
We began to train for Normandy, and—running
field problems—taking hikes, and even parades, occasionally.
We moved out, and we were in the D Plus 1 of Normandy.
Going over, Wayne Pierce was our executive officer.
He didn’t know I was on the same glider
that he was, until one day, I was talking
to some friends, and telling them about what
happened crossing the Channel, and he said,
“Oh, that’s the same glider I was on.”
I knew that he was on there but he didn’t know I was.
But—what happened about halfway over, our
tow plane—plane lost power, and the glider
was going faster than the plane, and it overran the plane.
They kept cranking the motors of the plane,
and eventually, one of them fired up, and
a big ball of blue smoke come out, and then,
they keep cranking the other, and finally,
it fired off.
And when it gained power—as the glider was
overrunning that, the towrope had come down
and hooked under our landing gear.
And when it gained power and stretched the
rope, it flipped our glider—almost flipped
us into the Channel.
We had gotten down to, I’d say, a hundred
and fifty-foot of the water—you could see
the waves coming up.
We threw out six cases of water, and six cases
of landmines to lighten the load, and we didn’t
have any more trouble until we began to come
in over the coast of Normandy, and we run
into a lot of ack-ack fire.
In fact, it shot down the glider that was
beside us, and it cut the towrope on another,
and we didn’t have any more trouble, except
for when we got to where we were supposed
to land at, there had those posts set up—asparagus
posts, and we—by the time we had to cut
off—cut the towrope loose—had to pick out
a little garden-like spot—that might
have been four or five acres in it, but
it’s surrounded with hedge and trees.
We cut the top out of the tree with our
left wing—as we went in,
and hit real hard. I was a radio operator.
At that time, I had a Field 300 radio, and it
hit so hard that it broke the antenna off.
And as soon as I got out, I was trying to take
the antenna off a walkie-talkie and attach
it to it—that’s the only communication
we had until we got another radio.
Well, while I was doing that, a photographer
came along and took my picture while I was
there on my knees—I have a picture of that.
And in the meantime, too, German planes came
over, strafing 109s, and—we landed close
to an apple orchard.
They were selling the apple orchard, and there
was an old Frenchman out there, milking a
cow by hand, and when he’d finished milking,
I had gone up to the road—very careful,
watching for snipers, and when he got
through milking, he came up the road.
And when he got even with me, I took my canteen
cup, and he filled me up the canteen in that
warm milk.
We—we walked about all day—the first little
village we went through—was Sainte-Mère-Église,
and the first dead German I’d seen
was laying in an alleyway there.
And the first night, during the ordeal, I got
lost somehow from the company, and I spent
part of the night in a gulley in a barrel patch.
(Laughs) Then, we moved over by—close to the
Meredith River, and eventually, we crossed
it—and I’ll not go into the details of that.
(interviewer) You can do it.
(Clinton) —but, the Germans had opened the dam, and
flooded a large area—even some of
our troops landed in the water.
And they—every time—the Germans had bombed
out the bridge, and every time, they’d try
to replace any of it, they’d knock it out.
And they finally ended up putting down a 2
by 8 plank, and we walked across that close
to midnight one night—the only light we had
was a burning building on the opposite
side, and that’s the way we got across.
We fought for thirty-three days and nights
without relief, and returned back to England.
Out of the hundred and fifty-five that went
in in my company, only thirty-eight was able
to return—they killed and wounded so many of our
boys, and we had a whole group of replacements
coming in, and they raised the quota to a
hundred and ninety-five for the invasion of
Holland, and we used the Horsa glider for
the invasion of Normandy—which is made out
of plywood—British Horsa glider, and—it’s
made out of plywood, and it had three landing
gears—one on either side, and one in the nose.
The men are sitting there, facing each other,
and it hits hard, and nose would come up and
cut the man’s legs off, so we didn’t use them anymore.
And the reason we did, they manufactured the
American glider, which I have the exact copy
up there, and over here’s a picture of the
CG-4A Glider—it’s on that canvas—stretched
across the tubing, and I have an extra piece
here that I wrote into the glider—
we wrote our name on the outside.
Upon landing, and I took my trench knife,
cut a side out of the glider and folded it up.
I have it framed there—I’ll show you after a while.
I was active copilot going into Holland.
The reason, they trained the pilots here in
the States and shipped them to England, and
the weather set in so bad, they had to delay
the invasion of Holland, and they didn’t
make it there in time for the invasion, so
they pulled a few of us out that—they’d
give us instruction, and so I served as the copilot.
Upon landing, we didn’t have any more trouble—well,
I took a double hitch training in the States—two
gliders to the plane, but so far, they only
put one, and we didn’t have any trouble
on that trip, except as we begin to go over—over that
land—we’re going into a lot of artillery—ack-ack
fire, and they shot down several of the gliders.
And when we landed, landed in a really nice
place—at a meadowlike place—I have a picture
of it, and I was back there a few years back.
It was really good landing, but for some reason,
our glider pilot chose—there was a ploughed-up
strip right beside the manor, and he chose
to land in that ploughed field, and when we
landed, those runners under the glider caught
in the dirt, and it stood it up on snow.
The men had to climb up to the tail of
it to get it back down so we’d get out.
Well, it threw me against the crash bar and
injured my side, and my shoulder, and after
the battle was over, I went to the hospital
and was treated—and wrote up for a Purple Heart,
and awarded a Purple Heart—and I
have it over here, but it was never put on
my discharge—and I have written time after
time—twelve, fourteen times, to the review board.
I’ve written congressmen.
I’ve written the secretary of the Army.
I’ve written, even the President,
trying to get him to put it on there.
I’ve got it, the only thing they have to do
is just write it, because I was awarded, and I’ve got it.
But—the last letter that I got from them, they
said they refused to put it on my discharge
because it could have been an accident.
And I wrote them back, and I told them—I
said, “If it hadn’t been for the enemy,
I wouldn’t have been there to start with.”
So—later on, in the Battle of the Bulge, I
was awarded another Purple Heart, which
I wear—I’ll tell you about that later.
We landed the twenty-third of September, in
Holland, and we fought until Thanksgiving,
and it was during that time, the battle was
over—there wasn’t any danger whatsoever.
I was sitting in my foxhole, reading my testament—I’d
read it through going over in the convoy to
Africa—and I was sitting in the foxhole,
reading my testament, and praying—I eventually
promised the Lord, if he let me come back,
I’d do whatever he wanted me to do.
I was saved when I was fourteen, and I
felt the call to the ministry as fifteen.
And being a little (s/l weasley) guy, I wanted
to prove that I was just as big as anybody,
and I ended up in the roughest, toughest
outfit, I reckon, Uncle Sam had.
They talk about the Marines—and I admire the
Marines—they talk about them being tough,
but I believe some of them wouldn’t have
made it in the boy’s scout in the outfit
I was in, but I continued to pray and—and
read my bible there, waiting to be relieved
by the Canadians.
And the Canadians are a lot like the British,
they carry the teapot right on the side of
the tank, and they’d stop right in the middle
of battle, and make a spot of tea—and I
thought they wouldn’t get there, but eventually,
they did, and we moved to Soissons, France—it
was an old cavalry camp years before, and
we remained there until the Battle of the
Bulge, and I’d been to Paris on a pass, and
I’d just come back and we got news that
the breakthrough had come, and so, I had to stay
up all night that night and get my equipment
and everything ready, and we pulled
out ten o’clock the next morning.
That was December 7, and they loaded us on
open—forty-feet open trailers, like you’d
haul cattle in.
We stood in there—you couldn’t
even sit down—just room to stand.
We got to Bastogne—we were the first ones
there, and the 101st is following after (s/l
accessory), got trapped, and the general had
to say (s/l nuts) to the Germans when they demanded
surrender, and when we got to Bastogne, they
sent us on to Werbomont to set up a circular
defense, and by then, it’d began to snow
and sleet, and—cold rain—and it continued
to snow day after day—day after day, and
as you know, the coldest winter in twenty
years, and the only protection we had was
to dig in that frozen ground, and the snow
eventually got up to knee-deep.
One night, there came a blizzard, and it’s
so bad that—there happened to be a little
old barn nearby, and with cold hands, we made
a chain in the dark, and made our way to that barn.
You can imagine the whole company being in
that little old barn, but at least, we were inside.
But on the way over there, I fell into a
snow drift—it was shoulder-deep in that snow drift.
They pulled us back to Pepinster,
Belgium, for a little rest.
They put us in an old factory—the windows
all broken out, and there’s no heat in it
whatsoever, and the village people somehow
began to feel sorry for us, and this one dear
lady, she invited me into her home—she
had a three-story brick building.
She put me up on the top floor.
The next morning after we’d gone there, she
brought up a great big old Belgian waffle,
and I thought that was the best
anything I’d ever eaten in my life.
We stayed there for sixteen days, I believe,
before we headed for the Siegfried Line, prepared
for the invasion of it.
In the meantime, our captain got sick, and
they sent him back to the hospital—and they
sent a new officer, fresh from the States.
He was with the 504th—Paratroopers, and he’d
never had any experience—combat experience.
And when he arrived there in our company, he sent for me.
He said, “Clint, you’ve been with them long enough.
I want you to help me.”
That was unusual, for a common soldier to
help an officer—but I said, “Yes, sir,
I’ll help you any way I can.”
That evening—I was always trying to help
do this and do that—whatever there was to
do, and I helped give out supplies and ammunition
for the attack next day—and it was near
to midnight before I got there again—my foxhole.
About 2:30 or 3 o’clock, he sent for me.
He said, “You and I are going on patrol.”
Well, that showed how ignorant he was, because
usually, five or six men would go on patrol,”
and it was so dark.
We made our way up along the Siegfried Line,
and this big bunker on each side of the road
that leads into Germany, and we made a round,
and inspected where the bunkers was for the
next—next morning, and there were bunkers
all around on little ridges around,
and so, we made the attack.
To make the long story short, we made the
attack the next morning, and some of those
soldiers that had been in the bunkers had
been there for as long as twenty years, and
had been told that they couldn’t be driven
out, but this particular morning, they first
sent A Company to attack, and they were pinned
down, and they sent B Company, and we were
pinned down, and then, C Company was in reserve,
and they sent them up, and they say, “Approach
while we’d raise up and run little waves,
and hit”—we crawled and—all morning.
It was wet and cold, and in that snow—and hungry, and mad.
They killed so many of our boys, but eventually,
we made it up to the road where the bunkers
was—and I was the messenger for our company
commander, that new guy that’d come in,
and we made it to the road, and he looked
back—I was right on his heels, and he looked
over his shoulder and said, “Come on, let’s go across.
Let’s go across to the road on the other side.”
And by the time he got to the middle of the
road, they hit him right between the eyes,
and he never knew what hit him—so I hit the
snow, and I laid there for a little while,
and then, I got up.
To make the long story, short, again, when
it was all over with, there was only three
of my company still on their feet when the battle was over.
Eventually, we had twenty-five to show up,
and later on, there’s forty-five of us left.
I don’t know where the others hid out during
that time, but something I want to add here,
there was an armored unit that was in support,
and when we started our battle, he’d come
up to back us up, and this officer jumped
off of the tank—jumped off of whatever he’s
on, and jumped on this tank, and began to
fire 50-caliber machine guns, and they killed him.
Well, his daughter later got a hold of my
name, and we’ve been corresponding back and forth.
In fact, she went over to where he was killed,
and so forth, and she was wanting the details
of that battle, and what it amounted to.
Actually, he got killed trying to protect
us, but the engineers came in over the huge bunker.
They had this big shield over the top of it,
and the engineers come in and put explosives
on it to blow the top off in case the Germans
choose to retake it, but—they put us in
that bunker that night, so I got to sleep in
a bunker for the first time since we left
Pepinster, Belgium.
Then, we moved on and handed up on the Aura River,
and then, they had crossed the river—another
unit, and they shipped us back to Soissons,
France, and the war had come to a close, but
in the meantime, we took this camp that I
was telling you about—Wobbelin Camp—they
didn’t have an oven there to burn them with.
They worked the prisoners as long as they
was able to work, and then, they put them
in this camp, and they starved to death.
There’s about two hundred and fifty
who was buried in a huge grave.
We had them to dig those out of that huge
grave, and put them in individual graves,
and had the people of the village to mark around.
They didn’t believe anything like
that was going on in their community.
After that, they shipped us, and during that
time’s when I met the Russians, and they
shipped us back to Soissons, France, and the
war ended on May 8, ’45, and I had enough
of points—we got so many points for every
award—I had enough points to come home.
They transferred me into the 17th
Airborne—194th Glider Infantry, to come home.
So, I was discharged in Atterbury, Indiana,
on the nineteenth of September, 1945.
I had to buy my own greyhound bus ticket to Sweetwater.
I arrived in Sweetwater—I rode all night.
There wasn’t any band there to greet me.
There wasn’t any big mob there to greet
me—nothing, except there happened to be
a girl that was a stenographer across the
street from where I got off the bus, and she
had written me while I was in Africa—and so,
she came out to greet me and welcome me
home, so that’s the greeting that I got at home.
Later, I’ll be showing you the key to the
city—that was just recently, about three
years ago, and—when they presented it
to me—well, I made a little speech.
The mayor and the commissioners had a special
meeting, and invited me to come, and presented me that key.
In fact, I called him this morning and
told him I was coming, and he was busy.
He said if he had time, he’d run over here
for a few minutes—but they presented me
their key, and I made a little speech,
and I said, “This is my ‘Welcome Home.’
I didn’t get one when I came home in ’45.”
So, that’s more or less just an overall
description of where I served, and the battles I was in.
Six battles, four of them,
invasions—422 days under enemy fire.
I was overseas, thirty months, and
away from home for three Christmas.
The first Christmas, I was at Camp Wheeler.
I’d never been anywhere or done anything.
In fact, I’d never been even to Nashville,
one time—didn’t know anybody or anything,
and over the chow hall, they had a big sign
saying, “Welcome, soldier, merry Christmas,”
and I wondered how in the world I was
going to have a merry Christmas.
Well, my second Christmas I was
away from home, I was in Ireland.
My foxhole buddy was from Chicago.
He’s a big 6’4’’ Czechoslovakian—one
of the best friends I’ve ever had.
We were together continually, day and
night, until he was wounded in Normandy.
But in Ireland, he and I made a round.
We got with a bunch of the village girls, and
we made a round to all the business places,
and sang Christmas carols.
We ended up at the rector’s house, or as
you know him, as the pastor—and his wife
was a Canadian, and she came out with a big
platter of cookies, so I had a pretty good
Christmas that Christmas.
The third Christmas—excuse me—the third
Christmas, the weather two days before Christmas
of ’45—’44, I mean, sorry—in ’44, the
weather closed in so, that they couldn’t
fly in any supplies or anything, and General
Patton went up to this little chapel, and
he prayed a prayer—I’ve got his prayer there.
He prayed a prayer and asked the Lord for a
few hours of sunshine so they could attack.
Of course, they used some words that I wouldn’t
dare pray, but somehow, God answered that,
because the next day, the day before Christmas
of ’44, I found myself on top of a tank,
and we went fourteen miles behind enemy
lines and took a little village of Rognes.
By taking that little village of Rognes, it
released—I believe they said, about four
thousand of our troops that was trapped back there.
I was back there in 1994, and I met a man
that claimed he was just a small boy at that
time, and he’d hid in a barn, and he was
peeping out a crack as we made our attack—and
to check him to see if he was telling the
truth, ask him which direction we’d come
from on those tanks, and he described it in detail.
So, I knew that he was there.
And after we’d taken Rognes, some of the
boys went inside, and I began to dig me a
foxhole because I was afraid the Germans had
returned and attacked—I began to dig a foxhole,
and they came out in a little while, and the
ladies had been baking the Christmas cakes—they
give me some of the cake, and it’s still warm.
We got there about ten o’clock in the
morning, and we stayed there until midnight.
We had to walk all the way back—back toward the enemy line.
On this mission, they took me off of my regular
job of being a messenger—a radio operator,
and I become a machine gun—gunner, and I
carried that old machine gun till I just—and
it so happened my pack got a snap on top,
and it got hooked in the trigger guard of
that machine gun, and we had to be real quiet—you
couldn’t talk or say anything, but I finally
gave a motion and got the attention of one
of my buddies, and he got it unhooked.
Well, I walked—in the meantime, Montgomery
got the idea—the British general, got the
idea of straightening the lines.
That’s the first time that we ever
give back any land that we took.
And so, I’d walked the greater part of the
night—I got tired, and they were pulling
all soldier artillery pieces and everything
back—a big 155 came by, and I jumped up
on that and caught me a ride.
Being with headquarters, I knew where we were
supposed to pull back to, and when we pulled
back to the road where we turned off,
I started walking—walking by myself.
It was something dangerous—they could have
captured me or killed me, but I walked for
a while, and eventually, I see a little building
off to one side, and I decided to see what was in the building.
It happened to be a place where they stored grain.
And—so, I went in a big box over in one
corner—so I jumped in that big box of wheat,
and covered myself up—all except my head it
was about three o’clock in the morning—and
I slept till daylight.
I went outside and kicked the snow back, and
I had a K-ration, and I tore the paper off
of it, and built me a little fire and heated my breakfast.
And while I was eating the breakfast, I heard
firing going on down the road, and I decided
after breakfast, I’d find out who it was—and
it so happened to be my own—my company.
They never did ask me where I’d
been, and I never did tell them.
So, I was the machine gunner—that was on
Christmas day now, and so, I had to fight
all day on the third Christmas.
There was a house nearby, and I decided to
take a machine gun and go around to the back
and see if it there was a backdoor to the basement.
I was going to take my machine gun in and
set it up in the window, and when I kicked
the basement door open, there was a
whole family down on their knees.
They had an altar in the basement, praying.
I didn’t bother them.
I just went on to the next room and set my machine gun up.
So, I had to fight all day the third
Christmas I was away from home.
How I’d liked to have been home.
I could imagine all that was going on back—back
home, but we continued on fighting until they
took us back to Soissons, and that’s the
second time that it happened—that I got
separated from the company.
Each evening, while we were in Italy, they
would send me—I was working the battalion at that time.
They would send the password back to the company
each evening, and I’d taken it the day before—they
were on one of the mountains there.
During the day, they had moved it, and I didn’t know it.
So, when I took the password back to where
I’d gone the night before, they weren’t
there, so I began to try to find them, and I
ended up out in no man’s land, and I heard
a patrol coming through—a German patrol, and
I hid in a gulley till they got by, and
after they passed by, I was so tired and worn
out took me a little nap, and I got up and
continued searching until the next morning at
four o’clock, the guard that was on guard,
challenged me, and it happened to be my own
company where I was supposed to be, and so,
they allowed me to rest for a while that
morning before I went back to the battalion.
Well, they sent this big buddy of mine I was
telling you about—he’s so tall, I could
stand under his arm.
I got a picture, standing under his arm.
They sent him and another fella out to try
to find me, but they never did find me.
I was—really was proud when I ended up back
with the company, and that’s the second
time that I got separated and ended up where
I was supposed to be without any trouble.
But, I’ll hush right there, and you
can ask any question you want to.
(interviewer) Let me—before we got into the main
questions here, let me stop for a
second and fix this window behind me.
(Clinton) I’ve got credit from Carson-Newman College,
and also the Southern Baptist Seminary.
I pastored for thirty years—continuous—four
churches, going from one to the other.
Since then, I’ve served eleven interims.
One of them is twenty-six months.
That’s about as long as a lot of pastors stay down there.
And just about two months ago, I spoke in
the one-hundredth—I’d never spoken there
before, so I’m still active.
(interviewer) Back up and tell me a little bit about the
process of getting drafted and—did you—did
you really want to go in the Army, or was
there another service that you were hoping
to get into—like the Marines, or the Navy?
(Clinton) Okay.
I told you a while ago that I was
the only child in our family.
I wanted to join the Navy but my mother talked
me out of it, so I really didn’t have the
desire to go, but I was drafted.
I was surprised that I was drafted, being the only child.
But as I said, I—got up out of bed with the
flu when I was drafted, and I passed the examination.
They was needing cannon fodder back then—real
bad, but I was drafted from Maine County,
and we first went to Fort Oglethorpe, processed,
and then sent to Camp Wheeler off of Macon.
(interviewer) What was Camp Wheeler like?
(Clinton) It was made up of several different companies.
For instance, they had a bunch of African-Americans
there, and they trained them by a rock on
one hand and a stick in the other.
“Go to the rock, or go to the stick.”
There was an officer there, training—he
was from Sweetwater—Scruggs.
I don’t know whatever became of him.
I knew him, but—I was first put in the Artillery Company,
and then, I applied for the Clerk School, and I enjoyed it.
There was nineteen of us who graduated from Clerk School.
(interviewer) And how long were you at Camp Wheeler?
(Clinton) I was—I had thirteen weeks of training.
Six weeks of Clerk School, six weeks of regular
hikes, and going out on the firing range.
I qualified with 03 Bolt Action, and also,
they gave me an automatic BAR—I was free
to hold a target with that.
Didn’t do any good with it, but I did
good with the 03—and different things.
Six weeks, then we took a review.
The thirteenth week, we took a
twenty-mile hike with a full field pack.
We had an old boy from—up north,
he was the sad sack of the outfit.
He couldn’t roll a pack—it rolled
down his back when he started hiking.
In our training, we had one boy from Pennsylvania.
He’s a big, heavyset boy.
He was a pianist for his church, and in our
training, we had to take a rope and swing
it across the creek.
Well, old boy tried it but halfway over, he
turned loose of the rope, and then, he ended
up in the creek—he was a city boy.
Now, this boy from Chicago, he’s from the big city.
I was from a country. We knew everything.
None of the other boys, when we were in
combat—would never get out and search.
We would hunt gardens that had onions, and
had potatoes and things—we’d mix that
with our K-ration, and made it better eating.
I remember one time that we were close by a
barn, and we went to the barn—he and I—the
rest of them wouldn’t get out and search—they
was afraid, but he stood down on the ground
to watch for me, and I climbed up in
the loft, and hunting a hen’s nest.
I was trying to find me some eggs, and I found
one up there—had several eggs in it, and
we had had some—one ration, and I’d saved
some grease out of the bacon we had, so we
took the mess kit and that oil, and fried
the eggs, and I shared with some of those boys.
Well, we got to chasing rabbits.
Go ahead and ask your question.
You’re going to separate all these when you get there anyway.
(interviewer) Yes, sir.
(Clinton) You’ll throw out what you want to.
(interviewer) Tell me about leaving Camp Wheeler.
Did you go straight from there to Fort Bragg?
(Clinton) Yes, uh-huh.
(interviewer) Tell me about that.
(Clinton) Went by train, and we landed—I can’t think
of the little town—close by, and ate
breakfast before we went over to Bragg.
They took us by bus after we got office
training, to this little town over to the camp.
It’s a huge—have you ever been to Fort Bragg?
(interviewer) No, sir.
(Clinton) It’s a huge, huge camp.
There wasn’t much to it, except
we just rode the bus over there.
(interviewer) Tell me a little bit about Bragg.
What was—what was it like when you got there?
How was that different from Camp Wheeler?
(Clinton) Well, that’s where they began to—began
to—the real training that we used
overseas, and also made several hikes.
I wasn’t there very long.
(interviewer) The camera messed up. I’m just—
(Clinton) —until we moved.
I was supposed to get a leave after I finished
basic training, and they told me there that
I would get it at the next place, but when
I got to Bragg, they wouldn’t let us out of camp.
We couldn’t call anybody, or write, or anything,
and immediately, we moved out to Camp Edwards.
I had absolutely no glider training at all—only
just some hikes and—just the usual routine.
(interviewer) Did you even know what a glider really was
at that point?
(Clinton) I saw one before I went overseas, but the
first glider ride that I ever had was after
we landed in Africa, where we had that pop tent camp.
They brought in—the engineers came in with a
bulldozer, and leveled off a little strip,
and brought in two gliders—and they gave
us a fifteen-minute glider ride to qualify
us as a glider rider, and here came the storm
one day, and flipped one of those over on
this top, so we just had one glider left.
But the first ride I had was only fifteen minutes long.
To begin with, we didn’t draw any flight pay.
We didn’t have any jump boots or any uniform,
but after we rescued the paratroopers a few
times in Normandy, they felt we deserved to have boots.
Mine was issued in 1944, after Normandy.
Well, it was issued in Normandy after the battle was over.
(interviewer) Tell me—what was it like, leaving the States?
I’m guessing you’d never left the United States before.
(Clinton) No. As I said, I’d never
been anywhere or done anything.
(interviewer) Right.
What was that like for you—to get onto
the Santa Rosa, and head to Casablanca.
(Clinton) Well, you had that longing to go back home,
but—we had twice as many on the boat.
It had been a pleasure ship during peacetime, the Sultana.
I became interested about three or four years
ago, when I made a search to find out what
I could about the Sultana, but I found out
that they scrapped it a few years ago—but
they had twice as many on there as it should
have been, and we took—half of the trip,
we had to sleep out on the deck, and the other
half, we got to sleep in the cot downstairs.
Well, at the time when I was sleeping on the
deck, I woke up one morning—it was pouring
down rain, and of course, it
didn’t have any lights whatsoever.
We had to catch hands and made our way down,
and stood in the hallway till daylight.
But I—I got a thrill out of getting out on a
battleship and—and watching the convoy—as
I said, it was a huge, huge convoy—the
Battleship Texas was the escort ship.
And if you notice in the picture there—see
those potholes up there, it shelled there
and made those potholes—the Rangers climbed
that—it’s a hundred feet from the water
up to that bunker.
I’ve been in that bunker there.
And when I was there in ’94, I was over
there, and those potholes are still there,
but that Battleship Texas—I sat out there and watched it.
It was run alongside of us, some distance away.
I usually just stand out there for
hours at a time, and ride the waves.
But they worked on that ship on the way over,
taking the paint off—the sailors that were
on the ship, packing that paint
off, and repainting—remodeling it.
And they—it got so rough that I eventually
quit going down to the kitchen—dining room to eat.
The waves were so rough, and some of those
guys got seasick and got to throwing up and
making a mess to turn your stomach, and I
went to the PX, and got me two boxes—got
me a box of candy, and that’s what
I ate the rest of the way over.
(interviewer) Did you have to worry about any U-boat scares?
(Clinton) Yes, they were chasing us all the way over,
and they dropped several ash cans, they called it.
We got credit for sinking two.
I don’t know true it is—I never did see the
authorities on that, but the sailors claimed
they sank two U-boats.
We came down the East Coast to the United
States before we crossed—went around to Africa.
(interviewer) Let me stop for a minute and switch tapes.
I see this one’s about full.
Take me to—back to Africa.
You talked about how hot it was and everything,
but what—what kind of things were you doing in Africa?
Were you doing a lot of training, or foxhole-digging?
(Clinton) The biggest thing we were doing—we were
parading for generals.
While we were there in that particular
place—Marina was the name of the camp.
I think it was twelve different generals that
we paraded for, and took a little glider ride
I was telling you about.
That—that was the first camp, Marina,
before we flew by glider, to Kairouan.
At Kairouan, it was a plot—a ground—it was
surrounded by cactus plant—I told you
we were under British rationing.
We even got those birds off of the cactus and
ate them there, and—on the flight from—on
that trip, we headed across the Atlas
Mountains, which is real high.
We went through a gap in the mountain where one
of the gliders crashed, and I was reported
on that glider until we got there and made
a count—it killed—it killed several of
us in that glider.
But—that was the longest ride we had.
On the way, we’d run into a storm and was
forced down, and—I got to go through a British
plane while I was there—I was
trying to think of the name of it.
Anyway, there happened to be an old boy stationed
there, from Sweetwater, that I knew, but he’s
kind of a dignified individual.
He didn’t say nothing to me, and I didn’t
say nothing to him, not until I got back.
He ran a service station here.
One day, I stopped to get some gas, and I
told him—I made mention about being there,
but—ordinarily, if he’d—if he’d been a
nice guy, I guess I’d have talked to him. (Laughs)
(interviewer) What—
(Clinton) That place was surrounded with mountains,
and I—I began to wonder whether we’re ever
going to get enough of a force to get
over that mountain.
I mean—was forced down, and caused that
storm, but he gunned that thing enough that
we cleared the mountain.
(interviewer) Tell me about your first glider ride.
What was that like?
And was it in a British glider?
(Clinton) No, it was an American glider.
(interviewer) What was—what
was your first ride in a glider like?
(Clinton) I was holding on. (Laughs) Well, it wasn’t quite
long enough to get really scary.
It was fifteen minutes—take off to—and we
didn’t have no water supply there until
the engineers came in and dug a well, and
I’ve forgotten how many hundred feet they had to go down.
And when—when they struck water, the
natives come in from all around.
It was a mystery to them, how we got water out of the ground.
I’ll just throw this in—extra.
At Kairouan, our next to the place where we
flew from—Marina to Kairouan—right before
the invasion of Sicily, they had a hut—a
metal hut, and the chaplain of the division
held a two-week revival, and several of the boys were saved.
And one Sunday afternoon, the six of them,
he allowed them to join the church back in
Texas, and he would give them a transfer when
they got back to the States—if he lived.
So, they went out to baptize them one Sunday
afternoon, and I went out with them for the
baptizing—and the native kids were out there.
They had to take sticks and beat the
snakes back while they baptized.
Okay, go ahead—question.
(interviewer) Something I was wondering earlier was, had
you ever even been up in an airplane
before you’d been in a glider?
(Clinton) No.
(interviewer) Really?
(Clinton) No.
(interviewer) That was your first—
(Clinton) It’s like—they brought a plane close to
the neighborhood we call, Greasy Creek, here.
It was the type that Lindbergh flew across,
and they were flying passengers—so much
for passengers, and somebody asked this old
lady if she was going to ride, and she said,
“No,” said, “I’ve never had a desire to
go up,” so I never did have the desire
to fly—(Laughs)—till I flew in that glider.
(interviewer) Didn’t really give you a choice, though,
on that, did they?
(Clinton) No, no choice.
(interviewer) You talked about the invasion of Sicily
a little bit earlier. Give me a little bit more detail
about the preparation for that.
And did you have any idea where you were even going?
And take me into the invasion.
(Clinton) No.
Well, since they changed us from going airborne by—I’m sorry.
I forget about that.
After we found out we were going airborne,
then they began to teach us on amphibious landing.
They flew us in—we didn’t know exactly what
to expect, but it ended up that we just
more or less just dug in and kind of served as a reserve.
The paratroopers were already there—they
went in before us, and it was just kind of
a holding situation for the time we were there.
We weren’t there very long till we moved on to Italy.
(interviewer) I had a note here—I think this was in Sicily,
but it may have been Italy.
I guess it was probably Italy.
Tell me about being a messenger.
I read something about how you would carry
messages up and down mountains, under fire, and—
(Clinton) Yeah, that’s what—what I was telling you
about when—I got out in no man’s land,
and heard that patrol come through.
(interviewer) Tell me a little bit more about that.
What was going through your mind, and what was that like?
(Clinton) You just began to wonder if you’d ever even
get out of the situation.
It was a while before I realized I was out
in no man’s land, but I took time to kind
of study—find my direction, and got
headed in the right direction.
It’s just like being lost—a lost feeling.
(interviewer) I know this is right around the time that
Company B was moving up the trail to relieve
Company E. What kind of messages were you
carrying around?
(Clinton) On that particular mission,
it was the password for the night.
I’d taken one the day before, and then this
next day, they had to do that—password—(Laughs)
(interviewer) That’s funny.
(Clinton) And I went to all these
schools on all kinds of weapons.
And one day, I remember I had twelve different weapons.
My buddy’s would jam up or something, and
I’d give him mine, and I’d pick one up.
I’ve actually—whether you believe it or
not, it’s the truth—I put a firing pin—an
M1, still working—I’d take it apart and put
the parts in my pocket, and I assembled it back.
I had twelve different weapons in one day,
and during that day, we were going down to
a little village, and I had a Thompson Submachine
Gun, and I was holding it like this—and
I accidentally touched the trigger
on that thing, and it went, “Prrrr.”
(Laughs) I didn’t realize it’d fire like that—it was open.
I figured you had to cock it, but you didn’t.
It so happened I just held it straight up.
As I said, I went to all these schools and
later learned all the nomenclature of them.
(interviewer) I read a note, too, about your company, and
actually, I guess, your regiment.
(Clinton) Oh, you done read up on me, too.
(interviewer) A little bit, yes, sir.
I read a note about—about that time where
you all ran across some Germans that were eating.
I guess they were in camp or something,
and you caught them off guard.
(Clinton) That was up on Sant’Angelo Mountain in Italy.
We surprised them. They were eating.
(interviewer) Tell me about that.
(Clinton) They had an
outpost—more or less, an outpost.
It was a real high mountain—I still remember—the
Sant’Angelo Mountain—and you could look
out, and you could even see the seacoast from
there, and there was a road that ran along
at the base of it.
And when the bridges came in, they went
down this road, and we surprised them.
They were eating, and some of them were
killed—and some of them ran down the mountain.
Well, the British coming in on the road at the
foot, captured a bunch of them down there,
and—we didn’t stay up there very long on
that mountain until we had to come down.
As we come down off of the mountain,
we got down—almost down off of it.
There was a house, and this man come out—me
and a friend of mine, we’re walking together,
and he invited us to come in and have lunch,
so we went around behind the house and ate
lunch with him.
Our troops was still coming down, and
so they couldn’t see us back there.
(Laughs) They’d have chewed us out.
Now, when we landed—I’ll throw this in for you.
When we landed in Italy, they had instructed
us not to eat any fruits or anything, but
being an old farm boy, I spotted this
watermelon patch, and I got me a watermelon.
Me and the fellows are just sitting there,
eating that watermelon, and this officer come
along, and here, talking about getting chewed
out—we really got a chewing out that day,
but it was worth it. (Laughs)
(interviewer) I bet it was.
(Clinton) In other words—most of this would be for
you, it won’t be for the public.
(interviewer) Well—
(Clinton) Well, I mean, as it is.
(interviewer) Right.
We’ll—anything the public sees will be edited.
(Clinton) You’ll cut out the times I giggle and so forth.
(interviewer) That’s right.
(Clinton) Okay.
(interviewer) Was this the hill where you captured a bunch
of the Germans, and then they—the ones that
you didn’t capture made it down the hill
and ran into the—?
(Clinton) Yes.
(interviewer) Okay.
Isn’t that when—and if so, tell me a little
bit about this—your commanding officer,
Lieutenant Gibson, and I think,
another Lieutenant Edward, were shot?
(Clinton) Yeah.
Gibson, he was one of the best officers—he
was our captain, and I was his messenger,
and also a radio operator one time.
There, in Normandy—of course, I had to be
right on his heels at all times—we walked
through fire—overhead fire there, the traces are
so thick at times, it seems like you almost
have to stop till it passes by, and
he was a very, very nice fella.
I never did hear him say a bad
word—he was wounded three times.
This one particular time, a sniper got him
in the arm, and they called him an SOB, and
that’s the only time I ever heard him say anything.
After the war was over, he was a farm machinery
salesman, and he was killed at a crossroad in Indiana.
I stayed in contact with his widow and his
son for some time, but I lost contact—I
don’t know whatever happened—the boy was
wanting to know about his father, but—I
had two company commanders killed right out
from under me—that one at Siegfried Line,
and another one, Dew—artillery got him.
The last words he said—I heard the shell
coming, and I hit the ground, and about the
time, he said, “Let’s go,” and he
stood up, and the shell got him.
(interviewer) Let’s see, from there, you guys started
moving—from what I remember reading in my notes—
(Clinton) Into—
(interviewer) To Naples, right?
(Clinton) —to Naples, from off that mountain.
(interviewer) And that’s when you linked up with the 504,
and the 505, right?
(Clinton) Well, they were in
another section from where we were.
(interviewer) Let’s see, you moved
across the planes toward Naples.
The whole time you’re moving, the
Germans are pulling back, right?
Is that how it was working?
Like you were fighting the rear
elements of the Germans as they were—
(Clinton) 01:08:12 Elements—but others are still trying
to set up a resistance.
(interviewer) Tell me about that combat there, and what—what
was the fighting like? The terrain?
(Clinton) Well, it’s so mountainous there.
The most damage is done by our own troops, bombing the place.
They tore the place all to pieces.
I never ate any spaghetti until we went into
Naples, and they had the pot—had fire built
out in the alleyways, and pots—cooking spaghetti
and selling it to the soldiers—some of them.
As I said, it was bombed so that we had to
set up even food lines and water lines for
the people there.
They put me on guard there, and they had a
line for the pregnant women—and this one
old Italian tried to barge his way in on the
pregnant line, and I told him, “Get back,”
and he wouldn’t get back, and I whooped
him in the head with the butt of a rifle,
and he backed up.
I don’t know—there wasn’t any combat
of—hand to hand, or on-the-ground fighting
right in the city where we were at.
It was on out—on the outskirts from
where we were at that particular time.
As I said, most of it is done—bombing overnight.
(interviewer) What—tell me about those bomb—what was—what
was the bombing like? Tell me about that.
What was that like—to experience some of that?
(Clinton) It’s just—it’s the big explosions—we
went to underground safety whenever we could—civilians
would also go to underground basements,
and—any place you could.
I remember one time, I was in this building,
and I crawled in under a table on the first
floor—anywhere you could get protection.
(interviewer) What—
(Clinton) And everything was a blackout.
No lights, of course.
(interviewer) What were the civilians like in Italy?
What were the people like, that you were around?
(Clinton) Well, most of them were friendly.
Most of them are glad to have us there.
I was with a bunch of young fellows—some
of them about your age, and there were—do
you know any Italian?
(interviewer) No. (Clinton) There were the—
(interviewer) Spaghetti, that’s about all I know.
(Clinton) “Bene” means “Good,” “Molto bene,”
“Very good.”
I know some of the young guys, “Bene, bene,
molto bene,” and I asked one of them, I
said, “Why do you do that?”
I come to find out the old timers had a moustache.
“Bene, bene, molto bene.”
“Buona notte,” “Good night”—I
learned quite a number of words.
And their favorite song was, “Mother dear,
come over here and see who’s looking in my window.”
(Laughs) Remember that old boy from Chicago
I was telling you about, my buddy—we used
to gather overnight when we were in combat,
and we’d sing some of these old songs.
I’d take my mess kit, and I’d keep
time like—(Laughs)—over that mess kit.
You’d find some way to enjoy yourself—pass the time.
(interviewer) How long did you stay in that area before
you left to go to England?
(Clinton) We went in on the first of October, and left
at Thanksgiving—about—approximately
two months—a little less.
(interviewer) Tell me about leaving there.
Did you have any idea where you were going next?
(Clinton) No—absolutely not.
We didn’t know.
As I said, as we went out to the Mediterranean.
(interviewer) Gibraltar? (Clinton) Yeah.
Axis Sally said, “You’ll never get out.
We know where you’re at,” but we
had no idea where we was going on.
We tried to guess, and then made that big
circle round—in the North Atlantic, running
that big storm—I barely stuck a camera out the
door and took a picture of the waves coming
over the battleship, and so, we ended up in Ireland.
It’s a beautiful little island if you ever have time to go.
(interviewer) I’ve never been to—tell me about it.
What was Ireland like in comparison to where you’d—?
(Clinton) Well, I’ve got—I’ve got pictures.
The old castle—when I was there a few years
ago—when I was invited to go back and cover
that monument, the fellow that invited me
over there got a bus, and we made a tour of
the entire island, and there’s a lot
of the old castle still out there.
I made some pictures.
I’ll show them to you, actually, if
you have time—of the old castle.
It’s a very—very beautiful island.
(interviewer) How long were you—did you stay in the Ireland?
How long were you there during the war?
(Clinton) As a soldier?
From the first of December to the first of February.
(interviewer) What—what were you doing?
What was life like during that time?
(Clinton) Well, we were supposed to be training for an invasion.
As I said, the weather was so bad.
It rained day in, day out—short hours, and—we
really didn’t do too much, except a few
hikes and whatnot.
(interviewer) Did you know you would be going to Normandy,
or where did you think you were going?
(Clinton) Well, yes, I knew sooner or later we were
supposed to be training for that, but we didn’t
get very much training under those conditions.
(interviewer) I’ve talked to other guys, paratroopers
included, who said they all started taking bets
on whether or not they were going to—somewhere
else in France, or going straight into Germany,
or going even to the Pacific, so I just wondered
if you had any ideas.
(Clinton) Well, we had some knowledge
of going into Normandy.
But it didn’t—didn’t cross exactly, the
channel, where we thought we would.
It was eighty—eighty-three miles, I believe,
across the channel where we crossed, and they
set up all those artificial camps along the British beach.
They looked like a real Army camp to the Germans
from the area, but they just—some of them
are just blown up.
For instance, two men could carry a tank.
(Laughs) I got a picture of some fellows standing,
gazing, wondering how them two fellows are
carrying a tank.
(interviewer) (Laughs) Two strongest men in the Army.
(Clinton) (Laughs) Yeah, they’re just blown up.
(interviewer) Tell me—where did you go—where did you
say you went after you left the island—when
you left the island in February?
(Clinton) To Leicester.
Lea—(Lah-cas-ter), as they pronounce
there, or Leicester (Lester).
(interviewer) What—what was training like
there for the invasion?
(Clinton) Well, most of it’s just—just everyday duty.
Some of it was going to the firing range, some
of it was hikes, and some of it was parade
for the generals, and always—the retreats
every day, and by the way, while we was in
Africa, we were so hot, after we moved to
Kairouan, sometimes, it’s 130 or so, we
had to change clothes—go out for the retreat,
and you could track the troops out to the
place where we held it—sweat
dropping in sand—most of it’s sandy.
Had a lot of ol’ lizard—great big ol’ lizards there.
I didn’t see too many snakes but they had a
lot of lizards—sand lizard, I reckon you
call them.
(interviewer) While you were in England and after you had
left the island, were you doing a
lot of glider training at all?
(Clinton) No.
(interviewer) Other than if you just happened to do any
flying in preparation for Normandy?
(Clinton) No, as far as I remember, I don’t think
I ever took, even a ride, there.
(interviewer) Tell me about—let’s get a little closer
to June of ’44.
Tell me about the preparations for
Normandy—about loading up the glider.
Tell me a little bit about the British Horsa Glider.
(Clinton) Well, it was part of my job to account for
the load that we had for the American gliders—I
think 3700 pounds is what—plus the troops—the
American glider held thirteen, and I didn’t
figure it on the Horsa Glider when it went
in—I don’t know who did that, but—
In preparation there, you had to
get your ammunition together.
You had to be sure that your weapons are operating.
Of course, you went to the firing range to
try them out, and to also practice target practice.
Thanks to that nature—during that
time, you had to serve guard duty.
You had to serve on KP as an enlisted man,
and—also, just about every day after you
got through training, a bunch of us would
go to town and ramble all around, and you
got to go in with a bunch of girls—I wasn’t married then.
You got to go in with some of the village
girls, and in turn, those girls got to coming
out to camp, and our officer told us, he
said, “Boys, you got to get rid of them.”
He said, “If you don’t, I’m going
to put everyone out here on KP.”
And so, I took a nickname—(Laughs)—and
there wasn’t a boy in our company by that
name, so when they come and ask for so and
so, they have to tell them they didn’t have
nobody by that name.
So—I went with the name of “Smith.” (Laughs)
(interviewer) That’s funny.
(Clinton) Yeah.
And some of the boys that I ran with still call me that.
(interviewer) (Laughs) Tell me about the process of linking
up with the C-47 and taking off.
What was that like?
(Clinton) When we took off for the invasion?
Well, they got us up at 2 o’clock in the
morning for breakfast, and—and we took off—it
was scarcely light—I remember it had been
real cloudy, but after I got in that ol’
British glider, I looked up through the canopy,
and it opened up enough that I could see the
sky just for a minute, but we had to circle
the airport there until the whole train got
out—to get started.
We left there—ell, it’s over a two-hour flight altogether.
We landed—it was about ten minutes to 7:00 in the
morning, so we left there quite early—England.
I’ve got the flight plan into Holland
with a number of gliders, and everything.
And I think I know who the pilot was, but I’m not sure of it.
Our pilot and copilot going into Normandy
in the British glider—the pilot was from
Kentucky, and the copilot was from North
Carolina, but I don’t—I didn’t ever get their names.
When we take a break in a minute, I’ll show
you that piece of glider that I rode into Holland in.
(interviewer) I’d love to see it.
What was your position inside the
glider—just out of curiosity?
(Clinton) I always managed to try to get right behind
the pilot so I could hear the conversation
between the pilot and the copilot, and also—that
was in the Horsa glider.
In the American glider, I was
upfront with the glider—the pilot.
(interviewer) What—what was the view of the Channel as
you came over the Channel heading toward France?
(Clinton) It was just loaded
with boats—all sizes—(s/l Leland)—
it was amazing.
It was like having a ringside seat to
see all of that moving towards France.
(interviewer) What about in the air?
What did you see around you and above you?
(Clinton) We had—there were there layers of fighter
planes over us, protecting us—that was going into Normandy.
Now, we didn’t have that going into
Holland, but—they were circling overhead.
(interviewer) Tell me about—again, a little bit about
seeing a slack in the cable and having to
throw things out the back of the glider.
Tell me about that again.
(Clinton) Well, as I said, the power—they lost power.
Now, Pierce—you said you was with him—in his
book, now, he would tell you that it was
overloaded, and by unloading
it—lightened the load, and we went on.
But now, I’m sorry to say, he’s wrong on that.
And I never did tell his family, or his daughter—I
never did make that remark, but the truth
of the matter is like I told you.
Because, I was exactly right
behind the pilot and the copilot.
At one time, the copilot reached up to release
the towline, and the pilot said, “Wait,
wait, wait,” and after it gained power,
he began to wiggle—he had it like that,
and wiggled that rope that was looped under
our landing gear, loose, and so, he didn’t
have to release the towline.
But now, that’s the only difference that
I find in Wayne’s book, is that he—at
that time, he didn’t even know where the door
to the glider was, and I told him, “It’s
at the back—at the rear,” and he went back
out and helped the boys throughout their
supplies—the tank mines, in the
water—five gallons—pails of water.
So, he was actually back there, and he didn’t
hear the conversation—what was going on
up there, but I reckon the old fella, he
wrote what he thought was going on anyway.
(interviewer) Why don’t you take off, Diego?
(male speaker) Sorry.
(Clinton) Okay, take off.
Thank you for coming.
(male speaker) Thank you, nice to meet you.
(interviewer) Nice to meet you.
(Clinton) He thinks I’m his idol, but he’s a smart kid.
He’s A all the way through.
(interviewer) Take me to the point where you disconnect
from the C-47 and start gliding in.
What was that flight like?
(Clinton) In Normandy, it was very short.
We got down just as quick as possible after the
pilot spotted this little gardenlike area.
He said, “There’s where we land in.”
He took it down just as fast as he could,
and that’s when cut the top out of that tree.
He really went in too fast and too low.
(interviewer) Did the glider break up a good bit, or—?
(Clinton) No, just that wing—the left wing, but it
hit the ground real hard.
(interviewer) Something I’ve heard from—and read, too,
from other glider men is—they talk about ping pong balls.
(Clinton) Oh, the wings were filled with ping pong balls
in case it went down in the Channel.
When that occurred, we had a double bit axe
on the glider, and they ask the sup—mess
sergeant to chop a hole in the top of the
glider in case we did land, and we could crawl
out on that to be rescued.
Yeah, it was filled with ping pong
balls—thirty thousand, they claimed.
I saw the ping pong ball but I
thought they said it was in there.
(interviewer) You have a photo of—
you showed me earlier, too, of another glider.
Tell me about that. That one’s pretty banged up.
(Clinton) Yeah, that was A Company—the glider.
I don’t know how many men were injured in that.
We had one that the front of the glider raised
up and shot the officer out, and I think,
broke his legs, but on this particular one, I
don’t know about it because they’d already
left it when I came around.
Apparently, it landed before we did.
But on landing, I just walked around the
edge there, and I saw—and I thought that’d
be a good picture.
In fact, some of the authors of the books—I
don’t know where they got it, but they’ve
got my picture in their book.
(interviewer) What—I was going to ask you, how many people
did you say would fit in inside the—
(Clinton) Thirty-three—and they sat, facing each other
on benches down the sides.
(interviewer) I guess that was your grandson
leaving the other door.
Take me—once you got out and snapped
that photo, what did you do next?
(Clinton) That was when I began to go slowly up to the
road, watching for the snipers, and then,
eventually, the old Frenchman came up with
his pail of milk, but we had to hike all that day, as I said.
We had to—pardon me, we had to walk
quite a distance to our assembly area.
See, we didn’t land where we were supposed
to, but we had to assemble together.
We had to walk quite a ways to it.
(interviewer) What—do you remember what it was like once
you got on the ground?
Did you expect the Germans to be
there instantly in front of you?
I guess, what were you thinking about
as the glider landed and you got out? What did you expect?
(Clinton) I really didn’t know what to expect, but
not seeing any at that particular moment, my
thought was to be on the lookout and watch
for snipers—that was my big concern at that particular time.
There were so many of the hedges up and around
to—it would have concealed the Germans if
they’d been there—and I’m sure there
were some around, but I didn’t see them.
The sniper is what I was watching for.
(interviewer) Let’s see, from there,
you said you went into Sainte-Mère-Église?
(Clinton) Went through Sainte-Mère-Église,
yeah—505th infiltrated.
(interviewer) What did things look like within town there
as you came through?
(Clinton) Well, not knowing the town, it—the section
we went through was more or less normal.
They hadn’t destroyed too much of the buildings.
You could see a few of the buildings where—a
few bullet holes, but—like it had been—in
the area where we went through—I don’t
know how the other section was.
(interviewer) And you said you saw—
that was where you saw your first dead German?
(Clinton) Yeah, laying in the alleyway.
(interviewer) What went through your mind when you saw that?
(Clinton) (Laughs) I began to look for others who wasn’t dead.
(Laughs) That—I’d certified the fact that
there were Germans—I hadn’t seen any up to that point.
(interviewer) Tell me about—a little bit more, again,
about coming through the town, and you—you
told me earlier, there was more details to
the next, say, twenty-four hours
that you kind of cut back on.
Take me to La Fiere, and some of the areas outside
of Sainte-Mère-Église when you came—after you cut through town.
(Clinton) Yeah. Well, we ended up over there on
the—close to the river, in that battle.
(interviewer) What was that like?
(Clinton) That was a tough, tough battle.
That’s where we began to rescue the paratroopers—a
time or two, when they thought we ought to
wear jump boots.
(Laughs) What I’m telling you, does it line
up anything with what you’ve been studying?
(interviewer) Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Tell me—
(Clinton) I’m just talking off the top of my head.
(interviewer) Yeah, that’s fine.
That’s what I want you to do.
Did you run into Gavin at any point?
(Clinton) He was across from where I was at the bridge.
He really couldn’t see—he gave credit to
the paratroopers for taking their time
there—he couldn’t see to the other end,
where we were—the glider men, so he didn’t
know what the glider men were going—doing,
so he gave credit to the paratroopers.
(interviewer) Tell me, again, where you were—and you started
talking about where you—how the fields
were flooded and you had to cross.
Tell me a little bit about that.
(Clinton) The Meredith River?
(interviewer) Yeah, tell me about that
in more detail, because
you said earlier—and you were like,
“Long story, short,” but I didn’t want you
to go too short on it.
(Clinton) (Laughs) Well, it was just the process of
coming, going, hit the ground, being careful
and watchful and so forth, but—really, not
any action that I could point out would be
beneficial, except just try and take care of yourself.
They were shelling us, and occasionally,
you’d hear rifle fire, but—
(interviewer) What about that whole process of—
of crossing? Did you—
(Clinton) A single file across, yeah.
They fired, I believe, twice on us in that—in
that crossing, but—it was in the dark, and
they missed us. (Laughs)
(interviewer) Do you remember what—where the fire came from?
(Clinton) You—you just hear the firing of it.
(interviewer) I don’t know if you saw like what direction
it came from, or—
(Clinton) Well, it came from—to the right side of
us as we was crossing.
We come up to this point, and this—this
fellow had found this crossing in one place—a
shallow crossing, and—but where we were
crossing, there had been a bridge cross, and
that’s where they put that board down.
But we’re coming into this point, and we
turn to our left, and this firing came from
out there where we had not reached yet.
(interviewer) So, you—went on from there?
(Clinton) Yeah, turned—turned to the left, and that
firing is coming in from the right.
After we got across, we made a big circle,
like this—around them, to—towards the church there.
Remember the church?
(interviewer) Right, tell me a little bit about that.
(Clinton) Well, at the—at that particular time, not
until later that I got to see the church,
but when we were attacked, I didn’t get
to see the church, we’d gotten near it, and
the C Company come around on the right,
and they veered off to the right as we were—what’s
his name—that got the big award from C Company?
I have to designate the point where he got killed.
(interviewer) Right. The only person whose name I can
think of around there is Deglopper.
(Clinton) Yeah, Deglopper, that’s him.
Yeah, he’s the one who knelt on the road
there and kept firing till they got him.
(interviewer) Did you see that?
(Clinton) No, but I was close by.
I was to his left, and they veered off to the
right, and that’s the reason that woman—what
is her name?
The French girl I was talking about that had that restaurant.
Anyway, she contacted me to try to designate
where to put the plaque up, or sign—whatever
they put up—I never did see it.
(interviewer) Tell me about the fighting around there, and
when he earned that Medal of Honor.
What was the fighting like there?
(Clinton) All this tremendous firing going on, you just
had to dodge here and there, and
take protection anywhere you could.
It was—it was terrible there for
a while at that particular time.
(interviewer) Could you see the—the
manor from your position—the
big manor, where the restaurant and all that?
(Clinton) That’s—no, I don’t know whether they
built that restaurant after the war or
not, but I didn’t see no restaurant.
There’s that house away, off—we didn’t go that far.
They sent C Company around to inspect it, and
that’s how I come in to swing around—much to the right.
(interviewer) I’m trying to think if there’s anything else.
I’ll pause this for just a minute
here, take a break for a second.
Well, tell me—tell me a little bit more about that.
Tell me about—before you actually get to
the fight—I’ve got the camera back on—tell
me about the railroad.
We were talking about the railroad a minute
ago, and walking along that for cover.
What do you remember from that?
(Clinton) Well, to—just creeping along and trying
to use it—the bank alongside the railroad
as protection here, and they—some of the
tanks had been knocked out on the road through
there, and we had to go around those things.
(interviewer) What was—who was in command at this point,
of your company?
Was Lieutenant Pierce the one leading you through this?
(Clinton) No, no.
The company commander of C Company had been
wounded in landing, and they transferred him
from B Company to C Company.
(interviewer) Tell me a little
bit more from what you remember,
of fighting there, did you—I know C Company
got a lot of—a lot of firing on them, but
what do you remember of combat there
against the Germans? I mean, do you remember seeing them?
Were they far away? Close?
(Clinton) As I said, I never—
never got to see any firing at me.
I—I received the fire but didn’t see the gunman.
(interviewer) Where—how long were you there before you
moved out? Do you remember?
(Clinton) No, I honestly don’t.
We started three days and nights altogether
over there—in that particular area.
It seemed to me like it was a week or so.
(interviewer) Do you—
(Clinton) —in that area.
(interviewer) From the map I was just looking at—do you
remember drawing any fire from Amfreville—the
town that was sort of back on your—this
right flank?
(Clinton) We bypassed Amfreville—and we did catch
a bunch of artillery fire from our own unit,
because we were in advanced troops, and we—we
were ahead of them, and we almost caught the
artillery fire from our own people, but we
bypassed it.
(interviewer) Where did you go from there—from that position,
after you—after all this fighting was
done, where did you—did you move on out?
Did you go toward Hill 30, or anywhere?
What was next?
Oh, Hill 95, do you remember it?
(Clinton) What?
(interviewer) Hill 95, when you were a runner
for Captain Gibson?
(Clinton) Yeah, I was—I was a runner for the company
commander, the battalion commander,
regimental—and ended up with Gavin.
We used to sit around when we weren’t busy and
talk about the things we used to do before
we went in.
(interviewer) Really? (Clinton) Yeah.
(interviewer) With Gavin?
(Clinton) I knew him well, uh-huh.
(interviewer) Tell me about—tell me about what you remember for—
(Clinton) I can’t answer all your questions without
getting my diary out and following you
along—because that’s been a long time, remember?
(interviewer) That’s true. That’s true.
I was reading something about—
during that fighting around Hill 95,
how bad the mortars were, and Company B got down
to like forty-five men, or something like that.
(Clinton) We lost an awful lot of men, I know that.
(interviewer) And then, you were still—
(Clinton) There was only thirty-eight able to return
back to England when it was over
with—out of a hundred and fifty-five.
(interviewer) So, you were one of the lucky ones.
(Clinton) (Laughs) Well, I—I was, I guess—I was
a funk hero, more or less.
I’d done this, and done that, and different
things, and I—in the history, I’m not
always where the troop is.
I’m out on some mission, doing something—taking
something, or—taking a message, or something.
I guess I was exposed to more fire than any
man in the company, because a lot of times,
they would remain in their foxhole.
We just fought at day, and when night
come, we usually dig in for the night.
Very seldom did we ever make a night attack,
but to dig in late in the afternoon, when
I would take supplies for the next day—ammunition
and food, and deliver it to the foxhole, where
the men were, so they wouldn’t have
to get out and expose themselves.
So, I—I was the one who received the exposure,
and I was exposed more than—I remember one
particular time on the fourth of July that
at midnight, I was out putting out the tank
mines in the road—all the men had already dug
in, and I was out there, working—putting
mines in case the Germans come up the road.
And then, I had to serve on the telephone.
(interviewer) I was—I was going to ask you about that.
We talked earlier about how you had
a radio in the glider with you. Did you keep that—?
(Clinton) Field 300, you know what that is?
(interviewer) That’s the backpack radio, right?
(Clinton) Yeah, and the combat battery alone
weighed forty-two pounds.
Then I had two bandoliers of ammunition,
and I had a belt full of ammunition.
I had my pack on—had nine pounds more,
and—I had about as much as I weighed.
(interviewer) I was going to say—
(Clinton) Somebody told me out there, they said, “The
reasons the Germans never got to
kill you, you were so skinny.
You just turned this way, and they missed you.”
(interviewer) (Laughs) I like that.
Did you have—did you—do you carry that radio
with you all through this fighting and everything?
(Clinton) Yeah.
Well, me and the big guy from Chicago, we
were mates—he would carry it part of the
time, and I would, part of the time, but he
got wounded in Normandy, and then, it was
left up to me.
(interviewer) When you had to carry
a message—the password or whatever—
(Clinton) Every afternoon, yeah.
(interviewer) Did you leave the radio behind, or were you—
(Clinton) Well, I—at times, was a radioman, and at
times, I was a messenger.
I didn’t do the same things at the same time.
(interviewer) Okay.
Well, I was wondering how that worked.
I was thinking that radio would probably slow you down.
(Clinton) Oh, no. No.
(interviewer) No, you’re fine.
(Clinton) But I served both of
them—I carried a walkie-talkie,
carried the Field 300.
I even went to school and learned Morse
code—also, light code—different things.
(interviewer) Wow.
(Clinton) Well, I mean, I’m not bragging.
I’m just telling you.
I had a high IQ when I went in to—even to basic
training—as I come in, I had the opportunity
to apply for officer.
And—some of the people are kind of surprised
now that I can remember all these dates.
Well, it’s branded in my brain—I can’t forget it.
(interviewer) What—do you remember when the 90th Division
linked up with you guys, and—?
(Clinton) —went through us? Yeah.
I remember that.
(interviewer) Tell me a little bit
about that—what you remember.
(Clinton) I was just glad to see them.
(Laughs) But then—then, the time come when
we had to reinforce them, and they bogged
down on us, but—that particular time,
I remember when they came through.
(interviewer) And then, not long after that, they pulled
you guys back—and I was reading about how
you had your first shower and you got to go to church.
(Clinton) Yeah.
(interviewer) Tell me about that.
And that’s when you got your jump boots, too, if I remember.
(Clinton) Oh, yeah, they—yeah, it’s after we rescued
them paratroopers.
I bet you didn’t read nothing about that in the book.
(interviewer) Tell me about it, though.
Tell me about how the attitude—well, first tell
me about—what the attitude before Normandy?
(Clinton) Let’s go back to England.
(interviewer) Okay.
(Clinton) You catch a glider man in town with jump boots
on, and the paratroopers would—you
had to fight right there.
They didn’t want the glider men wearing the
jump boots until we rescued them there,
and they issued it.
Okay, back to your question.
(interviewer) But then—after Normandy—but—how did
that attitude change after Normandy?
What did they—
(Clinton) Well, somewhat, and it wasn’t until later
years, even, that they began to recognize us as part of them.
But now, the general thought is, I’d rather be
a paratrooper, versus a glider man, because
that’s—that’s a one-way trip. (Laughs)
(interviewer) Right.
(Clinton) We call them the Flying Coffins.
(interviewer) I can understand why.
(Clinton) We lost so many men.
(interviewer) What was your first—what was it like to
have your first shower, and to go to
church after—after dealing with all that?
(Clinton) Oh, it’d been quite some time since I’d
had a shower, and—on Sunday
morning, you’re on the battlefield.
You’re just giving thanking words.
You could be in service somewhere,
or—get out of the place.
We had a wonderful chaplain with the name
of, “Wall,” and he seemed to be good at his job.
He was involved—part of that revival I was
telling you about that they had in Africa.
I guess you want something to drink, or eat, or something.
(interviewer) No, no, I’m fine.
I’m going to stop here for a second.
(Clinton) I’ve got—
(interviewer) After you got your jump boots, how much longer
did you stay in France before you
left to prepare for Holland?
(Clinton) Shortly.
We came back to England.
(interviewer) Okay.
(Clinton) Yeah, but we had the—a bunch of recruits
had come in while we were gone, and they stood
outside—a bunch of them did the open mouth
till after midnight—after we got back, some
of the boys are bragging—self-made heroes,
what they’d done.
(Laughs) It kept me awake.
(interviewer) We were talking about heroes earlier there.
Did you know Deglopper?
(Clinton) I knew of him,
but I’m not personally acquainted with him.
I’ve been in parades, and retreats and so
forth with him, but as far as talking with
him—a buddy or friend, I wasn’t.
(interviewer) I forgot to ask about it earlier.
What—what was it like with the new guys coming in?
Were they well-accepted, or did—did you,
veterans, basically kind of not really get
to know them?
(Clinton) A lot of—a lot of us,
I guess, tried to act the expert.
We’d been in combat, and had all these stories to tell them.
They were just recruits—rookies—kind of that
attitude for a while till they was proven
on the battlefield, but some of them made
good soldiers, I’ll have to say that.
But the sad part of it, so many of the boys
that I’d seen killed didn’t take advantage
of their training, or common sense.
That’s one of the scarcest commodities
we’ve got, is common sense.
I tried to use what little I had, and it paid off.
(interviewer) It worked out in your favor.
(Clinton) It sure did.
(interviewer) Tell me about preparing for Holland.
Did you guys know—I mean, you had an idea
for Normandy, but did you have any idea you
were going to Holland?
(Clinton) Yes, yes.
We anticipated that as soon as we came back
and saw all those recruits, and they’d raised
their number up to ninety-five, too, for that.
(interviewer) Tell me about the preparations for Holland.
Was it—as far as training or anything, was
it any—anything different from Normandy,
or was it—?
(Clinton) It was something along the same line.
We didn’t—I don’t remember having gone
out on the firing line like that.
It was more—mostly—kind of the problems
that we were running, and getting the men
in physical shape—exercise and so forth.
(interviewer) What about—did you have any kind of glider
training for—for Holland since you
were using the different gliders?
(Clinton) Oh, yeah. I took a—the double hitch training
that I was telling you about.
It was amazing—two gliders hooked to the C-47.
You go down the runway and the back
glider rises first, and the next one.
And then, the tow plane, but the distance
is too far to Holland for it to pull two.
(interviewer) What was it like piloting the glider—and
tell me about the differences in the American—
(Clinton) There wasn’t so much to it.
It had foot pedals to—for your
rudders, and (inaudible; 01:51:19).
There wasn’t too much—we didn’t have too much training to it.
I believe I could have learned it
if I had to, but—I’m glad I didn’t.
(interviewer) Tell me about—how many men did you say was in—
(Clinton) Thirteen.
(interviewer) Okay.
So, it’s a lot less than—than the British?
(Clinton) Oh, yeah, thirty-three.
(interviewer) Tell me about the process of loading the glider
and going into Holland.
What was that like?
(Clinton) Well, I always try to make a point to get
in first so I’d get towards the front, and
since I was the copilot, I did get to be up
front for Holland.
Normandy, as I said, I was right
behind the pilot and copilot.
It’s kind of amusing—a lot of the boys,
especially on the Normandy trip, they got
kind of airsick, and—throwing up in the
helmet, and going on, and so forth.
I never was sick, but—but to run into all
that ack-ack fire and everything, I didn’t
know whether to sit on my helmet or leave
it on my head—(Laughs)—because we didn’t
have no protection in that plywood coming right up through.
Don’t let me forget to show you—show you
that piece of American glider when we’re through.
(interviewer) No, I won’t. I want to see that.
(Clinton) Initially, we got our names written on it.
It kind of faded out.
There’s two museums—the one at Fort
Bragg, and also the one in Texas.
Have you been to that one?
(interviewer) I have not, no, sir.
(Clinton) The manager of it, I showed it to him, and
I went ahead and looked at all these displays
and everything and got ready to leave, and
I told him, I said, “I’ll like to have that piece of glider.”
And he said, “Oh, I thought you gave that to me.”
And I said, “Over my dead body.
I’m going to keep it a while.”
(interviewer) What—what was—what was coming into Holland
like compared to Normandy?
Did you have as much—
(Clinton) Much—much better landing area.
I’ll show you the picture of where we landed
after—when you have time to see the picture.
(interviewer) Did you have any aircraft fire, or—?
(Clinton) Not—not in the place where we landed, but
now, going in over the beach, we received fire.
Yeah, after going through all that fire and
crash-landing—and they won’t put my Purple
Heart on the discharge—the record.
(interviewer) Yeah, that doesn’t seem right.
(Clinton) I reckon they’re saving it—I don’t know—maybe
it never did cross their mind—maybe
they thought I was one of the new.
I wrote them time after time and
told them I had it, already wore it.
They wouldn’t have to do nothing other than
just write it, but—maybe they’re saving it.
(interviewer) The microphone slipped off you here.
(Clinton) I’m sorry, got my own down there.
Maybe they’re saving it for some Black boy
who dropped the K-ration crate on his toe,
or something, I don’t know.
(interviewer) Tell me a little
bit more about Holland, and—how
was it different from Normandy for you?
What do you remember?
(Clinton) Well, it’s a whole parcel of—canals and
things like that.
I was looking for all the windmills I could
see, and so forth—terraces and so forth.
You had to watch in your advancement, for
those things, and try to go around as many
as possible.
(interviewer) What about civilians?
Did you had a lot—have a lot of interaction?
(Clinton) Oh, they welcomed us, yes.
(interviewer) Tell me about that.
Did you see the orange flags?
(Clinton) Well, especially when we weren’t really
in battle, but going to place to place by truck,
they’d be out, cheering us and everything,
and wanting to give us something
to eat, or something like that.
Of course, in combat, you never saw any unless—like
there in Rognes, we saw a few when we took
that little village, but—they seemed to
disappear from the battleground—when it
was over with and we were passing through.
(interviewer) What I was reading—and you talked a little
bit about this earlier—you were sent up
to the battalion headquarters as a runner
when all the officers in B Company
got killed except for one.
(Clinton) Yeah, that’s when they pulled me out, and
I helped carry them out.
(interviewer) Tell me a little bit more about that.
(Clinton) It was on the planes of Mook—the planes
of Mook, and they killed so many that they
had me to come and help the Red Cross carry
the wounded out.
What happened there, we sat early one morning
across this meadow—there’s a big fog on,
and when we were out about midway of the meadow,
the fog lifted, and these Germans were up
in the woods.
And believe it or not, it was young boys,
some of them twelve, thirteen years old, and
oh, man—and they just mowed us down, because
they was in the protection in the woods up
there, and that fog eased up and exposed us.
I hid in a little ol’—I guess you’d call it a canal.
It’s just a narrow—little narrow job for a barrage coming in.
I wish you had time to—show you the pictures
of the—the funeral that I was telling you about.
I’ve got a whole pack of pictures of that.
(interviewer) You were telling me a little earlier, too,
about those wounded when you were moving them out.
You said you were getting shelled again.
(Clinton) Yeah, and I fell on this one—particular
one, trying to shield him.
(interviewer) What was going—
(Clinton) Since I’m such a little guy, I didn’t
shield him much.
(Laughs) But I gave him what I had.
Back then, I was heavier.
I got up to 162, believe it or not, while I was in there. But—
(interviewer) Did you—what was going through your mind
while you were doing that?
Did you think you were going to be one of the wounded, too?
(Clinton) I was really expecting to be the next one—I
had that feeling, but this is it.
Of course, it was really raining in on top of us.
(interviewer) And then, let’s see—I think we talked
a little bit, too, earlier about
riding in the battle in a tank?
(Clinton) Yeah, that was we went into Rognes.
(interviewer) What was that like compared to a glider?
(Clinton) Well, after we got there, they began to fire
the gun, or whatever you want to call it, on the tank.
(interviewer) The main gun?
(Clinton) Yeah, and we were sitting up on top, and every
time they’d fire, they’d nearly knock us off of there.
Well, I got my little camera—I’ll show you
the camera—to take some pictures—real
action, and this one boy from Ohio—he was my
buddy—my foxhole buddy part of the time—the
expression, he said, “Put that damn thing
in your pocket, we’re going to get killed.”
(Laughs) But every time they’d fire,
it’d nearly knock us off of that.
Finally, we just climbed off of that
thing, and went into the village.
They knocked—there are just two artillery
pieces in there, and they knocked out one,
and the other—
(interviewer) Just out of curiosity,
I ask everybody this—experiences
kind of thing.
What did you—which bothered you more, fighting
in a village like that, or out in the open—in
a field somewhere?
(Clinton) I’d rather be out in the open, because in
town, or in a village, there are so many buildings
for them to hide behind, and on the roofs,
and basements, and all the—not counting the alleyway.
(Laughs) No, I’d rather take the—the open
country—not the open country, but countryside.
(interviewer) What were the Germans like, you were fighting
against in that town?
I mean, were there a lot of troops,
or were they pulling out of there?
(Clinton) Well, different kinds of troops.
Never did run into the SS troopers
but one time that I remember.
They’re supposed to be the tough guys.
(interviewer) Was that in Holland,
or was that somewhere else?
(Clinton) No, it was there in Holland.
But—they just—I—I got along pretty good with
the old Germans, but the younger Germans,
and especially when we weren’t in combat—I’m
talking about when it’s all over with—those
boys that’d been in the SS troops, they’s
kind of smart alecs, but the older Germans,
I got along good with them, and I
learned a few words of German.
(Sprechen Sie Deutsch?; speaks German) and so forth.
I learned a few words in all—Italian, German, French.
(Parlez-vous français?; speaks French)
(interviewer) You speak more languages than I can.
(Clinton) Good.
(Ma chérie!; speaks French)
(interviewer) (Laughs) Well, let’s leave Holland and move
back to the Bulge a little bit—and
the Ardennes, and that area.
What was that like?
Being around where you fought, I just can’t
imagine being that cold and miserable.
(Clinton) Well, I hated being in the forest because
of the shells hidden in the trees—it
splatters, so—just everywhere.
And then, it’s so cold—it’s down near to
zero a couple of times, and 10° and 15°
all the time—worst winter that I had
in twenty years, and no protection.
On one particular night, as I said, we’d—we’d
fight during the day, and dig in for the night.
This one time, I was digging away—I know
you’ve seen this poster of this soldier
digging in, and this tanker comes up, and
he asks him, “You’re hunting a safe place?”
And he said a curse word and said, “I’m the
325th, and I’m not going any further.”
You’ve seen that, I guess.
I’ve got it downstairs—this big picture of it.
And this particular night, I was digging in,
and this tank pulled in close to where I was
at, and it’d been running, I guess, most
of the day, and after they cut off for the
night, I eased up and crawled in under that
tank—a hot motor, and boy, I got warm.
I don’t know what’d’ve happened if they
had cranked that tank—I get—I come out
of there, and I stayed there till I got
warm, and then, I went back to my foxhole.
(interviewer) Did you ever have any—I know some GIs worried
about trench foot, and black toes and things like that.
Did you ever have problems with your feet?
(Clinton) What do you call the itch in your feet? I got that.
Of course, it got wet so much.
During the Battle of the Bulge, they finally
issued snow packs, and I had two pairs of
heavy socks on, but my feet still were frostbit.
I don’t have any feeling in the bottom
of my feet now, and my hands froze.
In the cold weather now, they crack open and bleed.
I’ve used all kinds of lotion and everything
on—on them, they still crack open and bleed.
I had eyes frozen—my eyebrows and my nostrils.
It was just terrible.
(interviewer) So, you still—you still feel the effect
of frostbite?
(Clinton) I don’t have—I don’t have no feeling at all.
They checked me at the hospital.
There’s a gouge in—some sharp instrument—I
don’t know what—I didn’t jump or nothing,
but they come on up a little further and hit
me up here, and I jumped off that board.
(Laughs) But I don’t have any feeling
at all in the bottom of my feet.
I’ve got a piece of shrapnel there.
(interviewer) Tell me about that.
How did you get back?
(Clinton) Yes, a piece of shrapnel from artillery.
I can tell you just exactly the time that
I had a piece took out of my back after I
come home, at my own expense, at the
hospital, but I decided to sleep in there.
It didn’t bother me—it made my whole
hand ugly-looking, but I’m ugly anyway. (Laughs)
(interviewer) What—what else
do you remember from—from the Bulge?
You said you had a machine—you were a machine gunner?
(Clinton) —a machine gunner, going into Rognes, yeah.
(interviewer) So you got—
(Clinton) Yeah, they pulled me out of the battalion—well,
that was after I’d served as Gavin’s messenger.
Because I went all the way up, and then I fell back down.
(interviewer) Tell me about that.
(Clinton) A machine gunner at that time, the average
life is 40 minutes—that’s what they claimed.
(interviewer) You made it longer than that.
(Clinton) I sure did.
(interviewer) (Laughs) I forgot to ask you—
(Clinton) But they—they made up this extra machine
gun platoon to get more firepower going in.
This old boy that I was talking about
on the tank, he was one of them.
Hex, a supply sergeant, was another.
They just gathered up who they could to make up the platoon.
That’s the reason they made me the leader of it.
I had an ammunition carrier—that was the
job I had—the heavy ammunition, carrying it.
(interviewer) I forgot to ask you earlier about—tell me
a little bit more about Gavin.
How did you get to working for him, if you will?
(Clinton) Well, I—I reckon
he just needed a messenger up there.
I don’t know what happened to the one they had,
but anyway, they sent me from the battalion
on up there, and I was with him several days—long
enough, when—sometimes when we weren’t
busy, we just sat and talked, and changed
stories about what we used to do before we
came in, and so forth.
(interviewer) What did you think of Gavin?
(Clinton) As far as I was concerned, he was—he was
fine—made a good leader, but—but my company
commander, Gibson, he’s the—he’s the
best one I ever followed.
It seemed like he wasn’t afraid at all.
He’d just walk right through the line of
fire, it seemed like—but he was wounded
three times, but nothing real bad except—like,
a sniper got him in the arm, and I don’t
know what the other wounds were—
(interviewer) What else do you remember from the Bulge?
(Clinton) Well, we—we ran out of water, and I ate
snowballs till I got tired of them.
We was advancing, and I come to a little old
spring branch, and it’s all froze over—and
I broke the spring branch, and got my canteen full of water.
But down in that water was a whole bunch
of little old spider-like things.
I don’t know what they was, but they looked
like kind of spiders—but they was in that
water, and they ended up in my canteen.
Well, we always carried those pills to purify.
Instead of putting one tablet in, I put two
in, and it wasn’t long till they was belly
up in there, and I skimmed them things
off, and I had me canteen water then.
That’s one—one thing people won’t believe,
but you will if you get thirsty enough.
I did—I ate snowballs till I got tired of them.
And snow don’t interest me a bit right now.
But while we was in Pepinster, I used to sleigh-ride
a lot with the village girls, always there—it’s
real mountainous.
I got pictures of where we was out, sleigh-riding.
(interviewer) What—what was the fighting like there, compared
to Normandy and Holland?
(Clinton) In Belgium?
(interviewer) Uh-huh.
(Clinton) Around Pepinster, I wasn’t there at all,
but that just pulled us back for a rest.
(interviewer) Right.
But I mean, when you were on the front, during
the Bulge, what was—what was combat like?
(Clinton) They were—they were no different than just
regular combat.
We had—we had a few Polish guys, and of
course, they had all kinds of Canadians.
They’re good soldiers, but—and the
English, we fought with them a lot.
And there’s one—one town there in England
that they destroyed every house in it except the church.
Have you ever read about that? Yeah.
(interviewer) I think we’ve covered a good bit.
I want to see some of your photos, and
I want to see that piece of glider.
(Clinton) Yeah, I was interested in if my stories went
along with what you’ve been reading.
See, a lot of the times, I wasn’t at exactly
the same spot that the troops was because
I was at battalion—or regimental, or
somewhere else—or out doing something.
So, these—having interviewed others, they’ll
tell a little bit different story than what
I would tell because I was in a different position.
I’ll show you—you’re going to cut out—
Captioned by AdeptWordManagement.com


Clinton E. Riddle was born in Loudon County, Tennessee in February 1921. He was the only child in his family and grew up on a remote farm a few miles outside of Sweetwater, Tennessee. With no siblings or neighbors to play with, he devoted his time to reading. Riddle's father never took him out on the farm to work, so he stayed at the house with his mother, who taught him to knit, crochet, cook, and sew while he grew up. Riddle graduated high school in 1941 and went to work at a department store after he took an occupation class in department store management his senior year. While the global war continued to escalate despite the neutrality of the United States, Riddle worked in a department store until around Thanksgiving of 1941. He then enrolled in Anderson Aircraft School in Nashville, Tennessee, but realized that he eventually would be drafted to serve in the armed forces. The initial contract he signed to attend Anderson Aircraft School stated that men would not be drafted out of the school, but after a week he learned that men would be drafted from the institution, so he returned home to await his inevitable draft notice. Riddle was drafted into the US Army on 10 December 1942 and went to basic training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia. After basic training, Riddle applied for clerk school in order to get an office job and stay out of combat. He did well in clerk school since he had experience in typing and shorthand from high school, he also applied to officer training school, but he was shipped out before he could be accepted. He was sent as a clerk to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where the 82nd Airborne Division was stationed, and quickly learned that the division needed more combat troops and less orderly soldiers, which made it clear to Riddle that he would not have an office job. Riddle was frustrated with the army for not allowing him to go to officer school and for sending him to a division that needed combat troops, so he made a resolution that he would no longer seek promotions or responsibility, but rather would simply strive to become the best soldier he could be. He was initially assigned as to the MPs [Annotator's Note: Military Police], but he was two inches short of the required height, so he was sent to Company B, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, the unit he remained with throughout the war. Riddle joined the 82nd Airborne Division just before it was deployed overseas and moved to Camp Edwards in Massachusetts with the division where the men reviewed contours and sand tables to familiarize themselves with the terrain in North Africa. Riddle and his comrades loaded up on a troopship in late April of 1943 and sailed in a large convoy to Casablanca, French Morocco. The regiment went ashore in Casablanca on 10 May 1943.


After arriving in Casablanca in May of 1943, Clinton Riddle and the men of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment set up a camp of pup tents in a wheat field in the intense Moroccan heat. The heat was so overwhelming that Riddle and his unit began to train at night and sleep during the day, but sleeping in a pup tent during daylight was nearly impossible. At one point while Riddle served KP [Annotator's Note: Kitchen Police] duty, the mess station ran out of soap, so Riddle cleaned the company's pots and pans with sand and nearly half of Company B came down with dysentery as a result. The 325th Glider Infantry Regiment spent most of its time in French Morocco parading for ranking generals, then flew by glider to Karawan, Tunisia. The men lived in pup tents once again and were served British rations while making preparation for the invasion of Sicily. Prior to the invasion, however, the US Navy accidentally shot down a group of 24 C47 Skytrain aircraft so the company did not have enough planes to tow the gliders into Sicily. Riddle and his unit then began training on the beaches for amphibious invasions, but the army eventually amassed enough planes to fly the regiment into Sicily. Initially, however, the regiment accidentally landed in Gela, Sicily amid an intense battle there, so the planes immediately took off once again and landed at the original destination of Palermo. From Sicily, the regiment took part in the invasion of Italy, but landed by sea in landing craft instead of by glider. In Italy, Riddle and his unit fought through the mountains near Naples and after the mountains were clear, he helped set up a new city government in Naples to provide food, water, and supplies to the Italian people. From Italy, the regiment moved out through the Straits of Gibraltar under cover of darkness en route to Ireland. The regiment arrived in Ireland on 1 December 1943 where they stayed and trained until 1 February 1944. From Ireland the regiment moved to Leicester, England and began preparations for the invasion of Normandy. The men stayed in a large tent city with six men to a tent and began training, running field problems, and taking hikes in preparation for the invasion. The 325th Glider Infantry Regiment landed in Normandy in gliders on D plus one, 7 June 1944. Riddle made the flight into France in the same glider as B Company's executive officer Wayne Pierce [Annotator's Note: Captain Pierce went on to command Company C, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment]. Half way over the English Channel, the plane that towed Pierce and Riddle's glider lost power and the glider nearly crashed into the waves. The plane regained power and the journey continued unhindered until German ack ack [Annotator's Note: antiaircraft artillery] fire filled the sky and shot down the glider next to Riddle's. They descended on Normandy into an area filled with defensive anti glider posts [Annotator's Note: known by the Americans as Rommel's Asparagus], and the pilot picked out a small open area where the glider landed with a hard impact. Riddle was a radioman at the time, but the impact of the glider landing broke the antenna off of his radio. Riddle's group landed near an apple orchard under heavy German artillery fire and the group was strafed at its original position by two German 109 fighter planes [Annotator's Note: Messerschmitt Bf 109]. Company B moved out that day and marched through the town of Sainte Mere Eglise, where Riddle saw his first dead German in an alley. Riddle temporarily got lost from his company and spent his first night in France in a gulley near a briar patch before he rejoined Company B the next day. Company B moved up along the Merderet River and eventually crossed it. The Germans had flooded the Merderet River and had bombed out some of the bridge crossings over the river. When Company B crossed the Merderet, the men had to lay down a two foot by eight foot plank to cover the gap in a partially destroyed bridge. The regiment ultimately fought for 33 consecutive days in Normandy without relief before the regiment was shipped back to England. Company B went into Normandy with 155 men, but only 38 returned to England unscathed. The company received a number of replacement troops in England to bolster its ranks and the number of men in the company increased to 195 ahead of the invasion of Holland.


During the invasion of Normandy, Clinton Riddle and most of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment landed in British Horsa gliders which were made out of plywood. The Horsa gliders, however, had a flawed landing gear system and the impact upon landing often sent the landing gear up through the body of the glider, which injured the legs of the men sitting inside. After Normandy, the Americans opted for an American made glider, the CG 4A, which was made with a canvas exterior stretched over the internal tubing of the glider. Prior to the invasion of Holland, a number of replacement pilots trained in the United States but did not make it to Europe in time for the beginning of the planned invasion. A few men in the regiment were selected and given special training to serve as copilots for the invasion and Riddle was selected. He served as the copilot of his glider during the invasion of Holland. The flight to Holland was generally untroubled until the aircraft armada made landfall, at which point the Germans opened up with heavy ack ack [Annotator's Note: antiaircraft artillery] fire. Riddle's glider made it through and descended into an open area for landing. Instead of putting the glider down in a meadow, however, Riddle's pilot opted to land in a freshly plowed field. The glider's landing gear dug deeply into the turned earth and tilted the glider abruptly up on its nose and slammed Riddle into the controls, which injured his side and his shoulder. Riddle received treatment for his injuries after the battle and was written up for, and awarded a purple heart, but the medal was never recorded on his discharge papers. Riddle and his comrades landed on 23 September 1944 and fought in Holland until Thanksgiving of that year. After the battle ended, Riddle figured that he was certainly in one of the roughest and toughest outfits in the entire US military, but also relied heavily on his Christian faith during battle. The Americans waited for some time to be relieved by Canadian forces after the battle, and once the Canadians arrived, Riddle and his comrades went to an old cavalry camp at Sauzon, France, where they remained until being called into action again during the Battle of the Bulge. Prior to the German breakthrough that began the Battle of the Bulge, Riddle had been in Paris on pass and had just returned the evening that his unit received its orders. Riddle spent that entire night assembling his gear and equipment and he moved out the next morning, 7 December 1944 [Annotator's Note: 17 December], on crowded trailers for Bastogne, Belgium. The regiment was the first to arrive in Bastogne, ahead of elements from the 101st Airborne, who famously became trapped there and defended the town. Riddle and his unit moved through Bastogne and went on to take up defensive positions around the town of Werbomont, Belgium. As the men arrived in Werbomont, sleet and snow began to fall, but the men had no protection from the elements aside from digging foxholes into the frozen ground. It continued to snow in the area for consecutive days and the snow eventually piled up knee deep in Riddle's area as the weather conditions turned to a blizzard. The men found a little barn nearby and made a human chain to reach the barn in the blizzard and the whole of Company B spent a night in that barn. Riddle and his comrades were pulled back off the line after a time for some rest and recovery. The men were put up in an old factory with shattered windows, but a compassionate Belgian woman took Riddle into her home and allowed him to stay for a night and even made him a hot breakfast, for which Riddle was extremely grateful. Riddle and his unit remained there for some 16 days before orders came that sent the regiment to assault the Siegfried Line, the main defensive line on the German border.


Before the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division moved out to make an assault on the formidable Siegfried Line along the German border, the commanding officer of Clinton Riddle's Company B came down with illness and was sent back to a hospital. The company came under the command of a new captain from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, but he had never experienced combat before. The new captain specifically sent for Riddle and asked Riddle to help him better lead the men of Company B. Riddle then helped give out supplies and ammunition in preparation for an assault on positions along the Siegfried Line the next morning. Only a few hours after Riddle had dug in for the night, the captain sent for him and took him on patrol to inspect the enemy positions and bunkers along the line. The captain and Riddle went on a two man patrol although normal patrols of any kind generally consisted of six or more men. The next morning, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment made an assault on the enemy fortifications. Company A attacked first, but quickly became pinned down, so Company B entered the fray. Company B also became quickly pinned down and Company C entered the assault. The men advanced little by little under intense enemy fire and finally clawed their way up to a road into the enemy line. Since Riddle served as a runner for the company commander, the captain ordered Riddle to follow him across the road, but the captain did not make it half way before a bullet caught him in the head and Riddle retreated back to cover. When the engagement finally ceased, there were only 45 men from Company B left unscathed. After the battle, American engineers came through and dismantled some of the bunkers in case the Germans reoccupied them, but Riddle got to spend a night inside of one of the enemy bunkers before his unit moved out, the first time he spent a night indoors since the regiment moved out of the rear in Belgium. As the 82nd Airborne Division swept across Germany, elements of the division liberated the Concentration Camp [Annotator's Note: located near Ludwigslust, Germany, was a subcamp of the Concentration Camp in Hamburg]. The camp had no gas chambers or crematoria, but masses of the camps inmates died of starvation after being left in the camp with little to no food by the Germans. The Americans found some 200 bodies thrown in a mass burial pit in the camp and the 82nd Airborne Division decreed that the local Germans of the area had to visit the camp and separate each of the 200 victims into his or her own separate grave. Riddle met Russian soldiers for the first time in Ludwigslust, but he and his comrades were soon shipped back to Sissonne, France. The war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945 and Riddle had accumulated enough points to be sent home. He was transferred to the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division to be shipped home and was discharged at Camp Atterbury, Indiana on 19 September 1945. Riddle took a bus back to Sweetwater, Tennessee and arrived home to no big receptions or parades, but was greeted by a lady friend of his at the bus stop. In all, Riddle served in six different battle zones and participated in 4 invasions for a total of 422 days under enemy fire. Riddle was overseas for a total of 30 months and away from home for three Christmases.


Clinton Riddle spent three Christmases away from home due to his service in the Second World War. He spent his first Christmas away from home at Camp Wheeler, Georgia in 1942. He spent his second Christmas away from home in Ireland in 1943, but he had a pleasant Christmas that year with one of his best friends and foxhole partner from Chicago. The pair sang Christmas carols with some local Irish girls and were treated to cookies by some generous Irish civilians, which made for a merry Christmas. His third Christmas away from home was spent in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. A few days before Christmas, as the harsh winter weather continued to disrupt the battle, General George S. Patton went to a small chapel and prayed, using his signature brash language, for a break in the weather so that his forces may attack. The Almighty seemed to answer his prayer as the day before Christmas, Riddle found himself aboard a tank as American forces pushed deep into enemy territory and recaptured the village of Regne, Belgium, which effectively rescued some 4000 American troops trapped behind enemy lines in the area. After Company B [Annotators Note: Riddle was a member of Company B, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airbrone Division] secured Regne, the company pulled out of the town at midnight on Christmas Day and began the march back to American lines. For this particular mission, Riddle was assigned as a machine gunner and had to carry his machine gun on the march back to the American lines. The British General Bernard Montgomery [Annotator's Note: commander of the Allied 21st Army Group] decided to flatten out his lines at that time, so Riddle and his unit were not the only ones pulling back into gaps in the Allied lines. Artillery pieces and vehicles were also being pulled back through enemy territory and so Riddle caught a ride back on a passing American vehicle. He dismounted the vehicle back at a main road near where B Company's position was, but he was alone at the time and set out alone in enemy territory in search of his unit. Riddle eventually discovered a grain storage building off the road and he slept there until daylight on Christmas Day, at which time he got up and cooked himself a K ration breakfast. As he ate, however, he began to hear firing from down the road a ways and he decided to head that direction when he finished eating. Down the road, he found his own Company B in a defensive line and Riddle spent the rest of Christmas day in combat. There was a house in the company's defensive position and Riddle decided to set his machine gun up inside of it, but when he kicked open the basement door, he discovered a family inside praying at an alter. He left the family alone and went to the next room to set up his machine gun. Riddle continued fighting in that area of Belgium until his unit was pulled back to Sissonne, France at the conclusion of the Battle of the Bulge. The Battle of the Bulge was the second battle of the war in which Riddle had been alone in enemy territory, separated from his company. He had gotten lost in Italy as well. In Italy, Riddle worked as a runner at the headquarters of 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment and had to deliver the new password to Company B every night. One night, Riddle set out from battalion headquarters to deliver the password to Company B, but the company had moved positions that day and Riddle did not know where the company's new location was. He wandered around in no man's land that night in search of Company B when he heard a German patrol approaching. Riddle hid in a gulley until the Germans passed, then proceeded to take a nap in the gully until early the next morning. Then he stumbled into Company B's position. He learned that two men from Company B had gone out to search for him the night before, and his comrades were relieved to have him back without any trouble. [Annotator's Note: Riddle and the interviewer spend the rest of the segment in conversation about Riddle's experience as a pastor after the war.]


Clinton Riddle initially wanted to join the US Navy after he graduated from high school but being the only child in his family, his mother talked him out of it. After he decided not to join the navy, Riddle did not harbor any further desire to go into the US military, but he was drafted despite his status as the only child and even passed the US Army physical while he was sick with the flu. He first reported to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for induction and processing and was then sent to Camp Wheeler near Macon, Georgia for basic training. Camp Wheeler was home to several different companies when Riddle arrived, including a company of African American soldiers. Riddle was initially assigned to an artillery unit, but he quickly applied for clerk school. He enjoyed clerk school very much and graduated with 18 other soldiers. Riddle trained at Camp Wheeler for a total of 13 weeks. He spent six weeks in clerk school and six in normal basic training, which included hikes and weapons training. He qualified with an 03 Springfield bolt action rifle [Annotator's Note: M1903 .30 caliber Springfield rifle], but he did not qualify with the powerful BAR [Annotator's Note: Browning Automatic Rifle] and inconsistently sprayed targets when firing the weapon. During the last week at camp, the men took a review during which they had to take a 20 mile hike with a full field pack on their backs. Riddle's training outfit consisted of both men from the country and those from the big city and some of the city boys were not quite as well acquainted with aspects of the soldier lifestyle. Riddle and his friend from Chicago did well in combat situations to hunt for gardens and farms to scavenge fresh vegetables and eggs to mix with ration food and improve their diets. After training was complete at Camp Wheeler, Riddle and his unit took a train directly to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. At Fort Bragg, Riddle began the kind of field training specifically designed for their combat operations overseas. When Clinton left Fort Bragg, he had absolutely no glider training at all and did not actually fly in a glider until the men of the regiment were taken on a 15 minute glider ride in North Africa to qualify as glider infantrymen. Riddle's deployment to North Africa was his first time outside of the United States and a constant longing for home followed him when he first deployed. The regiment sailed to Casablanca aboard the , a prewar pleasure liner turned troop ship, and the ship was packed to nearly twice its designed capacity. For half the voyage, Riddle and his comrades slept out on the deck while the other half of the men on the ship slept in cots below decks, and then during the other half of the journey, Riddle and his comrades slept in the cots below decks. Riddle enjoyed spending time up on the bow of the ship as he observed the massive convoy in which the crossed the Atlantic. As the seas grew rougher toward the end of the journey, seasickness became worse and worse, so much so that Riddle ultimately stopped eating in the dining room altogether to avoid the vomit and sickness and instead ate candy the rest of the journey. The convoy sailed down the East Coast of the United States before crossing the Atlantic, and the convoy was harassed by German U boats for most of the journey. The sailors aboard the dropped depth charges or ash cans on occasion and the sailors credited themselves with sinking two U boats by the end of the voyage.


Once the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment arrived at Casablanca, Morocco and set up camp, Clinton Riddle and his comrades spent most of their time on duty parading for generals. The regiment paraded for 12 different prominent generals and the men also took glider rides for the first time to gain some experience as glider infantrymen. The regiment then flew by glider to Karawan, Tunisia and set up camp on a patch of land surrounded by cactus plants. The flight from Morocco to Tunisia was the longest ride that the men took in gliders and the flight took them right over the formidable Atlas Mountains. One of the gliders crashed during the flight as the gliders flew through a tricky gap in the mountains. During the flight a storm forced the gliders to land in a mountainous region to wait out the rest of the poor weather. Riddle had never flown in an airplane before he flew in a glider in North Africa and had never had a desire to fly while he was growing up. The regiment initially began to prepare for the seaborne invasion of Sicily and trained in amphibious invasions despite its designation as an airborne regiment. Ultimately, however, the regiment was flown into Sicily by plane and then dug in and served in reserve for the paratrooper units that preceded them in the invasion. Riddle and his comrades were not in Sicily very long before they moved out and participated in the invasion of Italy. Riddle served as a messenger in Italy and had to run messages from the battalion headquarters out to Company B's position on the front lines and often crossed mountainous terrain under fire in order to deliver his messages. Riddle's training had taught him how to use various weapons and guns and that training proved useful in Italy when Riddle once used 12 different weapons in a single day of fighting. In one instance, Company B came across a German outpost on Saint Angelo Mountain in Southern Italy and surprised the German soldiers stationed there who were eating at the time. The Americans killed a few of the Germans and forced the rest to flee down the mountain where many were intercepted and captured by British forces that traveled a road at the base of the mountain. As Company B descended the mountain, Riddle and his friend got invited to lunch at an Italian man's house. After Riddle and his comrade accepted the invitation and ate, they were chewed out for their conduct, which was just one of many instances where Riddle found himself in trouble for eating unregulated food while in Italy. During that day on Saint Angelo Mountain, the commanding officer of Company B, Captain Richard Gibson, and another officer, Lieutenant Herbert Dew, were both shot. Riddle served as Gibson's messenger and thought very highly of the captain, who sustained several wounds but fought through and survived the war [Annotator's Note: Captain Gibson was eventually promoted to Major and took command of 2nd Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment]. Riddle saw two Company B commanders killed during the war. One of them was killed during an assault on the Siegfried Line in Germany, and Lieutenant Dew, who later took command of Company B, was killed by artillery fire.


After combat on Saint Angelo Mountain near Naples, Italy had ceased, Clinton Riddle and Company B, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division moved into Naples itself. As the Americans advanced, elements of the German army began to withdraw while other elements continued to orchestrate pockets of resistance. The mountainous terrain of southern Italy made combat difficult, but American aerial bombing did severe damage to enemy positions in the area. Riddle tasted his first meal of spaghetti while in Naples and, due to the bombing and destruction, the Americans had to set up food and water lines for the Italian civilians and guard the lines to maintain order among the hungry people. Combat was not intense in the city of Naples, but was more severe in the mountainous areas around it. The aerial bombings at night were devastating, however, and Riddle spent many nights taking cover from bombing in the city. Italian civilians were generally friendly and welcoming to American troops and Riddle even picked up some Italian phrases while stationed in Naples. Riddle remained in the Naples area from 1 October 1943 through Thanksgiving of that year before the regiment was pulled out and shipped off to the United Kingdom. The men were not told where they were going when the regiment left Italy and there were a few guesses as to where their destination would be. After a journey through the Mediterranean Sea, the Straits of Gibraltar, and some rough seas in the North Atlantic, the regiment arrived in Ireland. Riddle found Ireland to be very beautiful and remained there from 1 December 1943 through 1 February 1944. While in Ireland, the regiment intended to train for the invasion of Europe, but the short winter days and inclement winter weather largely restricted the opportunity for training. Riddle and his men did not know specifically that the invasion would take place in Normandy, but they had some inclination about the area of the invasion long before the formal plan was introduced to the men. From Ireland, the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment moved to Leicester, England. In Leicester, the regiment continued normal training and the men took up day to day duties around the camp. They went to the firing range, took hikes, and stood guard duty,  and performed other duties. Despite its designation as a glider infantry regiment, Riddle never did any glider specific training while in England and cannot remember so much as a single glider ride while in England before the invasion. As the invasion grew closer and the calendar turned to June, Riddle became responsible for all of the equipment and gear that needed to be loaded into each American glider. In preparation for the invasion, the men had to gather their ammunition and make final checks on their weapons at the firing range, but the men also continued routine duty on guard and in the kitchen. During the build up to the invasion, Riddle and his comrades had frequently gone into town after training in order to meet up with some of the local English girls there. In turn, the English town girls began to visit the army camp. As the invasion grew nearer, Riddle's commanding officer ordered the men to get rid of the girls so the men began to take nicknames to deny knowing any of the men whom the English girls sought at camp.


Clinton Riddle and his comrades in Company B were wrestled from their sleep in the early predawn hours for breakfast on the day set for their landing in Normandy [Annotator's Note: Riddle and the rest of Company B, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division landed in Normandy on 7 June 1944, D plus one]. The gliders took off in the dim light of dawn and Riddle’s British Horsa glider had to circle the airfield until the regiment's entire train of gliders and their tow planes took off. The flight took over two hours. The gliders touched down in France around 0700 hours in the morning. Riddle got a seat right behind the cockpit of the glider for the flight over to France and had a great view of the vast armada of Allied ships that packed the English Channel below. Riddle also saw groups of American fighter planes overhead as the fleet of planes and gliders crossed the English Channel. During the crossing, the plane towing Riddle's glider lost power in its engines temporarily which disrupted the flight. The copilot of Riddle's glider almost prematurely released the tow line between the plane and the glider during the trouble, but the pilot convinced him otherwise. The men in Riddle's glider began to jettison canisters of water, anti tank mines, and other equipment out the rear door of the glider in order to stabilize the glider's flight. After the glider's tow plane repositioned and fixed its mechanical issues it continued to tow Riddle's glider in over Normandy. As soon as the glider's pilot saw a suitable landing zone, however, he disconnected the tow cable and brought the glider down to earth as fast as possible. The glider came in too fast and too low and ended up cutting through a tree on the approach to the landing zone. It ultimately landed with a hard impact which broke off most of the left wing. The glider's wings were filled with ping pong balls so that the glider would float in case it crashed in the English Channel. One glider from Company A crashed pretty severely, but Riddle did not see it until the men vacated the crash site which left Riddle none the wiser as to the casualties or severity of the crash. After Riddle took a picture of the wrecked Company A glider, he moved up a roadway cautiously, looking for snipers. The company marched a significant distance to an assembly area. When Riddle's glider landed and the men disembarked unopposed by German forces, Riddle's immediate thought was that German troops could be located anywhere around them behind the massive hedgerows of the French countryside. Company B moved through the town of Sainte Mere Eglise where the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division had taken up positions, but the section of town through which Riddle and his comrades moved was not terribly damaged at the time. Riddle saw his first dead German soldier in the town and that was the first German he saw in France. From Sainte Mere Eglise, Company B moved over close to the Merderet River and participated in a battle there in which the glider infantrymen came to the rescue of a group of paratroopers near the river. The men moved single file across the flooded area near the river and were taken under fire from the Germans a few times. The unit followed a paratrooper over a shallow crossing through the flooded fields and the river in order to assault the German forces battling the paratroopers. Riddle’s 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment attacked toward a church [Annotator's Note: in the village of Cauquigny], but Company B split off from Company C during the attack and became pinned down. Riddle was involved in the same battle in which DeGlopper [Annotator's Note: Private, First Class Charles N. DeGlopper served in Company C, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment] won the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle, actions for which he gave his life.


The fighting around the La Fiere bridge and the village of Cauquigny was intense and Clinton Riddle and his comrades were under heavy enemy fire. Despite the hail of bullets and shells, Riddle never saw the German soldiers himself during the battle. When Company B forded the Merderet River, the men used a railroad embankment in the area for cover from German troops. During the battle, Company C, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment took a beating from the Germans, but Riddle never found himself even within sight of the Germans. Riddle and his company were in battle for three days and nights and stayed in the area for about one week. During the approach to the battle, Company B bypassed the German held town of Amfreville but did not receive any fire from the Germans there. Instead, Riddle and Company B came under some mistaken artillery fire from an American unit since Company B was in such an advanced position. During the fighting in Normandy, Riddle served as a runner for his Company B commander, the 1st Battalion commander, the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment commander, and even served as a runner for General Gavin [Annotator's Note: then Brigadier General James M. Gavin served as an assistant commander of the 82nd Airborne Division]. Company B sustained heavy casualties in Normandy and only 38 men of the company's original 155 men returned to England unscathed after the battle. Since Riddle served as a radioman, he often ran messages during intense battles and was sometimes absent from the company during intense sequences of combat. However, Riddle feels that he was exposed to as much fire as any man in the company since he was constantly out of his foxhole to run messages, supplies, and ammunition to the men on the front lines. Riddle carried the heavy field 300 radio [Annotators Note: Motorola SCR300] on his back as well as two bandoliers of ammunition, his pack, rifle, and other equipment with him all through Normandy. Riddle often shared responsibility for carrying the radio with a friend of his from Chicago, but once his companion was wounded in Normandy, the responsibility fell solely to the slender Riddle. Riddle served as a messenger at times and as a radioman at others so he never had to carry the radio while he ran massages. Riddle was very glad to see the men of the US 90th Division push through his company's position in Normandy, but he later had to reinforce that division when their attack bogged down. Shortly after the men of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment rescued a group of encircled paratroopers in Normandy the glider infantrymen were given paratrooper jump boots. In England before the invasion, paratroopers often took offense to glider infantrymen wearing paratrooper jump boots. After Normandy, however, the paratroopers warmed up a bit to the glider infantrymen and Riddle and his comrades were issued jump boots. Once the regiment returned to England after Normandy, Riddle got his first shower in a while and got to attend his first church service in some time, which provided him some great spiritual relief.


After the 82nd Airborne Division finished combat operations in Normandy, Clinton Riddle and the men of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment returned to England where the regiment was given replacement recruits to bolster the regiment's ranks. Some Normandy veterans bragged to the new recruits about their service in the battle and inflated the glory of their actions when the men were not training. The Normandy veterans generally acted as combat experts for the new recruits and generally treated the new men as rookies until they had proved themselves on the battlefield. Some of the new recruits grew into good soldiers, but Riddle saw many men killed because he did not remember his training or use his common sense. When Riddle and his comrades returned to England from Normandy, the presence of so many new recruits signaled to the veterans that the regiment would return to combat in the near future. The training in preparation for the airborne invasion of Holland was generally similar to the training before Normandy. The men ran field problems to practice different combat situations and continued physical training to improve fitness. Riddle had received glider training for double hitch gliders, where two gliders are hitched to one tow plane, but the distance from England to Holland was too great to double hitch the gliders to a single plane. The main difference between the British Horsa glider that Riddle flew into Normandy and the American glider that he flew into Holland was the troop capacity. The British glider held 35 men plus equipment, while its American counterpart only held 13 men plus equipment. Riddle served as the copilot for his glider on the drop into Holland and sat with the pilot in the cockpit. Many of the men got airsickness on the flight to Holland and many vomited into their helmets and onto the floor of the glider, but Riddle did not feel any sickness or fear until the fleet of American aircraft came under heavy ack ack [Annotator's Note: antiaircraft artillery] fire once the gliders made landfall over Holland. The landing in Holland was much smoother and easier than the landing in Normandy. The antiaircraft fire had dissipated around the glider's landing site in Holland, but the landing in Normandy occurred under heavy enemy fire and Riddle was injured during the glider's landing impact there. The terrain in Holland was covered by windmills and traversed by canals, and the Dutch civilians welcomed the American troops with cheers and food. In combat situations, however, the civilians quickly disappeared. During intense combat on the Plains of Mook in Holland, most of Company B's officers were killed and Riddle was selected to help carry the dead and wounded out on stretchers. One morning, Company B advanced across a wide plain under the cover of morning fog. Half way across the plain, however, the fog lifted and revealed the Americans to a group of German soldiers, mostly young boys and old men, who opened up on the Americans from the woods on the far side of the meadow and mowed them down. Riddle dove behind a low wall which bordered a nearby canal to escape the hail of enemy fire, but the company sustained heavy casualties. When Riddle began evacuating the wounded from the field, German shells began to fall on the Americans once again and Riddle expected to get hit with almost every falling shell.


During the Battle of the Bulge, glider infantryman Clinton Riddle rode into battle on a tank during the American assault on the town of Regne, Belgium. As the tanks neared the village, the tanks began to fire their main guns while Riddle and some of his comrades still sat atop the turret. The recoil from the main gun fire nearly knocked Riddle and his comrades off, so the glider infantrymen quickly scrambled off the tank and continued into the village on foot. The Germans had two artillery pieces positioned near the village and the American tanks knocked one out before the crew of the other gun fled the battle. In combat, Riddle preferred to be out in an open field fighting as opposed to the close quarters of a village. In a village, the amount of buildings and alleys provided ample cover for the enemy to conceal himself, sometimes in windows, doorways, or on rooftops, but in the open, there was not the same amount of obstacles to provide concealment. Riddle only ran into one outfit of German SS troops and that encounter occurred in Holland. After the war, Riddle found that he got along quite well with some of the older German soldiers, but not so much with the young, fanatical ones. During the Battle of the Bulge, Riddle and his comrades came under intense and deadly German artillery fire while stationed in the Ardennes Forest. The artillery shells often burst in the trees which sent splinters of wood and shrapnel down on the Americans hunkered in foxholes. The freezing temperatures also made the conditions miserable for the Americans. One night, as Riddle dug in, an American tank pulled into a position near him and the motor had been running all day. Riddle crawled underneath the tank and slept in the warmth radiating from the motor, which was a welcome relief from the Belgian winter. The damp winter conditions were very harsh on the men's feet and hands during the battle as it was difficult to keep boots warm and dry while dug into foxholes. Despite wearing two pairs of heavy wool socks during the battle, Riddle still cannot feel the bottoms of his feet and his hands repeatedly crack open and bleed in cold weather. Riddle had icicles frozen in his eyebrows and nostrils during the battle and is still affected by the frostbite today. After the war, Riddle had to have a piece of shrapnel removed from his back, which was lodged there during the Battle of the Bulge. He still has a small piece of shrapnel in his hand from the battle. During the assault on the German held town of Regne, Belgium, Riddle was pulled out of messenger and radioman duty at the battalion headquarters and was made a machine gunner in his company. Front line machine gunners were often killed or wounded in combat, but Riddle made it out of the battle with his life. He was thrown in a hastily formed machine gun platoon to add to the company's firepower during the assault. Before the Battle of the Bulge, Riddle served as a messenger for General Gavin in Normandy [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant General James M. Gavin took command of the 82nd Airborne Division in August 1944 after serving as the division’s assistant commander] and got to know the general pretty well. In Riddle's memory however, the first commander of Company B, Captain Richard Gibson, was the best combat leader that Riddle ever fought under. During the Battle of the Bulge, Riddle often resorted to eating snow when water provisions ran out and had to constantly purify any natural water he collected in his canteen with purifying pills to kill the bugs and bacteria in the water. While in the rear in the village of Pepinster, Belgium during the battle, Riddle was fond of taking sleigh rides with the village girls while his unit was in town for a rest from battle. Combat in Belgium was pretty similar to that in Normandy and Holland but under different weather conditions. Riddle fought alongside Canadian and even Polish troops during the battle and often admired his fellow Allied soldiers.

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