A Perilous Pontoon Crossing
I was assigned to a tank destroyer battalion in the 35th Infantry Division under Gen. Patton's Third Army. The very first night in my battalion, we were told to spend the night in an old farmhouse. I ended up on the second floor with a young soldier from Indiana. He decided to look out the window while I rested. An artillery shell hit him on the head without leaving a piece that you could even pick up. I had trouble sleeping that night, thinking about him and his family.
Our battle plan drove us to the Rhine River. We had been temporarily transferred from Patton's Third Army to Montgomery's Second Army for the Rhine crossing. When the engineers finished building a pontoon bridge over the Rhine, the U.S. Navy brought in smoke bombs, which completely blocked out everyone's vision, including the Germans'.
Early one morning, we drove our 36-ton tank destroyers onto the pontoon bridge. It was a nerve-racking ride with the pontoons barely able to hold us, swaying from side to side over the river. About every third tank slid off the pontoons into the river, and everyone that slid off was presumably drowned. It was a terrible experience not being able to see ahead of you in all that smoke.
We finally made it across, and the German army threw every weapon they had at us. There were so many of us that we overwhelmed them and got them to retreat back a couple of miles. This gave us a chance to regroup and bury the dead.
-- Stewart C. Watson, East Amherst, N.Y.
Freed by the Bravery of Others
I was born in France in 1930 in a non-practicing Jewish family. A few months after World War II started, my parents decided we should flee to the unoccupied zone, southern France. We settled in Toulouse, but shortly thereafter all of France was under German and Vichy control.
My father eventually was arrested and deported, and he never came back. While being interrogated in our living room, he was able to hide all of our ID cards under the rug -- I found them later. He was arrested for being active in an underground resistance cell and not for being a Jew, which is perhaps why the police never came back to our house to arrest the entire family, as was the norm then. I was taken in by a Christian family who knew who I was and the danger they faced.
My mother and I came to America in August 1948, and I became a U.S. citizen in 1952. I am forever grateful to the brave young Americans and Allies who fought unselfishly and died to free me, France and all of Europe.
-- Jacques G. Tangy, Temple Hills