William M. Pekrul (Krzewin)
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on December 9, 1925 to Ann and Felex Krzewina. I was there second son. My brother was 18 months older than me. My father left the family when I was six months old. I went to St. Josephus Basilica catholic grade school. Then I went to Boy’s Tech high School. I followed a trade course in machine shop and drafting. I took the name Pekrul after I came home from the service. I enlisted in the army on April 27, 1943 and was sent to Fort Benning Georgia for basic infantry training. I made two tower parachute jumps in training. After 13 weeks I was sent home for a seven day furlough. I got orders to report to Camp Shanks New York port of embarkation. After a lot of shots and more equipment in our duffle bags we boarded the Queen Mary and set off in the North Atlantic.
We docked in Greenwich, Scotland after four and a half days at sea. From there we took a troop train to Salisbury, England at a British regular army camp called the Tidward Barakes. After three days I was assigned to the 29th Infantry, 116th Regiment for more training on the west coast of England. We were making beach landings on the cliffs that were almost similar to Normandy and Omaha. On June 3rd, 1943 we were sent Portsmouth, England. There I boarded the USS Thomas Jefferson troop ship. We went out into the channel and waited for the strom to end. On June 6th at 2:30 am we had breakfast and a prayer service on board the ship. I went over the cargo nets to load up on the Higgins boat (landing craft). We circled for about forty-five minutes then went into Dog Red Beach on Omaha with the 2nd. Wave. The fighting was very bad. Lot’s of dead and wounded. I had to run and hit the beach for 200 yards to the sea wall. I was very lucky to be alive. It was two hours later that I got up the cliff on rope, grabbling hooks. The Germans were in the trenches about fifty yards from the cliff. The killing was unbelievable. After about six or seven hours of fighting and killing they started to surrender. I was surprised that we captured polish soldiers in German uniforms. When it started to get dark there were a lot of flares being fired because there were a lot of patrols and a lot of mortar and artillery activity. I did not sleep for two days. The fighting went on for forty-two days in hedgerows and fields with small rivers.
At Saint-Lo, France was the main battle where a lot of the German’s put up a good fight until the 8th. Air Force bombed the city for four hours. Then we went in to capture the city. Our regimental commander died here, he was a West Point graduate. That was the end of Operation Overloard.
The 84th Division relieved us. We pulled back to the beach for our first good rest and a warm meal. I came down with dysentery and was flown back to England to a hospital. I was unconscious for three day’s and lost a lot of weight. I was down to 105 pounds.
In September 1943 I was sent to La Harve, France and assigned to the 75th Division, 289th Regiment. We moved up to Holland and took position on the Maas River. Our paratroopers took a good beating and lost a lot of men. We were in support to help them retreat. Operation Market Garden was a failure.
From there I was sent to the south west of France to fight in the Colmar pocket. It was on the Swiss border were the Rhine River borders Switzerland, France and Germany.
The 3rd. Infantry were coming up the Italin boot and the Germans were coming our way. We had them in a pocket where they started to surrender. We lost seven men in our company and twenty-six wounded.
From there we went up to Belgium. We set-up a defensive line on December 8th. The German’s started to attack on the 15th. This was the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. For the first time we ran into the King Tiger Tanks. They ran over our positions. Their artillery tanks and infantry were moving in fast. We took a lot of casualties the first two days. At Salmchato Belgium my company pulled back. My platoon leader 1st Lt. De Stafano was wounded by a MG42 (Machinegun ) . I stayed with him and dragged him in a basement. The temperature was below zero. I could hear the German’s as they were moving around. I prayed that they would not come in the basement or lob a grenade. The 1st Lt. died and I stayed with him through the night. When the tanks left, my company counter attacked in the morning. When I heard them I started to yell for help. When they found us I could not move. My feet were frozen. They carried me out and sent me to the rear hospital. They shot me up with morphine, the pain was too much. They used leaches….to help the infection, it worked. After three weeks I was sent back to my company with insulated boots.
We were moving up to the Rhine River to set-up a defensive position. We dug in the levies at Essen Germany. The German’s retreated so fast they left a lot of their equipment. We were firing their 105 mortars at them for at least two weeks. We also had 03 rifles with scopes to shoot anything that moved on the other side of the river. I was about three miles north of the Ludendorff Bridge at Ramagen, Germany. We crossed the river with rubber boats to secure the other side of the river so the combat engineers put up the bridge for our division to cross. This battle was called the Battle of the Ruhr Valley. This is the heart of the German industry where most of the war equipment was made. The fighting was sporadic for about two weeks. Then the German’s set up a defence on the Ruhr river. We had a fight on our hands that lasted for ten days. They were giving up the fight. The prisoners just wanted to go home.
I was in Dortmund, Germany when the war ended. I stayed in occupation for four months and was sent to Reims, France for assignment at Laon, France. We helped with the processing of German prisoners. After two months of that I was sent to LeHarve, France port of embarkation to go back to the states. I was mustered out at Camp Mc Coy, Wi. I was in Europe for two and a half years. Amen
The 29th History
Of the many regiments that fought in the American Civil War, from April 1861 to April 1865, were two that were from the basis of the 29th Division – the 1st Maryland and the 2nd Virginian. Once the War was over, these Regiments were brigaded into the National Guard of various States – Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and the District of Columbia.
Then, when the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, these brigades became the 29th.Division. Their choice of shoulder insignia was the Chinese yin and yang symbol which united the blue of the Yankees who fought for the union with the gray of the Rebels who wanted to sucede. In 1918, the “Blue-and-Gray’s” fought alongside the French in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. When the Armistice was signed, the Division was in front of Metz.
The attack on Pearl Harbor of December 7, 1947 found the United States at war once again with the Axis. At the beginning of 1942, the Division was reactivated. After extensive maneuvers in South Carolina and Florida under the command of General Leonard T. Gerow, two-thirds of the Division boarded Queen Mary on September 26, 1942 and sailed for Glasgow, Scotland. The rest of the Division ……. Tidworth, in southern England. At the end of July, General Charles Unler Gerhardt was appointed Divisional Commander, replacing General Gerow who took over command of the Vth Corps.
On June 4, 1944, after months of intensive training, the three Regiments of the 29th Division – the 115th, 116th and 175th – bordered the troop transports “ Empire Javelin”, “Thomas Jefferson” and “Charles Caroll”. The 116th Regiment was amongst the first waves of troops to go ashore on the beach below Vierville-Surmur and Saint-Laurent-Sur-Mer code name Omaha. Dog red beach
But things did not turn out as planned. The aerial and navel bombardment before the actual landings did not have the desired effect – the blockhouses, machine gun nests, and mortar emplacements all over the cliffs were hardly touched. Thus the first attacking waves were met by the deluge of fire and, in less than a quarter of an hour, A company of the 116th Regiment – originally 170 men strong – ceased to exist. The … so, so that during the morning General Bradley was considering calling off any further landings on Omaha.
Yet, thanks to the coolness and discipline of certain officers of both the 29th and 1st Division, which had landed below Colleville-Sur-Mer, the situation had turned by the end of the morning in favor of the Allies.
However, it was to be a long and hard road that the 29th Division would have to follow in the war. Its first major objective was Saint-Lo, which was scheduled to be captured by D-Day + 9, that is June 15th. But it was not until July 18th that the town was liberated after continuous bitter fighting in “The Battle of the Hedgerows”. The next town Vire which fell on August 6th was also fiercely defended. Then the 29th, Fought alongside other Divisions to liberate the naval base of Brest, which fell on September 18th.
After a short rest in Holland, the Division took Aix-La-Chapelle (AACHEN). Siersdorf, Setterlich and Bettendorf fell after a series of attackes and Julich and Hattendorf, vitual ruins, were captured after severe fighting. In February , 1945 …Colocur … M…
The war having ended, the Division proceeded to the Bremen Enclave where it acted as occupation troops until January, 1946, when the last elements left for the states.
During 242 days of fighting the Division lost 20,620 men killed, wounded or missing.
I married Rosemary Hawley on May 29th, 1948. We will celebrate our 62nd anniversary this year. We had 11 children, 6 girls and 5 boys. She helped me forget the war.
William M. Pekrul (Krzewina)