Note: This is the first of a two-part story that recalls the World War II experiences of Harry Lumpp of Shelbyville. Part 2 will be included in the Friday, Aug. 3, edition of the Daily Union.
“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” General Douglas MacArthur
As the number of World War II veterans continues to fade away, one Shelbyville master sergeant still remembers what it was like to mustered into WW II, take part in the invasion of the Palau Islands of Angaur and Peleliu and the occupation of Japan.
Harry Lumpp of Shelbyville, who will be 90 in September, was drafted and took his first trip out of Shelbyville at the age of 20 to St. Louis to be inducted.
“I thought it was going to be a big thrill, went down to the depot with my family to where I was suppose to meet the army,” Lumpp remembers. “I arrived there and standing outside waiting for us were men all dressed up in army clothes with patches all over sleeves. We debarked with others and then one man started yelling out loud for us to get in the trucks.
“They drove us to Scott Field where we received shots and a bag. We went threw lines getting army clothes and shoes. To my surprise, they just threw them at us. Someone said ‘That is not my size.’ They said, ‘Before you get out of this army you will grow into them. If they are small, stretch them a little bit.’”
So much for the big thrill of army life.
“In the morning at 5:00, in came the sergeant hollerin, ‘Out of bed! This is not home and I am not your mommy!’, Lumpp recalls. “You had 5 minutes to get dressed and fall out for roll call. We went into the mess hall to eat, which them men in the back of the counter just dished out food to each one, like hit or miss your plate. When eating the sergeant got up and hit the table and in a loud voice said, ‘If you make any more noise you will fall out and eat your food in your mess gear.’
“One hour later, we were called out in front of our barracks and lined up for police duty,” Lumpp groaned. “This was to pick up cigarettes, paper or trash. The corporal in charge lined us up and gave us a big smile and barked, ‘All I want to see is “assholes” and elbows and don’t miss any or you will take a run around the motor pool,” which was about one half mile. He was behind us, of course, and if he found one cigarette, off we would go on a small run. I think he put it there.”
“Later on, we were all outside and they asked if any were truck drivers,” Lumpp continued. “Of course, a few held up their hands and were given wheel barrows. We soon learned no to volunteer for nothing.”
The army has a saying, “There is the right way, the wrong way, and the army way.” Since the beginning of the U.S. Army it doesn’t sound like the army way has changed much.
“Between training and learning how they wanted us to make our bed, so that a quarter would bounce, and hang our clothing right, we were awarded a pass to get outside of camp.”
Ahh, a little R&R.
“They had what they call charge of quarters every night, so they officers can go where ever they want,” Lumpp said. “Lucky me, I drew charge of quarters the first night (we could go to town).”
Lumpp went into an additional training phase while still in the States.
“After 8 weeks of basic training, we learned to be somewhat of a soldier and our bodies in physical shape to take the training," Lumpp said. "We loaded a train and headed for somewhere. We arrived to a camp in North Carolina, which had an Engineer sign above the entrance. We were called the 52nd Combat Engineers. We learned to build roads and train more to build up our endurance. We built bridges out of trees and a bridge out of what was called H10 steel.”
“We learned how to use a hammer and saw,” Lumpp said. “We built walks for all the battalion at Camp Butler, N.C. After 8 weeks, we were picked to be a company in the 52nd Engineer and to go to Fort Pierce, Florida.”
During that phase of training, Lumpp and his crew began to be prepared for the work they would eventually do in the South Pacific. At first they thought they would go to Germany.
“We were trained on what it would take to blow up things the Germans had built to keep the U.S. from getting inland,” Lumpp said. “Germany built all kinds of obstacles to stop our invasion. We used all kinds of explosives and blew up objects. Later, I was picked out off our company to train with one crew of Navy personnel.”
Lumpp was trained to be a scout and a raider.
“We used rubber 7-man boats and invaded the other people defending a tent of chocolate bars,” Lumpp said. “We would have to get one before caught. This was at night on what was called North Island. It was lots of fun. There was a jetty running out into the ocean and one time a 300-pound stingray almost landed in our rubber boat.”
After the training in Florida, Lumpp returned to his unit which was now in Tennessee.
“It was very cold, but we had to take showers out of a barrel with holes in the bottom,” Lumpp said. “We had the biggest goose bumps I ever had.”
Lumpp then took a train west.
“We arrived at San Luis Obispo in California and the weather was very hot," Lumpp said. "We just left Tennessee, which was cold, and we had our wool clothes on. The camp we were going to was two miles away, so we had to march with full pack in our heavy long coats. Our first sergeant cussed everybody every step."
Lumpp and his unit were attached to the 81st Wildcat Division.
"We trained them with us on how to disembark up and down from ship to boat on Catalina Island and other places." Dave Florina (Shelbyville) was also attached to the 81st Division and I saw him several times overseas."
After training, Lumpp then shipped to Marysville, California and started making wooden boxes for thins for overseas.
"Next door a few German prisoners were playing basketball and having fun while we worked," Lumpp said.
He then went to Seattle, the last stop before going overseas.
"We loaded the ships of all our equipment ready to ship out," Lumpp recalled. "I can remember someone saying, 'Get a good look at the lights, for it might be a long time before you will see them again."
Look to the Friday, August 3 edition of the Daily Union to follow 1st Sgt. Lumpp into the South Pacific and the invasion of the Palau Islands.