One Swell Job!
The Story of the 970th QM Service Company
By PFC Herman C. Klein, Q.M.C.
The Quartermaster Review – November/December 1945
It was a raw bleak morning on the 27th of February when the 970th QM Service Company sailed out of the New York harbor on the first leg of a journey thousands of miles long, packed with hard work, experiences, and thrills galore.
The 970th landed in England on the 7th of March, 1944, docking at the port of Liverpool, and, as one of the men remarked, knew that “this must be England,” as the rain was coming down in torrents. No one said much on the train that was taking us to our first camp site, which was a small pasture surrounded by typical English-type houses. The mud was ankle-deep, but we were all interested in a hot meal which was waiting for us, and a dry place to sleep. The 970th didn’t stay in this area more than two weeks and we were shipped to a larger and more convenient camp near Warminster. It was here that our unit was given its first job that of operating Class I and III depots. It didn’t take the 970th men long to get the hang of things, and in short time the depots were functioning like big business; the only difference was everything was on credit.
About the middle of June our CO, Captain Frederick C. Trullinger, informed us that the depots would be suspended, and everyone suspected that a trip across the English Channel was in prospect in the very near future.
It was 6:00 P.M. on that memorable day of the 30th of June, 1944, when the 970th boys landed on Omaha Beach. At the time we were embarking, waves of bombers passed overhead and we could see the smoke in the distance where the planes had dropped their eggs. It was a wonderful feeling of security for all of us to have our planes over us as we landed. No man in the unit will ever forget the steep hill we had to climb with full field pack as we left the beach area, nor will we ever forget the hasty burials of our GIs who gave their lives so that we could land in safety.
The first area in which our unit set up camp was at Castilly, France, not very far from Saint Lo. This part of Normandy could easily have been compared with any countryside in the United States. The 970th’s first job in this area was to beautify La Cambe cemetery, where many American boys were being buried. At first the men were reluctant to go to the cemetery, as this was the first time most of them had seen our own casualties, but in a short time they all pitched in and did one swell job.
After the breakthrough of Saint Lo our unit was given the job of collecting salvage on the battlefields. Fortunately not one man was injured, though we later learned that many of the fields we worked in had not been cleared of mines.
After Saint Lo, Mortain, and Saint Gilles, the fierce battles became a rat-race, and our troops were fighting the Germans wherever they could be found. “970th Rides Again” became our slogan during our fast trip across France and Belgium. We never spent more than five days in one area until we reached Holland.
About the first week in September ’44, our company was given the detail of loading captured German gas from barges on a canal in Valenciennes, France. Another detail of the 970th was in a field nearby, transferring the gas to other trucks which were delivering it to areas where it was vitally needed. This operation was quite a rugged deal in the face of heavy rain and wind. By now, hard work was second nature to the men of the 970th.
At Heerlen, Holland, our unit began operating its first Class II and IV depot for the entire XIX Corps. This detail lasted until a few days after VE-day.
It was in Bardenberg, Germany, that 970th got its first taste of war. On the night of December 17th, German paratroopers were dropped in our area. At this time we were situated right in the midst of a Class III dump. One of our boys was shot in the abdomen as he was manning a machine-gun that was placed at the crossroads of the town. The next day thirty-two German paratroopers were rounded up and sent to the PW cage.
While we were in Aachen our machine-gun crew shot down a German plane, FW-190, on New Year’s Day, 1945. This was a swell way to welcome the New Year. We received official recognition for downing this plane.
Hildesheim, Germany, is the town 970th took over a railroad line sixty miles long. One officer, Lieutenant Howard W. Upham, and thirty-two enlisted men ran two trains for ten days, hauling 1,200 tons of ammunition and 232,000 gallons of gasoline. It was a very hectic ten days, what with engine trouble, short-age of water, and torn-up tracks. Nevertheless the trains came through with the vital supplies.
From early November to the early part of May, 1945, our company had groups on detached service with the 2nd Armored, 8th, 29th, 30th, 78th, 83rd, and 104th Divisions. At the present time the versatile 970th is operating Class I, II, III, and IV depots here in Berlin for the American troops stationed in the American sector.
The 970th was one of the first service companies to arrive in Berlin. We arrived on the 6th of July, amidst a torrential downpour; our destination, what was left of a huge bomb factory. This, factory had made all types of bombs, from rockets to anti-personnel. There were plenty of bombs all over the area, and cleaning up this debris was 970th’s first assignment in Berlin. This former bomb factory was chosen as the main depot for Class I, II, III, and IV to service all troops in the American sector of Berlin. The following days were rough, for the factory had to be cleared of all the bombs and debris, and supplies were starting to roll in. The men bitched plenty as there wasn’t any time for leisure just work, eat, and sleep.
We made our first personal contact with the Russians here in Berlin. The men quickly learned that the Russians were very anxious to buy our American watches and were willing to pay a good price for them It wasn’t very long until the Russians had most of our watches and we their money. We found the Russians very friendly. We were surprised to see so many of them use wagons for transportation, thought they had plenty of vehicles. The Russians love to have their pictures taken and we found them excellent subjects. American cigarettes are very popular with them, as they are with all the Europeans.
A trip to the “black market” is one of the highlights here in Berlin. The place is off to the side in the woods along “Unter den Linden.” Here the Russians and the German civilians trade all kinds of merchandise, from a fur coat to a suit of clothes. Cameras and binoculars may be had for cigarettes or (?). Many Russian Wacs may be seen buying clothing and shoes from the Germans. This is also were the GIs contact the Russians and sell their watches.
The damage in Berlin is complete; very few buildings are left and all over the city is utter devastation. The Air Forces did a very thorough job destroying this city. The civilians are beginning feel the pinch for food, and it is impossible to walk short distance without being stopped by a civilian asking for food, and cigarettes. The children are plentiful, as they are all over Europe, but here in Berlin they seem to have been very well fed and, on whole they are dressed better than children in other parts of Europe, with the exception of Holland where the children were spic and span.