Woodbury County

Marvin Jens Petersen





Marvin Jens Petersen was born 18 October 1918, rural Danbury, to Jens C and Luella M (Strackbein) Petersen. Siblings are Robert, Lester, and Benjamin.
Marvin attended rural country schools in rural Morgan Township.

Marvin married Roberta Lewis Hamann, 6 March 1947, in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Roberta had a child Janice by her first husband, Alfred Hamann. He was killed in France. Marvin and Roberta had two children, Byron and Rhonda.

Marvin was inducted at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 3rd of June 1942.

Marvin writes, “I did not keep any diary of my army days, but I am going to write about things that will come back to me.

“I do not know what date my first notice came that I was to report for Service. But I was selected to report in February 1942.

“My father asked me if I would stay out of the service to help him farm, plus I was farming 50/50 with him on the 160 acres that Benny had, where Benjie now lives if he could get me off. At that time there was a draft board in each county. I told him I would stay home 90 days to help him get his spring crops in, if he wanted to try for that. I told father if I didn’t go they would go after Robert right away anyway. I thought just as well start with me. The draft board granted me the ninety days, young fellows that were married, and had a business or farming got out quite easily, as in my case they would grant 30, 60 or 90 days to help in the spring or fall.

“I always though I was inducted on June 2nd, but looking at my discharge paper, I was inducted on June 3rd in Leavenworth, Kansas. I left home the morning of June 2nd, and was bussed to Leavenworth, along with
Tom Craig, Tom Cunningham, Chester ‘Chet’ Spear and myself from Anthon.

“From Leavenworth a whole bus load of all northern boys went to Camp Bowie, Texas (center of Texas). We all were sent to 156th Army Division. It was a Louisiana National Guard. Of us Anthon boys, Chet and myself went to this camp. I was placed in Company C, Chet into Company M. But we never saw each other again until we were civilians back home.

“The army was filling the division to full strength for overseas shipment. Before 4 July 1942, the division was alerted to be moved out, but no orders as to where. All we new fellows were from the north and because of our move out orders we did not get any basic training. Had to stay close to headquarters in case of move out orders came.

“All the original southern boys had had a lot of basic training. I was assigned to a mortar, and was assistant gunner.

“Late August 1942, orders came to pack up, but nobody knew where to. We boarded a train, the engine was a coal burner, our coaches were not air conditioned, did not have that in those days. We had to have the windows open to get fresh air, as it was hot that time of year, and the black smoke from the engine got into our coaches. Before we got to our destination we were black and filthy. As I remember traveling north, we came through Ottumwa, Iowa, and I remember going through Pennsylvania passing through Harrisburg.

“The countryside through and around Harrisburg was very beautiful grass and crops were very green as well as timber which there was quite a bit of. I could see a lot of dairying in this part of Pennsylvania. Buildings were well kept, really beautiful.

Finally reached our destination that was Fort Dix, New Jersey. The first thing everyone wanted was a shower, even though the water was very cold. It was the best shower most of us ever had. Do not remember how long we were in Fort Dix. All had to have another physical, the doctor asked me how I ever got in the Army, as he said I had a cyst on my tailbone, and asked if it ever bothered me. I told him it as never bothered me, and I did not know I had one, and if I do it has never bothered me to this day.

“The ship we boarded was called a liberty ship. They were not so long. They were built to transport soldiers and equipment.

“Because they were not very long they were very rough, they were not long enough to ride two or more swells. Swells are waves. Larger ships ride more smoothly, as they ride more swells at a time. We traveled in a convoy because of German submarines. There were battle ships in our convoy as well as aircraft. It was said we were not far off the Canadian coast, but never near enough to ever see land. We went up near Greenland, then near Iceland, down to England. One day on the ship orders from Company Headquarters there would be a meeting at a certain hour. Orders were changed to a new time, then changed again, maybe more. The last changed I did not get, so I was called A.W.O.L., cause I was not there. For that I got K.P., washed dishes, peeled potatoes, etc. Arriving in England, after a thirteen day ship ride, we landed in Shouthhampton. Again, I believe we rode the train to Eversham that was about 90 miles north of London. Then on truck to our camp which was Stow on the wall. There we did some thinking and guard duty, nearby was a large camp that was built for Prisoners of War.

“After D-day, we found out what we were there for. A German prisoner were brought in by the truck loads. Most of these were Mongolians. The Germans had put them on the front lines.

“Long before D-Day, I was assigned to Company C Motor pool, drove mostly Jeeps for quite sometime, then was put on GMC 2 1/2 ton trucks. While on the Jeep, we had lots of spare time, so we had to keep our vehicle spotless, motor and under carriage as well.

“General Eisenhower even came through the camp for inspection including the motor pool, each driver had to stand by his vehicle with the hood up so they could see the cleanliness of the motors.

“I was assigned to a British car that was a right hand drive as in England. You drive on the left side of the road. I was chauffer for the Company Colonel until going down the road one day. I was about to pass, when the Colonel hollered at me that there was a car coming. He did not fire me in person, but I did not drive his car anymore.

“After the war was over in Italy and well into France, we moved several times. First into France, we set up camp several items between Normandy beachhead and Paris, finally we did move into Paris. We lived in the nearest building nearest the Eiffel Tower. At the time, I was driving mostly Jeeps again. Hauling guards to buildings that were full of German possessions, one building was several stories tall and it was full of cognac. When I would pick up guards from this building, each guard had a bottle or more of liquor.
This one time, a one horse shay was coming, crossing my path. I thought I had the right of way, and I guess he thought the right away was his. His shaves hooked by Jeep top hangers and my top got pulled off. Bad thing was there were several fifths of booze in the Jeep. But everything went off pretty well. The only thing said was what the Frenchman said, and I was glad I could not understand him. Also made many trips on Champs Elysees and around the Arch De Triumph. American artillery was going
over our heads when we were in Paris. Another thing I remember in Paris was a guard unit in the city. They were unloading train loads of American supplies, and they helped themselves to many articles, especially cigarettes, and sell these things to French civilians.

“Then we moved along the coast of Cherbourg and was guarding the coast as Germans would sneak over from Jersey and Gurnsey islands at night, and do what harm they could to our equipment. Then one night a German officer was caught and he shot himself with his pistol crossway through his head just below the eyes. We were not killed by this sneak attack. I was the Jeep driver that hauled him to a medical station. There were guards along the trip. This officer was still alive when we got him there. Never heard anymore about him.

“Also here I had to stand guard one night. Sergeant of the Guard was supposed to take guards to their post, but we were short of manpower that night. So each man had to go out on his own. The trail to my post was in timberland and under trees on a dark night. You can’t see a thing, as I was walking along the trail, there was a turn to the right. It was so dark I missed the turn and went straight through a barb wire entanglement. I fell through and on this other side, knew there were mines and booby traps. I did work myself back to the right side, and did make it to my guard post.

“Now, as we start our journey home, we load out at Amsterdam, Belgium. Back on a Liberty Ship, and up and down on the waves. I was fortunate enough, both trips coming and going, I was only sick one day. I saw one fellow sitting on the toilet and throwing up in another stool. Believe me he was seasick.

“As we neared Boston, we ran into a heavy storm, it was said they turned the Ship to go with the wind not using the motor. Did not want the wind hitting it sideways. That delayed us three days from landing in Boston as we were suppose to, the whole trip coming home again was thirteen days. Then from Boston to Chicago, this was in November 1945. We had Thanksgiving dinner on the train going through Ohio. I was discharged out of Fort Sheridan, Illinois (Chicago), 27 November 1945.

“As we cannot locate my original Discharge Certificate, I do have my discharge recorded in the Courthouse. I went to Sioux City to get a copy that I am enclosing. But looking at my discharge certificate, my days going to Europe and returning do not jive with my remembrance of my trips, days vary some.

“One other remembrance was a fellow and myself had film we wanted developed, we took them to a small town in Belgium. Course, they are French speaking people, and we were having a bad time explaining what we
wanted. The girl asked if we spoke Flemmish, we both answered no. After a while I asked her to speak Flemmish, which she did and to our surprise it was the same as our low German, which we both could speak. The other fellow with me was from Wisconsin.”

Submitted by Marvin Petersen