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PRIVATE 1ST CLASS MARINUS W. STOLK, 76TH FIELD ARTILLERY BATTALION, WW2
March 11, 2011
My father served in the 76th and talked often about his experiences in WWII until his passing on New Years Eve 2009. Because of him I became very interested in the war and have often tried to find information about his unit. Thank you for providing it. My father was proud of the fact that he served as many other men were - they truly were all part of the Greatest Generation.
U.S. ARMY TRAVELS WW2
NOTE: It is at “Bay Meadows Race Track, San Mateo, May 1942” where we believe the horses of the 76th Field Artillery Battalion were turned in and sold.
NOTE: Tres Pinos is located below Gilroy and Hollister, California and northeast of Fort Ord. There is a World War II memorial in the dusty churchyard of Immaculate Conception church in Tres Pinos.
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MIKE’S TRAVELS, LETTER BACK HOME, JUNE 10, 1945
Sunday, June 10, 1945
Dear Folks and all,
First of all I want to congratulate you, Pa on your birthday. May the Lord spare you further for us all who hold you dear to our hearts. Last week I had finished my letter to you and then I remembered that it was your birthday this week. Marie also has a birthday this month and me too for that matter. That almost takes care of the whole family.
We read in our paper that the States had a severe cold spell. Did you have any abnormal weather in Grand Rapids in the past week? We are having a lot of rain here lately. Today it is cloudy and chilly. It feels good to stay in the house and absorb a little heat. A baker shop is directly below us and the ovens put out quite a bit of heat.
Yesterday I sent the German helmet to you Jan. I finally got it packed and sent it after having it lay around in the truck for a couple of months. I am sending a rifle to Peggy’s brother in-law in Bay City. He is quite a gun enthusiast, and so he asked me for a German Mauser. I could send one home for myself but I would never use the thing anyway.
Now I’ll tell you about my travels. We left Camp Polk about June 10, and went to Camp Shanks, New York. This was our POE or Port of Embarkation and here we were processed for overseas service. Almost everyday we had our equipment inspected to see that it was serviceable. Shortages were also made up here. We had another physical exam here that was really a laugh. If you could stand up you were fit for service. On July 1st we boarded the train and went to the harbor. A ferry took us to the pier and the boat was waiting for us. The Red Cross was there too with lemonade and donuts. We were thankful for that because we were hot and hungry. Each man had his stuff with him and it averaged around 60 to 70 pounds in weight. We boarded the boat in the afternoon and were assigned to our bunks. The ship wasn’t over loaded with personnel so we had a bunk apiece thru the entire trip. The ship was the “AMERICA” and the Army name for it was the “S.S. ALEXANDER.” It was a German ship captured in the last war, really a big ship. On July 2nd, we pulled out of the pier. It was early in the morning and I woke and felt the vibrating of the propeller. There was nothing for me to do but roll over and go back to sleep again and I did. We swung south as far as the coast of Norfolk, Virginia and then circled back and headed north for open water. This was done to fool others as to what course we were actually taking. Along the way we met other ships and so the convoy was formed. During the day the convoy was spread out and when it gets dark the boats come closer together to protect each other. We were one of the lead ships and our ship was constantly putting up different colored flags to signal the other ships. It was all in a prearranged code and w didn’t know what it meant.
You get plenty of fresh air when you are on the ocean. I was doing all right on the first day and was complimenting myself on being able to hold myself in line with any veteran sailor. Then I went down to supper and ate my fill. I got back on deck and something went wrong somewhere along the line. Either I was off the bean or the ship was. I was walking up hill and down hill, backwards and forward, and sideways. I was dizzier than a drunken pup and twice as sick in my stomach. I made a beeline for the nearest trashcan and gave up my vitamins and calories. Then I stumbled and slipped down the stairs to my bunk and stayed there. I was O.K. as long as I could lie down. That happened the first night at sea and I had one more ceremony like that before the trip was over. I might add that I had plenty of company. There was always someone leaning over the rail and it wasn’t just to see the water below either, oh what fun…
On the 13th of July we landed at Liverpool, England. We were greeted with typical English weather – RAIN. The Red Cross was here too with coffee.
We were all glad to get off the boat and walk on the good old earth again. The whole bunch of us was a stinking and sweating group of dogfaces. The same day we piled into a Limev (English) train and went to Albrighton, England. The English trains run very quiet and they don’t jerk the insides out of you when they start off. The coaches are divided into compartments and you are seated facing each other. There was room for six in each compartment. Our first home in England was Grange Hall in Albrighton. We stayed there for about for about two weeks. During this time we got our trucks and 105mm howitzers. We went oversees without any of our trucks that we had in the States. We left them in Camp Polk and some other unit used them. From Albrighton we went to Seeny Bridge, Wales. There we fired our guns and had a small maneuver. Then on the 9th of August we went back to England and to Southampton. Incidentally, this city was really ruined by the German Buzz bombs when I saw it. Now it is reported that much more damage was done in the past year. At Southampton we loaded up on the Liberty ships and started out for the French coast. We were on the channel for three days. The distance involved isn’t great but the unloading facilities at the beach were taxed and so we had to wait our turn to be unloaded. Our trucks were unloaded from the ships on to a barge and we went down the net to the barges. We then were brought to shore and sat there until the tides went out and then we drove our trucks on to the beach. We landed at Omaha beach in France on August 12, 1944 (Note: In Mike’s “Army travels” he says it was Utah Beach). There was plenty of evidence on the beach to show that the invasion was no picnic. Boats were blown up in the water, and wreckage strewn all over the place. The Germans had pillboxes along the beach and these were pretty well scared by shellfire. Along a cement wall, facing the water some Germans had painted in large letters “Nur pissen in dem Grube” (Check spelling). This means in English – “We will P… on your graves.” It was meant for the sultry. The fields we occupied were full of dead cattle and Germans. The sun had colored the bodies so that they looked like Negroes. The cattle were blown apart by artillery fire, and those that were not were bloated so much that they looked like they would burst and second. The smell in those fields and hedgerows was unbearable. I know because I had to walk through them in order to tape distances for our survey. My stomach couldn’t take it and I let everything go.
Our next move was about a hundred mile run to help close the Argentan-Falaise Pocket. (check spelling) We set up in an apple orchard and shelled Argentan continuously for about three days. The entire German 7th Army was trapped in this pocket. It was so completely shot up that this Army was never heard from again during the rest of the war. Some troops managed to escape out of the pocket before it was entirely closed but the majority was completely destroyed. Some of our men went to Argentan after the battle and they said it was a bloody mess.
About this time the war racing across France. The supplies couldn’t keep up with the troops. Higher Hq. took us off the line and converted us into a trucking company. We hauled gasoline, rations and ammunition from the various depots and brought them up to the front. This lasted about a month. I was living in a chateau in Belgium at the time, near Liege. It was a good deal. In October we again were committed to the front lines. On Oct. 10 we moved into Germany for the first time to the town of Kalterherberg. Here we pounded the Siegfried Line with our shells. From the time we went into Germany on Oct. 10, until the end of the war we fired an average of 1000 shells per day with our twelve guns. You can easily see why the production line back home must be kept going day and night. We stayed on the line from Oct. 10 until the end of the war without a break or a rest period. From Kalterherberg we moved into the Hurtgen Forest. We stayed in one position for a month straight. The Germans soon found out about it and threw shells our way. It is no picnic to be on the receiving end of artillery I assure you. I made good use of my foxhole during our stay in the Hurtgen Forest.
Our Colonel was killed about this time. He was with his driver in a jeep on reconnaissance and they rode over a German mine. The driver got away with a broken ankle but the Colonel was broken completely.
On December 24, we were called back into Belgium to participate in the Ardennes Campaign, or the German breakthrough. Christmas day we had a few close calls as the German strafed us. We were in Mont, Belgium then. That morning I was standing next to my truck shaving and zoom, there goes Jerry at tree top level. And zoom; there goes Mike hitting the dirt on his stomach. Quite a few planes were brought down that day. The air was full of flak and machine bullets. The weather was terribly cold and we were sleeping in a hayloft then. The wind would blow the snow between the roof tiles and on us.
The New Year brought on a lot of fast moves for us. Here today and gone tomorrow. Sometimes we would stay in a place for a day and sometimes longer. Sometimes we would stay in a place for a day and sometimes longer. One place I never did like was at Wollsiefen, Germany. The Germans held the high ground and they were looking rite down our throats all the time. That was when we were living in a pillbox and very thankful that we were. The krauts poured in quite a few shells at us and also mortars. You could hear their guns go off and a few seconds later the shell would be coming your way. It is a feeling that you can’t describe, when the shells are coming in and exploding. You feel awfully small and insignificant I’ll tell you.
When the war ended we were in Sangerberg, Czechoslovakia (Sudetenland). It was a strange thing to witness when the German columns of vehicles and prisoners were coming our way to give themselves up. A few hours before they were being firing at, and now peace is declared so we can’t kill anymore. Our flag was in front of our Command Post the day that the Germans were going by and I remember one German officer saluting it as he drove by. He was the only one who did of the hundreds of krauts that went by. And so the war ended.
This is the longest letter I have ever written to you since I’ve been gone. I figured that you sometimes wondered what Mike was doing, so now you know what he was up to since he has been overseas. I couldn’t tell you at the time it was taking place, so you had to wait.
I am feeling all right and hope the same of you. I have been busy getting my truck ready for a paint job. Probably paint it next week and re-stencil the bumpers with our unit’s numbers. I have a new A.P.O. as we are now officially in the Third Army again.
Well, good-bye for now and all my love.
Return to The Fort Ord U.S. Army Station Veterinary Hospital (Horse) WW2 homepage:
FORT ORD U.S. ARMY STATION VETERINARY HOSPITAL (HORSE) WW2
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Fort Ord U.S. Army Station Veterinary Hospital (Horse) WW2
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11TH CAVALRY PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, 1919 TO 1940
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11th Cavalry Presidio of Monterey, 1919 to 1940
76TH FIELD ARTILLERY REGIMENT PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, 1922 TO 1940
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76th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Battalion
THE ARMY VETERINARY SERVICE DURING THE GREAT WAR, WW1
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The Army Veterinary Service During the Great War, WW1
SERGEANT LEONARD MURPHY VETERINARY HOSPITAL NO. 18, A.E.F., WW1
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Sergeant Leonard Murphy Veterinary Hospital No. 18, A.E.F., WW1
U.S. ARMY VETERINARY CORPS HISTORICAL PRESERVATION GROUP
Motto: “Illic est Vires in Numerus” There is Strength in Numbers
“Working Hard to Preserve Our Country’s History wherever it is being lost”
U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Historical Preservation Group is a group of individuals that are concerned about the preservation of the History of the Veterinary Corps, Remount Service and Cavalry or wherever our country’s history is being lost in conjunction with our beloved “Horse and Mule”. There is no cost to join and membership is for life. We believe by uniting together in numbers we will be a more powerful force to be heard. Our membership list is private and only used to contact our members. Email us and become a member.
FACEBOOK: U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Historical Preservation Group
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