we advanced the fighting became fierce and frightening. Germans were
bombing and shelling regularly. The Germans used an “88,”
which when fired the shell exploded in the air over the target. This
was called an “air burst.” When it exploded it was as
if a huge light was turned on for a second and then turned off. It
was a blinding light. When it exploded you could hear the shrapnel
whirring in every direction. The shrapnel sounded like airplane propellers.
If you were hit with these hard metal pieces, you were in a real mess.
During the night in a moment of silence you could hear the dull thud
as the shell left the gun then a sound like a siren as it was over
the target then the explosion as the shell burst. When shelling started,
night or day, everyone ran for their slit trench. The trench was dug
as we moved into a new area. This was a must. The trench was the only
protection we had from bombing and shelling……
you live 24 hours a day with a hundred other men or boys, you realize
the camaraderie that exists. We were always in danger of losing
our lives. As I passed the others during the day I felt like reaching
out to hug them. My faith deepened and the fear left me in dangerous
situations. On Sunday mornings me and two other R.C.’s were
up and away in the jeep to hear Mass. Sometimes the Padre of the
unit prepared an altar on a couple of crates, I or one of the others
served Mass and repeated the prayers. We always received Communion.
When it was possible we went to the village church. That was always
very interesting, different customs. In France, in the villages,
the sinners don’t kneel, they stand behind the chair. We received
a lecture on French customs. We had visits from the men of the village
and they shook hands with each one of us. That’s the custom.
Imagine that they shook hands with one hundred or more men each
time they paraded through camp….