|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.
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
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
||"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.
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
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."
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
||"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.
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.
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. 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."
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,
||"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,
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."
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.
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.
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."
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?
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.
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
Orville Stangl, a 2nd Lieutenant who joined the 60th Infantry in July 1944,
||"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."
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
||"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
||"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."
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."
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."
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
||"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…."
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."
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." 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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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…."
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
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."
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
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."
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."
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
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
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.
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."
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."
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."
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
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.
Show Footnotes and
. Private Guy I. Wetherell to Family, 21 March 1943. Author's Collection.
. Ibid., 4 April 1943.
. Ibid., 28 August 1943.
. Ibid., 6 February 1944.
. Ibid., 12 December 1944.
. Ibid., 5 February 1944.
. Ibid., 23 December 1943.
. Private Guy Irvine Wetherell, Enlisted Record and Report of Separation.
. Veteran Survey, World War II, Donald E. Crass, 15 November 1990. U. S.
Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, Pa.
. Joseph B. Mittelman. Eight Stars to Victory: A History of the Veteran
Ninth U. S. Infantry Division . (Washington D. C.: The Ninth Infantry
Division Association, 1948), 148-152.
. Morton J. Stussman. Follow Thru (Stuttgart: Chr. Scheufele,
. Ibid., 158.
. Robert Cardinell. 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 (Mt. Dora, Fl., R. H.
Cardinell, 1992), 1.
. Andrew Rawson. Battleground Europe Normandy: Cherbourg: 4th, 9th and 79th
U. S. Infantry Divisions (United Kingdom: Pen & Sword Books
Limited, 2004), 19-20.
. Cardinell, 5.
. Rawson, 70-72.
. Robert Cardinell. Adventures by Men of the 60th Infantry Regiment in
World War II: The Ninth Infantry Division (Winter, Park, Florida:
American ReproGraphics, 1993), 4-12.
. Lieutenant James G. Colford to Fred Colford, 25 August 1944. Author's
. Joanna Burke. "Remembering War," from the Journal of Contemporary
History, Volume 39, Number 4, October 2004 (London: SAGE Publications, 2004),
. Mittelman, Eight Stars to Victory , 187.
. Arthur Goodwin. "Dead Man Can't Talk….But these Yanks Fought at Cherbourg
and Lived to Tell How They Did It." Stars and Stripes, U. S. Army, 6 July 1944.
. Stussman, Follow Thru , 57.
. Veteran Survey, Donald E. Crass.
. Guy I. Wetherell, interview with author, 22 December 1992, Ft. Wayne,
Indiana, Notations. Author's Collection.
. Martin Blumenson. U. S. Army in World War II: The European Theater of
Operations: Breakout and Pursuit (Washington, D.C.: Office of the
Chief of Military History, Dept. of the Army, 1961), 135-137.
. Private Guy I. Wetherell, Medical Records. Author's Collection.
. James Jay Carafano. After D-Day: Operation Cobra and the Normandy
Breakout (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000), 168.
. Orville Stangl to Author. 14 February 2006. Author's Collection.
. Major General J. A. Ulio to Hannah Wetherell, 23 September 1944. Author's
. Private Guy I. Wetherell to Family, 28 September 1944. Author's
. Charles B. MacDonald. The Battle of the Huertgen Forest (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963), 41-53, 196.
. Private Guy I. Wetherell, Medical Records. Author's Collection.
. Private Guy I. Wetherell to Family, 17 December 1944. Author's
. Lieutenant James G. Colford to Fred Colford, 27 January 1945. Author's
. Orville Stangl to Author, 14 February 2006. Author's Collection.
. Private Guy I. Wetherell to Margaret Wetherell, 30 January 1945. Author's
. Orville Stangl to Author, 14 February 2006. Author's Collection.
. Wetherell to Family, 1 April 1945. Author's Collection.
. Ibid., 24 April 1945.
. Stussman, Follow Thru , 106-108.
. Ibid., 111.
. Cardinell, The S-3 Journal , 53.
. Private Wetherell to Family, 6 May 1945. Author's Collection.
. Ibid., 14 May 1945.
. Stephen E. Ambrose. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st
Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 2001), 281.
. Private Guy I. Wetherell to Family, 2 June 1945. Author's Collection.
. Private Guy I. Wetherell, Medical Records and Enlisted Record and Report
of Separation. Author's Collection. Author's Note: The statistics for the 9th
Infantry Division are from Captain Mittelman's Eight Stars to Victory: A
History of the Veteran Ninth Infantry Division , 400-403.
Ambrose, Stephen E. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne
from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest . New York: Simon &
Blumenson, Martin. U. S. Army in World War II: The European Theater of
Operations: Breakout and Pursuit . Washington, D. C.: Office of the
Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1961.
Burke, Joanna. "Remembering War," Journal of Contemporary History 39 ,
No. 4, (2004): 473-485.
Carafano, James Jay. After D-Day: Operation Cobra and the Normandy Breakout
. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000.
Cardinell, Robert. Adventures By Men of the 60th Infantry Regiment in World War
II: The Ninth Infantry Division. Winter Park, Florida: American ReproGraphics,
__________. 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 . Mt. Dora, Florida: by the author, 1992.
Colford, James G., France, to Fred Colford, Los Angeles, 25 August 1944 and 27
January 1945. Transcript in the hand of James G. Colford. Author's Collection.
Goodwin, Arthur. "Dead Men Can't Talk….But these Yanks Fought at Cherbourg and
Lived to Tell How They Did It." Stars and Stripes , U. S. Army, 6 July
MacDonald, Charles B. The Battle of the Huertgen Forest .
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963.
Mittelman, Joseph B. Eight Stars to Victory: A History of the Veteran Ninth U.
S. Infantry Division . Washington, D.C.: The Ninth Infantry Division
Rawson, Andrew. Battleground Europe Normandy: Cherbourg: 4th, 9th, and 79th U.
S. Infantry Divisions . United Kingdom: Pen & Sword Books Limited,
Stangl, Orville, to Author, Martinsburg, 14 February 2006. Transcript in the
hand of Orville Stangl. Author's Collection.
Stussman, Morton J. Follow Thru . Stuttgart: Chr. Scheufele, 1945.
Ulio, J. A. Major, to Hannah Wetherell, 23 September 1944. Transcript in the
hand of Major J. A. Ulio. Author's Collection.
U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center. Veteran Survey of Donald E. Crass, 15
November 1990, from Collection of Veteran Survey's of 60th Infantry Regiment,
World War II, USAHEC, Carlisle, Pa.
U. S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, Governor's Office State of Ohio.
Enlisted Record And Report of Separation for Guy I. Wetherell. Author's
__________. Collected Medical Records of Guy I. Wetherell. Author's Collection.
Wetherell, Private Guy I., to Family, Collected Letters from 21 March 1943-2
June 1945. Transcript in the hand of Private Guy I. Wetherell. Author's
Wetherell, Private Guy I., to Margaret Wetherell, 30 January 1945. Transcript
in the hand of Private Guy I. Wetherell. Author's Collection.
__________. Interview by author, 22 December 1992, Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Notations. Author's Collection.
Copyright © 2006 Guy Nasuti.
Written by Guy Nasuti. If you have questions or comments on this
article, please contact Guy Nasuti at:
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.