Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Tracing my 1st Ranger dad - Gela to Nice to Oslo

Discussion in 'Italy, Sicily & Greece' started by wooley12, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    Dad joined the Rangers in Africa when the 1st, 3rd and 4th battalions were formed. He said he joined because he was tired of marching around in a Repodepot. He said the Rangers convinced him that he would be safer with them than the regular infantry. My opinion is that they gave him the hard sell when they found out that he spoke Italian fluently, could drive a mule or a truck and had hunted for dinner at times. I knew my dad maybe better than most. First born son, business partner, care giver and with him at his last moment. He told us kids stories about his experiences but none about the actual combat.The time he was hiding outside of town of Butera before taking it and his partner started to cough.How bad the fleas were on the beach at Gela. How the author of "Invasion Diary" ,Richard Tregaskis, was talking funny and asking for his methel instead of helmet when he was put into the ambulance. I never thought much about it until I began to see some of his stories in war movies. Were his stories his memories or group memories? When when I realized what his part had been I wondered why no signs of PTSD? Dad was active in Ranger reunions, collaborated with John Hummer on his book "An Infantryman's Journal" and put together a good collection of documents that I uploaded to a google album that I linked. I decided to start to document, research and try to understand what it was like working in front of the front. I still have some questions about just where he was at Anzio as part of the 1st Ranger HQ medical unit and how he got from Nice with the FSSF to Buchenwald where he was an interpreter. So here we go. I'll offer as much as I know and hopefully there are Ranger / MTO experts here that can help me fill in the blanks. I have tried to arrange my album chronologically with a picture dump at the end. Thanks. Enjoy.

    https://goo.gl/photos/R8msajKmRgVhugn58
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
    CAC and Otto like this.
  2. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2017
  3. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    First story. Dad was in Africa and it was hot and humid. He and a few others decided to go to a nearby pond for a swim. As they were about to jump in an "older soldier" told them that they should reconsider. The seasoned vet picked up a piece of tree limb and tossed it into the pond. At the sound of the splash the underbrush seemed to come alive with crocs and snakes entering the pond to see what prey had fallen in. His war could have ended right there.
     
  4. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    5,407
    Likes Received:
    720
    A territory boy would have jumped in...but we are D heads!
     
  5. KMZgirl

    KMZgirl Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2007
    Messages:
    329
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    The South
    I can only speak to this: "I wondered why no signs of PTSD?" They were probably there but subsided with time. It presents itself in different ways. My father's symptoms were apparently problematic/severe in the 40's and 50's. By the time I came along (born in the 60's), he had outwardly learned to cope with them well enough that I would never have known had mother not told me. I can also use myself as an example. While I never served, I did experience a traumatic event. As a child, my brother was murdered, shot 6 times with a .38, several in the back while he was running for his life. For years, to be near or to hold a gun made me nauseous. If I didn't tell you, you would not know. Today, over 40 years later, I can usually hold a gun without becoming sick. For years, every time I heard a gun shot, I would have a flashback of my brother running and being shot in the back. It's been about 3 years since the last flashback for me. Again, if I didn't tell you, you would never know. I have great difficulty shooting a gun and generally avoid it, yet I would have no problem or hesitation defending myself. Odd I know, but that's the way it effected me personally. My son in law receives military disability for PTSD. Had my daughter not told me, I would not know. His most often presents in his sleep as nightmares and in waking life as hidden anxiety....
     
    CAC likes this.
  6. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    It could very well be that the PTSD was there but we saw it as his normal personality. Dad did "snap" in anger sometimes. I know that at the time he was wounded in the Chiunzi Pass that 37% of the casualties were psychiatric. I know that the doctor treating him was prescribing a week or two away from the sounds of battle as a treatment for "shell shock" and pulled him off of the front lines. One of the documents in my collection is one releasing him from the hospital on 2/6/45 for "Cardiac Arrythmia in the line of duty" and another document shows him retroactively qualifying for the Combat Medical Badge as of 2/7/45. My theory based on my research is that he was able to bury those memories in the very deepest part of his brain. Given his relationship with the doctor, Sheldon Sommers, I also believe that the recorded documents don't tell the actual story. I'd like to know when he went into the hospital.
     
  7. KMZgirl

    KMZgirl Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2007
    Messages:
    329
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    The South
    It has been my experience that people of that generation pretty much kept quiet about pain, trauma, and sickness. They didn't complain like we do today.
     
  8. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    So it seems. I hope you will review my documents. Any feedback is appreciated.

    Pvt John Gorski was in the first class of Ranges to be trained by the original Rangers. Probably the best and most intensely trained Ranger class in the campaign.He got the full 6+ weeks of training. Later groups were rushed through training in a little as 3 weeks to replace the dead, captured and wounded Rangers through Italy. One of the original Ranges that had trained in Scotland expressed that he felt a bit sorry for how hard the new volunteers were pushed. As he put it "When the Scots trained us they knew at the end they could say goodbye to us. With the men we trained, we knew that our lives would depend on how tough and prepared they were." So my 130lb dad was able to carry 60 lb load a distance of 12 miles in under 3 hours. I don't recall ever seeing him run a step in my life. Another Ranger described the training as a PHD in how to survive in combat.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
  9. KMZgirl

    KMZgirl Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2007
    Messages:
    329
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    The South
    I'll go take a look now. I have a special interest in Rangers, but not too much knowledge.
     
  10. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    Mid June of 1943. The training at Nemours done, the Rangers moved to Zeralda outside of Algirers. One of the skills that was taught here was Defendu or Gutter Fighting. It was a style of hand to hand combat developed by a policeman in Shanghai.the 1920's to combat the gangs. An interesting story in itself. I wonder if that training had a role in this post war incident? About 15 years after the war, dad got a very good paying sales job with a company that brutally pushed the sales force to perform. At one sales meeting a guy actually had a nervous breakdown. It was at one of these meeting that an executive was in dad's face and poked him in the chest with his finger to make a point. Dad grabbed the finger and told the guy "If you ever do that again, I'll break your finger off." An action that was completely out of character for my father. Except that he never was able to have a verbal confrontation and walk away from it. I'm the same way.

    A 1941 training film

     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  11. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    In the album that I've linked is a biography that John wrote in the 1990's. Since a part of my study to understand the social dynamics of the time, I think some of the facts are pertinent to understanding his war. John was born of new Polish immigrants in 1920, maybe 1921. The 1940 census has a question mark. That year was the historic peak in the percentage of the US immigrant population. About 14% and about the same as it is today. As a young teen he worked as a golf caddy at a country club. This was at a time when class division was such that professional golfers were not always allowed to dress in the clubhouse. Golf would play a role in his surviving the war. I also thought it was interesting that the bio stopped after he told of volunteering. "Not out of bravery but rather boredom and wanting to do something for the war."

    The fact that he was not sure of what year his birthday was came up once at the end of his life and he used it to his advantage. He was being given a birthday party by the folks where he got his dialysis three times a week. When they posed for a picture under a banner that read HAPPY 89TH BIRTHDAY JOHN he asked one of the nurses to sit on his lap. She told him that she could only sit on the laps of patients that were 90. So he told her that there was a good chance that he was 90 and in the picture she is on his lap and the sign has the 89 crossed out and "Maybe 90" written in.
     
    CAC likes this.
  12. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    Time for Operation Husky. The invasion of Sicily. The largest movement of men and equipment in a WWII beach invasion. John almost didn't make it. What he told me was that some of the seasoned vets had taught the new volunteers how to shorten the fuses on grenades, motors and such. Someone in his platoon got it wrong and during the boarding process there was an explosion. "BOOM!! A guy over there was in pieces, another one missing an arm, another a leg shredded. And I got some shrapnel in my wrist." He got no Purple Heart and was able to make the invasion and had a surprise when he met the nurse was his cousin that lived nearby.

    In 2004 John received this letter and news clipping.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    Fake News? Government propaganda? Fog of war? The article states that he was blown up once and shot once. He actually was blown up twice and never mentioned getting shot.
     
  14. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    I was fortunate to have a record of the names of the men of the 1st Ranger Btn. C Co.from Hummer's bookwho traind and invaded Sicily with John. With that info and the internet I've been able to learn where they came from, who they were, what they did after the war.

    Captain Chuck Shunstrom - Co. "C" Commanding officer. Original Ranger. 20 years old. A born warrior from blue collar Boston. Gym rat and martial arts student as a young teen. Better looking than Errol Flynn. Nick named "The Wild Man of the Anzio Beachhead". An original G.I. Joe and had a bit part in the 1945 G. I. Joe movie Tragic end to his life from PTSD compounded with a Dishonorable Discharge that was posthumously reversed.

    Charles Shunstrom.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2017
  15. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    John Hummer. Bazooka. Author of the book "An Infantryman's Diary". He became a Roman Catholic in part because Father Basil (who left Britain as a stow away to be with the Rangers when they shipped out for Africa) would give dry socks to the Rangers who came for religious lessons during the campaign in the Italian mountains. Hummer was returning to Naples,Italy from a hospital in Africa while the rest of the 1st battalion was spearheading the invasion at Anzio. Instead of heading directly to rejoin his unit he stopped by a whore house for a day or two and the MP's had him in the stockade when word came down that the 1st Battalion had been wiped out at Cisterna. Hummer remained in the Army and served in Korea and Viet Nam.
     
  16. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    7,876
    Likes Received:
    966
    I think your letting your conformation bias show here with 'Fake News', though Propaganda and Fog of War are very real.

    A few years ago a friend and neighbor asked if I would help in a search for his wife's Uncle who had been killed in France. As usual the rogues here were superb and pointed me in the right direction. Officially the Army stated that he had died of wounds inflicted in defense of a ridge during the 'Nordwind' offensive on January 1st, 1945. The real story was much more involved and tragic.

    He was in the 70th Infantry Division who landed as a follow up unit after Operation Anvil. In the movement north to the German frontier he was slightly wounded and sent off the line to recuperate, only arriving back to his regiment literally hours after the start of the German follow up offensive to the Battle of the Bulge. Conditions were so chaotic that he never made it back to his original battalion, but was assigned to a under strength ad hoc 'company' made up of returning wounded, odds and sods from HQ /support units and about 20 odd new fish from the 'Repple-Depple' center. Plugged into the line just before dark they had neither time to familiarize themselves with the ground, the troops on either flank or with one another to any great degree.

    Either by luck or good local intell, the German assault that night was weighted on the half of the ridge held by the scratch company which was over run and about a dozen American's were taken PoW's, including the gentleman I was researching. Officially the Army reported him KIA on or about this ridge that night, but a member in a flanking company knew the man and saw him being taken away showing no serious injury. Being injured himself shortly later and not being asked until much later this never went up the chain of command and was related years after the war to a vet compiling a unit history.

    He was marched around for two days, never making it to PoW camp until he was caught in a American artillery barrage aimed at interdicting a road crossing on January 3rd. He was buried near the crossing and not found by a US Graves Registration till about a week later was then interned into US military cemetery in France. Officially his fight and death were never completely told to the family, all they had was the initial and hasty report and of course he was just one among thousands killed that week. He was luckier than most, his remains were found and he got a decent and honorable burial, only his niece would know of confusion in his last battle or the sad irony of being killed by his own countrymen in a ill timed artillery barrage.

    Propaganda? not really, though much of that flowed down from the top to maintain moral and a belief that their loved one's were winning the war. In some cases events were simply moving too fast to tell the story fully and often a man's buddies would sanitize his effects and story to soften the blow of a death to a mother, wife or family.
     
  17. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    Tragic story. One of thousands from the war. I recently discovered that one of the men in Johns 474th Service co. died on Oct. 14, 1945. The day before the ship sailed taking them home from Oslo to NYC.
     
  18. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    PFC Wallace Kidder - 2nd Scout in John's platoon section. 20 years old from Geribaldi,Oregon. His dad ran a pool hall and his mom had a wholesale butchering business. Wallace was in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940 according to the 1940 census. There must have been a huge benefit in ramping up for the war with the addition of the 1 million young men of the CCC. They were already accustomed to living in camps run buy the military, living in barracks,getting fit in the manual labor jobs they did and working as teams. Instant infantryman, corporals and sergeants. John must have been close to Wallace as a studio portrait was in his memorabilia and is pictured in "An infantry Man's Journal"

    This photo was taken in either Sicily or Italy. Only after a Ranger had been on an invasion did he get to wear the scroll. And a promotion to PFC

    Kidder front.jpg
     
  19. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    5,407
    Likes Received:
    720
    thousand yard stare...
     
  20. wooley12

    wooley12 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2017
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    38
    I see that in my avatar too.

    Wallace was KIA at Mt Como Venafro, Italy on 11/12/43. From his obituary "He is survived by his wife and a 10-month-old son whom he has never seen; this parents and a brother, Billy Kidder, stationed at pearl Harbor with the navy." When I found the obit, I decided to try to find his son and give him or his heirs the studio portrait. I found his brother William's obit on line and was able to contact William's daughter. She was able to give me the wife's ("Wife? Girlfriend? We were never sure.") name, Joyce, and her last name with her 2nd husband. Goggle gave me Joyce's obit. The son, Wally Jr. Had died in 2006 but the obit gave names of 3 other children by her 2nd husband. Google gave me the home phone number for her son Steve. I called and a woman answered. I explained what I was doing and she told me that Junior had never been married and had no children "Except maybe that 19 year old girl who came through town once claiming to be his daughter." End of the search for me.
     
    Buten42 likes this.

Share This Page