I Remember: 1944-1946: Russell J. Fay


Editorial Note: Russ gives the "Rolling W" a new editorial style. He writes in bursts of memory in no special time sequence, but as he remembers it. Why not?

I REMEMBER - fresh out of basic (Nov. 44), arriving at Butner in the pouring rain, Saturday night. Walk into the barracks after reporting to the Orderly Room. Some one screaming at me that I was the poorest excuse for a soldier that he had ever beheld. Was wearing a shirt with 1st sergeant stripes - three up, three down. Just out of basic, even PFC stripes impressed the hell out of me. Turns out he was a PFC who put on the top kick's shirt, (1St Sgt Emil Leonetti who was gone for the evening). The joker was Frank Lamparski, the cut up of the outfit. "My God, this is what I'm in for!"

I REMEMBER - the song "Crash on the Highway"... It was the only song that this man knew. Over and over and over he would play it on his "gitar" until 1 thought I would go crazy. He was "Big Jim" Moore and also sang. He took the guitar overseas, and would play "Crash on the Highway" over and over and over until someone ran over his instrument of torture with a jeep. This benefactor of humanity had to go about fifty feet out of his way to do it.

I REMEMBER - short arm inspection in chow lines.

I REMEMBER - three day pass to NYC turned into a 74-hour pass due to a train wreck outside of D.C. I thought for a while I would have to produce a wrecked freight car.

I REMEMBER - a girl in Raleigh who worked in a diner. My buddy from Chicago, Bob Hanz and I devoured a lemon meringue pie each, just to watch that babe walk over to the pie case. Oh the hormones of an18 year old. Of course we must have gone through a gallon of milk along with the pie. Bob and I are still friends to this day, my oldest friend. I'm the old man -- two months older.

I REMEMBER - the smell of coal gas from the furnaces which heated the barracks. We had a fellow who was the furnace man. He was bound and determined he wasn't going overseas. He always limped until the captain caught him limping on the wrong (other) leg.

I REMEMBER - mutton, "baa - baa - baa" -also some beef we got out of a German supply dump and cheese from Holland. Came in a tube like toothpaste. Had to hold your nose to get it into your mouth. But God it was good! Cheese and K ration crackers.

I REMEMBER - the "Edmund B. Alexander Sea sick was the word of the day.

I REMEMBER - being scared witless or words to that effect.

I REMEMBER - being strafed by a German jet. "Whiz, bing, team" he was gone. 40 mm ack ack man quote, "Where did the son of a bitch go?" I saw him coming - shanty Maureen tracers, tree branches flying off apple trees...

I REMEMBER - getting dive-bombed. A real good friend killed. I was talking to him when we saw the plane coming down. I ran for my foxhole. He ran for his. The bomb landed in his hole. Fortunes of war. I have lived with that for fifty years or better. I was on the track team in high school. Fastest man in combat boots you ever saw. The only one I couldn't beat went to '48 Olympics (Don Gehrmann-high school).

I REMEMBER - moonlight on the Rhine. Two o'clock in the morning when I first saw it. If someone had put a frame around what I saw, it should be hanging in an art gallery. Lord it was beautiful. The Romans probably saw it from the other bank (they did). Cold march, the night clear as crystal - field jacket good, no overcoats. Swiftness of march would be impeded.

I REMEMBER - the Sunday "Blue Laws" that were in effect in Durham. Everything seemed to shut down on Sunday night I REMEMBER - the cold, the mud, and the taste of French bread.

I REMEMBER - Bob Hanz and I drinking some liquid in a French cafe. Learned how to walk on my hands and knees (thought it was lemon flavored pop).

I REMEMBER - French kids, blue smock, black beret, wooden shoes. The butt end of a cigarette dangling from the corners of his mouth; either he was about five years old or he was a midget.

I REMEMBER - exactly what I was doing when I found out FDR died A Sherman tank was the CNN method of the day. I still see the GI standing in the turret, hands cupped to his mouth yelling at me.

I REMEMBER - The smell of the pine trees early in the morning at Camp Butner.

I REMEMBER - the smell of wood smoke, whether from a fire we built, or a fire from a burning building. Every time I build a fire in our fireplace I get a faint whiff of wood smoke and the memories come back. Hate to think of the fires we caused

I REMEMBER - being on H Deck of the "Edmund B. Alexander". Should have drawn Sub Pay. Still can hear the swish of water alongside the sides of the ship.

I REMEMBER - serving as runner for General Finley on the "Edmund B" 'til I was rendered "Hors de Combat" from seasickness. He relieved me from duty. He said, "No man of mine shall suffer like that." If they gave Purple Hearts for Mal de Mer, I would have 5 more points Oh wow!