This page is uploaded November 11, 2012 commemorating Veterans Day this 100th anniversary year of WWA's birth.
THE GHOST ARMY DAYS
WALTER WENDELL ARNETT
with some memories of Richard Morton
exerpts of Frederick Fox’s
History of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops,
notes of Ross Routh, Lawrence Taylor, William Nash III
exerpts of Bud Wroe’s
446th B-24 Bomber Group, "Miss ‘N Moan" Squadron History
Edited by John W. Arnett
1st version, Mar 1997
5th revision, June 1997
6th revision, Feb 1998
7th revision, May 1998
8th revision, Jan 2013
copyright Ó 1998, 2013 John W. Arnett
WALTER WENDELL ARNETT
May 5, 1912
Walter Wendell Arnett was born in Salyersville, Magoffin Co, Kentucky, May 5, 1912, in the administration of William Howard Taft, to Eugene Britton and Lucy (Jones) Arnett. Eugene was born in a log cabin 1873 in Magoffin Co and became a successful merchant operating the Arnett general store. His Scotch-Irish ancestors had moved into the Kentucky hills and were early settlers of Floyd Co in 1814. (Portions of Floyd and Morgan Co became Magoffin Co in 1860.) Three children--Helen (1900), J. Oakley (1901), and Ruth (1904)--were born to Eugene and his first wife, Julia Sublett. After she died of TB in 1907, E.B. married in 1910 thirty-one yr old missionary school teacher, Lucy Merrimon Jones, from Bourbon, Ill., near Tuscola.
Lucy's father, Daniel Webster Jones originally from
Somerset, Ky, moved to Illinois and married Sallie Gruelle in 1878. She was the
first cousin of the famous Indiana landscape artist, Richard Gruelle, and Lucy,
her daughter, was the second cousin of Richard's son, Johnny Gruelle, the
creator of Raggedy Ann & Andy stories. Peter Grouvelle, Richard's
great grandfather, had come to Delaware from France in 1774 with his three sons,
John, Timothy, and Isaac. John and Isaac moved to Kentucky near Cynthiana. In
the early 1840s two of John's sons, Isaac and John, moved to Coles Co, Illinois,
as did the Lincolns. Daniel Webster's uncle, Malden Jones, was an early settler
of Coles Co as well and as sheriff for two years got to know Abraham Lincoln who
would occasionally stop by to visit his parents and visit at Malden's house in
Bourbon. Lucy Jones had a gift for art herself having taken an art class at Ohio
Wesleyan where she earned her teaching degree. Since her father forbade her
going to China as a missionary, she took a position at the Magoffin Baptist
Institute working for the SBC Home Mission Board. Three additional children were
born to Eugene and Lucy--Paul (1911), Walter, and Bernice (1919).
Walter attended Magoffin Baptist Institute where several teachers encouraged his artistic bent and worked at his father's store and painted several ads on barns in the area. Salyersville held many happy memories of youth (detailed in another manuscript) and, because of his father's business, Walter had the occasion also to travel to Cincinnati and other cities during buying expeditions with his dad. In 1933 he had the opportunity also to visit the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition, and on another occasion visited his grandfather and aunts on the farm in Illinois.
After a year of college at Georgetown (KY), in the midst of the Great Depression (1929-39), Walter enrolled with his parents' encouragement at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in 1932 where he studied fine art for the next year. His interests, however, lay with advertising art, and, with hopes of becoming a syndicated cartoonist or advertising artist someday, he left Kentucky and attended the Advertising Art School in Nashville, Tennessee. Subsequently he began work for the Robert G. Fields Advertising Agency. In Nashville, Walter kept in touch with his family and visited home in Salyersville frequently. Having been reared by his staunch Baptist mother he attended the First Baptist Church in Nashville where he sang in the choir and joined the youth program where he met his future wife, Leila Katherine Routh.
Walter W. Arnett and Leila Routh were married on June 10, 1939, in Oklahoma City at the home of Leila's father, E.C. Routh who was serving as editor of the Baptist Messenger. She had grown up in Texas and Oklahoma and had graduated from Mary Hardin-Baylor in 1936 and had moved to Nashville taking a job as a secretary in the Baptist Sunday School Board. Her uncle, B.B. McKinney was director of the Music Department at the SSB, and her Aunt Leila McKinney directed the Baptist Young Peoples' Union (BYPU) at First Bapt. Church where they met.
1941 - World War II Begins (Pearl Harbor - Dec 7)
War clouds were gathering in Europe during this time, and the storm there raged with the Battle of Britain in the summer and fall of 1940 and the Axis invasion of Russia in June of 1941, but like most Americans the folks in Nashville were hoping to avoid direct U.S. involvement in the war. While in Nashville Walter and Leila would occasionally see many Lockheed "Hudson Type" bombers which were being transported from California to England. The big Vultee Airplane Plant in Nashville was also building planes to ship to England. Walter had the opportunity to do some his earliest cartoons of a political type for the Nashville Banner focusing attention on the need to support the war against Hitler. In 1940 Walter registered for the draft, and many of his friends began joining up. Walter inquired about a camouflage outfit in Pennsylvania which was involved in the camouflage of airports and airstrips, but the positions had all been taken. He guessed all the sign painters in the country had already joined up.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon December 7, 1941, after returning home from First Baptist Church, Nashville, Walter and Leila were getting ready for a nap after lunch when the radio program of orchestral music they were listening to was interrupted by the special bulletin that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed by Japanese air planes and several of the U.S. ships had been hit. On Monday they listened with the whole country as President Roosevelt addressed the Congress: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy--the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory."
1942 - Enlistment
Rationing of sugar, gasoline, and tires began and like many others Walter felt the need to enlist if he could find the right unit. He read in a paper about the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion and received encouragement from his employer Mr. Fields to join up. After discussing the situation and opportunity with Leila and getting his business affairs in order Walter walked to the Custom House in Nashville and talked with the Sergeant in charge about the outfit he wanted to get in. After receiving assurances he could join that unit he joined up the next day in October 1942. Fortunately, he was successful in getting assigned to the 603rd and shortly was on a bus to Camp Forrest (named for Confederate Cavalry General, Nathan Bedford Forrest) in October, 1942. On the bus one of the guys said, "Hey, some guy back here joined up in camouflage." "What kind of outfit is that?" another asked. "Well, I think he is going to herd camels over in the Sahara Desert." Walter rolled in laughter.
Walter’s luck in being able to select a unit to join
was quite different from the experience of his "Ghost Army" fellow
cartoonist and buddy-to-be, Richard Morton. Richard, about eight years younger
than Walter was born in Dallas, Texas and had grown up in Oklahoma City where he
attended Classen High School--coincidentally the same school that Walter’s
wife, Leila Routh, had attended a few years before Richard entered. Like Walter,
Richard had always wanted to be an artist and after graduation left for the
Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York where he spent the next three years
learning to draw and paint. With the onset of war in December, 1941, the Pratt
Institute--seeking to add "value" to the war effort--designed a course
in "Camouflage" which Morton had the opportunity to take. When he
completed his work at Pratt in 1942, Richard returned to Oklahoma where he
enlisted and was sent to Ft. Sill awaiting assignment. They weren’t sure where
to place an artist and on the list of potential billets, "camouflage"
was apparently not an option. After 17 days Richard was finally assigned to the
Engineers where his skills were thought to be of use in making topographical
maps, equipment designs etc. Eventually he found himself at Ft. Meade with the
603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion with Walter.
Lawrence Taylor and Ross Routh - Africa, Sicily and Italy
Although Walter was not destined to go to the Sahara Desert and ride "camels," his first cousin, Lawrence Taylor son of Lucy's sister Aileen in Tuscola, had shipped out from Camp Forrest with the 540 Combat Engineer Regiment just the month before Walter arrived. As part of the Western Task Force the 540th landed November 8, 1942 near Casablanca, Morocco in the first phase of Operation Torch which with 300 warships, 370 merchant ships, and 107,000 troops was the "largest amphibious invasion force thus far in the history of warfare." Leila Arnett's brother, Lt Col. Ross Holland Routh, finance officer, landed with the 45th Infantry Division on the coast of Sicily July 10, 1943 in Operation "Husky." From Carlo D'Este's Bitter Victory and confirmed in conversation with Ross Routh, "More than troops came ashore on D-Day [in Sicily 1943] in the 45th Division sector. For reasons never explained, the Division paymaster, Lt Col. R.H.Routh, was ordered ashore along with his six field safes containing some $2,000,000 in cash. The colonel and his safes became separated and a frantic search failed to turn up the cash until the following day when the errant safes were found submerged offshore where they had been dumped by a Navy coxswain whose LCVP had been unable to land. The soaking wet greenbacks were laid out to dry on the roof of the local fascist headquarters."
The war in the Mediterranean subsequently moved to
Italy and Ross was with the 45th when it landed in Anzio in January 1944 as a
"decoy invasion" for the secret main Normandy invasion which would
come in June. In August of 1944, Ross and the 45th Division participated in the
invasion of southern France at St. Tropez and drove north hoping to link up with
the Normandy invasion force in Germany. Walter and Ross were never able to meet
up with each other though they each ended up in Germany in the spring of 1945.
1942-44 - Fts. Forrest, Oglethorpe and Meade
Meanwhile Walter, having been taken by bus to Camp Forrest in October 1942, after several days departed to the Reception Center at Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. There he was given travel orders to take the Southern Railways' train "The Tennessean" from Chattanooga to Washington and then on to Ft. Meade, Md. in November 1942 where he joined Company "C" of the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion. On the train to Washington, he sat next to a Colonel and recalling his training at Oglethorpe was afraid to talk with him or answer many of his questions for fear he could have been a German Secret Agent. The officer smiled and Walter realized "he was getting a big kick out of this 'raw' Army recruit on his way to give his all for his country." When they arrived in Washington, the Colonel helped Walter carry his barracks bag off the train and then wished him good luck. Walter never asked his name so afraid was he of giving away the country's secrets.
Twenty miles east of Washington a truck from Ft. Meade met the soldiers of the 603rd at Odenton Station, and Walter found his way to the Headquarters and Service Company of the Battalion and was issued a Springfield rifle and later a Carbine which carried throughout the war but never had to fire it in the deception bivouacs in which the 603rd would be engaged. During the year of 1943 Walter drilled with the 603rd, climbed trees and telephone poles, marched on nearly "every road and by-path in the State of Maryland, bivouacked on the Potomac River" and other spots learning to live on the land. They learned some of the art of camouflage with barbed wire, chicken wire, and painted burlap. Color blind persons, they learned, could detect camouflage. "We tried to enforce camouflage discipline in our training and every day life. For instance, we were never allowed to hang our mess kits on the pup tent ridge poles, for they could serve as reflectors and give away our position."
The 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion, one of four groups in the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops detailed below. There were 400 engineers in the Battalion divided into five companies of about 80 each consisting of the Headquarters and Service (H&S) Company and line companies: A, B, C and D. Arnett was first assigned to C Company and then H&S Company. Morton was assigned from the beginning to H&S Company. Although most of the troops in the Special Troops were newly drafted soldiers, there were numerous career soldiers who helped to maintain "military order and discipline." The First Sergeant of the H&S Company was Sgt. Teaney who in turn reported to Capt. Spiegel who was subordinate to Col. Reeder. As luck would have it, Walter learned that Teaney had been a salesman for the International Shoe Company before he joined the Army. And when Walt mentioned to the Sgt that his dad had bought most of his shoes from that company, the two developed some added respect for each other which tended to humanize the war years to some small degree.
Walter was given the task of breaking down the rations for the company and learned to use a slide rule." His precision in the use of the slide rule angered many of the mess cooks who were not able to inflate their estimates of the supplies they needed. After the ration detail was out of the way, it was to mess hall for chow, back to the barracks for a little rest, mail call, and then some kind of problem out in the field, or a nice twenty-five mile march with full field pack. I never was able to extend the ration detail into the afternoon to avoid the 'forced march.' There was never a dull moment, but again where was the camouflage that I had enlisted for?" When they were overseas in France and Luxembourg later, Walter continued to be in charge of rations for the Battalion and was given the opportunity to drive the ration truck to get supplies.
Richard Morton was trusted with the responsibility for coordinating the activities of the mail room and delivery for the Battalion. As such he stayed in the headquarters area most of the time, but was able to learn how the organization functioned. He also had access to the bulletin board, and was able to place and remove his and Walt’s lampooning cartoons from the board at will.
In January 1943 a bad snow and ice storm hit the northeast, and the 603rd Engineers and 76th Infantry Division were called out to clear the snow and ice from huge camouflage nets which had collapsed on some 16,000 automobiles of employees of the Glen L. Martin Aircraft Plant in Baltimore, maker of the "Martin Marauder" among others. The camouflage had been expertly designed to give the appearance from the air of a village rather than a factory. Walter's job was to crawl under the nets and assess the damage and take the license numbers of the cars. All the tires were flat and the tops crushed in.
The bad snow left a lasting impression on Walter and years later he wrote People Magazine:
Letter to People Magazine
The interesting sketch of industrial designer Raymond Louie brought to mind an experience I had during World War II. In January 1943, on of the worst ice storms in history hit the East Coast. My unit at Ft. Meade was sent at dawn to the Glenn L. Martin aircraft plant in Baltimore to rescue 16,000 cars in Martin’s parking lots. The lots had been covered with huge nets of camouflage material supported by timbers which had snapped like matchsticks , leaving heavy loads of snow and ice on the cars.
It was my first look at real camouflage. Loewy had done such a good job that from nearby Pennsylvania trains the plant looked like so many peaceful villages. it was one of the greatest achievements in the art of camouflage and should certainly have been in your story.
Walter Wendell Arnett
March 31, 1975
In early 1943, it appeared Walter would be at Ft.
Meade for some time, and Leila left her job in Nashville and moved to Baltimore
where she rented an apartment from the Lester Mundorfs and found a job as
secretary in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps of the 3rd Service Command
(Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia.) On weekend passes Walter and Leila were able
to take in some of the sights of Washington and Baltimore. They took one trip to
the Naval Academy at Annapolis and Walt was enjoying watching the ships come and
go but got soured on the Navy when they confiscated the film out of his camera
and threatened to put him in the brig for taking photos of ships in the bay.
With time on their hands in the barracks, Walter and Richard teamed up to do some cartooning and caricaturing of some of the fellow soldiers and officers which they felt would add humor and boost morale. They were the only two of the various artists in the Battalion who drew and posted cartoons and caricatures. Of his cartooning at Ft. Meade Walter said, "I picked a boy from New York [Coleman Varaday] who had a very interesting face to caricature. I studied his mannerisms and habits and began to make cartoons of him in different episodes, much to the delight of the other soldiers who immediately recognized him. The subject, however, wasn't too thrilled. Morton made some excellent cartoons also. The fellows loved our cartoons and the officers encouraged us on since it did give the boys something to think about and get their minds off bitching about the Army. Morton and I got quite famous for our cartoons and the other boys would give us suggestions all the time for more cartoons and we had a great time. One big skinny boy [Ziebe] from Jacksonville, Fla, offered much material for cartoons and caricatures about him. He also didn't like them much and became quite angry a few times. We always signed our cartoons and the bulletin board of H&S Company became the gathering place for the fellows to see who 'made' the board that week. We usually left the cartoons up for a week and then replaced them with new ones. We never lacked material."
They continued their cartooning when they returned to Camp Forrest in January 1944. Their humor was not always appreciated, and they nearly got in trouble for it later. In October 1944 while in Luxembourg, Luxembourg, Lt Col Fitz and Major Hooper distributed the following memo:
TO: All personnel 17 Oct 1944
1. No Cartoons, pictures, memorandums or similar matter will be posted on any wall, bulletin board or other surface exposing saidmaterial to public view without the approval of the unit commander.
2. Violation of the above will be deemed to be a violation ofthe 96th article of war (Failing to obey a standing order) and is punishable by confinement at hard labor for a period of six months and forfeiture of 2/3 of six months pay.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Bill Mauldin was having trouble with his cartoons of the GIs and Patton. Patton called him in and cussed him out for depicting the GIs as unshaven and dirty, so Mauldin went to Eisenhower, and Ike said to go ahead and do any of that stuff you want to; if they can't take it that's too bad. Eisenhower's good sense filtered down and Walt and Rich were able to continue their cartoons as well.
Among the officers whom Walter learned to respect at Ft. Meade was the officer in charge of the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion, Capt. Charles Spiegel, a New York engineer who taught him how to use a slide rule in breaking down rations for the men. On each pay day Spiegel would have each man come before him at his desk and before paying them ask them a question pertaining to some engineering problem. One day when Walter's time came to be paid, Capt. Spiegel asked him, "Corporal Arnett, how big is a two man fox hole?" Without hesitation Walt said, "Big enough to hold two men, Sir." Everyone in the room broke out laughing and the Captain said, "Great! Sergeant, pay that man off." As he received his money Walter explained that he knew the exact dimensions, but the Captain said, "Forget it. That is the best description I have ever heard. You are excused."
For some time military strategists had been planning for a special decoy unit, and in January 1944 the new special top secret unit, called the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, was activated as a self-contained force solely designed for tactical deception. The unit was to be commanded by Col Harry L. Reeder, a West Point graduate and according to Walter, a "real army man." This unit consisted of personnel from the following groups described below by the unit historian, Frederick Fox in 1945:
"603rd ENGINEER CAMOUFLAGE BATTALION, Lt Col Otis R. Fitz, Commanding. (Later Major Wm U. Hooper) This Battalion had been working with FIRST ARMY for nearly two years. [In early August 1944 to confuse the Germans the FIRST became Bradley's TWELFTH ARMY group.] It had experimented with deceptive installations in Louisiana and Tennessee maneuvers. It was composed mainly of artists from New York and Philadelphia [and Kentucky] with an average IQ of 119. After the assignment of a deceptive mission and addition of dummy equipment [tanks, jeeps, cannon, uniforms, etc.] the official name became 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion Special. Strength: 28 officers, 2 warrant officers, 349 enlisted men." Tech-5 Arnett was in this group in addition to such artistic types as Bill Blass fashion designer; Ellsworth Kelly, originator of 'hard-edge' painting; George Diestel, eventual Hollywood set designer; Art Kane, photographer; Arthur Singer, bird painter; Jack Metcalf, taxidermist who worked before the war with the Joanas Bros. Taxidermists and had the honor of mounting the famous Australian race horse, 'Phar Lap,' that died after eating poisoned grass in California--names of workers shoved into rear end of completed work noted Walter; Richard Morton, fellow cartoonist, a fellow named Miller from Vermont; and Arthur Shilstone, who illustrated the article about the "phantom division" in the 1985 Smithsonian.
"244th SIGNAL OPERATIONS COMPANY, Capt Irwin C. Vander Heide, Commanding. The year-old AGF unit had just come off Desert Maneuvers. It was modified as a counter-radio intelligence company. 100 radio operators were added. It's official name was Signal Company Special and consisted of 11 officers and 285 enlisted men.
"COMPANY A, 293rd ENGINEER COMBAT BATTALION, Capt Geo. A. Rebh, Commanding. It consisted of a group of hardy well disciplined combat engineers needed for security and rough jobs and was lifted in toto and renamed the 406th Engineer Combat Company Special. [Lucian Prater, a friend of Walter from Salyersville, was a member of this unit]
"3132nd SIGNAL SERVICE COMPANY, Major Charles R.
Williams, Commanding. This company was the only unit within the 23rd that was
specifically organized and trained for deception. It was activated separately at
the Army Experimental Station, Pine Camp, New York, in March 1944, and did not
join the 23rd until Aug 1944 in France. This was the pioneer "sonic
deception" unit in the U.S.Army. The equipment was secret, the mission
dramatic, the personnel young and eager. The combination was more theatrical
than military. The unit name remained the same except for the addition of
'Special.' Strength: 8 officers, 137 enlisted men."
1944 - Moving Out
After sixteen months at Ft. Meade the members of the 603rd were bored and ready for some action overseas. When they got the call in early January 1944 that they were moving out, there was jubilation and hope that they would shortly be embarking in New York for the trip overseas. However, when the train they boarded reached Baltimore it turned northwest toward Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and then continued on through Altoona, Pennsylvania, to Columbus, Ohio, and then to Louisville, Ky. Everyone thought they were going to Ft. Knox, but the train continued on to Nashville, and before long Walter found himself back at Camp Forrest. The boys from New York were upset, but all soon learned that Camp Forrest was a POE (Point of Embarkation) and that soon they would be going to Europe or the Pacific; they didn't know which.
Members of the first three units described previously which were to make up the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops gathered at Camp Forrest in early 1944 for additional training and briefing and training for a period of about two months and were then transferred on April 21 to Camp Kilmer, NY (named for Joyce Kilmer who was from Brunswick, N.J. nearby and had died in France in WWI after writing the memorable poem, "Trees"). When the unit left Ft. Meade and ended up back at Camp Forrest, Leila moved back to Nashville where she stayed with her aunt and uncle until Walter was transferred to New York. Leila, then several months pregnant with her first child, John, stayed in Richmond, VA for a few months with her parents. E.C. Routh was now editor of The Commission. Walter would call every night from Camp Kilmer until an early May evening when no call came, and she knew he had left for Europe.
On May 2 members of the 23rd Headquarters Special
Troops left Camp Kilmer, and, after a brief visit to the top of the Empire State
Building (this was Walter's first trip to New York) and to China Town, Walter
with the 23rd embarked aboard the Liberty ship, Henry C. Gibbons, late at night.
Richard Morton, whose brother was served throughout the war as a percussionist
in the Army Band in New Orleans, recalls vividly being moved by the fact that an
Army band was at the dock even late that night in the near darkness of war time
security playing "Over There" and other such tunes as the troops
trudged up the gang plank loaded with full field packs. It was 2 o’clock in
1944 - Crossing the Atlantic
The trip across the Atlantic took thirteen days and was the largest convoy ever to cross. There were about 150 ships in the convoy with the Cruiser U.S.S. Cincinnati in the center. The placement of the U.S.S. Gibbons in the convoy was the extreme right front called "Coffin Corner" since that was the first ship hit during a submarine attack. Walter's berth was so low in the ship, he recalled, that "if the Germans fired a torpedo at us it would have gone 100 feet over our heads!" Fortunately the crossing was free of attacks of that sort. "But it was hard to sleep," he said, "because the destroyer escorts were dropping and exploding depth charges continuously." There was entertainment on the ship and in addition, to amuse themselves, Walter and Richard made many sketches of the ship and the soldiers and sailors aboard. They also played cards and performed some skits in which Walter did imitations of President Roosevelt, Churchill, and Adolph Hitler. [anec]
"A day or two out of New York the men were on the deck gazing at the endless stretches of waves and water of the Atlantic when a large ship appeared on the horizon. It came fairly close to our convoy and soon left us behind. It was the QUEEN MARY traveling at high speed alone toward England. The QUEENS never traveled in a convoy. They were so fast and zigzagged across the ocean so that a German sub could never sink them."
Because of the threat of German U boats menacing the Channel the convoy swung north of Ireland and approached England from the north eventually entering the Bristol Channel and disembarking at Avonmouth near Bristol, England, on the Avon River. Standing on the Avon River, Walter recalled the poem he learned in school many years before concerning John Wyckliffe (1320-1384), the English theologian who had been burned at the stake for his religious beliefs, "The Avon to the Severn runs, the Severn to the sea, John Wyckliffe's dust shall spread abroad wide as these waters be." [Some Wyckliffe descendants later emigrated to the Great Neck area of Virginia in the 1600's along with the Browns, Clevelands, Wroes, Powells, Brooks and others.]
Some Relevant Notes of William P. Nash, III
In a collection of memoirs self published in 1998, William P. Nash III, a distant cousin of Leila Ruth Arnett and her brother, General Ross Routh, William recounts his Army days and other memories a few of which are copied below from his book, My First Eighty Years.
"Introduction to Military Life"
"During my last year in high-school I joined the Texas National Guard as a requirement for completion of the Civilian Military Training Corps, a program for commissioning reserve army lieutenants. At summer camp our fires sergeant, Sergeant Ryan, was my introduction to military life. My first duty at camp was to burn out the pit under our four-holer latrine. In an attempt to do a good job, I poured too much gasoline in the pit and burned down the entire wooden latrine structure. After that Sergeant Ryan assigned me to the worst details he could think of. Whenever Sergeant Ryan left the company headquarters tent, word was passed on to me that ‘Sgt. Ryan was on the line.’"
from "How Time Changes Things"
"In 1941 Mother visited me at Fort Benning, Georgia, where I was attending a communication school. I had a few days off and we drove to Washington, D.C. to visit my great great uncle, retired Army General Kensey Walker. General Walker had been Chief of Finance under General Pershing during the First World War. (As a matter of interest, later I became a close friend of retired General Ross Routh, a distant cousin, who had also been a finance officer. The two Generals never met.) As a young second lieutenant I was impressed with the famous Army and Navy Club and General Walker’s office that he still occupied in the War Department....."
from "No Relief"
"In December 1941 right after Pearl Harbor I was assigned to the 102nd Observation Squadron and sent to California for submarine patrol duty...."
"I flew in the same unit with Tom Watson (who was later to take his father’s place as President and Chairman of IBM) in December 1941 on submarine patrols off the coast of southern California. Tom advised me several times to buy IBM. One share of IBM costs more than I made each month as a single first lieutenant on flying pay. Had I only know then what I know now." [Of additional interest, in 1959, Walter Arnett painted one of his biographical portraits of Thomas J. Watson, president of IBM.]
"In 1943 my unit was at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, waiting to be shipped to England. The day Carolyn was to arrive in New York, I received orders to ship out and the camp was in ‘lock up.’ There was no way to let Carolyn know as all communications with the outside, except censored mail, was cut off. It was Carolyn’s first time in New York with no hotel rooms to be had, my reservation having been canceled. A post mail clerk said if I would get in a large mail sack in the back of his mail truck he would get me off post and to the New York train and pick me up a few hours later on his next mail run. I found Carolyn at the hotel where we had previously planned to meet. She had met and was staying with one of the other wives and was now aware of the problem. I didn’t have long to stay so Carolyn rode the train back with me. I returned to the post in the mail sack without a problem. I was young and in love and didn’t realize the seriousness of what I had done. Later I would have court martialed an officer under my command who pulled a stunt like this."
"To The War Zone"
"We began our journey [prob. in Dec 1943] to England and the war in the middle of the night under strict blackout conditions. At Camp Kilmer we boarded trucks with canvas enclosed beds and unloaded inside a huge blackout tent with only one outlet, a long canvas enclosed walkway. At the end of the walkway we entered a big well-lighted room which appeared to be a grand hotel lobby with a bank of elevators. We were all surprised to learn that we were on the ship Queen Mary. I was quartered with two other lieutenants in a room with stacked bunks and footlockers. The room was so small that only one persons could stand at a time. I think they said that there were over twelve thousand men aboard. On our way to a port in northern Scotland we were told that we had been spotted by a pack of German submarines. The ship took a zigzag course for a few hours. WE were told not to worry because the Queen Mary could out-run the German submarines. The trip from the port in northern Scotland to England was by train through some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen."
the above from William Nash III’s My First Eighty
Genealogy notes: Brig. Gen. Ross Routh, Maj. Gen. Kenzie Walker, Col. William Nash III and Leila Routh Arnett share the same common East Tennessee ancestor in Joseph Routh (1780) who m. Elizabeth Murrell (1784).
Joseph Routh’s son Kenzie Routh (1811) became a medical doctor and moved to Fayette Co., Texas. Kenzie’s daughter Nancy Emiline Alice Routh (1847) was the mother of Kenzie Walker while his son, Joseph Hayden Routh (1841), was the father of Emma Amanda Melvina Routh (1870) who married William Perkins Nash (1866), the grandfather of William Nash III’s (1919).
Another of the seven children born to Joseph and Elizabeth Murrell Routh was Pleasant Miller Routh (1808) whose son Joseph Edward Routh (1841) was the father of E.C. Routh and grandfather of Ross Routh and Leila Routh Arnett.
1944 - England
The main body of the 23rd (minus the 3132nd which didn't leave the U.S. till late May) established its England headquarters at G-24 in Stratford-on-Avon nicknamed "Honeybourne." The headquarters of the 23rd was based at Walton Hall, a large castle with over a hundred rooms. Most of the units camped in pyramidal tents on the grounds of the estate. While in Stratford they enjoyed visiting the White Swan Inn, saw Ann Hathaway's cottage and took in some plays at the Shakespeare Memorial Theater. Walter was able to visit Lemington, Birmingham, and Coventry where he picked up a fragment of lead and stained glass in the ruins of the Coventry Cathedral which had been bombed in November 1942. He later crafted this lead and glass into a symbolic cross.
Three days before D-Day (June 6), Walter and a driver were sent to Portsmouth and Lands End to pick up a shipment of pyramidal tents for the upcoming invasion. He passed through Cheltenham, Bath, Taunton, Exeter, Glouchester where he saw the cathedral, Torquay, and Dartmouth. Plymouth was just ninety miles across the Channel from Brest and he was told that in 1941 the Germans flew over from Brest and methodically machine gunned down people on the street and destroyed many of the buildings. After completing his business there he visited the spot in Plymouth harbor from which the Pilgrims set out in 1620 aboard the "Mayflower." Nearby there was also a plaque commemorating the flight of the U.S. Navy plane, the NC-4, which made the first crossing of the Atlantic in 1919.
June 6, 1944 - D-Day
"We returned to our base at Stratford-on-Avon the next day and the place was in a real stir and fury. D-Day was imminent. The afternoon and night before the June 6 invasion I have never seen so many planes in the air at one time. There must have been thousands of B-17's, 'Flying Fortresses' and B-24 'Liberator' bombers. It was a steady drone and looked like a bright sheet of aluminum as the evening sun shone on their surfaces. The Allies were in control of the skies all the way to Berlin, and we knew by all this show of air power that we were getting ready for something. A platoon from our battalion was going on D-Day. I volunteered but was turned down. I didn't know if it was because I was married and my wife expecting, but shortly after that I was called to the tent of 1st Lieutenant Sterling and given special secret orders for a mission in Swansea, Wales on the coast."
As the platoon from the 603rd was crossing the Channel from Plymouth to Utah and Omaha beaches on D-Day, Walter traveled via Cardiff to Swansea, Wales, where he was to supervise the off loading of equipment from the U.S. which would be transported to France later. He spent nearly a month in Swansea and Stratford-on-Avon coordinating the transport of special dummy tanks, howitzers, etc.
Walter's job in Swansea was to check every box of special equipment for the 23rd which was offloaded at the dock to see that it was placed aboard a freight train destined for "HONEYBOURNE" at Stratford-On-Avon. In "cloak and dagger fashion" every night he would call from a pay phone in Swansea and talk with a Colonel Rapwatt, "probably a fake name," whom he never met but who was at General Eisenhower's headquarters (ETOUSA) in London. Using various code numbers Rapwatt would tell Walter what was in the boxes and where they should go. For example, a box labeled "GLUE 6679" indicated an inflatable rubber replica of a Sherman tank. Among the contents in addition to the tanks were 155 and 250 mm field artillery pieces, anti-aircraft guns, jeeps, trucks, and even dummy Piper Cub planes. These were made very expertly by the United States Rubber Company in Rhode Island. In checking this equipment Walter learned what the 23rd was going to do on the mainland. The special orders Walter had for his top secret assignment entitled him to travel on any ship to any port. One day when stopped by an MP the questioning soldier exclaimed, "Damn! If I had orders like that, I'd be on my way back to the States." But Walter was eager to get into the action with his unit in France.
While in Wales, Walter attended a Baptist church where he heard the organist play one of his favorite tunes, Melody in F by Anton Rubenstein. Like most GI's, in letters to Leila, he like most GIs, was not permitted by the censors to name the place he was. But in a letter from Wales, dated June 18, 1944, he mentioned the name of the pastor, Dr. Gordon Hamlin, and Leila's father was able to look him up in his directory of British Baptists, and thereby learn that he was in Wales. There were various codes which Walter and Leila and his mother and others used to indicate where he was. He would say, "I received your 13 page letter..." and they would look up 13 on a prearranged list of places and know that he was in the place corresponding to 13 e.g. Paris. When he first reached Luxembourg, however, one letter slipped through with the location clearly noted, "Luxembourg, Luxembourg."
After a month in Wales, Walter completed his work and
returned to Stratford-On-Avon riding in the caboose of one of the equipment
laden trains. There he joined the 3132nd Signal Service Company, known as
"HEATER," which had arrived in Glasgow June 11 aboard the USS Exceller
from Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. The 3132nd "was a highly trained technical
outfit," wrote Walter, "which possessed two 250 watt radio stations in
olive drab painted vans and phonograph records of every sound imaginable
including: tanks on the move, planes dive bombing, soldiers laughing and even a
single soldier walking along with his canteen cover jangling."
July, 1944 - Crossing the Channel
Walter stayed with HEATER for two or three weeks in
July, and they listened as the invasion was meeting stiff resistance being
pinned down on the Normandy coast. Finally the last of July they were loaded
aboard LST 1195 and made an uneventful nighttime Channel crossing pulling up in
half tracks on the flatter eastern part of Utah beach the following morning. As
it crossed the Channel the LST, like all the ships which traversed the Channel
in the Normandy invasion, floated a barrage balloon high above attached by a
steel cable to keep the German airplanes from strafing the ships. They then
proceeded to join with the main body of the 23rd near Isigny and Mandeville,
France, just a few miles inland, and Walter was reunited with his 603rd Engr
Battalion. The main body of the 23rd had traversed the Channel aboard the SS
John W. Mosby and had disembarked at Omaha Beach on June 21. The 23rd was now
finished with its role in Operation "Overlord" as the D-Day operation
was called, and was ready for the tasks at hand.
Aug 1944 - France
On August 3rd the unit moved by motor convoy some thirty miles south to La Fremondre, France, just north of Coutace. The 23rd was under the command of Col. Reeder and during this time several units of the 23rd assisted with decoy operations around Brest and Cherbourg. The entire invasion force had been pinned down near the beaches of Normandy for nearly two months owing to the German shore batteries and hedgerows which made travel difficult. For about two weeks Walter lived out of his two man tent set up over a fox hole. Many of the GIs were souvenir collectors and one day he noticed one of his buddies had lined his foxhole with German hand grenades he was hoping to ship home. Walter convinced him of the folly of his plan and danger should a stray shell fall nearby. Walter continued some of his pencil sketches and carved two walking sticks from the hedgerows which he carried with him through the rest of the tour and brought home.
During the early phase of operation and continuing through the year, the main job of the 23rd was reconnaissance. In order to be able if the occasion arose to impersonate the other units in the 12th Army, it had to build an extensive library of combat SOP's, SOI's, and radio peculiarities for deception planning. As Fox states, "Soon they had copies or specifications for every corps and divisional shoulder patch, bumper marking and CP sign. They could duplicate the appearance of any U.S. unit in the 12th Army Group...by V-E day the 23rd probably contained the most widely traveled and best informed officers in the ETO. A majority of the jeeps had driven over 16,000 miles." So secret was the unit that the other "regular" troops didn't know of the existence of the 23rd either.
After landing in France the breakout occurred in mid August, and the Germans were on the retreat with Patton and others in pursuit. Patton received favorable press because of his rapid pursuit made possible in part because the Germans were quickly retreating to get behind the Siegfried Line. Had Patton been given more free rein his tank corps might have ended the war sooner, but in deference to British General Montgomery [who wanted part of the glory], and following the example of Gen Meade after the Battle of Gettysburg and not wanting to overcommit his troops before adequately supported, Eisenhower held Patton back. The 23rd left Le Fremondre and traveled eastward to Torce en Charnie some thirteen miles west of Le Mans where they stayed Aug 23-Sept 7. Here they pitched tents but didn't need to dig foxholes. Walter found some rubber material in Torce which had been used to make barrage balloons and from this made a rubber mattress which he slept on the rest of the tour and brought home with him having inscribed all the places he'd been. [In 1952 later he loaned this mattress to John Sandidge, a Louisville attorney friend, to take with him to the Korean War.]
In describing the movement of troops from the Normandy beaches to Paris, Walter spoke of "the good job the Germans had done mining the roads and that these had to be cleared. This task frequently fell to the 90th and 29th Divisions, and they had signs posted which read, 'This Road Cleared of Mines to the Edges by Courtesy of the 90th Division; Proceed in Safety.' The Germans also had strung piano wires across the roads which were intended to cut the driver and passenger's heads off when hit while riding in a speeding jeep. To overcome this hazard a GI crafted the ingenious devise of a notched bar welded to the jeep's front bumper which would cut the wire. As they neared St. Lo and Le Mans the tanks had to have the tops painted with fluorescent colors (color codes changing daily) so that the Allied pilots would not mistake them for Germans."
While they had been pinned down in Normandy, Walter and others amused themselves by making sketches and whittling. The wood of the hedge rows was thick enough for Walter to make two walking sticks which he carried with him for the rest of the campaign and brought home. [Photos of these can be seen on the slide show for 1942-45] On one of these adorned with a carved "Cross of Loraine" symbolizing the Free French and used a 50 caliber shell casing as the tip. In a spiral around the stick he burned in the names of all the towns they passed through and the corresponding dates for many of the "visits." Most of these were towns in France:
Carenton 8/9 Treviers 8/10 StLo 8/28Fougeres Auranches Coutances Granville 8/28 Torce 8/22 Issigny 8/28 Laval 8/22 LeMans 8/24 Viviers Neuvillette Vaiges St. Suzanne Cloyes Sille-le-Guillaume Erme Mayeme Chateaudun 9/8 Bonueval 9/8 Chartres 9/8 Epernon 9/8 Ram bouiliet 9/8 St Cyr 9/8 Versailles 9/8 Paris 9/12 St. Denis 9/23 Meaux 9/23 Montmirail 9/23 Chalons 9/23 St Menehould 9/23 Etain 9/27 Verdun 9/23 Longuyon 9/27 Longwy Luxembourg 10/1 Wiltz 10/4 Arlon, Bg 10/8 (last entry on the stick)
Aug-Sept 1944 - Paris
On the morning of Aug 24, Col Bierre Billotte's French armored force entered Paris from the south, and on 25 Aug General deGaulle accepted the German surrender. Patton's Third Army, which could have taken Paris but out of respect let the French generals enter first, then entered the city and Walter remembers being among the first American troops to roll down the Champs Elysees in Paris. "The French were all glad to see us, waving flags and throwing flowers." From Sept 7 - 20 the 603rd unit of the 23rd was billeted at St Germain in Camp les Loges, a French military base which had been hastily deserted by the Germans. The HQ Co and 406 Engrs of the 23rd took over the Maison d'Ecole de la legion d'Honneur, a palace which Napoleon had built for his wife, Josephine.
During these two weeks Walter was able to see many of the sights of Paris some twelve miles to the east and Versailles some seven miles to the south. A visit to the Louvre disclosed that all the art had been removed to the countryside by the French before the German occupation. The Germans had been prevented from dismantling the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal, and most of the city had been spared. He recalled standing inside the Hotel des Invalides (from whence the revolutionary "citizens" had set out the morning of July 14, 1789, to storm the Bastille,) and looked down on the tomb of Napoleon.
Fellow soldiers and twins, Alan and Gilis Wood-Thomas, from New York had been born in Paris and their grandmother still lived there. Their father was a landscape architect who had designed the Lincoln Park in Chicago. Since they spoke French fluently it was easy to get around and see the sights of Paris while evading the American MPs who were keeping the city off limits for many of the GI's. Walter could claim some ancestry with the French through the Gruelle line, and a remote uncle, Antoinne Phillip Grouvelle, as secretary of the National Convention, had read Louis XVI his death sentence in January 1793. One night in Paris when they had decided to stay late while Alan visited his grandmother, an MP stopped them, but Alan spoke such excellent French (Walter kept quiet) that the Captain presumed them to be Free French of the Interior, and after cussing said, "Aw go on you damn Free French!"
Walter enjoyed the visits with the Wood-Thomas boys, and their grandmother and shared several "black market" chicken and vegetable dinners with them. He listened as she told of the hardships living under German occupation for four years though never harmed. She said she could have fled Paris in 1940 but she preferred to stay knowing that the Germans couldn't hold the city forever.
Richard Morton was gratified by the trust the Army showed in the GI’s by letting them go into Paris on their own--albeit for only four hours--just 10 days after they’d liberated the city. When Morton got his chance to go in he looked for French girls who spoke English. Without much difficulty he found one named Nicole Guérende, a sixteen-year-old school girl "who hailed a horse drawn carriage and driver to take them all around Paris in those four hours with her acting as his guide. Upon the completion of the town she gave him an engraved card with her name and address on it and invited him to write to her."
"The 603rd quickly moved on across northern France to Luxembourg where Richard found time to write to Nicole. After exchanging several letters, Nicole wrote that her school was requiring each student to adopt an American or English soldier as a filleul or "godson" for the balancde of the war as a means of establishing friendships and perfecting their practice of English. It was later learned this was a custom dating from the last war (World War I.) Nicole invited Richard to be her godson, and, of course, Richard had do difficulty accepting.
"Richard and Nicole carried on a correspondence that lasted throughout the time he was in Europe (and even continued when he returned from the war.) While on a three-day pass to Paris in February 1945, Morton saw Nicole again and met her parents, her 19 year-old sister Hugette, 14 year-old brother Michel and little brother Henri Claude ("Rignet"), age 5. While going anyplace with Richard during his stay there, her brother, Michel, was required to accompany them as a chaperone. He did not stay right with them but would follow about half a block away.
"While in Paris, Morton stayed in the famous Grand Hotel which was devoted soley to the quartering of soldiers on leave from the war zones all over Europe." [These notes in "quotes" were supplied by Richard Morton in Feb 1998 just before a visit to Louisville.]
Although she’d had five years of English her initial letters were in French, and Richard relied on the Wood-Thomas boys to translate for him. He’d write her in English, and eventually she was able to write in English herself.
They hadn't been in Paris long before some the entertainment groups began coming over from the States to put on shows for the troops. Walter recalled one day when he was in a perfume shop, Dina Shore and her entourage came into the store, and he asked her what would be a good perfume to send home. She suggested Scaparrali which he bought for $11.00. When Leila received the perfume she was thrilled but asked him why he didn't also get some Channel No. 5. Walt said he had seen that name all over Paris but thought it had something to do with the Seine River which flowed through Paris.
Leaving St. Germain on September 21, 1944, the 23rd
followed the progress of Bradley's 12th Army to the east passing through Chateau
Thierry (the famous World War I battlefield), Reims where the famous Reims
Cathedral's rosette window was boarded up, and then Verdun where they set up
camp. Walter observed how lifeless the people there looked. They had seen so
much war that they were in a deep state of despair. They pitched their tents on
a some hills overlooking the city and in digging foxholes would uncover shells
from World War I and saw many of the old grass covered trenches from that last
"War to end all wars." Although they had roofs over their head for the
first time in St. Germain, the first real shower since landing in Normandy in
August was at Verdun in a mobile army shower site.
Sept-Dec 1944 - Luxembourg
After a short stay in Verdun, the 23rd followed the 5th Armored Division into Luxembourg September 25, where Walter's 603rd Eng Cam Batt, the 406th Eng Battn, and the 244th Signal Co were billeted in the Catholic Seminary which sat on a hill at the northwest end of the city. The 3132nd took over the Hollerich School south of the city. A Factory in the town was used to house the repair operations of the various rubber tanks and other equipment. The command of the 23rd stayed at the German Legation just a few blocks from the Italian Legation where General Omar Bradley's 12th Army Group HQ was maintained.
The 12th Army Group was made up of the 1st Army under Gen Courtney S. Hodges, the 3rd Army under Gen George S. Patton, Jr, and the 9th Army under Gen William Simpson. The nickname of the 12th Army Group was "Eagle" and consisted of "Eagle Main" with SHAEF in Paris, "Eagle Rear" at Verdun, and "Eagle Tactical" in Luxembourg.
The Germans had occupied Luxembourg so long that they had time to paint the walls of the seminary with murals depicting various German battle scenes. Walter admired the color and draftsmanship though the themes were Nazi. The 603rd took the second floor of the Catholic Seminary for its barracks. The beds were infested with bedbugs and in order to get rid of them Walter and other doused the beds with gasoline and then set them on fire. After putting out the fire before the beds were consumed the bed bugs were gone. A week later they learned that the entire basement of the seminary had been a German ammunition depot and was filled with grenades and other high explosives.
According to Richard Morton, the Seminary had been the place of some 300 young men who were studying for the priesthood. When the Germans took over the building they just turned all the students out to the countryside. While they were there Morton had the opportunity to meet one of the students who wandered back for a look. It was during this period of liberation of Luxembourg that Richard recalls seeing for the first time all of the men, women and children who had been engaged in German slave labor camps. They came by the truck load across the river screaming in ecstasy over their new found freedom. Unfortunately most of these liberated "displaced persons" had "no status" to use Morton’s term, and they ironically weren’t afforded the simple amenities of housing and food rations which were given to the German prisoners of war. As the "liberation" progressed the number of these "displaced persons" grew and demonstrated further the misery of war.
In recalling their stay at the Catholic Seminary in Luxembourg, Richard Morton recalled having asked a former priest friend of his why the Germans hadn’t excommunicated Hitler and Stalin, both professed Catholics who’d attended parochial schools. His friend answered, that they had never spoken against "the Doctrine."
Out of this Luxembourg home base many operations carried out the tactical deception mission. These are fully detailed in Frederick Fox's unpublished report compiled as the operation progressed and finished in September, 1945. Walter and the 603rd participated in several of these: "Casanova", "Dallas", "Viersen", "Whipsaw," "L'Eglise", "Bouzonville," and others. When the 23rd was called on to replace or supplement other "real" divisions, their rubber tanks, trucks, planes, etc. were inflated with small air compressors (they had hand pumps also as a back up). An important task of Walter and the 603rd in addition to setting up and mimicking the operation of the group they were replacing was to make sure there were no leaks since a sagging tank or gun barrel would have been disastrous. The dummy Sherman tanks were inflated by attaching the air hose to a valve in the end of the 105 mm gun extending from the turret; this was then attached to the body of the tank which was inflated separately. Most of the setups were done at night in order to avoid detection. On one occasion they nearly blew their cover when a couple of French bicyclists were startled to see four GI's pick up a Sherman tank and turn it around [so it was facing the right way].
November 4-9, the 23rd engaged in deceptive maneuvers code named "Casanova" and "Dallas" which enabled the surprise crossing of the Moselle River above Thionville by the 90th Division after which Metz subsequently fell November 10 to Patton's Third Army. "The phony artillery brigade was not completely phony. Every battalion was reinforced by at least one battery of real shooting pieces. One battalion had a battery of captured German 88's. The Dallas battalions were built around the gun batteries and expanded to regular size by the addition of rubber dummies and flash devices. In all, XX Corps supplied over 500 men and 12 guns to replace 2230 men and 48 guns. The 23rd task force consisted of 195 men, 36 dummies and artflashes." (Fox) The day after Patton and the Third Army took Metz, Walter recalls spending a few nights there with his unit camped out in a high school and sleeping of the tops of desks in the classrooms.
Also paving the way for Patton's taking of Metz was the 446th Bomber Group of the 8th Air Force which engaged in tactical bombing of German fortresses there November 9. Bud Wroe, a distant cousin of Leila Arnett, was the bombardier in the B 24 named "White Lit'nin" which participated in this strike. In his 1993 history of B-24 bomber squadron, Bud described that during this first mission of some 35 that they flew in the War, some of the Allied artillery would fire vertically to create a semicircle of flack creating a line in the air beyond which the bombers knew to drop their bombs to avoid hitting Allied troops since there was a "low undercast of clouds in the target area." After dropping 4 - 2,000 lb. bombs they returned to their base in Bungay, a small town in Suffolk, England. "The trip back across France was uneventful. Every place we looked, the fields of France were pockmarked by old bomb craters and shell holes." Most of Bud's squadron's other missions were directed at northern Germany including Hamburg Nov. 21, Koblenz Dec. 4, Worms Jan 13, and Wesel on Mar 24.
Prior to the "Bulge" in mid December it was
not all hard work, and Walter and Richard Morton continued their cartooning.
They were also visited while at the Seminary by Marlene Dietrich, who Wendell
recalled wearing a long green gown talking to them and then sang, "I Ili
Marlene." She performed on a stage in the auditorium of the seminary.
Richard recalls her wearing green military fatigues, but that when she
"played the saw" in one of her numbers, "you could still see
enough to tell she had a good pair of legs." Marlene was apparently the
only celebrity who made it to the Front in those days before the
"Bulge." The imaginative troops of the 23rd also staged their own
entertainment and produced several shows among themselves called, "Blarney
Breakdown." Walter, Hal Levinsky, and others starred in several of these.
Dec 1944 - Battle of the Bulge, Verdun, Paris
The German counter attack which led to the Battle of the Bulge began December 16, 1944, just to the northeast of Luxembourg in eastern Belgium and the Ardennes. On the next day in the massacre of Malmedy 72 members of Battery B, 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, after surrendering, were machine gunned down mercilessly by Col Peiper's SS Panzer division. "Avenge Malmedy" became the "Remember the Alamo" cry for the Allies as they slowly forced the Germans back to the Rhine. [In October Oskar Schindler had successfully extricated his Jewish workers from Auschwitz, Poland, and settled them at his factory in Brinnlitz, Czechoslovakia.]
It was at the onset of the "Battle of the Bulge" that the 23rd HQ Special Troops Group came closest to "real" combat. Richard Morton recalls that even the H&S Company was asked to fall out for inspection prior to "marching off" to battle. However, at the last minute, the decision was made not to have the 23rd HQ Special Troops exposed to battle for fear that some of the group would be captured and the secrecy of its mission thus exposed. Thus the decision was made for the Special Troops to pull back to Longuyon and later Briey near Verdun where it remained for the next three months and continued its decoy operations from that site. They took up quarters in a deserted French barracks and spent what Morton describes as his most memorable miserable Christmas. They had no electricity or running water because of the ravages of war, and the plight of the "displaced persons" was evident everywhere.
On December 19, 1944, however Major Frederick Vincent asked Walter to get a jeep and two drivers and take him to , check on special equipment which had arrived at Omaha Beach. Walt selected Edward Poynter and Paul Corder to go along, and the four set out toward the beach and away from the misery of the Front and Verdun. Conveniently these orders were for nine days and after a quick "check on the supplies" the group spent the remainder of its time in Paris including Christmas. General Eisenhower had located his headquarters, SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces), in Paris, and this was a time of heightened security because of threats on his life.
Shortly after arriving in Paris Walter was able to go to the Olympia Theater on December 22 where the Glenn Miller's orchestra was to be playing. After a delay in the program, Ray McKinley announced that Glenn had not showed up yet and they went on a played without him. Among the pieces they played were, "Holiday With Strings," "I Walk Alone," and "Oranges and Lemons." Glenn Miller had taken off from England in bad weather aboard a small plane on December 15 and never arrived in Paris. He was later presumed to have died in a crash in the Channel. Encouraged by the SHAEF Command, his band continued the tour for the troops beginning December 21.
After Christmas and a dinner at the large mess tent of SHAEF, the "business" having been completed, Major Vincent and his three soldiers stopped by the American Red Cross HQ at the Hotel de Paris for coffee and a load of many boxes of donuts they were given to take to the boys on the front. They then returned to Verdun where they remained the next two months.
Walter saw further action around St. Vith, Belgium not far from the site of the Malmedy massacre and Bastogne. In October before the "Bulge" the 603rd had performed decoy and reconnaissance operations in Belgium and Walter recalled seeing the village Houffalize looking so peaceful; in the Bulge it was reduced to rubble. During one operation before the December counter offensive, Walter's unit drove 250 miles in open trucks through mud and snow and traveled in that one day through parts of five countries: Luxembourg, Holland, Belgium, France, and Germany.
During the early days of the Bulge Walter was billeted in the parish house of the town priest just a few miles south of St. Vith and made some sketches of some of the furnishings. One night while near St. Vith, Walter and a fellow soldier, Paul Regussis, from New York were standing guard duty 2am-4am (the "Graveyard Shift") when under a full moon a jeep approached their post with its cat lights on. "The jeep was coming down the road from the direction of St. Vith and the front. Regussis and I stepped out of the shadow of the buildings about the same time and advanced to the jeep with carbines in hand. We could have been killed because we stood out so well in the snow and moonlight. We were not wearing white uniforms like the Germans. I approached the drivers side and demanded to see their IDs and dog tags. They were wearing 45 caliber guns. After being satisfied they were U.S. Army we let them pass." Fortunately they were U.S. The Germans had infiltrated many units wearing GI uniforms, and even Gen Bradley got stopped once and quizzed about various towns in the U.S. to make sure he was American.
After he returned from Paris, Walter and portions of
the 23rd joined in decoy operations with the 4th Armored Division of Patton's
3rd Army under Gen. Hugh Gaffey which had been successful the day after
Christmas in reaching the 101st Airborne trapped in Bastogne. Operation "Legliese"
near Leglise, Belgium was carried out 10-14 January, 1945, and additional troops
freed Bastogne. By Jan 15 the Germans had been pushed back to the Siegfried Line
and their hopes for holding territory in the Ardennes was gone.
Feb-Mar 1945 - More Ghost Army Operations
In operation "Whipsaw" elements of the 23rd including Walter reached Saarlautern Germany where during Feb 1-4, 1945, they assisted the 20th Corps, and he was able to see the real 150 mm cannon close up. In operation "Bouzonville" (Mar 11-13) the 23rd simulated the 80th Infantry Division in the rear of the 65th opposite Saarlautern. On the morning of the real attack the 65th put on a demonstration supplemented by the 23rd using rubber guns with flash devices, MPs at traffic control points, shoulder patches and bumper markings simulating the 80th, and sonic equipment simulating tank movements. The tactics were effective in drawing enemy fire and the 23rd sustained fifteen casualties, the highest number of the 23rd in the war. Among the casualties were Capt Thomas G. Wells and S/Sgt Peddle killed near Picard, Germany. These may have been the two whom Walter remembers driving in their jeep to get a better look and subsequently found themselves the target of the German 88mm guns which were trained on the intersection they passed through. Meanwhile, the 80th Division encountered light resistance in its zone of attack suggesting that the 23rd's ruse was effective.
It was on February 10, 1945, that Richard Morton took a three day leave and visited Paris where he was able to spend some time with his French "godmother" Nicole. They’d been able to carry on a lively correspondence, and the H&S Company Captain--whose task it was to read all the mail that went out-- knew of Morton’s interest in Guérende and, while never saying anything about it, quite possibly arranged for the leave to be granted.
The last of the deceptive operations, called "Viersen," took place March 18-24 near Viersen, Holland, and was said by Fox to be the best. Hodges's First Army had just crossed the Rhine at Remagen and "Wild Bill" Simspson's Ninth Army was poised to cross further north. Of the three corps of the Ninth the 16th was located in the zone most advantageous for a crossing. Extra divisions from the 13th and 14th corps were added secretly to the 16th and the 23rd Special Force supplied dummy tanks, trucks, jeeps, impersonating personnel, and fake sound effects in the zones vacated by parts of the 13th and 14th corps. This deception allowed the Ninth Army to cross the Rhine on the 15th of March in a surprise move some twenty miles north of the area the Germans were guarding and resulted in very few American casualties. General Simpson gave the 23rd a special commendation on the 29th of March for "the careful planning, minute attention to detail, and diligent execution of their tasks." It was during the Viersen deception in which Walter's group occupied a farm house just as the corps they replaced had done. He noted that there were some Holstein cattle on the property which had not been milked in some time and seeing their distend udders proceeded to milk them. Then while "pasteurizing" the milk inside the house the medical officer arrived and ordered them to throw it all out.
In the 446 Bomber Group mission north of Wesen on
March 24, the B-24's carried supplies which were dropped while flying at low
altitude (100-300 ft) to the assault and airborne forces shortly after they
landed on the east bank of the Rhine just north of the area Simpson's 9th had
secured. 240 B-24s of the 2nd Division participated in this massive airdrop of
troops and supplies. In describing the sight as they took off from England to
the east bank of the Rhine, Wroe said, "The sky was entirely filled with
aircraft; an apparently endless train stretching over 500 miles; a mass of 1,300
gliders and 200 paratroops planes [British Sterlings, Dakotas and American
C-47s] which would put down a force of British and U.S. troops estimated at
40,000." 20 of the 240 B-24s were lost during the mission. Wroe's plane
during this mission was called "Shady Sadie" and there were so many
holes in the plane after the mission that no one bothered to count them. Two 50
cal bullets were lodged in the forward armor plate of the nose turret where Bud
Wroe had been riding.
March 1945 - Trier, Germany
After Hodge's 1st and Simpson's 9th crossed the Rhine, Patton's 3rd crossed the Moselle swung north and with two of his tank divisions took the city of Trier, on the Moselle River. In the confusion of the campaign, Eisenhower had cabled Patton not to bother trying to take Trier, and Patton cabled back, "Do you want me to give it back?" Trier is the oldest city in Germany, and it was here that the legions of Julius Caesar set up camp and in 15 BC the town was officially founded by the Emperor Augustus. Patton, who imagined he had in previous lives been a warrior in many battles, stood on a hill at Trier imagining those prior conquests of the Romans.
Walter and the 23rd entered Trier in late March, after leaving Viersen, and took up residence for a month in a big mansion on a hill overlooking the city. Walter recalls seeing the Porta Nigra there--a huge stone entrance gate to the walled city built without mortar in 2 BC. It is the oldest existing Roman relic on German soil.
Trier was abandoned with the invasion of Germanic tribes in 274 AD but was retaken under Diocletian and became the imperial residence of Constantine (306-337). After the Edict of Milan in 313 ended the persecution of Christians, the See of Trier was established as the oldest in Germany. St. Ambrose, later Bishop of Milan, was born in Trier in about 340; he introduced antiphonal singing and began the writing of hymn texts. In 386 he baptized St. Augustine whom he had converted to the faith after demonstrating that one could be an "intellectual" and a Christian as well. The Trier cathedral holds what is alleged to be "The Holy Robe," brought to Trier by Helen of Constantine and shown every 30 yrs (next in 2019.)
In 470 AD. Trier fell to the Franks. During the Middle Ages the Archbishops of Trier, Metz, and other proximate towns exercised power as Prince-Electors. St. Arnulf, the Bishop of Metz and later monk in the Moselle valley, was the progenitor of the Carolingians, and descendants of Arnulf followed William the Conqueror to England in 1066. Some of these Arnulfings likely migrated to Scotland where the "Arnulf" may have became "Arnott." Trier was also the birthplace of Karl Marx (b.1818), one of many Jews who had settled there since the time of Otto II. In 1942-43 most of the Jews were deported to the concentration camps. In nearby Koblenz in June 1942, Adolph Eichman ordered 450 Jews deported "to the East."
Viewing Trier and the Moselle Walter remarked how, "the hillsides around the town were covered with vineyards and the cellars of the town buildings which had been hit hard by Allied bombers were loaded with bottles of wine." Indeed, the Moselle Valley is one of the most famous wine producing districts in Germany, and the origin of the vineyards dates to Roman times.
Walter and his buddies made trips to the mouth of the Moselle where it emptied into the Rhine River and crossed over pontoon bridges to Koblenz which had also been heavily bombed. At the point where the Moselle enters the Rhine, there stood before the war a large bronze equestrian statue Wilhelm I called The Deutsches Eck. This was destroyed along with many a church steeple by the Allies in order to rid the area of possible German snipers. Walter found a fragment of this statue on the ground and brought it home with him. One day he recalled walking into the big Opera House built in 1787 which had also been partially destroyed. The Opera House had been inaugurated with a performance of Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail. Mozart (b. Salzburg 1756; d. Vienna 1791) had himself spent ten days in Koblenz in 1763 playing at the Residenz and in public concerts at the age of seven during his European tour. Fortunately the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, and the other composers outlasted the ruins of war and the terror of Hitler.
It was from this Palatinate region of that many of the German immigrants of the early 1800's had come to America via the Rhine past Koblenz and then Amsterdam. [Included in this group were the Schmidts, Foltz, Waltz, and Kies.]
In July of 1932, Kermit Schmidt, the father of Walter's daughter-in-law, Carolyn, visited Trier during a bicycle tour and no doubt saw many of the same sights as Walter. In fact Kermit's tour of France and Germany preceded along nearly the same course as Walter's. He and three buddies sailed from New York to Cherborg, France, then took the train to Paris and rode bicycles to Chateau-Thierry, Verdun, Luxembourg, Longuy, Saarbucken, Heidelberg, and to Trier where Kermit and his friends spent the night with a family and sampled some of their Moselle wines. The head of the household was more fond of German beer and told Kermit he hadn't had to drink water in nearly thirty years. (See copies of letters esp. from Trier, July 2, 1932). They took the boat up the Rhine from Mainz past Koblenz to Koln and then via train to Brussels and Holland and finally to London. After arriving in New York by ship they went via Albany to Buffalo and saw Niagara Falls before returning to Wewoka, Okla. Unknowingly Kermit had retraced the path of his ancestors from Germany and Great Britain to America some hundred years earlier.
After a month in Trier Walter recalled, "On April 12, 1945, while at this mansion in Trier, we were suddenly called out to line up in formation. Our captain read us a special news bulletin announcing, 'President Franklin D. Roosevelt had just died April 12 at Warm Springs, Georgia.' We stood at attention for a few moments of silence in his honor. Somebody said, 'I wonder who the Vice President is.' and another answered, 'I believe it's a fellow named Harry Truman.'" Richard Morton recalled that loud speakers were installed at the encampment and "memorial" music was played all the day long, so well liked and respected was Roosevelt. [On April 8, 1945, the Nazis hanged Dietrick Bonhoeffer in the small Bavarian town of Schonberg.]
On May 8, 1945, while at Trier Walter's unit received word that Germany had surrendered causing much V.E. Day celebrations along the Moselle. The wine cellars were quickly depleted and 40 mm anti-aircraft guns fired down the Rhine in celebration. The 23rd then volunteered its services to supervise several "displaced person camps" in the western part of Germany. Parts of the 603rd were attached to a "paper" army, the 15th Army under the command of General Leonard T. Gerow. (Gen Gerow earned Walter's disrespect when he busted Jack Metcalf to a private after catching him use his helmet to hold water for a painting he was making.) In supervising these camps the Army dug latrines and were able to get rid of some of their C Rations which the GI's despised. There were French speaking persons displaced from Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, Russians, Poles, Czechs, and Germans. It reminded Walter of the aftermath of the Biblical Tower of Babel.
One day he stopped a Russian who had twelve wrist
watches and a sack of potatoes he had stolen from a shop in Trier where he had
knocked a German in the head. The people of Trier were constantly begging the
commander to keep the displaced persons from coming into Trier and stealing from
them. Order was frequently difficult since the Russians hated the Poles and they
all hated the Germans since many of their relatives had been killed or taken to
concentration camps. Walter, like most of the GI's had no knowledge at this time
of the atrocities of the various concentration camps deeper in Germany and
Poland. Auschwitz, which had begun receiving Poles and later Jews in June 1940
and started mass gassing in August, 1942, was finally liberated by the Russians
January 26, 1945, after six million Jews had been executed.
April 1945 - Ross
Ross had landed with the 45th Division of the 7th Army
at St. Tropez on the Riviera in southern France in October, 1944, and he and
Walter had hoped to meet up with each other at Metz, Germany in December. But,
enroute to Germany the 45th caught the backlash of the Bulge and were engaged in
several battles in southern Germany. Eventually they fought the Germans at
Nuremburg and liberated on April 28 the concentration camp at Dachau just north
of Munich. According to Lt.Col Routh "it was one of the worst. . .thousands
of dead in box cars. I had to go in a building there where they had vaults full
of money, jewelry, and gold fillings they had stripped from the bodies. There
were freight cars full of bodies and the ovens were still there where they had
been putting the people to death." (Also on April 28 in Italy, partisans
killed Mussolini and strung him up by his toes.) David Goldstein's father, Dr.
Ira Goldstein, a medical doctor with Patton's Third Army who had crossed over
shortly after D-Day also visited Dachau when it was liberated and was an eye
witness to the devastation of life there.
June 1945 - Coming Home
On May 22 all units of the 23rd HQ Special Troops reassembled in Idar-Oberstein, Germany and then departed June 14 for Paris and Montmedy near Soissons, France, and then on to Camp Twenty Grand near Rouen and finally Le Havre where they boarded the "USS General Ernst" and embarked for the United States on June 23, 1945. "That afternoon we steamed out of Le Havre down the English Channel to the Atlantic. The French and English coasts looked pretty, glistening in the sun. In contrast to the journey over where we were part of a great convoy, on the return home we traveled alone not concerned about a U-boat menace."
After arrival in Newport News and Camp Patrick Henry on July 2 they were given thirty days of leave. Walter took the train to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and then the bus to Louisville and Lexington where he was reunited with Leila and thirteen month old son, John (born while he was in Swansea, Wales, on June 23, 1944.)
In August, after a month furlough, Walter left for Pine Camp, NY. where he would be getting ready to carry on with the 23rd's operations in the Pacific. While enroute, he received word of Hiroshima Aug 6, Nagasaki Aug 9, and the Japanese surrender Aug 14. While waiting at Pine Camp Walter and Richard visited Watertown, NY on the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Here Walter found the plaque marking the spot where Frank W. Woolworth started opened his first store.
Walter and some of his buddies got a weekend pass and crossed the St. Lawrence River and hitchhiked to Ottawa, the capital of Canada, and spent the weekend seeing the sights including a tour of the U.S. Embassy. On Sunday he attended the local Baptist church and were warmly welcomed. Richard enjoyed the night life which Waterton afforded the service men. [Ross' unit the 45th had also been stationed at Pine Camp prior to their deployment to the Mediterranean in 1943. The 45th known as the "Thunderbird" Division had 1000 Native American Indians. Three hundred years earlier the ancestors of many of those soldiers had been of the Shawnee and Iroquois who had originally inhabited the land of upper New York.]
Because he had over eighty points, Walter was able to be discharged in the first week of September, 1945, nearly three years since he had first enlisted. The estimate of total civilian and military casualties in World War II was placed at 45 million persons.
On the way back to Louisville, he stopped by and visited with Chester Gould of Dick Tracy fame and then returned to Camp Atterbury where he was formally discharged.
Richard Morton returned to Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas from
which he was discharged. He returned to Oklahoma City and after a period of time
as a private art teacher, completed degree programs at Oklahoma City University
(BA in Art), University of Tulsa (MA in Graphic Art), and Instituto Allende,
Mexico City (MFA in painting). He taught art at various colleges for seventeen
years. Recently he’s been actively engaged as a free lance artist specializing
in landscapes and watercolors. He donated some 150 of his war time sketches to
the Brown University "Soldier Art" Program in 1994. Richard currently
resides in Aberdeen, Md. Subsequently several of Walter Arnett’s cartoons and
sketches were also donated to that museum.
1945-1977 - Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times
In November of 1945 Walter received a call from J. Mac Winn, head of the Promotion Dept. at the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times, and was given a job as a staff artist working in the Promotion Department until 1971 and then in the News/Editorial Department until his retirement in 1977. Walter developed a successful hobby as a portrait artist and continues to do cartoons of his friends. Leila, helped many a seminarian get through by typing theses and then taught seventh and eighth grade English for twenty years at Southern Middle School retiring in 1984. She died November 21, 2011 at the age of 94.
In 1974 during an Internal Medicine residency at Bethesda Naval Hospital, John learned about the sad fate of Admiral Joel T. Boone, the first medical doctor to make admiral who had a distinguished career as President Coolidge's physician and a Navy medical officer in WWII. He was admitted to the hospital and a corpsman enlisted to write down his memoirs. However, Boone had developed Alzheimer's and couldn't recall anything of importance. After John told this story to Wendell, WWA got busy writing down on a legal pad his recollections of the Ghost Army Days, and his daughter, Elaine Boardman, typed them out and did some editing during a summer in Ocean City, NJ. Those notes form the main bulk of these memoirs.
Although Walter did not volunteer to go to Korea during that conflict, one of his close friends, attorney John P. Sandidge did see duty in the Adjutant Corps during that war, and Walter loaned him the rubber mattress he'd used during WWII. Walter had written names of places he'd visited (as on the walking stick) on the mattress which was made out of the same rubber they'd used to create dummy tanks. Thus he added Korea to that mattress. His brother-in-law, Ross Routh, also saw duty in Korea as did Walter's son-in-law's uncle, Jack Lee Wright (1927-1994). Jack was a corpsman in the Navy and was severely wounded during the Korean conflict and never fully recovered.
1977-98 Golden Years
Leila and Wendell remained active with a lively group of
friends at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, and Leila enjoyed helping with
International Friendship and working with her DAR chapter. Ross' wife, Fay Routh,
lived in Austin, Texas, and Leila's sister, Elizabeth Pool, lived in San Angelo.
Lawrence Taylor's sister, Martha Augliera, lived in Deltona, Florida.
Sept 1994 - Reunion at Gettysburg
Although Walter and Richard Morton had kept up a correspondence over the years and had seen each other on occasion, the 50th Anniversary of D-Day and the Reunion of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops at Gettysburg in September provided the impetus for the collection of the data presented above and a chance for Walter and Richard to reminisce. Walter took along with him to the reunion, the rubber mattress he'd used during the war and the one he'd loaned out during the Korean War.
Slide Show for Ghost Army Period: