Birthday: January 22, 1917
Family: William and Edna Appel
Occupation: (Maintenance) Consolidated Papers
Branch: US Air Corp
Unit: 377th Infantry, 95th Division
Post: Ground Grew
When Earl Appel enlisted in the war he was twenty-four years old and was married. "I volunteered myself. Everybody happened to be going to Japan, over that direction. All the people I knew around here were headed that way, so I thought my chance was to get in the Europe Theater. I went to Wausau to enlist. I wanted to get in the ground crew for the Air Corps and they said that's just what they needed. I took a train from Wausau right through to Milwaukee and then a train for three days. I didn't know where I was headed for. Getting out of the train I could see nothing but fields of sand. I was deep in the heart of Texas. I stepped off the train with my bags and was in sand that was ankle deep. I found out I was in the infantry instead of the Air Corps!"
Earl received his training in a few different cities. "I had training in Camp Swift, Texas. It was thirty miles out of Austin. We had to learn how to fire rifles, machine guns, bazookas, pistols, everything. We had to take basic training exercises and five mile hikes. After Austin I went to Fort Sam Houston. The Second Division moved out of there and went to Europe so we took their place. From there I went to the Mojave Desert for desert training. Then we boarded a train. We left Texas and went all the way up the western coast by North Dakota. Then we came back to Harrisburg Pennsylvania for a couple weeks or so. Next we went to Camp Miles Standish and then overseas. We didn't know where we were going. It was confidential. No one knew. They were sending us to Germany. Then we went to Omaha Beach. After we got there, we had to spread out, one division here and one division there. I spent time in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Second Push for the Battle of the Bulge."
Earl went through many different ranks while he was in the military. "I started out as a private and then got promoted to a Buck Sergeant. I was the First Gunner of the First platoon. And the fellow that was sergeant, he got into a fight. So they pulled him right there. They moved him down from a Sergeant to a Buck Private and put him in the Second Platoon. They were debating who they wanted to put in his place. It was between myself and another fellow from the first squad. The other guy didn't want to leave his squad and they asked me and I said, `I'll take it.' I was asked if I could handle it. I said `I'll tell you one thing, you give me the opportunity, let me try it. If I can't handle it you can put me right back to the last ammunition carrier.' So I got to be a Buck Sergeant. I got that when I was in England before we went into Germany. Then after we went into Germany I got to be Staff Sergeant. That was my rank after we got back in the United States. We came home on a thirty-day furlough then I was Platoon Sergeant. I was in charge of four squads."
Earl was a recipient of the Silver Star. "I got it in St. Barber Germany. As we were attacking it there was heavy shelling shooting at us. We couldn't dig in. The rest was all water I saw B-17 coming over and started shelling. That allowed us to move forward into the town. There was a tank right on the crossroad. German tanks and American tanks were fighting one another. Germans were coming in. So we occupied the buildings. Alongside the road were rifle companies and across the road was another section from our company. When we woke up in the morning we found out that the section across from us was dug in alongside the Germans. They were there all night long. So we finally took that town. That was a scary situation I never saw such a scared group of men as those riflemen were. That was my duty. I had to keep control. I had to keep them quiet because otherwise they would give our position away. In the morning, finally we got relief. Here came the tanks with the riflemen following it for support. That relieved us and that was the end of that campaign for us." The medal was awarded along with the following statement, "Award of Silver Star: By direction of the President, and under the provisions of AR 600-52. For gallantry in action against the enemy, on 30 November 1944, in the vicinity of St. Barbara Germany. `The German tanks, followed by the infantry troops, advanced on his machine gun position, Staff Sergeant Appel undaunted by the enemies overwhelming fire power remained at his post and kept his machine gun firing continuously, slowing down the enemy attack. Staff Sergeant Appel fearless and determined conduct was our inspiration to comrades and when several additional attacks were hurled at them, they fought back furiously until friendly reinforcement s arrived,' March 1945, Headquarters 95th Infantry Division, APO U.S. Army.
While Earl was in charge, he needed to be able to stay calm and think quickly. "I was in charge of fourteen men; seven men, two squads. That was my duty. To keep those men under control I never had a problem with any of them. Not at all."
Earl recalls another incident while being a Sergeant. "We went on another excursion and we had to walk in the wooded area. As we hit the wooded area they started shelling at us. As long as you have seven men in your squad, then two men have to carry ammunition. And this fellow, he was just a new replacement, he just dropped to the ground and left the ammunition there and never moved. I turned around and told the rest of my crew to stay put. I picked that fellow up and took his ammunition and carried him back to the woods. Everybody told me I was a fool for going back after him and risking my life trying to save his. But that was my duty so that's all I could do."
"From when we left home and when we went through all the basic training it was very hard to adjust to get used to the sleeping hours and to the food. You were running from six o'clock in the morning to six o'clock in the evening. They kept you moving all day long. The living conditions were very poor. You just laid on the ground on anything you could find, barns or anything." He also said the food was not very tasty. "Stateside the food was bad. You hardly got anything to eat. One morning we got up and we had pancakes. And I swear they were so hard and tough. Everybody just took them and sailed them right back in the kitchen."
I remember one night while in Germany, one of the officers had some problems with whiskey I was sitting down on the floor on my blanket getting ready to go to sleep and the phone rang. The platoon sergeant was still up and the company jeep driver was up and I hear the platoon sergeant say into the phone `Well Appel's the only one up because all the rest are sleeping already.' So the officer who called told us to come on over. We thought we were going to move out right away, but here the officers had one big party and drank all that whiskey. One of the officers came over and said, `Appel, you and I are going swimming, aren't we?' I said, `Sure, when do we leave?' `Pretty quick,' he said, and then he slumped over and fell to the ground. We got outside and took the 50-caliber machine gun that was mounted on the jeep and were shooting it in the air going through the town. I guess the natives got quite frightened over that."
Earl liked his officers very much. "I was very proud of the officers we had. We were treated very nice. We couldn't have been treated any better."
When Germany and Japan surrendered, Earl recalls his location at that time. "A lot of the towns we went to we didn't even know the names. When Germany surrendered, we were about 150 miles from Germany." When Japan surrendered "I was in the states. We were sent home for recuperation. We were in Mississippi for 30 days and then we had to go back to Camp Shelby for I think a week or two weeks. Then we went to Arkansas. I was glad when the war was over."
Right before Earl's discharge, he suffered an injury to his hand. "I had scratched my hand somehow and I was so close to getting my discharge papers that I didn't want to report it. So I went down to the latrine and turned the faucet on and ran hot water over it. When I got my papers from Arkansas, boy I got on a train!" If he had reported his injury he wouldn't have able to be discharged.
When Earl returned to Wisconsin Rapids, no one was at his house. He decided to leave his duffel bag underneath the porch and went over to a friend's house. Then his wife's sister called his wife and told her to come over because there was a surprise for her.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104