Corporal Bertrand Landry
60mm Mortar Crewman
Mortar Platoon, C Company, 141st Infantry Regiment
Born in 1919, Corporal Bertrand “Butsy” Landry grew up amongst the bayous of small-town life in Iberia Parish, Louisiana. The son of a local printer, Bertrand spent a few years in school before starting his career as a mechanic and auto repairman fixing up cars, boats, and whatever else needed fixing in the growing town of New Iberia. In 1940, however, he set off on a new path and decided to join the Army, settling comfortably in Bexar, Texas as a member of C Company, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division. Dealing with the Texas dry heat instead of the humidity of his swampy home Parish, Butsy spent his days learning the ropes of military life, hearing the news of growing hostilities across the globe from the barracks radio. As the army was preparing his discharge papers, having served a year in the company, news came that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and the nation was now at war. That discharge would have to wait.
The already mobilized 36th ID now began equipping and preparing its men for combat. Over the course of the next two years, the division underwent intensive training as it bolstered its ranks. Butsy was one of the few non-native soldiers in the division at the outbreak of the war but before long he was joined by men of every other state. At this time Butsy received specialized training that would carry him through the whole war as a gunner on a 60mm mortar team for the company’s mortar platoon. As a 60mm mortarman Butsy was never far from the fighting, firing in support of infantry operations going on directly in front of him. Thankfully he and the division got plenty of practice in three different sets of Army maneuvers, the first for the Texas National Guard in 1940, the 1941 Louisiana maneuvers back on his home turf, and finally at Camp Blanding, Florida in 1942. Throughout these training periods, Butsy and his team became a crack mortar team and developed their skills to support their comrades in the days to come.
Butsy and the division left New York harbor on 1 April 1943 making their way to Oran, North Africa. For the months immediately following the division received even further specialized training for the Mediterranean combat theater, particularly looking at amphibious assault tactics. On 9 September the many years of hard preparation finally paid off as Butsy and C Company landed on Salerno’s dark, sandy beaches around 0330 in the morning. While the first waves landed safely, by the third the Germans realized what was going on and began a full-scale attack against the invading allied forces. Artillery batteries opened up on the exposed T-Patchers and Butsy’s company was cut off from the 2nd battalion by a German counterattack spearheaded by Panzer IVs. The 1st battalion had been sent to secure a German rail line past a large flatland characterized by a drainage ditch. The flat terrain turned into a deathtrap, however, as German armor continually made its way to pound the GIs. As the promised howitzers had failed to land, Butsy’s mortar team was one of the only supporting fire units available and the team found itself launching round after round to hold the line. Eventually, enough support made it to the beach that C Company was able to secure its position and began pushing the German forces off the beach. For Butsy and his team, it was truly a baptism of fire.
The 141st continued the drive into Europe despite sustaining over 4,000 casualties in its first engagement. The next large bout of action came in November as the division was sent to clear the village of San Pietro from German forces. The battle was rough and the mountainous terrain meant mortars played an ever more critical role. In spite of the terrible weather and constant bombardments, the 141st held strong and secured their objectives. The division continued pushing up through Italy, supporting the 34th ID at Cassino and suffering major casualties at the infamous battle at the Rapido (Gari) River that January. C Company was just one of the many 141st IR units who suffered great casualties at the river, with rubber boats collapsing and German mortar firing tearing apart any GIs who made it across to the barren shore. Butsy likely attempted to support what he could but the utter confusion and chaos of the situation found the T-Patchers mostly ineffective in doing any real damage to their German enemies. Thankfully he was able to make it out of the engagement unscathed unlike many of his comrades.
Suffering severe casualties, the 141st was pulled off the line with the division in March to recoup and gather itself in preparation for further action. On 22 May 1944, Butsy and his company made their way onto the beaches at Anzio to continue filling the new allied front pushing further north. At this point, it appears Butsy got sick and had to spend a week or two in a field hospital to recover, narrowly missing the bloody fighting at Velletri in the opening days of June. A few days after the fighting Butsy rejoined the company to see the liberation of Rome and a brief period of rest. It didn’t last long though and less than a week later the regiment found itself mopping up severe German counterattacks near the small town of Magliano. At first thought to be lightly defended roadblocks, the Germans had actually set up a series of heavily armed ambushes for the GIs and several days of sharp fighting broke out as the T Patchers sought to solidify the hilly countryside. During one of these engagements, Butsy’s mortar team was spotted by German riflemen and one lucky shot of 8mm tore through his left foot, severing his tendons and tearing apart the flesh. Although the wound wasn’t life-threatening, medics had to evacuate him to the aid station, likely gripping his prayer beads in distress. Unfortunately, the wound was serious enough that the doctors could not save most of his foot and it was cut off at the ankle. This proved the end of his army career and no less than two months later he was back in the United States on the path to recovery and recuperation.
For his wound in action, Butsy received the Purple Heart Medal while sitting at Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. While there he became part of a special group of disabled GIs to undergo a series of exams and lessons to teach wounded soldiers how to once again operate cars. Relearning the steps with only a stump and his right foot, Butsy passed and was re-granted his license in January of 1945. A few months after he was officially discharged from the US Army on a pension and returned home to his wife and family in New Iberia. Going back to his mechanical work, for the most part, he later helped to open a seafood restaurant with his wife which remains standing to this day, never letting his army wound keep him down.