Norwich, Vermont Veteran Clinton Gardner’s D-Day Experience


The following post was originally written (not by me) and posted to the Dartmouth Library blog. I’m including the entirety of the post in hopes of spreading the good word about Mr. Gardner and his work during WWII.


On June 6, 1944, Clinton Gardner, Class of 1944, found himself digging a foxhole on Omaha Beach as part of the D-Day invasion of German occupied Europe. The landing area was already strewn with bodies and the Germans were raking the incoming allied forces with artillery and machine gun fire. Gardner, a Lieutenant in the artillery, was not about to move any further inland until the infantry made a hole in the German defenses, and that did not seem to be about to happen.

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Clint’s Battle Damaged M-1 Helmet w/ Hawley Liner

An incoming round suddenly exploded in front of him. His head snapped back and then a curtain of blood blinded him. In his memoir, D-Day and Beyond, Gardner recounts how he stood up and staggered toward two of his fellow officers wiping blood from his eyes. The two officers stared at him in horror. Then he reached up and felt his helmet. There was a gaping hole, large enough that he could get two hands into it. Gingerly he felt around and found that he could feel a soft, mushy surface that he assumed must be his brain. Sick and disoriented though he was, he managed to get his first aid kit out and pour sulfa powder into the hole and then stuff it full of gauze.

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A Letter Home

Unable to walk or speak properly, Gardner watched as his unit packed up and began to move inland, following the infantry who had suddenly begun to advance. The other officers told him that they would send medics back for him. He was soon alone on the beach with a handful of wounded and dying soldiers, all of whom would have been killed by German mortar fire had not a group of British troops happened along. The British moved the wounded Americans up the beach to a sheltered area among some rocks.

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Rutland Herald Article

After 23 hours wounded on the beach, a group of medics finally arrived and moved Gardner and the others to a field hospital in Vierville. There Gardner made the happy discovery that what he had felt through the gash in his helmet was not his brain, but badly lacerated scalp tissue. Though his skull was scarred, it was not broken. Getting the helmet off was another matter: it took three doctors and a fair amount of pulling and twisting as the edges had curled in and were imbedded in his scalp. Eventually Gardner was sent back to England to recover, but that was not the end of the war for him. Later he would find himself being bombed by friendly fire during Battle of the Bulge and still later he would serve as the American Commandant at Buchenwald following its liberation.

Gardner’s helmet remains, to this day, the most damaged helmet whose wearer survived his wounds.

To see Clint Gardner’s helmet or to read his letter home ask for MS-1109. A guide to the collection is available. To read his book, D-Day and Beyond, ask for Alumni G1728.

 

WWI 26th Division Chaplain Photo – Bloomfield, VT Native Arthur LeVeer in France, 1918


It’s always fun to sift through assorted boxes from my collection in search of new material to post here to PortraitofWar. In tonight’s case, I stumbled across a portrait shot of a WWI Catholic chaplain from my adopted home of Vermont!  With only 16,000 soldiers, marines and sailors during WWI, Vermont is a hard state to collect.

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102nd Infantry Regiment Chaplain Arthur J. LeVeer in 1918

Chaplain Arthur Joseph LaVeer was born along the Connecticut River in the Northeast Kingdom (a regional name) town of Bloomfield, Vermont on February 3rd, 1886. Commissioned as a 1st Lt. on August 22nd, 1918, LeVeer was quickly sent overseas to serve as a chaplain with the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th “Yankee Division.”

Identified chaplain photos are incredibly hard to find on the open market, and to find an example taken overseas showing a unit patch and chaplain insignia makes this an exciting acquisition. Father LeVeer served at St. Norbert’s Church in Hardwick for the remainder of his life; this is a spot that I’ve passed hundreds of times during my life without giving a second thought to the WWI history of the area.

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Arthur’s WWI Record

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Arthur’s WWII Draft Card

Rev. Arthur LeVeer is buried in the Mount Cavalry Cemetery in Saint Albans, Franklin County, Vermont.

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LeVeer in the 1960s

WWI Vermonter – 103rd MG, 26th Division – Walter J. Fuller Dies of Disease 1917 – Westminster, VT Native


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Walter J. Fuller Poses in Westminster

A recent Walter J. Fuller poses for the camera near his home in Westminster before shipping off for training in 1917.  The photo was originally part of a much larger scrapbook which was broken up and sold on eBay in 2012.  Luckily they included a bit of context to the sale listing, enabling me to track down the identity of this brave Vermonter.  A member of the 103rd MG Bn., Walter shipped out from Fort Ethan Allen down to Camp Bartlett in Massachusetts.  It was here that he contracted the bronchial pneumonia and passed away at 3:30 (yes, we know the exact time!) on October 27th, 1917.  His family was contacted via telephone about his worsening condition and were able to be present when he passed away.

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Johnson, Herbert T. Roster of Vermont Men and Women in the Military and Naval Service of the United States and Allies in the World War, 1917-1919. Montpelier, VT: Tuttle, 1927.

I was able to track down a few articles in the 1917 Vermont Phoenix

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“Soldier Dies in Westfield.” Vermont Phoenix, November 2, 1917, 2. Accessed December 4, 2013. ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov.

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WWI Fort Ethan Allen 2nd Vermont Cav. Detailed Letter – Officer Shot in the Head! – Vermont WWI Content


The 2nd Vermont Cavalry trained at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester Vermont prior to WWI and, after training, shipped off to France to fight with the only US cavalry unit during the war.  I currently live only ten minutes from the fort, and have previously posted a panoramic photo from an infantry regiment that trained there as well.  Collecting WWI Vermont items can be hard; the material seems to never come up to auction.  In this case, I was able to find a little nugget of Vermont history hidden amongst the seemingly endless WWI eBay listing section.

Looks like Clarence “Everett” Hall was originally from Manchester, Connecticut.  In his letter he mentions a number of interesting topics, including the everyday life of a cavalry troop as well as an interesting encounter where he inadvertantly shoots an officer in the head!  A great read, and a must for any fan of WWI cav.

 

Postmarked Burlington on July 30th, 1917.

Clarence Everett Hall

Fort Ethan Allen

Troop M. 2nd Vermont Cav.

July 28th, 1917

Dear Marion,

Your welcome letter received.  Will write while I have time.

Haveing(sic) a little better weather now.  It was 102 Wednesday on the range.  We was shooting for record shoot slow and rapid fire.  At slow you can take all the time to shoot you want.  Fire at 300, 500 and 600 yards slow fire.  Ten shots or rounds at each.  At 300 yards the bullseye is twelve inches across.  At 500 and 600 yards its twenty inches across.  If you hit the bullseye it counts as 5, the next ring 4, next 3 , rest 2 if you miss hitting the target it counts as nothing.  Then targets are like this.

On rapid fire we shoot 200, 300 and 500 yards.  At 200 yards have one minute to fire ten rounds.  Sitting from standing that time.  Fire sitting.  The shells are five in a clip.  And are loaded that way.  Have one clip in before the time starts and load the others after.  At 300 yards have one minute and ten seconds.  Prone from standing.  At 500 yards have one minute and twenty seconds to fire 10 rounds in.  And fire prone, laying down before the time starts.  The rapid fire target represents a mans head and shoulders.  And count the same.  The bullseye is forty inches across.

The higher score you get the better it is.  252 points gives you expert rifleman, that pays fire dollars a month extra.  238 gives you sharpshooter, that pays you three dollar a month.  202 pays two dollars a month and is marksman.  Nobody in the troop got expert several got sharpshooter, and several marksman.  I had marksman easy till the last.  Had an accident then.  Some of the shells are what are called slow fires.  That is they go off four or five seconds after you pull the trigger.  I had one, it went off on the ground after I ejected it from the gun.  The bullet hit an officer in back of me in the head, making a bad scalp wound.  The shell hit me in the leg cutting it about an inch.  It’s allright(sic) now but it sure did sting at first.  I got 200 points, only needed two more for marksman.

Besides the rifle we have a pistol, 45 automatic Colt.  Had no practice with them yet.  Besides that we have a saber.  Like a sword.  Straight and about three and a half feet long.  At full pack, “thats when we are ready for a long march we have the following.” One saddle, one saddle blanket, that foes on the horse, one surscingle, one pair saddle bags, they go on the read of the saddle.  In the saddle bag is carried everything for the horse.  Curry comb, brush, etc.  In the rear one is the man stuff messkit.  Knife, fork and spoon and any other little thing you want to carry.  The canteen in carried on the rear saddle packet the tin cup in the center of the loops.  The picket pin carried in the off pocket.  On front of the saddle is rolled overcoat (in winter), slicker in summer.  On rear is the blanketroll.  In that is one bed blanket, half a shelter tent, tent pole and rope and five tent pins, one suit underwear, two pair socks, one towel, soap, comb, toothbrush and paste.  The rifle goes in a boot on the near side, the saber on the off.  The pistol is carried in a holster on the belt which is worn.  Ninety rounds of rifle ammunition, thirty pistol and two pistol magazines and a first aid package make up the belt, which has suspenders so you can carry quite a little. The rest of out clothing etc. is put in a bag and carried in the wagons.  We just use the saddle for regular drill.

We have revellie, first call 5:15 roll call 5:30, breakfast at 6, drill at 7 until 10:30 mounted stables, that’s grooming the horses until 10:50.  11 till 11:30 dismounted drill with rifles.  12 dismiss.  In the afternoon if its not to(sic) hot have rifle, pistol, sabre drill.  Semaphore and wigwag practice, that’s sending messages with one and two flags.  Saturdays we have inspections of everything.  No drilling, afternoon off.  Sundays off except stables and water call.  Water call is 4:30.  Water and tie up the horses then.  5:30 retreat and supper.  Tatoo at nine, taps at eleven.  We have to put all lights out in the squad room at nine.

We have a nice building to sleep in .  Have a large day room downstairs, music library etc. there.  Shower, baths, etc. in the basement.  Have regular bunks to sleep in with springs, sheets, pillows etc.  There’s 105 in the troop.  Theres 15 troops in a regiment, four squadrons, three troops to a squadron and three troops over A.B.C, D.E.F, G.H.I, K.L.M, machine gun troop, supply and headquarters troops.

That’s all I can think off(sic) to tell about.  If I think of anything more that’s interesting I will tell it next time.  There’s talk of our leaving here the fifteenth of August for Worcester, Mass.  Be there for good.  Hope so.  This place is all right now but in the winter it gets to 45 below.  That’s too cold. 

I suppose there’s lots from Manchester drafted that don’t like it.  Don’t blame them.  For six months they will wish they were dead.  The first training is very hard.

Guess I will close now its time for retreat and if I write much more I’ll have to send this parcel post.

With Love,

Everett

Clarence E. Hall

WWI The University of Vermont at War – Williams Hall Army Training Detachment – August 1918


Authors Collection


My recent trip to the local Burlington antique shop yielded some WWI gold; yet another WWI UVM panoramic photo to add to my extensive collection of war photography.  This one was taken in August of 1918 in front of Williams Hall at the University of Vermont.  I spent countless hours studying anthropology and archaeology in the hallowed halls of Williams, and I know the front facade well.  From the looks of it, not much has changed!   This photo shows Company C of the US Army Training Detachment which was housed at UVM in the months preceding the end of the war.

Looking at some of the details of the photo actually helped elucidate a bit of Louis McAllister’s business.  Check out the writing on each of the benches – it appears that McAllister wrote his name on each bench in his typical flowery style.  Very interesting!