Editors Note: Williamsburg resident Joe Porky Porcacellis oral narrative of his experiences in WWII is available from the Colonel Robert R. McCormick Research Center in Wheaton, IL, http://firstdivisionmuseum.org. By Etta Pettijohn >The epic history of WWII has been told through movies and books, but nobody knows the details better than Joe Porky Porcacelli. > >His personal war experience was loaded with historic names and places - General George S. Patton Jr., D-Day, Omaha Beach, Nazi prison camps, the Nuremberg Trials, and War Correspondent Ernie Pyle, to name a few. < >Porcacelli quit high school at age 17 and volunteered for the Army in 1943, two years after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.< > Raised in rural Michigan, Porcacelli was familiar with guns and hunting, skills that kept him alive during one of the bloodiest periods of modern times. > >The colorful and gregarious 87-year-old Williamsburg resident is known to hundreds of Sierra County residents simply as Porky. But few know how his sacrifices, as an 18- to 19 year-old youth, took him through many of the most legendary and bloody chapters of WWII, where he earned some of the highest commendations and awards for his gallantry performed with marked distinction in the battle with a foreign enemy.< THE WAR >According to the U.S. Department of Defense ( DOD), World War II was the one of the most violent military conflicts in human history. DODs official counts estimate casualties at nearly 15 million military personnel, with more than 38 million civilian deaths.< > The war engulfed Europe, North Africa, much of Asia and the worlds oceans. Germany, Japan, and Italy led the loosely cooperating Axis nations. >The major Allies were the United States (U.S.), Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, although a great many other nations committed forces. The worldwide conflict officially began with the German attack on Poland Sept. 1, 1939, followed quickly by Great Britain, its Commonwealth dominions, and France declaring war on Germany. With the defeat of France in 1940, Great Britain fought off a German air campaign and escaped invasion. The German invasion of the Russia in June 1941 brought that nation into the war and opened a major new theater. >In Asia, the Japanese had been fighting to take over China since 1931. A surprise Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 1941 brought the U.S. into the war and opened a 45-month struggle in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and Asia. < >The Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944 opened a western front and, coupled with continued Russian offensives in the east, brought about the eventual defeat and unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945.< > The War in the Pacific ended when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Omaha Beach is the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion into German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 1944. On what is known as D-Day, the untested 29th Infantry Division, joined by nine companies of U.S. Army Rangers, redirected from Pointe du Hoc, were to assault the western half of the beach.< >The battle-hardened 1st Infantry Division was given the eastern half. The initial assault waves, consisting of tanks, infantry, and combat engineer forces, were carefully planned to reduce the coastal defenses and allow the larger ships of the follow-up waves to land. The First Division was known as The Big Red One, as always the first in, first to see action, and for never quitting.< THE BIG RED ONE ON THE MOVE >This initial assault at Omaha Beach led to casualties that cut troop numbers in half.< > During the second wave, Porcacelli along with the 18th Regiment, Company C, came ashore with Gen. George S. Pattons tank command, fighting through the tough hedgerows under the cover of darkness.< > According to Porcacelli, the tank divisions were always on the move, using the element of surprise to push back German forces and clear the towns of enemy soldiers and any diehards who hadnt retreated. < >One night a Lieutenant came in and asked us if we wanted to volunteer for first and second scout, said Porcacelli. So I told this big Hungarian, I says, If you go in for the second Ill go in for first scout. < >He said this is when he saw some intense action. After becoming a scout for a combat platoon, he and the Hungarian would scout for enemies, and then return with details. Porcacelli didnt receive a scratch during this dangerous detail, but the Hungarian did take fire and received several purple hearts. < >In those days the incentive for getting rank; if you stay alive, you got rank. That was the incentive. I moved up real fast to a squad leader, platoon sergeant, and leader at the same time, said Porcacelli. The second lieutenants couldnt be replaced fast enough, they were dying off so fast on us.< > His company worked its way through Aachen and Hurtgen Forest, taking continuous fire. Porcacelli said he couldnt wear the heavy coats the Army had given them, so he stripped down to his field jacket to keep things light so he could move faster, and even ditched his M-1 for a Thompson submachine gun. He took the stock off and clipped two clips upside down, converting his weapon into a Tommy Gun.< > In the Hurtgen Forest, Germans were dropping big pine trees to make traps for the U.S. tanks, and parachuting in old guys from the Volkstrom (German) army, placing 18- and 19 year old and younger kids with them. Porcacelli said. >They had never jumped before. They put SS troopers on the plane with them and if they refused to jump the SS troopers would shoot them. They were landing in trees because they knew nothing about parachuting, and we were picking them out of trees. < >Of Gen. Pattons legendary push through the countryside, Pocacelli said. After we went through Belgium we got on Gen. Pattons tanks and rode to the Bulge, to the spearhead, and he was moving so fast he needed troops to clear the towns. As wed come through a town, wed jump off, clear, then jump back on and move to the next.< > He said they moved so fast the supply trucks couldnt keep up with them, as they pushed their way into Cologne and Czechoslovakia. Porcacelli made platoon sergeant by the time they were in the Bulge. He said replacements (men) were coming in so fast most didnt even have six weeks of training<. >They didnt know how to take their M-1s apart, but it was my job to keep them alive and teach them, he said. When we would get caught in the artillery (fire) in the Hurtgen Forest, they would panic, and a lot of the young six-week trainees would drop to the ground and cover up their heads like an ostrich. They wouldnt move, (they) were scared to death. I had to go around kicking them in the butt to keep them moving or they would be dead. < >Porcacelli said after they entered the Ardennes Mountains a lot of men died or suffered frostbite and frozen feet. He ran through artillery barrages in a creek with frozen and fast moving water.< > I got snagged up in barbwire, and my boots filled with water, but we couldnt stop, had to keep moving. And troops moved so fast, even the support weasels, as he calls them, (the trucks bringing more gear and blankets), couldnt catch up to them.< > When the medics did catch up with them that night at the top of the mountain, Porcacelli had slept off the darkness in a snow bank, his boots still filled with water. Fifty guys had to be taken out because of frozen feet, but somehow his managed to not freeze.> > They didnt slow down as they moved through the towns, many which were abandoned.< > The only way we survived is by going into the basements of the homes and finding potatoes and lard, and wed have American fries at nighttime. If wed catch a chicken, wed parboil it, and no more than get it parboiled then orders would come to move, so wed walk down the road eating parboiled chicken, he said.< > I shot a cow one day, said Porcacelli, But I never got a chance to fry the meat. We moved so fast the kitchen couldnt keep up with us. < >Porcacelli said he had a guardian angel with him throughout these battles. < >The one time the kitchen did catch up with us was after I had ran through a minefield in Cologne. I ran through antipersonnel mines and never touched one. And they had set up a kitchen for us that morning and I pulled my light pack off, and my mess kit had a hole shot horizontally through it. I had dropped my head in a wheel track and the Germans had machine guns that would fire and traverse automatically. It went right through the backpack and never touched me. I dont think I was too hungry after I saw that mess kit.< > There were more close calls.< > Once I raised out of a foxhole to warm up a C Ration, and I had my pistol belt on the fence, and as I got up there was a zing. A sniper had hit the pouch of the .45 and scattered all the 45s. Had that pouch not been there hed had me in the head. I dove back into my hole and didnt come out that night.> < Porcacelli also witnessed eight of his men, as they were hanging on the tanks, get hit with a Panzerfaust (machine gun) and blown to bits.< > The explosion hit the tank in front of me, he said. There was a big orange blast, which fried these guys. We stopped and I entered the building to find only an elderly lady in the upstairs bedroom, where the shot had came from, and the gun was laying there under the bed.< > Porcacelli chooses not to remember how he handled that situation. You react so fast...you dont think about it...but the scene never stopped for me, Ill always remember it.< > Like the days liberating the Nazi prison camps. We liberated many of them, but we were moving so fast we didnt stop, just busted open the gates and kept going. There were units that came behind us and took care of the rest.< > And he saw many concentration camps, he said. Again, he said they liberated them and moved on, as the Germans had mostly fled before they arrived.< > We went into this town in Czechoslovakia, he said, And I havent forgot
it was right after the war ended, and this camp had Polish women, kids, a hundred little babies, old ladies, all that.< THE FIRST DIVISION IN THE NEWS >The famed War Correspondent Ernie Pyle made famous the First Division, after he followed them in combat throughout Europe and sent daily dispatches back home for publication in many newspapers and magazines.< > Pyle made the exploits of Porcacellis Company a symbol of WWII courage and victory. Several movies were later made depicting the courage and valor of these men.< VICTORY IS DECLARED During his time in Czechoslovakia, Porcacelli was given the task of scouting for his battalion commander, Col. H.G. Leonard, Jr. As he and the seven men assigned to accompany him were moving through some timber they came upon an SS Trooper and a civilian burgermeister (mayor).< > I jumped out in front of them, and as I did the SS trooper went for his Luger and I sprayed him with my Thompson. I got them both, but the officer was just wounded.< > Porcacelli said the trooper began running through the trees and he feared the German would alert other enemy soldiers to their presence and location.< > I sent one of my men to warn the battalion coming from behind us, and my six guys moved in on the enemy. We had spread out and faked them into thinking we were a battalion, and when we cornered them they all started surrendering.< > For these efforts, Porcacelli, then only 19-years-old, received a Silver Star for Gallantry in action at Sangerberg, Czechoslovakia, May 3, 1945.< > His citation read: He patrolled under strong enemy fire on the outskirts of a small town where he pinned down, and inflicted heavy casualties with grenades, and forced the surrender of nearly 50 German soldiers.< > In addition to The Silver Star, Porcatelli received a Bronze Star, German Occupation Medal, Combat Medal and Infantry Medal for his actions during World War II. But his service wasnt over. Porcacellis life led him to experience first-hand what most of us have only read in history books.< > My commander, who treated me like a son, didnt want me to go to Japan, so he advised me to sign up and he would assign me to a good tour unit, said Porcacelli. < >That move led him to guard some of the most notorious survivors after the destruction of the Third Reich, during the Nuremberg Trials. THE TRIALS >My job was to check on the troops that worked there and the jury, but I mainly took care of, and had oversight of Rudolph Hess, and Hermann Goering-all high brass-in prison, he said. < >Rudolph Hess served as Adolph Hitlers deputy minister and was next in line if Hermann Goering should be unavailable for any reason (The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials, Telford Taylor, 1992:25).< > According to eyewitness testimony, Hess was in charge of euthanasia centers, and oversaw the training course for the roughnecks who learned by killing thousands of Christian German and Austrians and, eventually the genocide of millions of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, Czechs and others.< > At these camps the Germans experimented with various gasses and injections, documenting the effect, clocked the speed of death by a stopwatch, filmed it in slow motion and then dissected the brain -- all as an undergraduate course preparatory for genocide (Vera Laska, ed., Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses. Westport & London: Greenwood Press, 1983).< > Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment. He served more than 40 years of that sentence at Spandau Prison and committed suicide in 1987 at age 93.< > Hermann Goering was the most influential person next to Hitler in the Third Reich. He was one of only 12 Nazis elected to the Reichstag in 1928.< > He orchestrated the Reichstag fire on Feb. 27, 1933 and, with Goebbels assistance, used the fire as a propaganda tool against the communists. In the mid-1930s Goering was in charge of the Aryanization of Jewish property, a policy that extended to Jews throughout Europe following the Anschluss. The purpose of the fire was to make the Jews responsible for Kristallnacht and to use the events of the preceding days as a rationale for promulgating a series of anti-Semitic laws, which would, in effect, remove Jews from the German economy. (An interpretive transcript of this meeting is provided by Robert Conot, Justice at Nuremberg, New York: Harper and Row, 1983). < >Goering was sentenced to death by hanging, but managed to evade the sentence by committing suicide in his cell. TOPICS: VetsCoR; Click to Add Topic KEYWORDS: first; infantry; nazi; veteran; Click to Add Keyword [ Report Abuse | Bookmark ] 1 posted on November 10, 2012 8:23:23 PM PST by girlangler [ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies | Report Abuse] Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works. Free Republic Browse · Search Pings · Mail VetsCoR Topics · Post Article FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson
You can say that again!
posted on 11/10/2012 8:54:12 PM PST
by Revolting cat!
(Bad things are wrong! Ice cream is delicious!)
To: Revolting cat!
This is why I gave up posting on FR, can’t seem to get it right.
posted on 11/10/2012 9:19:47 PM PST
(Fish Fear Me)
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