Veteran Memories: John L. Meznarich

Company K, 351st Infantry Regiment.

I was inducted into the United States Army in Chicago, Illinois on February 3, 1943 from where I was shipped to Camp Grant, Illinois. After processing I was sent to Camp Howze, Texas for basic training, assigned to the 86th Infantry Blackhawk Division. After basic training, I was reassigned to the 88th Blue Devil Infantry Division, Company K, 351st in San Antonio, Texas. After completing advanced training the 88th Division was deployed to Oran, Algeria for further specialized infantry mountain training followed by further deployment to Naples, Italy to replace a British infantry division below Anzio in May of 1944 during combat action.


I had earned my corporal's stripes stateside which made me the assistant squad leader. Not too long after our arrival in combat our Staff Sergeant squad leader was killed in action at which time I was promoted to Sergeant and stepped i as the new squad leader.


We were on the fighting line for a few weeks in the mountains prior to reaching Itri. We were met with machine gun fire from above us in the hills when I was wounded and where I stayed conscious while the medics attended me. Then I was transported to an airfield where they flew me to the hospital in Naples for further treatment. My spleen was ruptured and had to be removed, as was all the shrapnel in my body.


After recuperating I was sent back to my unit in Northern Italy. I stayed with them in the field for a month then was reclassified and assigned to a staging company where men with enough points to be sent back to the United States were processed. I served in that assignment until I had enough points to return to the United States in November of 1945. The crossing was made on the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Lake Champlain, which was on its maiden voyage and made a record breaking crossing to Norfolk, Virginia in just four days, thereby breaking all speed records of ships crossing the Atlantic. I participated in campaigns from Anzio to Arno to Rome climaxing in the North Apennines.

 

From veteran interviews conducted by Lana D., 88th Infantry Division Association, California Chapter meeting, 2002.