Mason City Globe-Gazette

Mason City, IA

17 Nov 1944





Correspondent Chats With Clarksville GI

(Iowa Daily Press Ware Correspondent)

With the 5th Army in Italy (IDPA) -- Hundreds of American airplanes, heavies in formations and fighter divers singly, were bombing nazi positions through bursts of white and black flak in the mountains of North Italy.

American artillery of all calibers from emplacements and tanks from a wide area were hurling streams of shells at enemy targets with some returns.

American infantrymen were pushing over rocks and through trees up slopes to dislodge desperately fighting jerries.

American ambulances were operating all over the zone.

On a high, curved trail from where I could get a good view of the raging action I came upon a group of combat engineers, all of whom save one, were in and on the shelter side of a stone building.

That one and I engage in conversation about the situation.

A screaming, ripping sound, menacingly close to our heads, impelled us to hit the ground face down, flat and full length with lightening speed.

A nazi shell exploded in rocks a short distance away.

"That was close," he grinned as we got to our feet.

"Yes," I agreed and then asked "What is your home state?"

"Iowa, and I wish I was there." was the reply.

He was Pvt. Howard Schlafke, Jewell, who operated a filling station before he joined the army 26 months ago. He had been overseas 6 months. His brother, Cpl. Vernon Schlafke, left New York recently, destination unknown to him, he said.

Sgt. Tom McRae, of Atlanta, Ga., a writer and Stanley Meltzoff, of New York City, an artist on The Stars and Stripes, and Pvt. Clyde Foster of Cleveland, Ohio, as jeep driver, were with me, on this jaunt.

Shortly afterward we arrived at a battalion aid station, where wounded Yanks and nazis were being brought.

Several doughboys were guarding 28 jerries they had captured. One of the captives in a camouflaged uniform was the object of dark looks and choice muttered words from some of the captors and several GI onlookers who had learned he had been a sniper.

Another young nazi with red hair and fuzzy red beard smiled in a friendly manner at an armed Yank and men who were standing near him and suddenly handed us each a small black whistle of the kind sergeants use.

Inside the stone structure 3 officers and enlisted medics were preparing casualties for transportation to evacuation hospitals. The victims of explosives and machine gun and rifle bullets were on stretchers or sitting in chairs depending on the extent and nature of their injuries. Of 2 in nazi uniforms - one a German, looked old enough to be a grandfather, the other was a Polish youth, who said he had been taken from a concentration camp and forced to fight.

Enroute to another sector we passed hundreds of mules laden with food, munitions and other supplies for Yanks at the front, being led by Italians attached to the American army. The animals go into places which jeeps can't. Mountain goats would be even more valuable, one officer said.

At a command post I participated in an Iowa "conversation", when after GI's heard I was looking for Iowans, 5 members of Pvt. Schlafke's outfit identified themselves as Hawkeyes. They were:

Sgt. Pete Sinram, Clarksville; T/4 Ward Harris, Jr., Shell Rock; T/5 Elmer Van Sickle, Webster City and Pfcs. Joe Schuckert and Gilbert Ganszler, Dubuque. They said Platoon Sgt Richard Fliescher, Webster City, son of a minister, was also of their squad.

Harris' father was a World war I veteran and he as a brother, Pvt Bernard Harris, in the army air corps at Mobile, Ala.

Van Sickel has 5 brothers in service: Pfc. Kenneth, in England; Cpl. Charles, in Mississippi; Lester in the navy, and Leslie and Allen Van Sickle in the army in the states.

Sammy Goldstein, the famous International News photographer, told me that among the tank gunners he had "shot" that day was T/4 Dale Callaway, Eldora, Iowa.

I returned to press camp to learn by cable that on Oct. 11, I had become the grandfather of William Baker "Bill" Miles, Jr., born at West Helena, Ark. to the widow of my son, a second lieutenant and Liberator pilot, who was killed in action over Elba, May 17.

Source: Mason City Globe-Gazette, November 17, 1944

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