Veteranen-verhalen / Veteran Stories
Veteran stories of
Vernon Raker, veteran of the 321sth Field Artilley Battalion, A Battery,
of the 101st Airborne Division
Geurt van Rinsum)
(klik om te vergroten/ click to enlarge)
1) Vernon Raker at left and Ray Nagell, both
of the 321st Glider Field Artillery Battallion, flank deputy Mayor
Mittendorf of Eindhoven.
Author Geurt van Rinsum, is behind them on the right.
Vernon Raker (right), Ray Nagell and a US Army Captain at the Monument to
the Dutch in St. Oedenrode.
Vernon Raker, veteran of the 321st Field Artillery Battalion, A Battery,
of the 101st Airborne Division, was a guest in our house twice for a
week or so. And I’ve met him in Holland a third time, but was also once
his guest in California for about four of five days. The first time Raker
came to us he was only with his daughter Eloise. The second time his son
was also with him.
We had only one bedroom for two free, so his son slept on a
mattress in the living room that time. We had inherited from my sister in
law a real big and nice clock, with a gong in it. Also from my mother
who had passed away just before the Rakers visited us,
I had got some from my Mother also. I had married my second wife after we both had lost
our husbands and she had also brought some clocks in our house. So, 6 or
7 of them were hanging in our living room and open kitchen.
But, when we awakened the first morning during the visit of the Rakers, all
our clocks were silent !
Raker's son told that he could not sleep from al the 'ding dong' during the
night, and had stopped all the clocks. How amusing!
Vernon, who was commander of a gun crew, told me some stories which I’ve
kept in my mind.
“I don’t remember anymore were it happened. But one day in the war we
were not far from the frontline. At one night, after the first hour of
sleep, the whole battery was awakened in a hurry and we got the order to
fire with all guns and as fast we could on a train in German territory.
Our forward observers , who knew that there was a railroad close behind
the enemy's line of resistance, could hear train ride, we later learned. Choo, Choo, Choo !!
Most likely reinforcements for the Germans, that must be sure!!
After some time of shooting at the German train, our Lieutenant said: “The
observers said we got it. The train stopped. We can go to sleep again!”
We went to sleep. But after little over an hour, we again had
to get up suddenly and to shoot with everything we had at the train. After
that, we hit the sack again.
But about an hour and a half later there was another train riding and we were ordered to
shoot at it. That happened several times that night.
The next morning the Forward Observers heard the Germans calling through a loudspeaker
something like this: “Hi guys! You did ’t have a good sleep tonight, we
guess. Have you enjoyed our recorder with the sound of a train? But
you can come over to us, we have breakfast with ham and eggs, you can take
part in it” !
Those Krauts had tricked us the whole night. !! ”
He also told me once:
“One day during a quiet period at the front our gun crew
had neglected to clean up the equipment in time, but also ourselves and the
uniforms. We were very tired. Everything was dirty. And some of the men
went away, gone to a farmer to require some fresh straw for our
sleeping holes. I was busy with a shovel to wipe out the wet mud of our gun pit.
Completely unexpected General McAuliffe and some of his
Staff Officers appeared!! (Because General Taylor, the Division Commander, was in
the States when the Germans launched their attack of the Battle of the
Bulge, McAuliffe was substitute Division Commander )
Because I was in Command of the gun, I walked towards him, away from my
crew, and presented the gun crew.
I feared what would
he would come close to the guns and inspect the whole situation! But
just when we started to talk , the Germans gave us a barrage of shooting
and the shells came down not far away!
Everybody fell on the muddy ground for safety, and looked for protecting.
After the shooting, the General and his Staff Officers stood up, cleaned
their clothes, but did not come to our gun pit or inspect it, but
disappeared right after the shooting ended.
"O boy, believe me, that was the only time in the war that I was glad to
receive a barrage of German shells pretty close to us!“
101st Airborne Division was at Bastogne, Belgium, cut off from other Allied
forces and surrounded by the Germans for a week.
This town was an vital
cross point for roads and railroads in all directions, so the Germans
wanted to occupy it and attacked often.
About this time Vernon told; “We had some tough days near Bastogne . We had
to fire in all directions for some days. But that meant that we had to
turn that heavy gun in the mud of the gun pit in other
directions, every time. Real hard work. Once we were busy with it for 24 hours or
I don’t remember exactly how long. But sure, the whole crew
was very , very tired, exhausted after such a long time of hard labor !!
So was I. I was the gun commander!
At that point our Lieutenant appeared again, and said words like; “Corporal,
you have to fire a mission again, but must turn your gun in another
And he wanted to give me more details.
But I had had enough, and I burst out at him: “If you want to fire, do it
by yourself, because we won’t turn that damn gun in another
Well, this refusal of doing my work, especially in front of my crew and
at this officer, could get me court marshaled, but that did not
bother me anymore, I was to tired!
The Lieutenant , who knew very well that we had done a lot of work and
sure must be very tired, said nothing, and went away.
But he had a better, or at least, a better working brain than I had!
Anyhow, after that the Lieutenant had walked some distance away, he turned
and came back.
Than he said some words to me like:
“Vernon. Listen, The boys in the frontline need your help
and your fire. When they don't get it, they probably will be overrun by the
Krauts and be killed. And the defense line can be broken by that also. I
ask you again to fire!"
Those words from this good and smart Lieutenant, whom we all liked, turned
my stubborn mind and we moved the gun around and fired the rounds were he
Sure this saved me from court marshall, but more importantly, it saved
American lives in the frontline also !!
Vernon Raker was a history teacher at a high school after the war.
Vernon is still alive and in good condition, except for his knees, which he
damaged by jumping, like a lot of the parachutists have problems with
their knees nowadays.
in good health although he smokes very, very heavily.
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