I met Bennett in December of 2004 when he signed my guestbook and we've been corresponding on a regular basis ever since.
Not only is he a very caring and sharing veteran, but one who has also written his story in his self-published book, The Hunter and The Hunted - Twenty-four Months in a Rifle Company. He sent me a signed copy of his book and several other documents regarding his memories of during the war years and his visit to the WWII Memorial in Washington DC in 2004.
So it is with esteemed pleasure that I introduce you to this fine, upstanding veteran. If you are intrigued by his story, you can order a copy of his book using the order form posted below.
It is with deep regret and much sorrow that I have to tell you of the passing of Ben. I received an email from his granddaughter telling me that Ben died of complications from open heart surgery.
We had just exchanged emails a few weeks ago about his successful knee replacement surgery. Said he was doing great, but it hurt like hell. I told him he owed me the first dance when he was back on his feet. So it was quite a shock to hear about this.
I will truly miss him and his friendship. I could always count on finding a couple of emails a week from him in my Inbox. He always had something interesting to share or just some kind words for me. It makes it even more difficult because he is my FIRST loss amongst the vets whom I created a page for. I guess I was lucky to have the chance to get to know him and to share him with all of you.
Hey Ben, say hi to my dad for me. You are now amongst your great friends whom have gone before you.
Excerpts from email that were sent to me...
Looks like I have progressed a bit. My post was accepted and I signed the Roster. With the history that I have sent to you and reading your own history of you and your Dad in the 6Th Corps Engineers, I looked in our 36Th Div. HISTORICAL History and found that we had the 111 Combat Eng. attached. I do remember talk of the 36Eng. but would be told they were attached when called for. So it is great that we can share history as we are getting older, soon the history will also end. I like what you are doing, to preserve history of units that really get little recognition. We fought along side of Eng. who were buildings bridges as the battles raged on, so on this day of New years eve our thoughts have never left the hundreds of battle grounds, that we fought for, and left millions of young men in Graves all over the World.
You asked if I wanted you to make my history on to a Web site. First I must send you my book, along with several stories of what I call the rest of the story, of History learned in the last few years. This book was printed and published on 6/20/02. Being self published is one tough job. I have moved over a thousand books. With some great reviews; Bob Dole, Andy Rooney, Col. Oliver North, and many others. I had my book on Amazon.Com and they were not effective, they get 55% of book sale price.
...So Marion, I have enjoyed you web page and contact. Can mail anytime you order.
An Old survivor of a very long War, Bennett J. Palmer
So great to keep finding folks like yourself so dedicated in your Dads WWII records. I can say this to you, as an old Dogface, that we as Infantry, knew all too well what the Combat Engs. role was, as some of our duties was to outpost around what ever it was they were building; bridges, blowing out a concrete bunker, building a plank road in the Vosges, where we lived for weeks at a time. Yes we did pull some guard around them, but they would normally outpost themselves...
Ben’s Military History
My parents purchased a small farm in rural Holland, NY in the 1920’s. I would be the third of seven kids. We walked to the one room school at the end of Warner Gulf Rd. In 1932 we moved to the new Holland Central School. Now we would ride to school in buses.
I would be just old enough to understand that we were right in the midst of a great depression, but the small farm gave the family the ability to grow most of our food. With everyone working together we got through some bad times.
The years went by and in 1941 the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt declared war on Japan, and within a few days we were at war against Germany in Europe. I had been hired at the Curtiss Wright Plant in Buffalo. What a great job for this young kid. I was working inside this large hangar working on the C 46 cargo plane.
I was now 18 years old and registered for the draft. Plus going to school and working at Curtis Wright. I was soon behind in school and quit in late November. So by 2/5/43 I was at Fort McClellan, AL for thirteen weeks of Basic Infantry training. Basic training was over by 6/20/43, so we shipped by rail to Shanango, PA. So with no furlough in site we hitchhiked home to Holland, for this would be the only time home in a total of 36 months in the army.
So having returned to Europe in April 1998, and retraced some of the many combat areas that I had served in Italy, France and Germany. What an emotional return trip for this old veteran. My book will explain the entire trip by dates and cities.
Many books by noted authors became best sellers, but they were based on letters and documents sent to these authors from veterans who had served in many different branches of the military. Many of these well known authors had never served in the military. Of course their books were well received, and some were best sellers.
The thing that pressed me to write my combat history is that I had my proven records right in my old trunk of war memorabilia. Letters that my mother had saved; a five foot piece of an Army Signal Corps film that was shown in local theatres in the USA, plus a complete copy of after action reports of my 143 rd Regiment, for our total combat in WWII. So my return trip to old battlegrounds in Europe has convinced me that I had one more thing to accomplish in my near eighty years. That was my book, The Hunter and the Hunted.
So I will read a couple highlights of my book as time permits, which will again pertain to my five campaigns in Europe. Can you picture yourself being 19 years old and a squad leader, and a survivor? Attrition was the main reason for the advancement of soldiers during the war, but maybe it was because I was still alive. Have any of you people ever wondered what the combat soldier was asked to do, what life was like? The never ending artillery, mortars, patrols, cold, snow, rain, flooded rivers to cross, no rations, cold C rations, no showers for week, wet feet, trench foot, cold feet. I am sure I forgot something. Oh yes, lost mail, no mail, lost packages from home.
The only connection to home was a short V-Mail that was two weeks late in being delivered. Stars and Stripes rag paper, three weeks old, read and re-read. Have you folks wondered why I was so inspired to write about the infantry soldiers of WWII?
Again if you really wondered what life was like to be an infantry soldier, my book will be a great read. I have many great reviews, which make me very proud. Several notables are Andy Rooney, Bob Dole, a three star general and over a hundred great reviews, that are kept in my scrapbook at home.
Thank you all very much, Bennett Palmer Sr.
The following is a letter that was sent to Ben's mother from Sgt. Herbert Golden on July 25th, 1944. He typed the original letter to make it legible. His old friend is still alive at 86. He thanks Herb for keeping his word and mailing those pictures to his mother some sixty years ago. Herb carried home four rolls of film of his and had them developed and sent copies to his folks back in '44. Ben states that Herb was very kind to him during his time with the 36th and they still keep in touch.
Dear Mrs Palmer:
I was surprised to hear from you, but it was a pleasant surprise. As for writing I am not very good at it. But will try and tell you a few things concerning Bennett.
I believe one of the toughest battles Bennett was in was around Venafro and San Pietro. That’s where he was wounded. We made an all out attack on Mt Sammucro above Venafro on the night of Dec 7th, 1943. For several days and nights our Co. carried rations and ammo up to the soldiers on Mt Sammucro. Things got worse and we were placed in combat to help stop a breakthrough in our lines. In the combat following Company B had a few get cut off from the company for one day. Bennett was one of the boys in a hand grenade duel, and I believe this was where he was wounded by a German hand grenade. Bennett had been away for some thirty days in rehabbing his wrist. Tells me it’s as good as new.
Another hot spot was around Cassino and the Monastery, where the war raged on for several months. I am sure Bennett will agree with me on that. Being his platoon Sgt. I took Ben on many patrols knowing that he was always dependable, and a great soldier.
Another great pal of ours was Richard Hupman. I’ll be Bennett has written you about him.
Yes we were in the 5th Army, 36th Div., but am sure you have known his Division for some time now. You have sent lots of boxes, and I have been invited around to enjoy the feast.
Mrs. Palmer I don’t know what you could send him. Just about anything that you put together will be tops with him. I would like to finish this letter by saying that Bennett is a fine soldier, and a son that you can be proud of. If I ever get near Buffalo I will come see you. I am not a good writer, but can talk. Thanks a million for the cigarettes, and hope you get the pictures o.k.
Sincerely, Herbert Golden
P.S. Give my regards to Bennett in your next letter.
Sgt Palmer's Road to Rome - added 01-31-05
In Memory of Army Nurse Eleanor Frew - added 02-05-05
A Nation Remembers - added 02-05-05
The Last Chapter of a G.I's Book - added 02-10-05
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