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Follies of a Navy Chaplain

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Tanks for the Memories

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They were all young kids

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Love Company

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A Mile in Their Shoes

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Nine Lives

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2014, Aaron Elson

   

Tanks for the Memories

The online edition

2014, Aaron Elson

Chapter 15

Not-So-Friendly Fire

Howard Olsen

    Howard Olsen, of South Bend, Ind., was one of the 14 sergeants in the 712th who received battlefield commissions.

    One of our lieutenants got a combat pass, and he went back to Paris, and a pilot came up and asked him, "Are you from the 712th?"

    And he said, "Yeah."

    The pilot said, "Well, we got word to watch out for you guys because you’re out in front too far."

    When we were on the way to the Bulge, we stopped in this one town, and I went to the command post for something, and all of a sudden I heard machine gun fire. And they said an American plane was strafing one of our jeeps. They said there was a German in the plane. I could hear it strafing, but I couldn’t see it. There was a wall between me and the road.

Jim Gifford

    We were in Kirschnaumen on Christmas day. It was a small village alongside the road. The houses were close together. The road split, and there was a church in the middle of the road. So we all went to Mass that morning.

    The church was full. The townspeople were there, and we were all in there. About 10 o’clock, we came out of the church and went back toward the houses where our tanks were tied up. And the next thing, an American fighter plane comes down about 100 feet off the damn roadway shooting the hell out of everything, and he knocked that church apart. And everybody had just left. Then, Jesus, he came back down again, doing the same thing, and he came down again.

    There was a ridge on the right, there was a long field, and there were woods at the top of it, so we backed some tanks up there along the woods, about three or four of them, and we waited for that sonofabitch. We knew it was an American plane, but we had been alerted to look out for Germans using American equipment.

    About 2 o’clock in the afternoon he came down again, about 100 feet off the ground, and we could look right into the plane. I was on the .50 shooting at it, and I could see the bullets go straight into the fuselage, right along the side of the plane. They didn’t hit the pilot.

    There was a low ceiling at the time. The plane smoked and started to turn over and headed right up out of sight into the clouds, and the next thing we saw was a parachute coming down out of the clouds.

    The guys jumped in the jeep and went to pick up the pilot, and I’ll be damned, it was an American major who thought that we were Germans because he couldn’t see the Saar River up ahead. He had crossed another river and thought that he had crossed the Saar, so he was shooting the hell out of us. He was lucky he wasn’t hurt.

    Friendly fire killed a lot of guys. Today they call it friendly fire. Back then I guess we called it accidents.

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