John Weinart had a house robbery a few years prior to this interview and his weapons were stolen. He had brought back three different kinds of American revolvers. Weinart used a knife he had as a letter opener. He also has the wallet that he had in his back pocket when a bullet went through it and a Virgin Mary prayer card. Weinart carried a copy of the New Testament in his pocket. He was a scout but he was never issued a compass. Weinart snagged a German compass when he was overseas. He also has a German paratrooper’s knife. Weinart took a Nazi banner from a German house. Weinart was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He was born in September 1925. When he was a senior in high school they told him that the only people in college were women and 4Fs [Annotators Note: 4F is the Selective Service classification for individuals who are unfit for military service]. Some people were predicting that the war might last a decade. Weinart was told that there was a need for officers. They offered him a spot in the Army Specialized Training Program. The navy had a comparable program. If you could pass a knowledge test and a physical you could qualify for the ASTP. Weinart’s closest field of interest was engineering. In August 1942 Weinart was 17 years old and he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville. He completed a year of engineering school but once he turned 18 he was put on active duty. He ended up at Fort Benning for training. There was a battalion of men there from the ASTP. The guys were pretty tough. Weinart came home and had two weeks of Christmas vacation. One morning he was informed that the ASTP was folding and everyone was going to be reassigned. From there Weinart went to Jackson which was then filled with a cadre of 87th Infantry Division officers. Thousands of people had been dumped from the ASTP. The other troops were Army Air Corps people because they discovered that they had more pilots than they would ever have airplanes. Weinart was then assigned to Breckenridge, Kentucky where he joined an MP [Annotators Note: military police] battalion that had refereed war games in Mississippi. The games were over and they did not need the battalion anymore. That battalion was scrubbed and Weinart was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At Bragg Weinart was held about two months and then sent to Fort Meade as an infantry replacement. They told Weinart that he should not be there because he was 18. Someone told Weinart he could not be sent overseas until he was 19. Every weekend Weinart would go home to Pittsburgh. Weinart was then sent to Camp Shanks. From there he was put on a Dutch ship called the Amsterdam. Most of the crew was Indonesian and they ran 11 days to Glasgow unescorted. Everybody was seasick. This was in September 1944. They had air cover for three days. Their job was to guard barges. From there Weinart went to Liverpool and then to Portsmouth. From there he went to Paris and ended up past Malmedy where the 4th Division was.
John Weinart notes that three months after he got to Europe there were only ten of them left. Many were killed, injured or simply missing in the woods. They will always be missing in the Hurtgen Forest. After a couple of weeks Weinart became a scout. He would lead attacks on the flanks or in the front. They also did night patrols. Weinart joked that he spent more times behind the German lines than guys in his unit spent at the mess hall. Weinart’s job was to get the lay of the land and find out where the Germans were. He had to lead an attack one time after only getting two hours of sleep. Weinart was able to go over his patrol route to lead the attack. When Weinart joined Company C [Annotators Note: Company C, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division] there were eight guys left from 193. There was one sergeant and seven privates. Of the 110 Weinart went in with he was one of ten left after the war. They pulled Weinart out of the Hurtgen and sent them into Luxembourg with the 3rd Army. No one seemed to care because it was a rest area. The Battle of the Bulge came to them. Weinart had gone into combat in mid October and he did not get a shower until December. Weinart got a hot shower before the Battle of the Bulge occurred. The showers went very quick. They essentially never got hot food. Weinart lived off of K rations week after week. They had a breakfast lunch and dinner K ration. For breakfast it was eggs and ham. For lunch it was one lump of cheese. For dinner they had a fatty type stew. They were lucky if they got a fig bar. That was what Weinart ate for weeks and weeks on end. Weinart notes he was still eating better than the Germans. They took the outer cardboard off of the K ration. The K ration was four inches wide and seven inches long and maybe an inch thick. Weinart describe how they ate their K rations. Weinart felt like he ate better when he was in Patton’s Army. Patton gave a lot to his troops. In Luxembourg they were at the southern corner of the Bulge. Patton was able to bring his armor up and cut through the salient. Weinart had been in Bastogne on his way to Luxembourg. Weinart had a chance to see Bastogne after the Battle of the Bulge and it was almost completely destroyed. Weinart was shocked to see dozens of American tanks blown up and burnt out. When they got past the town of Bastogne they found American tanks with swastikas painted on them. They were captured tanks that the Germans used against the Americans.
John Weinart crossed the Rhine River and headed into southern Germany. They would frequently ride on tanks. Weinart ended up very near Austria. They came around one day and started stenciling everything that they had. Everything was marked TAT, for To Accompany Troops. Everyone was informed that they were going to be sent home to train for Japan. They had a motorcade to La Havre and ended up in Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia. Weinart got a month’s worth of leave and during that month they dropped the atomic bombs. Weinart ended up working with the military police for awhile. He ended up as the secretary to the provost marshal of the division. Weinart came to odds with his commanding officer. The officer had been a theater usher during the war. Weinart patrolled Raleigh Durham and High Point. All of the boys who had been in combat were not about to be told what to do by a bunch of civilians. If there was ever a problem in those towns the police would turn it over to the military police. Weinart was discharged from there and ended up reaping the benefits of the GI Bill. Weinart went to the University of Pittsburgh and got his degree in chemistry. The dean of the department was named Silverman and had taught Weinart's brother 20 years prior. Weinart was one of 100 chemistry majors and only 15 guys finished. Weinart had minors in physics, mathematics and German. People wanted to learn German back then if they were going to be mathematicians because all of the great science that was coming out of Germany. Weinart finished his degree and got a job. Weinart got into graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh. Weinart was sponsored by a company as a graduate student and then he got a job at US Steel. First as a research manager then as a tech service supervisor and the last ten years he worked as the manager of environmental engineering for the corporation. Weinart represented his company on Capitol Hill. Weinart got a good deal out of the GI Bill. He used to get 50 dollars a month. He was paid 1,800 dollars in total. His entire education ended up costing the government 3,300 dollars. Weinart notes that he pays the government that much money nearly every three months. The government got a good deal out of Weinart. His family gave him a Virgin Mary prayer card that he carried overseas. He did not think much about the card until they got shelled. Weinart recalls one instance when he and his buddy were hiding in a foxhole. Artillery barrages in the forest were rough because the shells explode depending on the height of the trees. The foxhole protects the bottom half of you but the top is exposed. Weinart was hit by shrapnel on this occasion and it hurt. He figured he had been wounded. His friend Sandy had been hit in the foot. Finally the barrage was over and Weinart got up. He pulled his pants off and he felt around but there was no blood. Weinart realized that the shrapnel was embedded in his wallet and it was stuck in the Virgin Mary card. For a long time Weinart saved that. The shrapnel stuck in the heel of the boot of the man who shared the foxhole with Weinart. His buddy came back from the aid station and looked shocked. They cleaned it up and told him that he had a nail in his boot. He was told he was going to be getting the Purple Heart.
John Weinart notes that the Virgin Mary prayer card experience is in the book that he wrote. The Bronze Star that Weinart received was a unit award and not an individual one. Five years ago Weinart was made aware that the government was going to give out the medals and ribbons they should have received during the war. He filled out all of the proper forms and after a year it came back with all of the medals. Weinart received the Combat Infantryman Badge. The Bronze Star came in a jeweler’s case. Weinart did not think that he had a Bronze Star. They sent Weinart a letter back saying that he did in fact earn it. There was no specific instance. Weinart also received a Presidential Unit citation. The Presidential Unit Citation was awarded for D-Day. When Weinart got to his outfit there was not a single guy left who had been through D-Day. Weinart was a scout but for some of the time he was a squad leader. Weinart was a squad leader as a PFC [Annotators Note: Private First Class]. They ended up freezing promotions. Weinarts job as a scout was twofold. The first part of the job was leading the attack. Weinart was always in the front. Two or three scouts would be out in front. The other job of a scout is to patrol. Invariably they were night patrols. Weinart would operate three to four miles from the front lines. He would patrol from sun down to sun up. Occasionally Weinart would be around the outpost. He would report back educated guesses on tanks and troop dispersions. Weinart never scouted far enough to see enemy artillery. Occasionally they would get a call from a German outpost. Usually they would just freeze and try to be quiet instead of shouting out in German. They had to get back to their lines by the time dawn came. If they were coming back from a patrol on a path and they suspected the Germans were going to follow them back to their lines they could do a couple of things. Weinart would create a trip wire with a grenade. Any German that followed would trip the wire and be in a mess. Most of the guys did not use that technique because they were afraid that they were going to kill someone in their unit.
John Weinart could only stay scared for so long. He did his best to maintain his excitement and adrenaline. There was a lot of down time. Boredom ran rampant when they were not doing anything. It became such a routine that it felt like the way of life. Weinart notes he could not cry over lost friends and the more he thinks about it the more he realizes that he did not see anyone cry. There is a certain numbness that creeps in. Every time there was a battle they would say here we go again. Weinart’s unit was surrounded during the Battle of the Bulge. A guy in the unit made a comment that they could now shoot in any direction. Weinart went to a ceremony a few weeks before the interview and the honor guard was equipped with M1 Garands. Weinart picked one up and could not believe how heavy it felt but when he was fighting he did not think twice about the weight. Weinart carried an M1, that was his favorite. His particular rifle had a piece of shrapnel in it. For months his lucky M1 was the one with the shrapnel embedded in it. Weinart decided to leave the piece of shrapnel in there. Weinart thought that the M1 rifle was fantastic. He believes that the Germans made a huge mistake using a bolt action rifle. Weinart notes that he could shoot four times as fast with an M1. With an M1 you never take your right hand off of the weapon because there is no bolt. Weinart had something called the M1 thumb. If you do not pull your finger out when you push the clip in the bolt would slam on your thumb really quickly. The rate of fire on the M1 and the accuracy was so much greater than anything else. Weinart was the captain of the rifle team in high school and shot left handed. Weinart was able to be a marksman from either side. They did at one point have ammunition where every third cartridge was a tracer. Weinart did not like the idea of using tracers. The Germans were using a variety of weapons. They had the standard Mauser from World War 1. They also had burp guns. Weinart could always tell the German weapons. Weinart was attacked by the US 5th Army on accident one time. They started hearing rifle fire to their right. Listening to the bullets whizz through the trees got their attention. It was a real quandary. They did not want to shoot them but they did not want to get shot so they started screaming. Finally they realized they were attacking American troops. They had misread their map and that is what caused them to attack. Nobody got hurt in the fake attack. Two guys including Weinart were scouting out a forested area. The other scout was Joe Ortiz. Weinart and Ortiz were scouting in front of their company. Weinart could see Ortiz to his right front. At one point Ortiz stopped and yelled something to Weinart. Weinart started edging forward and realized Ortiz raised his rifle up. Weinart did a drop and roll to get near Ortiz. Weinart was on his belly looking through the weeds and he could see a six man German machine gun squad in front of them. Weinart does not remember what happened next. The next thing he remembers is him and Joe standing together lighting their cigarettes looking over the six dead Germans. They did not say a word. Weinart does not know now what happened.
John Weinart notes that the previous story was probably the closest he ever got to being killed. It was not an unusual situation though. Weinart notes that he spent a lot of time behind German lines. If you are not killed or wounded in a month you are an old timer and a combat vet. Weinart has read some books that hint that the Battle of the Bulge may have been unnecessary. They were attacking through the forest to prevent the Germans from releasing a flood gate. Weinart notes that the Germans had to really defend the Hurtgen Forest in order to get ready for the Battle of the Bulge. The Germans had already attacked through the Hurtgen in 1939. Most planners thought it was impossible after studying the 1939 attack. It may have shortened the war because they ground up the Germans up so badly. The Russian front collapsed sooner because of the Battle of the Bulge. Once the weather cleared it was smooth sailing into Germany. The Hurtgen Forest had miserable weather. A cloudy day here would be considered a clear day there. They finally got good weather in January. Weinart recalls looking into the clear skies and seeing hundreds of bombers. Weinart got word one time to shoot at anything he saw in the air. He was told that the Germans had assembled a squad of P-47s [Annotators Note: Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter aircraft] and were looking to attack. The next day a squad of P-47s flew over and they started shooting at them. Nothing came of this event. Everything was fair game for the most part. Weinart trained with Browning Automatic Rifles and machineguns but he never used them in combat. They had a sergeant that was a BAR man who was wounded. When he came back he wanted another BAR. The BAR is almost 20 pounds. Weinart’s basic training was at Fort Benning. He had about 13 weeks of training there before being thrown in the replacement pool. The training was pretty rigorous. The cadre had already been through three or four cycles. The 25 mile marches were no big deal. Fully loaded, Weinart carried 80 pounds of gear. One time they were on bivouac on the rifle range. They had marched out and stayed in tents on the range. On a Friday they finished and a sergeant told them they had their choice. They could either go halfway back and pitch camp and march in on Saturday morning just walk back and not screw up the weekend. They strolled back 25 miles on Friday afternoon and were able to have their weekend. Weinart did go back to Europe for business but he never went to any of his old battlegrounds. Other than foxholes and small towns he was never in anyplace of note. Weinart would not recognize most of these places. He was in Malmedy before the massacre occurred. It’s a typical 400 year old village type place. Weinart remembers one place that was called Rotenburg. Rotenburg was a little castle town that they had to attack. It was spring and the weather was good. It was a one company attack. Rotenburg is near a place where two rivers come together. It was a tough place to attack. Weinart was scouting in the middle of the night perhaps 200 yards from the town. They were ready for a dawn attack. He could see the walls of the town and they were 20 feet high. There was only one gate. That gate was the only place the infantry could attack. They were lying in the field and it was getting lighter. Weinart was confused and furious because when the time came no one gave the order to attack. Weinart went and saw the officers and they were trying to read a map. They could not figure out if they were in the right place. They attacked and the town was deserted. It was a great day. Later Weinart wondered if anyone else screwed it up as bad as they did. Fortunately there were no casualties.
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