Early Training and War Beginnings

Arriving in England and Boardng for D-Day

D-Day Preparations

D-Day Morning and Taking the Quenneville Ridge

Capturing Cherbourg

Opening the Falaise Gap and Liberating Paris and Moving through France

German Fortifications and the Hurtgen Forest

Artillery Barrage in the Hurtgen Forest

The End of the Hurtgen Forest and Being Sent Home

PTSD and Education after Homecoming

The Famous 4th Division

Final Reflections and Revisiting Normandy

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David Roderick was born in Decatur, Illinois on 18 November 1923. Roderick had five brothers. His mother and father died at a young age after contracting double pneumonia when Roderick was young. Roderick was 16 and decided to move out and joined the Army. This was before the war. He was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama where he spent his early training. Roderick joined Company H, 22nd Infantry Regiment, which is the heavy weapons company, and was assigned to an 81mm mortar. Roderick had a West Point graduate as his company commander who was tough but fair. The 4th Infantry Division was called a motorized infantry division. The divisions were changed and moved around after comparison to Hitler’s Armies but were changed back to regular divisions before the army went overseas in 1944. The training consisted of a lot of running and hiking with full equipment up to 80 pounds to determine who could stay in good physical condition. Roderick led the company with another sergeant on a mile run every morning before breakfast. They also had riffle and heavy weapons training and motorized training with half tracks. They would go to a set up location and attack a theoretical enemy. The motorized training changed when they moved from Camp Gordon, Georgia to Fort Dix, New Jersey. Roderick was trained in street fighting with flamethrowers and machine guns. They finally moved to Camp Carrabelle, Florida between Tallahassee and Panama City. [Annotators Note: this camp is now called Camp Gordon Johnston in Carrabelle, Florida.] Walter Winchell, who was a famous reporter, called the camp the Alcatraz of the Army because it was so primitive. They saw a lot of wild pigs and the barracks were all wooden without flooring and a light bulb hung from the ceiling on a wire. The double bunks were made of wood with chicken wire and an old mattress as a bed. There was no running water and the bathrooms were outside. In the morning the men would climb into the Higgins boats and go into the Gulf of Mexico and hit Dog Beach in Carrabelle. The men had to know how to swim 25 yards and those who could not swim were trained in a separate location. Men sat in a large guard house with sharp shooters to kill the alligators in the water to protect the men who were training for D Day. Roderick and the men were then moved to Fort Jackson, South Carolina where they packed all of their gear and stayed for a couple of weeks. In late January 1944 they boarded a ship and sailed to England. They were only in England for five months before the invasion conducting similar training to what they had done in the United States. Earlier in training they had friendly flyovers and had to identify plane models.

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David Roderick went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey for 10 days. The men were checked for health and packed everything while lawyers talked to them about wills and salaries. They were loaded on trains going to Jersey City and were taken on a ferry to the docks where the boat was. Each man carried a big duffel containing everything they owned and their guns. A gentleman would call out a last name and the men would respond with their first name and serial number to ensure the right men were aboard the ship. The ship was called Cape Town Castle and was an English ship that was used to go from England to South Africa. The ship had hammocks for bunks and was very crowded. The food was terrible and they were only fed twice a day and had tea and crumpets. Roderick was a Staff Sergeant and was able to get cookies and coffee and tea in a separate room for superiors. They pulled into Liverpool, England and dispersed by train to different regions. The 2nd Battalion went to Danbury Camp until the battalions came together for the attack on D Day. Roderick had never been to England before and enjoyed the local town. There was trouble between the African American soldiers and the White soldiers because the African American men were dating the English girls and the white soldiers became jealous and tried to start fights so the weekends were separated so the soldiers did not cause trouble. Roderick decided to stay at home in the barracks to avoid any fighting between the soldiers. Camp Danbury was built to become a hospital for the invasion and changed into the hospital about 24 hours after the soldiers left. All of the training was in the moors except for D Day training. One area resembled a beach and the local people were moved out so the soldiers could train with live fire. The Germans heard the commotion and moved u boats into range and sunk a couple ships and killed about 800 men [Annotators Note: this took place during Operation Tiger]. After the war a man who lived there discovered different artifacts and finally found a tank off the bay and made a good story. The men did not think much about going overseas. Different superiors including Eisenhower and Montgomery and Bradley came to review the men. The men wrote letters but Roderick did not spend a lot of time thinking about the battle ahead.

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David Roderick moved to the coast near Weymouth and was put into a marshalling yard. They were kept in secret. No one was allowed in and no one was allowed out. An armored division cooked for the men resulting in large meals. Roderick attended Ranger School and taught men how to use toggle ropes to climb. The men studied the map of where they would land including target areas. One day after training the men were marched onto the docks and placed on ships. Roderick remembers being in LCI229 and the ship held about 135 GIs and about 10 sailors. Most of the time was spent on deck because the wire bunks crowded the ship. They had 10 in 1 rations so 10 men would be able to fix a meal from one box. Roderick spent 24 hours on the ship. D Day was postponed from the 5 June to 6 June. On 6 June they started out into the Channel in convoys. The convoys in the Mediterranean Sea were called Piccadilly Circus and escorted the LCIs around Southern England and moved them into various beaches. About 10000 to 11000 yards from shore they transferred from an LCI to a LCVP and they took off towards the shore. The Navy and Coast Guard had four boats to guide the men and lost three of them on the way in. By the time they were near the shore the tide was so strong that it pushed the boats south and they landed about 2000 yards from where they should have landed. Roderick remembered they were supposed to land near fortifications but the tide moved them from being hit and taken out. The W5 fortification was taken out by the B26s who bombed before the soldiers landed. The battleship with the soldiers began firing their guns along with the cruisers and destroyers who stayed close for protection with the Air Force and the B26s and rockets. Roderick had a flare gun to shoot before they landed to alert the others. Utah Beach had better protection than Omaha Beach. Roderick did not feel the tension before he landed and does not remember the other men feeling nervous due to trust and dependence. None of the men could know what was going to happen and did not worry. Roderick cracked his knee on the rope ladder when he transferred from the LCI to the LCVP. The weather was cold and dreary but the men did not know the conditions or forces they would meet until they experienced it. Roderick knew it was a large beach and knew what the fortifications were like. The Germans did not think the troops would land with the tide out and the bad weather. Roderick could see the concrete sea wall on the beach and the Germans had flooded the area except for the causeways or exits.

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David Roderick experienced a lot of shelling and artillery and snipers when he landed. D Day began at 6:30 in the morning but Roderick did not arrive and land on the beach until about 8:00 am in the third wave. He only lost one man that day that was shot between the eyes by a sniper but lost eight men the next day which was half of his men. Roderick argues that the media often shows no resistance after the beach landings but the men still had to fight through enemy lines for three or four days. Roderick says that his D Day was the second day because of the casualty count. The third exit was very crowded and the 22nd Infantry and the 12th Infantry that came in behind the 22nd took about seven hours to walk through the flooded land and took a road to Vierville France. They did not dig their foxholes or put scouts out until 11 at night when the sun went down. The next day at 6:30 in the morning they left to attack Hiesville and Griesbeck [Annotators note. unsure of spelling]. The 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry was actually part of the first wave with the 8th Infantry who was supposed to go inland and go up the beach to take out fortifications near the Quenneville Ridge. They spent about three weeks on the beach to get through the fortifications. This is the same place where several naval ships were sunk by German fire and mines on Utah Beach. The assignment on the first day was to capture Vierville which they did not have to do because the Air Force and paratroopers took care of that area. Roderick had to capture Hiesville on D Day which was impossible in the conditions. He reached the position required but not the objective. The next day Roderick and his men were in the hedgerows and were all prepared with maps and fire ranges and they just waited. The standard way of fighting was to have the artillery fire for about 15 minutes and then have the Air force come and dive bomb then when that lifted the Germans would still come out of their foxholes unscathed. The radios were connected between Hiesville and Griesbeck . The German commander was aware of the impending invasion to Hiesville so they alerted the Germans in Griesbeck to fire at the soldier on top of the city. The Americans were shot at Hiesville from Griesbeck to stop the invasion and had to withdraw two days in a row. Roderick and the men thought it was friendly fire at first. In two days they lost a lot of men but on the third day Roderick brought the 3rd Battalion from the beach in behind the German fortifications and pinned the Germans down just like at the Siegfried Line. The Americans would bring tank destroyers and shoot through the small apertures and force the Germans outside. They used flamethrowers in Griesbeck and Sergeant Riley emptied a group when gas got into the German artillery and exploded. The Americans used these tactics throughout the rest of the Quenneville Ridge.

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David Roderick knew the true goal was to capture Cherbourg at the end of the peninsula which took until 25 June. It was all hedgerow fighting afterwards. The battery positions in Hiesville and Griesbeck were connected to each other underground and also to small ones with machine guns along with radios and mortar soldiers, with the German Screaming Mimi, which was a rocket. The Germans just had to wait for the soldiers and then open fire. Roderick lost the eight men on the second day of D Day because of the German rockets. The walls were reinforced concrete that was three and a half feet thick and the fortifications were still standing when Roderick went back for the 60th Anniversary. From Cherbourg, they came back to the beach and had three days where they had their first rest and bath and hot meal. Then they were put in the Normandy hedgerows and fought from 28 June to 25 July from hedgerow to hedgerow. They planned a breakthrough called the Breakthrough of Saint Lo. They used B17s for the first time in history. The 4th Division in line with the 30th Division was waiting to break the lines. Roderick’s 22nd Infantry Regiment was in the back acting as infantry with tanks and even had a few days of training. The idea was as soon as the bombs were dropped the front lines would open a gap for the tanks and they would push through with heavy artillery. However the dust from the bombings created confusion and the General of the Air Force was killed and Ernie Pyle was almost killed. They fought all night and would stop just long enough to kill a group of Germans. When they stopped Roderick would take positions on either side of the tank and one time a German soldier came down the road and surrendered and informed the Americans of 20 Germans behind the hedgerows. Roderick sent that German soldier back to gather the 20 Germans after being disarmed and soon returned with 22 soldiers. Roderick and his regiment disarmed the men. The tanks had a hard time breaking through the hedgerows. One man with a bazooka went hunting for German tanks and got five of them before he was captured. The man was named Hix [Annotators Note: Private Eugene Hix] and he received a Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery. Roderick believes the Germans had the best artillery. Roderick learned the different between incoming and outgoing artillery while on the beach.

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David Roderick had to keep the lane open in Cherbourg for Patton and the 3rd Army. He also helped stop Hitler’s counter attack that would have gone to the beach. Patton and the English surrounded the Falaise Gap and almost closed it with the help of the Polish. Once that happened that was the end of Normandy. They got on trucks and went to the Seine River and were assigned with the 2nd French Armored Division which was liberating Paris. The Americans helped Parisians escape and once the 2nd French Division was stopped the Americans were told to liberate Paris by themselves. The Parisians met the soldiers in the trucks and were so happy they handed the men wine. Roderick thought it would be fun to stay in Paris but they were told by the section lieutenant and they had to leave and meet a forward scouting party to go out and make contact with the Germans. They loaded in jeeps and trucks and left Paris. The 4th Infantry Division did not get any recognition for liberating Paris. Everything was about De Gaulle. The idea was to get behind the Siegfried Line to hold the Germans from going home. Roderick considered it easy going because there was not too much fighting. They were the first troops in Germany although there was another outfit that sent a scout in and got their report in first and got the credit instead. The rest of the troops went across the Siegfried Line and into Germany on 11 September. Ernest Hemingway was a good friend with Colonel Adam who spent his time with the 22nd Infantry Regiment and stayed with Roderick’s group through the breakout and through Paris. They crossed the Roer River into Hemeries [Annotators Note: unsure of spelling] which was a small town that was very old and only had a couple of buildings, one of which was built in 1722. One of the buildings was the one Hemingway picked to write his stories. The night before they attacked the Siegfried Line he had dinner with himself and several commanders. When Roderick went back to the town he found the same building again with his son. Usually the towns in Germany were in valleys and forests. They organized the farmland around the Hurtgen Forest as fortifications. When Roderick and his son went back to Europe they could not find any fortifications until asking for assistance. Then he walked to the fortifications from a German point of view and realized they were able to see the Americans coming for a mile which is why the artillery took so much damage. When Roderick and his men cracked the Siegfried Line they were pulled out three more times and broke the line in different places because they were so good at it.

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David Roderick saw German fortifications that were made to look like homes or barns and one town was only made of fortifications that looked like homes. By the time the Americans were in France and Germany they were running out of gas and the men had not rested since Cherbourg. Winter was coming and by October the men were living in the fortification homes. There was not a lot of fighting, mostly just patrolling. The Americans would talk to the Germans about where they were stationed. Roderick stayed there for a month and then was transferred to the Hurtgen Forest. [Annotators note. Interviewer changes tapes] Roderick remembers being in an artillery barrage and he jumped under a jeep. The men were digging foxholes and when the fighting stopped Roderick saw one of his men, who was an 18 year old from New York City, who died from a concussion from the shell explosions. Roderick was knocked out and disoriented so he was evacuated out of Hurtgen Forest. The forest was 50 square miles that ran from Aachen to Duren and down to Monschau in a triangle shape. In between the forest was a big valley with the Kall River running through the center. The forest had 100 foot tall pine trees and low spruce trees with thick branches. It was so thick that the men could not walk straight and no light could hit the forest floor. Since it was winter the snow and rainwater sat on the group and created a cold and dark atmosphere. The Germans put wire covered mines and landmines and booby traps between fortifications. Roderick only had a rifle and hand grenade. They could not use artillery because there was no line of sight and the Air Force could not infiltrate the forest. The Germans had the upper hand because they were waiting for the Americans to come. It does not make sense to constantly put replacements in the forest after witnessing the amount of loss from the military. Roderick was in the mortars and they could only put mortars in the fire lanes. One shell came in and Roderick ran down the ravine. As more shells started falling, Roderick ran to his platoon leader and was told to take his men down the ravine. When it was over the shells had a direct hit on a gun and on two foxholes which could have killed seven men including Roderick and a squad leader. Roderick and the men lost officers. Companies were attacked and by the end of the day would be down 50 percent. Most of the replacements would be killed before they could get to their replacement companies. Roderick was used as a replacement officer twice in both Normandy and the Hurtgen Forest. The artillery barrages would last anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour and could range from 80mm through 210mm. He was taken out of the forest when artillery hit a tree which created reverberations and Roderick was taken out with a bad concussion.

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The artillery in the Hurtgen Forest was tree burst artillery which prevented men from digging foxholes in the cold weather and muddy ground. The men would hug the trees and if the trees were long enough the excess debris from the forest would be used to cover the foxholes. However the foxholes would flood with water causing trench foot and pneumonia. Roderick lost almost as many men from diseases as from battle injuries. He was fighting in the Hurtgen on his 21st birthday, 18 November, and was hit five days later. Roderick was out of the fighting from that point on. He was declared unfit for combat and reassigned to the 1st Battalion headquarters. They were going to send Roderick to a rear echelon area but Roderick was a friend of the chaplain and the chaplain told Roderick he would be reassigned to a non combat area but by then they were developing a point system to determine when men would be sent home. Roderick had enough points so the chaplain got him assigned to the 1st Battalion. Roderick stayed with them through the Battle of the Bulge. When the men were pulled out of Hurtgen they were placed in Luxembourg and only had a few men to a squad. The 12th Infantry Regiment got caught fighting there and stopped the southern shoulder of the Bulge. After the battle they were sent to Bastogne and attacked into Germany. By that time the 4th Division was depleted and sent to Ance, France. Roderick was told he was being sent home around 16 March. He had points accumulated from being overseas and being in combat and the amount of medals. Roderick had three Bronze Stars. He was shipped out but it took a long time to get home. Roderick was on the sea when he heard President Roosevelt had died. He landed in New York City and got together with his future wife. Roderick traveled back home to Illinois and finally married his wife and they have now been married for 63 years.

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David Roderick was discharged as soon as the war was over. When he was home he had bad dreams and once he hit the ground when a car backfired. Roderick went to a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with an anxiety now called PTSD. Roderick still gets images of artillery falling in the backyard. He does not hear sounds but still deals with the problems from the war from 60 years ago. He sympathizes with the young men fighting today. Roderick has three Bronze Stars. He got one from the Hurtgen Forest and one from the hedgerows. One morning he jumped off and there was an intense barrage that scattered the men. Many men were knocked out including the officers in Company G. Roderick jumped in as another Sergeant to help the men and expected a counter attack that never came. Roderick learned his best friend was injured in no man’s land over the hedgerow. He was alone and Roderick gathered men to help his best friend to safety. Roderick entered the Army at 16 and only had a 10th Grade education. When he returned to the United States he got a job with General Motors and worked at a punching press but it sounded like a machine gun so Roderick did not work there for long. His father in law recommended to Roderick to go to East Orange, New Jersey to coach and provide physical education at Panzer College. He took a test to be admitted as a coach and had to keep good grades. Roderick took summer classes and a state examination and earned an equivalent certificate for high school. Roderick transferred to Arizona State University after two years in New Jersey and earned his Master’s. He was hired as the coach for junior high and eventually high school. He took position as a varsity football coach in Colorado and finally moved to California to complete his dream of coaching. If Roderick knew then, what he knows now about war, he is unsure whether or not he would make the same decisions but he still would have joined the service with the circumstances being the same. Roderick really appreciates the young men who sign up for the military with the knowledge of war. [Annotators note. Interviewer asks how the war has changed Roderick and Roderick sits in thoughtful silence for a moment before answering]. Roderick does not think the war changed his personality but follows his plans and is a self sufficient person but because he joined the military so young he does not know if the Army gave him these qualities. Roderick was at Fort Benning in Georgia when he heard about Pearl Harbor. The Fort went on alert and troops were sent out to guard bridges. Then they came back and began to train with a more serious attitude and with more motivation.

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David Roderick was a part of the 4th Division which was an experimental Division. They packed for the Pacific but never followed through with shipping to the Pacific. Roderick wants people to understand that it was not a walk through on Omaha Beach. It was a slaughter from day to day. Roderick would like for the 4th Division to be remembered that way. The 4th Division is known as the Famous 4th by the Army Stars and Stripes. Someone wrote an article about the division as the first on D Day on European soil. The Germans called them The Men of the Terrible Green Cross because of their Ivy patch. Roderick believed it was a good expression of the enemy. He wants the men of the Hurtgen Forest remembered for their commitment to duty. The 4th Division was one of the most successful in the Hurtgen Forest. When Roderick first joined the army it was full of Southern boys and the cavalry was full of Midwestern boys. The draft brought men from Pennsylvania and New York. The Army was a mixture of men. Roderick and his men never questioned the fighting going on in the Hurtgen Forest out loud but might have often wondered what they were doing there. Roderick does not remember any political statements against the government or the leaders. They trained so long together and created a bond. If the Americans would not have fought in the war than Roderick believes the country would not have progressed. It is possible we would be presently speaking German. Americans were not the best fighters in Africa and Italy. Roderick believes it was a mistake to stay in the Hurtgen for months and ride out the Anzio Operation. He thinks now he would have done something differently and wonders why the leaders did not make better decisions. Present day writers say some leaders were more concerned with their own personal well being instead of the well being of their men. Roderick does not agree with these ideas and gives General Bradley as the example of a general who was the Infantrymen General and Patton was a great Armored Leader. Eisenhower had the right temperament for the job and fortitude that was necessary. After D Day the British were supposed to take Caen but did not succeed for months. The Polish had to come in and risk casualties to help the British. Roderick believes you can find any fault if you want to look for it but fault is not based on individuals or a solid outfit, but the leaders should have realized that certain decisions were not the best.

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David Roderick was with the 1st Battalion Headquarters and dealt with administrative work during the Battle of the Bulge. He knows what happened to the company from his best friend after the war. Roderick is grateful he missed the battle. He still keeps in touch with his section leader, and his commander who lives in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Colonel Blazzard became Roderick’s section leader. Blazzard was fearless and courageous in Europe. He was wounded five times and never evacuated. Hemingway wrote about him in a magazine. He stayed in the army and later went to Vietnam. Blazzard became a land developer and a rich man in Santa Fe and died of a stroke recently. Roderick kept in touch with him occasionally. The 4th Division was in Vietnam and continues to meet with the Vietnam veterans. The schools do not teach history as well as they should about D Day and Roderick is going to talk to his granddaughter’s class about D Day for only five minutes. [Annotators note. Roderick laughs at the short time he has to talk about a massive event]. Roderick first spoke about the war about 10 years ago. A Christian minister said that those alive honor the dead and Roderick found motivation to talk about the dead. Roderick went back to Normandy with his son for the 60th Anniversary. They started in the Bastogne area where Hemingway stayed and eventually went into the Hurtgen. A German historian took Roderick and his son around the Hurtgen for free and is still in contact with him. If Roderick comes over for the 65th Anniversary the historian stated he would provide transportation. Normandy was very hospitable and loved Americans but Roderick found it brought back a lot of memories. He broke down when he walked on the beach. It was a good experience.
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