This picture was taken after Capt. Baynes (left) and Lt. Quarles (center) escaped from the German POW train.
Here he is recieving a medal from the beloved General Walker in Italy March of 1944. He looks like a very squared away and tough fellow.
HQ at the Rapido River as company commander of Co. H
They had just received these parkas. Imagine trying to dig a fox hole in that rocky ground. The Germans always had the high ground and were well entrenched.
I joined Co. "F" 143rd Inf at Camp Blanding as a second lieutenant in late winter 1942. A large number of officers were sent to the 36th from Ft. McClellan, Alabama. When we arrived the the only officers in the 2nd Bn were the company commanders in each company. By summer maneuvers in N. and S. Carolina we had a full complement of officers.The 143rd was in divison reserve when the landing took place at Paestum, Italy. German artillery was landing on the beach. Co "F" had Lt Hauck and Plat. Sgt. Napper KIA. Three days later at night the 2nd Bn by order of the corps comdr. took the place of the 179th Inf. 45th Division in a wide gap between the British and the Americans. The German armor enveloped the left side of the Bn where Co. "F" was located. Twenty two of Co "F" were killed. Many grievously wounded, many captured. I had a man on each side of me killed.
13 September 1943
My remembrance of this date and the events leading up to it have never been fully put down on paper except in the notebook hereinafter mentioned. Attached is an award dated 20 April 1944.
On the afternoon of September 12, 1943, a Sunday, the 2nd Battalion, 143rd Inf. was in Division reserve in a middle position behind all of the regiments of the 36th Division when we were ordered to take a position behind where the 179th Infantry of the 45th Division was located. Why this took place is best described in the book written by Captain Clarence Ferguson, the S-3 of the battalion, who accompanied Lt. Col. Charles H. Jones, the battalion commander, to regimental headquarters to receive his orders. Suffice it to say, the corps commander had decided to replace the regiment of the 45th Division, who had taken a beating by the Germans, with our battalion.
Lt. Col. Jones immediately took the company commanders by motor transport to an area behind the 179th in order to view the location in daylight and thus be able to direct their companies in the dark to where they were to set up their positions. The four companies were to leave immediately on foot led by their executive officers to the area and upon arrival in the middle of the night set up. As the companies were not close to each other they each proceeded by compass in the most direct route.
I led company "F" in a column of twos across country, cutting wire fences as we went. In one field water buffalo attacked us. I had riflemen shoot them. I well remember, after darkness had fallen, passing through a small village. Not a single light was seen or sound was heard. It was not until long after midnight that we met Captain Bayne and he guided us to where each platoon was to set up. Unfortunately, there was a dead German who had begun to decompose close to where we wanted to locate the company CP. I had him covered with dirt as soon as possible. The ground was so hard it was difficult. The 179th in a column of twos soon passed through the Company, as we straddled the main road, which was no more then a narrow dirt road. Years later in talking to my son in law's father, a member of a Heavy Weapons Company of the 179th , we realized that he must have passed right by me.
Company "E" was on the right, Company "F" was on the left. Company "G" was across the front as a shielding force. Company "H" had machine gun positions among "E" and "F". The 81 MM mortars were behind the battalion position.
There were no friendly troops on our right or on our left. No artillery support.
The Battalion position was on a plain between two rivers, the Calore and the Sele, that flow West but come together to form one stream to the sea. The Italians had an army post called Persano with many buildings a distance behind us. The Post covered the entire plain extending for a few miles East of our position. The Battalion anti- tank section had two 57 mm guns facing East behind "F" to cover the road. We now know the Germans not only were in front of us but had a column on the North side of the river on our left side and came in behind us through the Post proper. It was a busy time seeing that everybody was prepared. Of course artillery or mortar fire fell on us. It was not until after I fired my carbine did I realize that Bryan Brittain who was on the right side of the road and five feet from me was dead. Brittain was the much beloved mail orderly and barber for the company. I could hear a tank coming from the rear, then three Germans came by me and I fired with my carbine, knocking all three down. Immediately more Germans were there and recognizing the inevitability I dropped my carbine and stood up. I saw then that John Espenshade, a runner, who was on the opposite side of the road and by the culvert that we had designated the CP was also dead. A large German Sergeant with a US 45 in his right hand stood in front of me and was obviously very upset over the three dead Germans. At that point I was excited and upset also. We had a shouting match when Lt. Bill Swanson, a platoon leader, stepped between us. Later, when I asked Swanson how he kept the German from shooting me, he said that he pointed to a machine gun position in the field near us as the culprit. In a few minutes the Germans shot into bodies to make sure the Americans were not playing possum.
Just a few years ago Bob Nowell , our capable Mess Sergeant, told me that he was in charge of the detail that was designated to retrieve the bodies of the twenty two men
of "F" Company that were killed in that brief engagement. T/5 Brittain had told him that he had over $300.00 that he had won shooting dice and if he got killed to be sure to take the money and send it to his mother. Nowell said that removing the money from the breast pocket of the badly decomposed body of his friend was the worst job he ever had to do.
That night the enlisted men were placed in a stone horse barn and the officers were guarded outside. It was cool and we were attired in wool shirt and trousers.
We lay down in two lines, stomach to back, to get the warmth from each other. Before we lay down I asked a guard to take me back to the Company CP that was nearby so I could obtain my toilet articles. On the way I asked him why he did not take my wrist watch. He replied that he would be subject to court martial if he took it. The guard spoke good English as did many of the Germans.
I had been struck in the buttocks by small fragments. In all the excitement I paid no attention to the seat of my pants and the fragments were not removed until several days later by a doctor when we were held for a day in a machine shop enclosure. The doctor had a kit with him and sat on a overturned bucket while he probed the inflamed area. No Purple Heart. It was established later that none were to be awarded by our outfit unless there was a hospital stay.
This area had been an Italian army post known as Persano since Italy had unified and become a country in the 1860s. It was primarily a cavalry post and although I did not see them, I heard that horses had been struck by artillery and were charging around with intestines hanging down uttering screams that only a wounded horse could give. Visiting Persano after the War, I was impressed by the architecture, and the many buildings that we did not see in 1943.
Each officer and non commissioned officer had been issued a small notebook before we left N. Africa. It would fit in your breast pocket. In some manner I listed all 68 names of the Company "F" men that were captured with their army serial numbers. I have no idea how I did the listing because the officers and men were kept apart. Unfortunately, I have misplaced that little book. I made a sort of diary of it and Capt. Bayne and I wrote Italian phrases in it while we were behind the German lines.
There was a lieutenant in another company of the battalion who was on the same orders with me that sent a number of junior officers from Fort McClellan to join the 36th Division in early 1942. The two of us walked together at the end of the column of prisoners and kept looking for some way to get away. The Germans kept a close watch. They had made us discard our helmets so any bareheaded man could be distinguished. It was not until we were aboard a box car seven days later and I found a door that had not been latched did we see a chance. We waited until late that night when the train was going up a grade to get off. Capt. Carl Bayne, my company commander, overheard us and when my friend said he was not going, the Captain wanted to go with me. Then came some weeks of an interesting time. Most regretfully, Captain Bayne was killed at the Rapido River crossing in January, 1944 while serving as Battalion S-3 and I took his place. The night before the crossing we had a long conversation in the battalion command post where I was stationed as commander of the Heavy Weapons Company. He had just received a letter from his wife who had been in communication with my mother. We had become very close in the weeks after our escape.
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