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debbyreagan

Researching My Daddy's Army Info

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Hello! Came across this wonderful site when I googled what little info I have about my Daddy's time in the Army.

His name was (PFC) Chester E. Knox - and he served in the 5th US Army -39th Combat Engineer Regiment. I'm looking for anyone who is willing to share ANY info about this regiment, or may have any knowledge about his service.

Thank you!

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Hi Debby. So glad you found our site and our forum. A big welcome from all of us at VI Corps.

 

I have just the people to put you in contact with. They will be delighted to hear from you and can put you in contact with many others too. Their names are David Wagner and Paul Knudsen. David has an email address, so you can contact him immediately.

 

The 39th are having a reunion soon and who knows, maybe you can attend. They are a great bunch of folks.

 

I will send you a private email later today and will supply the information for you. Promise us that you will keep in touch and let us know what transpires. We always love to hear good news.

 

As with the others vets and their families that I meet, I also offer to create a Memories Page on our site. If you are interested in doing so for your dad, let me know and I will be happy to comply. B)

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Hey Debby,

My name is Luis Barrera, JR. A few years ago, I discovered my grandfather's 2 diaries from WWII. Florentino B. Pena was in the 39th Combat Engineers like your father. I’ve started converting his long day by day account of the war into a large PDF book. I travel a lot with my current job, so I need hundreds of more pages to scan. However, I have managed to scan a few of the pages that mention names of the brave men that served along side him. Please get me into contact of any of the men’s families below if you have their information. I will continue to post more information as I come upon vacation during Thanksgiving and Christmas, while I work on scanning the whole dairy.

 

Here are the names as signed in my grandfather’s diary:

William W. Brown - McHenry

Lyle L. Upright - Lake Ariel, PA

Melvin Beckman - 420 East State, St. O'Fallon, Illnois

Crucy C. Nolen - Rt. 5, Box 293 Ada, OK

Donald F. Kinly - Iowa

Girard Girandir - 22 Vine Street Livermore Falls, Maine

Clifford Leslie Adams - 2145 Baily St. Dearborn, MI

Elizardo Vigil - N. Mexico

Alfred M. Stasinski - 87 Halstead Ave. Buffalo, NY

Joe Evans - Hamilton, MO

Jacob Poppaport - 340 Powell St. Brookly NY

Antonio D. Ruiz - 4118 San Fernando street San Antonio,TX

Inez Garza -

Henry A. Martinez - San Francisco, CA

Edwardo Soliz - New York, NY

Jose T. Gomez (88th Sig. Br SP) San Francisco

 

If any one that reads this post of the men mentioned above, please email me at:

luis.barrera@ge.com

 

Thanks,

Luis Barrera, Jr.

FlorentinoPena1944_1945B.pdf

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Luis:

 

Delighted to make your acquaintance. If you've read through any of the stories regarding the 36th, 39th or 540th Combat Engineers on this site so far, then you must realize how exciting it is for me to find that you have a diary from the war.

 

If you didn't realize it yet, I am writing a comprehensive history of the VI Corps engineers, and knowing that there is a diary out there has me drooling. :lol: Need I say more? :D

 

The remaining 39th CE's will be thrilled to hear about you and your grandfather. I shall send an email off this morning. I'm sure they will want to contact you as soon as possible. :pdt34:

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My grandfather’s dairy starts from when he was inducted into the army in March 25, 1943 and ends in a 2nd diary at war’s end in 1945. Florentino Pena was born a third generation American on the family ranch just outside the city of Alice, TX. He was a farmer and rancher before he was inducted into the Army. My grandfather’s best friends were WWII vets as well. They were my paternal grandfather, Anastacio Barrera (Artillery) and his best friend Alberto C. Nava (INFANTRY 1943-1946.). Growing up I heard a lot of amazing stories from these 3 men. Using the format from the University of Texas WWII Latino memorial, I’ve been trying to interview Mr. Nava for over a year now, but work has keep me visiting him in Alice. (http://www.utexas.edu/projects/latinoarchives/)

 

Some other notes from Florentino’s diary:

Word Meanings in Northern Africa:

Allied – go away

Massa masel – pretty girl

Cinema – show

Jig jig

Italian

No compri – don’t understand

Manager – good day

Alli – come here

Karmel – candy

Diego – Italian

 

Army slang –

Dearest one – U.S.A.

My Dearest one – I am across

Sweet one – In action

Hello Darling – Going to be transferred or was

I’m getting Dark – In northern Africa

Spaghetti – Some where in Italy

English – England or Brits

Sugar – Australian

Cold – Alaskan

 

My grandfather and the 39th left Fort Leonard Wood on Friday Aug. 25, 1943 and by Wed. Sept. 22, my grandfather writes that he passed the coast of Spain and landed in Algiers the morning of Sat. Sept. 25, 1943.

 

Right now I’m on a project for my company in Oklahoma. When more time is available I will continue sharing more stories and finish scanning the diary. My grandfather also has pictures that he took while he was there of fellow soldiers, towns and bridges they built. I will scan and copy those as well. If anyone has any advise for interviewing Mr. Nava, please let me know.

 

Thanks

Luis Barrera

GE Energy

Installation & Field Services

Field Engineer/Mechanical TA

 

T 512 699 9646

E luis.barrera@ps.ge.com

www.gepower.com

 

2025 W. Beltline Road Suite 100

Carrollton, TX 75006

General Electric International, Inc.

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I had some time today to type up some of the pages. The following excerpts are from the first couple of pages of the 2nd diary. I'm not sure if the first diary explains what a "Cracker" is, but if anyone knows, please let me know. Apparently, a cracker is something they used to secure a bridge or road, but I don't know for sure. I skipped a couple of pages, but it mentions his friend Clifford Leslie Adams taking shrapnel to the leg.

 

Log: Florentino Pena

Saturday, March 11, 1944

Went to fill "crackers" and as soon as they

(Germans) saw us working by cutting

the trees to fill the holes, they started

shelling us; but we had to keep working by order

of Lt. Col. Dieblen.

 

Sunday, March 12, 1944

Went to lay wire entanglement on the front line

with 600 yards of wire, after we got working

it started raining really hard. We came in early

because we were all wet and had to walk to miles

back to the truck.

 

Monday, March 13, 1944

Went to put a little more dirt on top of matting

that we had laid on top of the crackers. We were

shelled again and Clifford Adams got hit by a piece

of shrapnel....it was not bad.

 

......

 

Thursday March 16, 1944

Went to finish bridge and 2 squads of third platoon worked close to us fixing drive way to bridge. The other squad was finishing putting wire where we had left that got ruined by Jerrys (Slang for Germans) small arm fire. East Co. got seven

men wounded and one killed fixing the crackers at night. I was on guard from 10pm to 2am

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I'm glad you took the time to give us a few excerpts. Classic entries. I love how you listed all the slang words and their translations too. :pdt12:

 

All this gives a real feel for day-to-day life amongst the engineers. Can't wait to see more that for sure.

 

How I wish my dad had kept a diary. When you get hold of an entire one, it sure is a real present.

 

Oh I sent a letter to David Wagner. Said he didn't recognize any of the names, probably because they weren't in his unit, but he is passing on the info to a few others.

 

I should probably start copying in the History of 39th. If I did it little by little it wouldn't seem so cumbersome. I still have to do this for the 36th too. As you can see I have a lot of work ahead of me. I just finished writing a brief history of the 540th and sent it in to WWII Magazine. Hopefully they will print it. Eventually would like to do the same for the 36th and the 39th. Ah, but this all takes time... :wacko:

Edited by Walt's Daughter

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39th on the front lines near Naples.

 

Florentino Pena Diary Entry

39th Engineers journey from Caivano to Netuna, Italy

Tuesday, January 25, 1944 morning pulled out of

docks (Caivano/Napoli) and to sea all day. Was issued

K rations and cigarettes for a whole day. Three Companies

in the boat. 2nd Bn. had tickets signed before loading boat.

Night slept on deck and didn’t sleep but a little because it was too windy. About 5:30 in the morning

Wednesday 26, a S.S.T. boat was hit and started on fire and it was one of our convoy boats. In the morning, Jerries (Germans) Air Raided and a shell bust on deck of our boat and wounded five of our men. Noon: another air raid, but everyone was put down dock. Stood guard on bottom of deck where equipment was to keep men from smoking. One of the injured men that had been wounded earlier died. Had an air raid about every fifteen minutes dropping bombs to our boats.

Thursday, Jan. 27, 1944 early in the morning had first air raid of the day, second while we were eating chow and one plane was downed during that time. Got off boat in Netuna (Netunno) about 12am and walked about 3 miles and stopped for a rest until trucks came and took us to the company area. While there waiting, had 2 air raids by Jerries and downed about 3 planes in both raids. This town was cleared of people living in it. It was right on the harbor. At night worked in unloading trailers with equipment. Found box of candy and K rations and brought them to the tent. Middle of night had air raid and shells coming from over the nearby hill. It’s really “hot†here because it has been only four days since we invaded and only a few troops have landed here.

Friday, Jan 28, 1944. Morning Air raid again and 5 planes were downed. Next raid while getting the platoon tool for company area, 3 more planes were downed. All day had raids and had to be crawling to fox hole. Noon: was cleaning rifle and ammo and had to get to fox hole every minute because of the raids. Night plane came over for reconnaissance and could see flares drop from up front.

Sat. Jan 29, 1944 morning raid right after chow. The Friday night before the 39th had but put on alert to go to front as infantrymen, but that night the 45th division landed to help third division. Sat. noon Sgt. Chinowith came to tent to tell me I was going to be a bazooka gun assistant. Had an air raid right now while writing letters. 5pm Sat. Afternoon ran to foxhole fast because 2 bombs were dropped close to our area. At dark had another raid that lasted about 15 minutes. At 11pm had another raid after just falling asleep and at 2am a ship was blown up so we went to the foxholes again. At 3am another explosion that woke us up because the ground shook really hard. They (Germans) had been raiding this place because the ships were coming in with supplies and troops to support this front near Netuna.

Sun. Jan 30, 1944, went to shoot bazooka, but there was no ammo. Didn’t have any raids all day, but at 11pm went to work because we are working 24 hour shifts since we are on alert. Worked on road in the dark, we were working right next to the front lines. We could hear enemy guns and our guns kept firing back all night.

Mon Jan. 31, 1944 was off from 7am to noon. Noon: shells were coming above our area and busting on our shore, which was just a few yards away. The Sunday night before, started pulling double guard because we were expecting paratroopers from Rome which had their officers captured in a fight with Rangers. B. Commandos Challenge by pass word. Words for cover of Regt. Rats – Bn. 1st, 2nd Bn. White. Co. D dog, East Co. easy, F Co. fox, weapon platoon green. Shells coming over were German 88s and on raids planes dropped rocket bombs, which were claimed to be radio bombs, which go straight to iron targets. Monday night moved up to front lines as infantry to make a defensive line so 179th division could make a push. We relieved them on the right flank by a canal.

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 1944 relieved the flank at 2am. And was put on O.P. to observe the enemy which was about 500 yards ahead. Had to crawl up the bank by a trench. Third Platoon had an attack at 5am. We didn’t have a second of sleep that night because we had to observe. While crawling to the trenches, we had a hard time because we were carrying a rifle, bazooka and ammo. Noon: while I was taking a little rest, they started shelling us. 2 Jerries were captured because they gave themselves up. We could see the enemy from here since it was level ground. Night: had bullets and shells buzzing about our heads on the post guard.

Wed, Feb. 2, 1944 In observe hole. Didn’t get any sleep or rest. One Lt. got hurt in first attack. Lt. Col Hanssan was said to be the one that go us on this job. Shells were landing right in front of our hole. Night was relieved by 1st Armored force of half Canadian and half American troops.

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This is the Anzio Invasion and Campaign. January through the end of May 25, 1944, until the southern forces met up with the men from the beachhead at Borgo Grappa! A long horrendous fight.

 

For those of our readers who are just becoming familiar with Anzio, you can see why I keep repeating what a hell hole it was. This diary puts it right up front. Shelling, shelling, shelling. It was incessant. :pdt33:

 

Every time I read these diary entries, I can't help to think what great material this will be for the book. I hope you will allow me to use a lot of entries. These are like manna from heaven to a writer! -o- Brings the people to life. :pdt34:

 

I have to make sure that the guys from the 39th see these. I think they will be knocked off their feet. This will definitely bring back some memories. Many of them NOT good ones I fear.

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Great diary of the events. I reads very similiar to the diary of Pvt Brown that I have on my website. Here are some comments. I thought maybe this will help your decypher the hand-writing if it is unclear.

 

Wednesday 26, a S.S.T. boat was hit

Probably a reference to an L.S.T. ship or Landing Ship Troops.

 

Got off boat in Netuna (Netunno)

Nettuno is near town of Anzio and site of the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, where 7,862 Americans are buried and a memorial commemorates the 3,094 Americans missing in action who were never found.

http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/sr.php

 

Mon Jan. 31, 1944 . . . . .  Shells coming over were German 88s and on raids planes dropped rocket bombs, which were claimed to be radio bombs, which go straight to iron targets. Monday night moved up to front lines as infantry to make a defensive line so 179th division could make a push.

Correct on the radio guided bombs. They were known as the Fritz Bombs and were the first true "smart bombs". They were first used by the Germans against the Italian navy when they surrendered. Then used again at Anzio harbor.

179th Division should be 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division. Pvt Paul Brown was a member of this. See his diary at Pvt Paul Brown's Diary.

 

Wed, Feb. 2, 1944 In observe hole. Didn’t get any sleep or rest. One Lt. got hurt in first attack. Lt. Col Hanssan was said to be the one that go us on this job. Shells were landing right in front of our hole. Night was relieved by 1st Armored force of half Canadian and half American troops.

The description matches the unit known as the 1st Special Services Forces, which was a battalion-size ranger unit that was known as the "Devil's Brigade".

 

BTW, it was at Anzio, where Ernie Pyle came close to getting killed when an artillery shell hit on the other side of a wall of the building he was in. It shook him up for several days but he found the courage to go back out into the field.

 

Hope this helps.

Steve

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Steve you are a peach and as usual your comments are rich with info. Thank you for all your help on our forum! :pdt34:

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I got a great letter from my friend David Wagner who's story is on our site. http://www.6thcorpscombatengineers.com/DavidWagner.htm

He has been in contact with Luis and is thrilled about the diary too, however he nicely pointed out a few things that stand to be corrected and rightfully so. Thank you David for you clever and watchful eye. All of us pride ourselves on knowing our history, but when we make mistakes, we also appreciate corrections, for we all learn from each other. :pdt34: The excerpt below is from his letter.

-----------

 

...I wrote a note to Luis Berrea, Jr. explaining what his

grandfather meant when he referred to crackers. He was

actually referring to craters in the road which were caused

either by bombs, shelling, very heavy traffic or incessant rains

or a combination of any or all of them. I read the stuff you have

on the site and it is really fantastic but I have to make two

comments. Where the grandfather refers to SST boat you

have a comment which corrected it to LST Landing Ship

Troops. In actuality it was known as Landing Ship Tanks. I

know because I helped build them when I worked for the U.S.

Navy before I was inducted.

 

Also, the Armored Force reference was corrected to read

Devil's Brigade. In actuality this was the first Special Service

Force and was only referred to by us as the SSF. The

Germans referred to them as the Black Devils. This was

because when they went out on patrol at night they smeared

black shoe polish on their faces. The Devil's Brigade came

about in 1968 when a movie was made from a novel which was

written about the SSF and entitled "Devil's Brigade." This was

really one great outfit. The 39th was attached to the SSF as

their nighttime reserve and we went on patrol with them...

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Guest colinhotham

Is there any possibility I could be put in touch with David Wagner, Marion. He landed at Gela and I would be interested in knowing where he went in Sicily next?

 

Colin.

 

:tank:

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Where the grandfather refers to SST boat you have a comment which corrected it to LST Landing Ship Troops.  In actuality it was known as Landing Ship Tanks.

 

I caught that mistake. But I didn't want to offend Steve by correcting his mistake and making him mad at me.

 

The troop carrier was called LSI.

 

Steve

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Is there any possibility I could be put in touch with  David Wagner, Marion. He landed at Gela and I would be interested in knowing where he went in Sicily next?

 

Colin.

 

:tank:

Yes, I will put you in touch with David. He is a very knowledgable and affable man. You will enjoy his letters. I will PM it to you later this evening.

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Excellent. We'll have to start a page for him sometime in the near future. Sound good?

 

He was a very handsome man.

 

I will have more on the 39th later tonight on Lester O'Neal's page. It should be done within the next hour or so. I will have a photo too taken in Sicily in August 1943.

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Thanks Marion,

 

Here is another photo of my Grandfather with his friends. From reading his dairy, he was inducted into the Army in San Antonio, he then went to Fort Leonard Wood and then off to Northern Africa...So I assume that this photo was taken either in San Antonio or Fort Leonard.

 

I received a wonderful email from David Wagner, and he asked me what Company my grandfather was in. He was in Company D. If any one recognizes the men with my grandfather in this picture, please let me know. My grandfather is the tallest one, second from the right.

 

Thanks,

Luis

post-13-1133156043_thumb.jpg

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David, maybe you played ball with my grandfather? I've summed up a few days where he mentions playing ball with your company (F) in 1944

 

Florentino Diary:

 

Wednesday, April 12, 1944

 

Stayed in Co. Area all day and after Supper went to

Play ball with F. Co. Score 19 – 11

 

Sunday April 23, 1944

 

After Supper went to play ball with F. Co. Score 5 – 4

in favor of us.

 

 

Wednesday, April 26, 1944

Morning went back to rock quarry till noon and came back in for shots on arm and short arm inspection. After that play ball, but quit early because a rifle grenade burst close to the diamond. It was from 3rd Division troops practicing for push.

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