Early life and joining the army

Basic training and service overseas

Omaha Beach

Fighting in the hedgerows

Saint Lo

His first Silver Star

Actions deserving the Silver Star

Carpet bombing for Operation Cobra

Mortain

Hill 314

Blocked Event

Winning the battle for Hill 314

Untitled Event

Fighting across France

Liberation of Paris

French civilians and combat awards

Education and Training

Transcription

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(interviewer) My—my hope is that you remember that you’re
not really talking to me.
You’re talking to kids who know nothing about it.
(Franklin Denius) Yeah, that’s—
(interviewer) And—and so, finding a way to—
(Franklin) —get to that level.
(interviewer) —get to that level, and with—with the
passion that you have for it, I think it’s going to be great.
Having those kind of markers—for instance,
if I ask you, “What was the Siegfried Line
like?” and you began, “It was a series of this
and that, and there was a lot of artillery,
and it was a difficult battle,” no
--one’s going to hear my question.
They’re not going to use my voice at all.
(Franklin) Okay, but you can lead me?
(interviewer) I can lead you to the question, and then,
what I would like you to do to the extent
possible, is repeat, “The Siegfried Line
was this,” or whatever, and that way, when
we use the clip, we know where you are, we
know what you’re doing, and we know what’s
happening in that particular battle—because
they’re not going to hear my voice at all.
And I’ll remind you—if there’s a problem, I
will remind you, but I just thought on the
outset that the two things I can tell you is—
(Franklin) Okay, and if we could take a break, can I
get some water?
(interviewer) Anytime you—anytime
you want a break, we’ll take a break.
(male speaker) Yeah, just say so and I can stop it.
I’m ready to go when y’all are. I’m rolling.
(interviewer) Great.
Sir, if you would begin by stating
your full name and your date of birth?
(Franklin) My full name is Franklin W. Denius.
I was born on January 4, 1925, and historically,
I’ve been called, “Frank” for short,
and that’s the name I go by.
When I was growing up in Athens, Texas, I had
a nickname—everyone called me, “Tiddy”—not
necessarily related to football, but probably appropriate.
(interviewer) That sounds good.
Now, let’s see if we can turn the ringer off.
(male speaker) And Mr. Denius, when you’re talking, if
you would look at here.
(Franklin) Okay, that’s what I—
I should have asked you that first.
(male speaker) No, that was my bad.
I should have said something about it.
(Franklin) Can’t you just disconnect it?
(interviewer) Yeah, that’s what I was going to do.
So, I take it you’re a little bit of a football fan.
(Franklin) Yeah, I go to every practice, and every game.
I travel with the team a lot.
(interviewer) All right, let’s try that one again.
You’re looking at me—
(Franklin) Yeah.
(interviewer) —and you’re going to introduce yourself, please.
(Franklin) Okay.
My name is Franklin, W. Denius—D-E-N-I-U-S.
I was born on January 4, 1925, and my name
now, mostly, is Frank—for short, and when
I was growing up in Athens, Texas—a little town
in East Texas, everyone called me “Tiddy”—not
necessarily related to football, but it’s been
my—one of my primary interests throughout
my life, and still is.
(interviewer) And what did
your parents—what was their business?
(Franklin) My—actually, my—my mother, and my grandmother,
and my grandfather, raised me.
My father and mother separated, and then later
divorced when I was about nine years old—so
I grew up in Athens.
My grandfather had a general store in Athens.
Athens was a little town, about 3500 in East
Texas—the place, geographically, about seventy
miles southeast of Dallas.
It was a great place to grow up.
Everybody knew each other, and when I was
going to school, all the teachers knew my
mother, and my family, and so, if I got into
any trouble in school or anything else, well,
everybody knew who to call.
And my grandfather was a great mentor, because
he loved athletics, and he—he would go to
all the high school games—basketball, and
football, and when I was three and four years
old, he started taking me to those games,
and so, I just sort of grew into being an
athletic enthusiastic, and I played all kinds
of sports in middle school—we called it
“Junior High” in those days.
And then, I played high school football, and
got to play in one college game—
when freshmen became eligible.
(interviewer) Why don’t we talk
about your college experience?
(Franklin) Well—when I was twelve years old, and in
a family that was really dominated by my grandmother,
and my mother, all of my family, including
my uncles thought, with the likelihood that
World War II might come along, that I needed
the discipline of attending a military school.
And so, at the ripe old age of thirteen, I
went to Schreiner Institute, in Kerrville,
Texas, as a freshman in high school, and I
graduated from Schreiner in three and a half
years, and I had one semester of college at
Schreiner, but I graduated in high school
in 1942—in May—on May 25, 1942.
So, I had, actually, one semester of college,
and I was—in 1942, I had just turned seventeen,
obviously, and with the war likely, I—the
Army had a problem—so did the Navy, that
if you signed at seventeen, that you would be
likely to be sent to college for two semesters—and
the Army sent me to the Citadel, the Military
College of South Carolina, in Charleston, South Carolina.
So, I actually went to the Citadel in Charleston,
South Carolina, in late July of 1942, and
my second semester there ended in early April
of 1943, and by that time, I was eighteen.
Usually, you were not called to active duty
until you were eighteen at that period of
time, and so, I was able to come to the University
of Texas, and have a three-week short course
in May of 1943, and I took sophomore English,
and then, my orders came to report for active
duty, and I went back to Athens.
It’s a—it’s a strange story in a way,
but it’s the way it went in those days,
and all of the draftees—all of those that
were in reserves that had not been called,
as well as all in my situation, where I was
being called to active duty by the Army, we
met in the Courthouse Square in Athens, Texas,
and there were three old—old buses—then
picked us up, and a lot of town
people came down to see us off.
And my bus, on the way to Mineral Wells, broke down.
It was a hot June day, and we sat there in the
bus, and walked around, and finally, another
bus came, and picked us up, and took us to
Mineral Wells, Camp Wolters, at that time,
and we got there about one o’clock in the
morning, processed, and that began my official
active duty in the military.
I was there at Camp Wolters for three days,
and I’d had Artillery ROTC at the Citadel,
and I always wanted to be in the Artillery
branch of the service, and so, that was my
choice, and I was able to achieve that choice,
and I was shipped to—by train, to Camp Roberts,
California, which is located at Paso Robles,
California—about halfway between L.A.—that’s
Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
So, I went through seventeen, eighteen
weeks of basic training in Artillery.
I was selected in what was then called the
Instrument and Survey part of the—sector
of the Artillery training.
They had bus driver—I mean, truck drivers, had
radio operations, and various—but Instrument
and Survey, basically, was to prepare yourself
for being a forward observer, and that’s
the training that I went through
at Camp Roberts, in California.
I was there until the first of—second
or third day of January, 1944.
I was then given a furlough, and I was home—sent
home—went home by train, and in Athens,
Texas, my home, I was there for about nine
days—and then, I took a train from Corsicana,
Texas, to Eastern, and then, to Maryland,
Fort Meade, and that was in mid-January of 1944.
And then, we trained at Fort Meade, Maryland,
and then, from Fort Meade, Maryland, we were
shipped to Camp Moore, Standish—south
of Boston—and we were there a week.
That was the port of debarkation for troops
at that time, and—pretty much a staging
area, and then, I was shipped along with my
other fellow soldiers that had trained in
Artillery training, but not necessarily forward observers.
They were cannoneers, and truck drivers, radio
sergeants—radio operators, and other branches
of the Artillery.
We then sailed out of Boston Harbor on the
USS Wakefield, which was a converted luxury
liner, and there were about eleven thousand
troops on that ship, and it took us about
ten to eleven days to get from Boston to Liverpool,
England, where we landed in late January—first
of February, 1944.
At that time, there were about thirty of us that
were selected to go through Ranger training,
and so, I went through, actually, Ranger training,
in England, and then in late April of ‘44,
I joined the 30th Infantry Division as a forward
observer, and I was assigned to Battery C
of the 230th Field Artillery Battalion
of the 30th Infantry Division.
(interviewer) Wonderful. Let’s—let’s take a break
right there for a second. Do you think—
can you hear the glasses? I think that
the mic’s picking up the—yeah,
I’m just concerned we’re going to have it—
(Franklin) —a little fudgy.
(interviewer) Those engineers get a little squirrely when
you work with them.
That’s wonderful. That was perfect.
I guess I can’t help but ask, what was Ranger training like?
(Franklin) Ranger training in England was—normally,
Ranger training would last longer, but for
us in the specialized situation, the thirty
of us went through Ranger training as strictly
Infantry Division, and also, you learnt to
jump from C-47s, which were troop carriers—and
you went through intensive training, and—as
well as the opportunity to observe actual
Infantry combat so that as a forward observer,
you had more of an appreciation of what it
was like be an Infantryman, per se—so to
speak, and it was very beneficial, and it
really was training that came in handy for
me, personally, during the next years’ time.
(interviewer) And a little bit about your life in England,
beyond the—the few moments—spare moments
they gave you beyond the training.
What was—what was that atmosphere like?
(Franklin) The training in England during—and of course,
the Ranger—thirty days approximately, and then,
in artillery, was—with the 30th Infantry
Division, was actual preparation for battle,
and you got to know the—your fellow soldiers
that were in your unit, and you began to understand
the intensity of the training, and what was
about to occur in the invasion of France.
We had maps, and we observed how the cliffs
normally were, and learned a lot about the
terrain—and learned a lot about stamina.
As far as—the only time off you had, actually,
was maybe an hour at PX time, because you
went on marches and training almost 24/7,
so to speak, and it was very intense.
You did not get to actually observe artillery
fire where you actually directed the artillery
fire, which I had learned in basic training back
at Camp Roberts, but you had the assimilation
of all of that kind of training, and then
you were introduced to maps of the terrain,
and unfortunately, we didn’t understand
the hedgerows as much as we later learned
to understand them, but we were intensively in training.
The 30th Division was a very disciplined organization,
and every unit—Infantry, Artillery—engineers,
medics, the entire Division had an esprit
de corps that was contagious to everybody in it.
(interviewer) From want I understand, the order for you
to embark and head over, and be a part—essentially
on—because it’s D+1—essentially, the
invasion itself came on an hour’s notice almost.
(Franklin) The—the 30th Infantry Division was actually
in corps reserve for the D-Day invasion.
However, as history has well recorded, the 29th
National Guard Division, and the 1st Regular Army Division
landed at Omaha Beach, and the
29th Regiment that landed there was 115th
Regiment, and they lost a lot of casualties
landing at Omaha Beach, and they lost their artillery.
At the time that this was occurring, we were
on reserve, and our battalion was notified
that we were to immediately prepare for—for
embarkation to—to France, and we were rushed
to the ships in the Channel on the day of
June 6, and my unit was actually prepared,
and was on the water, and we were
able to land on Omaha Beach.
But—I landed through an LCI in the morning,
and my whole unit landed on what was then
probably early on the seventh day of June,
and although time and days didn’t mean much
in those days, quite frankly, but—but
we were landed as soon as we could.
In the first six days, we fought—the 230th
Field Artillery Battalion fought with the
29th Division in support of them, and the
30th Infantry Division started landing on
D+2, and 3, and when they were fully landed,
then my battalion of artillery rejoined our
Division, and from that day on, which was about
the D+7, or 8, we went back and supported
the 30th Infantry Division, and from that
point on, we supported the 230—I mean, the
30th Infantry Division throughout the war,
but also on special occasions when it was
necessary, we moved and supported other units
during—during the race across France, and
Belgium, Holland, and in Germany.
(interviewer) Could you begin a sentence with something
like—and I want you to use your own words,
but “When I landed on Omaha Beach on D+1,
here’s what I saw, here’s what I heard.
This is the atmosphere—this is what I noticed
from the 20”—I mean, how did the 29th
—now that you’re working with them, how did
those men who were still there—I mean,
you’re—you’re going into one of the most
difficult situations that—that a young
man could face immediately after this horrible
battle, and if just—if you could begin that—what
you saw, what you heard, and then how you engaged.
How did—how did the 230th then engage
in support of the 29th— would be great.
(Franklin) Would it be desirable,
or helpful, in describing
the location I landed on?
(interviewer) Yes, absolutely.
(Franklin) On the date of landing at—in France—at
Omaha Beach, those of you who have seen the
cemetery at Omaha Beach—the memorial cemetery
there—if you would go about fifty to a hundred
yards west of the cemetery, you would see,
and looking down that cliff—you would see a
big draw. and that’s the area that I came
up along with my radio sergeant and the other
members of the 30th Infantry—30th Division
that were attached to the 230th Field Artillery Battalion.
So that’s our first entry there into the beach.
What we saw was a tremendous number of casualties
on the beach, and medics attending to those,
there were a lot of ships that were sunk,
and you could see what was left of them in
the water that were still above the water level.
We actually came in on a Landing Craft
Infantry, which is an LCI, that we called it.
Well, that’s the—that’s the boat or—or
vehicle—or something—or whatever you call
it—a ship, that—the ramp goes down, and you
come down the front and you wade through
the water into the beach.
You could hear all kinds of artillery fire.
There were—there were bombers going over, and
there was a lot of noise, and your primary
objective was to get up that cliff, crawl
up that cliff, and then, as soon as you got
up the cliff, to organize.
And then, we were directed by our officers to
then move into the area to start supporting
the 29th Infantry Division.
Now, remember that the artillery is being
landed after we were, because they had to
bring in on different types of ships, the
actual field artillery 105 Howitzers, and
all of the trucks ammunition.
So, it wasn’t just like you landed
and it all started happening.
There was a lot of logistics, and support,
and effort that had to be made by everyone
to land your artillery, then to get it on
to the top of the cliffs, and then to begin
to take positions where you could start
helping the 29th Infantry Division.
I was then—my group was then moved over to
support different units of the 29th Infantry
Division, and everything was somewhat hectic,
but at the same time, you have to give credit
to the discipline that all of the
guys—all the soldiers were going through.
While it was somewhat chaotic to some, it was
the best organization that we could manage
at the time under direct artillery fire, and
machine gun fire—and not knowing exactly
where the Germans were, and it was a little
ahead before you actually reached the hedgerow country.
(interviewer) So, your—when you say your group, you’re
a forward observer, so your job then, in order
to help a unit of the 29th, would be go to
the frontlines of where that 29th was, and
begin to understand what their need was.
Can you tell me how—walk me through that
process of how you begin to support with your
artillery—movements.
(Franklin) In a forward observer party, there’s usually
an officer, and a sergeant—although I wasn’t
that rank at that time—and a radio operator.
We were directed then, as well as other forward
observers from the 230th Field Artillery—different batteries.
There was A, B, C batteries and then we were C Battery.
So, the B Battery observers, and A Battery
observers, were sent to different locations,
but we all were directed then, to report as
quickly as we could to the appropriate units
of the 29th Division.
And this was not easy in a way that you didn’t
just walk or march, you had to find where
your unit that you were going to support was,
who was the commanding officer of the unit,
and how best you could position your artillery
team to start supporting with artillery fire
when your artillery landed.
And so, there was a number—several hours
before the actual artillery was landed, and
before we could start directing artillery fire,
but in the meantime, we became acquainted
as quickly as possible with the location, and
the terrain that was in front of us, and
also the commanders of the, then, 29th
units that we were beginning to support.
It—it—to describe it, again, you didn’t do
this just by the numbers, you did it as
best you could, and you assembled with the
29th units, and the commanders, as quickly
as you could, and of course, they
were extremely glad to see us.
All of the Infantry was so supportive of the
artillery observers throughout—throughout
the war, not just in the 29th, but certainly in the 30th.
We became loyal friends, and—as observers we
became loyal friends of all of the Infantry
units that we supported.
(interviewer) Beyond the rush of—of—of finding the unit,
and beginning the process, and—and learning
how to do your job in a real combat situation
over the next few days, your first big challenge
that you begin with after landing on D-Day
and taking up position, “Our first—my
units first big challenge,” or the 230th,
or if you want to refer to the actual unit
you served, was—something like that would be great.
(Franklin) First of all, my radio sergeant, and officer,
and myself, this was our first time in combat,
and you never know how you’re going to respond
in combat, but you have to learn the terrain,
you have to learn to protect yourself, and
then you have to learn how you can position
yourself with the Infantry units to become
the most effective you can in either defending
them, or preparing them for attacking.
We learned very quickly how to survive, and
learned to hug the ground, and learned to
get behind any object that could
protect you from enemy gunfire.
And—I might add that in many ways, the bombardment
of the area above Omaha Beach with a large
shell from our battleships and bombs, and there
were a lot of craters, and these craters
and holes afforded you some real protection
as you advanced inland from the beach area.
This is not probably something you think about,
but there are some big craters there that
came in handy because you could get in—down
in one of those craters, and you’re pretty
well-protected, but you didn’t have much
time to stay there, you had to advance from
area to area, and it didn’t take long for us
to reach they hedgerow country that everyone
has heard about—that is somewhat familiar
with the landings in Normandy, so from—you
might say the early part of June, after the
invasion, until we broke out at Saint-Lo,
which was back on—then, we’re talking about early June.
Now, the Saint-Lo breakthrough started on
the twenty-fourth of July and was actually
achieved on the twenty-fifth of July with the
carpet bombing by the British and American
Air Force, and that’s how we penetrated,
but that—that’s sometime in the future—on
July the twenty-fifth.
There were a lot of hedgerow fighting, and
the first town I can—I can always remember
the one—the 30th Division, 120th Regiment,
which the 230th supported primarily—as a—as
a member of the 30th Division, we captured
the town of Saint-Jean-de-Daye, and we had
to make an overnight behind the lines, march of
about six or seven miles to get into position
to jump off, and learning the terrain that
you had to encounter and achieve across.
Then, when you get into position to attack,
and then you’ve got to orient yourself to
what’s ahead of you, not only the enemy
and—but you’ve got to learn the terrain,
and as an artillery observer, map reading,
and learning how to position yourself, and
how to direct artillery fire was extremely important.
Then let me say that as an observer, I could
not have done my job without, at that time,
the officer which I supported and helped in
directing fire, because the more eyes you
had the better you were, and—but I want
to give all support to my radio sergeant,
Sergeant Goldstein from Ohio, because
he was a great operator for the radio.
He was a great soldier, and he and I have
been friends almost instantaneously until
current time.
(interviewer) So, let’s—let’s say you’re beginning
a sentence with something like, “The hedgerow
fighting in June and July for you was”—
(Franklin) In July—June, July of 1944, we encountered
the hedgerow fighting, and to describe the
hedgerows would be like describing a farm
that had barbwire fences, only instead of
barbwire fences, in Normandy, they were called
hedgerows, and they were mountains of dirt, and
trees, and there were anywhere from seventy-five
yards to maybe a hundred and ten or fifteen
yards apart, and they were almost in squares,
so—you learned that when you were behind
say, a hedgerow—the first hedgerow, the
Germans might be behind the next hedgerow
over, and you learned pretty much from the
experience that the Germans had machine guns
set up in each corner of their hedgerow as defense.
It was a perfect type of defensive position
to defend hedgerow by hedgerow, and they set
the machine guns up in the corners of the
hedgerows, and then they could use their machine
gun fires as crossfire.
The other big obstacle from the German defensive
standpoint were the German mortars, because
they could lay down mortar fire on our side
of the hedgerows which was only seventy-five
to a hundred yards away.
And so, all the time that you were trying
to get in the position to attack, then you
had to deal with the mortar fire and it was
then—further, the Germans dug in their tanks
and camouflaged those tanks behind the hedgerows.
It’s difficult to describe because I’m
looking at one hedgerow in front of me, but
these were hedgerows that extended on each
side of the hedgerow in front of me for miles,
and there might be some trails that went through
the separation of hedgerows on different farmlands
in Normandy, and that’s where the Germans
brought their tanks up and camouflaged them,
so you had to be careful there.
But as an observer, it didn’t take you long
to understand the strategy of the Germans
in defense, and then you became tuned in to
how to direct artillery fire to be the most
effective, and first in any defensive position that
you had to hold, then when you were attacking,
which was nearly every morning you were advancing,
you knew how to lay down an artillery barrage
in front of the Infantry units that you were
supporting to pin down the Germans in order
to force them to withdraw.
And we fired—directed artillery fire constantly,
and we used a lot of shells to help our Infantry
advance, and protect them, not only immediately
in front of the Infantry advancements, but
behind—maybe a mile behind their defensive
lines where the German artillery was located,
and all their reserves.
So, we were taking—trying to take care of
the—our Infantry as they advanced immediately
in front of us.
Now, remember, you can’t direct the artillery
fire too close to your Infantry because you’re
going to hit some of your own soldiers, so
you had to be very cautious about how you
directed those—the artillery fire, and then, you
also had to be aware of the type of strategy
the German used behind the lines in the deployment
of their backup defenses, and their artillery,
and their mortars.
And as the days—it didn’t take you long to learn
a lot from actual experience in combat—and
remember, both the 29th Division and the
30th Division’s first combat started in June
of 1944, so there were no—no one that had
prior combat experience in fighting.
So, you learn pretty rapidly to achieve the
best results you could do, and our objective
as an artillery observer was protecting our
Infantry, and preparing for the attack—and
that’s what we did our best to do.
To describe it, at night when you weren’t
attacking, we directed artillery fire into
locations where we thought the Germans might counterattack.
This became the strategy standing operating
procedure for the 30th Division—all of our
units there when we went to position in the
evening, and this went through every day as
we attacked in—in the hedgerow country
as well as all through the war.
We directed artillery fire to locations that
we thought the Germans might use, it could be a draw.
It could be a trail.
It could be an asphalt-paved road, but anywhere that
we perceived that the Germans might counterattack
at night or the next day, we preset artillery—we
directed it in, and they were called “Emergency Barrages."
We directed—actually, directed the fire,
and then there was a normal barrage.
In other words, the difference being if the
Germans were attacking, it was usually necessary
to fire the emergency barrages, whereas the
normal barrages were more in preparation for advancement.
We would direct those fires, and while you
did that—was at night, or when you’re
being attacked, it’s hard to adjust the fire,
because it takes time, it takes position,
and it takes exposure of the observer to
combat himself, and being killed or wounded.
And so, by directing the fire and presetting
the rounds for emergency barrages, then all
we had to do was radio back to the Battalion
Fire Direction Center, and then that would
be where the artillery was, probably, six
or seven miles back of the frontlines and
you could just say, “Fire emergency barrage
number six,” if that be the location, and
we could have a couple hundred rounds on that
area within two or three minutes, and you
did—the point being, you didn’t have to
direct it and adjust the fire into that area,
you had already done that.
And that was standard operating procedure for
our division, and frankly, over the course
of the next months till the end of the war,
that was just the way we functioned in the
30th Infantry Division, and I think it contributed
to the success of the division, and also why
we were one of the leading units in
France—in Germany, Belgium, and Holland.
(interviewer) As the Allied advance reaches the area near
Saint-Lo, the German resistance stiffened.
Can you tell me—can you begin a sentence,
“As we reached this particular area the
resistance stiffens and actually stops the Allied advance.”
And then you can talk about the breakout—before
you talk about the breakout, you have to talk
about what you had to breakout of.
(Franklin) After the capture of the
little town of Saint-Jean-de-Daye
there in Normandy, we started through the
hedgerow fighting, and to give—if we could
accomplish maybe three hedgerow distances in
one day, that was a pretty successful day in fighting.
The German defenses were intense.
They had veteran soldiers, they had veteran—some
of them were SS troops, which were—they’re
the best, and the fighting was tough from
hedgerow to hedgerow, and we didn’t always
accomplish our objective in one day, it may
take two days to get there, but we constantly
advanced, and we were in attack mode.
Now, when I’m talking about from Omaha Beach,
that’s where the little town of Saint-Jean-de-Daye
is basically, and it was intense fighting every
day, and we suffered a lot of casualties
in the hedgerows because it’s difficult
to describe the type of defenses that you
had to penetrate in the hedgerow fighting.
And the difficulty is because you remember
we’re—we’re coming over one hedgerow,
under German fire, into the next hedgerow,
and that’s why the artillery, and then also
some of the Infantry mortar was so important
to—to disrupt the German defenses and actually
kill and wound a lot of their defensive soldiers.
It was a tough, going day by day, sometimes at night.
The Germans had—and it seemed like to describe
France, which we all think of as a beautiful
country, it seemed like that—once we got
twenty to thirty miles inside of Normandy
there were so many rivers and towns that we had
to—and every river was a defensive position
that we had to cross, and fight our way across
it, and the Germans on the bridges across
those rivers, which were small bridges—now,
remember with our mostly Infantry at this
point in time, and we’re not talking about
American tanks, we’re talking about some
of the American tanks that were used as artillery,
but not as attack weapons or vehicles at that time.
And so, we’re—we’re really fighting Infantry
and artillery observers against German
tanks, machine guns, and all kinds of defensive
weapons, and it was a struggle—intense fighting
day to day.
We had a lot of casualties, although we tried
to protect our guys as much as we could.
It might be that—sometimes, you might
ask, “Well, when did you stop and eat?”
Probably, the best way to describe it is,
I think, I went over two months without a
bath, or shower, or a change of
clothes—or even to brush my teeth.
I was fortunate to have been somewhat blonde-headed.
I didn’t have a heavy beard, and I didn’t have
to worry about growing a beard or shaving,
so to speak, but at night, the quartermaster
group tried to bring us rations.
We used mostly K-rations that we could carry
in our—on our—actually, I used my gas
mask to put my rations in most of the time.
But one of the things that probably not many
realize is, we were issued one ration called
a D-ration and it was a hard, hard chocolate
candy bar, and you couldn’t chew it or anything,
but you could take—I did, I took my bayonet, and
shaved a few of it off, and ate the chocolate,
that was what I did, and that later
became extremely handy at another battle.
But the preparation for the breakout of Normandy
was debated a lot, I’m sure, by our higher
command, on how to achieve a breakthrough,
because the fighting in through the hedgerow,
day-to-day, was costing many casualties now.
Also, while we’re doing this in the American
sector, the Canadians and British are also
fighting similar type of battles in their
areas, which were east of the area of—of
where—of the 230—the 30th Infantry Division fought.
And then—although we never received a lot of
advanced strategy from high command, we—each
day we knew our objective, and that was probably
the next river crossing, or the next town
that we had to cross and capture.
In some of the films that have been produced
in recent years, or subsequent to the end
of World War II where you see village fighting,
those films are pretty accurate, because that’s
just the way it was.
And as an artillery observer, if we went into
either a town, village, most of those towns
and villages in France had churches, and they
had cemeteries associated, and located in
proximity to the church, but each church had a steeple.
As an artillery observer and once you got to
more level land, you needed an observation—and
we learned to climb up in the steeples of
those churches to be able to see further in
advance of our areas, and get a better sense
of what the terrain, and the defenses were,
in order to direct artillery fire.
And by the same criterion, the Germans knew
we were doing that, and they fired what they
called their 88s at those church steeples.
And so anyway, those—those were just some
of the—some of the problems that we were
confronted with, and tried to use to our
advantage by getting to higher ground.
River crossings, the Germans used as you were—there
were natural defense barriers, just like the
hedgerows were, so you had to cross these
rivers, and you had to cross them with the
Infantry, and then later, tank support.
And then in mid-July, by the time we had fought
our way to an area that is historically known
as the “breakthrough of Saint-Lo,”—at
that point in time, we began to hear that
there could be a substantial bombing attack
later described as carpet bombing, and the
area that the—the 230th, and the 30th Infantry
Division, and we were supporting the 120th
Regiment—there are three regiments in a
Division, and in the 30th Infantry Division,
we had the 117th Regiment, the 119th
Regiment, and 120th Regiment.
While we supported all three, our principle
regiment that we supported is I’ve described,
was the 120th.
And so—and on July the seventeenth, we began to
build up our lines to straighten the American
lines of which the 30th was leading element—of
that—straightening of the line, and then
we got into position, were then—we were
able to begin this advance attack which was
known as the breakthrough, and General Eisenhower,
General Bradley—and there was a lot discussion
about the Air Force on coming over en masse,
and bombing as close to the Infantry as we could.
On July 24, in the field there where we had dug
in our foxholes, we were visited by General
Leslie McNair, a four-star general,
and he came forward to observe.
At that point in time, the 119th Regiment
of the 30th Division was selected to be the
spearhead regiment in the attack in Saint-Lo,
and General McNair was there to witness the
preparation for that attack.
Now, as the approaching date of July 24 became closer,
then that early morning of the twenty-fourth,
the frontline troops, including my artillery party,
we pulled back from our frontline penetration
about a half to three quarters of a mile to
give a little more cushion for the bombers to bomb.
Unfortunately, when the attack came the next
day, some of those bombs fell short, and one
of them fell close to General McNair’s foxhole,
and he was unfortunately killed in that shot
from the bomb, and the 119th Regiment suffered
between eight and nine hundred casualties
as a result of the fall-short of those bombs.
My observation party were probably fifty to
seventy-five yards away in a foxhole from
where General Leslie McNair was,
and where the bomb hit. We regrouped.
The 120th Regiment pushed through that night
on the twenty-fourth, and the morning of the
twenty-fifth of July, the bombers came over—over
three thousand bombers, they—they dropped
bombs within—I would say a couple of—three
miles right in front of our area.
The 29th Division was on our right—the west
side of us, and the bombs fell, and as soon
as the bombing was over, then we jumped off of the attack.
We also directed artillery in addition to
the bombs that were bombing, and directed
artillery to support the 120th, and we were
able to break through the German lines there
at the French town of Saint-Lo.
Of course, Saint-Lo was destroyed completely
by bombing and artillery, but we were able
to breakthrough at that point and we simply—the
most important part of the breakthrough was
not that we had defeated the German army at
that area, but that was the opportunity for
General Patton’s Third Army to break through
and make what has later been described as
the in-run around the German, south towards
Reims, France and that—not Reims, but another
town that’s in western France that was a key
area, and he was able to penetrate a number
of miles, and actually, with the breakthrough
of the—of his tank units, they were able
to penetrate fifteen to twenty miles quickly,
and—and the next day or two after, the twenty-fifth
of July, and it was a very successful move,
and at that time, Patton was able to turn
his Third Army and direct them toward—east,
toward Paris, and that part of France that
became so important later. After—
(interviewer) Hold on, if we could just stop for a second.
I—we covered a lot of ground.
You’re doing a great job.
There’s just occasionally—there’s these
questions that come to me—if you could begin
a sentence along the lines of—
(Franklin) Can I—
(interviewer) You want to take a break?
(Franklin) Yeah.
(interviewer) Let’s take a break.
(Franklin) –briefly, what happened after the time goes
by—right after the breakthrough, we still
held our positions, and that defended where
the Germans couldn’t attack Patton’s columns
as they moved through, because they didn’t
have any protection on the flank, they just
had tanks moving as fast as they could with
equipment and supplies, and we were there
on the east side of the breakthrough, and
the 29th was actually on the west side holding,
and the 1st Division was even on the—further west.
(interviewer) I think we could—
we could talk a little bit about that.
What I’d like to start off with—I think,
here’s the thing, with time going by as
fast as it is, I—I really believe sir, that
we should—we should have you tell us a little
bit about how earned your first Silver Star.
It would be—it would be neglectful not to have that.
I—I think it’s wonderful that—that you want
to focus on what your team did, and that’s
the right thing to do, but at a certain point,
this is the story of Mr. Frank Denius, and
so we would like to do that briefly.
I also wondered if you could start a sentence
with, “What it’s like to observe a carpet
bombing,” I mean, this is an amazing experience
and—and then, we could talk about—quickly
about Patton, and then, I think—
(Franklin) The seventeenth of July was when I got that first—
(interviewer) Okay, so why don’t we start there.
(Franklin) Are we ready?
(interviewer) Yes.
(Franklin) Prior—prior to the Saint-Lo breakthrough—about
a week before that, we were engaged in a very
difficult battle to break through to get to
an objective that would permit us to then
prepare for the Saint-Lo breakthrough.
To do—I was with the 2nd Battalion of the 120th
Regiment, and the officer that was leader
of my party, and myself, and my radio sergeant,
we were unable to see where the crossfire,
and some German artillery were located in front of us.
Now, I’m talking about the area approximately
two-thirds of the way between Saint-Jean-de-Daye,
and Saint-Lo areas of France, for geographical description.
And the only way that we could determine exactly
our—with the best opinion as to where the
German machine gun, and dug-in tank bar was coming
from that was just holding up our inventory,
and really causing a lot of casualties,
and caused us to pause—the only way to—to
successfully find that was to crawl— for
around three of us—to crawl out in advance
of the Infantry unit, behind a hedgerow that
was between the German frontlines and American
frontlines, to see better.
Well, as we were crawling out to that area,
a German machine gun fired and killed the
officer instantly.
He was about two feet ahead of me as we
were basically crawling, and he was killed.
Since I was already there, and in a position
to observe artillery fire, my radio sergeant
behind me was within whispering distance
of directing—and this was not preset—this
is where you had to actually fire rounds out
to determine the location of the enemy and
the target area, so I had to fire several
rounds, and direct that artillery fire, and
then zero in finally on the area that I was
thinking where the German tanks and machine guns were.
And to do that, I had to expose myself, and I
ditched over and was successful in knocking
out that area—maybe it was luck, maybe it
was the short experience—but anyway, I was
successful in knocking that area out, and
then, my radio sergeant and I crawled back
to the Infantry frontlines.
The company commander of the Infantry said,
“You did it,” and gave the order for everyone to advance.
I did not know it at the time—in fact, it
was probably a couple of weeks after that,
or even longer, when I was back at my unit
at the battery that my battalion—that my
battery commander said, “You have orders to report.
I’m taking you to corps headquarters,”
and that’s when I was presented a Silver Star.
(interviewer) And promoted as well?
(Franklin) And—and received a promotion from—I think
at that time, from Corporal to Sergeant,
Buck Sergeant, as we would call it.
That was quite a—I was not the only one,
there were about five others, and here we
are in the historic French villa,
where our command headquarters were.
It was awesome, but I didn’t think of it at that time.
I really was almost—it was sort of a dramatic
moment that you think back at, but at the
time, it was—it was certainly an honor.
But I want to say this, I’ve always said, I
would never have been able to achieve what
I did as a forward observer without
my radio sergeant, Goldstein.
(interviewer) He was right there with you every step of the way.
Yes, sir, he’s still alive.
Is he still alive?
(Franklin) He’s still alive, and he and I—he knows—in
September of 19—I mean, 2005, we
played—well, I stayed in Columbus.
I hadn’t seen him since May of ‘45 although
we talked on the phone and corresponded.
We met for dinner the night before that day.
(interviewer) This—this is an emotional topic, I know.
So, let’s switch to something a little easier.
What I’d like to do, is to ask you to describe
what that Operation Cobra carpet bombing looked to you.
What did it do to the moral of the
men, and what kind of effect?
Then talk briefly about how you held Patton’s
flank, and then I think, I really—because
we only have a half an hour left for sure—
(Franklin) Well—well, she’s going to get us some—
(interviewer) Right, so then we’ll have lunch, and then
we’ll probably have another half hour or
so before you—before you need to get off
to your next appointment.
So, what I’d like to do is quickly cover
those subjects, and then get to the Battle
of Mortain, spend about half an hour in
it, so make sure that we get that part.
(Franklin) —Mortain started.
(interviewer) Yes, sir. So, the—
(Franklin) The days of July 24, and 25, where the saturated
carpet bombing, massive air force planes flying
over and dropping bombs.
The Infantry and artillery observers, we had
seen a lot of gunfire, we’d seen a lot of
explosives, but it was difficult to even envision
what it would be like to see thousands of
bombs falling at the same time in front of you.
It—it was really a shock, and—all to us as
we saw that happening, and how it might
impact our immediate destiny, and for attacking the Germans.
There’s no question about what—the explosions
desensitized, so to speak, Americans, and
we all—we weren’t shockproof, but we felt
the—we felt the bombing, and to—to—to
explain it is difficult because heretofore,
we had never seen anything like this, and
certainly not in front of us immediately,
and we really didn’t know how destructive
it would be—how it would impede, or accelerate
our attack and advancement, because you can
just think of all the bomb craters that you’re
getting ready to see and advance immediately—and
we’re not talking about two or three miles
away, we’re talking about within probably
half to three quarters of a mile where the
bombs would fall in front of us, and the sound
was deafening—and the whistling of the bombs,
and so it’s—it’s difficult to describe,
but if you can just think of a massive explosion
in front of you, that’s what it was like—and
many bombs, it was just like this big massive
explosion right in front of you, and you didn’t
know how it was going to impact the Germans.
In fact, it impacted us because our sensitivities
to it, and not knowing what would happen,
but at the same time, we were able to immediately
gather our troops together in formation to
start the attack.
I directed artillery fire on the areas where
we thought that the bombing may not have been
successful.
I want to say this—as far as an observer, I
never took a chance, never elected not to
fire artillery in front of our Infantry units.
I directed artillery fire in advance of them,
whether we though the Germans were there or not.
I always felt like it was—one of our duties
as artillery men was to protect the Infantry,
not just in defense, but in—in attack—in
attack mode, and we did that.
We laid down barrages in front of our Infantry,
constantly, and we did so even at the Saint-Lo breakthrough.
We took no chances.
We protected the Infantry, and we
protected the success of our attack.
(interviewer) Great.
Could you walk?
You had to advance then afterwards—
(Franklin) I crawled. (Laughs)
(interviewer) As you—as you—okay.
As the advance moves out of Saint-Lo, and you
walk into the area where the bombers had
struck, what did you see?
What was—what was your personal view of
what all that carpet bombing had done?
(Franklin) As we were attacking, and as I advanced through
the area that had been bombed so heavily,
the land was almost—the trees, everything
was shattered, any building, barn was torn
down, or partially torn, it was full of bomb holes.
And it just looked like probably a tornado, or
hurricane, had swept through and just demolished
everything within sight.
And anything that was above ground, whether
it’d be trees, whether it’d be buildings,
where it’d be barns, or any cattle that
might have been—there were all dead and
knocked down—it was just a typical no man’s
land, I mean, it was just void of any life
at all, and yet at the same time as you did
this, you were always on guard about what
may have survived on the German side, and
while the Germans pulled back—and they were
totally in shock in some of their defensive
areas, and some surrendering was done, but
as a combat team, you—you don’t manage the—the prisoners.
Anyone that surrenders, they are immediately
sent to the rear, and you don’t stop and
administer anything insofar as the prisoners are concerned.
But we continued our attack, and our objective
was to position—get into a position to defend
Patton’s breakthrough, and that was our
immediate objective for the Infantry, and
we went into those positions.
That would’ve been southwest of the town
of Saint-Lo—in that area, and dug in and
prepared for counterattacks from the Germans
in order to protect Patton’s Third Army,
and the supply route that they would necessarily
have to have to supply fuel and ammunition,
and food to Patton’s advancing army.
(interviewer) Okay, I think, now, if you could, move us
quickly forward to how you came to help the 314th?
(Franklin) Do you want a story about a dinosaur? (Laughs)
(interviewer) If you’re going to throw in a dinosaur,
we’ll take it.
(Franklin) (Laughs) Well, the best—okay.
After—after the breakthrough at Saint-Lo on
the twenty-fifth, the next, probably, five
days, we—we’re in a defensive position,
defending and strengthening our defensive
lines in order to defend any German
attack against Patton’s lifeline.
But they pulled the 30th Division out of the
combat area, or frontlines, and we had a USO Show.
The two stars from the—from the USO Show
were Dinah Shore, a famous movie star and
vocalist, and a gentleman who’s known as a
tough guy in battles—I mean, in movies.
And they—two, performed and we were sitting
on the ground, and this was a big truck, and
Dinah Shore had a public address
system, and sang, and she walked down.
I was sitting on the edge, and she leaned
over and gave me a kiss on the cheek, and
the guys were teasing me afterwards.
And for the first time in over two months,
I had been able to brush my teeth, and get
a shower, and some clean socks—not
clothes but just some clean socks.
So, my dad—my sergeant said, “Text”—they
called me Text in the—in the unit, and they
said, “Text, which did you like best?”
Then I said, “Between the kiss of Dinah Shore, and a shower?
I called it a tie.”
(Laughs) True story, and—but after—after being
refitted and getting some replacements,
obviously, for the Infantry and artillery,
and resupplying, then our next objective was
to move westward to the town—a little
town in western France, called, Mortain.
And on the Sunday afternoon of August
6, we marched into the area of Mortain.
The 1st Infantry Division had held that position
as Patton’s army had made its breakthrough,
and they gave up their positions to us—and on
that Sunday around noon, my radio sergeant,
and the lieutenant that was in that party,
along with the company commander, who was
actually a first lieutenant of the company of
the 2nd Battalion of the 120th Regiment—we
marched up a hill just on the eastside of the
little town of Mortain, and the 1stDivision
guys had been there several days, and had
dug in foxholes, and they were all telling
us—they were telling us, “Hey guys, we have our foxholes.
We already dug in, and we haven’t seen a
German or fired a shot in the last five or
six days, so it ought to be a peaceful time for y’all.”
So, the—actually, there were about six hundred
and ninety of us that marched up that hill
from the eastside of the hill,
which is later known as Hill 314.”
314, being 314m above sea level, and that’s how the name—314.
But the little town of Mortain was sort of a
western France resort—it was a nice little town.
We didn’t go—we did not go into the town,
we marched up that hill—or climbed that
hill, and started positioning our troops—our
Infantry, and I was with my lieutenant, and
my radio sergeant, and the lieutenant
was in his first combat role.
He had joined my Battery as a replacement for
the officer that was killed back in—earlier,
July, and he had not been in combat before,
and I made some suggestions, and we went with
the Infantry commander, and scouted the area
where we thought that there might be some
counter attack.
Now, to understand Hill 314, you have to understand
it is probably the highest point in western
France, and it’s a plateau on top of
this hill, it’s a pretty steep hill.
On the east side is a cliff, and on the other
side, a forest, and there’s a couple of
trails up that hill, and there’s no buildings
on the hill except the remains of a petite
chapel, which would be on the east
side—the south side of the hill.
And we reconnoitered all of the area, and
there was another artillery observer party
that was also on the hill with us, and they
were—they were probably, mostly, three Infantry
companies—and some attached units from—other
units of the 30th Division that were with us.
We—while most of the Infantry improved their
foxhole positions, and looked over, and saw
the observation—and it was a—it was an
artillery observer’s dream as far as the
location, because you could actually
see 360 degrees, completely around.
You could almost see the Atlantic Ocean which
was in Avranches—about twenty-five miles,
and to the west—
(interviewer) If you could just try that again by saying,
“Hill 314 was the artillery observer’s dream.”
(Franklin) The—any artillery observer is looking, always,
for a wonderful observation post.
Hill 314 afforded an artillery observer’s
dream, because on top of Hill 314, you could
see 360 degrees around.
In other words, you could see almost the Atlantic
Ocean, twenty-five miles away at Avranches,
and you could see east—as far east as the
eye would see and—and on a clear day, you
could just see forever.
So therefore, you—with that type of observation,
there’s no way that an artillery observer
can’t see the enemy approaching, or attacking.
And then besides that, to start to give the
configuration of the hill, the east—the
south side of the hill was almost a sheer
cliff, and parts of that was almost—you’d
have to be a mountain climber to climb up it.
And then on the north, and the west, and the
east, was a gradual slope up the hill—not
as steep—that you could climb.
You didn’t have to mountain-climb, but you could
walk up it, but you had to do some climbing,
too, to get to the top.
And on the top, was this plateau, a flat area.
Now, on top of the hill—and remember, there’s
got to be forests—trees, and there were
even remnants of some hedgerows that were
on top there—mounds of dirt which we later
used, but you had a perfect vision.
So immediately an artillery observer, and
my party—and I talk with the lieutenant,
our new lieutenant, and we went with the company
commander and scouted around where we thought
the likely attacks could come, or might come, in
case of a counter-attack, and the preparation.
One was a trail—a road that came up from
the downtown area of Mortain up to the top
of the hill, and that would have been more
toward the north side of the hill, and—so
we located our observation post and our foxhole
to primarily look to the south half, and the
east half of the top of that hill, and the
other observer was on the other side.
We directed artillery into positions of emergency
barrage, and normal barrage, so that we had
scouted approximately one half of the Hill
314 with predesigned, and preset artillery,
known as emergency barrages.
And I think, we had about fifteen emergency
barrages, and about seven or eight normal barrages.
The normal barrages were a bit more at the
bottom of the hill, or the approaches to the
hills, and then we cleaned out the foxholes.
That afternoon, late—when I say late, it
didn’t—it didn’t get dark in France—western
France certainly, until probably eleven o’clock at night.
And it got dark—daylight started around
4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, so—we began
to hear trucks, and obviously, they were German
trucks, and we saw Infantry unloading, and
we saw some few tanks—and they were coming
right almost to within, say, a mile of the
bottom of the hill, so we kept watching them,
observing, and more and more they came—a
few tanks, and then, when the opportune time
came, we started directing artillery fire
on those Germans.
Well, we were obviously, successful in knocking
out a lot of those German units, but at the
same time, it gave away our positions on the hill.
Now, in addition to Hill 314, we had other
units of the 30th Infantry Division on—located
like this, the 117th, and 119th Regiment, and
attached units of both artillery and—and
engineers located on each side of the hill.
But the terrain around determined the location
of those units, and they went into defensive
positions as best they could, but there were
about—under seven hundred of us on top of
the hill that went into position
that afternoon of August 6, 1944.
And the buildup began even before dark—German
Air Force came over, the Luftwaffe,
and started strafing us.
This is the first time we’d had that in several weeks.
The German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, had come
over, and they bombed some of the areas, and
we saw a lot of war activity.
And by that time, our Division had laid wire
communications to us on top of the hill, in
addition to the radio communication.
Each company commander had a radio
sergeant, and a radio with him.
Our radios were called 509s, and
there was—they came in two parts.
And to describe the radio, you needed to know
the battery pack was half of that radio unit,
it weighed about fifty-five pounds,
and you had to carry that, obviously.
The radio itself was carried by the—the
radio sergeant, and it weighed about fifty
pounds—and to use the radio, you had to set
the battery pack down, and then attach
the radio on top of it, and bolt it together to connect it.
You run up the antenna about fifteen feet,
and then with a microphone, so it wasn’t
like a cellphone, that’s—we know now, or a portable radio.
This is a radio that weighed—a lot of weight—was
close to a hundred pounds, and you had to
have a location to set the radio, so you just
didn’t yell at a microphone and call in.
You had to prepare your radio, and connect, and
get it set, which we could do pretty rapidly
as experience taught us.
We did that, and we—the problem that we
may have had—and we took a foxhole that
we enlarged and made better, that was on the
frontlines, and we had Infantry on both sides of us.
On my right side of the foxhole was two German—I
mean, two American Infantry machine gunners.
We had just gotten light 30-caliber machine
guns that were air cooled, instead of water
cooled, and they were very important because
there were much more easy to carry.
And yet we had—had those machine guns only a
short time and unfortunately, they were—until
you knew how to operate them, they had a tendency to jam.
During the course of that evening, the night of
the sixth, and the morning of the seventh—the
morning of the seventh turned out
to be a lot of fog and density.
We had German Air Force that came over, and
the German attacked us en masse up that hill
on 314, and that’s when the next six days and
a half of battle, 24/7, so to speak, started,
and we started defending that hill.
By that time on the afternoon of the seventh
of August, Eisenhower radioed us—and by
that time, we only had—we’d been completely
surrounded by the German forces, and there
were five Panzer Divisions and seventy thousand
Infantry Germans that attacked us at Mortain,
and they had surrounded Hill 314, and their
objective was to capture Hill 314, because
as long as we held 314, we could defend Patton’s
supply lines through his Third Army, as well
as defend the area to the Atlantic,
because we had perfect observation.
And so, the afternoon of the sixth, General
Eisenhower radioed us to hold 314 at all cost
because of the importance, and from that time, it
was artillery observing, and we fired artillery.
Now, remember the artillery units that we
were firing were not only our howitzers of
the 230th Field Artillery Battalion, but by
that time we had division artillery, we had
corps artillery.
So, I was able to direct not just twelve guns,
or twelve 105s, but massive artillery, and
we completely dominated that area with
artillery, and the Germans kept attacking.
We survived the first day attack, and we wounded
and killed a lot of Germans, and they were
unsuccessful in advancing even half way up
the hill, in most areas, and the observer
of our artillery on the other side of 314 was
doing the same thing that we were doing.
Unfortunately, the lieutenant in my party
became incapacitated, and that led Sherman
Goldstein—my radio sergeant and I, to handle
the artillery observing for our side of Hill 314.
The—the important—that night during the
attack, the Germans actually attacked our
foxhole where we were, and it was difficult to
use a radio, because if you turn that radio
on, you disclose your position, and the Germans
were actually on top—nearly on top of our foxhole.
But we were able to—with hand to hand combat,
fight those Germans off, and with the Infantry there.
And then, my radio sergeant and I, then were
able to get back about seventy-five to a hundred
yards to the command post of the company commander,
where then, we would be with him constantly
because wherever an attack came, and wherever
there was a possible breakthrough, we were
there immediately to direct artillery fire.
The emergency barrages came so much in handy
because we did not have to direct the artillery
and adjust it.
All we had to do was call the emergency barrage
number at the location where the Germans were,
and through that maneuver, we were able to
successfully defend that first day of battle
on 314.
(interviewer) So, the key to the battle was that you had
already adjusted the guns—you’d already
prepared those barrages—if you could talk
a little bit about that.
(Franklin) The—the significance of the preset emergency
barrages and normal barrages was that after
we’d been on the hill for two days, our
radio batteries were beginning to get low,
and the only communication we had with the
division artillery, and to our battalion headquarters,
as well as division headquarters, was by radio.
So, by—by being able to use the emergency
barrages and normal barrages, it shortened
the timing and the use of the radio.
That doesn’t mean that because we—we also
needed to adjust a lot of the artillery fire
because the Germans were experienced fighters,
and their SS Division were very cagey, and
very experienced, and we had to then start
adjusting fire directly in the areas where
they were—they were beginning to mount attacks.
So, some of our preset barrages were not available
to us at that time, we had to adjust immediately
on the targets.
Then further, it became necessary to adjust
on their tanks as they came forward and fire
at the tanks to disrupt their supplies to
their Infantrymen as they were attacking.
So, we had to pattern our artillery fire on
distinct and different targets from time to
time, in order to prevent the attack from
assembling to get in a better position to attack.
So, we—we were—we were doing this day
and night, and protecting our Infantry.
Now, one of the things that happened of course,
is the Germans were bombing us, they were
strafing us—machine gun fire and artillery, and
we were beginning to take a lot of casualties.
I want to give so much credit to the medics
throughout the war—the medics were just
so good at helping our guys that were wounded, and
being on—right on the spot of the frontlines,
right behind the frontlines, and helping.
On top of 314 after the first day, we’d taken
a lot of casualties, and we dug in the
side of the dirt mounds on top of 314, and
put our wounded in as much protected area
as we could, so that they would not be subjected
to direct artillery fire or machine gun fire,
so that—that helped them to that extent.
And the—it—it’s just difficult to describe
the battle at Mortain on 314 because of the
intensity, and the importance of the
location, both to the Germans, and to us.
Therefore, for—for six and half days, it
was fighting all the time to protect your
position and defeat the Germans.
(interviewer) That’s beautiful. Succinct.
How did you keep yourself going through six days?
(Franklin) When—when you’re in combat on a constant
basis, your body, your mind—and I like to
think, in the 30th Division, our hearts, were
always prepared for what was to come, and you
are totally involved and immersed in what
you’re doing, and you give little consideration
to other factors—the weather, your body feelings.
You don’t think about hunger, and you think
about staying alive, and doing your job, and
protecting your fellow soldiers, and that’s what we did.
You’re not thinking about yourself, you’re
thinking about your buddies, your fellow soldiers,
and you think about trying to accomplish
your mission and your objective.
It’s—it’s difficult to—to—and today,
it’s difficult for me to completely and
totally immerse myself in the objective that I have.
I’ve tried to do that in my practice.
I’ve tried to do it in other areas of life,
but there’s no way to describe what your
whole existence is, and what your life is
like because you’re just dedicated to the
fighting objective that you have, and
that’s—that’s your sole objective.
And—and the world just doesn’t involve
itself—the weather, it makes no difference
whether it’s raining, cold—whatever.
You’re totally immersed in your objective,
and—and your self-preservation, and the
preservation of your buddies, and
the accomplishment of your mission.
(interviewer) Okay, if you could
start a sentence with something
like, “During the battle on Hill 314, the
most difficult moment was the moment when
I thought they might breakthrough.”
Was there a moment like that, or was there—?
What was the most difficult— what was the
moment when you—you were the most fearful,
not in as a personal sense, but fearful that—that—that
the Germans may have brought too many men,
or maybe would overwhelm you?
(Franklin) To an artillery observer on 314, your most
important thing was communication, and when
your radio batteries went dead, then there
was no way that you could become effective
or be effective in preserving the defense
of Hill 314.
So, I think that became so important to us
in conserving the energy in our batteries,
and how do we do—how do we prolong the life
of the battery, and that seems simple to—to
talk about now, but it was so important to us at the time.
The next thing, too, that always enters in
mind is—is, “Will they completely encircle
and attack from all angles and dominate the
attack to a point where you no longer can
hold your position?” and that’s certainly a part of it.
On the third day, as I recall, the Germans
sent a white flag group to Hill 14—314 and
with a white flag waving—we waved them up.
We did not let them see our locations, we
stopped them midway up that hill, and they
congratulated us on the bravery, and said
that they would go on an all-out attack, and
annihilate everyone on the hill unless we surrendered.
The commander of the battalion on top of the
hill which was a—was a lieutenant as I recall
at that time, declined in any way to surrender,
and gave him a brush off, and he was escorted
down the hill to a tank—in a truck that he had come from.
The battle immediately resumed, and true to his
words, they began an all-out attack again,
in all areas around the hill that they could
accomplish the attack, and we went back into
full defensive battle mode.
And after seven or eight hours of fighting
intensely, we were able to defeat that attack,
and the Germans withdrew temporarily about
midnight that night, and we continued to hold 314.
(interviewer) Do you recall that lieutenant’s name?
(Franklin) Charles (s/l Bats) Off the record, when I
got back to my unit, it was my duty as—a
radio operator is a technician—I was a line
soldier, and I went to the first sergeant,
and asked the first sergeant’s permission
to meet with the battery commander.
He went to the battery commander and said,
“Text wants to meet with you personally.”
Captain Alexander gave permission to the first
sergeant, the first sergeant reported to me—and
we’re un combat—we’re not in the frontlines now.
We’re eight or nine miles behind the then
frontline, and I went in and saluted just
like I would have on the camp back in the
States, and told him that I regret to report
that Lieutenant (s/l Bats) indicated that on
the night of the attack that he was incapable
of doing anything, and that he was not up to
it, and that he got in a foxhole, and stayed
there for the entire battle.
(interviewer) Other than meeting with the German white flag
guy, that was it for him. Other than—
(Franklin) My officer?
(interviewer) Yes, sir.
(Franklin) No, he never got out of the foxhole after the—
(interviewer) Who’s the guy who went down?
(Franklin) He was captain of the company, I believe.
(interviewer) Okay.
(Franklin) I don’t think he was a captain, I think
he was a first lieutenant but he was captain
of the company—senior officer in the company.
And—and the unfortunate part in a way, but maybe
fortunate, he would have been court-martialed
and shot for absence of duty, and running the enemy.
But two military policemen—I didn’t know
this—I was already going back, and we were
getting ready to [inaudible] and I was going
on the way back, but the next day he—there
were two military policemen who came to pick him up,
and take him back for his court martial—proceedings,
or whatever, and a German fighter plane came
in, strafed them, and bombed them, and killed all three.
I did not know that until a time later.
(interviewer) Okay, so back to Hill 314, the moment—was
there a moment when you—when you
thought, “We got them licked.”
The battle is not over yet but is there—when
do you start to think we’re going to—
(Franklin) The Hill 314 attacks by the Germans were constant,
but there were concentrated in certain times,
and usually in the afternoon, or early morning,
and on the afternoon of the fifth day on the
hill, the Germans began an attack, all-out,
but it was an attack that we were able to
defeat with artillery, and Infantry fire,
and machine gun fire that we had, and it
was not as prolonged attack as previously.
In other words, the Germans—I don’t think
they gave up, I don’t think they did that
at all, but I think they saw that they could
not make it up the hill, and they began to
withdraw what I’d say, a little earlier in
the attack than they had the previous four days.
Then the morning of the fifth, they attacked
again, and in the morning of the sixth, they
attacked, but then they withdrew.
And by the afternoon—in other words, six and
a half days, the Germans began to withdraw.
You could see that they were withdrawing some of
their trucks, and equipment, and artillery—and
even some of their tanks, although they were
still firing at us, they were withdrawing—they
were regrouping to withdraw.
We did not know that at the time because they
could’ve been regrouping to attack again.
But then—then by this time, elements of our
119th Division, and elements of the 35th
Division began to reach us on 314.
(interviewer) There were—there were times on the hill—I
guess, one thing that you might need to explain
is that your artillery, along with the other
artillery units that would then hear your
orders, and also fire at those coordinates
were not on the hill with you. They were—
(Franklin) Ten—ten to fourteen miles back.
(interviewer) Right.
Okay, so if you could just talk about, and
then say, there—as the Germans—some of
these attacks, you had—you had to bring
artillery in super close to you.
I wonder if you could talk about—sort of
let them know—let the people know where
the artillery is, where you’re firing, but
then, that sometimes, of course, you had to
bring the artillery really close to your position,
and what it’s like to try to do that, and
what it’s like try to survive it, because
this is super dangerous—I mean, this is
life or death right here.
(Franklin) On top of 314, I recall, we had two forward
observers, and I want to give full credit
to the other observation team, because they
were doing the same thing on their side to
protect Hill 314 that I was trying to do with
my radio sergeant on the opposite side of 314.
So, we were working at a team, and although
we met at times when there was a break in
the fighting at certain areas of the hill—top of
Hill 314, we had our separate missions—missions
to accomplish, and they did a marvelous job.
Now, one of the difficulties in defending any
position with your Infantry is how close
in you can bring the artillery fire.
Now, I’m talking about, can you bring it in
a hundred yards closer to your Infantry,
or fifty yards?
Because artillery—remember the artillery
Howitzers, or guns, as more people would think
of them, are anywhere from nine to
twelve miles back of the frontlines.
So, as accurate as our artillery was, there
could still be some short rounds, and you
had to be extremely cautious and particularly,
where we were, you had to be a particularly
cautious of directing artillery fire necessary
to protect the defense of Hill 314, but at
the same time, not fire so close to your own
units as to—as to cause casualties among
your own troops, so to speak, or own units.
And that’s the reason you’re—and in my
experience, I probably hedged with a little
more cushion than, maybe was the best, but
I did it to the best of my judgment at the time.
And remember, there—I talked a lot about
batteries, and their importance, and ammunition.
We were running completely—not only food
and water—water, we were able to manage
a little bit because of wells at a farmhouse
down the side of one of the hills, but—but
the ammunition, and batteries—on the fourth
day—or maybe it was afternoon of the third
day, Eisenhower tried to supply us with airdrops
from the Air Force, and the C-47 supply planes
came over and dropped literally, thousands
of parachutes with—with ammunition, and
medicine, and batteries, but because of the
Germans antiaircraft guns around the hill,
the planes had to fly extremely high, and
the parachutes floated away from the top of
the hill, and we were able to get some of
that supplies from no man’s land—no man’s
land by fighting that into that area, but
so much of it actually, was supplied—fell
in the hands of the Germans rather than on us,
but we did get some relief from medicine,
and we did get some ammunition, and unfortunately,
we did not get the type of batteries that
we needed for our artillery radios.
My radio sergeant and I, out of no reason,
or any experience, we took the battery pack
and put it out in the sun, and let it be in
the sunshine for several hours during the
day, and it was magnificent because we could
get maybe six, or seven, or eight minutes
of transmission time from the battery being
if we would say today, sola- charged—we
didn’t even know the word, “Solar.”
Anyway, that worked, and when we could, we
put the batteries out in the sun, and we’d
get a few minutes of additional charge
on that battery for transmission.
The other thing that was probably the first
thing in the history of warfare of any kind,
and probably the last, was because we needed
medicine so bad, my battalion commander radioed
me and said, “We’re going to try something
f you think we can do it,” and he said,
“We have propaganda shells back at the artillery
battalion, and those propaganda shells are explosive.
They’re stuffed with surrender leaflets,
and we fired those shells over the German
lines and they exploded, and these leaflets
would fall down and say, “Surrender and
you will be sent to England out of harm’s way.”
And so, my battery officers, including the
commanding officer, Colonel Damon, said, “We’re
going to try this,” and what they did, they
took the propaganda shells—I mean, propaganda
leaflets out of the shells, stuffed it with
cotton, and put in morphine, and penicillin,
and I directed those artillery shells
into our position on top of Hill 314.
We dug them out of the ground and the impact,
obviously, could mash the medicine, but we
were still able to get some penicillin, and
some morphine—and I will assure you, history
says maybe that wasn’t a total success, but
I can still see the smiles on those guys
that were wounded and got some relief from that medicine.
So that’s how—that actually did happen, and
we supplied our own troops with our own artillery.
(male speaker) We’ve got six minutes of tape.
(Franklin) I think she’s got something to eat.
What is it, 12:15?
(interviewer) Yes, sir.
Why don’t we take a break?
(Franklin) Yeah.
(interviewer) —is a short story and—and then—
(Franklin) What about just following the left flank of
the Third Army for the Falaise Gap, and then
from the Falaise Gap closure, then to the north of Paris?
(interviewer) Yeah, and that’s probably as much as we’ll
get to—that’ll give you time to do both
of those, and then—so then when we make
the next appointment, we have the chance to come back.
We’ll look forward to doing—
(Franklin) What we did—what we did after the Paris
area, then we boarded trucks, and drove—the
British had already, on the northern edge,
and the—and the First Army.
We went north of Paris, back— actually, through
World War I towns, and we had no fighting
Germans, they’d withdrawn.
And when we hit the Belgium border, we began
to pick up some substantial delaying defenses,
and then we drove through Belgium, and then
we got to Holland and you know Holland was
nothing but canals and rivers, (Laughs) and
that’s where we really started to get into
some defensive positions that we had to fight,
and then we fought our way into the tip of
Holland—into Germany, and got our position
to break through the Siegfried Line.
Personally, I’ve always considered all that
area up to Hurtgen as the Siegfried Line.
So, once we broke through the Siegfried Line,
and up from Holland—and I don’t remember
the name, it’s like Hurtgen, but I’ll look the name up.
But in Holland, that’s where we were and
prepared, and we had a couple of days to get
ready for the breakthrough of the Siegfried Line.
And then, as we got through the Siegfried
Line and we started veering, the 1stDivision
on our right—we started veering, and we
actually surrounded and fought all the way
around Hurtgen, and came back from the east
and met the 1st Division south of Hurtgen.
So, we actually—all of the towns—there was
severe fighting, some of the forest fighting
like the Hurtgen.
We weren’t directly in the Hurtgen but we
were in the outpost of Hurtgen, because we
went around—we fought our way—all the way
around, and came back and circled Hurtgen,
and cut Hurtgen off.
And then—then we had two days, December
16 hits, and we have a quartering party.
Every unit sends a quartering party back to
the headquarters of the division, and we go
back to Aachen and we started getting strafed,
bombed and—we didn’t any maps, we didn’t
know where we were going.
Then we went to Malmedy—cold, and bitter,
and it wasn’t snowing yet, but I can tell you—
(interviewer) We’re going—we’re going to come back
for that one because that’s a big story.
(Franklin) Yeah, it’s—I mean, that’s where the
Massacre of Malmedy was, and the
fight—Peiper, and all of that.
We were—the 120th was at Malmedy, the 117th
at Stavelot, and the 119th was at La Gleize,
in Stoumont.
(interviewer) You were on the northern flank of Belgium,
the key—the key area.
(Franklin) Right where the—the land—the road to Antwerp was.
(interviewer) Did—after the battle of Mortain, you were
awarded the Silver Star.
Can you tell me about that?
(Franklin) Several months after the battle of Mortain
was over, Sergeant Goldstein and I were called
by the battery commander, and stated that
he had received orders from headquarters of
the 30th Division that Sergeant Goldstein
and I had been awarded the—the Silver Star
for our battle of the six and a half days
at Mortain, in defense of that position.
Likewise, we were also—about two months
later, or several months later, notified that
we had received the Presidential Unit Citation
for the 2nd Battalion of the 120th Regiment
of the 30th Division, and that as the two
of us being attached to the 120th, we were
likewise, awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
(interviewer) Is that a moment—when is the moment when
you recognize the 30th has become a confident
and effective division amidst a great number
of—of U.S. divisions, some of which
were not as confident and efficient?
(Franklin) The 30th developed into one of the fine—finest
fighting divisions in the American Army
in the European Theater of Operations.
I think the confidence of our higher command was
established during the course of the hedgerow
fighting—the progress that we had made minimizing
casualties, and yet at the same time, achieving
our objectives.
But I think the confidence must have resided
in our higher command when they decided the
30th would be the spearhead division at the
Saint-Lo breakthrough, and that they had the
confidence in the division, and I think it
was even reinforced by the short bombing on
July 4 that knocked out a substantial number
of the 119th Regiment, and the 120th, and
the 117th continued to be the
spearheading units in that breakthrough.
So, I think the division was in the process of
establishing a definite amount of confidence
in the higher command, whether that be Eisenhower
staff, or the Army staff, but I definitely
think that the division was then beginning
to be recognized by the higher commands of
the U.S. Army as being a very fine fighting
unit, and capable of sustaining and—and
achieving the objectives that were presented to it.
(interviewer) So, we talked about—the other two things
we’re going to try to cover was your work with
Patton, and then the protection of Paris.
(Franklin) Following the battle of Mortain, about the
twelfth, or fourteenth of August, 1944, our
Division was reassembled and regrouped, and
then we began the pursuit to—to protect
General Patton Third Armies western flank,
or southern flank.
And—immediate—within two or three days
following the end of battle at 314, my unit
was moved, and we started attacking eastward,
and our first major objective was the French
town of Domfront, and we succeeded there, and
continued crossing rivers, village battles,
and protected Patton’s Third Army on its left flank then.
And then we fought to the battle at Falaise
Gap, which was the closure of the Third Army
in our Division, and the British Army, and
the Canadians at the Falaise—at the town
of Falaise, which is known as the Falaise
Gap—which the Germans had lost and surrendered
over fifty thousand troops, and many, many
killed and wounded, and the Germans were in
full retreat at that point in time.
Subsequent to the—
(interviewer) Let’s stop for a second on that.
The Falaise Gap is—what is meant by that is
that the U.S., coming from this direction,
and then the Allied forces coming from that
direction—they were trying to encircle a
large German—so why don’t you go ahead and—
(Franklin) The Falaise Gap is historically recognized
as the merger, so to speak, of the Third Army and
the First Army to the south, and the British
and the Canadian Army, forcing its way and
attacking from the north into the town of Falaise.
The purpose of the Falaise Gap was to trap
as many German troops, as—and divisions,
and organizations of the German Army
that had been hiding in Normandy.
And so, we were really closing by—by the
American forces on the south, and then the
British, and Canadian on the north, we had
come together at a meeting at Falaise—at
the town of Falaise, thereby entrapping, and
surrounding a great number of the German troops—over
fifty thousand, but many thousands were killed
and wounded at the same time during that battle
for the Falaise Gap closure.
So, it was an important time, perhaps not
as successful as had been hoped, but at the
same time, it cut off the Germans, some of
their main Army that had been fighting in
Normandy so—so successfully up until that
point, and they were trapped and captured
as prisoners, and many, many thousands of
German soldiers were taken prisoners, as well
as many killed and wounded.
(interviewer) Excellent. Perfect.
So, on from the Falaise Gap then, we’re
going to talk about the—the move towards Paris.
(Franklin) The—following the closing of the Falaise
Gap battle, and the German army was in substantial
retreat back toward Germany, and yet they
had remnants that we fought in scattered
battles, but no sustained defensive positions.
The 30th Division then was ordered to assemble
all of its units about twenty-five, thirty
miles north of Paris, and we were encamped
there to protect that area of France from
any German counter-attacks, and the French
First Army under General De Gaulle then—this
would been probably on the twenty-fourth—fifth
of August 1944—my recollection, was able
to—to move into Paris and officially liberate the city.
The French First Army under De Gaulle, and
General De Gaulle, being present, entered
Paris and reoccupied Paris, and of course,
there was a great celebration and morale boost
for the people of France to have
their capital city liberated.
The 30th Division was in defense at that point
in time to protect the French—French First
Army and De Gaulle, and we were just encamped there
in case the Germans attempted any counter-attack,
or anything that might have risen out of Paris,
we were there to participate in that defense
and fighting, but it was not necessary because
the Germans had fully retreated by that time,
north of Paris back towards the German border.
(interviewer) What’s the—what’s your—as you think
about being in that position when the Germans
were in full retreat, do you recall what—what
you made of what was going to happen
next in terms of the rest of the war?
I mean, was there a sense that, “Well,
we—they’re retreating back to Germany?”
What was the atmosphere around your foxholes?
(Franklin) Actually, I got to take a good swim in the
Seine River, and wash off, and put on some
different clothes, and my fellow soldiers
did the same thing, and we enjoyed some
period of relaxation for several days.
When I say “Relaxed,” I don’t mean totally
relaxed because at all times our division
had perimeter defensive units prepared for
action, but at the same time, it was a day
of regrouping, and cleaning up, and getting
your trucks cleaned out, and getting your
ammunition stored properly, and those kind
of things—as far as what the future might
hold, at that point of time, I’m not
sure that we gave—certainly, I didn’t—we
just were prepared to move on to the east
toward Belgium, and just prepare for whatever might come.
I do think it was about that time that the
new Ninth Army of the—the new Ninth American
Army was announced as having arrived in France,
and the new Ninth Army started out with the
old 30th, as the first division in the new
Ninth Army—we probably chuckled about that a little bit.
So then, the next several—probably, the next
couple of weeks were times that we were
able to—to move further east toward the
Belgian border, or eastern France, and that’s
where we started our next series of action.
(interviewer) I think my last question would be, had you
had any encounters with French people on a
personal level, or had you seen them react to their liberation?
Did you have a sense of what the populations
response, or gratitude, or lack thereof, or whatever?
(Franklin) The French people had pretty well evacuated
Normandy in that area.
As we began to fight inland toward Mortain,
and Domfront, and some of those towns and
villages, there were more civilians but they
were taken out of combat, so to speak, by
being hidden in places of safety.
Beginning after we left Paris, and began to
go through what I call that area of France
that was totally battleground there in World War
I, the French people came out, threw flowers—they
handed us wine, they handed us pies—I remember apple pie.
I remember the only problem I had was carrying
a radio and a rifle, and all my pack, and—it
was difficult for me to accept all of that
hospitality, but I did get a few pieces of
great apple pie, and I enjoyed that, and the
people really ceremoniously as we—as we
moved through those towns in northern France,
I can’t tell you how gleeful they were to
be liberated, and how well-received, and what
a wonderful experience it was just to see
them—although, as combat troops, you don’t
have long to linger and enjoy the hospitality
because you’re moving on, and as I said,
with me, I was carrying a radio, and a rifle
up front with the Infantry, and we
were always on the lookout for enemy.
So, perhaps, vicariously, I did enjoy the
celebrations, the French people, and all the
flowers and yelling, and screaming, and hollering,
and everything, the kids, and all of that.
It probably was more appreciated by troops
that weren’t combat-oriented, so to speak,
because the French people gave us a roar reception.
(interviewer) I’d like to give—Joey’s here.
He has a great amount of experience, and knowledge—I
think we’ve got just a couple of minutes
left, I’d like to give Joey a chance—remember
to look at me, but I was hoping that he might
have a couple of good questions.
(interviewer #2) All right, I noticed that you were—you had a
certificate out there for the Purple Heart medal,
could you kind of tell us how you
were—how you were wounded, and when and where?
(Franklin) I was actually wounded
and received the Purple Heart on two occasions.
One, during the battle in Normandy, I had a flesh wound
that did not require any evacuation,
or really any treatment.
The medic in my unit give me some penicillin,
wrapped my bandage, and that was it.
Excuse me, and it was never a problem, but
later on, on the twenty-fifth of January,
during the Battle of the Bulge, I was wounded.
I suffered shell fragments—rocket shell
fragments in my right leg, and frozen feet,
arms, and hands—and which to more fully
explained, would happened to be told in the
story and on how that all related, but that
was the award of the second
Purple Heart that you’re referring to.
(interviewer #2) Were you awarded
the third Silver Star for
that same time period?
(Franklin) The next Silver Star was awarded during the
Battle of the Bulge in either late December or
January, or early January, but it was during
the Battle of the Bulge, and then, the fourth
Silver Star was awarded on the twenty-fifth
of January when I was wounded.
(interviewer #2) What—what made you decide to volunteer for
service to begin with?
(Franklin) To recall my background on military training,
I’d had four years of ROTC, three and a
half years in high school, and one semester in college.
I was a cadet officer at Schreiner in my senior year.
I had a great privilege of being president
in my senior class at Schreiner—my senior
year in high school.
The war, obviously, was really raging, and I
felt that to continue my education, I could
join as a volunteer in the Army program—the
Navy had similar programs, too, but the Army
program—and that you weren’t guaranteed, but
you were pretty well assured of two semesters
of college, because I was still seventeen, and
they were not calling at that time, anyone
under eighteen years of age, to active duty.
So, it gave me an opportunity to further my
education and I was able to enter the Citadel
in late July of ‘42 and complete two more
semesters of college before I entered the
service, which greatly benefited me because
when I came back from the service in
October 2, 1945, I was discharged, and on October 30,
I was still twenty years old and sitting
in class at the University of Texas.
(interviewer #2) Why the Army?
Why not the Navy, and the Navy offered a similar program?
(Franklin) With four years of ROTC behind me, and being
disciplined in, and trained in the Army—and then
obviously with two semesters at the Citadel,
which was a senior military academy, I just
felt better prepared for whatever service
I could render my country as being in the Army.
I was serious about training in the
artillery, and so that was my choice.
I really never thought about joining the Navy,
and not that I objected to the Navy, it’s
just that I had a pre-training in ROTC, and
in the Army Infantry and Artillery, and I
just pursued that objective.
(interviewer #2) Why—why did you personally—why did Frank
Denius fight in World War II?
(Franklin) Being a loyal Texan and American, it just
was my duty to defend my country and fight for my country.
People have asked me, “Well, over the years,
Frank, did you fight for apple pie and mom’s cooking?”
And actually, when you become a combat soldier,
you fight for your buddies, and you fight
for the guys that you are in the same unit
with, and you fight for each other, and you
fight for your objectives.
So—I know that I’m a very patriotic person,
I love my country, I love my state.
I love the opportunities it affords the people
of our country, and I take great pride in
the fact that our country has historically
been able to help others around the globe
obtain freedom.
One of the core values that I have, and always
will have, is the freedom that our country
provides our people.
(interviewer #2) We still have a couple of minutes.
(interviewer) I think we need to let him go.
(Franklin) Yeah, I’d better.
I can’t be late for Dr. Harper.
(interviewer) Can’t be late, and we—I think that was
a great way to end our first interview, and
we’re just so grateful, sir, for giving
us this time.
(Franklin) Listen, I don’t take a great deal of pride
in—I don’t cherish the position.
The good Lord has afforded me a good life,
in health, and lets me play football.
(Laughs) As long as I can help you guys memorialize
what American citizen soldiers went through
in World War II, I’m pleased to do so.
(male speaker) We very much appreciate it.
Captioned by AdeptWordManagement.com

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[Annotators Note: Interview begins with the interviewer discussing with Franklin Denius how he should answer questions throughout the interview.]Franklin W. Denius was born on 4 January 1925 and grew up in Athens, Texas. 1 of the primary interests throughout his life is football. Denius was raised by his mother and grandparents. His grandfather had a general store in Athens which is about 75 miles east of Dallas.His grandfather was a good mentor and loved athletics. He took Denius to various sporting events. Denius played football in junior high and high school and even played 1 college game.When Denius was 12 years old his family decided that with the possibility of the United States entering World War 2 he needed the discipline of attending a military school. At the age of 13 Denius was enrolled in the Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, Texas. He graduated from the Schreiner Institute in just 3 and a half years and took 1 year of college there as well.Denius graduated high school on 25 May 1942. He was 17 years old at the time so he volunteered for the Army so he could get a couple semesters of college through a program offered by both the army and navy which would allow those who volunteered before they turned 18 to take 2 semesters of college.Denius was sent to the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He began there in late July of 1942 and his second semester ended there in early April 1943 when he was 18 years old. Prior to being called to active duty he was able to go the University of Texas for a short course in May 1943 and took sophomore English.Denius got his orders to report for active duty so he went back to Athens. All of the draftees and reserves who had not yet been called all met on the steps of the courthouse in Athens, Texas for the ride to Mineral Wells [Annotators Note: to Camp Wolters]. On the way the bus Denius was on broke down.They finally got to Camp Wolters where they were processed and officially became members of the military.

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Franklin Denius had taken artillery training in the ROTC at the Citadel and wanted to be in the artillery. He got his wish and was shipped by train to Camp Roberts, California for 17 or 18 weeks of basic training in artillery. He was selected for instrument survey sector of the artillery. This was to prepare him to be a forward observer.He was there until 2 or 3 January 1944 then got a furlough and went home by train to Athens, Texas. About 9 days later he took a train to Houston then on to Fort Meade, Maryland. This was mid January 1944. They trained at Fort Meade then shipped out to Camp Miles Standish which is south of Boston. Camp Miles Standish was the port of embarkation and staging area for troops going overseas. Denius was there for about a week before shipping out of Boston aboard the USS Wakefield.There were about 11000 troops aboard the ship. The trip took about 10 or 11 days then they finally landed in Liverpool, England in late January or 1 February 1944.When they got to England about 30 of them including Denius were selected to go through Ranger training. After Ranger training in late April of 1944 Denius joined the 30th Infantry Division as a forward observer and was assigned to Battery C, 230th Field Artillery Battalion, 30th Infantry Division.[Annotators Note: the interview is briefly interrupted briefly while Denius puts his glasses on a side table.]During the Ranger training in England Denius took infantry training and learned to jump from C-47s. The training was intensive but very beneficial and came in handy during the next year.The Ranger training had lasted about 30 days. Then they did artillery training with the 30th Infantry Division. During that time they got to know the men in their division and prepared for the invasion of Normandy.The only time off they had was for maybe an hour at PX time. Other than that they were on marches and training almost 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They did not get to observe actual artillery fire but Denius had previously done so during basic training back at Camp Roberts [Annotators Note: Camp Roberts, California]. The artillery fire was all simulated.They were introduced maps of the terrain but did not understand the hedgerows as much as they later learned to understand them.The 30th Infantry Division was a very disciplined unit. Every unit within the division had an esprit de corps that was contagious to its members.The 30th Infantry Division was in corps reserve for the D Day invasion. The 115trh Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division suffered a lot of casualties and lost their artillery during the landings on Omaha Beach. Denius battalion was rushed to ships in the Channel on 6 June and he went ashore at Omaha Beach from an LCI in the early morning hours of 7 June. For the first 6 days the 230th Field Artillery Battalion fought with and supported the 29th Infantry Division. Around D plus 7 or D plus 8 when the 30th Infantry Division was fully landed the 230th Field Artillery Battalion returned to the division. From that point on they supported the 30th Infantry Division except on special occasions when they were sent to support other units during the race across France and through Holland, Belgium, and into Germany.

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[Annotators Note: this segment begins with the interviewer asking Franklin Denius to give a statement in a certain way.]Denius describes the sector of Omaha Beach he landed on with his radio sergeant and other members of the 30th Infantry Division attached to the 230th Field Artillery Battalion. When he went ashore they saw medic tending to wounded everywhere and sunken ships. The sound of artillery fire and bombers flying overhead added to the incredibly loud noise.Denius landed from an LCI [Annotators Note: Landing Craft, Infantry]. His objective was to get off the beach and up the cliff. They immediately went into positions where they could support the 29th Infantry Division. They had landed before their guns came in. It took a lot of logistics in order to get the guns ashore and into position. Things were hectic but credit needs to be given to the discipline of the soldiers getting things organized all the while under artillery and machine gun fire.In a forward observer party there was usually an officer, a sergeant, even though Denius was not that rank at the time, and a radio operator. They and other forward observers were ordered to report to their respective units of the 29th Infantry Division that they would be supporting. This was not an easy thing as they had to first find the unit then find that units commanding officer then decide out how best to set up their artillery team in order to best support that unit with artillery fire once the artillery landed.It was several hours before the artillery came ashore. in the mean time they quickly got acquainted with the terrain, location, and commanding officers of the units they were supporting. No matter which unit they were with or supporting the infantry was always very supportive of the artillery observers throughout the war. They became loyal friends with the infantry in every unit they supported.

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[Annotators Note: segment begins with the interviewer asking Franklin Denius to describe his first moments in Normandy]When they landed in Normandy it was the first time Denius, his radio sergeant, and his officer were ever in combat. Even so they learned very quickly how to survive.In many ways the bombardment of the areas inland from Omaha Beach by the battleships offshore created some craters for them to take cover in even though they did not stay in them for long. They moved out quickly and reached the hedgerow country. From the early part of June [Annotators Note: June 1944] after the invasion until the breakthrough at Saint Lo which began on 24 July they were fighting in the hedgerows. The first town the 30th Infantry Divisions 120th Regiment captured with the support of the 230th Field Artillery Battalion was Saint Jean de Daye. They had made a 6 or 7 mile night march behind the lines in order to get into position to jump off in the attack. As an artillery observer Denius had to know the terrain and be able to get into position. He also needed to know how to orient himself so he could direct artillery fire. Denius could not have done this job without the officer and his radio sergeant Sid Goldstein of Ohio who he remains friends with to this day.In June and July of 1944 they encountered hedgerow fighting. The best way to describe the hedgerows is that they were like a farm with a barbed wire fence surrounding it only in Normandy the farm was surrounded by hedgerows. The hedgerows were mountains of dirt and trees that were 75 to 100 yards apart. They would be in 1 hedgerow and the Germans might be in the next hedgerow. The Germans set machine guns up and were in a perfectly defensible position. Another weapon the Germans used effectively in the hedgerows was the mortar. Later on the Germans started digging tanks in. There were trails that ran between the hedgerows that the Germans used to bring their tanks in.Denius quickly figured out the German defensive strategy and how best to call in artillery fire. They were attacking or advancing almost every day. They fired the artillery out in front of the advancing infantry to force the Germans to withdraw.In addition to firing to support advances they also fired behind the enemy lines in an effort to hit German artillery or reserves. It did not take them long to learn in combat. Their primary duty as artillery observers was to protect the infantry and that is what they did their best to do.At night when they were not attacking they would fine artillery into locations where they expected the Germans to use to move or launch a counter attack.They would fire 2 types of barrages. They could fire a normal barrage or an emergency barrage. The target locations were already mapped out for the emergency barrages so they would not need to adjust the fire.

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[Annotators Note: This segment begins with the interviewer asking Franklin Denius to talk about the build up to the breakout from Saint Lo.]After the capture of Saint Jean de Daye in Normandy they started fighting in the hedgerows. If they could take 3 hedgerows a day they considered it a successful day. The defenses were intense. The German soldiers were veterans and some of them were SS troops. They did not always accomplish their missions for the day but they were constantly advancing. It was intense fighting and they suffered a lot of casualties.From Omaha Beach to Saint Jean de Daye the terrain was difficult. They would cross 1 hedgerow right into the German fire coming from the next 1. That is why the artillery and infantry mortars were so important. They were used to break up the German defenses and even killed and wounded some of the German defenders.Once they got 20 to 30 miles inside Normandy there were rivers and towns everywhere and every river was a defensive position that they had to fight their way across. At this point the advance was made mostly by infantry and artillery observers against German tanks, machine guns and all types of defensive weapons.Denius went over 2 months without a bath or being able to maintain the most basic hygiene. At night the quartermaster group would try to get rations up to them. They ate mostly k rations that they could carry on them. Denius carried his rations in his gas mask bag. They were each issued a d ration which was a very hard chocolate candy bar. They could not chew it so Denius would use his bayonet to shave pieces off of it to eat.The day to day fighting in the hedgerows was costing a lot of casualties.While they were fighting in the American sector the Canadians and British were fighting similar battles in their areas to the east of where the 30th Infantry Division was.Denius believes that films depicting village fighting during World War 2 are pretty accurate. When Denius entered these small towns he would climb the steeples of the local churches to get a better view of the terrain so they could call in fire. At the same time the Germans knew that they were doing that and would fire their 88s [Annotators Note: 88 millimeter antiaircraft and antitank artillery piece] at the steeples.Rivers were natural defense barriers. During river crossings the initial crossing had to be made by infantry. The tanks and artillery would cross later.In mid July [Annotators Note: mid July of 1944] they had fought their way to the area of Saint Lo. There they were told that there would be a massive bombing attack.The 230th [Annotators Note: the 230th Field Artillery Battalion was the artillery unit Denius served in] supported the 120th Infantry Regiment. There were 3 regiments in a division and in the 30th Infantry Division there were the 117th Regiment, 119th Regiment, and the 120th Regiment. The unit Denius served in supported all 3 regiments but usually supported the 120th Regiment.On 17 July they began to build up and straighten the American lines. The 30th Infantry Division was a leading element. They got into position to launch the attack that would become known as the Saint Lo Breakout.On 24 July they were visited by General Leslie McNair who was a 3 star general. The general had come forward to observe the preparation for the attack which was to be spearheaded by the 119th Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division. On the early morning of 24 July the troops pulled back from their front line positions about a half to 3 quarters of a mile to give them a little more cushion from the bombers to bomb. When the attack came the next day some of the bombs fell short. General McNair was killed and the 119th Regiment suffered 800 to 900 casualties as a result of those bombs falling short. Denius was in a foxhole about 50 or 75 yards away from where General McNair was when he was hit. The units regrouped and the 120th Regiment pushed through on the night of 24 July. The following day the bombers returned. There were over 3000 bombers and they dropped their bombs within about 3 miles of them. The 29th Division was to the west of Denius and the 30th Division and they all jumped off after the bombing.When the bombing was over they [Annotators Note: the ground forces] jumped off in the attack. They also directed artillery to support the 120th. They were able to break through the front lines at Saint Lo. The town of Saint Lo was completely destroyed by bombing and artillery. The break though gave General Pattons Third Army the opportunity to make their end run around the German lines south and drive their tanks deeper into France. Pattons tank units were quickly able to penetrate 15 to 20 miles.

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[Annotators Note: Franklin Denius was an artillery forward observer in Battery C, 230th Field Artillery Battalion, 30th Infantry Division.]After the break through they held their positions to protect Pattons flanks. They were on the east side of the break through and the 29th Division was on the west side. The 1st Division was even further west.About a week before the Saint Lo break through they were engaged in a battle that would enable them to get into position for the Saint Lo break through. Denius was with the 2nd Battalion of the 120th Regiment. The officer leading the party, the radio sergeant, and Denius were unable to see where the crossfire and some German artillery were located in front of them. Geographically they were located about 2 thirds of the way between Saint Jean de Daye and Saint Lo. The only way they could tell exactly where the German machine gun and dug in tank fire was coming from was for the 3 of them to crawl out in advance of the infantry unit to see better. As they were crawling out to that area a German machine gun opened fire killing the officer Denius was with. The officer was about 2 feet in front of Denius when this happened.Denius decided that since he was already there he would call in and adjust artillery fire. They did not have their guns pre set here so Denius had to call in several rounds and direct it so he could zero it in on where he believed the German machine guns and tanks to be. To do so he had to expose himself. He did so and was successful in knocking out the enemy positions in that area. After that Denius and his radio sergeant returned to the lines and the infantry moved out. About 2 weeks later Denius got orders to report to corps headquarters where he was awarded the Silver Star [Annotators Note: for his service during the war Denius would earn a total of 4 Silver Star Medals] and promoted from corporal to buck sergeant. It was an honor but Denius believes that he could not have accomplished what he did as a forward observer without his radio sergeant Goldstein [Annotators Note: US Army Sergeant Sid Goldstein]. In September of 2005 Denius and Goldstein met for dinner. They had spoken on the phone over the years but it was the first time they had seen each other since May of 1945.On 24 and 25 July [Annotators Note: 24 and 25 July 1944] there was a massive carpet bombing. The infantry and artillery observers had seen a lot of gunfire and explosions but they could not envision having thousands of bombs exploding in front of them. Seeing those explosions desensitized the American soldiers but they had no idea of how the bombing would aid or impede their advance because of the craters. The sound of the blasts was deafening. They were immediately able to get their troops together and start the attack right after the bombing. Denius called in artillery fire on the areas he thought the bombs may not have been successful.As an observer Denius never elected not to fire artillery in front of advancing units. He felt that it was their job as artillery to protect the infantry. They laid down artillery barrages in front of the infantry constantly. They protected the infantry and they protected the success of their attack.Denius jokingly states that he crawled during the break out from Saint Lo. As the advance moved out of Saint Lo through the area that had been bombed Denius saw that everything was demolished. It was full of bomb holes and everything above ground was killed or destroyed. The whole area looked like a no mans land completely devoid of life of any kind.They were on guard when they reached the German side. The Germans had pulled back in shock and there was some surrendering but as a combat team Denius and his unit did not manage the prisoners. They sent any prisoners to the rear.They continued their attack. Their objective was to get into position to defend Pattons break through then supply route which followed the advancing armor.

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[Annotators Note: Franklin Denius was an artillery forward observer in Battery C, 230th Field Artillery Battalion, 30th Infantry Division]After the break through at Saint Lo on the 25th [Annotators Note: 25 July 1944] they spent the next 5 days in defensive positions protecting Pattons lifeline. The 30th Division was pulled off the front line and treated the division to a USO show. 2 of the performers were Dinah Shore and an actor. Denius got a kiss on the cheek from Dinah Shore. His friends teased him. For the first time in over 2 months Denius had been able to brush his teeth, get a shower, and put on some clean socks. When his friends asked him if he liked getting the kiss from Dinah Shore better than the shower he said that it was a tie.After they got replacements and supplies and refitted the artillery they moved west to their next objective which was the town of Mortain where they arrived on 6 August. The position they moved into had been held by the 1st Infantry Division. Around noon on the day they went into their positions Denius marched up a hill with his radio sergeant and the officer from his observer party along with a company commander from the 2nd Battalion, 120th Regiment. The hill was just n the east side of Mortain and the 1st Division guys who had been in fox holes there told them that they had not seen a German or fired a shot in the last 5 or 6 days so it should be peaceful.About 690 men marched up Hill 314 which was so called because it was 314 meters above sea level.Mortain was a resort town. Denius and the soldiers with him did not go into the town itself. They dug in their positions on the hill. The lieutenant with Denius was on his first combat role. He had joined the battery as a replacement for the officer who was killed back in early July and had not been in combat before. Denius and the lieutenant went with the infantry commander to scout the areas they believed they may face counter attacks from.Hill 314 is the highest point in Western France. There were no buildings on the hill except for the remains of a petite chapel which were on the south side of the hill.The group Denius was with reconnoitered the area. There was also another forward observer party on the hill with them in addition to most of 3 infantry companies and others attached units of the 30th Division that were with them.The location they were in was an artillery observers dream. They could see 360 degrees around. With visibility like that there was no way that an artillery observer could not see the enemy approaching or attacking.The likely directions of attack were limited so they scouted them with the infantry lieutenant.The hill was covered with trees and the potential avenues of attack were limited. 1 of the likely attack routes was a road that came up from the middle of the town of Mortain on the north side of the hill. Denius set up his position to look to the south and east halves of the hill and the other forward observer party set up on the other side of the hill.They got the entire area sighted in and set up a number of emergency and normal barrages. They scouted about half of Hill 314 with pre arranged barrages.

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[Annotators Note: Franklin Denius was an artillery forward observer in Battery C, 230th Field Artillery Battalion, 30th Infantry Division. This segment begins with Denius talking about his position on top of Hill 314.]Late that afternoon [Annotators Note: 6 August 1944] they began hearing German trucks and could see infantry unloading. They also saw tanks arriving within a mile of the bottom of the hill. When the opportune time came they began calling artillery fire in on the enemy positions. They were successful in knocking out a number of the German units but there fire also gave away their positions on the hill.In addition to the men on top of Hill 314 the 117th Regiment and 119th Regiment with their attached artillery and engineers were on each side of the hill. The terrain in the area determined the location of those units and they went into defensive positions as best they could.There were just under 700 men on top of the hill that went into position that afternoon of 6 August 1944.Even before dark the German air force flew over and strafed them. It was the first time in several weeks that they had seen elements of the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe.Division had laid wire communications to them on top of the hill in addition to the radios. The radios they used were called 509s and were 2 part units. The battery pack was half of the unit and weighed about 55 pounds by itself. The radio itself was carried by the radio sergeant and weighed about 50 pounds. The radio had to be bolted to the battery and an antenna run up before the unit could be used. It was not like a cell phone.They set up a foxhole right on the front lines next to a 30 caliber air cooled machine gun.On the morning of 7 August there was a lot of fog. The German Air Force came over and the Germans attacked en masse up Hill 314. That started the battle that would continue 24 7 for the next 6 and a half days. By the afternoon of 7 August they were completely surrounded by the German forces. The Germans had 5 panzer divisions and 70000 infantry. The Germans wanted to capture Hill 314 because as long as the hill was in American hands the supply lines to Pattons Third Army could be protected. The hill was very important and on 6 August Eisenhower radioed them to tell them to hold the hill at all cost.During the battle Denius was able to call in and direct not only the howitzers of the 230th Field Artillery Battalion but from the division artillery and corps artillery. While Denius called in artillery on his side of the hill the other observer party was calling in artillery on the other side. During the battle the lieutenant with Denius became incapacitated leaving only Denius and his radio sergeant Sherman Goldstein to call in artillery. The Germans were right in front of their positions and Denius and Goldstein took part in a lot of hand to hand fighting.Denius and his radio sergeant were able to get about 75 to 100 yards behind to the company commanders command post. That way they were constantly with the company commander and able to call in artillery whenever an attack came. The artillery barrages were already pre set so Denius only needed to give the emergency barrage number. They did not need to adjust the fire at all. Because of this they were able to successfully defend Hill 314 that first day of the battle.After they had been on the hill for 2 days their radio batteries began to get low. By using the emergency barrages they were able to shorten the time that they had to be on the radio.The Germans were experienced fighters and their SS division was very experienced. Because of this Denius had to adjust the artillery fire onto where the Germans were mounting their attacks. Later on Denius had to direct the artillery fire on the German tanks and supply lines. This went on day and night.The American troops were suffering a lot of casualties. Denius gives a lot of credit to the medics who did their best to care for the wounded.When they were in combat they were totally immersed in what they were doing and gave no consideration to anything else. They were only concerned with their fellow soldiers and accomplishing their mission. Denius has tried to do this in his civilian life but has been unable to.The most important thing for Franklin Denius as an artillery observer on 314 [Annotators Note: Hill 314] was communication. When the batteries for the radio died they would no longer be effective in preserving the defense of Hill 314 so they did everything they could to extend the life of the batteries.Another concern was whether or not the Germans would encircle them and attack from all angles and make it impossible for them to hold their positions.On the third day the Germans sent a white flag group to Hill 314. The Germans were waved up but were stopped mid way up the hill and were not shown the American positions. The Germans congratulated the Americans on their bravery but stated that they were going to launch and all out attack on the hill if the Americans did not surrender. A company commander on the hill declined the Germans surrender demands and the Germans returned to their positions and the battle resumed. True to their word the Germans launched an all out attack in all areas around the hill. After about 7 or 8 hours of fierce fighting the German attack was defeated around midnight. The Americans continued to hold Hill 314.

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[Annotators Note: Franklin Denius was an artillery forward observer in Battery C, 230th Field Artillery Battalion, 30th Infantry Division. This segment begins with Denius talking about the battle for Hill 314.]The attacks by the Germans were constant but usually in the afternoon or early morning. In the afternoon of the fifth day the Germans began an all out attack that was defeated by infantry and artillery fire. This attack was not as prolonged as the attacks of the previous days. Denius feels that the Germans had realized by that time that they would not be able to take the hill.After 6 and a half days the Germans began to withdraw. They could be seen withdrawing their trucks and artillery and even their tanks. All during the withdrawal they continued to fire on the dug in Americans. Denius and the other soldiers on the hill did not know at the time that the Germans were leaving. They thought the Germans were regrouping for another attack. Also by this time the 119th Infantry Division [Annotators Note: 119th Infantry Regiment] as well as elements of the 35th Division had arrived on the hill.The artillery Denius called in during the fighting for Hill 314 was located some 10 to 15 miles behind the lines. On top of 314 there were 2 forward observers. Denius gives a lot of credit to the other observer team. They were doing the same thing on their side of the hill that Denius and his radio sergeant were doing on their side.The difficult thing about defending infantry positions is how close in they could bring in the artillery. Even though the artillery howitzers were very accurate it was located 9 to 12 miles away and there could be some short rounds. Denius had to be particularly careful calling in artillery because of their location but he did the best he could.They were running out of food, ammunition, and batteries. On the third or fourth day Air Force [Annotators Note: US Army Air Forces] C47 supply planes flew over and dropped thousands of parachutes with ammunition, medicine and batteries. The German antiaircraft guns surrounding the hill forced the planes to fly extremely high and a lot of the supplies drifted away. They were able to recover some of the supplies but much of what was dropped ended up in the hands of the Germans. The American troops did get some medicine and ammunition but did not get and batteries for their artillery radios.Denius and his radio sergeant decided to set the batteries out in the sun the day and were happy to see that by doing this they could get 6 to 8 minutes of battery life doing this.The cut off units were in such desperate need of medicine that propaganda shells were packed with cotton and medical supplies and fired into the American perimeter. Denius called in much of these shells. Even though this method of resupplying cut off troops was considered unsuccessful Denius saw firsthand the look of relief on the faces of many of the wounded men on that hill.

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After the fighting in the Paris area Franklin Denius and his unit boarded trucks and travelled north of Paris. The British were on the northern edge. They passed through World War 1 towns but did not encounter any Germans. It was not until they got into Holland that they started running into enemy troops fighting delaying actions.They fought their way to the tip of Holland then into Germany where they went into positions to break through the Siegfried Line. After breaking through the Siegfried Line they started veering right. During the advance the 1st Division was on their right. They surrounded and fought their way all the way around Aachen. There was severe fighting in the forests like in the Hurtgen Forest. Denius was not in the Hurtgen Forest. They were on the outskirts of it.On 16 December [Annotators Note: 16 December 1944] Denius was sent back to division headquarters with his units quartering party. When they passed through Aachen they got strafed and bombed. Then they went through Malmedy where the massacre was and the fight against Peiper {Annotators Note: German SS Colonel Joachim Peiper].Several days after the battle of Mortain Sergeant Goldstein and Denius were notified that they were being awarded the Silver Star for what they had done during the battle. Several months later they were informed that the 2nd Battalion of the 120th Regiment was being awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Goldstein and Denius were attached to the 120th Regiment during the battle so they got the award as well.The 30th Division developed into 1 of the finest fighting units in the American Army in the European Theater of Operations. The confidence of the higher command was established during the hedgerow fighting and Denius believes that this confidence is why the 30th Division was selected as a spearheading unit for the Saint Lo breakout.Following the battle of Mortain around 12 or 14 August 1944 the division was reassembled and regrouped then began the job of protecting either the western or southern flank of Pattons Third Army.Within a few days of the ending of the battle for 314 [Annotators Note: Hill 314 outside of Mortain, France] they began attacking eastward. They fought their way through France protecting the left flank of Pattons Third Army all the way to the battle of the Falaise Gap. They linked up with the British and Canadians at the town of Falaise where the Germans had lost or surrendered over 50000 troops and were in full retreat.The Falaise Gap is historically recognized as the merger of the Third Army and First Army to the south and the British and Canadian Army forcing its way to the north. The purpose of this was to trap and surround as many German troops as possible.

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[Annotators Note: Franklin Denius was an artillery forward observer in Battery C, 230th Field Artillery Battalion, 30th Infantry Division] Following the closing of the Falaise Gap the German Army was in substantial retreat back to Germany but there were remnants that fought scattered battles against the advancing Americans.The 30th Division assembled 25 to 30 miles north of Paris where they were to protect against a possible German counterattack. Around 24, 25, or 26 August [Annotators Note: August of 1944] the French First Army under General DeGaulle moved into and liberated Paris.After the Germans retreated back into Germany the men in Denius division were able to relax a little. They still had perimeter detail and spent the time regrouping, cleaning themselves and their trucks, and getting their ammunition stored properly. They were preparing to move to the east toward Belgium.At about this time it was announced that the new Ninth American Army had arrived in France. The new Ninth Army started out with the old 30th Division. Over the following weeks they were able to move further east to start their next series of actions.

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[Annotators Note: Franklin Denius was an artillery forward observer in Battery C, 230th Field Artillery Battalion, 30th Infantry Division]The French people had pretty much evacuated Normandy. As the Americans advanced inland toward Mortain they encountered more civilians who hid in safe places during the fighting. As they advanced into the areas that had been battlegrounds during World War 1 they were greeted by people throwing flowers and giving them wine and pies. The only problem Denius had was that he was carrying a radio and a rifle and was unable to accept all of the hospitality but he did get some great apple pie. As they moved through the towns in Northern France the people were gleeful that they had been liberated. It was a wonderful experience for Denius to see that even though he was up front with the combat troops and thinks that the rear area troops were the ones who truly enjoyed the appreciation shown by the newly liberated French civilians.Denius was wounded and received the Purple Heart on 2 occasions. In Normandy he received a flesh wound and was patched up by a medic. Later on in January during the Battle of the Bulge he was hit by rocket shell fragments in addition to suffering from frozen feet. His third Silver Star was awarded during the Battle of the Bulge during late December [Annotators Note: December of 1944] or early January [Annotators Note: January of 1945]. His fourth Silver Star was awarded on 25 January when he was wounded.

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Franklin Denius originally volunteered for service because he had already taken 4 of ROTC [Annotators Note: Reserve Officer Training Corps]. 3 and a half years in high school and a semester in college. He was a cadet officer at Schreiner [Annotators Note: Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, Texas] his senior year and had the privilege of being the president of his senior class in high school. The war was clearly raging and Denius thought that he could join the army program which would allow him to further his education. He could do this because he was only 17 at the time and too young to be called to active duty. The navy had a similar program but Denius chose the army. Denius entered the Citadel in late July of 1942 and completed 2 more semesters of college before he entered the service. This benefited Denius because when he returned to the United States in October of 1945 and was discharged from the service he was able to start classes at the University of Texas at the age of 20 years old.Denius had selected the army program because of his prior ROTC training and felt that he could better serve his country this way. He was also very intent on training in the artillery.Being a loyal Texan and American Franklin Denius felt that it was his duty to fight for his country. He did not fight for mom and apple pie. He fought for his buddies and for his objective. Denius loves his country and loves his state and takes pride in the fact that this country has historically been able to help others obtain freedom.
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