| John Nasea
321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne
Out of high school in June of 40, I joined
Ford Motor Co. as an apprentice tool maker in Feb. 41. (Two
weeks before the BIG STRIKE.) Drafted in Feb. 43 and sent
to Ft Bragg for basic training on 155 mm long tom rifles. After
the 3 months training, 90 % were called out and marched off. A couple
of fellows were kept as cadre to train the next batch and two of
us were told to pitch our tents between the barracks. We did KP,
odd jobs, spent a few days in the hospital and stayed out of the
way of those things with jump boots and Eagles or AA on their shoulders
when in town (Fayetteville).About the end of the next cycle, they
put the two of us aboard a 6 by 6 and drove us off. BUT to where?
506 Parachute Infantry!!! The division was out on maneuvers and
we were thrown in a casual company of a little bit of everything.
Welcome to the 101st Airborne Division!
After a few nice summer weeks, I was assigned
to the 321st Glider Field Artillery Bn, Btry B, Sgt.
William Plummers Gun Section; Cpl. Cokie Crim,
Gunner; and Pvt. Stan Rosberg, official procurer. It was Bills
job to assign Stan to KP when ever we were on an overnight so that
Stan could procure a can of Pet Milk for the section coffee. They
liked the fact that I took my coffee black. Some time, during this
period, I got a furlough home as I have a small studio picture of
me in sun tans with the 101st patch but no glider on my GI hat.
My mother objected to my ending letters with Your Flying Cannoneer,
I changed it to Love. Between basic and overseas, I
put in for officers training (90 day Wonders), sure and I
still cant get right face and left face down every time. I
was acceptable but the quota was full; technical school to become
Cpl./T or Sgt./T but was turned down. I had enough points for OCS
but not technical school - go figure. I thought I wanted to be a
fly boy but I probably would have washed out and ended up in 106th
and been wiped out. Just before we shipped over seas, I asked the
btry Clerk what happened to my Air Force application. The clerk
said that Our Fearless Leader had turned it down as
I was too valuable!!! Huh? I had been with the unit for about 3
months. Valuable??? Sure!
Camp Shanks was supposed to be guarded but some
fellows claimed they made it to New York City. Our English troop
transport was noted for bad food, lots of guys getting sea sick,
& the temptation to sleep on deck to avoid the sweet aroma of
the hold but the North Atlantic was too cold in late October. England,
a train ride and then Whatcombe Farm in the morning. The cooks must
have been shipped in early because there they were ready to slop
it on our mess kits and the drums of boiling soapy water and drums
of rinse water. Like all the low lifes (Pvts) in A &
B Btry I was assigned to a horse stable ( four men to a stable),
handed a large cloth bag and told the straw was out in the field.
Oh Joy! First you had trouble staying on the big lump and then you
had nothing but a straw dust. Stan Rosberg was assigned to live
and train with a unit of the 1st British Airborne Division while
we got an English soldier in return. Our soldier wore his British
uniform, saluted English style (you have got to see that) and ate
our American food. He was a good soldier.
We assumed that we would ride gliders into combat.
321st, B Bty had Cpl. (Crim) and 1st Sgt. (Shea) and
I think a Capt. (Skinner?) who were deathly sick from even coming
close to a glider. One of my fond memories is riding Co.-pilot on
a training flight, some one was sick or something. I didnt
like it when we went over 150 mph as the wings would start to flap.
Cokie and I were assigned to ride a glider in a simulated invasion
mode but they changed their mind and we just loaded sand bags. We
loaded a British plywood Horsair.(?) It ended up lodged against
Then we were told to waterproof our cannon, jeep,
etc. We were going by boat. Apparently, most of the people were
assigned to the Susan B Anthony but I was assigned to the John S
Mosby. Who was I with? I turned to some one, a Cpl. or Sgt., and
remarked that they were loading us with the unloading chart. Our
pea shooters were loaded down in the hold while the 6 by 6s were
loaded on deck. That some one just shrugged his shoulders as if
to say, What can I do about it? Some where in the ocean,
they ran us by a sand table to show us where we would be embarking.
In two minutes, we were supposed to know where we were to be. Sure!
Finally, the day dawned, the navy was firing their big guns and
we just sat there watching the show. 1st Lt. Fred King claims that
he saw the Susie hitting the mine and going down. I may have but
the memory is very dim. We just sat there! We had the guns.
According to Mission Accomplished, on the morning
of June 9th a small boat pulled along side to find out who we were
and we were told that they had been looking for us for two days.
First they had to off load those 6 by 6s, then they went down in
the hold for our pea shooters. By then it was late afternoon and
drizzly. Just as I was given orders to go over the side, Jerry came
in shooting up the place. I climbed over on to the rope ladder which
was swaying back and forth, the separation between the ship (boat?)
and the landing craft would get smaller and larger, ocean in between.
Mrs. Naseas little boy Johnny was twixt and tween but Jerry
finally went home and I finally got onto the landing craft. The
landing was uneventful and I spent the night, on the beach which
by this time was swept clean, a lonely damp and cold boy. The next
night I was assigned with several others whom I barely knew to an
out post on guard. Did some one out there call halt?
It was the Red Ball Express and boy did they do the job.
Combat! A slit trench 1-2 ft by 6-8 and deep behind
the gun. Due to some mix up, we not S/Sgt Thibodeaus gun section
were the lead gun. This meant we did the initial firing and then
the rest would fire for effect. Rather than sit around I assigned
myself the job of making sure we had the number of powder bags that
HQ asked for and that the fuse had the requested timing for aerial
bursts to shower hot jagged metal on enemy backs, war is nasty.
On two or three occasions, Sgt. Plummer, Cpl. Crim and I fired at
night. Soften up them Jerries so they wouldnt give our infantry
a hard time. Bed check Charlie came over about 11 PM, we dove into
the slit trench but he did no damage. We slept in the slit trench
which we partially covered with the card board shell coverings.
One morning, a spider and I climbed out of the trench together,
the spider was fine but I had a fat lip.
After we had fired for a while, Plummer had to
declare us temporarily out of action. The spade on the back of our
gun had dug itself into our slit trench. And then there was the
night, I held up the WAR! During the day, we had two stakes lined
up in front of our gun (standard practice). The gunner Cpl. would
twirl his sight so many degrees left or right depending on the Forward
Observers target. The gunner would then line up his sight
with the stakes and he would be set. Our elevation would be taken
care of by the Number 1 man who would actually pull the cord to
fire the gun. In the night, the gunner could not see the two stakes
so the practice was to attach a flash light to a stake. I went in
front of the guns to attach that light and that OCS candidate GOT
LOST. Come on! We were in a football sized field surrounded by mounds
of dirt and hedges, the guns were at the back and the stakes were
near the front and I GOT LOST! I volunteered to lie down and let
them shoot over the top of me but some one else had lit the light
and I got back. I had held up the war.
It was the Fourth of July, we had been pulled
back in reserve. We had been herded into a trailer, stripped, showered
and given fresh clothes. It was the Fourth and we were aboard a
bus headed for a beach. We passed a group of ladies doing there
laundry in a near by creek, beating their clothes with paddles.
We took off our clothes and waded out into the Atlantic Ocean and
froze as we got wet. It was a beautiful beach but the water was
cold. We got out onto the beach, laid down in the sun and we were
dry. July 4, 1944.
In transit back to England, I was not proud of
the treatment given out black soldiers, all I could do was to observe
in silence. Back to the stables, given a furlough, flight to Edinburgh,
find your way back, best flight I ever had, nothing but Eagles and
Double As, pilot tossing out the regulation book, flying down
on the deck over the moors and diving turning into that tea cup
with a crack in it to let in the ocean, staying at a private residence,
not being totally appreciative, wishing now I had names and address,
taking the train back to London, being held up in Victoria Station
by air raid, sleeping in Red Cross shelter, waking up to Did
you hear that buzz bomb? What buzz bomb I had been sleeping
behind a howitzer. I took the train to Wantage, walked that 2-5?
miles down a lonely rural road, and flung my last penny into the
fields. Time to go to work!
Two times we were alerted , the last time to drop
behind the German Panzers and kill tanks Kill tanks with our little
pea shooters? But third time is the charm, pack up and go to the
airport. I found out that if you turn your helmet back wards and
stuff your field jacket under the small of your back, you could
sleep comfortably on the concrete run way. I dont remember
getting in the glider but I remember choosing my seat so I would
be the first out. I remember all those nylon ropes strung out in
front of our gliders. We did not have any fog so we could look down
and see many patrol boats in the water, ready to pick us up if we
crashed (I guess). I had the urge to pee but modesty kept me from
letting go on the glider floor, an action that would cause me misery
As we approached the Dutch shore, we came under
much small arms fire. One of the fellows reported sitting on his
helmet, I tried to crawl up into it. And then it was silent. I guess
we were over 101st held territory. I remember looking out and seeing
the field, seeing the pilot let go of the rope. Some one asked if
any one was hit, I felt under my pants and felt warm and wet. I
looked out and found everyone on the ground, weapon ready. Supply
Sgt. Ray Riddle pulled me out, I was the last one out. Using the
2 x 4s that held up the nose of the glider as a stretcher, they
put me on the trailer ( we had a trailer with 75 mm ammo) attached
to a jeep and pulled me across the plowed field to the aid station,
with Cry Baby Johnnie crying, Take it easy.
The aid station was to our left behind a farm
house, a foot ball field away. They patched me up and started pouring
plasma into me.. Some how I got over to a convent or something.
I remember the nuns or nurses or what ever they were. A bunch of
us were lined up on the floor. That night we heard a lot of small
arms fire. I think they were fighting for the bridge at Zon and
we were not far away. It is funny, while I was scared during the
small arms fire while in the glider, I no longer had any fear. I
cant claim that religion paid a part but I just put my trust
that they would take care of me.
The next day we were put aboard an ambulance to
go to Belgium. They had to stop because the road was under fire.
I went through a series of field hospitals before landing in a Brussels
City Hospital, partially under control of the British Army. I would
go in an American Field Hospital where they put plaster from my
left toes to my chest but leaving my right foot was uncovered. It
was there that I first said Good Night, Nurse as they
put me to sleep with sodium pentothal. I woke up in a British Field
Hospital with plaster only from the toes of my left foot up to my
crotch. The Brits were all wet. The armor piercing 30?
tore a hole in my left thigh very high up and broke my left femur.
I also collected three flesh wounds on my right thigh. The Americans
must have gotten to me for I ended with my body suit. I am hazy
about the number of field hospitals, go to sleep in one, wake up
in an other. Who knows where I had been.
They had to catheterize me to urinate and when
I got a laxative, they didnt position me properly over the
bedpan, what a mess. I remember in triumph being able to move my
right heel side ways a bit. Thank GOD for even small favors. But
then I had to travel in an ambulance thru the city of Brussels to
the air port and every time we crossed a street car track, I was
in misery. They put me aboard a hospital plane to England. With
my suit of plaster it should have been obvious to all that I had
no use for shoes but the hospital attendant had the brazenly stupid
gall to ask me for my jump boots.
I was in a hospital some where in England, the
ward was full of 101st and 82nd just back from Holland. I was given
refrigerated whole red blood, I nearly froze, I didnt finish
the container. A distant cousin (Dr. John Stanley) , with a camera
, came to see me. But he did not want my mother to see how bad I
looked so no picture was taken. Some kind of officer came over with
a box, Do you know what this means?, meaning the purple
heart with a bas relief with George Washington on it. Yeah,
it means, I got clipped, he did a one eighty and walked away.
They put a pin in my knee and attached a weight to it. Three months
in traction and I am still sorry I did not try and contact my unit
back in combat. I tried to play poker with the man on the bed to
my left, the Captain doctor came storming in, my x ray showed that
my left was out of alignment, I became a good boy. Then back to
my suit of plaster and onto the Queen Elizabeth for the ride home.
Half way, the rope holding up my bunk creaked
and I thought for a moment it was small arms fire. Staten Island
in clean white sheets just as the Battle of Bulge for Bastogne got
under way. Halloran General Hospital, Ft Benjamin Harris, Indianapolis
for Christmas 44. With tape instead of a pin, more traction
for three months and finally after 6 months flat, I got out of bed
on crutches, carrying my left leg in front of me. Just after President
Roosevelt died, I stood in the middle of the ward trying to make
my left leg move. Do you know how to move your left leg, if you
do, tell me I did it but I still dont know how!
Hard Duty: We got up/had breakfast/ were the first
off the tee/lunch/swimming/dinner/movies/bed time in clean white
sheets. In the mean time, I had PT but formerly Gung Ho John was
not too anxious, Japan lay ahead and I wasnt too sure that
I wouldnt be sent. I do not have complete knee bend, would
a more rigorous PT produced a complete knee bend or was too much
stuff shot away? Perhaps the proudest moments of my military career
came in around Orthodox Easter 45. Dad & I went for Easter
Service at the Romanian Orthodox Church, breakaway St. Simeon, a
large upper room above a store front accessed by a narrow stair
way. Since we could not walk around the building, we walked in a
circle around the room. I can still see Dad & Unchiu (uncle)
beaming as I walked in full uniform with ribbons and with crutches.
Similarly, I can remember the pride of Dad & Unchiu, as I visited
them while they worked side by side in a small slaughter house from
which they both retired.. Fond memories.
Discharge in October 45 at 150 pounds!/
Breakup with Helen, for which I am grateful/enrollment in U of D
in Jan 45/Masters in Chemistry from Wayne State in late 51/marriage
at 120 pounds! to Mildred on Sept. 13, 52. YES! Friday the
13th, in September, we will have been married for 50 years. Three
kids, two grandkids, I owe a debt to GOD and my fellow man. I visit
with fellow vets at the Detroit VA Hospital, 3 hours on Wednesday
morning. As a Deacon in the AP Presbyterian Church visitation is
a big part. I hope I am paying something on that debt I owe. Overall
I had it easy. After 15 years at the Detroit VA Hospital, I got
my 2000 hour pin.
John Nasea, Jr. Family Man.
Shoulderpacth of the 101st Airborne