The day following my 18th birthday I visited all the recruiting offices trying to enlist. For some reason they were not taking any enlistments but suggested I contact my local draft board and maybe they could help. Within a week I received an official invitation from Uncle Sam to join the ranks. When my folks left me at the train station it was the only time I ever saw my dad cry.
Allan Atwell Camp Van Dorn , Miss. (USA) 08/44 just before
embarkation for l’Europe
I reported first to Camp Upton on long island and then to Camp Croft SC for my basic training. In talking with fellows since who live nearby, the area has been turned into a housing development. At that time I only weighed 155 lbs. During hand to hand combat training I was paired with a 200 lbs opponent. In practicing hip throws you would stiffen your body when stretched over your opponent’s hip. He did not throw me but I felt something pop in my lower stomach. I suffered an inguinal hernia on the left side.
This happened mid way during the 17 week training and was quite difficult at times. Especially during the 25 mile hike with full gear. They operated in the base with no ill effects since.
From there I reported to Camp Van Dorn, Missouri for further training. I remember being on the rifle range when word spread that troops had stormed the beaches of France, June 6th. When word was received that we were on our way, our 1st sergeant knew he was going to be seasick. They carried him aboard, he never left his bunk, and was carried ashore. I was lucky to be assigned to the French liner “Mauritania” , it was next to the Queen Mary, both in size and speed. Upon climbing aboard I wondered why 55 gal. Barrels were located at the stairway. After only a short time at sea the barrels came very useful for those with seasickness. Having taken several cruises and looking back now I was fortunate to have been assigned to what must have been the bar lounge on the top deck. I have never forgotten those poor souls assigned to decks below the water line. Being so fast we sailed alone instead of in a convey. One dark night we heard this announcement, “this is the captain speaking, we have made contact with several submarines and are taking evasive action”. Following that you could feel the ship going one direction and then another. Some of the boys got their beds out and started mumbling while the rest of us started praying. Thank God none found us because it would have been a long walk home.
Allan Atwell & Antonio Mirabito 05/ 45 Kaiserlauton (All)
We landed on the west coast of England at night in a rain storm. Boarded a train and crossed the country arriving on the east coast by morning. Went aboard a ship that took us near the coast of France. We climbed down landing nets jumping into LCI’s when the waves raised them up the highest. I walked ashore on Omaha Beach on Labour Day. There was still a lot of damaged equipment everywhere. As a replacement I worked my way through many depots towards the front. I noticed elements of the 17th Airborne as we moved forward. Riding in the back of a 2 ½ , I hallowed, “Hi Bob.” Back came the reply, “Hi Al”. Robert Campbell, he has to become my future brother-in-law but neither of us knew it at the time. I tried to get permission to go back and see him but it wasn’t granted.
Nearing the front I was assigned to a rifle company of the 28th ID. It had been a National Guard Division from Pennsylvania before being federalized. Thank God the sector was quiet but looking over the no man’s land at night gave your imagination a lot to work with. One day another fellow and I were ordered to report back to Battalion headquarters. It was a hot sunny day with us walking across this large open field when an 88mm artillery shell burst some distance ahead of us. It had missed us and thought nothing more until another shell burst behind us. If you have ever seen cartoon characters with little legs running that was somewhat how me may have looked. First this way and then that. Whatever, that third round never came obviously, because you’re reading this. At this point I was assigned to help guard the Div. Finance Office. Setting around a German Bunker one dark night the fellows were telling where they were from. Come my turn, I said new York. Someone asked what bourgh ? I replied, not the city but upstate. The question from the darkness, where ? I replied Elmira. The questioner was persistent , where in Elmira ? Well not really Elmira I replied, but a little spot called Breesport. Well where in Breesport ? he turned out to be Fred Allen who lived next door in Neva in Erin. Thousands of miles from home when you run across someone who lives four miles away from you. Strange …
Allan Atwell at the Siegfriedline 03/45
In November winter settled in with lots of snow, mud, freezing temperatures. During the battle of the Hürtgen Forest I lived outside in whatever shelter we could make. Days on end my feet were wet with freezing temperatures at night. I came down with frost bite or trench foot. My feet were numb with no feeling in them. The sector was quiet so I reported to an Aid Station. I was taken to a Field Hospital where I laid on a cot with my feet sticking out from under a blanket. If they turned black they were amputated. There was no treatment to be had.
In looking back to my medical records I was in the 4th Convalescent Hospital from 11/24-12/13. I don't remember much about it except that we were told it had been a Belgium Cavalry facilities.
One day I was ordered to this room filled with many people. I was helped to stand on a table where a doctor took a sharp needle and stuck it into my toes to show I had lost feeling in them. Looking back now I wonder if that may have been a seminar of doctors looking into this problem. During this period the Germans were sending Buzz Bombs (V1) towards England. There Was little control except they were headed west. They would be sputter leaving a long trail of sparks. We were just interested that they kept going.
The Battle of the Bulge!
December 16th Battle of the Bulge !!! The hospital was emptied of all who could walk. I was headed forwards Bastogne as a rifleman replacement when asked if I would be interested in becoming a Military Policeman. I made a quick decision and became one on the spot. Our biggest concern as MP was to look for Germans dressed up as American soldiers.
If a jeep had black canvas covering the lights, that would have cause for further investigation. Pass words at road blocks were a big thing. As I remember there would not be a particular pass word , but one that only an American would normally know. Like players on baseball teams, or what states certain cities were in, or possibly where a river might flow and what direction. It was a little scary. I, myself, never confronted a German under these conditions, that I was aware of, anyway.
I saluted general Patton one day as he rode by in his sheepskin jacket and pearl pistols. VE day came along shortly afterwards with a welcome trip home. I happened to be on leave when VJ day was announced. What a wild town Elmira was that night. Thank God! I have read since that our Division would have been in the third wave assaulting the Shores of Japan. They were well fortified and would have fought to the last person.
Allan Atwell on guard at the Bureau de Finance Régimentaire Niedming (All) 03/45
The war was over and we were mustered out in a short order. I had been in the States just about one year total and overseas one year. About a month after being discharged, Warren Skinner, who lived across the street from 28 Dennison Ave. and a couple houses toward Chenango Ave. worked for NYTEL CO. and interviewed me for a job. The rest speaks for itself.
Allan retired from the NY Tel Co. in 1985 but is still doing telephone work for small businesses. He was also a volunteer fireman for over fifty years. He collected of over 2000 miniature fire trucks from 24 counties with at least 50 fire stations. His wife and he have three sons, two daughters, two granddaughters and twin grandsons.
PFC Allan P. ATWELL 32945174
28th MP Platoon
William Bull, Richard Baker, Allan Atwell today
Allan was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal and European Campaign with 4 Battle Stars.