James McClellan served in the 755th Field Artillery Battalion, 15th Army.He was born in West Virginia. His father worked for a lumber company. When he was one year old his family moved to Pennsylvania to work a farm. At 6 years old McClellan and his brother ran the cultivator which cultivated the corn. At 8 years old he was milking the cows and killing chickens. His mother specialized in fried spring chicken dinners. In his late teens he went to work for a pipeline company.McClellan met a girl named Naomi Taylor who he married and had 4 children, 1 boy and 3 girls. They were married on 5 November 1941 and were only married for one year [Annotator's Note: before he was drafted].McClellan had gotten three 6 month railroad deferments and therefore didn't go in until the last part of the war.He trained at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri where he learned how to operate the guns, but he was a prime mover driver. He was the one who pull the gun around.They arrived in Scotland and went to England. He went across on a big thing [Annotator's Note: vessel] with an end that could be let down to drive the guns. The guns had been backed in.They ended up in Belgium firing on the enemy when they launched their last thrust. McClellan's outfit was moved to an area that started taking heavy fire. Everyone took off but his vehicle and gun got stuck in the mud. He kept working the vehicle around and finally got unstuck and got out of there.He travelled 2 or 3 miles down the road and caught up with his unit. He didn't want any recognition for what he had done and didn't blame any of his unit-mates for leaving him there alone. The whole battery occupied a single building in Belgium. While they were there the Germans bombed the building.McClellan is a very religious man.McClellan got frostbite while standing guard.Rations were dropped to them by parachute. Around that time the 101st Airborne Division passed through on their way to meet the enemy. McClellan's group was glad to see them because they were infantry and his outfit was an artillery group.By the end of the war they were in Nancy, France.
McClellan and two other people were selected to take the guns down to Paris. On the train ride down he was with a trainload of German prisoners being sent home.In the area of Nancy, France McClellan contracted yellow jaundice. He was accused of being a faker or possibly crazy, and placed on a psychiatric ward. It wasn't until later that someone finally had the presence of mind to pull up his eyelid and could see in his eyes that he had yellow jaundice.McClellan was put in a ward with other yellow jaundice patients. He doesn't have any hard feelings against any of his fellow GIs including his captain who had originally made the accusation.McClellan stayed all summer long. Since he had arrived late he would leave late. His outfit was assigned to collect ammunition and to dump it into a pit where it could be blown up. His job was to drive the truck that they put it in and they had a black person [Annotators Note: African-American] who was in charge of the prisoners and the prisoner did the work.He got on a Victory ship and came back to New York and was discharged in December of 1945.McClellan doesn't recall exactly when he got his draft notice. He entered the service in May 1943.Everyone was trained on the gun. The guns were pulled around with a Diamond T truck. McClellan volunteered to be a driver.Later they got prime movers which were what they took into combat.They trained on how the engine worked and how to make light repairs. The only gun they had was the 155 [Annotator's Note: 155 millimeter howitzer].McClellan shipped out in the fall of 1944.They arrived in Scotland then travelled to England. All travel was done at night.McClellan doesn't know where he landed after leaving England.They had gone overseas in August or September and went into battle in October or November. They went into Bastogne in December about a week or two before Christmas. They pushed back about a mile or two out of Bastogne. They were doing the shelling then the Germans counterattacked and they were doing the shelling. They were under heavy mortar fire when they got orders to move. They hooked their prime mover back up to the gun. They made several moves like this.They never saw the infantry [Annotator's Note: Germany infantry] but they were equipped to fight the infantry if they had to. They had not been trained that way. They did receive a lot of mortars.They were armed with carbines. McClellan was awarded three medals for sharp shooting. After the war was over they shot at some jack rabbits but they were close to another outfit that complained and McClellan lost his stripes. He got them back about a month later. He was a corporal T-5 when he got out of the service.
When he wasn't driving McClellan would stand guard. That's how he got the frozen toes; frostbite.They had three gun batteries, a headquarters battery, kitchen, and clothing; all told about 500 people. They had instruction and training. The sergeant would show them what he knew.They had 4 guns, maybe 3 guns. The order was given to put them in a small area even though there was a larger area nearby. The mortar was so intense his crew jumped up on the other prime movers that were taking their guns out. He stayed and maneuvered his tractor until he was able to get his gun out. He saw a colonel with his legs shot and unable to move. The colonel ordered him to pull out and not try to save him.About a mile down the road he saw what looked like infantry. They were a black [Annotators Note: African-American] division. One of the soldiers jumped up on his prime mover to ride out with McClellan but he convinced the man to return to his unit. He travelled a couple more miles and reunited with hi unit.They slept in barns with cattle to keep warm.They had to stand guard duty at night on a .50 caliber machine gun. They were in about a foot and a half of snow. His buddy standing guard with him said that he thought he saw someone and wanted to fire but McClellan talked him out of it.They were under fire when they moved out. The last move they were able to make was into Bastogne.McClellan doesn't know exactly where it was that his prime mover and gun got stuck. Some of the men in McClellan's unit went out hunting for Germans but he stayed behind. When the order to move out was given he was there to get his gun out.After pulling out, McClellan was ordered to hide his prime mover in a barn.They usually slept in houses. The houses weren't heated but they had equipment that could withstand the sub-zero or zero weather. They didn't operate out of Bastogne at all. They just kept moving the guns back because the enemy was too close.After they left Bastogne they set up and fired on the enemy for a month or two. McClellan's gun was set up right outside of the house they were staying in. His was the closest gun to the fighting. They were set up by a hedgerow and the Germans were out by the second hedgerow. The Germans attacked them.While they were there their headquarters was attacked. They acted as infantry and went along the highway. The Germans opened fire on them. It was a sniper up in a tree who was eventually killed by a man back at headquarters with a .50 caliber machine gun.
They [Annotator's Note: the Germans] had a tank near there but it had been disabled and bombed by the Air Force.They ended up by the Elbe River. They were doing mostly guard duty. The war was over.There was a guard right up the Elbe River who was an American MP [Annotator's Note: Military Police].They decided to cross the river. They met the Russian soldiers on the other side. They walked down to meet some of the displaced people living in the woods. Then they went back across. This was just weeks or days before the war was over.They used sign language to communicate with the Russians. The Russians were not happy about them being on their side of the river.They learned of the German surrender by word of mouth. The GI paper was out but they didn't get it until they got off of the front lines.They heard about McNulty [Annotator's Note: US Army General Anthony McCauliffe] saying "nuts." And they heard about Patton.When they heard about the "nuts" thing, McClellan believed that it would take time for them [Annotator's Note: the Germans] to figure out what it meant.The dramatic part of the war for McClellan was the event in which he had to get his prime mover and the stuck gun out of the area.They were lonely over there. They would write letters. When the fighting started they didn't think about it. They had to do their best to get fed three times a day.They would eat K rations and dig places in the ground to be safe from artillery. They had plenty to do and didn't think much about home.In Nancy, France, a lot of soldiers went where there was an enormous room and the ladies would visit and lay down with them. McClellan felt strongly about that.McClellan was on guard and saw what was going on.McClellan was sent to the Riviera. He feels that it was because of his actions in combat.
McClellan did not keep in touch with any of the men he served with after the war. He never attended any reunions. He didn't have any addresses for them.His friend who he was down in a separator room with and who he led to the lord were down in the basement of another house and heard the Germans coming over firing at the house. McClellan stayed in the basement but the others went upstairs. The man he led to the lord was hit in the stomach. He survived the war and later died of Hodgkin's disease.McClellan feels that it is important for there to be museums like The National World War II Museum.McClellan wants remembered that he was selected to be a driver of a prime mover pulling a 155 millimeter howitzer. He wasn't on the gun crew which had to disconnect the gun from the prime mover and dig the gun in then feed ammunition to it.McClellan heard about the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio. He and his wife had a little radio and they listened to it the entire day. The attack was a surprise to his wife and him.World War II changed McClellan from a young early 20s man to a mid 30s or early 40s man because responsibility came to him much more easily. Determination, resolve, and character were there but were built up because of the war.
All oral histories featured on this site are available to license. The videos will be delivered via mail as Hi Definition video on DVD/DVDs or via file transfer. You will be purchasing the oral history in its entirety but will be free to use only specific clips. Please contact the Museum at email@example.com if you are interested in licensing this content. Please allow up to two weeks for file delivery or delivery of the DVD to your postal address. See more information at http://ww2online.org/faqs.
Your browser is out of date!
To get the best possible experience using our website, we recommend that you upgrade or download an alternative web browser. Downloading a new browser will make internet browsing safer as well as more enjoyable.