Wallace H. Yentes, B CO 355TH
I graduated from high school in the small town of Andrews, Indiana in May 1942. Although I had a scholarship to attend Ball State Teachers College (now Ball State University) that fall, I did not enroll because I knew I would receive a "draft" notice very soon. That greeting came in a few months and on my 19th birthday I was on a train to Fort Lewis, Washington February 25, 1943. My basic training was with the 156th Field Artillery Battalion in the 44th Division, a good organization that served in Europe during World War II. Shortly after basic training was completed, I made application for the ASTP program. Upon my acceptance, I was sent to a reception center at the university in Moscow, Idaho. Although it was not my choice of study offerings, I was told I would be placed in the program to train engineers. Ball State in Muncie, Indiana was one of the training centers so I was hopeful that I might be assigned there.
No luck, though, in August 1943, I was sent to Loyola University at Englewood, California. It was a small university at that time, but the instructors (pastoral and lay) were very helpful and made the learning experiences more palatable without consideration as to race, religion, or creed of the trainees. I shall never forget Fr. Korn and Fr. Coffey, two of the strong leaders, teachers, and counselors at Loyola University. Coming from a small high school, courses in chemistry, biology, and advanced math were a challenge to me, but I survived the "cuts".
As you know, in April 1944 the ASTP, etc., programs were closed and the personnel were dispersed to various service units. Several of those attending Loyola University were sent to the 89th Division at Hunter-Liggett. Many things could be written about that experience, but here are four in summary: 1) when you sleep on a straw mattress on the ground, it is wise to check under it to see if a scorpion or two lingers there; 2) it is amazing how "veteran" servicemen can roll a predetermined number on a pair of dice when using a blanket for the dice toss; 3) if you climb a mountain trail at night you will certainly sweat profusely, and when you stop to rest you will quickly freeze in your own perspiration; 4) it would appear that humans are less likely to fall off a mountain trail than a mule, at least it was reported to us that one or more mules used by the opposing division in maneuvers fell off the mountain trail. It goes without saying the change from university living to the mountains in Hunter-Liggett was a dramatic and difficult experience. I immediately "caught" a cold and experienced the worst sore throat of my life. However, we survived and the personnel of the 89th Division helped make that survival possible. I was assigned to Company B, 355th Infantry Regiment where I served until after the end of the war. This is getting long so I will not belabor the remaining service experiences.
Outside of being in the army instead of at home, the training at Camp Butner was not unpleasant. We had good officers and non-coms for the most part. I believe the training was well done and I made many friends. I eventually obtained a three-stripe sergeant rating, assistant squad leader for Staff Sergeant Albert Smith's squad in Tech Sergeant Virgil Koberstein's first platoon with Lt. Albert Rusk as our platoon leader. Our First Sergeant was Roy Nicholas and our company commander was Captain Frank Marshall. My overseas experiences started with wet feet from the Le Havre, France landing, freezing on the truck trip to Camp Lucky Strike, and while there also. The fear and excitement of entering the fighting in Germany will never be forgotten. I lost my best army friend, Sgt. Robert French, during an ill-advised regimental directed assignment to cross the Saale River in the middle of the night. Lt. Rust and some others survived the capsized boat experience. Our trek across Germany was most impressive when we boarded trucks to accompany General Patton's tanks when they made their famous run and stop when he outran the fuel supplied. If we needed village-to-village and house-to-house searches, Patton's tanks were the partners of choice. Tanks blast firstŠinfantry men go second! Our "B" Company was dug in south and east of Zwickau near the Czech border when the war ended.
We were returned to France to help run the redeployment camps. Without enough "points" to go home, I was eventually reassigned to the 83rd Cavalry Recon, and located on an airport base near Linz, Austria. On dress up occasions our officers wore boots, carried "crops", etc., but we had no horses! We soldiered, played in a basketball league, etc. I "made" 1st Sergeant of our organization before acquiring enough points to return home. I left France through Le Havre, and was seasick most of the way home. Separation from the army came at Camp Atterbury, Indiana on March 27, 1946--37 months after induction.