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Walter Barnes was born in New Orleans and grew up on Webster Street in the Uptown neighborhood. Life was good for him. His father had an insurance agency and did well through the depression. Barnes was the youngest of three boys. He went to work for his fatherâ€™s insurance agency, Calhoun and Barnes Insurance Agency, and worked there until the army came and got him when he turned 18. He took his basic training at Camp Fannin, Texas. Barnes has ADD, attention deficit disorder, and does not know how he even made it through school. Barnes was a Boy Scout and had training in marching but got lost easily. That got him in trouble a few times when he was in Italy. Both of his older brothers were in the service. The brother closest in age to Barnes went to Germany and his oldest brother was in the navy and stationed in Algiers after spending some time in Panama. Barnes had fun in basic training and even when he got into combat. In basic training there were a few guys who had come from the bayou area which separates Texas and Louisiana who could not read or write. Barnes would write letters for them. He did the same when he was overseas. He would write letters for guys who could not or did not want to write home. After basic training Barnes ended up in northern Louisiana. From there he was sent by train to Virginia where he boarded a troopship. The bunks aboard ship were in three tiers. Barnes got a bottom bunk. The smell aboard ship was very bad. It took 13 days for the troopship to get to Italy. When they arrived they got off of the troop ship then got on another boat that took them to Anzio. They were given very good instructions before going into the beachhead. When they got to Anzio they were told to put their bayonets on their rifles and to make a lot of noise when they hit the beach. They went ashore yelling and screaming only to find that there were no Germans there. Other American units had landed two days before and pushed the Germans inland. At some point someone asked a group of guys that Barnes was part of if any of them knew how to shoot a BAR, Browning Automatic Rifle. Barnes stuck up his hand and ended up carrying the weapon. After the second or third night Barnes realized that every time he fired the BAR all of the German shot back at him. When a group of replacements came in Barnes lined them up. He walked up to the tallest guy and asked if he had ever fired a BAR. The man replied that he had so Barnes gave it to him. He never saw that man or that BAR ever again. From there Barnes was assigned to a mortar squad. He did well with the weapon so he was made a gunner. The mortar squad was 100 yards or more behind the front lines. The only thing he had to worry about back there was artillery. Barnes was wounded three times. All of his wounds were caused by shrapnel. When he got hit the guys in his squad would tell him to go to the rear to get stitched up but he would not because he was afraid that they would leave him. When artillery fire came in they were able to tell where it was coming from. When the artillery rounds came in on them they would hunker down and put their helmets over their faces. One time Barnes did not put his helmet over his face and ended up with a bunch of rocks stuck in his head. Again they tried to get him to go back to the medics but he got one of the guys to dig the rocks out with a bayonet. Another time a mortar round went off by him and a big piece of shrapnel hit him in the chest and ripped his clothes and skin but was not seriously hurt.
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