Old buddies meet in Canandaigua
CANANDAIGUA—The telephone rang. The voice at the other end was a familiar one. And although it had been 17 years since Herbert J. Barnes of Canandaigua had heard from his wartime buddy, in a wink, he recognized his caller as Albert Fish, of Springfield, Mass. By chance, Fish was passing through Canandaigua on his way to Niagara Falls. The city limits sign reminded him that this was the home of his European theater Army buddy and he made it on the double to the nearest telephone.
“It was really a thrill.” Barnes excitedly explained yesterday as he discussed the reunion. “We became separated 17 years ago at the River Rhine in Germany. Until that time we had ‘bridged’ it with the engineers across Europe.”
Barnes and Fish were members of the bridge platoon of the 17th Armored Engineers. They were with the Second Armored (Hell on Wheels) Division. They started out together at Fort Kenning, Ga., when the division was first formed and Gen. George S. Patton was the division commander. The two buddies “went it together” in the first invasion of Africa, Sicily and Normandy. They con-tooled on through to Berlin.
There was plenty of reminiscing at Canandaigua this week. Tops in the discussion was the nationwide Co. E. 17th Armored Division Club. Barnes attended the re-unions in 1961 and again this summer. He and his wife and four children journeyed to Harrisonburg, Va. The Canandaiguans described the annual get-togethers as a “real family reunion.”
The 1963 Co. E reunion will be in Williamsburg, Va., and the following year it is planned for New York City so that the veterans and their families can attend the World’s Fair. Former President Truman will be the guest, of honor at the New York occasion, Barnes said. This was the Massachusetts veteran’s first visit to Canandaigua and his long-lost buddy, but if Barnes’ plans materialize, the Co. E reunion will be held in Canandaigua in the near future. As Barnes put it:
“I have hopes of having the reunion here, when there is a motel of at least 40 to 60 units available to accommodate our organization. They are eager to come.’ We hme to provide accommodations.” The Yearly get-together is really wonderful, it is actually hard to explain. It’s just that we veterans look, forward to it in the sense of a real family reunion.”
WW II vets gather for a few laughs and a good time
By TOM GRANT Journal-News Writer
“If it wasn’t for us the war would still be going on.”
That was the consensus of about 45 World War Il veterans in reunion at the Fairfield Holiday Inn. The 28th reunion of U. S. Army 2nd Armored Division 17th Engineer Battalion Company E (the famous “hell-on-wheels” division) gathered veterans from Nebraska to Virginia for a weekend of “war stories” and a banquet. Jack Rice. 63 Joe Ave., New Miami, was the host of the reunion. The company is one of the few that has had a reunion every year since, the war. Some said Rice was just the host “we never believed in that rank stuff—whether you were a sergeant or a yard-bird—if you had something to say or do, you did it.” In the words of one veteran, “a yard-bird was a rank right down to nothing,” or (he men with the lowest number of stripes on his sleeve, who picked up the trash in the yard. There were men in attendance who had joined the division when it was formed in 1941 at Fort Denning, Ga. These men served under General George S. Patton, Jr. They recalled That Patton really did carry his pearl handled revolvers and “he fought right with us “. In 1942, they participated in the invasion of French Northwest Africa. Eight months later they were in the assault on Sicily. They landed in Normandy on D-Day plus three, June 9, 1944 and were the first allied unit to enter Belgium. On the basis of its out-standing combat record, the division was chosen to be the first American unit to roll into fallen Berlin on July 4, 1945. “We built the first Army bridge across the Rhine River 980ft, in eight boars while under fire,” they said. Another veteran added “you know we didn’t carry water—we carried wine in five gallon cans.”
The veterans introduced ex-Sgt. James E. Turner of Williamsburg, Va., who wilt he called “Emma” forever for some unexplained reason by the veterans. Former T-Sgt. Gordon Ketchpaw of Elkhorn, Wisc., said he was attending the annual reunion for the first time—because I couldn’t find it sooner – “and I’m glad to he here,” he added. The Company E swindler was in attendance. This was the guy, they said, who dried the used coffee grounds and sold ii. He sold mattress covers. They were so popular he cut them in half and sold half mattress covers. This man, who shall remain annonymous, is now a legislative aid for one of the 50 States. These men who fought front Casablanca to Berlin have something to celebrate and they are doing an excellent job in celebrating.
Veterans from the U. S. Army 2nd Armored Division “hell-on-wheels” Invaded the Fairfield holiday Inn Friday for a two day reunion hosted by Joe Rice of New Miami. Early arrivals were Al Provenzano, Conn.. Left: Joe Pfeifer, Neb., and Stanley Lipsey. N. Y.
Transcribed by Martijn Brandjes 2019.
The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America) · 4 Sep 1977
Patton stories get this year’s twist
Not many bullets whizzed over the Holiday Inn No 2 in Glen Burnie yesterday when some of Gen George S Patton’s combat engineers gathered for their 32d annual reunion What former Pvt. Melchior Lascola talked about mostly was the money he made for the GI recreation fund as Patton’s forces spilled their “blood and guts” from North Africa to Germany In Oran, Algeria. “there were three of us.” recalled Mr Lascola, who lives in Wayne. N.J. “I’d sell shoes to the Ayrabs Then the two buddies, posing as military policemen, would confiscate the shoes further along the way for resale to other customers. By the time the same pair had been told for the 20th time. “we made a few dollars.- declared Mr. LascoIa, roaring with laughter. From a cork forest in Casablanca. Morocco, he went on, he and his buddies cut pieces of cork which, disguised with wrappers, they sold as cartons of cigarettes. That was quite a money-maker. Since the Arabs were paying $100 a carton now, added Mr Lascola. “they’re get-tin’ even with us with the oil.” In the Netherlands, there were sales of used coffee grounds from GI pots. The Russians were good customers too. A tank was sold to a Russian —only it wouldn’t run, because there was no gasoline. Leo Mecler of Dundalk went through the war in a relatively safe place “I was in the kitchen I was one of the cooks. We didn’t have to worry about no fightin’. All we had to worry about was bombs and straf in’.” he recalled.
Mr Metier acted as host for the three-day meeting, which began Friday The re-union brought together veterans of Company E, 17th Armored Engineer Battalion of the 2d Armored Division. Patton’s famed ‘Hell on Wheels.’ Twenty-two veterans were registered most with their wives and some with their children over the years. The veterans said the reunions “have become a family thing ” In fact “two years ago we started talking about a reunion of kids without par-ents. said 26-year-old Michael Sorensen, who came to the meeting with his dad, Melvin from Edison. N.J The younger Mr. Sorensen tall, lanky, blue-eyed and mustachioed is a veteran of another branch of the service. the Navy. He did not think so much of his duties during his two year hitch, but, with a flashing smile, he said with him. “I had a good time on liberty'” In the hospitality room yesterday, while potato chips and peanuts were consumed and beer and soft drinks were fished out of cool water in the bathtub the wives appeared to be enjoying themselves as much as their husbands. “I love to listen to ‘ern goin on year after year.” exclaimed Marian Provenzano. whose stocky husband, Al, who was a corporal under Patton. Don’t the reminiscences grow a little stale with repetition”‘ “No.” put in Norma Seegmuller. “they change the stories a little each year.” “This convention.” joked her tall, husky husband, Frank, “was sponsored by the money left over from the loot we received in Berlin.” As the talk gained momentum, the needle came out A photographer said to Melchior Lascola. “Don’t move’s, He didn’t move during the war.” promptly volunteered his pal. Al Provenzano. It was not all fun though. The vets talked sadly about Noel Whittington, who did not make It this year to show the motion pictures that he took of every reunion. Mr Whittington died Friday of cancer in Winston-Salem. Two other buddies from Winston-Salem also did not come. They stayed at home to attend Mr Whittington’s wake. It was the job of Company E to build bridges for Patton’s soldiers Former PFC Joseph Jesek, of Cleveland, remembered a time when he and his fellow soldiers hid themselves on the banks of the Rhine River and picked off Germans in the water as they swam to plant mines beneath the abutments of a bridge the Americans had just put up. As for Patton, most of the dozen or so veterans in the hospitality room expressed high regard. In the minority, Mr Lascola shook his head, saying Patton found GI’s altogether too expendable. He could never forget, he said, the general’s assertion that “he was going to take a certain town if it took a truckload of dog-tags.” But Mr. Provenzano. of North Bran-ford, Conn., insisted “Patton was right – He maintained that if Roosevelt had not stopped him, the general would have gone in and “cleaned up the Russians, and we wouldn’t have this problem with com-munism today.”
(Transcribed: Martijn Brandjes)
Research and written by Martijn Brandjes 2019