Birthday: January 03, 1922
Birthplace: Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
Family: Albert and Ann Galganski
Occupation: Paper lab, paper tester, Biron
Unit: 882nd Field Artillery Headquarters Battlion
Post: 70th (Trailblazers)
Jim (right) and friend.
Jim getting a haircut.
Jim Galganski was drafted into the army in late 1942. He was twenty years old. "When you're young and you go into the service, well you know you just gotta go. You fight for your country and you just take it." Basic training was done at Camp Adair, Oregon. " When I was in basic training it was a big adjustment. One guy from Philadelphia, he just couldn't take it. He starved himself to death. They sent him to the hospital once, then they sent him home on furlough thinking that might help. When he came back nothing had changed. He just lay in the barracks, wouldn't eat.
The most difficult thing for me in basic training were the forced marches in full pack. I remember the officers. The best officers were from West Point, they treated you well, but those ninety day wonders! They had a little authority you know. They wouldn't even talk to you during training so I said `to hell with them'.
When I went through basic training the first time I made Cadre. Because of that I stayed and trained with the 70th Division. That ended up being the outfit I went over to Europe with. Some of the fellows I went in with in the beginning mostly went to the South Pacific.
Right before Christmas 1944 we arrived in Marseilles, France. That's in the southeastern part of the country. To get there we had to travel by ship across the Mediterranean. We didn't have an escort for this whole trip. They had us on a luxury liner that was converted to a troop transport ship. I remember the conditions were pretty cramped.
Once we arrived in Europe the role of the Field Artillery unit is to provide coverage for infantry troops. I handled communications to the field artillery, those were the guys handling the 105mm Howitzers. I also set up switchboard and communications with Headquarters. One of the scariest positions was the forward observer. You were the fellow who had to be up there with the infantry. There would be three of us actually, one officer and two men. One man with the phone, the other guy would handle the radio and the officer would observe where the artillery was firing. We would repeat word for word what he told us. I and the other guy were also trained to do the officer's job just in case he was killed.
I remember the first time we went in combat. It was four o'clock in the afternoon. The sergeant and I had to set up the switchboard and get the lines out. We had to get communication out to the A, B and C battery. The Germans hit the building we were in. We were down in the basement of this house when the German shells exploded. Glass, plaster and dust was flying everywhere. My hands received some minor cuts but no one was wounded. The first few days you're frightened but after a that you don't even think about it. You have a job to do, they train you and you just have to do it.
They would keep us up front for twenty-four hours at a time. There was one time that the Germans had us pinned down for forty-eight hours. In was during the drive towards Forbach I think. I remember the Germans were in a big factory, three to four stories high. We were on top of a big hill and there were fields in between. The infantry couldn't get across this exposed area. Once we broke through this area our advanced quickened. We were leap frogging our way towards Saarbrucken.
One time in combat I went three weeks without changing clothes. One reason for this was my barracks bag had gotten lost. You always carried dry stockings though. A lot of times I had a side arm and I had a rifle, but since I drove in a truck with all the other stuff I didn't care where the gun was.
We never knew what a holiday was but after the war ended I went to Switzerland. That was a clean country, they swept the street down every morning. The army paid for our meals and hotel and we were allowed to take only thirty dollars spending money. One evening I went down into the bar room and mentioned to the gal bartending that I was trying to buy my Mom a watch but I wasn't having any luck. She told me to come back the next day and she'd see what she could do for me. The next day she brought me a ladies watch and I paid her two or three dollars for it. After I had sent it home my Mom took it to a watch shop and they said it was worth $250.00!
A month after the war ended they woke us at four o'clock in the morning. We were in Friesburg, Germany, that's about twenty miles from Frankfurt. They had us go household to household and search for weapons. The most we found were a few pistols and swords. For the most part the Germans were afraid of us.
under Learn and Serve American Grant #00LSFWI104