Coopers Mill veteran was wounded during battle in Germany

Posted Nov. 04, 2011, at 10:09 p.m.

Editor’s Note: This article was excerpted from “Diary of World War II,” written by Leland F. King of Coopers Mills and published by Monmouth Press in 1999. While recuperating at Fort Devens, King met his future wife, Marian, an Army nurse. They were married in Pennsylvania on June 29, 1946, and enjoyed 52 years together until her death in October 1998.

Leland F. King wrote:

In 1941 I worked at Hyde Windlass Co. making propellers for destroyers. I was drafted into the Army in November 1942 at age 20.

I boarded the train [at Wiscasset] for Fort Devens, Mass., arriving there the same day [Dec. 2, 1942]. Stayed there doing odds and ends and shipped out for parts unknown December 5.

We traveled for three days and nights and wondered if we were going to California or Texas. California would mean the Pacific theater and Texas would be the European theater. I saw a license that read “Arkansas.” That led me to believe that Europe would be our destination in the future.

We arrived at Camp Maxey, Texas, just outside Paris, a small town about the size of Gardiner. We stayed at this camp until fall 1943, then on to Louisiana for maneuvers. By the way, this was all training, 102nd [Infantry] Division.

After maneuvers we went to Camp Swift, a few miles from Austin, Texas. We trained there until August 1944, then shipped out to Fort Dix, N.J. While we were there, the Philadelphia Transit went on strike. Our troops went there and ran trains and buses until it was over.

In early September we went to Camp Kilmer, N.J., port of embarkation. We shipped out of New York on Sept. 7, 1944, in a convoy headed for France. I was on the SS Marine Wolf.

After unloading the ship at Cherbourg, we were trucked to St. Pierre and set up tents in an orchard. The town was off limits, but we would go in anyway. One time I went with a friend named Heydt to a butcher shop. He could speak German and asked the butcher for steaks in German, and the man pulled a knife on us. Heydt soon spoke English, and the Frenchman cooled down and sold us steaks. We took them back to the bivouac area and cooked them over the fire.

Later we boarded a narrow gauge train to Liege, Belgium. Our first combat was at Maastricht, Holland, at an old brick factory where we held the front line. One machine gun was in the factory, the other at my right flank. We had tanks out in front of us, German and American, that had been knocked out the day before. We were to hold this line for a week.

I was in E Co., 407th Regiment, 102nd Division. There were two machine guns to support the company. I was squad leader of one gun and Sgt. Ramis the other. My machine gun was at the forward part of the brick factory, and one night our nightly patrol was to cross in front of my gun.

Instead they crossed at my right flank and sent up flares that we had placed there. Of course, we thought it was a German patrol, and all hell broke loose. Fortunately none of our men were hit.

We were soon relieved by British troops, and the next night at my gun site, the gunner was killed by a German 88 [millimeter artillery shell] that came through the roof. I was lucky this time.

From Maastricht we fought through Dusseldorf, Linnich, Rurdorf and Flossdorf, which was close to the Roer River. The battle of Flossdorf on Dec. 2, 1944, was the worst battle we had been in and was where I got wounded.

I was shooting tracers from my M1 rifle so my gunner could pick out a German machine gun that had us pinned down. Soon after, while I was in a prone position shooting, an 88 [round] landed nearby. A piece of shrapnel penetrated my right arm, and I rolled onto my side. I managed to get up and retreat to a foxhole and slide into it, with enemy sniper fire snapping around my butt. Later I was put on a litter, and a Jeep took me to regimental aid. While German 88 shells were dropping all around us, a half-body cast was put on from my waist up to support my right arm.

The next stop was Paris, where a temporary hospital was set up at a hotel. After four days I was taken with others [wounded soldiers] to Orly Airport. They flew us out on a C-46. We landed in England at a British air base and were taken by ambulance to Birmingham.

I arrived there on Dec. 10, 1944. Finally the doctors took the steel out of my arm. The doctor had to set my arm (it was a compound fracture). While this was happening, I was in a sitting position with no medication. I almost passed out. The nurse gave me a big shot of whiskey, and I responded quickly. I asked her for another, but “no more,” she said.

In March [1945] we went to Scotland by train to the Clyde River and there boarded the Queen Elizabeth for our journey back to the States. We were only six days’ journey to New York. What a wonderful sight to see the Statue of Liberty.

I was discharged at Fort Devens on Oct. 2, 1945, and came home with a 50-percent disability.

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