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US Army in Czechoslovakia '45: An Operational Overview
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Battles of Luneville: September 1944
Visual Guide to US Fleet Subs Pt 1
Lodge Act Soldier
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Turning East: Hitler's only option
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WWII Veteran Interview
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US Army in Czechoslovakia '45 to '48
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Sir Winston Churchill
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Interview of a WWII Veteran
Failure and Destruction
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Operation Rusty: The Gehlen-U.S. Army Connection
Was Hitler right to invade Russia?
Hitler, Germany's Worst General
Surface Actions of World War II
MacArthur's Failures in the Philippines
Japan's Monster Sub
Popski's Private Army
The Soviet Formula for Success
Japan's TA Operation
Hitler Youth: An Effective Organization
After Midway: The Fates of the Warships
Barbarossa: Strategic Miscalculation
The Story of a "Go Devil"
Long Range Desert Group
Island of Death
The Failure of Operation Barbarossa
The Liberation of Czechoslovakia 1945
Only the Admirals were Happy
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Good Grief Sir, We're in Trier!
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Guy Nasuti Articles
Hitler Youth: An Effective Organization
Lafayette Escadrille Pilots
Giuseppe Garibaldi
The Story of a "Go Devil"

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G. I. Wetherell: The Story of a "Go Devil"
G. I. Wetherell: The Story of a "Go Devil"
by Guy Nasuti

Private Guy Irvine Wetherell was a twenty-one year old rifleman, a "Go Devil" in Company I, 60th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division who fought in the Cotentin Peninsula of France until being wounded in July 1944. Following the divergent paths of Private Wetherell and those of his regiment using letters, medical records, and other primary and secondary sources, a clearer picture emerges of one soldier's small role in combat, his wounding, and recovery away from the theater of war.

Guy Wetherell trained with the 78th Infantry Division after being drafted in March 1943. Throughout his time with the 78th, Private Wetherell made the most of army life. In a letter to his parents, dated 21 March 1943, he writes:

"We arrived at Camp Butner…. We are supposed to be classified tomorrow…. Do you know what this camp is? A camp for infantry and field artillery. They call it the 78th Division or "Lightning" Division, and we were going in the Air Corps….We are now in the infantry for good."

It is apparent that Wetherell's confusion was caused by the hope that he would enter the Air Corps, considering he was working in Columbus, Ohio as an aircraft mechanic before being drafted. Throughout his time with the 78th, he often mentions and holds out hope that he can put in for a transfer to the Air Corps. But this hope never materialized.[1]

In boot camp, Private Wetherell trained hard and had no shortage of excitement. According to a letter home dated 4 April 1943, he and two of his buddies had gone to a movie when

"A fellow rushed in & said for the 310th Infantry men that were there to report back to their barracks at once. We ran all the way back to the barracks & there they told us to put on our fatigue clothes, to get our rifles & bayonets, to draw steel helmets and to fall out….We drove to Durham before we found out what was going on. It seems that a gang of negroes got in a fight with some M.P.s from camp. They killed two of the M.P.s & drove off the rest. When we arrived in town we went right down to colored town & there was a whole mob of negroes….The officers with us were pretty sore about the two soldiers that had been killed & I thought they were going to pull their revolvers & start shooting. Instead they told us to fix bayonets & start walking forward, you should have seen that crowd run….The M. P.s now have orders to shoot if any negro makes the slightest hostile move."[2]

Private Wetherell was also instructed in many other things besides bayonet drills, riot control, and how to fire his M-1 Garand rifle. He was taught how to swim (a necessity for the upcoming amphibious invasion of France), and how to defend himself with ju-jitsu and judo. In July, he found out to his delight that he would be promoted to corporal, and was also made a squad leader a month later, which gave him added responsibilities. At the end of August, he joined the company boxing team, which allowed him to "get off early because of training for the fight." In a letter dated 28 August 1943, he writes of his first fight:

"I was fighting a pretty good boy & lost the fight on a knockdown in the last 30 seconds. I had the fight all sewed up until then. I broke this fellows nose in the 2nd round & had him bleeding all over the place. I could have got a knock-out but I was just too tired."

A flyer he sent with the letter declares "Boxing Tonite: 1930 at the 310th Open Arena Rear of 3rd Bn. Hdqtrs. 7 Scrappy Bouts. All 310th Scrappers. See them in action Tonite!" On the flyer, Guy Wetherell of Company F was scheduled to fight a man identified only by his last name, Erchol, the man whose nose he broke, from Company E.[3]

A basketball enthusiast who played for the 1940 State Champion Pickerington High School in Ohio, Private Wetherell joined the 2nd Battalion basketball team. In a letter to his parents Hannah and Guy S. Wetherell he writes:

"We played the Tenn. State Guards last Sat. & beat them. I got 12 points. We are going to play some college team tonight. Our battalion commander really likes basketball & the players are getting some breaks….(we) get showers that way where the rest of the men don't."[4]

Apparently, the 2nd Battalion squad's basketball team was good enough to play against college teams. In the same letter, he writes that "we are supposed to play Vanderbilt in 2 weeks." It was the last basketball game he ever played. Near the end of 1944 he would sadly remark, "It doesn't look like I'll ever get to play the game any more."[5]

In September 1943, Wetherell's promotion to corporal came through. He managed to keep his stripes for five full months before an incident which he related to his family in one of the last letters home before being wounded in July of the next year:

"Would the family feel too bad if I was made a private? The mess sergeant got smart the other day when I was going through the mess line & I was forced to knock him down. My platoon leader was there & said he had it coming, but I don't know about the C. O. I think it will all blow over because this guy has been asking for it for a long time but has been getting away with it."

Apparently the incident did not blow over. The next letter home to his family is postmarked 18 August 1944, one month to the day after Private Wetherell's wounding in Normandy. This six month gap in correspondence home can only be speculated upon. Any letters home may have been destroyed, they may have been lost, or Private Wetherell may never have had time to write, being too busy with training and combat. What is telling is the change in tone of the letters once they pick up again in mid- September and early November. Gone are the lengthy 3-to-4 page letters describing every aspect of army life and his emotions about his experiences. The later letters are more formal, and one notices a vast change from the earlier writings.[6]

In several letters home in late 1943, Wetherell had stated that some of the men in his unit were already being shipped overseas. Undoubtedly some of these men also wound up in various regiments of the 9th or 1st Infantry Divisions, which were veteran divisions that had seen combat in both North Africa and Sicily, and were taking on "green" troops to strengthen their numbers. Being thrown in with veterans of the 60th Infantry Regiment, known as the "Go Devils," Wetherell was bitter that the army had dismantled the division piecemeal instead of sending it over together as a group. "I certainly hate to see the boys all split up. That's the only thing the boys don't like." Men who had trained together for months were now going to new outfits where they would be strangers to combat veterans.[7]

According to Wetherell's Report of Separation paper, he left the United States on 12 May 1944 for the Eastern Theater of Operations. He arrived in England on 25 May, less than two weeks before the invasion of Normandy on 6 June. This would offer him very little time to get to know the men with whom he would fight with.[8] According to P. F. C. Donald E. Crass, a replacement rifleman in Company F, 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, "I felt lost amongst all strangers felt like a missfit (sic). After one established himself things changed." He also added that veterans were "happy to receive us to fill out the squad. In fact one Sargt. told us I've gone thru Africa and all the way but this doesn't make me bulletproof. He was killed a few days later."[9]

The 9th, being one of the few veteran divisions that would land in Normandy, had a proud history. They had fought in the North African Theater of Operations, and took part in "Operation Torch" in Algiers and other parts of Morocco. They also conducted combat operations in Tunisia (where Rommel's famed "Afrika Korps" were smashed). From there, elements of the division landed in Sicily in early July 1943, while the rest of the 9th landed near Palermo on 1 August 1943. For the next three months, the Americans of the 9th would fight hard to push the Nazis out of Sicily. On 11 November 1944, the 9th Infantry Division had left Sicily for Winchester, England. In Joseph Mittelman's book Eight Stars to Victory: A History of the Veteran Ninth U. S. Infantry Division, he states:

"At Winchester and Bushfield the 60th moved into its new billets….Those who went to Winchester Barracks….found a hot meal awaiting their arrival. The 60th Rifles of the British Army formerly had been stationed here and the British 'made much of this.'"

A training schedule was soon set up. First, the regiments of the 9th were instructed in "manners and customs." Followed by an examination, those who passed were issued daily passes into Winchester or London, where curious soldiers could sight-see and visit "Piccadilly Circus, Rainbow Corner, Buckingham Palace, Leicester Square, Lyon's Corner House, high-priced street walkers, tours of a battered metropolis, the Underground….and girls, girls, girls."[10]

It was at Camp Bushfield, near Winchester, where the 60th trained and rested for the invasion of France. According to Morton J. Stussman's Follow Thru, the 60th discounted German rumors quoted by the BBC and other broadcasting stations from London about the invasion of the continent. "It all seemed vague and distant until April 6 when the Ninth moved to Boscome, suburb of Bournemouth. And then it looked as though all of the invasion troops must be there in Southern England, facing the sea."[11]

Mittelman claims that a "more comprehensive study" of the VII Corps plan of invasion (of which the 9th was part of) included the cutting of the Cotentin Peninsula. This would "cut off the enemy to the north and pave the way for capture of Cherbourg, the only major port on the invasion peninsula." The capture of Cherbourg would allow for the Allies to more easily bring in troops and supplies to the mainland via a permanent port. It would be the "Veteran Ninth Infantry Division" that would ultimately cut the peninsula for VII Corps, and also would "be a major factor in the capture of Cherbourg." Such a victory was still some weeks away, and the fighting in France would prove to be more difficult than any Allied leader could have prophesized. At 0600 hours on 6 June 1944, the regiment moved out of Bournemouth to the West End Railroad Station. At 0930, word came over a portable radio that American, British and Canadian troops had landed along the coastal strip of Normandy.[12]

According to Robert Cardinell's The S-3 Journal of the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, the Ninth Infantry Division: Handwritten During the Period 9 June 1944 Through 4 April 1945: Names of 30 Men , of which Private Wetherell was a member, the battalion arrived at the docks of Southampton, England at 1725 on 9 June 1944. At 1830, they embarked on the "Empire Cutless (sic)." At 2100 hours, the ship pulled out for France. On D-day plus 5, 10 June 1944, the 9th Infantry Division began coming ashore at Utah Beach. On 11 June 1944, the journal states that at 1120 the battalion: "Hit shore of France & came under arty (artillery) fire." After this, at 1425, the "Bn moved into assy (assembly) area in vic (vicinity) of St. Marie du Mont." On 13 June, the battalion began moving out of the area. By the next day, the 60th began their combat in France. At 0930, the journal reports that "Co's (Companies) I & K start off in atk (attack)." This attack was outside of St. Marie du Mont and began the 9th's drive towards Cherbourg in the Cotentin Peninsula. By 1150 the morning of 14 June, Private Wetherell's Company I was aided by Company L, which had been pinned down by "Enemy SP (Self-Propelled) gun" that was reported to be in front of the companies. The enemy was pushed back by the 60th and their Commanding Officer, Colonel Frederick J. de Rohan. Four days later, the 60th had pushed towards the vicinity of Barneville-sur-Mer, and assisted the 39th Infantry in rounding up German prisoners.[13]

Andrew Rawson's Battleground Europe Normandy: Cherbourg: 4th, 9th and 79th U. S. Infantry Divisions states that Major-General Manton S. Eddy, Commanding Officer of the 9th Infantry Division, passed word onto Colonel de Rohan that he wanted the small town of Barneville-sur-Mer captured as soon as possible. Passing on the statement, "we're going all the way tonight" the plan was for armor to drive Company K into the town while the rest of 3rd Battalion occupied the ridge that overlooked it. This was accomplished by sending five Sherman tanks, four tank-destroyers and four halftracks loaded with infantry down to the sea. German resistance melted away, and by dawn of 19 June, the armored column had seized the town. The 9th Division's lightning advance had "cut the escape route from the peninsula in record time, leaving thousands of German troops cut off from the rest of Seventh Army."[14]

The S-3 journal entry for 22 June 1944 states that: "Today is the day decided upon for the final push to take Cherbourg." This kicked off with an air mission at 1240 that lasted for "80 minutes." At 1400, the jump off and attack began. At 1510, Private Wetherell's Company I reported having made contact with Red Battalion, or the 60th Regiments 1st Battalion. Private Wetherell, in an interview conducted in the early 1990's, remembered that around this time:

"I was ordered to go out and find some men from my outfit that had become separated from the main body. As I started out, I heard the clicking of a machine gun behind me. When I turned to look, I saw a German pointing a machine gun at me. As I began to run as fast as I could, he began firing. The bullets kicked up the dirt behind me, when ahead of me I saw a small stone wall. When I jumped behind it, the guys I had been sent to find were sitting in a circle behind it. As I landed in the middle of them, they all pointed their rifles at me. I had scared the hell out of them, but I was scared too. I began yelling, "Don't shoot! I'm an American!"

Wetherell never said where in France this had happened, and speculation could lead one to identify several possible locations outside any number of small towns in the French countryside. What is interesting is that at 1515, an entry in the S-3 journal claims that "Machine gun fire is heard in the distance to our front." Perhaps this specific entry was relating to the frightening but yet somewhat comical adventures of young Private Wetherell?[15]

Although the 9th Division had begun capturing and liberating French towns in the Cotentin Peninsula in mid-to-late June, German resistance was stubborn. Often after being pushed out of a town, the Germans would counterattack, trying to regain ground they had earlier lost. Such was the case around Barneville-sur-Mer and the town St. Jacques de Nehou, where a German attack was severely crushed, resulting in casualties to the Germans of 300 killed and wounded, while the Americans lost forty-five men. Other attempts by small groups of German troops to try and break through the 60th Regiment's cordon failed as well. The three infantry regiments of the 9th were now put into position along the west bank of the Douve River and continued attacking. 3rd Battalion was deployed near the coast of Cherbourg, covering the regiment's open flank. In brutal hedgerow fighting, Colonel de Rohan's battalions began requesting armor support. One tank began firing upon a position held by 2nd Battalion. General Eddy "was far from happy by 60th Regiment's progress and made his feelings known during a visit to Colonel de Rohan's headquarters." With all of this chaos going on, de Rohan ordered 3rd Battalion forward to secure the high ground overlooking the town of Acqueville. This was accomplished, and frustrations ceased for awhile.[16]

The hedgerow fighting in Normandy has become legendary and remains infamous to men who fought there. Coleman Gronseth, the Commanding Officer of Company M, 60th Infantry Regiment remembered some forty-three years later: "Fighting in hedgerow country was dreadful. A hedgerow was an earthen mass with rocks and roots from trees and brush binding all together…."

Charles Willsher, the Battalion Sergeant Major of the 3rd Battalion, recalled that the terrain of the Cotentin Peninsula was

"Hedgerow country. Small fields with thick dirt embankments, trees and brush growing out of them. The Germans had dug deep trenches behind the hedgerows and covered them with timbers, so it was almost impossible for artillery to get at them. They had machine guns emplaced so they could fire through the hedgerows and had placed tanks, covering them with bushes. You had to practically dig them out."

Willsher also noted that the Germans

"Would withdraw a few hedgerows, leaving a small force to fight. It was slow going but we kept driving them out. Their snipers would kill off a few of us and then want to surrender. We didn't take many prisoners."

Orville Stangl, a 2nd Lieutenant who joined the 60th Infantry in July 1944, remembers,

"The closer we got to BN the more war casualties we were seeing, wrecked equipment, dead farm animals, dead German soldiers, and occasional American dead….the stench of war was everywhere, a smell hard to get used to at first, but in time was accepted as being normal on the front. It is a stench that can't be described, and one that will remain in my memory forever."[17]

Lieutenant James G. Colford was a platoon leader in Company I, 60th Infantry Regiment. In a letter to his brother Fred dated 25 August 1944, Lt. Colford asks Fred:

"Come on with me and I'll show you a typical day here….take a look in that ditch-it's a German motorcycle that has been strafed by our planes. The driver is probably around here someplace. Whew! You couldn't miss him could you? He didn't get that fat on army food. You can bet he's been dead about a week….There's a German truck completely burned up and a German Mark VI tank that looks as though giant hands tore it apart…. There's some of your dead Boche. Most of them are lying on their backs which may or may not be due to the bloated condition of the body. Get up-wind and you can get close enough to see that what little flesh is left on face and head is as black as black leather."

Lt. Colford continues to graphically recount what he has seen in the French countryside:

"They (the bodies) do seem to be moving, but it isn't of their own free will. See the potato masher type of grenade still fastened to their belts and their equipment scattered around. They must have been caught flat- footed. There's one of our men. Poor guy didn't have time to dig a hole to protect himself from bomb hits- you can see where a bomb fragment ripped into his back. Hope he never knew what hit him….Powerful stuff, eh? Ha ha ha….My day is different from yours 'cause its more educational."[18]

Unlike Gronseth, Stangl, and Wetherell, Lieutenant Colford did not survive the war. Gronseth and Stangl later wrote memoirs several years after the war, and Colford recorded what he had seen on the spot in letters to his brother. Wetherell, the only one of the four men to have been an enlisted man, left no such memoirs. Joanna Burke, a Professor of History at the University of London, wrote an article titled "Remembering War." In it, she claims that the victors "suffered guilt" more than defeated soldiers because they "killed, and killed relentlessly, yet were rewarded for it." Burke goes on to say that combatants were "reluctant to speak about killing not out of modesty but because they wanted to avoid facing a 'humiliating memory.'" This humiliation results from having to "remember the fear he experienced and the threatening depth of his own emotions, so different from what he had been taught all his life." None of the officers' letters or memoirs contain any statements or recollections about having killed an enemy soldier. But Wetherell, upon giving his grandson a souvenir of a Nazi patch taken off of a German overseas cap, was asked how he came by it and said matter-of-factly, "I took it off the man I killed." When asked how he killed the German, Wetherell responded, "With my rifle."[19]

On 25 June 1944, the 47th Infantry of the 9th entered Cherbourg. Several forts inside the port city still had to be captured, and ships of the American Navy appeared just outside the harbor to help. Not being able to inflict much damage on the German positions, the 9th continued to press their attack. Shortly, they were able to enter one of the subterranean forts and captured the Commanding General of the German 709th Infantry Division, Lieutenant Karl Wilhelm Von Schlieben, who had previously exacted a no-surrender pledge from his men. With the capture of Cherbourg, the 9th Division was touted as 'Hitler's Nemesis.' The Boston Globe claimed:

"Here is a group that really thrives on tough opposition….and now has led the amazing surge across Cherbourg peninsula, which has overshadowed every other invasion accomplishment. America has reason to be proud of this superb fighting unit."

The entire 3rd Battalion was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation in recognition for the "major contributing factor to the complete success of the Cherbourg campaign." The famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle was with the 9th on their dash through the Peninsula. He wrote that:

"The Ninth was good. In the Cherbourg campaign, it performed like a beautiful machine. It's previous battle experience paid off. Not only in individual fighting but in the perfect way the whole organization clicked….The Ninth did something in that campaign we hadn't always done in the past. It kept tenaciously on the enemy's neck. When the Germans would with- draw a little the Ninth was right on top of them."[20]

With the Cotentin Peninsula now in Allied hands, the 9th had accomplished its objective and were entitled to some rest. During the first week in July, units of the 9th held at Les Pieux where they could get some hot food and showers, and write letters home as well as reflect on what they had experienced and remember the friends they had lost. One infantry private who fought in the Cotentin related to Stars and Stripes what he had learned about combat in France:

"At first I was shy. I didn't know the ropes and I hated to make any noise. When I heard some- thing, I hesitated and didn't do anything. But now I know the score. I'm out to kill every German I can get. The American soldier has to learn how to hate and he has to learn to kill right away. Don't ask any questions, shoot and keep shooting…."[21]

On 3 July 1944 Colonel Jesse L. Gibney replaced Colonel de Rohan as Regimental Commanding Officer of the 60th. On 9 July, the battalion moved out "near the village of Lenaud-Eric (Carentan)." The following few days were spent advancing south through Normandy. According to the 60th regimental history Follow Thru:

"14 July began one of the weirdest periods the regiment had experienced to date. The enemy troops were composed of SS and fanatical elements of the 3d Parachute Division. Very few would submit to capture and as a consequence practically no battalion took prisoners."[22]

Several U. S. soldiers came to despise and grudgingly respect the SS and Fallschirmjager, as they were well known for their fanaticism and fighting ability and were among the most well-equipped and highly-trained professional soldiers the Nazi regime had produced. Private Donald E. Crass said the SS were "well-led and well-trained and were very effective when used in determination to defend an area."[23] Private Guy Wetherell also remembered the SS troops, but for a different reason. He was able to pick up another souvenir after having killed an SS soldier. This time, his prize was a ceremonial SS dagger, which contained the words "Meine Ehre heist Treue," or "My Honor is Loyalty" engraved on the hilt. This dagger was stolen from him, "by a doctor" when he was wounded and sent back to England in late July. Wetherell made no other comments about the SS soldier or his opinions on them.[24]

Early July also saw the 9th fighting the elite Panzer Lehr, an armored tank division that engaged the Americans in the bocage, the French-term for the hedgerow country. The bocage made fighting for tanks very difficult, and added to Panzer Lehr's ultimate defeat. According to Martin Blumenson's Breakout and Pursuit:

"Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein, the commander of Panzer Lehr, had received his march order on 8 July and had moved at once, though poor roads and strafing by Allied planes had hampered the division march. Not until the night of 10 July was the division in position to attack-too late."

Field Marshall Erwin Rommel pushed for an attack from Bayerlein. Bayerlein planned to attack with two regimental combat teams, the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich," a unit infamous for a string of war crimes in southern France, and the 17th SS Panzer Grenadiers "Gotz von Berlichingen." Bayerlein's attack struck the 30th and 9th Divisions on 11 July. It caused considerable confusion, but by late afternoon, the 9th had contained the enemy attack. A counterattack was then launched, and Bayerlein's forces were thrown back. The 9th had suffered a little over 100 casualties, but Panzer Lehr's effort had done nothing more than delay a planned attack twenty-four hours.[25]

On 18 July, "elements of the 60th Infantry Regiment were dug in on the high ground overlooking the St. Lo-Periers road." Orders from headquarters were to move no further beyond this point, to allow a consolidated attack by American forces on the town of St. Lo. Private Wetherell, having taken up a position behind a hedgerow, never heard the shell that wounded him. He had been knocked backwards and felt a sudden pain in his left knee. The 88mm artillery shell had wounded him, another man, and killed a friend of theirs. According to Wetherell's medical history, he was wounded in action by a "penetrating wound of the lateral aspect of the left knee." A Lieutenant J. E. Roundtree wrote that "@ 1300 hours, 18 July 44 soldier was injured by shrapnel from a mortar shell. He received penetrating wound left knee & chip fracture." Wetherell was given morphine and taken to the 128th Evacuation Hospital in Boutteville, before being sent to another hospital in England. Wetherell continued to worry that he had not received the "million dollar wound," and would be eligible to go back into combat. In time he would come to know how lucky it was to have been wounded relatively early in his combat experience. In the coming months, the 9th would be devastated not only by continual combat, but also by friendly-fire during bombing missions later the same month. Private Wetherell missed seeing the capture of St. Lo by one day. It fell to another American division on 19 July.[26]

The same day that Private Wetherell was wounded, the 9th received a large number of replacement soldiers. According to James Jay Carrafano's After D-Day: Operation Cobra and the Normandy Breakout:

"In Normandy the 9th Infantry was a veteran division, but it was not a division full of veterans. Casualties changed its makeup every day, and the Division lost 2,359 men before the end of the first month of battle. Replacements came in large numbers as the wounded left: counting the 10 days before Operation Cobra alone, the division received over 2,000 replacements, the equivalent of changing out an infantry regiment."[27]

2nd Lieutenant Orville Stangl was one of these replacements. He remembers:

"I joined M Co., the heavy weapons Company (81 mm. Mortars and Hvy Machine Guns/Water cooled) of the 3rd Bn. of the 60th Inf. I, K, and L Companies were the 3 rifle companies of the Bn. I had been one of 25 2nd Lts. and 500 privates assigned to the 9th Division on July 18, 1944. The Division was on line, dug in along hedgerows parallel to the Pierres-St. Lo (sic) Road, waiting for the order to attack and break through the German Lines…."

The division was now in place and with a rebuilt strength of manpower to begin Operation Cobra, an all-out attack combining infantry and armor to push the Germans out of Normandy. The operation was set to begin on 25 July 1944 after a massive bombardment by U. S. bombers. Stangl remembers:

"3,000 Allied planes bombed in front of our position along the road and beyond. Smoke & dust drifted back over our lines and the later planes bombed some of our troops. Our 47th Inf. got hit hard as did the 30th Division. These units were to our left. Our 3rd Bn. moved ahead as soon as the bombing stopped. We met no opposition at all. The Germans were dead or in no condition to resist."

The 60th moved off of the hill overlooking the St. Lo-Periers road where Private Wetherell was wounded a week before, and cleared the high ground west of the road to the town of Marigny, allowing for armor to penetrate the city and fan out in all directions from that point. Resistance was heavy all along the line, and it took several more days to take Marigny and complete the breakthrough. But Panzer Lehr was no longer a factor. It had lost many tanks, and more importantly, many of its soldiers. The 9th would continue once again to push on.[28]

A V-Mail letter from Private Wetherell written 11 August 1944 and postmarked one week later to his parents' claims, "I am feeling fine and getting along all right." It is the first letter home since he had been wounded almost a month before. A War Department notification to Wetherell's mother reads:

"Dear Mrs. Wetherell,

I am pleased to inform you that the latest report from the theater of operations states that on 9 September your son, Private Guy I. Wetherell, was convalescing.

You have my assurance that when additional information is received concerning his condition, you will be notified immediately."

It is signed by Major General, The Adjutant General, J. A. Ulio. Several other letters from the War Department kept the Wetherell family apprised of Private Wetherell's condition. Wetherell himself says little, if anything at all, about his knee and never in any of his letters does he even mention how he was wounded. In fact, he rarely even writes about the war at all, except to wish that "it is all over soon."[29]

As the American army continued its advances into France and Belgium, pushing the Nazis further back towards Germany, Private Wetherell began the long road back to recovery. In a letter written on 28 September 1944, Wetherell tells his parents that he:

"ran into a fellow today that was in my Co. over in France. He got hit about a week before I did. He was sure anxious to hear what had happened after he left."

He may have told that fellow what had happened to the 60th in July, but he could not even imagine the horrors the men of the "Go-Devils" regiment were experiencing in late September-early October.[30]

These horrors were being experienced in a heavily-wooded forest called the Huertgen. In late September, the 9th had entered the Huertgen Forest, a battle which would ultimately involve nine different American army divisions, with the 9th entering the forest on two separate occasions. The 60th had begun making incursions into the forest, only to be thrown back time and again. Their objective was the town of Schmidt. "The enemy seemed to be everywhere," one infantryman recalled, "and in the darkness of the thick trees and the confusion, the firing seemed everywhere." In Charles B. MacDonald's The Battle of the Huertgen Forest, he describes the forest as

"a dense curtain of rain-heavy fir branches…. under which a man moved cautiously from one tree trunk to another. Each step might be his last. Even if the spewings of the burp- gun that might erupt at any moment from deep within the trees happened to miss you, it caught the man beside you, or the man six paces to the right or eight paces to the left. Next time you might be the one."

The fighting became bogged down. Replacements were sent in rapidly, only to become casualties themselves. MacDonald says:

"these replacements had to become accomplished woodsmen almost overnight, or they had no chance to survive. Foxholes….were almost worthless unless roofed with logs or sod….Death came from the treetops. If you were caught by shelling in the open, it was useless to throw yourself on the ground for protection, for this merely exposed more body surface to the fragments from above. Those who stood or crouched at the base of a tree lived the longest. In the darkness, too many men shot first, investigated later."

A new plan was finally devised which strategically made sense: Take the Roer River dams. If the Germans destroyed these, the valley would be flooded, and the Allied advance severely hampered. Close to 5,000 of the 9th's men were either killed, wounded, missing, or captured. The combined American casualties in the Huertgen numbered 33,000, a 25 percent loss when 10 percent losses were considered to be high.[31]

Around this same time in England, Private Wetherell continued to experience "pain in his knee and ankle." A Physical Therapist and 2nd Lieutenant named Dora Daykius also noted that he now walked with "a slight hitch." A nurse making her rounds recorded in her "Nurses Notes" that on 9 October, Wetherell "seems depressed." Probably not wanting to make a big deal that it was his twenty-second birthday, the wounded GI undoubtedly was pondering a lousy day being spent cooped up in a hospital far from home.[32]

The Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's last attempt to throw the Allies back, or at least to temporarily push them out of Germany, had begun in mid-December. Having momentarily been surprised by the German counterattack, the 9th was beginning to regain lost ground. And although it was the Christmas season, lives were still continuing to be lost. Private Wetherell wrote his family a week before Christmas Day about one of them.

"I received a letter from Wiley the other day. He's the one that I met up at the 34th Gen. Hosp. He was in the same platoon with me in the 78th Div. Well, he just heard from one of the other boy's mother. This fellow was with us in the 78th also. He got killed in Germany. Its certainly a shock to hear that somebody like that has got it. This fellow was in my outfit too, in France. That doesn't leave many of the boys that were with me in old Co. F. back in the States. That bunch from Co. F. have sure done their part over here."[33]

By January, the 60th was in the Ardennes, battling the German army on the frontiers of Germany itself. In a letter to his brother Fred dated 27 January 1945, 1st Lieutenant James G. Colford, a platoon leader in Company I, wrote:

"This Jan. 24th made three years of marriage and only about a month with my wife. It hurts and I'm not fooling….There are many things I'd like to write but can't. I can assure you death is no stranger to most of us. I'll have plenty of stories to tell you when I come home and they're all true….the Russians are still moving along and I hope they continue. That could make the war end sooner…."[34]

It was Lt. Colford's last letter to his brother. He was killed in action three days later on 30 January 1945. The letter was postmarked the day he died. 2nd Lieutenant Orville Stangl remembers:

"On an attack in a snow-storm the end of January, I Co. lost all of its platoon leaders. The Co. Cmdr. asked for me to replace one of them. I joined I Co. Feb. 1, 1945. I served as the Platoon Ldr. of the 3rd Platoon of I Co. until March 18, 1945 when I was WIA again and evacuated."[35]

The same day that Lt. Colford was killed, Private Wetherell wrote a V-mail to his older sister Margaret back home in Ohio. At one point, he claims that "It doesn't look like this (the war) could go on much longer. All of the fellows are feeling pretty optimistic."[36]

In March the 60th was deep in Germany, helping bring the war to a close. The 9th Division crossed the Rhine River at Remagen Bridge on 9 March 1945. The 9th served as the center of the attack to expand the bridgehead across the Rhine. The fighting was fierce, and the 9th took many casualties. Orville Stangl estimates that "in the 10 days I lasted across the river, I believe I Co. had almost 90% turnover of personnel." He himself was wounded in the neck "from a shell fragment that pierced my steel helmet on March 13, 1945." He adds:

"The shell exploded on an embankment about 2 ft. above my head. I was covered with dirt. On March 18, I took a direct hit on my helmet by a 20mm shell. The fuse was stuck in the back of my helmet. I was evacuated."[37]

Private Wetherell was heading back to the war, having been returned to duty at the end of the month. In a V-mail dated 1 April 1945, he states:

"I have been reclassified from general service & put in limited service, non- combat duty, so I think my combat days are over….I've got the lowest medical classification possible."[38]

Also in the same letter, he mentions a rocket attack in London, where he was visiting on furlough before being sent back over to the continent. Hitler had ordered increased V1 and V2 rocket attacks on England as a destructive last attempt at lashing out at Germany's enemies. Wetherell claimed:

"I had a pretty nice furlough in London…. Six of us went together….We had a V-bomb fall three blocks from us in London one night. We went over & did what we could to help. It was sure a mess."

By the end of April, Wetherell finally discovered where he was going to be placed in a limited duty role. He wrote his parents that "as far as I know right now, I'm supposed to be in the Transportation Corps." He goes on to say that it has "been a wonderful deal so far," as the many perks included:

"girls to clean the rooms up and we eat in a former saloon. We also have girls that serve us our food. No K. P., no guard duty, no details, as yet. This is the kind of Army life that I've heard about but never seen before."[39]

The 9th Division meanwhile was pushing deeper and deeper into the heart of Germany. According to the 60th Regimental history, Follow Thru, the "Go Devils" had outpaced their supply lines. They had continued into towns with names such as Hargarten, St. Katherinen, Vittelschoss, and Strodt. But tough fighting continued due to "fanatical SS troopers." The Ruhr pocket was being closed despite the best efforts of

"Nazi super troops using tanks, infantry, self-propelled guns and artillery of all kinds to break out and at least save some of their SS men, but to no avail."[40]

The 60th was now battling in the Harz Mountains, waiting for the Russians to link up with them. Hundreds of German soldiers were surrendering to them everyday. The German civilians of the captured German towns fell over themselves to "treat the Go Devil patrols like royalty." They collected cameras and weapons by the hundreds to turn over to the troops to ingratiate themselves. They told the GIs that they thought the Russians to be "frightful beasts," and told the Americans: "We love you. You are like us, decent, kind." At 1830 hours on 27 April 1945, a patrol of the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry "contacted elements of the Russian forces. The Eastern and Western fronts were one." On 2 May, a Russian major rode up to the last of the 60th outposts on a bridge over the junction of the Mulde and Elbe rivers. The shouting, singing Russian soldiers, all carrying submachine guns, accompanied the major. This was the relief for the last "Go Devils" outpost. The fighting part of the war was now over.[41]

The month of May, a time of the rejuvenation of spring, also brought optimism and the close of the war with Germany. The Nazis capitulated on 7 May, and formally surrendered the next day. According to Cardinell, the "60th Inf. ended the war near Burgkemnitz, Germany and took its last prisoners on 4 May." The regiment then moved south towards the town of Ingolstadt on the Danube River and switched careers from a force of liberation to an occupation force.[42]

Private Wetherell had been guarding troop trains with the Transportation Corps somewhere in Germany when the war came to an end. Two days after his old unit, the 60th moved into Ingolstadt, he was sent to a field hospital and claimed not to be able to "even get out of bed." His knee had "flared up again," and this time "made a good job of it." He correctly prophesized that "I guess I'll have plenty of time in the hospital before I get out of the Army," and then humorously added that "If I put much more time in a hospital, they'll probably make me a medic."[43]

With the war now over, the realization began to sink in for many that they could either come home to the States or go fight the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. Private Wetherell, in a letter written on 14 May 1945 from a hospital in France asks his parents:

"What do you think of the point system? That's about all the boys talk about. I've got about 2/3 enough points, so I can't get home that way."[44]

According to historian Stephen Ambrose:

"Getting home depended on points, which became virtually the sole topic of conversation and led to much bad feeling. The point system set up by the Army gave a man points for each active-duty service month, points for campaigns, points for medals, points for being married. The magic number was eighty-five points. Those with that many or more were eligible for immediate shipment home and discharge. Those with fewer points were doomed to stay with the division presumably right on through to the Big Jump in China or Japan."[45]

Travelling through France in a "deluxe hospital train," Private Wetherell had a "surprize" (sic) for his family:

"its taking so long for the surprize (sic) to take place that I figured I had better write before you got worried. They Z. I.'d me at the hospital in Nancy. That means you are sent to the Zone of Interior which is the good ol U. S. So there you are. I'll soon be home."

All Private Wetherell had to do now was "wait for a boat" to take him home. Writing that he had "been waiting a week" and that they "already sent one shipment," he was confident he would be on the next one. Not having been home in over a year, Wetherell was determined to begin a new life and put the war behind him. However, he was still in the Army, and would be in one hospital or another for the rest of the year. The 60th Infantry Regiment, 9th Division continued its occupation duty in Germany but Guy Irvine Wetherell was going home.[46]

The 9th suffered a total of 4,581 killed in action, with 16,961 wounded, among them a skinny private with glasses from Pickerington, Ohio with the curious initials of G. I. Wetherell. After being discharged two days before Christmas 1945, Wetherell went on to receive 30% disability from the government in his later years. He bore the scar of the shell fragment that tore into his left knee until the day he died. G. I. Wetherell was typical of most World War II veterans in that he rarely ever spoke about any of his war experiences during his lifetime. Much can be gained by simply reading the letters and memoirs left behind by our World War II veterans.[47]

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Show Footnotes and Bibliography

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Copyright © 2006 Guy Nasuti.

Written by Guy Nasuti. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Guy Nasuti at:
jgnasuti123@cs.com.

About the author:
Guy Nasuti was raised outside of Detroit, Michigan, and is a veteran of the US Navy, having served in the Iraq War.  A gradute student seeking his Masters in Military History with a concentration in World War II, Guy currently attends American Military University and is also attempting to write his first book about his grandfather, Guy I. Wetherell, a veteran of the Second World War.  He currently resides in historic Martinsburg, West Virginia. 

Published online: 07/28/2006.

* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of MHO.
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