Getting overseas

D-Day on Utah Beach

Work to be done inland

Anecdotes from Combat

Wounded by artillery

Returning Home

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Joseph Motil was deferred for six months and then went into the service on 22 January 1942. Motil was born on 24 July 1918, just before World War 1 ended. Motil was a World War 1 baby. He was born out in the country in Williams Township Pennsylvania. His family had a farm. He had two brothers and a sister. Motil left school early in 8th grade and went to work. Motil worked in a lumber forest cutting trees down for the steel company. He worked in a silk mill after that. In fact, he worked at two different silk mills and eventually got a job in the steel mill. Motil remembers 7 December 1941 because he was on his way back from New York State with his wife. They heard it on the radio. Motil was not married at the time but he was with his future wife. Motil figured Pearl Harbor was it for him. Shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor Motil had his appendix removed. Motil was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland and took his oath there. Then he was sent to Camp Wheeler in Georgia for three months of basic training. Motil was drafted but he wanted to go into the service the entire time. His mother would not sign for him as a teenager. Motil enjoyed the Army life and was never bitter about serving. The government sent him a letter saying he was selected to go. Motil was never angry about being in service. From Camp Wheeler they went to Camp Gordon [Annotators Note: Camp Gordon, Georgia]. At Camp Gordon Motil got another week of training. He trained with a Browning Automatic Rifle. Motil could handle all of the weapons. He also received some sniper training. Motil almost got in trouble one time because he would prime his bullets with more gunpowder. Motil would end up carrying an M1 Garand in combat. Motil did more training when he got to England. He went overseas on an ocean liner in a massive convoy. It was well protected. When they neared the English Channel they hit a storm and it was incredibly rocky. When they landed they were on foot and then they went to a train station. Motil remembers giving the children he ran into chocolate bars.

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Joseph Motil went to South Bren England for training. They also practiced going on lots of patrols. On the weekends they would go down to the pub. Motil did not drink the beer because it was warm but the cider was good. Motil remembers walking into the pub after the war and asking if they had any hard cider. There was an old man sitting down in the corner and he recognized Motil from the war. The man instructed the bartender to give him what he wanted. The old man turned out to be the owner. Motil would also help the civilian population when he could. Motil was tasked by a farm owner to get eggs one time. He was questioned by the cook where the heck he was getting these eggs from. It’s a small part of the story but it was enjoyable for Motil. Motil wanted to stay as pure as he could overseas. He knew at that point why he was in England. Motil felt like he was ready to fight but he understood he did not really have a choice in all of it. He felt his training was very good. When they went in with the landing craft and hit the beach Motil did not know what was going to be in front of him. Fortunately they landed on Utah Beach and they made it all the way up to dry land. Motil was out of the landing craft before the door hit the sand. A lieutenant commented to Motil that he had never seen him run that fast. Motil was carrying a load of TNT. Not everyone carried TNT but maybe one out of the entire group. Motil’s landing craft did not land where it was supposed to. The Seabees went in before the main force so they could take care of some of the beach obstacles. The second day they blew up a bunch of German guns. One of the guys was wounded when the guns exploded from the TNT detonation and it broke his arm. Motil recalls looking at the man and the man was as excited as could be because he realized he would be able to go home.

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Joseph Motil landed on Utah Beach and one of the German tanks was already coming to meet them. Motil went back in 1964 and found the dugout where the tank was. The dugout was maybe four feet low. It was a small tank. Motil did not get seasick. His job was to watch the coffee pots on the ships. A sailor told him to not drink. Motil was told to eat lots of bread so his stomach did not float. Motil was at the very bottom of the ship and it was moving a lot. He went to the crow’s nest and it was swaying as well. Motil dumped a lot of his gear on the landing craft because he realized he would not need most of it. Fortunately enough he did not end up needing it. Motil had the same clothes on for five days. They did not have time to wash it or dry it. Most nights they did not sleep. Motil reached a road and saw a German tank coming. It was there to stop the Americans. Motil found an American paratrooper hanging in a church steeple. This particular paratrooper played dead and the Germans did not bother with him. When Motil and his unit went through they took him down. Motil was a couple of miles inland on D Day and they began to hit pillboxes. Motil was able to blow the back door off of a pillbox. It hurt his ears. He was maybe about 15 feet from the pillbox. A three inch fuse goes fairly quickly. The pillbox was hit with a flame thrower. The Germans in the pillbox went out the backdoor and they were burning.

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Joseph Motil put the charge right against the door so it blew it in. There was a flame thrower operator with their unit. The Germans who ran out of the pillbox were shot. The third day, Motil was on scout duty and he saw some Germans that had apparently been bypassed. He told his lieutenant that there were some Germans in the building. Other men circled around and killed the Germans. Motil did not take part in that. The Allied bombers had the town pretty much destroyed. Motil went back in 1964 and he could not find any war damage. On the second day Motil’s sergeant got hit. Motil told him to get down but he was ahead of Motil. A German 88 [Annotators Note: 88 millimeter artillery piece] took his sergeant’s head off. Motil saw him standing there without a head before he fell over. Another person Motil saw killed was a private on D Day. He wanted to get a German Luger and it was booby trapped. Motil witnessed him explode. Motil has trouble forgetting what he saw. The Germans would hang the paratroopers. Motil saw another man gun down a bunch of German prisoners in reprisal for paratroopers they saw hung. That shook Motil a lot. Motil thought very well that could have been him. They could not stop and dwell on it. Motil had a German officer come after him. He was coming pretty fast at Motil. He thought back to his training and he dropped down on his knees and was able to stab the German soldier with his bayonet. Motil knew the German would not get up anymore. Motil put grooves in his bayonet like a saw. He could not pull it out. Some of the guys in England were wondering what Motil was doing filing his bayonet. They kept on going but they got to a point on the fifth day where they were pinned down. Their radios were knocked out and they could not get in touch with headquarters. Motil was ordered back to headquarters to procure artillery support. Motil had to do some maneuvering around the hedgerow. There was a small grade behind him that he could not traverse because a machine gun was covering it. He never ran so fast in his life and he jumped on the other side of the hedgerow. One of his soldiers commented that he must have had 13 lives. Motil ran into other soldiers who were heading to the front lines. He was talking to a man and he was hit right in the leg. Motil patched him up. Fortunately it did not hit a blood vessel or a bone. The man killed the German sniper and they checked it out later and it was a female. Motil informed the colonel that their radio man was knocked down and they needed artillery fire. The colonel got on the phone and called in the artillery. Motil was ordered to go back and dig a whole. Motil dug in and put his head back and decided he was going to get some sleep.

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Joseph Motil heard artillery passing overhead. All of a sudden he heard incoming fire. The next shell came a little closer. Motil did not hear the third one. He was running and it blew up behind him. It picked him up and threw him against the hedgerow. Motil could not use his arm and he could not feel his leg. He felt blood flowing because it was warm and hot. He is not sure to this day how he got the tourniquet on. The shrapnel took a big chunk out of the back of his knee and cut the sciatic nerve which is why he could not move. The medic who patched the rest of Motil’s wounds told him that putting the tourniquet on saved his life. Motil was taken down to the beach in a jeep. There were four other people in the jeep and they were waiting for an LST to take them back to England. Motil ran into his lieutenant. He heard voices talking when he was at the aid station and realized it was a foreign language. Motil understands Hungarian and he hollered over to four people. Motil was able to translate the Hungarian and discern that these people were not part of the German army but rather a group of laborers. They relayed to Motil that they were incredibly grateful that the Americans had liberated them and they were ready to do anything to help out. Motil was happy to translate and it was a good moment for him. Motil knew that the war was over for him. Motil ended up being in a hospital for about a month. He sat there and smoked cigarettes one after the other. He could not sleep and the night nurse sat with him. One day the doctor came in and asked the nurse about Motil. Motil had no feeling in his leg and he had no feeling in his fingers. The doctor’s name was George Patton. He was not related to George Patton. The next morning Motil was told that he was going to be operated on. Motil was on the operating table for six hours. After they took him back to his room he was informed that there would be no talking in the ward. Motil slept for about 24 hours after the surgery. The doctor came in on the second day as he was waking up. Motil felt good enough to eat. His leg was in a cast for six months. When Motil came home he was aboard a ship. He was next to a soldier who had had his two legs run over by a tank.

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Joseph Motil had a feeling that the soldier he was next to was run over by his own tank. Motil got to England and he still could not move his legs. He landed in Boston on a hospital ship. On their way across the ocean they cut the motors on the ship and sat there for about 45 minutes. After 45 minutes they turned the motors on again. From Boston, Motil ended up in Butler, Pennsylvania and was then transferred to White Sulphur Springs on a train. He was on a litter and could not walk. A woman was in a private booth on the train and she had to be moved so Motil could be put onto the train car through the window. The conductor came over to the lady who was upset she was moved and told her that she needed to be more respectful. The conductor was limping and Motil noticed it. Motil got to talking with the conductor and it turned out he was in the service as well and had been injured and worked on by the same doctor, George Patton. Apparently the doctor had been sent overseas because he had disobeyed orders. Motil was sent for rehabilitation to Camp Pickett, Virginia. A man came in and ordered everybody outside for calisthenics. Motil was on crutches. There was nothing he could do. A lieutenant came in and he was told that he was going to be court martialed. The second day Motil was at Camp Pickett nobody said anything to him. Motil started to try and move as much as he could. He was there for about 30 days and then went home. Motil was able to see his wife. He was discharged from Camp Pickett, Virginia. Serving was worth it even though some bad things happened. Motil’s company took some serious casualties the first day [Annotators Note: the first day of the Normandy invasion, 6 June 1944]. His company commander had a runner who was killed on the first day. Motil’s company was pretty much decimated on the first day. They lost roughly 160 men. Motil was lucky he made it back to headquarters to help out with the artillery situation. His best buddy from the service was from Freeland, Pennsylvania and when they were overseas they would always grab ice cream. Motil did not see him for a few years. He was able to go overseas in the 1960s to see Utah Beach and Normandy. TWA [Annotators Note: The now defunct Trans World Airlines] offered to fly people to Normandy for free in the 1960s. Another one of Motil’s good friends was a BAR man [Annotators Note: a soldier who carried a Browning Automatic Rifle]. He was able to bring his weapon back. He was eventually captured and the Germans did end up treating him well. Motil’s buddy went through the entire war. He got a couple of nicks but nothing that would allow him to return home. His friend also fought in the Hurtgen Forest and was able to help people during that battle.
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