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The Fourth of July, 1944

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Release Date: 07/04/2019

Paris, Illinois show art Paris, Illinois

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Russell Loop started out in the horse cavalry, became a driver in D Company of the 712th Tank Battalion and was transferred to C Company as a gunner in a medium Sherman tank just prior to the Battle of the Bulge. In this interview, he shares his experiences in 11 months of combat.

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This episode is personal show art This episode is personal

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

My father, Lieutenant Maurice Elson, joined the 712th Tank Battalion in July of 1944. He was wounded in Normandy and again in Germany. He died of a heart attack before I began collecting the stories of his unit, but what I learned of his brief time with the battalion launched an avalanche of stories.

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How Cold Was It? The Battle of the Bulge show art How Cold Was It? The Battle of the Bulge

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

How cold was it in the Battle of the Bulge? It was so cold that an assistant driver from Tennessee told George Bussell that when he got home, if it was the middle of July and he thought about how cold it was, he'd go out and build a fire. The mountainous roads going into Luxembourg and Belgium were so icy that 37 and 44 ton tanks were sliding all over the place. These are a few of the many stories about the Bulge told by veterans of the 712th Tank Battalion.

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Sam and Joe show art Sam and Joe

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Sam Cropanese and Joe Bernardino were members of the same crew in A Company of the 712th Tank Battalion. They were both wounded at the Falaise Gap in mid-August of 1944. I interviewed Sam in Cape Coral, Florida, in 1993, and Joe in Rochester, New York, in 1994, 50 years after the war. Their story presents a vivid picture of life and death in a tank in World War II. Warning: Contains some graphic descriptions.

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"The Iron Cross and a Three-Day Pass": Habscheid

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

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A couple of tankers talking World War II show art A couple of tankers talking World War II

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Jim Knispel and Bill Whitley joined the 712th Tank Battalion as replacements in France. This interview, at the battalion's 2001 reunion, touches upon some of the significant events in the history of the battalion's A Company. Knispel was wounded when his tank was hit by a panzerfaust in a confrontation with SS troops who were defending the town of Merkers, where vast amounts of treasure were stored in a mine that would be depicted in the movie The Monuments Men.

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A tank recovery unit driver in World War II show art A tank recovery unit driver in World War II

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

In the712th Tank Battalion's 11 months on the front lines of World War II, there were many significant events: Hill 122, the Falaise Gap, the light tank that ran over a string of mines, the battle with the 106th Panzer Brigade at Mairy, the Saar River crossing at Dillingen, the Battle of the Bulge. Tank recovery unit driver Eugene Sand was involved in all of these and more.

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The Man Who Wasn't There show art The Man Who Wasn't There

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

Yesterday upon the stair

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Once Upon a Tank in the Bulge show art Once Upon a Tank in the Bulge

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

At the 1992 reunion of the 712th Tank Battalion, I sat at a table in the hospitality room with four veterans -- Jim Gifford, Ed Spahr, Bob Rossi and Tony D'Arpino -- whose Sherman tank was knocked out on January 10, 1945. They reconstructed the details of that day, and spoke about other events in the war. There is some graphic content in this episode of the War As My Father's Tank Battalion Knew It podcast.

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"What Do You Want, To Live Forever?"

War As My Fathers Tank Battalion Knew It

In this episode of War As My Father's Tank Battalion Knew It, Lieutenant Jim Gifford touches upon some of the major events in the history of the 712th Tank Battalion. These include the hedgerows of Normandy, the moonlight battle with the 106th German Panzer Brigade, and the taking of Maizieres les Metz.

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More Episodes

July 4th came a day early in 1944 with a massive artillery barrage in preparation for an assault on the Haye du Puits sector of the Normandy campaign. The 712th Tank Battalion suffered numerous casualties on its first day of combat. Lt George Tarr became the first officer in A Company to be killed. Sgt. William Schmidt was the first member of C company to be killed. In this episode, Jim Rothschadl, a gunner in C Company, talks about the meaning of the Fourth of July, and Stanley Klapkowski describes the death of Sergeant Schmidt.