Veterans Memories: Louis F. Nardin

Company B, 351st Infantry Regiment.


I was drafted in 1943 after a short stint as apprentice druggist. I had volunteered for the Air Force and to this day I don't know whether I passed or not because when I got home, I found a draft notice in the mail. I imagine they figured that if I was that eager to join up, I could take the place of someone else on the list for the month.


I was sworn in at Denver and entered later at Ft. Logan, CO. From there I was sent to Camp Roberts, Calif. for basic training. In the meantime, I was asked to take an entrance exam (I didn't know it at the time) for the Army Specialized Training Program. After basic I was sent to Pasadena Jr. College. The program was discontinued, and we were all assigned to various units around the country. I was sent to the 13th Armored Div. in Camp Bowie, Texas (right out of FT. Worth). I was very tired of the "chiggers" (very inhospitable insects) around there, and when the call for volunteers for a quota for overseas came I took it.


I was then sent as a replacement to Ft. Meade, Maryland and then Camp Shanks where I boarded the Queen Elizabeth. The ship took us around the top of the British Isles and down the channel to the Firth of Clyde, Scotland. From there I rode the Royal Scot (real class) to Warminster Barracks (home of the British armored) where we pitched tents outside the quarters.


We replacements later were taken to the port of Southampton and boarded an over-crowded boat for a crossing of the channel. That night a terrible storm came up and the crossing was postponed. A day later at dawn we crossed the 21 miles to go ashore at Omaha beach (this is D-day plus 4 or 5 days). You could still hear plenty of shell fire. All this time we are all still replacements. On the beach a sergeant was calling off a roster to load on 6x6's to send forward. There were seven of us who were never called. They didn't have us on the list. So, we made our way up the cliff past the concrete emplacements and over to Cherbourg. What a job our naval guns did on those!


We were hanging around a R.A.F. fighter strip that had one plane there. After a few days the rations were running out. I hailed a British Red Cross Jeep and asked if he had any doughnuts. He never really said yes, but he said he would like to show us a movie. So he went over to one of the houses that had only three walls left and put up his "screen". I never did remember what the film was about, but the coffee and doughnuts were great.


A second day later the "Bloke" came by, and I asked him to send word back to Southampton that we were lost and needed some instructions (there was a corporal in the group who wouldn't take charge). The rest of us were buck privates so I took over. The next evening the same man came by and told me that there would be a plane flown in for us.


When I spotted the plane that night. I had the other guys pitch tent under the wing of one of three planes (there were apparently more stragglers around). The next morning we took off. We tried to land at Marseilles, and the Germans were chasing our navy boys across the tarmac. We circled and continued on (not refueling) over the Riviera and Crash-landed in Pisa.


We then were taken to the Replacement Depot (I don't know the name). After one day we were awakened by a flood that washed away most of the camp and our equipment. So we stood on a hillside eating potato pancakes at 2 in the morning. We were all issued new stuff and a rifle that had been picked up on the battlefield (it could shoot around corners). The following day I was in a truck load of guys headed for Montecatini. And that's where I joined the 88th Division, B company, 351st Regiment.


I was 18 years old when I joined the service. I was not injured. How, I don't know. I did

get hepatitis and spent three months in Leghorn in the hospital before returning to the

lines. When the war ended we accepted a surrender of the Germans (formal) who stacked arms in the street. The day the war ended for us in Italy was May 5th. On the 4th an officer of the Germans came over to our commander and said he had orders to surrender. Our officer said he had no such orders, so we shot it out another day.We moved to Brescia where the Ghedi Prison camp held some 90,000 prisoners.


I was recruited to play in the regimental dance band and played for company and officers parties. I came home in October 1945 and was discharged in January 1946. I rode the trains as an MP out of Denver until that time. I was a private all through the war. I got PFC stripes after complaining to my commander at Brescia. I was given corporal stripes the first week after reporting to the MPs.

 

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