The Red Bull in World War II 34th Infantry Division Resources 1941-1945

Carl Sigler, 34th Div., 133rd Regt., Co. A

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CARL SIGLER FOLLOWING GRADUATION FROM COLUMBIA CITY GRADE SCHOOL
In 1933, I graduated from grade school. I stayed out of school for one year to help out the family. Mrs. Margaret Freeland, who was a teacher and friend of mine, talked me into going to high school in St. Helens the next year, 1934. I graduated from high school in St. Helens in 1938. By then things were looking up from the depression years. I went to work that summer at the McCormick sawmill in St. Helens. Those were good years. I was still at home with my parents in Columbia City. I paid my mother $25.00 a month, had a 1938 Dodge car, had a bank account at US National Bank. Then suddenly things changed. One Sunday, my dad, Jim Griffith, and I went duck hunting on Deer Island. This was Dec. 7th, and we stayed until about 4:30 PM. When we came to the highway and started home, we stopped at the gas station and heard the news, “JAPS BOMB PEARL HARBOR”. What a shock that was. Then came the dilemma, should I enlist or wait until the draft got me. Well, I decided to wait and kept on working, but not for long. I got things together and prepared myself. In March, I got my notice to enter the army on the 1 5th. I notified my employer and drew my f~nal check to have a little cash in my pocket. I found out there were several others from the vicinity going on the same day. On the 1 5th, my dad drove me to St. Helens, where we were to take the bus to Portland and catch the train to California. When we got to the train depot there were busloads coming from all over. When we finally got underway, we had to stop at every station to pick up more men from all over Oregon. We finally got a load and when we got to the mountains we picked up two more engines to push us over the mountains into California. It took us two days, but then we pulled into the Presidio at Monterey. This is where we would be swom in, and get our first taste of the Army, and what turned out to be the dress of the day for most of us for the next four years, if we were lucky.

This is where they began splitting us up. A lot of friends of mine were sent some place else, and some were sent to the same place. I was sent to Santa Barbara for basic training. We boarded army trucks to get to Santa Barbara. The cadre of officers and non-coms that would train us were from a “bastard” ouffit from the 32nd Division. The 32nd Division was an old square division, and the Army was making them triangle divisions. So they called them “bastard” ouffits because they didn’t belong to anyone. They were training us to make them a full crew. They had a job as soon as they trained us; we were to patrol the California area, mostly along the coast from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. The first part of the war they were afraid the Japs were planning an attack on the beaches of California, so the job of the 1 25th Infantry was to dig fox holes and machine gun emplacements and keep them all manned. We had at that time live ammunition. Each unit would have a platoon, or part of a platoon. Headquarter was just out of Palo Alto. Other places were, San Francisco at the coast artillery, Half Moon Bay near San Jose, a non-com school, Santa Cruz, Carmel, Camp Roberts to use their firing range, Cayucas, Moro Bay, and Pebble Beach Golf Course. Also, there was a place just south of Half Moon Bay where they monitored all ships at sea and all airplane movement. I stayed there along with about a dozen men for two weeks. I stayed at Half Moon Bay two different times, a month each time. I went to the non-com school near San Jose for one month and to Santa Cruz for about a month. We stayed in a large home that the Army had taken over. It overlooked the bay. I stayed at Carmel, where we had two barracks on the beach. At Cayucas and Moro Bay, we had four barracks, a dayroom and a kitchen. All along the beach we had foxholes and machine gun emplacements. There was a pipeline in front of our place where the oil tankers could hook up to and pump the oil into tanks on the hill above us. There was a little store in Cayucas where we could walk to get beer, to cool off after digging foxholes in the hot sun. At Pebble Beach Golf Course, we had two barracks and a kitchen on the beach below the clubhouse. This is where I learned to be a cook. They had the men spread out so far that they didn’t have enough cooks. A fellow from Seattle came to me and said, “I was on KP, and they asked me if I would like to be a cook and I said yes, and they told me to find a partner, so you’re my partner if you want to be.” I said, “Put it their partner”, and we shook hands. Willy was a guy with two left feet, and consequently spent a lot to time on KP, so he had picked up a little from the cooks and I had watched my mother cook, and I had cooked some when we went deer hunting. Between the two of us and an Army cookbook, Willy and I became cooks. We worked together and tried our best to make things the guys liked. The men all liked what we cooked and told us we did better than the real cooks. That made us feel pretty good. Willy said, “With Christmas coming up, why don’t we invite the lady a that runs the clubhouse and her daughter down for Christmas dinner.” I said, “Put it their partner.” We asked them and they said they would be glad to join us. So far so good, but Christmas morning, who shows up but our company commander. Willy said, “What do we do now?” I said, “Willy, he a man isn’t he? We will just tell him we invited two young ladies to come to dinner today and we thought you might like to have them sit at your table.” He said he would be honored. I said, “Thank you sir”, and saluted him. Willy said, “What made you think of that?” I said, “He is our Captain, but he’s also a man where the ladies are concemed.” The ladies both thanked us, and said it was very nice of us to sit them at our Captains table. The Captain also thanked us and said it was a very nice Christmas dinner, and he was glad that we invited the nice ladies to sit at his table. Willy and I did pretty good on that one.

One day one of the men came to us and asked if we could cook abalone. We both said we didn’t know about them, we didn’t even know what they were. So he said he knew they were on those rocks in the ocean. He said he would get some men and wade out and pry them off the rocks, bring them in, take them out of the shell, and then pound them into abalone steaks. We could then roll them in breadcrumbs and eggs and fry them. We did and everyone liked them. Well that does it for Pebble Beach, and the end of our cooking.

Back to our company in Half Moon Bay they sent us. We stayed in town; in a hotel the Army had taken over, called the Occidental. At that time, Half Moon Bay was just a small town with one tavern where we spent almost every night if we weren’t on duty. One time we were here when the fog came in and didn’t leave for seven days. We were sent to a place near Fresno to do guard duty around a Japanese internment camp. We lived in pup tents outside the camp in 1 00-degree weather. We were there not to keep the Japanese from escaping, but to see that no one got near them. They complained about being in there, but on the outside some irate father that had just received notice that his son had been killed, might look for revenge. If they were on the street and he met up with them, they wouldn’t have had anyone guarding them. About this time, the Army decided that the Japs weren’t going to attack California, so we were getting new orders. The rumor was that we would be going to Alaska. We got orders to pack everything and get ready to board the train. After sitting on the train for about an hour, we were told orders had been changed and return to the barracks. After three or four days of waiting, we were again alerted to pack f up and board the train. This time we headed north, then east, through Arizona, New Mexico, and to Paris, Texas, near the Oklahoma border. There was a small camp just outside of Paris. We could walk into town, but there was no beer in Paris. We could go to a movie, but the nearest place to get a beer was across the border in Hugo, Oklahoma. We stayed in Paris for about three weeks. I had one weekend pass. I took a bus to Dallas for the weekend, a livelier place. We finally left Texas and headed to Baltimore. There was a camp about halfway between Baltimore and Washington D.C. I had a weekend pass and I couldn’t make up my mind between D.C. and Baltimore until I heard that in D.C. the girls were all looking for officers, so I went to Baltimore. It was a nice sunny morning, but the afternoon it cooled off and started to rain, and by evening it had started to snow. By morning the busses weren’t running and the train was shut down. The message came in from the Army to stay put, and not worry about being late. The trucks came and picked us up. We stayed here a few more days and then they moved us out to Newport News. That would be our departure point for overseas. We got on board the USS General Mann. This was a fast ship, so we didn’t go in a convoy.

We sailed the next morning and a lot of the guys were seasick just from staying overnight on the ship. I think most of them stayed sick the whole trip. Lucky for me I didn’t get sick. We had nice weather the six days of the trip. The first land we saw was Casablanca. All the buildings were white. Two planes escorted us into port, watching for U-boats.

That night we went ashore and into a big field where a chow line was set up to feed us. There was a long line and we had to go to the rear. We didn’t like that too much until a couple of officers went to the head of the line and told the server that they wanted to be served. The server said, “Sorry, but our orders are that everyone has to go to the back of the line.” They weren’t used to that. Stateside they had what they called a Dog Robber to serve them at a table. Well anyway, that made us smile to see them go to the end of the line. We spent the night here, but I didn’t get to se much of Casablanca.

The next morning they marched us to the railroad to take a train to Lion Mountain, near Oran. When we got to the tracks, there was a surprise waiting for us. It was a long string of forty and eights, from World War 1. They belonged to the French. On the side of them is said, “40 homme or 8 chavals,” which meant 50 men or 8 horses. We loaded up and I swear they had just unloaded the 8 horses. I don’t think many of us slept much. We were on them for two days and didn’t see much life until the engineer blew the whistle and stopped. Out of the hills came dozens of little Arab kids, begging, “Hey Joe! Got any candy or cigarettes?” I don’t know where they came from, but the engineer knew where to blow the whistle to get them. Finally we got to Lion Mountain. Thank God for that! Lion Mountain was a replacement depot. We stayed there for two or three weeks. We were warned not to go out alone at night because the Arabs would cut your throat for the shoes on you feet. We finally had one group ready to go to Italy. We boarded a little Norwegian lumber schooner. I think we had about 500 men aboard. They had Norwegian officers and Chinese crew. All they had to feed us was some kind of gruel that we couldn’t eat. We started dealing with the officers, trading cigarettes for sardines and bread or crackers. We were only three days to Naples. They sent us to a place they called the Farm, which was a replacement depot. This is where I learned a good lesson, don’t trust the natives. I had a good camera and had taken a lot of pictures coming into Casablanca and on the forty and eights, which I wanted to have developed. I found a guy that said he would get them developed for me and bring them back the next day. I guess he still has them. I was so mad I could have “cut his throat and stole his shoes.” It was hard to get film. My mother tried to get some and send it to me, but she couldn’t find any either.

A friend of mine and I went one afternoon to the Mussolini Canals. I guess that building those irrigation canals was the only good thing he did for the people. Anyway, we met a young boy and his sister, who invited us to come to their house. The boy said vino, so we went with them, and sure enough they were having a party and the vino was flowing. They gave us glasses, filled them up, said salute, and down the hatch. Finally we had to return to the camp. Needless to say, we had said salute and fill the glass too many times. On the way back to camp we came to one of the canals and it looked like we would have to go around to get back to camp. I looked at my friend, Shelly Wall, and said, “I think I can jump across to the other side,” and he said, “If you can make it, I can too.” I got way back and got a good run at it and jumped as hard as I could and landed right in the middle and swam to the other side and said, “Salute! I made it.” He tried it and landed in the middle also. He came ashore and said to me, "Do you think all that Saluting, and all that vino made the canal look narrower.” I agreed with him, so we got back to the camp, wet clothes and all.

The next morning our names were on the board to go to the 34th Division. A sergeant picked us up and took us to A Company of the 34th Infantry. When we finally got underway it was almost dark, and sarge said we could find a bombed out house and stay overnight. He also picked up a young fellow to take back to the Division. I don’t think he was over 18 years old. We got in the basement and stayed until the next morning. When we woke up it was a bright sunny day. We all got outside and stood in the sun, stretching, while we were looking around. I guess some Kraut artillery saw us and we heard a shell come whistling in. We all dived in except the kid. The shell hit short of us. The kid said, “Here I am,” and he was crying. We all asked if he was hit and he said, “I guess so.” We asked where and he said, "l always thought I might get hit sometime, but not like this.” He had a piece of shrapnel in his butt. We all said to him that its not very bad and you don’t have to cry. He said, “In the butt, all my friends will think I was running away when I got hit.” We assured him they wouldn’t think that. The sarge got a hold of somebody and they took him back to the medics. We never saw him again.

We finally made it to Company A. The company was in a rest area, so they were easy to find. The next day they were having a company meeting and during the meeting they announced that two of the cooks were being sent home on furlough, and we needed two cooks to replace them. I was sitting with Shelly Wall and Sgt. Aiken, who had brought us from the repo company, and they both started pushing me to get the job. They said they needed a friend in the kitchen. I got up and went to the speaker’s table along with Edward Ruple from St. Louis. We became good friends. That night a couple of regular cooks along with Ed and I got together with a gallon of grappa, which is a pure alcohol made from grape wine. We got lemon powder from the kitchen, put it in the water and diluted it with the pure alcohol. After a couple of drinks, we all felt like singing. One of the cooks, Roman Hicks from Georgia, had his guitar and played it very well. Between the singing and the playing, and the sipping away on the grappa and lemonade, that was my introduction to Company A, and the 34th Division. We did pretty well until somebody remembered that someone had to fix breakfast.

The next day the company was called up to the front. It was then that I found out that when the company is at the front, we don’t cook, but we have other duties. Besides moving the kitchen, we had to go up as litter bearers to bring out the wounded and get them to the forward aid station. We also had to get supplies up to the men by jeeps if possible, or if they were in the mountains, we took them up by mules. We took C rations, water, ammunition, and the mail. When we were in the mountains and had to be litter bearers, we went to the forward aid station and waited for a call to go get someone. One of my first trips up as a bearer was when we were called to C Company. When we got to C, they were all in a basement of a bombed building. They had deserted one man, not deliberately, but they had come under machine gun fire and they all had to get out. Consequently, this man was badly hit and couldn’t get out. They didn’t know he had been hit. They didn’t stop to see my partner, and me or ask someone to show us where he was. No one came forward. I said, “You know this kid and what if the shoe was on the other foot and you were down there all shot up. Wouldn’t you want someone to show up? My partner and I are going down there and get him, but we need someone to show us where he is.” A young corporal came to me and said he would show us the way. He said there was a road down there but it was mined and machine guns were trained on it. So we stayed away from it. Pretty soon we heard the kid crying so I told the corporal he could go back and we can make it OK. I thanked him and told him he was a good man. I asked the kid what his name was and he said Julius. I told him he was going to be fine and they would be sending him home. After we got him to the aid station I never saw him again or heard of him, but I am sure in his condition, they did send him home.

The other cook that volunteered and I becarne good friends. His name is Eddie Ruple and we cooked together, like Willy and I back in the states. The only difference was Eddie had been a cook in the CCC camps, so I learned a lot more from him than he did from me. We did get along together and both had the same idea, to give the men the best food we could with what supplies we had.

The men were still on the line, so my next job to tackle was to take the mules into the mountains where the men were. They had little Italians that had the mules. We loaded them up and when we got them packed and ready to go, one little mule laid down, pack and all. I was going to whip him a little, but the Italian said, “No, no, he won’t get up. It’s too heavy. We have to unload him and get him to his feet, then reload him and take a little bit and load it on another mule.” These were the small burro type mules and I found out that they were very temperamental. We finally got them going. We had four mules this trip. The man led them and we followed. There was another cook from Company C, so we delivered to both companies. The mules packed over a rocky trail and made a lot of noise. We were afraid the Germans would hear us and throw in a few mortar shells, but they didn’t. We made it OK and unloaded the mules. When we started back, the Italian said to get on them and ride them back. I thought that was a good idea and I rode a mule back. It was a rough ride and when we got back to the camp I could hardly walk. There was another lesson learned. That was the last time I tried that. I preferred to walk back.

The next time the company was back in a rest area it was at Montecatino, a small town on the coast, which was a beautiful place to rest. We moved the kitchen into the area so we could feed the men hot meals before they had to go back to the front and cold C and K rations. Ruple and I made friends with a family there. Every morning one of us would take some flour and whatever the lady needed for meat that night and we were invited for dinner. After dinner we listened to accordion music. They had a son about 15 or 16 years old that played the accordion quite well, and enjoyed playing it. We were in Montecatino about ten days, but all good things must come to an end. We moved the kitchen nearer the front and the company back to the front also.

This is where we got too close to the front because the heavy artillery landed in the middle of the kitchen area. Thank God no one was hurt, but C Company had almost a direct hit on their kitchen. No one was in the kitchen, but it ruined all their stoves and pots and pans. They got them replaced before they had to use them. Back to the mules and litter bearing for us until the company gets a break.
This is where I was alone. The others were all on other duty. I came down sick and couldn’t hold anything down. I threw everything up. Lucky for me a fellow I was with in stateside who was the company medic was now the medic for Company C. He came to see me and when he found me in bed he wanted know what was wrong. I told him I couldn’t keep any food down. He said hepatitis and yellow jaundice were going around. He asked if we had any beer or alcohol. I said we didn’t, but if I could get hold of Morris the Dog Robber, he takes care of the officer’s baggage and they usually had some. I found him and he said he could get some beer, and the medic said to drink it down, so I did. After about 15 minutes, my eyes turned yellow. Now he said to go to the medics and they would take one look at me and ship me off to the hospital in Naples. So I went to see the medics, and that evening I was on a plane full of sick and wounded people headed for Naples.

At the hospital, those with hepatitis and yellow jaundice filled one whole floor. They informed us that there was no medicine to cure it at that time. The only cure was 90 days of absolute bed rest, no fat foods, lots of water or fruit liquids to keep you flushed out. We were to stay in bed at all times except to shave, shower, and use the toilet. Our meals were brought to us in bed. The doctors asked if we had anything wrong with us that they could take care of while we were here for 90 days. They didn’t want us here for that long, and then when we got out to come right back in to have something fixed that could be taken care of now. I told the doctor that I had been bothered with exterior hemorrhoids, which he said they would take care of, and they did. This hospital was named 45th General. After about two months, we could walk down stairs to eat in the mess. This is after they took care of my hemorrhoids, and about twenty other guys who were bothered with them. A bunch of us started down the stairs and one young kid stopped and said to look at his backside and see if that’s blood or (nicely put for a Gl) that other stuff that comes out back there. We were all laughing and asked what he wanted it to be back there. We all laughed some more and the kid said, “Ah! You guys are just ribbing me.”

Well our 90 days were finally over, so we were discharged and we would go to a conditioning camp, just a short distance from Naples. It was called Lake Avorno, a beautiful place right on the lake. I was assigned to the kitchen as a cook. I would stay here until they said I was OK to go back to my company.

My first night here I went to the recreation hall and they had a couple poker games going. I had about twenty dollars on me, so I sat in on the small game. I hit a couple of good hands, making about $150.00. I looked over at the big game and there was a seat open, so I moved over. I stayed pretty hot, and after about an hour, I got up and left with $900.00. The first thing in the morning I sent my mother $500.00, and that left me enough that I could go to Naples. Every night there was a train going to Naples and I could catch it back later.

This was a beautiful camp on the lake. I would have liked to have stayed here for a long time, at least until my money ran out. After a couple of weeks they said I was well enough to go back to my company. We had a truck full of guys going back to other outfits. When I got back to my company I found out they hadn’t moved much. It was wintertime in the Apennines, with the Krauts looking down on us. We were waiting for spring to make a move and try to push them over into the Po Valley, where we would be looking down their necks for a change.

Well it happened that way, but after they found out that Hitler had been killed, the fight left them and they scattered. That was when task force J for Jaybirds was born. Shortly after midnight, Second Battalion reported that an enemy column believed to be the column that resisted troops of the First Battalion, had cut the highway connecting it’s forward and rear command post groups. Immediate assistance was sought to combat the large enemy force that had them cut off and surrounded. There was no one available until at midnight they came and got everyone out of bed, typists, clerks, cooks, bakers, drivers, mechanics, and anyone else. We were issued weapons and ammunition. It was strange and testing for the Jaybirds. Taking a page from the manual, Capt. DuBinsky, the commanding officer, split his group to try and surround them. [John] Hergenroeder and I were the only ones from A Company, and we were going down a dike when Krauts were spotted in a dry creek bed. Hergy (as he was called) and I jumped the bank on the side with the Krauts. Everyone else went the other way. Hergy and I were crawling toward the Krauts, when I looked toward them. “Hergy,” I said, “They are waving a white flag.” We jumped up and headed for them with our rifles at the ready, but they were ready to surrender. No fight left in them. We started searching them and getting some nice side arms. They had one officer with them, and he said in pretty good English that he wanted an officer to surrender to. I yelled to the guys on the dike, “Send down Capt. DuBinsky. They want to surrender to an officer, not a bunch of cooks.” We got them up on the dike, lined them up, and proudly marched them toward the town and turned them over to the military police. That was the end, 133 Jaybirds in all, and 444 Krauts.

Back to the company. All we got out of it was a write up in the Red Bulletin newspaper and a few confiscated goodies. The company went into Bologna and the kitchen was right behind them. We set up the kitchen in an old building and someone found a German Swastika Flag that had been left behind. I took pictures of it with several of the guys. This story ends with the flag, although twenty Gl’s put their names and some home addresses on it. There will be more about the flag later in this story.

The company moved out of Bologna to Modena. Ruple and I took one stove to Medina with a lot of bread and eggs. We fried the eggs and gave the boys egg sandwiches and coffee. The company then moved to a place near Turin, and would stay there for a while. The Germans had all surrendered and the war in Italy was over. We stayed there for a couple of weeks, and then the company was moved near the border of Czechoslovakia. There we set up for awhile. When I was a kid and shocked hay in the summer to pay our milk bills, I talked to the Swiss people that owned the dairy and they told me lots of stories about Switzerland. I always thought I would like to visit there someday, never dreaming I would ever have the privilege to, but lo and behold, the message came down that Gl’s could sign up to go to Switzerland. It would cost $75.00, plus you were allowed to take $75.00 to spend. The $75.00 would pay for transportation and lodging. I still had poker money left from my winnings at the rehab center in Naples. I signed up immediately to go. I finally got the answer to be ready at a certain date and time. The day finally came and we were loaded onto a truck for Milan, where we would spend the night and then board a train to go through the tunnel and into Switzerland. We spent the night in a bare building with a bunch of army cots. I threw my gear on a cot and was resting after riding all day in a truck. I heard someone throw his gear on the cot next to mine. When I looked around, there was Buster Daniels from Lubbock, Texas. I had been with Buster in California. I said, “Hello Buster, what are you doing here.” He turned around to see who knew him and said, “What are you doing here Sigler. I guess we are going to the same place.” I said, “Do you have anyone with you?” He said, “No.” I said, “How about buddying up for this trip? But right now, let go find a beer or something and talk over where we have been the last couple of years.”

We came back early to get some sleep because we had to catch the train. I think that tunnel we had to go through was the iongest one in the world at that time. They started digging with crews at each end of the tunnel and meet in the middle. I asked an old timer what if you didn’t meet, and he said we would have two tunnels. We got up early the next morning to catch the train. We spent most of the day in that tunnel before we got out where we could see anything. Our first stop was Interlaken, where we stayed two nights. In the day we rented bicycles so we could explore the countryside. We made lots of friends in these two days. Then to the Jungfrau tour into the Alps by train. All I can say is beautiful. The train stops at various alcoves where you can get out and see some of the best sights. Then at night we stopped at Scheidegg Hotel and Restaurant. Coming into the station we were greeted by young girls singing and yodeling. That night we were treated royally to food and drinks. What a place! We hated to leave, but the train was waiting to continue up the mountain. The Jungfrau Railroad took us to the Jungfraujoctt Hotel and Restaurant, from which you could see the Sphinx Terrace. It is the highest place in the Alps, 11,716 feet high, that can be reached by rail. It is a meteorological observatory and can be reached by a lift. There also is the subterranean ice palace. The ice palace is all underground, so it never melts. You go into the ice palace, which is a large room with pillars throughout it. One place has a booth like in a tavern and a keg of beer on tap, all carved out of ice. Next we took the train and completed the trip back down a different route and wound up near Interlaken. This was the most interesting part of the trip. We still had other places to go. Every place we went had good beer and we made lots of friends. We went to Berne, Lucerne, Lugano, and Zurich. Some of them we stayed overnight and some for a few hours. In Zurich we went to an unusual place. It was a large building that had a big dance floor with tables all around the floor, and another floor above and tables all around that floor. You could look down on the floor. The beer flowed great all over the place. No matter where we went, it was always good beer.

All good things have to come to an end, so we finally boarded the train back to Milan, and then back to the company, where we went back to work. We were all sweating out when we could get back home. About three weeks after I got back from Switzerland, it was our turn and the remainder of our outfit loaded up to go back to Naples. We prepared to load up on the Italian ship, The Europa, for Newport News, where I left from. It would take us about five days to get back. When we got back, the next day I boarded a train that was loaded with north westerners, all bound for Ft. Lewis to get discharged. When we got there it was on a weekend and we couldn’t get discharged until Monday. I asked if I could get a pass to go to Seattle to see my sister, who lived there. They said OK, but be here Monday morning to get discharged. I took a bus to Seattle and then took a city bus to my sisters. I sthyed there Saturday night and Sunday I caught the bus back to Ft. Lewis. Monday came and I got my discharge and what money I had coming and headed out to the highway to see if I could hitch a ride. There were lots of others with the same idea. I saw two fellows I had gotten acquainted with and I knew one was from Portland. I asked if we could double up if someone should come along with room for three. It wasn’t five minutes when a man came along and pulled in and asked where we were going and the one from Portland said, “Are you going to Portland?” He said he was and for us to hop in. His boy was in the Navy and was supposed to come into Bremerton, but for some reason the ship had changed the time and his son wasn’t there yet. He would arrive on a different date. He was disappointed, but when he came by Ft. Lewis, he said I might as well bring someone else son home. I asked when we got to Longview if he could let me out there and he asked where I lived. I said I lived in Columbia City. He said he knew where that was, and he could go through Columbia City on the way to Portland, and let me out there. I thanked him for going out of his way. When we got to Columbia City, I told him to drop me off at the bridge. He said he would cross the bridge and take me right home. When he came to the alley going into my folk’s house, I said to drop me there because I wanted to walk in. He said OK and I thanked him again for his hospitality, and I told my two buddies good by. The reason I wanted to walk in was that I left for the Army nearly four years before and I wanted to see if my dog still would know me. I walked up the alley about half way and here he came barking. I stopped and said, “What are you barking at me for. Don’t you know me, Wimpy?” He stopped and looked at me, not sure what to think. I said, “Come here and say hello to me.” Then he came running and jumped all over me, crying. It surprised me that he knew me. I think first he sensed it but couldn’t believe it until I squaffed down and started talking to him. I got up to the house and my mother couldn’t believe it either. She hollered at my dad and said come see who is here. He came in and saw me. He grabbed me and started to cry.

This is starting a new chapter in my life. I didn’t do anything for about a month. One day I went into St. Helens, and the owner of the Pool Hall and Card Room, John Schmidle asked me if I was ready to go to work. I said for you, and he said yes, you can work days. I said, "OK, when do I start.” He said tomorrow, and I said good enough. I had some sad news, learning that two of my friends from Columbia City had been killed in the war, Kenny Euirich and Dale Heland. They were both younger than me by three or four years. In Columbia City, the older ones always looked after the younger ones. I felt bad that I wasn’t there for them.

I worked for John Schmidle for about a year and then had a chance to go into the tavern business on my own, and took the chance. I got married the first time about the same time I went into the tavern business. My wife’s name was Ann. We ran the tavern, “Carl’s Place”, for about four years, and then sold it. I went back to work at the sawmill in St. Helens. I worked there about four years and then they shut the night shift down and I was laid off. I didn’t do anything for a while, and then had a chance to buy the Klondike Tavern and Card Room, on the waterfront in downtown St. Helens. We ran that for twenty years and then sold it. Two years later my wife Ann, died suddenly of a heart attack. That ended that part of my life until I met Charlotte. My first wife had collected dolls, and I decided to sell them. Charlotte went to the antique store all the time, and she collected dolls also. Gracie, who runs the antique store, told her to come see me, that I was selling dolls. I showed her the dolls I had, and she bought two dolls from me. A couple of friends came along and said they were going to a play at the Condon Grade School, and if I could find a partner they had two more tickets. I said I would let them know, but I didn’t know anyone to go with me. I was thinking about Mrs. Jensen and I knew she was a widow because she had been married to Larry Jensen. I thought why not ask her, she seemed like a nice Iady. I called her and she said she didn’t know, but she would let me know. I Iater found out that she had called her mother and her daughter, asking their opinion if she should go or not. I guess they both told her to go for it, since she called me and said she would go with my friends and me. We had a nice evening. I noticed a lot of her lady friends kept walking by our table and saying "Hello Charlotte.” I guess they were sizing me up, or jealous, or whatever. After a few days, Charlotte called me and asked if I would like to come to her house on the Fourth of July. I said I would by happy to. We had a wonderful Fourth of July party and I met a lot of her friends and relatives, and her three sons. I didn’t meet her daughter or her mother until later on. I think maybe some of them thought there was something going on between Charlotte and 1. They could have been right. I knew I liked her a lot, but I hadn’t said anything about it to Charlotte until one day she came to look at my dolls again. She kept looking at two special ones, and saying that I wanted too much money for them. Finally I said to her, “Well if you would marry me you would get all the dolls for nothing.” She was pretty still for a while and then said she would have to think it over. I said you could talk it over with your mother and daughter and sons. Then you can give me your answer. She said, “Are you serious?” I said, "Yes, you think it over and give me the answer.” I kept my fingers crossed. I really and truly loved her right from the start, but I didn’t want to scare her off.

The next time I saw her she started off with we can’t get married until Ken and Jeanie get married. I said is that a yes, and she said it was. We set the date for three months after they got married. Now we have been married twenty-five years, never once regretting it. We did a lot of traveling, doing bus tours. We had lots in common. She graduated in 1938, in Clatskanie, and I graduated the same year in St. Helens. I joined her collecting dolls at antique shows, flea markets, and doll shows. We still have a large collection. We go to all our class reunions in both St. Helens and Clatskanie.

A strange thing happened in 1988. The phone rang and Charlotte answered it and said it was for me. A man said, “Carl Sigler?" and I said, “Yes.” He asked if I remembered a Nazi flag in Bologna, Italy, and lots of men signing it. I said I did and I even have a picture of it. I asked why he was asking all these questions, and he said he should have told me first. His name was Mike Gray, and he live in Dover, Delaware. He was 29 years old and collected World War II memorabilia. He was at a flea market in Carlisle, PA, and spotted a German swastika flag hanging on the wall. His interest grew when he saw there were a lot of names of Gl’s from the 34th Division that had signed it in Bologna in 1945, and he knew that he was going to have to find some of them. He started investigating through the 34th Division reunions and found a few names. One person was active in the reunions and his name was Ed Ruple. He asked if I knew him, and I said he was my best friend. I told him that we worked together, drank together, and cook together. He said the he would tell Ed that he had found me. I asked him if he would like some pictures, and he said he would. I had copies made and sent to him. I thanked him very much for his caring. I hadn’t seen or heard from anyone from the 34th Division for 45 years. Mike said he would put me in touch with some of them.

About two days later, Charlotte answered the phone and said it was for me. A voice said, “Hello Carl, Eddie Ruple here.” I said, “Eddie Ruple, I thought I would never hear you say that again.” Affer 45 years, we talked for awhile, and finally I said give me your address so I can write you and fill you in on the last 45 years, and you can do the same. We had too much to tell to do it on the telephone. I began to write to several of the men I knew and sent them copies of pictures I had taken. I had my camera ever since i went into the Army. The only thing, taking pictures was limited because we couldn’t get film. My mother sent me some film but it was difficult for her to get it also.

The first person I saw was Roman Hicks, a fellow cook from Georgia. His daughter lives in central Washington. He and his wife came out in their motor home to visit her, and they called to find out how to get to our place. He hadn’t changed much, and I knew him right away. I convinced them that affer 45 years, the least they could do is stay overnight. They did, and the next morning they were on their way. We had a nice visit.

The next one up was Eddie Ruple, wanting to know if he and his wife could fly out and stay a few days. I said to just tell me what day and time they would be in Portland and we would bring them home. They came, and Charlotte said, “Will you know them at the airport?” I said, “Immediately!” We watched people coming off the plane and when they came into view I knew them right away. There were a few bear hugs, and then we met his wife, Cleo, and they met Charlotte. They were here for a week and we never ran out of something to talk about. Cleo and Charlotte hit if off and became friends. Eddie and I sat on the front porch until midnight every night, drinking beer and trying to make up for 45 years. We took them on a couple of trips, one to Mt. St. Helens to see all the damage done on the eruption. The other trip was to Seaside. Cleo’s brother-in-law is interested in anything concerning Lewis and Clark. We took them there so she could take pictures at the turn around, the end of Lewis and Clark’s trip. Before we knew it, the week was gone, and we were taking them back to the airport. What a sad day that was. Good bys and lots of hugs, and then a lonely trip back home.

We still had lots of letters back and forth the next couple of years. Then Eddie wrote that they were planning a reunion of six or seven men from Company A, to be held in Myrtle Beach, SC. We decided we would go. We went to Ed and Cleo’s in Yorktown, VA. We stayed with them two days, and then they took us to Myrtle Beach, where we would meet up with the others. There was supposed to be seven of us, plus Mike Gray, the one who had found the German flag. The one from Carbondale, PA, and Mike Gray didn’t make it. That leff six of us, Eddie Ruple from Yorktown, VA; Carl Sigler from St. Helens, OR; Roman Hicks from Eatonton, GA; Ben Mitchell from Sumter, SC; John Hergenroder from Sanford, NC; Joe Likens from Greenville, SC, and all of our wives. We all stayed at the Days Inn Seaside for four days. On the fiffh day we drove back to Yorktown.

While we were at the Beach, I got up early every morning and walked down the beach about a mile and back to the restaurant and took coffee to Ed and Cleo to get them started, and then down to breakfast. The days were warm so Charlotte took off her shoes and waded in the Atlantic for the first time, reporting that the Pacific was colder. The guys just lounged around telling stories and drinking beer. We really did have lots of stories to tell each other.

When Joe Aikens called me at home, the first thing he asked was if I still had his wristwatch. I said I didn’t, and I didn’t have any idea what had happened to it. Joe was the sergeant who picked up Shelly Wall and me at the replacement depot and took us back to our outfit. Later, when I was litter bearing, we got a call for a wounded Gl, and when we got there it was Joe. When we loaded him onto a jeep to take him to the forward aid station, he did give me his watch to keep for him. That was the last time I saw him until this reunion. I really don’t know what happened to his watch. I told Charlotte when we left for the reunion that I have a pocket watch that I had taken from a German when we Jaybirds went on a foray and took all those prisoners. I gave it to Joe, and he thanked me. Later on, his wife told us that he was really tickled with it, and kept looking at it. So that got me off the hook for losing his watch.

Our last night at Myrtle Beach, we all went to the Dixie Stampede at the Dixie Belle Saloon. The only saloon that only serves nonalcoholic drinks. We went to the arena where they served dinner, creamy vegetable soup, whole roasted chicken, hickory smoked ribs, corn on the cob, twice baked potato, biscuits, apple turnovers, coffee, tea, or Pepsi. All this to eat while the show in the arena was going on. The show was all horse races, trick riding, and western shootouts. As soon as the show was over, we went back to the hotel. Tomorrow would be goodbyes, with lots of hugs and tears, and Ed, Cleo, Charlotte, and I will head back to Virginia. We got back that night to Ed and Cleo’s and the next day they showed us around Yorktown. The following day we flew from Richmond back to Portland. What a time we had with all these people and their Southern Hospitality, but now we have to go honne. More hugs and tears. When we got home, it was good to see smiling face waiting for us. Ken, Jeanie, and Marcus had come to pick us up and take us home. We spent the night with them, where we had left our car. The next day we loaded up gnd went home. What a trip, but nice to get back home and rest up.

Mike Gray never showed up in Myrtle Beach, and nobody has heard from him since (very strange).

This is the end of the story of my life before and after World War II. I still keep in touch with Ed Rupie by mail and telephone.

Provided by Carl Sigler
83 years old, 2003

Documents

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Photographs

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Transcripts


Enlistment

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Regalia

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