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Unsung Valor

A GI's Story of World War II

A. Cleveland Harrison

Publication Year: 2003

Thirty riveting months in the life of a common infantryman, one among the "citizen soldiers" who took the Allies to victory

When drafted into the army in 1943, A. Cleveland Harrison was a reluctant eighteen-year-old Arkansas student sure that he would not make a good soldier. But inside thirty months he manfully bore arms and more. This book is his memoir about becoming a soldier, a common infantryman among the ranks of those who truly won the war.

After the Allied victory in 1945, books by and about the major statesmen, generals, and heroes of World War II appeared regularly. Yet millions of American soldiers who helped achieve and secure victory slipped silently into civilian life, trying to forget the war and what they had done. Most remain unsung, for virtually none thought of themselves as exceptional. During the war ordinary soldiers had only done what they believed their country expected.

Harrison's firsthand account is the full history of what happened to him in three units from 1943 to 1946, disclosing the sensibilities, the conflicting emotions, and the humor that coalesced within the naive draftee. He details the induction and basic training procedures, his student experiences in Army pre-engineering school, his infantry training and overseas combat, battle wounds and the complete medical pipeline of hospitalization and recovery, the waits in replacement depots, life in the Army of Occupation, and his discharge.

Wrenched from college and denied the Army Specialized Training Program's promise of individual choice in assignment, students were thrust into the infantry. Harrison's memoir describes training in the Ninety-fourth Infantry Division in the U.S., their first combat holding action at Lorient, France, and the division's race to join Patton's Third Army, where Harrison's company was decimated and he was wounded while attacking the Siegfried Line. Reassigned to the U.S. Group Control Council, he had a unique opportunity to observe both the highest echelons in military government and the ordinary soldiers as Allied troops occupied Berlin.

This veteran's memoir reveals all aspects of military life and sings of those valorous but ordinary soldiers who achieved the victory.

A. Cleveland Harrison is an emeritus professor of theatre at Auburn University.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Cover/Title Page/Copyright/Dedication

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

My service in the Army of the United States in World War II was brief but intense. Inside thirty months, I was a college student in the Army Specialized Training Program, an infantryman in a combat division overseas, a transient in the Army's medical and replacement pipelines, and a message center chief in a division of military government. ...

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pp. xv-xxii

I am staring at Paul Baumer, who is leaning against a parapet of sandbags at the front of a trench. Bright sunshine is drying up the surrounding sea of the battlefield's glutinous mud. This beautiful spring morning, like most days on the front line, is quiet; only the nights leap alive with patrols and the drumbeat of artillery. ...

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Reluctant Draftee: Little Rock, Arkansas

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pp. 1-20

In September 1942, nine months after Congress declared war on Japan and Germany, I was an eighteen-year-old freshman at Little Rock Junior College. Half the students enrolled were teenage boys nervously expecting the minimum draft age to be lowered and complaining about the possibility of fighting before being eligible to vote. ...

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Basic Trainee: Fort Benning, Georgia

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pp. 21-54

At Union Station, we peeled off the bus following the sergeant who escorted us from Camp Robinson and squeezed ourselves and our bulging duffel bags through the terminal's revolving doors. Inside the waiting room's echoing cavern, the NCO ordered us to sit on the long slick oak benches near the ticket windows while he dealt with the railroad agent. ...

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University Student: Oxford, Mississippi

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pp. 55-77

We left Columbus for Oxford, Mississippi, on an afternoon train, passing through Montgomery, Alabama, and getting off for a layover at Birmingham at twilight. We waited for our train connection to Memphis, Tennessee, sitting up on the station's mezzanine level, gazing through a broad window across the wide, busy railroad yard. ...

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Rifleman-Clerk: Camp McCain, Mississippi

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pp. 78-110

Soldiers and coeds alike cried foul when General Marshall ended most of the Army Specialized Training Programs across the country. The GIs at Ole Miss had deep misgivings about being transferred into the Army Ground Forces, particularly to the infantry or artillery, and the coeds were dismayed about social prospects on campus ..

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Army Transient: The Queen Elizabeth and Wiltshire, England

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pp. 111-131

For five days, troop trains pulled out of Camp McCain on the way to New York State. Company B departed on a train pulled by a coal-burning locomotive in the late afternoon of the second day. We were crammed into the stiff, hard, upright bench seats of ancient chair cars, probably abandoned before the war began. ...

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Switchboard Operator: Lorient, France

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pp. 132-180

Foot soldiers of the 301st, under Lieutenant Colonel Hardin, were the first units to depart for the port of Southampton on September 3 in preparation for crossing the English Channel to France. ...

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Combat Rifleman: Wehingen and Orscholz, Germany

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pp. 181-210

On the dark, frigid morning of December 29, the Ninety-fourth Division set out for Germany to fight on the "real" front. Company B marched route-step to a forest of evergreens some distance behind the front lines to wait for trucks to pick us up for the first leg of the division's trek across France. ...

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Patient and Replacement: France and England

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pp. 211-248

Suddenly, I was floating. About 0235, medics lifted my litter, carried me out from under the open-sided aid-station tent, and slid the litter onto a rack in an ambulance, beside three other wounded GIs. When I asked the medic where we were going, he threw a blanket over me and said, "The evacuation hospital at Thionville." ...

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Clerk-Typist: Versailles, France

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pp. 249-265

After V-E Day, I may have felt light as air, but I was still on the ground with the troops. A group of us, sitting in the uncovered bed of a two-and-a-half-ton truck, were on our way to an unknown destination. We didn't go far. About thirty-five miles down the road, the truck turned onto the broadest boulevard I had ever seen. ...

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Mail Clerk-Draftsman: Frankfurt am Main, Germany

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pp. 266-285

Our big move to Frankfurt am Main started the morning of June 9, 1945. With a truck and driver assigned to me, I made the rounds of State Department billets in a thick mist, collecting luggage for our flight. The heavily overcast morning turned into a rainy day, adding to my anxiety about flying for the first time. ...

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Message Center Chief: Berlin, Germany

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pp. 286-330

On July 10, Ι was out of bed before daylight and in the cafeteria at sunrise, ready to leave for Berlin. After breakfast, we picked up Κ rations and thermos jugs of hot coffee to take on the one-day trip. Those being transported in our caravan were mostly junior officers and female clerks. ...

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Returning Veteran: Little Rock, Arkansas

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pp. 331-346

On the gray, frigid Monday afternoon of January 7, while I was packing to leave Berlin, Rote was preparing for a furlough with Howy, hitchhiking on Army vehicles to Switzerland. Rote helped me carry my duffel and smaller bag down to the truck. We chatted until the sergeant bellowed, "Saddle up, you're moving out!" ...

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pp. 347-355

My neglect of the letters I wrote during the war forced me to draw principally upon my memory in these recollections. My mother had saved my letters to her and my father, in chronological order, in the bottom drawer of her secretary. Tumpy kept hers, too, but after graduating from college in 1945 and moving to Washington, D.C., ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781621038498
E-ISBN-10: 1578066158
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578066155

Publication Year: 2003