Staff Sergeant Jack R. Linaburg
Platoon Reconaissance, Rifleman
B Company, 387th Infantry Regiment, 87th Infantry Division
Jack R. Linaburg was born in 1926 in the town of Cumberland, Maryland, where he grew up and graduated high school in 1943. For a brief period after graduation he worked as a camera operator in his local cinema but in early 1944 was drafted for service in the U.S. Army. Unlike the rest of the articles on this website, we are fortunate enough to have an entire summary of Jack’s service written by himself in the latter years of his life. Rather than put together an independent article on Jack, I have decided to let him tell his story.
On March 25, 1944, I was inducted into the U.S.Army, departing Cumberland by B&O train en route to Fort Meade, Maryland, where I was assigned AS 33848475.
Following a week's induction training in early April 1944, I was transferred by rail to Fort McClellan, Alabama. The train actually passed through Cumberland and I saw dad's barbershop as we passed over the Baltimore Street crossing. We underwent 4 months of Infantry basic training, including 8 weeks of specialized communications/wireman School, learning how to climb poles and trees with climbing spurs and string telephone wires and received weekend passes to the small town of Anniston, Ala., where the only activities were movies and the Red Cross Service Club.
During 3 weeks of military maneuvers in Talladega National Forest, while dug in a pit with a field switchboard, lightning struck the regimental telephone line, killing the regimental switchboard operator. As I was on the battalion board, some 2 or 3 miles away from the lightning strike, I suffered only burns on my chest from the metal phone plate. During the Army maneuvers we were required to learn to drive the four main Army vehicles: the 2-ton canvas-covered truck, 1-ton weapons carrier, officer’s command car, and the infamous jeep. The jeep was the only one I actually drove under combat conditions, but after being assigned to the 9th A.A.F. coming out of the hospital, I drove all four.
After completing Basic Training, I received 10 days home leave, in August 1944. After which I traveled by train to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where I was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 347th Regiment, 87th (Golden Acorn) Infantry Division. During additional advanced training with the 87th, I qualified as an Expert/Sharpshooter on the M-1 rifle, Carbine, and B.A.R.
On October 13, 1944, the entire Division was shipped out by train to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. While awaiting the train, lying railside in South Carolina, I received a brief visit from Sgt. Red Burns, a friend of dad's. After 4 days at Camp Kilmer, receiving inoculations and physical exams, we embarked by rail to dockside New York and were loaded aboard the Queen Elizabeth. We sailed October 17, destination unknown.
On Oct. 22, 1944, having crossed the Atlantic Ocean solo, in 5 days without a protective convoy, we arrived at Gourock, Scotland, on the Firth of Clyde. The voyage, carrying the entire 15,000 man 87th Division, was uneventful even though we were a solitary ship with no protective convoy due simply to the speed of the Queen Elizabeth. My bunk was #6 in a stack of 11 and was so small I couldn't turn over. My nose was pushed up against the bunk above. We couldn't get to our barracks bag the entire trip to get a change of clothing, staying in the same uniform the entire trip. We had two awful meals a day, 6 A.M. and 6 P.M. We lived on candy bars. We disembarked in lighters and were put aboard a train, traveling south across Scotland and Northern England, to the midland village of Hale, Cheshire. We unloaded and marched through the town of Hale during the early hours of the morning, with the villagers hanging out their upstairs windows, asking what outfit we were.
We were quartered in abandoned civilian homes, some with bomb damage. I was assigned to a house named Waynefleet, with a large garden on Leicester Road in Hale. For several weeks, we underwent additional training in the vicinity of Ringway Airdrome, near Manchester. During this period I became acquainted with the Jack McWatt family, who lived at 3 Ashley Drive, Sale, Cheshire. I met Mrs. Elsie McWatt and her daughter, Enid, at the Hale Road Baptist Church. After the service, I shook hands with the minister, Rev. Robinson, and asked if there was a Service Club nearby, where I could buy lunch. He gave me directions, but the club was closed. Elsie and her daughter, who had overheard my conversation with the minister, asked if we would care to return home with them for lunch. We had to travel by bus, so I offered to pay the conductress the fare, which was Greek to me. She said ‘truppence ha'penny,’ so I handed her the equivalent of $20 sterling, and received back pockets full of the large English coppers in change. ‘Truppence ha'penny,’ meant three pence and a half-penny, for each of three fares.
At their home, I met Jack McWatt, the father, who worked at the Manchester Guardian, a famous newspaper, their son David, age 7, and another daughter Mavis, age 11. That first memorable lunch consisted of brussel sprouts, potatoes, kale all from their Victory garden. No Meat! And lots of hot tea. Each downstairs room had a small charcoal fireplace. I spent many pleasant off-duty hours in their home, overnighting at times, and the upstairs bedrooms had no heat at all. My first morning there, Elsie served me hot tea and toast in bed! At times I would take various things from our mess hall to the McWatts, such as spam, and give David the first orange he ever saw.
During this period I visited my first English pubs, The Bleeding Wolf and the Pelican. Twenty-nine years later, we revisited these same pubs with Doris and the McWatts, and have been back a number of times since.
During training in Cheshire, we had our meals in a quonset hut, and with no fresh milk, learned to drink and eat Army canned milk on cereal. Returning to quarters one dark and foggy night by bus from the McWatts under blackout conditions, the lady conductor walked down the center of the road with a shaded flashlight, to lead the driver in the fog. When I got off the bus I had to feel alongside the curbing to find the driveway entrance to my house.
In mid-November 1944 the 87th was shipped by train to the Port of Southampton and sailed by English Maritime Service to the Port of LeHavre, France. When we arrived in Metz, France I wanted to let Mom and Dad know where I was so I wrote a V-mail letter and did a bit of lying to get past the censors. Don Snyder, a neighborhood pal, had a cousin named John Metzger, who lived on Hanover Street in Cumberland, and who I knew was in the South Pacific. I wrote that I had met up with Don's cousin, unnamed, who lived on the street next to St. Patrick's Church. Checking with the Snyders, Dad learned Metzger was in the South Pacific, so I couldn't have met him in France. Dad got out the map of France, and after much studying, found Metz and figured out my hidden message. Upon disembarking we marched about 15 miles inland to a tented "Red Horse" assembly area near the village of Critot, France. During the night march we saw French citizens trying to trap cats and dogs because of being too hungry. While at this assembly area I visited my first French cafe and all they had to offer was cidre/cider.
We were loaded aboard French 40 & 8 railcars, (forty men or 8 horses) and traveled across northern France, passing through the town of Compiegne where I was later to spend 12 years in the 9th Air Force. I recognized the name Compiegne as the town where Germany signed the WWI Armistice with the Allies. Many times during my 9th AAF service I visited the Armistice Park in the Foret (Forest) de Compiegne and when Doris and I returned many years later we again visited the area, took photos, and actually toured the Railway Car where the WWI signing had taken place. In 1940, when France surrendered to Germany during the early stages. of WWII, Hitler forced the French Government to sign the surrender documents in the same railway car.
We were off-loaded in the Alsace-Lorraine area, trucked to the city of Metz, and quartered in military barracks. We were assigned to General George Patton's 3rd Army. After two days of getting our equipment in order and receiving our first "live" ammunition, we were marched and committed to our first combat action near the small town of Aachen, France, relieving elements of the 26th Infantry Division. This was near a tiny village of Zollingen, close to the town of Volklengin across the LaSarre River on the border of Germany. Here we endured our first German artillery barrage and it was devastating. We marched, dug foxholes, marched, dug more foxholes, and when possible, covered the holes with tree branches and dirt. We renewed our attack at daylight and made slow advances until dusk when we were pinned down by another heavy artillery barrage. It was during this barrage we lost our first casualty when a tree burst killed our platoon sergeant, Joe Gotkowski.
During the next few days, we renewed our attacks, capturing the small border villages of Mertzenwald and Obergailbach. During this attack, I lost two more good friends, Charlie Milazzo, from New York, and Ward Tefft, who was from Weeping Waters, Nebraska. Over the next few weeks or so the attacks were slow going due mostly to very bad weather and the miserable terrain. We did receive our first direct air support from the AAF when a squadron of P-47's strafed the German front lines. Another close friend, Nick Sampogna was killed during a night patrol.
Ray Pendleton, from Shootin Crick, North Carolina, and I were appointed platoon scouts, meaning we had the dubious honor of ranging 100 to 200 yards in front of the platoon when working our way through a forested area; the purpose being to locate the forward positions of the enemy. Early one morning a report reached battalion headquarters that a German patrol had infiltrated into C & D Company positions and had virtually wiped them out. Ray and I were sent out to investigate the report and found an enemy patrol had penetrated D Company's forward positions and heavy losses had been suffered but the Company was far from wiped out.
By this time information gathered from prisoners and civilians indicated that although well equipped, the enemy morale was low. All elements of the 347th were organized in position and prepared to continue their advance into Germany. One morning word was received from the Commanding General to consolidate our gains, and sit tight until further orders. We were to readjust and improve our defenses and make available a reserve for a counterattack. We were ordered to hold all advance positions then occupied. During the preceding weeks, the 347th Infantry had received our baptism of fire and had continually advanced against the enemy through some of the heaviest resistance of the entire war and had held all positions taken. The first to force entry across the German border.
One humorous incident, of which there were few, occurred in the middle of a dark, rainy night. We were aroused from our foxholes, told to form up in a line, 5 yards apart, because our kitchen unit had finally caught up to us with a hot meal. We did so and followed a kitchen guide through the mess line, holding out our mess kits. We could barely see the G.I.'s plopping the food in our kits, it was so dark and rainy. Getting back to our holes and lighting a candle we couldn't believe the mess in our mess kits. We had hotcakes, sausage, and syrup, and on top, roast beef, mashed potatoes, and gravy. What a mess, although it was hot! We had blundered right through our Co. B mess line, and right through Co. C's line. We were to get breakfast, while Co. C was getting supper. Some fun, but we ate it all!
When the kitchen unit couldn't catch up to us, which seemed like most of the time, our meals consisted mainly of standard Army rations. C-rations were medium-sized cans of hash, spaghetti, powdered eggs, meat, or baked beans. D- rations were a single bar of hard, thick chocolate, and K- rations were a waxed box containing a couple of hard candies, an envelope of either powdered cocoa, powdered lemonade, or coffee, a pack of sugar, 3-4 hard biscuits, 6 sheets of toilet paper, and a small can of one of the above mentioned C rations. Cold, it was almost inedible, but heated over a candle, barely palatable. Mostly, I made a thick soup from the cocoa and biscuits, and when heated, it was a good meal. When possible we would forage the area for edible food, mainly sugar beets, turnips, apples, and once in a while a chicken or a small deer, if we were lucky.
Early winter weather was miserable: cold rain, fog, wet snow, and lots of mud. Then a cold snap would hit and the mud would freeze and the snow would turn to an icy mess. Fox holes would get an inch or more of water and mud and when your wool clothes and blankets would get wet, they stayed wet for days. I wore 2 pairs of wool socks, and had another pair drying under each armpit, and another pair under my belt at midriff drying.
A tank battalion and 2 tank destroyer battalions joined our regiment for our assault on the Siegfried Line and the first villages within Germany to be captured. From captured prisoners, we found we were facing the German 37th SS Regiment. Our method of attack was marching fire, supported by tanks, if available. If enemy fire was too heavy we would hit the ground, crawl forward, and fire. Door-to-door fighting was the norm in the villages and towns, using hand grenades into windows and doors before trying to enter. Only in the late afternoon or evening would we dig in to consolidate and hold the ground captured during the day. Then we would dig our two-man foxholes and latrine slit trenches.
During the early stages of the Battle of the Bulge, which commenced on December 16, 1944, our local attacks were increased so as to capture as much German ground as possible prior to our being halted in place, pulled out of the line, and used as SHAEF reserve to augment the forces being moved to support the US regiments surrounded at Bastogne. Ultimately, the 87th was pulled back, reassembled, turned 90° north, and driven by truck 150 miles in terrible snows to accomplish the mission. It was during a final drive on the edge of the Buchwald Woods while acting as the first scout for the company, attempting to climb over a stone wall, I was wounded by an '88 shell that hit the base of the wall (18 December 1944). This was near the small village of Walsheim. A field medic treated my knee and shoulder, and after spending the night in a makeshift first-aid station in a chicken coop, I was transported by ambulance to a field hospital in Nancy, France, then a day later by ambulance to a General Hospital in Paris. I was wounded and evacuated from the combat area two days after the start of the Battle of the Bulge, which was further north in Luxemburg, and prior to the 87th being withdrawn from the southern line where they were sent north to assist in the relief of the siege of Bastogne. So, fortunately, I missed most of that particular battle where over 35% of the 87th Division was lost.
On my first night in this hospital I asked an orderly if he could organize a hot bath for me, my first in weeks. He said the only time there was hot water was during the small hours of the early morning. So he woke me, said he had a bath running, and helped me and my leg cast on crutches to the bathroom at the end of the ward. We found another G.I. removing his p.j.'s, preparing to jump into "my" bath. Explaining the situation, he stood back and waited his turn. During our conversation, with my one leg hanging over the edge of the tub, we found out we were from the same hometown, Cumberland. He turned out to be Sheldon Post, the son of the Mayor of Cumberland. This brief encounter made the local Evening Times.
I was then transferred by hospital plane (C-47) to England, arriving at a tented field hospital near Staffordshire. On Christmas Eve I was taken by wheelchair to a small village church for Christmas services, and the next day, Christmas 1944, was taken by hospital train to a General Hospital near Bamberbridge. There were Red Cross girls dressed as Santa Claus, passing out bags of candies, shaving articles, soap, etc., and singing carols. During recuperation in Lancashire County we were given weekend passes to Preston and Blackpool where due to the freezing weather I was introduced to "mulled" wine, simply putting a red hot poker into a copper mug of wine. It warmed you in a hurry. I missed the return bus one evening and had to walk the 3 miles back to the hospital on a gimpy leg.
While in the hospital in Staffordshire in England a nurse came into the ward one day and yelled for the Sergeant from Cumberland, Maryland. It was Angela Leo, who had lived in the 300 block of Frederick Street and had seen my records in the ward office. Her brother, Dick, and I had been friends for years. During our talk she found I had run a 16mm projector at Allegany High School, and said the hospital had a projector and some old movies but no one who could run the machine. So I was drafted and, in my wheelchair, ran movies for the various wards every afternoon and evening.
After six weeks of recuperation, I was given a "limited assignment" due to the leg wound and sent to a replacement depot at Litchfield, England. Eventually, I went by train, boat, and train, back to France where I was assigned to the 9th B.A.D.A. (base air depot area) 9th Army Air Force, located at Compiegne, France where I joined the Special Service Unit as a mobile motion picture operator. I had worked with 16 mm projectors in High School, and had a part time job at the Liberty Theatre in Cumberland, working with 35 mm projectors.
In Compiegne, I was first quartered in the Hotel Rond Royal, a posh tourist hotel in pre-war years, and then later in abandoned private homes. With a truck, or jeep, a 16 mm Bell & Howell projector, and a power generator, I visited many quartermaster companies located around the Compiegne area. I made many trips to Paris to return and obtain new movies from the Signal Corps Headquarters. In addition, I was also responsible for any U.S.O. shows that came through our area. Here I met many French and English actors, jugglers, acrobats, etc., and also re-met an Allegany High School music director, Jack Platt, who was directing an Air Force Jazz Band and touring France and Germany.
Once, during a day off while in Compiegne, I took one of my French workers, Michel, with me to visit 2 major WWI sites, Verdun and Chateau Thierry. The cemeteries were huge. On the return trip we did a little rabbit hunting with a .22 I took from Special Service and shot two fat rabbits which Madam Roger at the garden cottage fixed with frites, petit pois and Haricot Verde, so Louis Punch and I went over for supper with the Roger family. She said it was the first real meat they had in over a year.
I was once driving a jeep from Compiegne to Montdidier during the haying season and a cloud of chaff blew across the road and into my jeep, with the result of a straw sticking straight in against my eardrum. It was very painful, so I turned into the medical dispensary at the Chateau de Cuvilly and had the medical officer look at it. He refused to touch it and suggested I drive to Paris to find an ear specialist. No way! I went down to the kitchen, and got a cook friend of mine to get a pair of tweezers. I laid down on a kitchen table and, with a flashlight, he was able to remove it.
I was stationed here when VE day in Europe occurred on May 8, 1945. A weeklong celebration was held, and subsequent to the surrender by Germany, had the occasion to visit the "red schoolhouse" in Reims, France, where Hitler's representatives signed the surrender documents. I had this assignment for about 18 months. Some of the Army units I visited to run movies were located in Montdidier, Cuvilly, Pierrefonds, Senlis, and Beauvais, all of which we visited some 28 years later when I took Doris to the famous Palace at Pierrefonds, and took photos of her standing "inside" the huge fireplace in the great common room of the Castle. At that time, we also had huge 2-foot-long jambon et fromage (ham and cheese) sandwiches at a lakeside restaurant there.
My Special Service Unit built an outdoor theater in the garden of the Chateau de Compiegne in order to run outdoor movies in decent weather, and also a stage for the USO entertainers. I had an office in the Palais de Compiegne, which Napoleon had built for his paramour, Josephine. In 1973, when Doris and I returned to Compiegne for the first time, we stayed at the Palais Hotel, right next door to the Rond Royal, which was then a home for the elderly. While stationed here, I received a visit from my hometown buddy, Jim Simmons, who was en route home on a re-enlistment furlough, from Vienna to LeHavre, to catch a boat home. Jim carried home for me 3 souvenir pistols I had collected during my service and presented them to my dad who met him at the B & O station in Cumberland. The commander of our Special Service Unit was Captain McCorkle. Some other friends were Louis Punch from Louisiana, Harry Bogolub, Joe Chavinsky and Hank Devonshire from New Jersey, Vern Bowen, Harry Halterman, Gene Burnett, Herb Hoeker from Muskegon, Michigan, and Eddie Harris, a fantastic piano player. I also became close friends with a French family, the Rogers from Rollot, caretakers of the gardens at the Chateau. During this assignment, I also met two Cumberland natives, Harry Yeager, at a transient mess in Ollincourt, and Ken Racy at a Paris Red Cross Club.
During the visit of Jim Simmons, I was in Paris to pick up film when he arrived at the Red Cross Club in Compiegne. When I phoned my office from Paris, I was told a G.I. was waiting for me at the Red Cross Club. When I returned, a 2-hour trip, there was Jim stuffing himself with doughnuts and coffee, waiting for me. What a surprise! We put him up in a spare room in the house where we were staying, and he stayed for 3 days. I took him to the Airstrip to see my buddy, Joe Chavinsky, the cook, who fixed us a complete steak dinner with french fries and dessert.
In early May, 1946, having accrued enough points for combat service, medals earned, and time in service to obtain a discharge, I was moved by train across France and Western Germany, thru the Bavarian Alps, thru Heidelberg, and Hamburg to the North Sea port of Bremerhaven. On May 8, departed Bremerhaven on the S.S. Costa Rica Victory ship, (on which I later shipped tires for the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co.). Returning to the USA on the S.S. Costa Rica was a 9-day voyage. We could eat anytime we wanted with lots of real milk and ice cream, meat and vegetables. We came up on deck twice daily for exercise, and the ocean was so rough at times the waves appeared to be 30 to 40 feet over our heads, the next minute we were up on top of a wave, looking down at the seawater. We arrived at the port of Newark, New Jersey on May 17th, where we debarked and were trucked to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.
After a few days debriefing, I went by train to Fort Meade, Maryland, where I received an Honorable Discharge on May 21, 1946. I spent 2 years, 2 months, and 27 days in my Army career.
During my Military Service I participated in two WWII campaigns, the Rhineland and the Ardennes, spent 16 months in the occupation forces, attained the rank of Staff Sergeant, and earned 6 decorations including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Following his release from service Jack spent a few years with the 115th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Infantry Division during a stint in the National Guard before settling down. He went on to start a family and spend a long 40-year career with the International Division of the Kelly-Springfield Tire Company, traveling the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe before retiring as a manager in 1986. Earning a reputation for his business acumen, he became the company’s representative to the Rubber Export Association and even served two five-year terms on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Maryland District Council in Baltimore. In 1976 Jack and his wife returned to Europe in order to trace his path of service from France to Germany and the many spots he enjoyed while serving in limited duty with the 9th Air Force. He passed away amongst family and friends in his hometown on 30 November 2011.