Shelton C. Picard (D/33)
I enlisted in the military service in July, 1940, was shipped to Fort Benning, Georgia and assigned to the second Armored Division which was stationed at Fort Benning at that time, and partly in an area known as Harmony Church, which was Tent City. At that time the Army still had horse units, or mechanized artillery. They would use horses to tow the artillery pieces. I remained at Fort Benning until I was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana, to form the Third Armored Division. We were about sixty or seventy who came from Fort Benning to Camp Polk, but when we arrived in Louisiana, Camp Polk was not completed, so we were stationed at Camp Beauregard, Alexandria, Louisiana, for approximately three or four months, awaiting the completion of Camp Polk. We were billeted in tents. I will never forget the day we were assigned two officers, Captain Lovelady, and a platoon leader, George T. Stallings. We remained at Beauregard for approximately three or four months and, when Camp Polk was completed, we motored by trucks (2'/2 ton trucks or whatever vehicle we had at that time) to take over Camp Polk.
I feel my life was spared on many occasions due to the efforts of Col. Lovelady. Whenever we would get new officers he would assign some of them to D Company and he would always tell me that he did not want me at the lead tank, at the head of the column because he said I was about the only one he had left to keep the Company going, and that he could depend on and who knew the operation of the Company. Therefore, I would remain back maybe a day or two. Then if officers would be wounded or killed I would have to take over again.
I would like to recount two separate actions that come to my mind every time I talk about the battles we had in Europe against the Germans. One of them was the objective Marburg, Germany. We were given this objective and told we would have to arrive at this objective within a certain period of time. For some reason, I had just been assigned one of the latest model tanks ... the General Patton tank ... it was a 90 mm with a 23' barrel with a muzzle break on the end. I think we were finally being assigned tanks that could match, not quite, but almost, the German tanks. We were told that we would have to take Marburg within a 24 hour period and it was approximately 100 miles away. The Germans had blown up a bridge across a small river and our engineers had to lay a pontoon across the river so we could make our way across. The tracks of this new type tank were too wide to cross on our normal pontoon bridges. Therefore, I had to detour quite a few miles away. Col. Lovelady gave me a coordinate on the map and told me to go in such and such a direction approximately so many miles, that there was a Unit which had taken a bridge intact there and crossed there, and eventually I could make my way to his Task Force, which I did.
I left early in the morning. It was foggy; it was a hard surface road and we were traveling as fast as we possibly could, but we knew it would take possibly three or four hours to make our way around to this bridge which was intact and then come back and join our Task Force. We were going down this road as fast as we could and finally my driver locked both of the levers and skidded down the pavement for forty or fifty feet and finally came to a halt. I looked up ahead, through the fog, and here was a 500 pound laying in the middle of the road. You could see the wires on each side and a foxhole on either side which I am sure at one time was occupied by Germans to detonate this bomb to try to stop our advance.
I got down, looked around but couldn't see any Germans in the foxhole. I could not detonate this bomb in the middle of the road so I finally made my way around the bomb and got back on the highway and finally arrived at the bridge and crossed over. I had a task force of my own. I was trying to make my way back to our main route and it seemed that I would never get there. I had been traveling for about two or three hours until finaly I told my driver to pull off the road and stop. We listened for any gun fire or artillery. I thought surely
the Task Force was ahead of us. I knew I was on the right route. We kept on going, and going and going for how many hours I don't know. We just never got to regroup with our Task Force. Finally, after traveling for five or six hours, maybe seven, I got to the outskirts of Marburg. I couldn't see any of our equipment, nothing was moving. When you went into a town and nothing was moving you had better keep your head down because you knew there were some Germans there. I told the men to buckle up and close all hatches and we moved into the town to see if we could find our Unit. We made our way into the middle of the town and there was a little square there, so I told the driver to get into the middle of this square and kill the motor to see if we could hear anything, or maybe raise somebody and find out exactly what the situation was.
I raised Col. Lovelady on the radio; he asked me what my location was; I told him I was in the heart of town; he asked me what town I was talking about and I told him I was right in the middle of our objective. He said "Hell's fire, we're having a battle here, we've been in a battle here for the last two or three hours; we had a change in route and I forgot to let you know"; he said there were a lot of road blocks holding us up; he gave me a route on the map to take and told me to go down a certain road and that we would see the anti-tank guns which would be facing the opposite, of course and told me to clear the way so we could make our way through Marburg as planned. I told him I was on my way. I finally found the road he was talking about and made my way slowly down the road and at the first curve I turned I could see three or four Germans there; they had put logs across the road and there was this anti-tank gun; they were all on their knees behind there, all zeroed in, waiting for the column to come close enough. I told the gunner to put an HE in the gun and just let them have it, which he did. You could see logs and guns and Germans flying all over. Then we kept on going. Anyway, we met about two or three of the road blocks and we finally cleared all of the anti-tank guns and met up with the column.
This is one day that comes to mind every time I discuss the European operations because it was something to remember, taking an objective with a Task Force consisting of one tank.
The other one is some area in Germany. We were taking a pretty good sized town. When we got close to the town we could see Germans running all over, crossing the streets, and one or two tanks moving around, trucks and whatnot. There were freshly dug foxholes on the road we were on, leading into the city. We knew they were freshly dug because there was dirt around them, not camoflaged or anything. When we got fairly close to the foxholes, we just stopped because we knew there were Germans with Bazookas and we knew from experience just how far those bazookas would travel.
I pulled my tank just about the distance I wanted from the foxholes; I could see those two Germans, they would
come up and aim the bazookas, and I would tell my gunner to fire the machine gun at them. They could see the tracers and they would duck down in the foxholes. They would come up again and we would fire and they would go down. This went on and on. I even tried an HE in the 75mm, but that didn't work. At about that time I had lost my patience and pretty soon, Bang, here comes the bazooka, but it fell about 10 or 15 paces in front of my tank and exploded. I bailed out of my tank and took off for that foxhole with my bare hands. When I got to the foxhole both of the Germans jumped out. I whacked one with my bare fist and knocked him down the foxhole. In the meantime, I noticed my driver had done the same thing, he had lost his patience too, I guess, and he got the other one. Finally, we were walking back to the tank and the two Germans got out and they wanted to surrender, with their hands behind their heads. We gave them the signal to go back and we kept walking toward our Unit. Somebody would pick them up because we didn't have time to fool around with prisoners. Why I did that I don't know; I thought I had broken my right fist because my hand was bleeding. I guess I hit him-in the mouth and broke some teeth, but those are some things I recall.
There were many, but you sort of get used to combat, I guess, until you get shot up.
After the war ended, I had six men, I am speaking of six regular men who actually went into combat, not the supplies or kitchen whatnot. These were front line people, tank crew; we had six regular men left and every one had been wounded once or twice, some three times. We had to make an inventory, the supply sargeant and myself, as to how many tanks we had lost during the five campaigns. The supply sargeant came up with a total of 86 tanks; that did not include the ones that were repaired, that were knocked out and did not burn and two or three days after you would get them back. I am speaking of tanks that were totally lost and there were 86.
This is about all I can say to give you the necessary information you need to do this write-up. Colonel Lovelady called me the other night and asked me to send you some information, some story for some award that I am not familiar with at this time. I would also like to mention the fact that I was wounded during one of the campaigns, just a slight wound and I refused to be evacuated because it was a wound in the face, and one on the right leg. I was treated by the medic there. One of the wounds was right above my right eye. A sniper had fired at me while I was in my tank turret and he hit the ring which was known as a cupola on top of the turret, and a piece of shrapnel hit me in the face above my right eye. Our dear medic officer, Roberts, sewed me up with a couple of stitches and I remained with the Unit because I did not care to be evacuated. I would also like to mention that I was knocked out of three tanks.
ADDENDA: The above was submitted by Picard at the request of Col. Wm. B. Lovelady, his batallion commander, 2/33AR, who says that Picard not only received the Silver Star, but the Purple Heart and the five champaign medals for service ranging from Normandy to Central Germany. Picard took part in the break-out, the counterattack from Mortain, the Falaise Gap, Northern France, Mons, breaching of the Siegfried line, the Ardennes, the drive to the Rhine and on to the Dessau area where we ended the war.
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