Second World War: 83rd Infantry Division

Veteran of the 83rd Infantry Division in the Second World War talks about his experiences at St. Malo, France, and a tree carving he made.

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During the Second World War, my unit entered combat East of St. Lo, France. There was a colonel at the fortress of St. Malo called the "mad colonel" who didn't want to surrender, and to the east were 20,000 armed German soldiers who didn't want to surrender either. That is, they didn't want to until the 83rd Division, my division, came along. 

Col. Von Aubock was the defiant commander who decided to hold out. For a while it looked as if he would, but the

"Thunderbolt" Division laid siege to his stronghold and changed his mind for him. In that battle I caught a lump of exploded shell in the right knee. It was buried in the bone more than a flesh wound - so I had to go over to England for proper treatment.

In England I was located at a place named Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. During my recuperation period I walked about the grounds at Ragley. One day I used my Scout knife to carve

"U.S.A., R.A.J., 1944" in a tree some distance from the main building used as a hospital by U.S. medics.

I must have done a good job of carving, because on June I5, 1987, I was invited by the Marquess of Hertford, the Lord of Ragley Hall, to come to Warwickshire for a ceremonial removal of that tree because it had become diseased. Forty- three years after I had recuperated in the medical center of Ragley Hall, I was invited by the owner, Lord Hugh Edward Seymour, Marquess of Hertford, to come spend a day with him.

Robert A. Johnson
McCain, North Carolina

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.