Becoming a Soldier

Being Wounded and Treatment

Returning Home and Reflections


Robert C. Andry was born in March 1925 in Chastang, Alabama. He attended Catholic school through high school. Once he turned 18 years old, Andry was drafted into the military. It was mandatory for 18 year olds to be drafted immediately into the military. Andry was drafted at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, but did his basic training at Fort Knox [Annotator's Note: Fort Knox, Kentucky]. After completing his training, he was transferred to Fort Hood [Annotator's Note: Fort Hood, Texas]. He did not find basic training to be difficult, but it was not easy. When Andry left for the service, his sister also left home to become a nun in New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana]. His parents were upset, but proud. Andry was first introduced to the Sherman tank [Annotator's Note: M-4 Sherman medium tank] at Fort Knox. He trained there for six to eight months. He experienced snow for the first time there. At Fort Hood, he was told what his job would be. Andry joined the 761st Tank Battalion as the tank turret gunner. He worked in an M-4 tank. Five men operated the tank. Andry did not know where he would be, but he was trained to fight in Europe. He trained there from August to November. Andry was trained for the invasion of Normandy [Annotator's Note: Normandy, France], but there was a change in the plan, so he did not participate in the invasion.


After completing training, Robert Andry boarded a ship in New York [Annotator's Note: New York, New York] bound for England. The trip took 16 days. After arriving in England, Andry had to wait for some time for his equipment to arrive. In October [Annotator's Note: October 1944], he was transferred to Normandy [Annotator's Note: Normandy, France], then to Nancy, France, until he was assigned to General Patton [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr.]. Patton told the battalion they were the first black combat unit to fight in his Army. He told them the eyes of the country were on them and not to let him down. There were 1,100 men in the unit [Annotator's Note: 761st Tank Battalion (Colored)]. The majority of them were black, but they had white officers. Not long after arriving, the battalion experienced its first fight. Andry remembered being wounded near Metz [Annotator's Note: Metz, France]. That morning, as the men in his tank prepared to move out, Andry prayed. After arriving in Marville, France, he came in contact with German bazooka fire. His tank was hit by a bazooka shell. The shell exploded in front of Andry's position, causing a reservoir on the tank to explode, sending hot water into his face, as well as shrapnel in his arms and legs. He passed out from the hit. The gun loader was also hit in the face. Andry was pulled out of the tank and given treatment for his wounds. He regained consciousness after leaving the tank. They dug a trench and put him in it after giving him morphine. Andry laid there for roughly 12 hours until a medic and chaplain arrived. He was sent to a field hospital, then to Paris, France, where he remained for a couple of weeks before moving back to England. Andry received several operations in England before being shipped back to the United States. He returned on the Queen Mary [Annotator's Note: RMS Queen Mary]. Andry had a cast on one arm and the other was in a sling. From New York, he was transferred to Memphis, Tennessee, where he remained from February to August [Annotator's Note: February to August 1945]. He still cannot bend one arm all of the way. Doctors considered amputating the arm until Andry told them to leave it alone. He believes he received good treatment. He was put in a segregated part of the hospital for recovery.


Robert Andry was discharged from the Army in August 1945. He was told he would be able to go on leave [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time] after he could walk. He took a late bus to the train station. While waiting for his train, he started walking around outside of the station when a white man approached him and told him to go to the back. He prayed for guidance and wondered what he had been fighting for. He felt pride for fighting for his country. He arrived home early in the morning, which surprised his family. He was not able to tell his parents he was visiting beforehand. His mother and brothers ran out to greet him. They had been preparing to go to Sunday mass. The family attended church, where the congregation welcomed Andry home. After his discharge, he had some difficulty readjusting, but did not talk about his experiences. Andry used the G. I. Bill to go to a correspondence school, working in electronics. He started working at an electronics store. He worked there for some time before going to work at a hardware store. The owner retired and wanted to give Andry part of the business. That did not work out, so Andry staretd working at a chemical plant until he retired. Andry believes The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] is a wonderful tribute to the people that served in the war. He wanted to climb onto the tank there, but was not allowed. He enjoyed his visit to the museum. He saw a display on his battalion [Annotator's Note: 761st Tank Battalion (Colored)]. He did not keep in touch with the men in his unit. He saw one man in Mobile [Annotator's Note: Mobile, Alabama], but has not seen anyone else. At Fort Hood, Texas, Andry served with Jackie Robinson [Annotator's Note: then US Army First Lieutenant Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson; famous Major League Baseball player who played a significant role in desegregating baseball], but he was discharged for being pigeon-toed. Robinson had been in the 92nd Division before transferring to Andry's unit.

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