Journal of Life
Monty Joe Boitnott
“I wish to proudly state,
I took part in the largest most violent conflict known to mankind.And we won.”
I was born April 23, 1921.My father was George Boitnott and
my mother was Berta Millhouse Boitnott. I had two sisters, Gwendalyn and Virigina
Boitnott, who were much older in age than me.In fact, my sister Gwen (Gwen
Boitnott Dunlap) had a daughter Betty one year and a half older than me.
Growing up in a rural area shortly after the great depression
was quite nerve racking, both physically and mentally.It seemed our family
and community were at the stage of development when farms were being lost
to banks and mortgage holders due to the inability to pay off existing mortgages.It
was during this period of time my eldest sister Gwen married a man from Farrar,
IA named Frank Dunlap.The ensuing
years brought four daughters; Jimmy, Betty, Boni, and the youngest daughter,
Kay.My sister Virginia married a man from Collins, named Hugh Fertig.The years
brought them two sons, Jack and Gene Fertig, and two daughters Patricia and
Jo Ann Fertig.
From 1900 to mid-1930, our family was quite close in the
local community.My father, through an accident, lost a leg from the hip down
and used crutches the rest of his adult life.My mom ran a restaurant in Maxwell, IA,
and my father was a postmaster and had a jewelry and optical shop in the front
of the restaurant.
My childhood friends were Dean Gamble, Homer Nelson, and
Miles Pearson.According to my older sister, I guess I was quite mischievous
in those days.During this period of time, my Dad and Mom got divorced. I never
knew why.The next few years, I was farmed out with local couples for my care
and schooling.I attended grade school in Maxwell and Nevada, IA, and then Warren Harding Junior High and North
High in Des Moines, IA.
Each summer vacation from school, I would spend with my nephews
and nieces for different activities. In the 1930’s, we had silent pictures,
which were shown in a serial matinee featuring one new episode each week.We
enjoyed riding ponies and bicycles.My mother bought me a season ticket to
the swimming pool in Maxwell; you could find me there when it was open.My
mother took a job housekeeping in Nevada, IA, so she took
me to live with her there.
It was during this time our family began growing larger.In
1936, my sister Gwen gave birth to her third daughter, Kay.Boni’s sister Betty,
two years older than me, married Hubert Snell, and in 1939 they added another
addition to our family, a baby boy named Robert.
Before I left Maxwell, I had learned to play baseball and a
little basketball, but my size and stature was not quite big enough to excel at
any sport except track and running.
While in Nevada, I played
on the Story
Junior High School basketball
team, but I cannot recall the year.The year after Nevada,
I went to live with my eldest sister Gwen and her family in Des
Moines.Gwen had a large house on 1331
5th Avenue near Forest Avenue.My dad George lived with Sis
also, but his ability to work was very limited; however, at some time he did
work in an office for the state.
By this time of life, it was getting difficult for me to
adjust moving from one school to another, but in my case, it wasn’t my
During this time of my life I would mow lawns, deliver papers,
and anything to gain spending money, which was quite scarce.While in Highland
Park in Des Moines,
during this period I met a kid named Bob Dildine, and we became pals.His dad
drove a streetcar from Highland Park to downtown
first school I attended in Des Moines was Warren Harding in Highland Park.I had several friends to hang
out with, and we did seasonal activities like ice skating and sledding in
the winter and we played baseball and enjoyed swimming.We would play kid’s
football in the fall in lots of leaves at Birdland Park.
After graduating from Warren Harding Junior High, I entered
North High in Des Moines
and tried to compete in baseball, football, and basketball, but my height
was 5’7” and I weighed 138 pounds, which was not quite good enough for necessary
athletic stamina.However, I found I did have the ability and physical strength
to compete in track and swimming.Boni, my niece who was one year younger than
me, began introducing me to several of her girlfriends.
During this time, Bob Dildine talked me into joining the
Iowa National Guard.The little extra money came in handy, as the only money
I was making was from a paper route. I don’t remember the sum, but it was
not sufficient for dating girls and riding the street cars.I was dating a
girl named Rosalie Simpkins and she was quite upset with me for joining the
National Guard because during the first summer, we spent thirty days during
school vacation on an encampment at Camp
It was during this exercise that I knew the military life
was quite decent, and the fellowship seemed to hit a chord with me.My pay
was eighteen dollars a month.We got to use live ammo for our machine guns
on the firing range, and it was at this time in my life that I realized I
was being trained to kill people. It seems I had to adjust my personal life
to the military style of life.When we were finished with maneuvers and returned
to Des Moines,
our drills at the armory became more frequent.
During this period in 1940, a dictator named Hitler was on
the rampage in Europe, and the emperor in Japan
was trying to occupy and conquer China.The world’s borders were being
changed by the aggression of these evil rulers.We were getting more modern
weapons with which to train, and our training here in Des
Moines became more tactical.
Franklin Roosevelt, the United States President, was sending
war supplies to Great Britain
as land lease so as to avoid direct war support for European countries that
were allied to our interests.
In the meantime, I am continuing my high school education
at North High School
in Des Moines.The
year 1940 ended with much the same military posture on our part as the Iowa
National Guard.My self-discipline was quite rewarding, as I was learning the
real facts of life.My mother’s friend, Ed Scott, took me to an Iowa
University verses Minnesota
football game in Iowa City.The
lost, but I was thrilled at the chance to see a real collegiate football game.
At this time I had mustered enough money together to buy
a used car; a 1939 Plymouth Road
King.It was tan and had a stick shift transmission, so the thrill of learning
to drive was quite an event for a country kid. Rosalie,
my girl friend, liked me a little more.In fact, I bought the car from her
father who was a car salesman for Friedman Motor Company of Des Moines.The car was cheap to operate for
gas consumption compared to the initial cost of three hundred and eighty-seven
dollars for the car.
My size and stature was never big enough to compete in athletics,
but I tried time after time, always ending up on the second string, so to
speak.During this time Hitler was expanding his conquest of all Europe.He
had conquered several countries and was bombing England by nightly aerial force.
The clouds of war were darkening as Mussolini had conquered
Ethiopia, so he
joined with Hitler to occupy countries to expand their territories.At the
same time, Hirohito was savaging China and his
territories to conquer.
My status with the National Guard during this time is the
same.I joined the Iowa Guard, Company “D”, 168th Infantry Regiment,
34th Division, on December 21, 1939, at the age of 16, while I
was still in high school.
We trained for the objective of fighting a ground war.In
the early part of 1941 (February 10, 1941), it became apparent that our government
was posturing to build up our military forces, so they declared mobilization
of our Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota,
and North Dakota
34th Division.At this point, the War Department started Selective
Service, which meant the build up of military manpower.We joined the Army
of The United States and became federalized.We became an Army of the United
States, received a real serial number, and
became completely mobilized.We loaded our gear and weapons and departed for
in Louisiana on February 26, 1941.
By March of 1941, upon arrival, the camp was under construction
and quarters would be pyramidal tents with wooden floors, partial wooden sides,
and duckboard walk ways. Our company
streets were crushed rock.The latrine was some distance away between the companies
of our 1st Battalion.The dining hall was a permanent building at
the end of our company street.Our presence at Camp Claiborne
was quite trying.It was cold and windy.We all chipped in to make the camp
a better place to live and train for combat.
At this time we were receiving draftee troops from all over
the United States.Most
of the first troops were single.Of course our country of U.S.A was getting
a lot of volunteer soldiers, so the overall end result was troop build up.
By the summer of 1941, materials, weapons, and mechanized
vehicles were gaining in numbers and sizes.Our training was gaining momentum,
and our camp was equipped to train all phases of military life.One exercise
was to dig a fox hole deep enough for me (Sandy) to allow a light twenty-five
ton tank to drive over me.I came out of that hole quivering and scared as
My sister Gwen and her daughter Betty and Barbara Kay came
to visit me at Camp.We went down to Baton Rouge and New
Orleans to see the sights.It was a very memorable experience
In the summer of 1941, I received a 14-day leave, and, with
the approval of my commanding officer, I went home to Des Moines to get my car.Of course when I returned
to Camp Claiborne
my friends and I in the car, traversed the area where all the activities were
when we were off duty.As I remember, I could have a weekend pass every other
week if we were not in the field, on bivouac, or on maneuvers.There was a
little tavern called Blue Moon, in the town of Bunky, close to our camp.It got a lot of our
beer business at the time.Lots of young women were there.It was at this time
I started smoking and drinking a beer or two, but I did refrain from hard
liquor or booze due to private and personal feelings; I could not stand the
taste of whiskey.
We went on maneuvers at the Texas
border with other army units from Mississippi
for an extended period of time.Louisiana guys and girls
would follow our movements and at night sell us beer from tubs out of their
cars, which we thought was quite convenient at the time.Our road marches by
foot would take several miles, five to ten to twenty-five for endurance.Training
continued through out the fall of 1941.
December 7, 1941 became a day of infamy for the Unites
States of America.
Glenn Howard and I were in New Orleans, Louisiana,
the morning of Sunday, December 7th.We heard on my car radio for
all troops to report to respective bases, ASAP.
Glenn and I departed New Orleans and drove directly back to Camp Claiborne,
and we were immediately put on alert.Our status was unknown until the following
Monday morning. We knew our unit would be shipping out for points
unknown.All passes, leaves, and furloughs were cancelled, and we were put
under quarantine, with no phone calls or outside contact being allowed.
At this point I was in dire stress due to having a car and
not knowing what to do with it prior to my departure.A friend drove it back
to Iowa, and it was stored in Hugh Lint’s corn
crib.We had no way of knowing what the immediate future held.
Our rail head coming into the camp was gaining activities at this time.Railroad
coaches came into camp.I do not remember the date we loaded with all our gear.The
blinds were down so we could not see in either direction.Of course, this meant
civilians could not see into the rail coaches either.
We were on our way northeast, and stopped at Chicago Grant
Park for calisthenics for a few hours.I do not remember the actual train time
to Camp Dix
from Camp Claiborne,
but we were enroute on January 1, 1942.I do know we sat on rail siding lots
of times from trunk rail lines.I also know when we arrived at Camp
Dix, it was cold, our
quarters were torn tents, and it was windy and very frigid.
I should mention on departure from Camp Claiborne
they took the 164th Regiment from our 34th Division
leaving us with the 133rd, 135th, 168th Regiments, 175th Field Artillery,
151st Field Artillery, 185th Field Artillery, 109th Medical Battalion
and 109th Engineer Battalion.Our remaining regiments were made
into combat regiments wherein, in reality, each unit has its own anti-tank,
artillery, medics, and engineers; what it takes to win battles under any conditions.Of
course, in desert warfare you need tank destroyers and tanks plus lots of
air support, which never seemed available at the individual level.At this
time we started getting more tools of war in our units.
Around the time of January 1942, our departure was delayed
and we were quarantined to Camp
Dix, and that is when
my girl Rosalie blew up and ditched me.She wanted to come to New
Dix we trained and when we would jog the perimeter of
the base, Joe Louis was training for a fight in New York. He
would talk to us and continue on training. I froze my butt off while at Camp Dix.
The luxury liner Normandie was berthing at New York Harbor
being refitted for the troops.It caught fire during the process, which delayed
our departure for three weeks. Our nerves were being tested at this time of
uncertainty.During this period the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, was bombing
the British every night.Hitler was changing many borders in Europe, Poland, Czech
Romania, and even the Baltic
regions in Latvia and Lithuania and
in route to engage the Russian Country.
History would soon reveal that it was a tactical blunder
and that he was having heavy casualties on the Russian front in the winter.At
the same time, Britain’s
Field Marshal Montgomery was starting offensive maneuvers from Egypt across the coast of North
Africa.He drove Mussolini out of Egypt
into Tunisia in 1940.
Tripoli, Libya, and Tunisia
met United States Forces in Tunis
on May 12, 1943.
January 1942, our 34th Division shipped from New York in three increments; with the USS Barnett (AP-11),
in convoy picking up ships in Nova
Scotia.Our destination was Belfast
and Northern Ireland.We
arrived there on January 26, 1942. Southern Ireland was a free
country not engaged in war posture.General Charles Wolcott Ryder of our 34th
Division (May 1942-July 1944) replaced Major General Russell (“Scrappy”) P.
Hartle, Division Commander (two stars).
We trained daily in North Ireland.We
were billeted in Enneskillen, with only doors at each end and this was our
first experience with blackouts, plus every vehicle drove on the left side
of the roadways.Our partnership with England
was quite evident at this time.During our daily training the British, would
roll small smoke concussion grenades, and tear gas across our billet’s floors
to see how soundly were sleeping.
We learned to eat fish and chips, and we were in training
constantly.The Irish people experienced quite poor living standards.They dug
up peat boggs and dried it to use as fuel instead of coal.Practically every
able woman and man was conscripted in the war effort.There was a huge anti-aircraft
battery of guns near our camp manned by women WAAFS.
Our liberty for base passes was quite limited as we were
constantly on the alert, and nightly air raids were continuous at the dock
area of Belfast
and Antrim.American buildup of tools of war and manpower in Ireland,
Scotland, and England was becoming evident, and
American soldiers we were beginning to adapt to foreign customs.For example,
the rail trolleys in the cities do not stop to pick up passengers, but they
slow down at corners so we had to catch them on the run.An Irish lad told
me there were three things wrong with Americans; over sexed, over paid and
over here.Many times our friendships were strained.
In late summer of 1942, we were shipped to Scotland for amphibious training at the Duke of
Argyle compound of Lake
Loman.This area was a
real challenge to us; jagged hills, moors, and peat boggs.
The Duke’s dwelling was a castle several stories high with
moats and draw bridges that we had to scale by rope after coming ashore from
the landing craft.
In the fall of 1942, Churchill and Roosevelt decided to open
a new front in North Africa to ease pressure
off of the Russian front.There were three major landings planned.The operation
was to be simultaneous and called “Torch” (November 8-12, 1942) at the eastern
force at Algiers, central force at Oran, and western at Casablanca. My combat regiment 168th was to be
with British 78th Division and the 6th Commandos.My
troop ship left the British Isles, Glasgow, Scotland,
and Greenock Bay
on the Scotland
troop ship.We had the 168th and 175th Field Artillery
Regiments, and the 109th Engineer and 109th Medical
We sailed through the straits of Gibraltar
by cruise ships at night. Our ships went through first as we were going to
the eastern area to Algiers.We
would rendezvous with flotilla from the United States.The
next morning after entering the Mediterranean through the straits, Italian and German aircraft
bombed our convoy all day long.We lost some ships, but they lost some aircraft.A
British major told us to get our machine gun, 30 caliber, up to the top deck
and lash the trail legs to the rails of the troop ship for extra anti-aircraft
fire. Lashing my gun to rails did not
work because my ammo belts could not go through the breech of the gun.It would
jam, and my field of fire was very limited.The only thing I could shoot was
In reality, my squad saw action prior to our amphibious assault
the morning of November 8, 1942.In the next sequence of events, the British
Navy took us to the wrong beach during the landing craft assault which in
turned out to be okay because we had to silence the large guns at Fort Sidi
Furoh at Algiers and only one of our objectives, the docks, downtown government
buildings, and the Algiers airport.
All objectives were reached except the harbor area where
French ships were at the quays.The Vichy French and Italians were our immediate
enemy which we soon neutralized, but they blew up a ship in the harbor to
block our ship from coming into unload troops and supplies.The night of November
8, 1942, we were hit again with German and Italian aircraft, and two planes
were shot down. I had my first drink
of alcohol, a glass of rum, loading for the landing craft assault.This was
because we were going down rope ladders in the dark with the landing craft
pitching back and forth and up and down, and my whole squad was throwing up
all over each other.
I was a corporal and a squad leader of about seven men.The
machine gun is a water-cooled 30 caliber.It consists of a tripod and receiver
with breech block for rapid fire.Each ammunition canister has about two hundred
and fifty rounds feed through the receiver by a web belt.The cartridges are
usually loaded at the factory with one ball, one HE and one tracer to view
if your line of fire is going where you want it to go.
My gear for my body was a cartridge belt with a first aid
packet, one-quart water bottle, and cartridges for my 45 caliber revolver.I
always carried at least two hand grenades hooked on my shoulder harness near
my belt line.On my back was my combat pack that carried my mess kit, C-type
or K-type.My half blanket and raincoat hung over my butt under my cartridge
belt.On your side hung a pick and shovel for digging and chipping the ground
and a gas mask with straps.
When you make an amphibious landing, you have to wear a Mae
West which is an inflatable rubber canvas belt with a sparklet cartridge to
punch if the landing party land in waves way over your head or body.
Landing craft assault usually land you right near the beach,
depending on the LST, LCI or submarines for special operations.At Anzio,
Italy, my squad
went ashore in a motorized whale boat.I always carried the tripod with the
three legs unclamped over my shoulder.My number two guy carried the receiver
with the water can, and the rest of the crew carried the ammunition.Field
glasses, night watches, aiming circle, and clinometers were carried by whoever
volunteers to do so.
The first thing I ditched at the Algiers assault was my gas mask.I forgot we
all wore helmets and combat boots with side straps and buckles.Usually these
boots went to the calf of your leg.
At daylight the first few guys I saw killed were not ours.They
were British Commandos.There were quite a few body parts on the beach sand.I
had a guy in my squad that was quite mechanical, so we knocked the window
out of an electrical trolley and hoped it would take us down town and that
was the case.We saved walking five miles and for not knowing who our enemies
were, it went well.Of all the troops we confronted, most were Vichy French,
Arabs and Italians.
Colonel Doyle was at my side and he was killed shot by sniper
fire between the eyes on Main
Street in downtown Algiers.The shot came from a Casbah Roe house’s
second balcony fifty to seventy five yards away, so
I unloaded several canisters of ammo and about 35 enemy soldiers were killed.It
looked like a cyclone had hit that balcony, with people screaming and crying
and dead civilians and chickens and laundry scattered everywhere.But war is
hell and lots of innocent people die.This was my first act of death after
seeing Colonel Doyle’s shattered head around me.
After downtown Algiers was
secured, they moved my company to the high ground near one of Algiers’s two airports.We were dive bombed and
strafed constantly by German and Italian aircraft.They came in real low and
fast dropping flares for night visibility.The gear each man carries is usually
one hundred plus pounds in a machine gun crew and your personal equipment.
The British and American Navies had destroyed ten French ships
and four submarines at all three landings by November 10, 1942.The Algiers,
Oran, and Casablanca
operation “Torch” was a success.
Christmas was planned between Algeria
on a train our engineers ran.We continued getting lots more supplies and manpower.
We even got to see Bob Hope, Jerry Colona, and Francis Langford.
They used a flatbed semitrailer for a stage.We could only go in groups due
to constant air attacks.We were at Tebesa near the border of Tunisia guarding
the airstrip.Then they moved us to Constantine
where Cleopatra bathed in the warm mineral water coming from the ground.
We found ourselves in combat, in the same general area, as
the Roman legions fought in 400 A.D.In January of 1943, my unit was assembled
and trucked to jump off the area in front of Sened Station on the main rail
link to all major ports of Tunisia, Bizerta,
Tunis, Sfax, Sousse,
and Cape Bon.It was at this battle I killed
my first Italians and Germans. We took eighteen Italian POWs.
is a country about 160 miles east to west and 500 north to south.The main
spine is the Atlas Mountains with mountain
passes controlling all roadways, (wadis) rivers, and rail lines.
British Field Marshall Montgomery was driving Germans north
along the coast with lots of German casualties along the way.It was imperative
to close the German troop movements and supplies from the ports of Tunis.My
unit fought at Faid Pass,
Fondoak and Sidi Hill 609 Bel Alis.We were part of the II Corp under General
George Patton, 1st Division, 9th Division and 3rd
Division, 1st and 2nd Armored, 175th and
151st Field Artilleries, 2nd Tank Destroyer Battalion,
and the 109th Engineer and 109th Medical Battalions.
Most towns and villages have rock or stone walls surrounding
them and most of the hills of the Atlas Mountains
were numbered by height of elevation.Skirmishes and battles and friction between
the American Commanders and British Commanders were present during this campaign.
In February, March, and April, our Air Force started gaining
control of the skies, but we got very little support directly because of bad
communication at the infantry level.We found out by now that we could not
rely on the French troops in any of our sectors.At the French Foreign Legion
post at Sidi bel Abbes, I witnessed a French firing squad. It was very horrific.They had the prisoners
dig a long ditch by the rock wall, they lined them in front of the ditch and
the French officers shoot each one directly in the head and push them in a
In April 1943, we moved as a unit to hills 375, 407 and 473
adjacent to hill 609 Tahent.The 1st, 9th and 34th
Divisions’ direct objective was part of Bizerte 35 miles from Bezat Mateur to Bizerte.Tebourba was secured sky by April’s
end and setting up a final assault on German positions on these hills in the
609 area.Our 168th 2nd Battalion took a terrible loss
at Hill 609; one-hundred and thirty-three regiment losses of eighty captured,
wounded, and killed in action before the finale push for Bizert.
The grand finale of the Battle of North Africa was under
way.General Von Arnim surrendered on May 15, 1943.Our engineers had barb wired
enclosures to control the vast amount of 250,000 prisoners.We had machine
guns set up around the barb wired enclosures so we had all avenues of fire
to control the prisoners, which ranged in age from fourteen to sixty years
in age.So the famous Wermatch army had been defeated.
Of course the main German prize, Rommel, was not caught.He
had been evacuated from North Africa prior to our last push to Tunis
and Bizerte.We helped stage
areas for troops 1st and 45th Divisions, 1st
Armory Division, and the 185 Field Artillery Division for General Patton for
the invasion of Sicily.We
had all kind of duties the next few weeks loading ships and supplies from
May to July of 1943.All this time we manned the compounds of prisoners in
In the middle of July operation “Husky” was under way to
army and Montgomery’s 8th army conquered Sicily in just thirty-eight
days.They captured much of the enemy’s equipment, tanks and aircraft in tack.Enemy
losses were figured to be 167,000.Our allied losses, 25,000 killed, wounded
In August they sent the 34th Division to Oran back west about 500
miles.We trained and received more troops.We received the 100th
Battalion of Japanese decent from Hawaii.Of
course, they were all American citizens and would later prove to be great
warriors.The next phase was thought to assault Europe itself, especially since
Sicily had fallen so quickly.The
code name for this amphibious operation was called “Avalanche” (scheduled
for September 9, 1943).
My unit landed between Pasteum and Battipaglia, Salerno, Italy.
Our fight against global tyranny was gaining momentum; units
of the 36th, 3rd, 34th, 45th Divisions
and 151st Field Artillery and two British Divisions, the American
Ranger Unit and British Commandos.The Pasteurn Salerno, on the Tyrrhenian
side of Italy.September 9th, 1943
was the target date for operation.On September 8th all the Italian
troops capitulated were no longer a fighting force against the allies.The
36th Division made the initial assault on Salerno.Our
34th Division was in reserve “D” Day plus 5 days.Our commanding
officer was General Mark Clark.The 5th army consisted of U.S. VI
Corp, British X Corp, and U.S. Rangers.
We landed 30 miles south of Naples
at Pasterum with the initial objective to take the Calore River
banks near Battipaglia and hold all territory.The Italian Army capitulated
and Mussolini had been run off into exile with his mistress Clara Patchi to
fellow Italians located them in 1945 and stoned them to death.
In the meantime the beaches were not secure.The German counter
attack was quite vicious, as now we were fighting all German panzers and S.S.
troops.German Field Marshal Albert Von Kesselring was pulling some of the
troops from the Russian front.The enemy was forming defensive lines some 80
miles from Casino to Artona across Italy.He was building steel fortified
bunkers with concrete to defend other withdrawals from the main line of resistance.
on October 2, 1943, our advances were strong enough on the 8th
Army British and the 5th Army American.I will say if it had not
been for the 151st Field Artillery the beach had, advances could
not have been accomplished.We were trying to control the Sila and Calore Rivers
because they were too deep to cross without equipment.We were told the 5th
Army was to cover Benevento to the Tyrrhenian
Sea and the 8th Army British to cover Bennentles to
Adriatic Termini.The German winter line was a real problem for us now and
later, because winter weather was setting in, and our clothing was not sufficient
for the cold.Since we had Naples’s deep seaport, the supplies and tools
of war started rolling in.
We again had Ernie Pyle with us for a brief week or two during
our advances.Now we had another river to contend with called Valturns near
the confluence of Calore.Our objectives were San Gioromi and Caiazzo.The Volturno
we waded across was breast high with guide ropes put up.The 109th
Engineers were certainly an important unit enabling us to get across rivers
and clear mine fields.
By mid-October 1943, we had reached our objectives.My unit
was in Drajoni.The bridges that had been there were blown up by the Germans.The
next mission was to cross the Volture a second time. The
objective was Alife.Enemy resistance was fierce.At this point our front was
the 34th, 45th and 3rd Divisions.The enemy
was withdrawing to winter line to the north but the 185th Field
Artillery was punishing German armor and artillery.
We were once again facing the Volturno for the third time.Mail
from home was a morale factor with all of us on the front lines.
We captured eighteen Wermatch soldiers of all ages.It was
obvious the fanatic Germans were getting desperate, because a couple captives
were about fourteen years of age. Vineyards
and olive trees are laced with trip wires and mines just to the west of the
Volturno on open fields.We fought through the foothills to the mountains as
we approached the German Gustav line.It was here we encountered enemy positions
so well fortified with concrete and railroad ties.
This was my first winter in 1943 in Italy.
This was my first experience of using a flame thrower, but
the best bunker busters are hand grenades and bazookas.We were after the approaches
to the town of Monte Cassino, bastione
of the monastery.This operation was to be my most fierce battle to date. Mount
Pantano was our objective.It
had three knobs it was here we fought for two to three weeks.Our casualties
were high, but the Germans were losing ground and troops.Our unit was awarded
the Presidential Unit Citation for the battle at Mount Pantano,
and at this time a famous new reporter, Ernie Pyle, was with my unit.He was
later killed in the Pacific Rapido.
After Christmas, our unit relieved the 36th Division
at San Pietro near the Rapido River
at the entrance to Cassino dominated by Mount Troccio,
two miles from the town.The river was icy cold.The Germans had the opposite
banks loaded with land mines. plus they blew some ditches and flooded the
low area to the rolling hills from the Rapido tributaries of water.My unit’s
objective was some old Italian military barracks that had shelter from sleet
and snow we were encountering.
It took us four days to cross the river due to heavy fighting
with the Germans.Finally we reached our objective, and here my squad went
close to seventy hours without rations and water.
Our losses were staggering.
I really don’t know the head count but my unit alone was down less
than half strength in manpower.My unit never did reach the town of Monte
Cassino, but units of our other regiment, the 133rd,
was engaged in hand-to-hand fighting in the town.
We are starting to use mules for pack animals, as the mountains
are rough with only goat trails through the rocky terrain to access our positions.The
next few engagements saw my quota go up in numbers.The German casualties were
many more than ours.
The weather at this time is turning real cold.The roads impossible,
we could use trails with pack animals, but our troops are encouraged by the
fact we were getting more support with artillery, tanks, aircraft, and special
We could only gain part of the town of Cassino, house to house, street to street.The
stench of death from human and animal corpses was overwhelming.We attacked
the town with two assaults, no gains.We pulled back 1000 yards from our front
so our heavy B-17 bombers could bombard the monastery, because the Germans
were using this for observations on our lines.
On February 2, 1944, I had been back at our supply dump for
our mail, where more rations including water and ammo and where our pack mules
were kept, sort of like a staging area.This mule was packed with supplies
and I was leading him on the trail (Narcco) to our front lines when a shell
exploded on the opposite side of the mule.I was hit with shell fragments,
the mule with our supplies was killed, and he went over the side of our trail
into a ravine or gully.I was in shock and the left side of my body felt like
I had been branded.I started downhill best as I could to get medical help.Finally,
after some more mules were coming up the hill, they helped me get to a medic.I
was evacuated to the town of Cervaro where there was
a field hospital set up in an Italian school that provided nice warmth and
Most of those supplies, mainly from the States, got to where
they were supposed to be.We guys who were wounded were sent back to Naples
where we loaded on LCTs for Anzio
landing.In the meantime, my unit was pulled from Cassino,
so we all met up at the Anzio beachhead.
That stint of not fighting was about three weeks.My wounds
were superficial.The British relieved the U.S. troops at Cassino,
mostly Gurkhas from the Indian military and British Commonwealth
After the saturation of bombs, we were relieved by French
troops and returned to Naples Repo Depo called the race track.We received
new equipment and manpower, loaded on LSTs headed to Anzio
and Netuno.By the way, during this time Cassino
was bypassed by allied troops.The beachhead at Anzio was very dangerous; our sector covered about two miles
interlocking the Conakry draining to the Tyrrhenian Sea. Constant shelling was each day’s routine.We
dug deep bunkers.The Germans were shelling us with a railway gun that had
a range of about twenty five miles and the projectile made a crater the size
of a five hundred pound bomb.One such projectile landed next to me, once it
lifted me off the ground, and bounced my head with a concussion, leaving me
with both vision and hearing problems.
At night, we would go out on patrol to engage and find the
enemy strength and what positions they occupied.We would rustle milk cows
from each unit back and forth between the 82nd Airborne, 3rd
Division, 45th Division and my Division, the 34th.
This was our first experience at getting a shower in a mobile
unit, given brand new clothes, and sprayed with DDT.I felt like a new person.I
had our machine guns covering a dairy farm, which German duos usually visited
every evening at dark.It was on a canal levy that I got a German by hand with
my tent rope.He did not know what happened.He was riding a bicycle with a
radio, down the levy of the canal.After I killed him, our mortar shots stopped
from the German gunners.
It was at this sector that our 109th engineers
built so many bunkers and laid mines in front of our lines next to the main
rail line leading to Rome
via Albano Cisterna.All of our objectives were taken on time.We reached the
outskirts of Rome about the first part of June,
1944, almost at the same time of the Normandy
invasion on the coast of France.
The 109th Engineers made Banglor torpedoes which
are six-inch pipes loaded with TNT with a fuse, and they are snaked into position
with tanks.These torpedoes would detonate the German mine fields when we started
our push for Rome from Anzio.This
area is where the film “Cleopatra” with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton was
made in 1958-59, and we still have an allied cemetery maintained there.
At this same time, General Alexander McCarrell “Sandy” Patch
of the 7th Army made an amphibious landing in Marsilles southern
the Germans had too many fronts to defend.
Soon we would move through Rome,
City, to the hills beyond, because the
Germans were fighting as they withdrew north to Rosignano near Tarquina.The
German defensive line was called the Gothic that ran from Pisa
to Pesaro across Italy.This
is the point at Pisa which some of us were sent back to Repo
Depot to be transferred to the Army Air Corps and into air to air gunnery.I
trained and trained but had no rank for flight crew at that time.Gunnery was
being taught on fifty caliber air-cooled machine guns. Three of us were sent via Naples
to the 15th Air Force on the Adriatic Sea on the east side of Italy.
The B-17 aircraft was new to me, and so was the role I would
play with this new unit.Good food and a nice cot to sleep on, but each night
we would have air raids by the Germans.My unit was Squadron #246 in the 99th
Bomb H Group in the 15th Air Corps.My date of transfer was September/October
Our bombers were parked between large drums of sand, dispersed,
and spread over a large area.It has been difficult for me to train on the
fifty caliber machine guns, as you have no reference point to aim through
a moving target and especially on angles.
Comrades are not easy to come by, as it is the Infantry.It
is at this point in my life that I have met so many guys it is difficult to
remember names, as I go through each day wondering what destiny I would have.I
have not received any news or mail from back home due to change in address
and transfer to this new area.In fact, I transferred from the Tyharrhenian
Sea side of Italy
to the Adriatic Sea near Foggia
The British 8th army with Monty has all the near
main routes and rail lines controlled so all the German ground forces are
withdrawing north to the Bologna
area.Two B-24 bomber groups near here are raiding the Rumania
air fields across the Adriatic; they go daily
and receive heavy losses of both aircraft and men.They tried tactics of flying
B-24s low under German radar.
I begin to wonder what my role will be with the 15th
Air Corps (heavy).We had some medium bomber groups of B-25s and B-26s.Most
of our fighter support and escort came from the 12th Air Force.Four
engine bomber and two engine bombers totaled 1,800 aircraft.Our commanders
were General James Harold Doolittle and General Nathan Farragut Twining.We
had twenty-one heavy bomb groups, which consisted of fifteen B-24s and six
B-17s.Our objectives were oil fields, refineries, and industrial ball bearing
factories.Bombing targets besides bridges and rail center or marshalling yards
were Vienna, Sofia, Bulgaria,
personal strength was, it was rumored, to be near 63,000.
I met an Italian gal at Tortorella next to housing.She did
my laundry.Her name was Maria, and she was five years older than me.She was
very nice.At the time I did not have much to offer her in the way of goodies.I
had not had any pay for about six months, and I was using the barter system
There was always plenty of wine to drink, and some American
beer would filter through our base once in a while.I was being prepped for
my first flight and mission to where I did not know and I did not care.
All the airfields, taxiways, and highways were being
upgraded because when 200 to 300 bombers were to rendezvous for missions, that
meeting would last four to five hours in duration.
Our bomb targets were made by Command Headquarters twenty-four
hours prior to the mission, unless weather conditions changed the target areas.We
go to the B-17s named Patches I and Patches II.We very seldom had the same
full crew for each mission.We load bombs, ammo for machine guns, radio communications,
oxygen bottles, parachutes, and Mae Wests.The bombardier had a bombsite strictly
classified secret….pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight engineer, and all this
being done about 3 AM in the morning.We would get the bombers ready and then
go back to the briefing hut near the mess hall and eat and find out where
our target area would be.
The two missions I made were to German ball bearing factories
in Styr Austria, nestled
in part of the Alps.It would take a couple
of hours at Foggia to form all of our bombers, and two would take off at a
time and circle over the Adriatic until all our bomber were airborne.We would
not leave the area until all of our bombers were ready A-OK with mechanical
status, because usually there are some with engine problems or various other
problems.Each bomber circled and gained altitude and start forming into box
groups for each unit and bombload, because all bombloads were not the same.
Prior to our forming and B-17 departure, there would be a
pathfinder go before us to drop aluminum cheaf to foul up German radar.When
we finally got proper altitude, 125 of us, we would saturation bomb an area
to completely obliterate our target.Some drop incendiaries to fire bomb the
area.Time and distance varied depending on air speed, usually 180 miles per
hour at about 16,000 feet and heavy cloud cover changes lots of elements of
During all of this preparation, there are always some stragglers
with problems of all kinds.My bomber was built by Douglas
aircraft serial numbers to Boeing specs due to the large amount of bombers
being built in a short period of time.
My tail turret was a “Cheyenne”
modified in Wyoming
by United Airlines for military use in combat.I had twin 50 caliber guns synchronized
to fire at the same time making a pattern impact at 150 yards generally.
On most of our trips to the target area, we were escorted
fighter planes from the 12th Air Force until it was out of our
mileage and range for the fighters.They would challenge the first wave of
enemy aircraft regardless of type.We had P-38, P-40 and P-51 as escorts and
sometimes, British Spitfires.Their altitude range was similar to ours.
Sometimes heavy cloud cover was good, but most of the time they are
not helpful for our bombers to keep the formation in route.Clouds are aerial
gunners’ nightmare due to visibility ranges.
Once you start your final bomb to target run you must hold
your formation.It is critical.The Germans I liked to engage prior to target
run usually came down from 12 o’clock through our formation.I had such an
engagement near the Swiss border at 15,000 feet with clear visibility.It was
my first engagement and my results were unknown but that was the only time
I had to use my turret.Upon returning from the mission, crippled aircraft
and wounded get landing priority, and all live-armed bombs were dumped in
the ocean. Sometimes bombs got hung up in the racks with
armecher pins pulled and they are alive for explosion on contact.Sometimes
a guy had to walk the cat walk with bomb bay doors open to see and fix the
problem.There are usually not many malfunctions with our equipment.It was
always ninety-nine percent reliable.
These planes shake and vibrate.They are not pressurized,
and they are cold.Someday I shall have to show you actually where all my gear
was.Each gunner’s station is different. Each
crew varied in numbers, but usually average ten to twelve, depending on the
modification of the bomber.
My squadron was bombing bridges in the Alps near Brenner Pass and at this time the Lutwaffe was getting scarce
in the skies.The main reason they brought several of us Infantry machine gunners
to the Air Corps was the loss of manpower through casualties.I cannot describe
how a bomber is cleaned out with the body parts and the dead and wounded. It is too horrific to mention.
It is the first part of March 1945, and it seems the noose
is getting tighter around the Germans.They are running around the Germans.They
are running low on all the tools needed to fight a war.All allied targets
were pointing towards Berlin whether in the air
or on the ground.Hitler’s fronts were dissolving, and he could not maintain
them.My bomb group, 99, lost 9 bombers.Some are missing with hopes some are
making their way to Switzerland
or Spain because
the aircraft did not return.
The ground crews are having a difficult time keeping bombers
operational for all kinds of reasons.I prefer the Army to the Air Corps, the
Infantry.They are true comrades and live and fight with each other under any
May V.E. Day 1945: I
was in Torino, Italy
at the Foggia
complex ready for a mission.
My unit, the 34th Division during World War II,
captured 35,000 enemies, completed 612 combat days, 14,165 34th
Division soldiers wounded, 3,500 missing in action and 4,737 killed in action.
In June of 1945, I arrived back in the states.At the processing
center in Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts,
I was given one hundred and twenty days to decide if I wanted to stay in or
get out.Needless to say I headed to Iowa and used several modes
of travel to get home.My brother in law, Hugh Fertig, and children were in
the middle of farming at this time.Jack Fertig was in the Naval Air Squadron
of Torpedo Bombers at Barbers Point,
Hawaii.Gene Fertig was going
to the U.S.A.F. and his destination was unknown.
In July 1945, our bomber crews were starting to report to California’s March Air Force Base, Long Beach Air Base,
Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino and
Santa Ana. At this time I decided to stay in the service.President
Truman dropped an A-bomb in August of 1945 on Japan,
so our staging of bombers was aborted.
They promised me a promotion, and there would be no need
for aerial gunners, as the B-29s were the workhorse.By the time I got to my
air station in Long Beach, California
in August, 1945, the war in the Pacific was ending.My new job would be fueling,
parachute rigging, and sack lunches for the flight systems.
We shared the runways with the Long Beach, California
Municipal Airport and Douglas Aircraft Company.Our stationed aircraft was
a duke mixture, because a group of the Hollywood actors would get their flying in the reserves
at my base on B-26s, A-26s, and B-25s.An occasional transport would come in
during large sporting events in the Los
Angeles area.We were quite busy during the Rose Bowl
At the base I got to visit with my niece, Betty Snell and
her son Bobby Snell, and my niece, Boni Lee Dunlap.During the weekends, I
used to ride the Pacific Electric red car in from Long
Beach.I did not know the details of how Betty, Boni,
and Bobby had relocated from Iowa to live in California,
as I was stationed overseas during WWII, and correspondence had been limited.
Betty Snell lived in an apartment on Constance Street in downtown Los Angeles and had a roommate
Zola Samuleson and, of course, her son Bobby was growing like a weed.
Bobby had been born in Des Moines on 1331 South Fifth Street.We
had a lot of parties on the weekends, as Jack Fertig got in from his Naval
Air Base.At my air base, we dealt with many foggy days and nights.
From 1945 to 1949, I was stationed at several air bases in
the United States.
In order of rotation:March Air Force Base, Long Beach Air Force Base, Norton
Air Force Base, Oxnard Air Force Base, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma,
and Richards Gebaur Air Force Base, Kansas City, Missouri.I was based in 1950
at Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts.From 1951
to 1952, I was at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii
and Johnston Island Air Force Base.
I did not get into the Korean War until the end of 1952.
I was assigned to K-9 Air Force Base in Pusan,
Korea.I saw my first jet aircraft,
the F-80, and helicopters of all varieties.I did not see combat in Korea;
just support in all areas regarding fueling of different blends and mixtures
of fuel including kerosene.
When fall and winter came to the base, it was quite cold.When
the winds blew down from Manchuria, you could
pee and lean on it.It is the coldest place I have ever been.
In fact, it was much colder than the mountains of Italy during WWII.
We were quartered in billets, quanshuts, and Gusonhuto with
drip-type belly heaters.I was so thankful for shelter.I felt so sorry for
the Army and Marines in the cold elements fighting it out regardless of the
During my fourth month at my base, I made outstanding N.C.O.
of the month, and the reward was a weekend, expenses-paid pass to Tokyo.After my tour in Korea,
I was assigned to Brooks Field in San
Antonio, Texas for
a brief five-month tour.I was then (in 1955) transferred to Norton Air Force
Base in San Bernardino California.While
stationed there, I was transferred in 1958 to Bitteburg Air Force Base in
Germany.I was assigned to the 36th
Tactical Fighter Wing. It was in the
near the border with Belgium
and Luxemburg.We were a four-hour drive to Frankfurt, a full day’s drive to
Paris, and one day and a half to Rome.
The vehicle I took to Germany was a 1957 Chevy Nomad station
wagon, which came in handy for trips and camping.My car was shipped to Bremerhaven,
Germany from New York port of debarkation.I
was stationed in Germany until
October 1962.During my four years of duty, I traveled to many parts of Europe,
Brussels, French Rivera, Italian Riviera, Pyrenees
Mountains of Spain.Ibex hunting…they are like mountain
goats. In 1960, during my tour at Bitburg
Air Base, Germany,
I was promoted to Technical Sergeant.
To drive a personal vehicle in Europe, you have to qualify
for an international license, which includes England.The border crossings in Europe
were very difficult, even if you are not exchanging money.
Tour buses and heavy trucks seemed to clog the entry points
from country to country.The highways in Europe
are atrocious except the autobahn and autostrada.Our vehicle license plates
my tour in Germany, the Swiss tunnels for cars,
trucks, and trains were not under construction.I had to drive to Austria
and go through the Brenner Pass in the Swiss Alps to Italy.I had a special beach resort,
at half the price, in the Italian Riviera called Cerale, next to the French
town of Nice. I would camp and use
cabanas with a large bathhouse at each end of the resort.The weather was in
the eighties all year round.
For traveling, I was allotted one hundred gallons of gas
a month.With a coupon book, if you drove a small vehicle such as a Volkswagen,
your allotted amount was fifty gallons of gas per month.I planned my trips
in Europe according to our U.S.A. Navy bases,
Army bases and Air Force bases to gas up my vehicle.
Gas and oil on the economy were really expensive.If I recall,
a quart of motor oil was three dollars and the average gallon of gas was twelve
dollars a liter.I used to carry four five-gallon gas cans in the back of the
station wagon.The border guards used to give me fits, because it was illegal
to carry gas across the borders, so I would drive up to the guards, hand them
a couple packs of American cigarettes, and they would wave me on through.
As you can see, my European travels during peacetime, were
much different than the combat days in Italy.My base was at Bitburg Germany, the 36th
Devastation was still evident from 1958 to 1962 in parts of
Europe, especially in the industrial part of Germany.Many air and army bases were
being relocated from Bavaria in Germany to farming areas, where missile
pods could be installed.
The Cold War standoff with the Russians meant East Berlin was
off limits for U.S.
troops, and the famous wall separated the city.Our Air Force fighters were
in Wiesbaden, near our large air base at Frankfurt
called Rhein- Main, near the Rhine River.
When we had the missile defense in Germany and Italy
and about fifteen bases in Germany,
Gorbachev changed his posture in a hurry.
We had a missile silo next to my base, manned twenty-four
hours every day and aimed at Moscow, Russia, and the Czech Republic.
We kept at least half of our wing fighter planes of the 104th
and 105th ready for scramble in the air.They were ready for targeting
in three to five minutes around the clock.We were less than an hour’s flying
time to Berlin and Warsaw, Poland.The
Russians were occupying and changing more boundaries and countries borders
than Hitler did during his purge.
The best off-base dining and drinking was in Luxembourg, a
half hour’s drive on a double-wide road and with easy border crossings.By
the way, Luxembourg people all drove American
cars due to no auto industry in the country.General George Patton and his
wife are buried in a beautiful cemetery in Luxembourg
next to the municipal airport. The cemetery is maintained by the United States
I will say my most rewarding duty in my military career was
to my departure from Germany, I sold my 1957 Chevy wagon to a taxi cab
company in Luxembourg.I
doubled my cost of the vehicle plus I had been able to drive it there for
I bought a boxed-up Plymouth
three-speed from Belgium
and an Austin Healy Roadster from England.They
were shipped from Bremerhaven to the New
York docks.My new Air Force base would be Luke in
which, as you can imagine, was quite a temperature change.
I would spend the next thirty years in the Arizona area.Each temporary duty I would perform
throughout the world, and I would always return to my home at Luke Air Force
Base.This base was named after Lieutenant Frank Luke, Jr. who died in World
War I at the age of 21.Lieutenant Luke was the first U.S. aviator to
receive the Medal of Honor.
We had a variety of aircraft fighters; 100s through 104s, F-15s,
and F-16s.All were very high tech and fast in speed.
We had multiple runways, and the flight patterns ran over the
Sun City Senior Housing, which produced daily complaints of jet noise.Luke
Air Force base was there prior to that housing development being built.
While at Luke Air Force Base, I was over my military years
Two months after my arrival at Luke, President Kennedy set
up a blockade of Russian Missile frigates going to Cuba.He was not bluffing Khrushchev.It
was a real mobility starter for the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Paratroopers.
I went to work one October morning in 1962, and alert status
was red.Our fighter squadrons (I wing) had already left for Florida.They
brought two D-8 commercial airlines in from Los Angeles
to haul United States support
troops to Florida.We
stashed our carbines under the seats, and the stewardesses were quite nervous.Our
destination was unknown to us.We landed at a Naval base in Coco
Beach, Florida and were then bussed to Tyndall Air Force Base in
Panama City, Florida.
Our flyaway kits were in route with us.When we landed, it
was dark, but you could see jets stacked up on the flight lines and paratroopers
with full battle laying on the tarmac ready to load.I have never seen so much
military hardware assembled in one area.President Kennedy gave Khrushchev
so many hours to turn his ship around and leave our waters and was ready to
hit the code red button and engage the enemy.
The Russian freighters and missile frigates stopped and turned
home.If they had not there, would be no Cuba
and the Russian Navy would have lost all their missiles and Navy.
The weather in Panama
City was hot during the day and chilly and foggy at
night.Our jet fighters fly routine patrols constantly around the clock.I have
never seen so many jet aircraft patrolling the skies.There was constant noise
and all sizes and types of aircraft.After a few weeks the tension was eased.We
could go to town for a few hours, but only be minutes away from our work area.
My tour lasted until March of 1963, after a tour of duty
in Thailand.I returned
home to Luke Air Force Base.Three of us sergeants were given travel vouchers
via commercial airlines to return to Phoenix.I was back home for only three months
and I had to go on another tour of duty, mobile exercise, and a constant reminder
of the United States military worldwide.November 1963 was a sad time for the
citizens, as President Kennedy was assassinated.The public thought it was
a conspiracy at that time, and once again our military went on full alert
and in a ready posture.Retirements, leaves, and passes were all cancelled
and put on hold status.Lyndon Johnson, the Vice President, was sworn in immediately
on an Air Force aircraft.It took several months to sort out the facts and
details of what had transpired.At this time I had submitted my papers to retire,
but things were delayed due to the status of the military and the presidential
assassination.My age was a factor.The defense department did not care to see
me retire at the age of forty-three, so I was put on active reserve status
as Master Sergeant.In 1963 I did a tour of duty in Turkey
from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.My
full and eventual military retirement occurred in 1972 after I had given almost
thirty years of active duty to our county.
Monty Joe Boitnott currently resides in Collins, Iowa and remains an active volunteer at Camp Dodge
in Des Moines, Iowa.He continues to meet once a year with
his 34th Infantry Division Association reunion.He has been called
upon to give numerous speeches to new recruits and those actively being sent
and other parts of the world.He has also been featured as a speaker on international
television on the Oliver North “War Stories” series on the Fox Cable Network.He
has been featured on the BBC “Lost Evidence” program and he has a segment
in the WWII Museum in New
He has also received numerous awards and medals in the last
few years at Camp
Dodge.On January 11,
2003, he was awarded the Saint Maurice Highest Infantry Award and the Order
of Saint Maurice Centurion plaque and medallion.
His other medals and awards include:
Combat Infantry Badge/ Air Crew Wings (USAF)
National Order of St. Maurice
6 Battle Stars (Issued for major battles during WWII)
Presidential Unit Citation
European Occupation Medal
Good Conduct Medal
Korean Victory Medal.
His nephew, Bobby Snell, and his wife Jennifer were proud
to accompany Monty Joe Boitnott to the dedication ceremony of The National
World War II Memorial in Washington,
DC on May 29, 2004.It was both
a memorable and emotional experience as was writing his memoirs.
10th Infantry Division
18 National Guard Units (not combat ready)
1 Lighter than air wing Corps
1 Squadron of aircraft
(P-38, P-39, P-40)
10 Experimental Bombers Corps (B-17, B-25, B-26)