The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Larry Nelson
For The Sun-Telegraph 

Veteran's History Project - Everett L. Kelley

 

Everett L. Kelley

Private First Class

U.S. Army

World War II

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is one of many American Veteran accounts published in The Sidney Sun-Telegraph. The writer, who is from Potter, is conducting the interviews as part of the Library of Congress' Veterans History Project.

Everett L. Kelley did his part in the effort to help bring down the Nazi regime in World War II.

At the tender age of 18, he knew the Selective Service would be after him. He made his way to the U.S. Army recruiter's office in Scottsbluff. He listened to what the man had to say, and followed the instructions as provided.

By this time in his life, he had new bride and soon, she would be "with child." He had worked some short-term jobs as a young man, but most businesses wouldn't hire him because they seemed to know that he would be going away to the war ... soon.

The recruiter sent young Everett and others to the Army Induction Center in Cheyenne, Wyo. It was a fairly brief train ride, but that was where they needed him to take a physical examination.

Soon, he was back on the return train, ready to go in the service. He was home for a few weeks, waiting orders and preparing himself and others for his departure.

Soon enough, he was on a train bound for Fort Logan, Colo. Once there, an Army truck/driver gathered him and several others to go to the Army base. He was treated to a good Army haircut, new clothes, and the awareness that he was to be a part of a large group of "replacements." They were to be ready to get on a troop train bound for a place called Camp Butner located in the northern part of North Carolina.

Camp Butner was the basic training installation where Everett was shaped into being a soldier. One thing that happens to every new soldier is that he/she gets inoculations for every imaginable illness. In this instance, some new people's bodies will react adversely.

That was the case with Everett. His skin began to react and blisters started showing up. The smallpox shot was the worst. Soon, Everett was on sick-call and was sent to the base medical facility for treatment. When that happens, the soldier is usually re-cycled to another group of trainees that is in the earlier stages of their work.

Once back in basic, he did plenty of marching and close-order drill; physical fitness work; rifle marksmanship; and customs and courtesies regarding the U.S. Army. He made lots of friends and did his share of time peeling potatoes and other KP chores.

On his first day at the rifle range, Everett was told to aim at the target down-range. He lined up the rifle, but didn't put the butt of the rifle in/on his shoulder pocket. As he fired the first round, the resulting recoil provided him a black eye. The shooting range instructor and the First Sergeant gave him specific instructions on how to avoid further injury!

The training was over in eight weeks and Everett was sent on to Fort Gordon, Ga. This was the site of advanced infantry training. It was an enhanced piece of basic training for him.

The men were being honed and tuned in to their immediate future. There had to be lots of troop questions and few answers. Where, when, how, etc. In some weeks, this part of the preparation was done.

Everett said that each month, the men had to report for pay. A Lieutenant was charged with making sure the men were paid. Everett made sure the allotment was taken out for his young family – and for savings. He received a net of $13.10 cash each time. It wasn't enough to pay for toiletries, but one made do.

Soon, the First Sergeant assembled the new graduates and made the announcements as to the future travel plans for the new soldiers. Everett was to go to Camp Shanks, N.Y.

This installation near the Hudson River served as an embarkation station for onward movement overseas. The men loaded onto the Queen Mary, an ocean liner that was converted to a troop ship. It took five days sailing to get to England. The u-boat threat was real so the troops had to endure the ship's zigzag movements that had to be taken to get them safely to the fight.

The Queen Mary landed in Ireland. The men were then transported to England. The travel took them through London and ended in the South Hampton area. There, they boarded an LST (landing ship –tanks or troops). The LST took the men to Le Havre, France. From there, the men were loaded onto boxcars, waiting nearby, and went by rail to central France. Next, the men were loaded onto U.S. Army six-by-six trucks and taken into Germany, to the front.

As the men off-loaded, they were assigned to various Platoon Sergeants. All this is happening so fast it would make one's head spin! Everett followed his new leader to a building that was in the midst of heavy gunfire.

The Platoon Sergeant had a radio so that he could keep in touch with his command. As Everett and the Platoon Sergeant stood assessing the situation, a mortar round hit the commander. He went down. Everett was thrown a few feet away by the concussion of the blast. He quickly returned to help the injured Sgt. He grabbed the radio to get help. When medics arrived, the Platoon Sergeant had already died of his injuries.

Time to re-group. Others arrived to take care of Everett and get him into a different situation. He had enough for the first day. In the ensuing days, the men of Company B, 94th Infantry Division, 301st Infantry, 3rd Army continued to march onward. They did not succeed in taking the next larger town, but soon, it was leveled by the tanks and men of the 10th U.S. Armor Division.

During some of this fighting, Everett took charge of several captured German soldiers. He moved them to areas of confinement. He found them to be kids, not wanting to be in the war.

It is now about December of 1944. The word was that Hitler decided to make one last push to save the Rhineland. It was time to line up the Panzers. Give them just enough fuel to last a few days, and head them toward the Ardennes Forest in Belgium/France/Luxemburg.

One goal was to get to the high ground. If your forces have this strategic location, things will be easier. The enemy forces knew that too. The high country was steep going and dangerous.

Everett and his fellow soldiers arrived at what seemed like the edge of the forest. The German tanks opened up with their 88 mm main guns. Everett's First Sergeant told the men not to worry, the shots were too high. The shots were just right to knock down trees onto the American forces. The men had little to no time to get foxholes completed. The answer was to throw blasting sticks into the ground. They would create a crater that could shelter the men while they dug deeper with entrenching tools. There were lots of craters made that night.

The men were being shelled and shot at through the night. Everett's foxhole mate took off his helmet, placed it on the tip of the rifle barrel and extended it upward. The helmet was shot off its perch.

It seemed to get colder by the minute. Everett knew he had lost feeling in his feet. They were beyond numb. He could feel very little. As the next morning approached, the unit First Sergeant yelled at the men to get out of their emplacements and head for another location. Everett needed assistance getting out of the foxhole. He needed some assistance getting to the next fighting position ... he didn't know if his feet were still with him.

There were lots of injured men awaiting attention at the medical tent. As many as possible were loaded onto a C-47 aircraft and flown to the medical station in Malvern Wells, England. Everett was in this group.

It took some time for his feet to return to some state of normal. As he was about to return to his unit, a Hospital NCO approached Everett and made him an offer: If you'll become our cook, you won't need to return to Germany.

Everett made the most of his new career. He worked the night shift, preparing food for incoming pilots and air crew as well as hospital staff and patients. During this time, the peace was made on both fronts. Everett stayed as long as needed until he was informed that it was time to re-deploy to the states.

This time, on the Queen Elizabeth, the trip took three days, landing in one of New York City's harbors. After a train trip to Fort Riley, Kan., he was mustered out of the Army and sent on towards home. He was fortunate to make connections and arrived in Scottsbluff early enough to surprise his wife and to meet his little girl.

Everett Kelley worked several jobs including grocery store staffing, delivery-truck driver, diner owner/manager, and over-the-road trucker. He used his GI Bill to finance flying lessons! He is a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans.

He serves on Kimball's Honor Guard, where he continues to serve veterans in death. He and his wife raised nine children and will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary soon.

Private First Class Everett Kelley, good job. Thank you for your service!

 

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