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Soldiering for Freedom

A GI's Account of World War II

By Herman J. Obermayer

Publication Year: 2005

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Title page, Copyright

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Preface: The Past Is Prologue

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pp. ix-xvi

I anticipated that reading my World War II letters after sixty years would be an enjoyable exercise in nostalgia - and little more. But I was surprised. I found much more. I discovered a striking number of harbingers of the major happenings that have dominated the news media during the twenty-first century's early years. ...

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Chapter 1. Drafted at Eighteen

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pp. 3-11

Living in close proximity to death was part of growing up in America in the early 1940s. It was a scary time. Never achieving middle age was every young man's deep, unexpressed fear. My locker mate, the baseball captain, and the band leader in Philadelphia's Central High School class of 1942 did not live to celebrate their nineteenth birthdays. Out...

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Chapter 2. Back to College as a Soldier

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pp. 12-49

Two months after I left Dartmouth I was back on a college campus - this time in uniform. I was assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), the country's first purely merit-based experiment in higher education. To be accepted, enlisted soldiers who had graduated from high school had to meet only two criteria: They had to obtain a high score on ...

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Chapter 3. Basic Training

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pp. 50-85

Basic training, the process by which light-hearted college boys are made into battle-ready warriors, is a rigorous regimen for molding psyche and body. It is tough and demanding. It is not skill training. I did not enjoy it, but it worked. Between the spring and autumn of 1944 I became a soldier. A few weeks after my assignment to the 95th Infantry ...

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Chapter 4 .Troopship Life in a U-boat Zone

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pp. 86-98

Life aboard a troopship in January, 1945, was both frightening and unpleasant. U-boats still lurked in the North Atlantic sinking Allied vessels. Most of the troopships had armed naval escorts. The U.S. Army Transport (USAT) Brazil, which carried approximately five thousand soldiers, including my own 1291st Engineer Combat Battalion, was the ...

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Chapter 5. Awaiting Combat In Europe

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pp. 99-124

Shortly after wading ashore, the 1291st Combat Engineer Battalion was trucked from Le Havre harbor to Camp Lucky Strike, a partially built tent city near Dieppe. Hastily constructed by German prisoners of war, it was a sea of mud without amenities. The medical tent, like all of the others, lacked a floor and had limited heating and light and no electricity. Water ...

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Chapter 6. Waging War against the French

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pp. 125-184

Petroleum products represented roughly half of the tonnage carried to Europe to supply American troops in World War II. Shortly after D-Day, military engineers began constructing an above-ground gasoline pipeline to guarantee a reliable, steady flow to Allied armies. Tankers offloaded at a floating dock at the Atlantic Ocean port of Cherbourg. The ...

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Chapter 7. Paris: Glamour City, GI Town

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pp. 185-228

American GIs had a love-hate relationship with Paris. Every GI wanted to go there on leave. Assignment to an Army department garrisoned in the City of Light was the best posting in Europe. Still, many soldiers - perhaps most - were vexed by the fact that while more than fifty thousand American soldiers were killed fighting to liberate France, Parisians in the ...

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Chapter 8. Germany: Occupation Army, War Crimes Tribunal

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pp. 229-257

Like most bureaucracies, the U.S. Army of Occupation in Germany was overstaffed and slothful. My work was tedious and dull. I was not conscripted to be a government clerk. I wanted to get out in the worst way. American GIs were taught to hate and fear Germans. On arrival in postwar Germany, soldiers were given an official ...

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Chapter 9. Attending Classes as a Diplomatic Pawn

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pp. 258-279

Large wars have large economic consequences. A war-related, international economic dispute sent me to the University of Geneva in January, 1946. At issue was the disposition of German financial assets that were transferred to banks in neutral Switzerland. Gold bullion looted by the Nazis from central banks in conquered ...

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Chapter 10. Returning Home

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pp. 280-291

My journey home officially began at the Second Reinforcement Depot in Namur, Belgium, a huge, nineteenth-century Army garrison with dozens of four-story brick barracks that had been upgraded with indoor plumbing, heat, and showers. As on previous reinforcement depot assignments, I did little at Namur except eat, sleep, read books - and await ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 293-300

Not until I had crossed the biblically ordained threshold of threescore and ten years did I fully understand the formative role of my Army service. As life's shadows lengthened I better appreciated the disproportionately large part the years 1943 to 1946 had played in the development of my character, personality, and sense of values. Many of my ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 301-304

Although I have written for publication most of my adult life, this is my first full-length book. Before formally acknowledging the friends, colleagues, and family who helped make this book a reality, I reviewed authors' statements of appreciation in several dozen recently published military memoirs. They were formulaic, almost stereotyped. Editors, agents, ...

Index

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pp. 305-324


E-ISBN-13: 9781603446013
E-ISBN-10: 160344601X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585444069
Print-ISBN-10: 1585444065

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 71 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series

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Subject Headings

  • Obermayer, Herman J. -- Correspondence.
  • Obermayer, Leon -- Correspondence.
  • Obermayer, Julia -- Correspondence.
  • United States. Army. Combat Engineer Battalion, 1291st.
  • Army Specialized Training Program (U.S.).
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Western Front.
  • Military engineers -- United States -- Correspondence.
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