Prewar Years

Becoming a Soldier

Deployment to France

The Battle of the Bulge

German Surrender

Occupation Duty

Homecoming

Final Thoughts

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Lewis Guidry was born in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana in January 1919. The Great Depression affected his life in many ways. Seldom did he see a car on the roads during those times because of the inability to acquire vehicles. The only automobiles they saw were old wrecks owned by people who worked in the automotive industry in Detroit that often broke down. Until Guidry started school, he did not know how to speak English. His father's ancestors had come to Louisiana from France and Nova Scotia. French was his native language. Guidry's father was a farmer. His grandfather was also a farmer and had 300 acres of land. The family all helped work the land. Guidry's father was the only boy out of seven children and his six sisters often took turns caring for him. Guidry grew up working on his dad's farm. Because his dad had a reduced acreage of the farm, Guidry decided to try a different profession. He chose to work instead of graduating from high school and left school after the seventh grade. Guidry was working on a dredge boat on the Sabine River when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He then tried to get a job with Exxon because the work on the dredge was not consistent. The answer came back from Exxon that he had a good chance to get work in Baton Rouge. Guidry and his wife moved to Baton Rouge and started work there shortly afterwards. The attack on Pearl Harbor made Guidry feel horrible. He figured that he would have to enter the service at sometime during the war and it came around the time he expected it to. Guidry felt uneasy that he was not in the service. It was important for him to defend his country and his people. His wife resisted the idea of Guidry joining the service. Guidry went to the draft board in St. Martinville, Louisiana to tell his side of story. He wanted to stay until his wife gave birth to their child. The draft board agreed and he was not called up until three months after the birth of his son. Guidry would not see his son again until he was three years old. He had no problem with going into the Army and always felt he would come back. The Navy also tried to get Guidry because of his dredge boat experience, but he elected to go into the Army.

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Lewis Guidry had difficulty leaving his wife and son when he entered military service. He had moved them in with her mom and dad before he left. Exxon was very helpful. Exxon gave him 400 dollars cash to help him in transitioning his family to his service. That was the most money he had ever held in his hands before that time. Guidry found boot camp tough sometimes because of his short height. His captain was a tall man who took long steps on the forced marches. This made Guidry have to work harder to keep up. Guidry took his boot camp training at Camp Butner, North Carolina. The experience of getting mixed in with people from all over the country was difficult for Guidry but he got along with everyone and he soon made acting corporal. He was then promoted to corporal. The officers Guidry came in contact with were all good people and he was satisfied with their leadership. He never had to pull extra duty because an officer disliked him and that helped him cope with being away from home. His wife wrote to him often and included pictures of his son. She sent him a new picture of his son every month. His son had to learn to speak both French and English because both grandmothers spoke only French. After boot camp, Guidry took part in the Tennessee Maneuvers. Guidry found out from the maneuvers that front line experience could be much worse than even boot camp. They trained for every aspect of firing their guns except actually firing them. Guidry was trained on a 155mm howitzer as a gunner. He was put on the number one gun because he was fast and accurate. The 155mm guns that Guidry used overseas were far superior to the old Schneider artillery pieces from World War 1 that they had trained with. Each member of the gun crew had a different responsibility. One of the crewmen was the ammunition man, responsible for preparing the rounds to be fired. The 155mm had separate powder and shells. One man was responsible for putting in the correct number of powder bags. The ammunition guy had the job of setting the fuse. Guidry knew he had to be on his station at all times during the firing of the weapon. In battle there was no such thing as a recess to take a break. The gunner had to be constantly ready to fire for effect. The gunners feared enemy counter battery fire coming back at them if they were spotted while firing on the enemy. The guns had to constantly move and shoot and then move and shoot. From the maneuvers, Guidry proceeded to Camp Pickett, Virginia and stayed there until he went overseas.

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During the trip overseas, Lewis Guidry and the other men aboard ship were only fed two meals per day. They traveled with seven people per room aboard the ship, which was a former passenger ship. The ship landed at Plymouth, England in September 1944. After going ashore, they took a train to the town they would be billeted in. Guidry and the other troops were billeted in homes in the town. The unit [Annotator's Note: Guidry served in a gun battery in the 309th Field Artillery Battalion, 78th Infantry Division] mustered together for meals. Guidry crossed the English Channel and experienced bad seasickness. He had not gotten seasick during the trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Guidry crossed the English Channel in an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. He was in line for supper on the LST and before he could finish the meal, he was over the railing getting rid of the food. He found out that if he could lie down, he would not get seasick so the rest of the voyage across the Channel, Guidry stayed prone on the deck. Guidry arrived in France shortly after the breakout from the Normandy Beachhead.

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Lewis Guidry entered combat first in France. The troops all knew exactly what to do and were prepared for their jobs. Guidry's group was very efficient but he could be firm with them if need be. His gun crew members were from all over the country. The biggest problem in combat was that only half the crew would be on the gun at any one time. They were not trained to operate with half a crew so this posed a problem they had to overcome. When loading the 155mm gun, the shell would be laid down on a tray. Two men would pick the round up and push it into the breach. Then a ramrod was used to push the shell all the way into the breach. Then the powder bags were loaded and the breach was closed. The winter of 1944 saw the Battle of the Bulge. Guidry never saw the Germans so he figured that the firing they did was effective. Guidry's unit [Annotator's Note: 309th Field Artillery Battalion, 78th Infantry Division] was on the northern side of the Bulge and there was a lot of rain and snow in that area. At one point, Guidry's gun was the only gun which was capable of firing because the land was so damp from the rain that the trails would sink into the mud. This caused the gunners to not be able to correct their aim while firing. The way Guidry accomplished this was that he was on the edge of a wooded area and set up a pulley system anchored to nearby trees with a block and tackle that they had. That arrangement enabled Guidry's gun to stay on target and adjust both directions to retarget as necessary. His gun fired as fast as it could. The Stars and Stripes newspaper showed the front and how the Germans were advancing. Guidry's 155mm gun was one gun out of many that were firing but was the only 155mm. The weather was rough for a South Louisiana boy. The overshoes that went over the boots were taken away and given to the infantry because they were moving much more and were in quite a bit of snow. The gunners were given the command to fire at will several times. Ammunition never ran out because he was using ammunition from the guns not firing. Logistics kept a good supply of ammunition and the ammunition man on his crew always had rounds ready for the gun. Maintenance was generally good for the gun but at a certain point the gun was out of action for two weeks. When the 155mm gun was fired, there was quite a boom with a rush of air that was generated. The only protection the gun crews were given was instructions to open their mouths and stand on their toes when the gun was fired. The gun had a mechanic to repair minor problems. When the gun broke down, it appeared that the gun would need to go into the shop but the situation had gotten so bad that the officers decided otherwise.

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Lewis Guidry crossed the Rhine River near the Remagen Bridge [Annotator's Note: the Ludendorff Bridge in the city of Remagen]. Guidry's artillery gave support to the infantry that had already crossed the river. The artillery operation was a success in supporting the troops. Guidry and his equipment crossed the Rhine on a pontoon bridge on the first day of spring. After the Rhine crossing and later, Guidry met the Russians on the Elbe River. Three days after they reached the Elbe River the fighting died down. They were sent to a rest area then went into occupation duty in Kassel, Germany. There was extensive damage to areas that Guidry viewed in Germany, especially in Kassel. He had been put in charge of the post office to protect material that needed to be guarded. One day Guidry was ordered to burn all German history books which contained information about Hitler. In one city, Guidry moved his guns to a cemetery. All of the graves had been busted up by their previous artillery fire. The German civilians changed allegiance from the Nazis to the Allies when they realized that the Allies were winning. At the end of the war, the German soldiers had become demoralized. As the Germans surrendered, the US troops made them stack their arms. The German Army that Guidry saw was dirty and hungry. Guidry was not impressed with them. It was an uplifting moment when Guidry learned that Hitler was dead because he knew he would be going home. Then reality set in when he realized that there was still the war in the Pacific. Guidry knew he would have to go to Japan. Night training began again and that was heartbreaking. Guidry had been told that they would bypass the United States. They were to go to southern France and then transit through the Suez Canal to fight in the offensive on Japan. Guidry had been demoralized to know that he would have to go the Pacific. When the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, he was relieved. Guidry learned that he had worked on the process of heavy water with Exxon before he served in the Army. The Stars and Stripes tried to keep the troops serving in Europe informed on the progress in the war in the Pacific. Guidry read Ernie Pyle's articles even after he went to the Pacific and he felt Pyle was a top notch American.

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After Germany surrendered, Lewis Guidry went into occupation duty. Guidry drove a jeep for a major. The major told Guidry to help himself to the liquor cabinet that the major maintained. Guidry enjoyed that assignment. While in Berlin, Guidry visited Hitler's bunker. He went in by himself but could not go in far because there was no electricity in the bunker. When the war ended, Guidry and his fellow soldiers were billeted in German houses. There was good food that came from their unit's kitchen that was set up in a railroad depot. Guidry felt that his battery was better off than the other batteries. There was a big party when the war ended. Shortly after the war ended, Guidry found that the 78th Infantry Division would be part of the occupation forces in the American Sector of Berlin along with the 82nd Airborne Division. Guidry would be part of an advanced group for the 78th Division to go to Berlin to keep the battery informed on what was going on. Guidry had enough points to go home so it was difficult for him to go to Berlin. The captain had confidence in Guidry to be part of the advance party into Berlin for the 78th so Guidry decided to do it instead of returning home. The 82nd Airborne Division was already in Berlin as part of the American Sector occupation forces. The 82nd had live ammunition which astounded Guidry. Their live ammunition had been taken away after the war ended. Some of the paratroopers would drink and get rowdy at night. The drunken troops would fire their weapons inside the barracks. Guidry did not understand why their officers were allowing them to have live ammunition and fire their weapons inside a building.

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Lewis Guidry returned home aboard a ship. He sailed on New Year's Day [Annotator's Note: 1 January 1946] from northern Germany through the English Channel. He saw the White Cliffs of Dover. Two weeks into the trip the ship lost an engine. He arrived in New York City. Everybody noticed the Statue of Liberty as they passed it. Guidry had an emotional experience seeing the statue. After going ashore, Guidry was transferred to Camp Shelby [Annotator's Note: Camp Shelby, Mississippi] where he was discharged. He took a train to New Orleans where he stayed with a friend who had more points and was discharged before Guidry. After spending the night with his buddy, he took the train to Lafayette [Annotator's Note: Lafayette, Louisiana]. When Guidry got to Lafayette, he did not see his wife or child. His wife had not received word that he was on his way home. Guidry took a taxi to Breaux Bridge. A friend then took him to Henderson where his wife was living. He had a reunion with his wife but his three year old son did not know him. The last time Guidry had seen his son was when the boy was one year old. His son could speak both French and English. Guidry missed his wife and son during the war but his wife very consistently sent a monthly picture of his son to him throughout the war. He carried those photographs in his pocket all through the war.

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Lewis Guidry thinks it is very important to keep the history of World War 2 alive. A major message is to always try to avoid war. Seeing dead soldiers in a ditch made him think about the dead man's mother who had no idea that her son was laying there dead in a ditch. As a gunner, Guidry feels that he is very fortunate that his hearing and eyesight have held up through the years. Guidry did have psychological issues after the war. One night, his wife woke him up. He was on top of her preparing to hit her. That was the only time something like that happened. The dreams that bother him the most involve an Air Force squadron above him with all the noise that would be there. The sad thing that happened after the war was that he could not even get a refrigerator freezer because there were none available at the time. He and his family had to live in barracks at an Air Force facility because there was no available housing. There was no provision for his return. Guidry did not know that the GI Bill was available to returning service people after World War 2. Guidry's last suggestions to future generations are to be strong at heart, hold to your convictions, and bear them out. Times will get rough occasionally. There were times that Guidry had to eat in the field, in the dark and in the rain, under a steel helmet. It was difficult but the food was good except it was a little soupy. Guidry thanks God for his survival in such a dangerous situation. If Guidry had died in some of the horrible combat circumstances that he witnessed, his parents would never have been able to understand.

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