Keep Them Rolling: World War II letters from Louis Solberg – Part 12

COLFAX — Louis Solberg, who passed away in 2008, grew up in Albertville, owned a farm north of Colfax and later on farmed on the Rusk Prairie. He and his wife, Alda, who passed away in 2006, operated the farm in the Town of Otter Creek during the 1940s and 1950s.

Here is Part 12 of Louis Solberg’s book, “Keep Them Rolling” (Company 314) (A World War II Story 1941-1945).

England Again

October 10, 1944 — We were somewhere in southern England. I can’t remember even where it was near. We drove over in our trucks and started to prepare to be a field outfit.

We set up identical trailers loaded with parts. Each trailer carried only parts for one make of truck. They carried their own engines and axles and bulky parts.

I don’t have the exact date, but somewhere about this time, give or take a month or two, Capt. Welsh left the Company, and Lt. Martin was promoted to Captain and became our Company Commander.

I was put in charge of one of the trailers that we called “Parts Common.” Nuts and bolts that would fit anything.

I have no exact dates from here on in, but sometime after the middle of October, early one morning, we loaded on a ship with all our equipment. It was what they called a “Landing Ship Troop” or L.S.T. I believe they were made by the Kaizer Frazier Company.

We loaded at the break of day at one of the ports on South England and were well on our way by breakfast time. We ate breakfast on the ship.

They served pancakes: one man gave us a few pancakes, and another stood there with a gallon can of something yellow that looked like butter. Now, I always liked butter, so I got a big spoonful, they were real generous with it. I walked over and found a place to sit and eat on the deck. This product wouldn’t spread, so I broke it up in a few pieces and started to eat. The first bite, I got one of these pieces stuck to the roof of my mouth, about like so much axle grease. I picked the other chunks up and threw them overboard and ate my pancakes dry. I never took any of that stuff again.

In the afternoon, we were in the English Channel and could see the coast of France on the right.

It seemed peaceful enough, but I had to think that less than 100 days before, it was a blazing inferno. A Forbidden Land.

Utah Beach

Night settled long before we pulled in the Seine River and dropped anchor at Utah Beach.

When we left England, everybody observed the “Black Out” but here there seemed to be trucks driving all over with lights on and “Army Ducks” drove down in the water and around us.

We stayed on board all night and got up early in the morning.

We had come in on high tide and dropped anchor. In the morning, the tide had gone out, and we sat high and dry on the beach. They dropped the front and we drove off. Nothing around but an empty beach.

We took off in the direction of St. Lo and camped near there in a field overnight. No facilities whatever except a straddle trench to be used for a toilet. I guess the only water we had was for drinking. They put a bulletin board on the side of a truck with our orders on it.

One notice read, “Anyone caught washing themselves will be court-martialed.” I washed my hands in a mud puddle.

It rained most of the time we were there.

We ate pretty good as we had each been issued a few boxes of K-rations for the trip.

Paris

Sometime the next day we got orders to load up and proceed to Paris. We drove through Paris to an old Cavalry barn in Vincennes, a suburb of Paris. This was one of the last days of October. We had no heat. There were washrooms but no hot water. We were dirty from days on the trips, so we showered and shaved in cold water. If you get dirty enough, you can stand anything.

The country was interesting to see, mostly pasture or grassland. They drove their horses single file on anything I saw more than one hitched to. I saw three hitched single file on a plow.

There were lots of carts on the road. They used all high two wheel carts.

Most of the cattle were brindle. One place along the road we saw a man driving a hitch of oxen. I don’t remember if there were four or six in his hitch.

We drove through some apple orchard country, and it was picking time. They picked them and piled them in big long piles on the ground. Some piles were red and some were green. Some had one color on one end, and the other color on the other end. Many loads to a pile.

Belgium

We stayed in Vincennes two or three days. October 30 found us on the road again going through Belgium.

We enjoyed the trip from Paris, a very beautiful country and people were friendly. In Belgium, the kids stood beside the road and called out, “Allo, allo.” It sounded almost like “hello.”

Some places in France where we stopped, the kids would come up and shake hands and say, “Bonjuer, Misuer.” All the little kids were clean.

They came around with apples and pears for us. Of course, we gave them candy, gum and cigarettes.

The boys smoked while they were quite small.

This was the first we saw of the German VI Rocket, generally called “Buzzbombs.”

We parked along the way and posted a guard around the area. I can remember it was Halloween, and I was Sergeant of the Guard. Next morning we got up and took off down the road again. The farther we went, the more “Buzzbombs” we saw going over. They were a small pilotless plane. Jet propelled and filled with explosives. When they ran out of fuel, they would come down and explode on impact.

(In Part 13, Louis and the other soldiers go to The Netherlands.)