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tv   American Artifacts 4th Infantry Division D- Day  CSPAN  April 6, 2020 2:33pm-3:04pm EDT

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eastern on american history tv. and lectures in history is available as a podcast. find it where you listen to podcasts. historian, author and re-enactor jared frederick describes the 4th infantry division's role in the 1944 d-day invasion and shows us an encampment of his furious 4th world war 32 re-enactors group. we talked with him at the annual army heritage days this carlyle, pennsylvania hosted by the u.s. army heritage and education center. >> my name is jared frederick. i'm an instructor of history at penn state altoona. i'm also a re-enactor with the furious 4th world war ii living history group. and we are here at army heritage days at the u.s. army heritage and education center in carlyle, pennsylvania. and at this event it is a major complex.
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we're here on the army heritage trail. and one can find re-enactors or living historians from all different time periods ranging from the 17th century up to the present. my group, though, is here this weekend to discuss the 75th anniversary of the normandy invasion, which is taking place this summer. and we thought it certainly fitting to commemorate that event. and us putting on these old uniforms, wearing old equipment, it certainly gives us a better perspective and appreciation of what the greatest generation went through. and if we can impart even a small inkling of that to passersby and families who come visit this place, then we feel that we've done a fairly good job. the unit that we portray is the 4th infantry division. and it's a unit that's sometimes overshadowed in the realm of world war ii history. but nonetheless it was one of the spearhead units that was
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involved in the normandy invasion. it was some of the first amphibious troops who were ashore. and they waded ashore on utah beach. unbeknownst to many of them, at that time they had actually landed on the wrong sector. they had landed about a half a mile off course and there was a little bit of uncertainty, perhaps hesitation as to what exactly they should do. but the assistant division commander, theodore roosevelt jr., son of the president, who was the oldest american participant in the invasion, said very defiantly we're going to start the war right here. and indeed that is what they did. they carried the fight inland into the normandy countryside where they really began to tally up casualties. the unit fought all throughout mainland europe. they were the first american troops into paris. they were the first american troops into germany.
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but unfortunately it inflicted a very grim toll. the unit in its entirety throughout the war suffered about 250% casualties. there was just a perpetual stream of wounded, killed, and then their replacements and sometimes replacements after that were being killed and wounded as well. so it was an absolutely devastating affair but many of the men in the unit had the firm conviction that they needed to do this because there was really no other choice. this was the price of stopping fascism and it spread. and as many world war ii veterans say to this very day, it's something that had to be done. and 75 years later that's something that they still firmly believe in. of course theodore roosevelt jr. had a long military lineage in his family. his father of course stormed up san juan hill in 1898 during the
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spanish-american war. and then a number of years later theodore roosevelt expected all of his sons to serve in world war i. and theodore roosevelt said of his sons, "i would look upon them with shame if they didn't serve in the same way i would look upon my daughters with shame if they didn't have children." those were kind of the two expectations for theodore roosevelt's kids. and junior really lived up to those expectations. he served in world war i. he was in fact a political rival with cousin franklin roosevelt during the great depression. but when world war ii started the two cousins put their differences aside. theodore jr. wanted to get into the military once again. initially he served as a commander in the 1st infantry division. and he served in the big red one, which was one of the few battle-tested divisions to go into normandy. however, roosevelt didn't gain a
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lot of acclaim or trust in the eyes of omar bradley or george patton. theodore roosevelt jr. had a very laid-back command persona and that didn't -- that wasn't up to snuff with somebody who was sxit popit and polished as patton was. and omar bradley thought he got too comfortable with the soldiers and there wasn't as much of the rigid discipline that makes a soldier a good soldier. so he was removed from command in the 1st infantry division. he wasn't down and out. and he landed a spot as the assistant division commander in the 4th infantry division in the months immediately prior to the normandy invasion. and roosevelt pleaded with his commander, general raymond "tubby" barton. that was his name, his nickname. he was just unceasing. he wanted to go ashore with his
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men. barton finally acquiesced and barton realized at that moment that this is probably going to be the end of this general. his health was failing. he was suffering from chest pains. and he wasn't telling anybody about it. he had very bad arthritis. his mobility in some cases was very limited. but nonetheless he went ashore with the 4th division in one of the secondary waves on june 6th. he had a cane in one hand. he had a revolver, a pistol in the other. he stayed with his men through thick and thin. he rode around in his jeep called rough rider which was of course named after his father's unit. unfortunately, though, his poor health did catch up with him. only a few weeks after the invasion he suffered a fatal heart attack. and he also becomes one of the highest-ranking americans to be killed in france as the invasion was ongoing as well. he rests in the normandy
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american cemetery to this very day right next to the remains of his brother, quinton, who was killed in the first world war. so right now we would like to walk us -- or walk you through our camp here a little bit and perhaps offer a little bit of perspective on the g.i. experience. we'll start here around the back. now, often when americans think of the second world war they think of helmets. they think of weapons. they think of sherman tanks. but wash is this stuff too. it is the subtle small stuff. the everyday stuff soldiers used on an everyday basis. and they certainly weren't eating five-star meals as they were out in the hedgerows of france in 1944. and these units of food that
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would come for breakfast, dinner, and supper were really the staple of the g.i. diet. and often there would be a small can of food inside, some crackers, some bubble gum, and in other instances they would even include cigarettes, which was actually part of the ration. if they were lucky, they might be able to acquire a radio along the way. but you know, when folks look at this sort of stuff, it offers them a moment of empathy. you know, when look at something like tooth powder or soap or a razor blade, these were the things that, you know, we would see on our father's and grandfather's bathroom shelves as we were growing up. so it's often the common everyday stuff that fascinates me and sometimes fascinates visitors as well.
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so we'll talk a little bit more about magazines, about the press, about newspapers at the time as well at one of our later stops. so we'll head over here so our recreation of a rather small g.i. encampment. and as you can see, our members here are having lunch, chowing down in a very authentic way. also very authentic to nap as well. a very common staple of the g.i. experience there too. and you know, on average an american soldier was about 22 years of age, weighed about 150 poun pounds. he had gone through the great depression. he was used to sacrifice and perhaps being short on supplies. and unfortunately that economic hardship well prepared a lot of american youth for the forthcoming struggles in this
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global war. among some of the most iconic features of the american uniform is the helmet itself. and for all intents and purposes this was the home of the american g.i. and it was a multipurpose tool. it would be used not only for protection against raining fragments, shells, splinters, rocks, what have you. he could also use it for a lot more things. this is an original helmet. and i don't know who used it. but i carry it on in his memory nonethele nonetheless. what manufacturers would do with these steel pots, in order to diminish the shine and enhance the camouflage of it they would actually mix sand within the green paint and that rough texture you that see on the helmet would diminish the shine and offer some additional
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camouflage. now, there are a lot of other things that a soldier could do with this as well. he could use it as a digging tool. if he wanted to, he could take out the inside liner and he could use it as a pod because after all, it was a actually pot. if you were lucky enough to find an egg you might cook it inside of that. and also you could use it as a wash basin, hold it right underneath you, be able to shave your face. use it as a chair. use it as a pillow. one of the really notable phrases of the second world war in a really well-known memoir is "helmet for my pillow." and then finally it could be used as storage in a way. something that was really popular among the troops were small compact books that were called armed service editions. and american publishers gave these out by the tens of
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millions during the war. american soldiers' love of reading and literacy that they would later use after the war to use the g.i. bill and attain higher education i think was really instilled during that time. they could shove those books in here. but what they did most is that they would put photographs inside. this is actually a photo of my grandmother, gertrude. and what she looked like during the world war ii years. and like many young american women, she married a world war ii veteran when he came home from the service. and i carry this photo not only in honor of her but in honor of the man that she married at the end of the war. it's my way of paying a small tribute to some of my family history. and if i could have an m-1 grand, please, i'll show them that. thank you. this was the primary weapon of
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an american soldier that was fighting in europe. this could be slid back like this. you could put a eight-round block there within the rifle. and you know, general patton said that this was essentially the weapon that would help win the second world war. quite hefty, quite heavy. all things considered. but it really made a major contribution to the american war effort. and indeed it was used through the korean war and even in some circumstances the vietnam war. there are some militaries to this very day that have a surplus of these and still use them in their active military. thank you very much. as we just kind of brows the camp here and look at all of the equipment, it really gives us a
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sense of the things that these soldiers carried. when some of the first initial waves of the normandy invasion took place, a lot of these american combatants had 70, 80, sometimes even 90 pounds of gear on them. and the code name for the operation that they were participating was known as operation overlord. in my view, though, it could have well been named "operation overload" because these guys were packed down like mules. when i talk about this in the classroom or sometimes when i young family comes in we might dress a young person in a d-day kit to give them a sense of the weight of war, so to speak. it's something i do in the classroom too. and you know, it really weighs down on them both physically and psychologically. to think that they were wearing 80 pounds of gear, they're being heaved off the landing craft
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into seven feet of water while people are shooting at them, they then need to waddle up several hundred yards of beach that has land mines and obstacles all throughout it. when you take that into consideration, it really gives you a humbling perspective on what the d-day experience was. not only for americans but also for the british, french, and the canadian troops that stormed ashore that day as well. we're considering the weight of war and the things that they carried as we think about this 75 years later. the american tents that u.s. g.i.s used was often called the shelter half tent. and in many ways it symbolized the notion of teamwork, the very essence of camaraderie. because there would be one half of a tent and each soldier would have one half of a tent and in order to have a full tent you needed to team up with a battle
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buddy so he could bring his other half and then you could share one. there were a lot of different variations on this and how they used it. the tents often got as large as creativity and materials would allow american soldiers, and sometimes they would get six or eight of them together to make really big tents because then you could pile eight guys into it and then if you're in the fall or in winter all of those additional people inside a tent will offer additional body heat. it might keep you a little bit warmer. unfortunately, for a lot of guys they moved so frequently and so quickly that a lot of times they didn't really have the opportunity to set up a tent or an encampment perhaps like we have here today. and the advance into europe was monotonous. it was strenuous. and it brought about some of the most enduring hardships that could be imagined. there's one story of an american
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lieutenant that we often like to share with visitors and students. there's a lieutenant in the 4th infantry division by the name of george wilson. and he wore the same pair of socks for five months. and he never once opportunity to take off his shoes and wash his feet. and come spring of 1945 when he finally had an opportunity to bathe, he went to take off his socks and it peeled the skin off his feet. so when we think of world war ii we think of combat and big planes and tanks, but really it's small human interest stories like that that illustrate the g.i. experience more than anything else. they're short on supplies. they go into wintertime combat without the proper clothing or equipment and it was certainly no vacation. the story of artifacts, of course, is nothing without the story of people. and when visitors come into our various displays we like them to
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reflect upon that human element as well. and here on this board we have a few tangible reminders of all of that. perhaps most notably are copies of a d-day diary that was kept by a lieutenant in the fourth infantry division, this gentleman pictured on the right and his name was sydney monse and he he operated a 81 millimeter mortar, one of which we'll show you in a moment, as they landed on utah beach. and some of the words that he has to offer about his experiences are quite profound. he talked about his men and his comrades falling to his left and his right. he's scavenging the beach and looking for loose pieces of ammunition and equipment he can pick up that he knows he will need later along the way. and once more that personal element, it really helps bring history to life and that's
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really one of the fundamental reasons of why we're out here, to impart this knowledge to younger generations that may never have the opportunity to talk to a world war ii veteran. so we see ourselves as an important conduit of sorts in transferring on the knowledge to other people. another notable individual that we see on here is another lieutenant in the 4th infantry division whose name was bill chapman. like sydney monse, he operated, he and his men, an 81 millimeter mortar and he offers all sorts of unique perspectives. there is a book recently written about him. and later on in the war, the fourth infantry served in a place called the herken forest and for those lucky enough to survive it they called it the death factory because it was just like this perpetual conveyor belt of men being sent to the front lines almost needlessly or heedlessly. and mr. chapman was one of the
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lucky survives of that carnage. as a lot of service members were working across the european continent, some things that gave them added pepper, inspiration, or information, was things like this. and this is a reproduction of stars and stripes, the official army newspaper and still in publication to this very day. and this issue is a copy from june 7th. 1944. and there were two really big events that happened there in the first week of june. one of them is a bit overshadowed because two days before the invasion of normandy took place the city of rome was also liberated so there was a mad dash for the headlines, who would grab the most attention, who would grab the most news and unfortunately for those serving in italy and general mark clark their commanding officer among them was a bit jealous by the
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level of headlines that the normandy invasion grabbed. and indeed there were about 150,000 troops involved in the opening phases. and soldiers got somewhat fragmentary reports here in this early edition talking about the invasion. but periodicals like this underscored a bigger point about why americans believed they were fighting this war. and they saw a freedom of speech, the freedom of the press and really the sanctity of journalism and literacy as a fundamental element of why they were fighting this war. their access to information, their access to books, they truly bloelieved that that was part of the democratic notion that represented their country. and in some ways those notions are outlined in the speech that gener general eisenhower issued to his
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troops on the eve of d-day. it's a very short, concise, address. this is issued by the tens of thousands in leaflet form to the troops and he also delivered a radio address where he outlined this as well. in many ways it could be considered the 1944 equivalent of gettysburg address. eisenhower saying we have a fight to continue, it's a horrible fight, but it must go on because the consequences of not doing so or losing it are almost too horrific even to take into comprehension. much like slavery needed to be destroyed. fascism in the form of slavery that came with it was also something that needed to be defeated. so his men took this message to heart. eisenhower developed a really powerful decor with common american soldiers. he cared about them and they knew it. that's one reason why they fought so hard and diligently on his behalf.
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of course, too, the harder they fight the war the sooner the war will be over. another element i would like to show you is a weapon that we have over here. and this is an 81 millimeter mortar. i've mentioned this a little bit in some of our talk prior to all of this. and my good friends mike and andy are going to tell us a little bit about that. >> hello, everybody. i'm here to talk about the 81 millimeter mortar. this is designed by french in the '30s and the u.s. army got ahold of it. they really liked that idea because up until that point during world war i, mortars couldn't move around the battlefield. once they got into place, they koo kind of sat there. world war i was more stagnant and they could sit there but in the future they wanted a more mobile war and this fulfilled the bill. if our 8-1 millimeter mortar and
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it was one millimeter smaller than ours and we could fire our rounds out of theirs but they couldn't fire out of ours. we actually made a small eer version, too, a 60 millimeter mortar which was more transportable than this. three men would carry the mortar in the different pieces. you could see here you have the barrel, the bi-pod and the base plate down here. each piece weighs about 43 pounds so one guy would carry each piece and then a bunch of guys carrying the ammo, you can see here to my right. the smaller rounds here, these are -- can you hold that for me, andy -- these are the m-43 rounds in cart board transport that is semi-waterproofed. it could go about 3,300 yards and it was used for
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anti-personnel and anti-light vehicle. this is the workhorse of the mortar rounds that a crew like this would use. you have increment charges in the end. that's actually what produces the blast that propels the mortar round out of the tube and a super quick fuse. so the second this touches anything, it's going to explode once it leaves the tube. the bigger round we have here, this bigger round we have here is m-56 and the m-56 had a delayed fuse and that is good for shooting at buildings, bunkers, any fortified structure that the germans might have been in. so it ept enters through the roof and takes a millisecond before it explodes inside the building. this had shorter range, about 2,400 yards. they also had a similar round. it was called an m-57 and it was a white phosphorous used to obscure vision of the enemy and it produced casualties because
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white fros fous phosphorous once it hits the air it burns and burns and they used it to create casualties, too. you might see on this round or this box of rounds we have a life belt inflated. when the troops landed on d-day, some of them put these on their packages of ammo so that when if the fact that they dropped the ammo in the channel, it would float and they could retrieve it easily. they would also be issued with these shoulder pads to carry the heavy loads of ammunition on their shoulders. back to the gun. a gun would be used for all kinds of operations. the regimental commanders and battalion commanders in infantry units called this hip pocket artillery because it could go anywhere in the battlefield and be there and shoot whenever they needed it. at times they would consolidate many groups together for a lot of density of fire and other times they would dispatch one or two mortar guns by themselves
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with units. this weapon system is carried by an eight-man squad. you had the gunner and two assistant gunners, a squad leader and the rest would carry the ammunition. these things would go through a lot of ammunition in they wanted to. 18 rounds a minute was the maximum amount they could fire before it ever heated. >> so we hope that offers a little bit of insider per spect perspective on daily trials and tragedies and triumphs american world war ii soldiers went through and as we've been talking here, a number of world war ii veterans have actually come into our camp. they're the reason why we're out here. we're here to hear their stories firsthand, impart them to other generations and we certainly encourage viewers to do much the same thing. we thank you for coming to visit our encampment today. >> hello, bob. >> hey. >> they want to get a picture here. a group picture.
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>> right here. >> big red one. >> what regiment were you with? 18? >> 26. >> 26? >> you're a blue skater, huh? >> oh, yeah. >> that's my re-enactment group. >> we're not here today. >> let me get a picture. >> he was on the destroyer and he saw the raising of the flag on iwo jima. >> i'm dick donald, i'm a 1st class soldier man. damaged the night before, the kamikaze attack. the last aircraft carrier in the war was sunk alongside of our ship and then we had to limp into iwo jima and put the bow on yellow beach and watching the marines with those flame throwers mopping up those tunnels. canadian marines never get along well. it's always a fight. but i learned to love the marines in that day.
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and then suddenly the brightest -- the brightest sons, up goes that flag. i was 19 at the time. and for the first time, my fifth invasion, i had seven all together, it hit me why we kids were willing to die for that magnificent flag. and we did. and we did. two-thirds of us never left the island. two-thirds. but only two guys from the flag raising walked off that island. >> thank you, gentlemen. >> thank you. >> thank you for coming to visit us today. weeknights this is month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what is available every weekend on c-span 3. tonight, the national history center which hosts events on capitol hill for congressional members and staff to learn the
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history behind contemporary issues. we begin with scholars from rice and georgetown universities and the u.s. naval war college on the role of middle east oil in american foreign policy since the end of world war ii. american history tv, this week and every weekend on c-span3. army heritage days takes place each may at the u.s. army heritage and education center in carlisle, pennsylvania. hundreds of living history hobbyists conduct demonstrations and talk to the public about military subjects ranging from the american revolution to the war on terror. this year's theme was the 75th anniversary of d-day. up next, we visit an exhibit about world war ii soviet soldiers. >> army heritage days is an annual event held in may at the u.s. army heritage and education center in carlisle, pennsylvania. hundredsing h in


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