Below are a couple of emails featuring his memories of walking over the battlefields and they really paint a solemn picture of the times. He has also written a history of his time spent with the 36th as a replacement beginning in early June of 1944.
It is with heavy heart this morning, that I inform you of the loss of my dear friend. After several failed attempts to contact him, I was informed that he passed away on August 25, 2006, just a few days after he made his last post on our forum.
Paul it was an honor to know you and I'm glad we became friends. I enjoyed our frequent emails and regret not being able to get together with you during my trip to Pennsylvania. Rest in peace buddy. I shall miss immensely. My Inbox won't be the same anymore...
I had a friend in D-501st PIR 101st A/B who landed in Normandy 6 June 44 Cpl William Laski.
In Jan 45 we were re-assigned to the 176th Gen. Hosp. in Normandy. During the next 3 months he walked me over the battle fields where he landed. His plane load missed their DZ and came down near Carentan. 82nd A/B area. He walked me over the area and into carentan explaining it all to me. I saw Bill one more time in 1951 when he wanted to re-enlist!
When the Longest Day came out I was stunned by the part about John Wayne landing with a fractured ankle and taking charge of a group of Paratroopers to liberate Carentan. It was like Bill wrote the script. Every thing he told me in 1945 was in that movie. I now know he died in 1979 by VA information. Scroll on down to my next message and open the url photo (see photo below). One of the actors would be playing Bills part, his name was not mentioned. NBD I know what he did!
"The Longest Day," 20th Century Fox 1962. John Wayne and Robert Ryan.
Photo Date: 1962 Photo by MPTV - Image courtesy MPTV.net
While I walked the fields of Normandy with Bill Laski he told me about Market-Garden (A Bridge Too Far) He fought with the Brits. a drop zone error? He had been given a red beret for his service with the Brits. How ever it was not authorized wear by US Army reg.
He then went into Bastogne with the 101st A/B saying the hardest jump they ever made was from the back of a 6x6 at Bastogne.
He was rotated out of combat after that. Joining 40 some other GIs and me to go into the 176th General Hospital as medics. Paul HInkle
Paul D. Hinkle
Since I read the article by Robert Hunter from my unit L-141st I felt need to write a parallel story to his and several others who served at the same time as I did, June thru Sep. 44. Like Bob Hunter I was a replacement joining the 36th in early June 44.
I was 1 of 5,000 who sailed on the Gen. Butner from Norfolk to Casablanca in Mar. 44 then by train to Oran. A British ship took 2,000 of us to Naples, all with no enemy interference.
9 April 44 was Easter Sunday. I was kicked out of the hammock early because it was the Dining Compartment! I went up on deck to see a beautiful blue sea and the Isle of Capri go by, a God-given Sunrise service. Later the same day we were hauled by 6x6 trucks from Caserta to the Replacement Depot, the dairy farm!
It was then night and raining, tents had been set up in the mud pasture, no lights, finally we got candles, and chow in a mess kit full of rain. I set my candle on a nail I found on the center pole, kicked off my boots and climbed into the cot that was knee deep in mud. I wondered was it all the same day?
In June I was assigned to L-141 in a squad with SSG. Kelly of the 3rd platoon of SFC, Jeton. Company 1st. Sgt. Wolf. We started invasion training at Batapagilli north of Salerno. Using LCIs we would hit the beach, run up a 600 yd. hill then go back and do it again.
Aug. 15, 44 was my first combat experience over the side of an assault transport, into the LCIs and head for the beach. I had about 5 minutes training as the 2nd man on a flame thrower. On the way in, the No. 1 man got so sick the OIC told the Navy Chief the No. 1 man was not going in. So I got the honor. When I hit the beach I went down on my knees, I thought from the weight. I looked up and saw a huge stone projecting from the back of the beach 30 to 50 feet high. All I could think was god what a tombstone.
With the flame thrower I had no rifle, the OIC opened the valves and told me to head for the nearest Pillbox. As I started across the road I noticed a sign "Agay" the closest town to us. Out in front the GIs were going left or right around 2 quarries with a near 4 foot wide, level path across the middle and nobody using it, so I figured the least traffic, the less opposing fire. Three completed pillboxes did not appear occupied. When I got close enough I squatted and let go with a 20 sec. shot at the door opening then the firing slit, back and forth for about 5 shots and the fuel was empty. I recalled later it only had 90 sec. of fuel.
I dropped the empty tanks and started up the 600 yd. hill. Off to our right across a small bay there was return fire from a lookout or light house, and everybody on the beach and hill was firing at it. By the time I got to the top of the hill I had a rifle and don't know where I got it.
SSG. Kelly got the first souvenir, some kraut had dropped a belt and holster with a P38 in it, along the path we were using to go to the nearest farm house. At that time a light spotting plane from the artillery circled and landed in the field next to the farm house. Nobody was home so we helped ourselves to some table wine and left.
L-141st spent several days in the area around le Tayas, St. Raphael, Frejus, and then Draguignan, on clean-up operations. At that point the army came up with 6x6 trucks for us to move up fast and outflank the Germans. As we left a cemetery was being started at Draguignan. Before we left we took a bath in the local reservoir! In several days we passed thru Grasse, Digne, Gap, then cut west to Crest. I never knew till today what we were doing there. The Germans wanted out of the Rhone Valley and we had them blocked. NOW the 1991 calendar and the quarterly tells of the fighting around Montelimar. So we cut the Krauts off at the pass.
After L-141st dug in at a little old village west of Crest we pulled out of our positions at dusk back to Crest and over night the Germans moved into them! So the next morning we had to take them back. In the pre-dawn attack, I moved too far to the left and ended up with M-141st at the base of a hill road entrance to the village. Two Shermans were using their 30 cal. MG; on top floors of the homes the walls were built like an ancient fort. An M company officer used the interphone box on the back of the tank to ask the crew to use the 75mm. on the firing slits on the top floors in order to stop the return fire on our positions; they replied that it would bring equal size responses! Then the tanks pulled back.
A group of young Krauts were throwing grenades down the hill and using machine pistols on our positions when a Lt. from M company moved up and told us to cross the gap in the stone wall to the other side? When no one moved he said, "Follow me," and before anyone could stop him he was up and out and hit; he went down and never moved. I asked an M company GI the Lt.'s name, he replied "Lt. Crook." In 1973 I visited the cemetery at Draguinan, he's buried there.
To get better cover some of the GIs moved into a house just to our left at the Y in the road. The Germans then moved down the hill and started tossing grenades into the windows of the house. The M company radio man who had to stay close to the window would throw them back out! After the 4th one they gave him a quicker fused one and it went off in his hand. The OIC of the group asked about ammo? There wasn't enough to fight our way out; the Germans were calling for our surrender so the Lt. told us the radio man needed a medic bag so we gave up.
We were held thru the night by the Germans. They packed up, loaded us with equipment and moved out into the valley just north and west of Crest. After midnight about 3 a.m., U.S. artillery started to lay down a blanket of fire that looked like a lightning and thunder storm, at first I thought it was. It did not stop for almost 3 hours. The Germans with 10 prisoners cut to the north and east along the slope of the hill. Just as the firing stopped a GI on outpost challenged the group, so we yelled that there were Americans with the Germans; they told us to hit the ground. The German NCO opened his holster and the guard shot him; the rest threw down their weapons and put their hands up.
Let me go back to the day before, the M company radio man who tossed the grenades out the window, he deserves a medal because he saved 10 or more of us from injury; the rest of us only earned our pay.
After the artillery stopped firing at dawn all we could see in that valley was wrecked vehicles, dead horses from their artillery, and dead Germans. Those that were alive and able to walk, raised their hands and lined up to surrender. After the area was cleared we walked through the equipment and found a paymasters bus loaded with French Francs from the Bank of France; we were told that only francs from the Bank of Morocco were good, so we threw them to the wind, only to find out later they were good!
In trying to get back to my outfit, I caught a ride with a 143rd unit, two 4x4 weapons carriers trailing anti-tank guns, we headed north out of Romans on a 2 lane road, no vehicles in sight, in open country when we saw several aircraft circling; 2 peeled off and started a straight run at us, they looked like P40s or P47s, then they opened fire. We were moving at 30 MPH or more. None of us in the back waited. We rolled out over the side.
Both vehicles rolled to a stop in flames, the first driver made it out, the driver of our vehicle died in the cab. We hid under a road culvert until medics came for the wounded. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks, no real bad injuries, again I would give a medal to the driver of the WC. He was in the A/T 143.
That was the last I saw of the 36th Div. The rest of my time in Europe was uneventful, it don't come near to Aug. 44 in southern France. RE: the article title, on or about June 5th, 1944 the Commanding General of the 36th Div. was replaced by a non-Texan so they made him an Honorary Texan. Later they gave all non-Texans that honor. So we came up with 2 types of 36th GIs, Honorary and Ornery!
Here is a scanned collage from Paul that includes his dogtags, operators license, infantry pin and cover from the Soldier's Individual Pay Record.
Here is the new recruit at Canp Wheeler Ga. Nov 43. One of a 1000 in training in D-10th trng. Bn. 1/2 coal drackers from Pa. and 1/2 from Tennessee.