Veteran Memories: Roy W. Brown

Headquarters, 3rd Battalion, 351st Infantry Regiment


I joined the service on my 21st Birthday. Uncle Sam gave me my first train ride. Uncle Sam sent me a letter and said I want you.


I joined the 88th Division in 1942 at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. I was one of the first guys there. I was shipped out overseas from Camp Patrick Henry. At Camp Gruber we were some of the first soldiers there. We had to pick up stones from the ground. We picked up anything bigger than a marble. Because when we were training we didn't want to trip over the stones. So we put them in a big pile in front of the barracks and the engineers came and picked them up. So when the dust storms came, there were no stones to keep the dust down, so we were just a big cloud of dust.


I was in the Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 351st. I took care of all the trucks. There were 46 trucks and trailers. From Camp Gruber until the end of the war this is what I did. I did all the maintenance for all the vehicles. At nighttime I was a muleskinner. A muleskinner takes all the rations and mail up to the front and brings back the wounded and whatever needed to be brought back. I would have 20 mules in a train. I would go up the mountains and I would be the last guy and I would hold the tail of the mule and he would help pull me up the mountain. We took the rations and ammunition up to the front and bring back the wounded, the mail and whatever needed to come back. So during the day I was a mechanic and during the evening I was a muleskinner.


I was injured twice in the service. It was a German 88 artillery on May 11th at 11:00 a.m. It was a German 88 shell that exploded in front of me. It killed the kid in front of me. It hit my forearm and a piece of my leg. I then went to the aid station and they took out the shrapnel threw it in a bucket, sewed it up. Got some stitches, and back on the front line.


One time I had a hole in my boot and it took me about two weeks before I could get a new pair, so I got frostbite. I was up in the Alps in wintertime and it was about 32° F below zero. We were right on the river.


I was almost killed three times. The first time was when I had a job to get all the water and rations and what have you for the battalion everyday. Also, they would send me on details . So one day I reported out to this lieutenant out on a ridge. He said , " Do you see that target there?" I said , " Yes" . Well there is a hundred feet of rope on that and you put it behind your truck and go along the ridge and these guys learning to shoot the 57 cannons are going to be shooting at that target being pulled by your truck. I thought any minute one of the live shells would hit the back of my truck. Because I would here them go zoooooommmmmmm!


Then another time we were setting a minefield. So I reported to the lieutenant and they loaded all the mines on the truck. So I started to take off and this guy comes running up and said , " Take this box too." So he threw it in the front seat. I got out where they were setting up the mines and the lieutenant said, "Where is the jeep with the caps?" I said, "There are no jeeps, but this guy threw a box on my front seat of my truck when I was leaving. " The lieutenant said , " Those are the caps to the mines . Anytime you went over a bump one of those caps could have gone off and the whole truck would have blown up."


In North Africa, my third time almost being killed was when I had to take hot shower to the whole battalion. So I was all by myself in my truck with my feet up on the dash. I just happened to look up in my mirror and there was this Arab crawling up behind my truck. He had a great big knife. Two minutes later he would have cut my throat and taken all the rations and gone on. I got my rifle and was going to shoot him.


When we took rations out to the men the Arabs would put something in the road and I would have to slow down and they would jump out of a tree into the back of the truck and throw all the rations off. Finally, we put two guys in the back of the truck to protect it. The Arabs in Africa were horrible.


At the end of the war we rounded up all the German soldiers and took them back to headquarters. Where they were interned in the Ghedi airstrip. We would let them keep their canteen and their first aid kit. That was lockdown duty. The Germans would say, "Cigarettes, Cigarettes" and we would say, " Yea" and the Germans would give $100 a carton. The Germans hid their money in their water canteens all rolled up and dump it out of their canteens to pay for the cigarettes. Then we would go drinking and buy whatever we wanted. We only got $10 a month combat pay. It didn't buy much. I would get a pack of cigarettes and a clean pair of socks everyday.


I heard the war was over when I was in Bologna, Austria. After the war, I got out of the service as soon as I could. I was a buck sergeant when I left the service.

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