Pre-War Life

Arrival In England

Training/Departure For Europe

D-Day Landing

Heading Inland

First Firefights

Close Calls

Saved in the Foxholes

Reunited/Exploring

River Assault

P-47 and Shelling

Tank Warfare

Tank Difficulties

End of the War

Life Stateside

Annotation

Darold Rice was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1925. During the Great Depression, Darold’s father worked in the Chevrolet factory and for a time was a machinist. Life during that time was busy, as he remembers trying to find glass bottles and tires on the street to sell for money. In the late 1930s, the Japanese were ironically enough buying all the American scrap metal, which made the price go up and gave people an opportunity to make money off of selling the scrap. When Darold was a senior in high school he worked at a shoe store and a printing store. Darold was 16 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and remembers it was a Sunday at around noon. There was a lot on the radio about the Japanese sneak attack, but not until the next day did they really hear a lot about it. Interestingly, in high school Darold studied in his contemporary history class the then recent rise of the Japanese empire and its looming position in the Pacific. Darold also states that he is convinced the American government knew more about the impending attack and allowed it to happen to galvanize the whole country. Darold was then drafted into the military in September of 1943 shortly after his 18th birthday. He went down to Camp Van Dorn in Mississippi for training and ended up in a Heavy Weapons unit as part of a machine gun squad. Darold and the men in his company were told they had to supply 19 men to go and replace men lost in combat, and so he was the first to sign up as he was located next to the table where they were taking volunteers, and his friend soon joined him as well. After completing the last of his tests, Darold traveled from Mississippi to his home in Flint to say good bye to his family.

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Darold Rice remembers how when he and the other privates reported back for duty no one was at the camp and they joined the officers that were there. They then returned to their barracks and waited for departure for Europe. Finally the officer in charge told them to head to the train station. They then went to a military base in New Jersey and joined up with the 90th and were seen as outcasts by the rest of the division. [Annotator’s Note: Interviewer inquires about his great uncle who served in the same division as Darold, but Darold did not know him] Darold remembers how the last bit of training he had left was the close combat course with a carbine and live ammunition. They trained at Camp Kilmer and then left on a British ship with a British crew for Europe. They slept in hammocks at night and then during the day they would take them down and roll them up to make room for them. The voyage over took roughly fourteen days with no escorts whatsoever. They had lots of lamb and orange marmalade, so the food was not so bad on the way over. They arrived in England and traveled by train to Wales and were put up in a tent city that was waiting for them.

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They began training every day with full daypacks and practiced moving quickly and efficiently up and down the long Wales hills. Darold Rice did not have much contact with the locals where he was stationed except for some people who would come over and collect the garbage from the mess halls and would feed that in turn to the pigs. Darold never really travelled outside of camp while he was there, but often they passed by women working in the fields, and the women would hoot and cat call at the soldiers as they went by. Darold remembers water-proofing the Jeeps for the D-Day landing and learned how to drive a Jeep for his heavy weapons team. They then travelled down to Plymouth, but it was a false alarm and so the men slept on the ground back at camp that night as the D-Day invasion was postponed for a day due to a storm. The next day they returned to Plymouth and boarded an LCI in preparation to head for the continent. Darold explored the ship for a while and found the engine room, the room where the controls for the ship were, and the rooms where their cots were.

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Darold Rice remembers that the night of June 5th they heard the engines suddenly roar louder than they had ever heard before He went to the engine room to go and see what was going on. Darold realized that they were heading to Europe, and later in the early hours of the morning they were called down to the Higgins boats that had pulled up to the side of the ship. Rice climbed aboard, loaded down with tons and tons of ammunition, as at this point he was still an ammo carrier for a machine gun squad. The boat that Darold was on had about twenty men on it, and one of the officers hopped on board and started giving them a speech to try and inform them as to what to expect when they landed. Rice recalls, however, that they never really clarified what exactly they were doing or where exactly they were going, and so he set off to land on the beaches of Normandy in a boatful of men who all had no real idea where exactly they were or what exactly they were doing. As they approached the shore, the ramp on the front of the Higgins boat dropped down and Darold jumped down into the water to start making his was towards the shore. As they made their way up the beach, Rice looked up and watched a dogfight unfolding above them. They could not tell who was fighting who up there. Rice says he witnessed two planes crash into each other head on. Darold also remembers how a black soldier that was with them was supposed to be carrying a balloon that would help guide the aerial support with a visual aid, but as soon as the artillery fire from the Germans picked up, the soldier released the balloon and turned around and fled back onto the Higgins boat. Rice was not impressed and cussed the guy out.

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Darold Rice and his men made their way over the sand dunes and passed by the bodies of several dead Germans. They came to a pool that had formed on top of the road that ran parallel to the beach. They had to make their way through water up to their knees for quite some time. Darold said that when he saw the dead bodies, it did not faze him whatsoever, and that they almost looked unreal, like rag dolls. He was armed with a watercooled heavy machine gun of solid iron, a .30 caliber. Rice and his machine gun crew were used for laying overhead suppressing fire, crossing their fire with another machine gun crew, and for guard duty at night. They came across a Sherman tank that was stuck in a ditch, undamaged. Then they were told to dig in on the side of the road, and without any real information about where they were, Rice and his men did so and went to sleep. They woke up the next morning partly submerged in water that had trickled in through the night, and soon came across an empty ammo cart, but could not use it because they were about to head off the road through difficult terrain. They travelled through the night, and though they heard all sorts of fighting and could see tracer rounds in the night, they never encountered the Germans personally. On one occasion, Rice remembers seeing a damaged US plane with its roof ripped off, and the pilot looking wildly around to try and figure out what to do. He looked over the side of the plane and saw Darold, and the two of them made eye contact, and then without any hesitation the pilot rolled the plane upside down and dropped out of it to try and escape, but his chute did not release, and he fell to ground ahead of Darold and his men. The plane kept going on its own upside down, until in the distance it crashed with a rumble.

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Darold Rice remembers his first experience with combat as he and his crew were ordered to fire their .30 caliber into the hedgerow across from them to try and rip through it at the Germans crouched on the other side. Some of the oil they had used to clean the gun in England began to smoke in great white billows as they fired the gun, and the Germans began to scream “Gas! Gas!” and picked up and took off running. Darold and his men followed and kept firing at the Germans, and they continued falling back until finally the smoke stopped when the oil was gone. They made great headway that day. Darold also remembers that they were terrified, and that what kept them alive was their training. He also remembers how they would call for mortars at almost every encounter with the German fire, and on some occasion they’d call in battalion artillery. Rice says that when he finally encountered the Germans, he never had a dislike or desire to kill them, but instead had a healthy respect for them and realized that he had to kill them as part of his duty. Rice says that the war between them and the Germans was much more civilized, whereas the war with the Japanese was unbelievably brutal, and he thanks God he did not have to fight in the islands. Soon after the landing at D-Day, their company commander was killed by a piece of shrapnel in the eye.

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Darold Rice reached the peak of Hill 122 and had gone to ground to wait for further orders. While lying there, a German soldier jumped over the hedgerow and landed behind Darold. A nearby medic yelled out a warning to Rice, who rolled over into the ditch next to him and tried to whip out his Carbine. Before he had a chance to do so, one of his fellow soldiers stood up to run to another position and the German shot him in the legs and hand. Rice pulled out a grenade and tossed it out of the ditch at the German without looking, but by the time it went off and he peeked out to see what damage it had done, the German had taken off and was several hundred feet down the dirt road away from them. Then his platoon leader yelled at him to hurry up and so he helped the wounded man and took off. Rice and the other men on Hill 122 were soon surrounded and cut off by the Germans, and Rice was shot in the fingers while making his way across a field. The Germans made a counter-attack, and so he and his machine gunner were asked to fire at the attacking men, and they did so. All night they could hear the Germans circling them, waiting for an opening. That morning, Rice was awoken as a shot rang out and something nearby by his head made a dull thud noise. Rice poked his head out of his foxhole and saw a dead German SS trooper lying just behind him, and a few yards away an American rifleman was pointing his gun out of his foxhole. The German had crept up and was going to drop the grenade into Rice’s foxhole, but the rifleman happened to see him and shoot him. He saved his life, undoubtedly.

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Darold Rice remembers boarding the ship to head back to the USA after the war was over. He joined up with a random division in order to be let on the ship, and was telling the story about the man who saved him to a group of soldiers. A nearby soldier overheard the conversation, and said that he was the man that saved him. After a few moments of questioning, it turned out to be true, and Rice never found out his name or anything. He expressed a very sincere regret at that, and got very emotional for a moment while regretting never getting the man’s name. Soon after the battle at Hill 122, Darold was promoted to First Gunner and was soon used to fire overhead suppression rounds at a nearby island where some Americans were being held hostage. They dug into a nearby brush line and fired at the island, but the attack was unsuccessful. A German came running with his hands up, and so Rice took him hostage. The German told him that there were several other German soldiers that had run back and gotten away from the machine gun, and so Darold went to take him back to the nearby command HQ and drop him off there. While marching back, Rice wanted to try firing his new M3 submachine gun, and when he unslung it from his shoulder, the German began praying and crying out for Rice to not kill him. After firing the gun and ignoring the soldier, Darold took him back to HQ. Later, after he was in and out of the hospital following the Battle of the Bulge, Rice went back there to the spot where he’d taken the German and shot the gun, and found his old foxhole that still had some of his grenades in it. Two of the Germans they had shot were still laying there dead as well. After firing one of the German's panzerfausts, they went and investigated the fort that the Germans had previously held, and made their way through a minefield to a nearby cave. Inside, there were German propaganda pieces and newsletters spread everywhere. They left, and Rice threw his last grenade inside and destroyed it all.

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They crossed into eastern France and had to wade through a river as they headed towards the German lines. It was muddy, sloppy terrain all the way, and they had to carry an assault boat down to a nearby river while also carrying their machine guns and ammunition boxes. They launched into the water with only one paddle, and the Germans were fighting downstream from them, though fortunately they never were shot at. The boat was snagged on something, so Rice jumped over the back end and helped kick the boat free and stayed in the water until he reached the shore. Once on the other side of the river, they tried to set the gun up and prepare for a firefight, but there was no real position that would give them an advantage, so they improvised. While waiting, some riflemen came running up to them and they followed the newcomers for the next few days and penetrated deep into enemy territory. While advancing, the Germans laid down heavy artillery fire, and so they fell back and waited for further orders.

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Eventually the German fire lifted, and Darold Rice and his men moved on. They later caught a German convoy at a bridge and radioed in to request some P-47 fighters to support them. Rice and his men were on the edge of a town in German territory near the French border, and the fighters came flying over them and the P-47’s were making strafing runs, ripping through the German soldiers and their vehicles with .50 caliber rounds. While Rice was running to take up a new position, an empty shell casing that had fallen from a fighter above hit him on the helmet and knocked him unconscious. When Darold came to, he and the other men had wiped out the convoy and taken a great number of prisoners. Soon Darold and his men found themselves stationed outside a fort that the Germans were holding onto, and no matter what they tried, the Americans were having incredible difficulty removing them. So the command post nearby decided to use a jellied gas bomb to try and burn the Germans out. As the P-47 carrying the bomb flew overhead, the back end of it came loose and the bomb fell just one hundred yards short of Rice and the men around him. Soon, Rice and his platoon found themselves heading back West and South and to cut off the retreating Germans and stop them from getting back into German territory. While maneuvering to attack the retreating enemy forces, Rice and his lieutenant dove into a large pit that had been dug previously for a mortar team. As they dove into the hole, a “moaning mimi” shell landed just next to the lieutenant’s hand, and it just happened to be a dud, otherwise they both would likely have died. Rice carried on ahead following the men in front of him and came to a crossroads, and a shell came in and hit, but did not kill, Rice's friend Buck who was carrying the tripod for the machine gun. Rice screamed for a medic and saw how Buck’s face was shredded and his metal helmet had been warped and torn.

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Darold Rice and his last member of his machine gun crew set the gun up in a ditch by the crossroad and hunkered down for the night with one blanket between them in the twelve degree weather. A Stewart tank and a Sherman tank came rolling in during the night, and Rice approached the Stewart the next morning and called the tank commander out. He popped his head out and Rice, who had lost his helmet in the intense fighting, asked for him to give him his helmet. The commander said no, and so Rice pulled out his grease gun and pointed it at him, repeating that he wanted the helmet. The tank commander disappeared back into the tank, and a few seconds later the helmet came flying out the top and fell down in front of Rice's feet. A few moments later, one of the tanks started up its engine, and at the same time a sergeant stood up to begin rallying the men to move out. As he walked forward and the tank started behind him, a German tank that had been hiding in the treeline across the field from them fired its gun at the American tank. The sergeant just happened to walk right into the shell, and when it hit him it eviscerated his upper half of his body, and the shell deflected and missed the tank. Witnessing that proved to be more than Rice could handle, and he went to the nearest officer he could find and requested to go back to the aid station. The officer realized he had been in the field since D-Day, was the only man left from his original unit, and had never been hit. So he agreed and ordered Rice to help escort the walking wounded back to the camp. He arrived back at the aid station and volunteered to help the medics move some of the walking wounded around. Rice saw his lieutenant from the pit, and he was sitting in the corner with his legs drawn up and his eyes wide, and Darold knew he had lost it.

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Darold Rice says that soon after he was retired from the war and was taken to a hospital in Luxembourg. He ate, slept, and did not do anything but relax. Then an officer arrived and told Rice that now that he was relaxed, they were going to send him back to the front. He could not have gone back, he would have been too embarrassed to face his comrades. So the officer assigned him to rear service and he spent the remaining six months of the war doing logistic duty. After the war ended, Rice remained in Europe and worked as part of special services. He had musical talent, and so Rice performed American music for the American static forces that were left. He entertained the troops in France while they figured what to do with them. Darold came back to the States in December of 1944, and was discharged at Camp Gordon after being busted to the rank of private for being caught in a restricted area. The ride back in the ship was quite choppy and Rice and the rest of the men on the boat got violently seasick.

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Darold Rice stated “I grew up,” when asked by the interviewer how the war changed his life. He came back with a renewed interest to get in the printing trade and to invest himself fully in civilian life. When in the service, he met a soldier who had family that was also involved in the printing business, and when he returned stateside he got involved in lithography. Also, he says that he benefited seriously from the GI Bill and the 4% loan when his wife and he bought a house. Aside from renewing the desire to get back into the trade, his experience in the war did not influence his choice of profession. He also got to travel all over Europe and see incredible parts of the world.
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