United States Army
1942 to 1945
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is one of many American Veteran accounts published in The Sidney Sun-Telegraph. The writer, who is from Sidney, is conducting the interviews as part of the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.
From an early age, Russell Brady faced life challenges. His mother died of tuberculosis, his father was seriously injured in an accident, and he then lived in an orphanage. When America was attacked, he joined the U.S. Army.
Russell enlisted on Dec. 8, 1941. The armed services needed personnel badly. He signed up in the Akron, Colo., area and passed the physical exams, then went to Fort Logan, Colo., where he was further tested and provided uniforms, haircuts and new friends.
Russell completed five weeks of basic training at Fort Carson, Colo. He was hurried to the California/Arizona desert where he trained with troops headed to North Africa. He was assigned to an anti-artillery unit that was to be part of the 3rd U.S. Army. Soon, his unit boarded a troop train bound for the harbors in New York City. He had never been on a train before and this one was quite crowded. He said he stood up most of the trip, but it was an adventure for him.
After a couple days of rest, they were set to board a ship that would carry he and about 200 other men to the fight in North Africa. They got some extra days rest because the ship's propeller shaft was broken and had to be repaired FIRST!
Once underway (a Navy term) this trip was to last 17 days. The trip was long because of the zig-zag route aimed at avoiding submarine surveillance or attack. The ship was a fairly small one for such a long trip. Not most, but everyone aboard got sick. Finally, they got their "sea legs" and could continue.
As they drew closer to land, he noticed the white building near the port of Oran. They mostly had red roofs. As they got to the port, pretty changed to real - the Germans had sunk many ships in the harbor. There was much scrambling to unload and get to an assembly area. Brady was shot. He suffered a grazing wound to the left shoulder. There was a veterinarian in his unit who patched him up, put his arm in a sling, and they continued on.
The unit had to get out of Oran and on to their assigned point. They were in truck transports, headed inland on a main road. Soon, their long convoy stopped. All traffic was directed to pull off the road and the men were ordered out of their vehicles and stand at attention. Salute when the VIP passed by.
Russell stood the line, left arm in a sling, holding his M-1 rifle vertical with his right hand. The VIP was Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. As he passed Russell, he had his vehicle stop. He looked at Russell and said, "It's OK, soldier, carry on."
The anti-artillery unit was attached to the Third Army commanded by MG George Patton. The tank and infantry battle was designed to keep the Nazi forces from gaining a foothold in North Africa. Many forms of firepower were used. Since there wasn't so much enemy aircraft in their area, Russell's group used their anti-aircraft weapons to fire horizontally. They were mounted to a half-track. He said they took out two German tanks.
As U.S. forces moved east and pushed the enemy out from Tunisia, the battles weren't over. Brady's next battles were in Sicily for more tank/infantry fighting, then on to Italy.
In Italy, his group (now a 55mm artillery unit) attacked and seized an abbey. Rather than providing a place for contemplation, meditation, and worship, this one was a producer of German made "buzz bombs." Buzz bombs were actually a forerunner of modern day drones. They were propeller driven, guided bombs that could follow a target. They were the primary threat to the "Red Ball Express" which carried the logistic load to the front.
In Italy, his unit had firepower by way of a jeep that had been outfitted with twin 50 cal machine guns. It was quite an effective piece of offensive equipment, but needed speed to get away from opposing fires.
As Allied Forces liberated Italy, Brady's next destination was southern France. Here, he claimed to be the first soldier off their Landing Ship –Tanks. His unit was greeted by a Frenchman who presented them with champagne, as a show of gratitude.
During the time in Southern France, the unit got a chance to rest, have their equipment fixed, and get ready for the next actions. Russell said he traded some of his things for a revolver. He thought this to be a good decision and weapon. He obtained a holster for it. He carried it and used it until leaving Europe.
At the time, many of his peers had obtained German semi-automatic pistols. They were a handy item as well. However, in a worst case scenario, if they were overrun by the enemy and they had enemy pistols in their possession, it meant a death sentence to the holder.
In time, the rested unit moved north, toward Belgium. In early December 1944, the largest land battle of World War II (involving the U.S. forces) began. German forces sent divisions of tanks and infantry to confront and destroy our forces in the Ardennes Forrest. This hard-fought, bloody battle took more than its toll of death and destruction. The weather was overcast, freezing rain and snow. Allied air support couldn't help due to the weather. Finally, Patton's forces got to the fight. The cloudy sky broke, air support came in and..."game on" as they say. A lethal game at that.
Brady and his fellow soldiers were in the forest when a round from a German tank was shot. A nearby tree was hit and splintered. A fragment struck Brady in the abdomen. He yanked it out of himself but noticed he was leaking from it. He had no dressings so he plugged it with his fingers until he could get help. Ike was not around for this, but he did "carry on!"
During all this, he said that his pay was about $76 a month. His money was kept until he could claim it back in the U.S. The USO entertainers did not go to battle actions, but he heard of them. Frieda, a young lady from Akron, Colo., had befriended him before he went off to the Army and war. She was to become his main ray of hope during the war. She wrote him letters from home. He got the news, weather, and local information and mainly words that someone cared for and about him. He received several letters from her and kept every one of them in his shirt pockets. The letters were his source of morale.
Finally, after V.E. Day in May 1945, his unit was sent on to England. They were returned to the U.S. aboard the Queen Mary ocean liner that had been converted to a troop ship. From New York, he and others rode a train from there to Fort Carson, Colo.
He was paid his back pay which turned out to be over $1,600. He worked in the Sterling area for a time and did go back to see Frieda. He said that after he got there and the met, they talked all night. She had to tell him that she had found a man who would later graduate from medical school. Later, in Sterling, Russell found a young lady whom he was to marry.
Russell said that when he returned, he was discouraged and disillusioned about what he had seen and been involved with. Of the 184 enlisted men he went to war with, 12 returned. He learned that the Red Cross was asking for soldiers medals so they could give them to World War I veterans. He sent his medals to the Red Cross. He also said that he burned most of his papers.
There aren't so many of these soldiers still in our midst these days. Like every other subject, it was an honor and pleasure to interview him.
Good job, Sgt. Brady! Thank you for your service!