The Memoirs of Henry Gregorio

Henry Gregorio More to come soon.

Pictured above is Henry J. Gregorio. Henry is in good health and lives in Highland, New York. What follows are the WWII memories of Henry Gregorio as received in a phone interview on 1/19/05.

I was drafted in April of 1941 and was supposed to stay in for one year, but the war began in December and I stayed in for four years. I went to Albany, New York and spent the night in a motel and was inducted at Camp Upton. From there I went to Fort Belvoir, Virginia to begin my training. I was assigned to duty as a truck driver, driving the truck and trailor hauling a ponton boat, and that's what I did through out the duration.

From Belvoir we went on maneuvers in Louisiana and built a bridge on the Red River. We got word that a hurricane was coming and so we had to separate the bridge in the middle, leaving it in two parts with one half on one shore and the other half on the other shore. While it was separated in two halves one half of the bridge was captured by the enemy unit during the war games we were participating in.

After Louisiana, we went to the Carolina Maneuvers. During these maneuvers they would have airplanes fly over and drop sacks of flour on the road we were traveling. If a sack hit the road ahead of us, we would have to pull off the road and practice road repair where the sack had landed as if it had damaged the road.

During the Carolina Maneuvers I went on pass to a small town nearby and met a group of girls at a bus station. Believe it or not the next day I married one of those girls. We'd only known each other one day.

From the Carolina Maneuvers we returned to Belvoir and then, while preparing to go to Plattsburg, New York, they told us we would all be getting a furlough. So I had made plans to meet my wife, but they decided to cancel our furlough and grant furloughs only to those southern boys who lived nearby. I was really upset and so when we arrived at Plattsburg I decided to go "over the hill" so I could meet my new wife. Needless to say I got in some trouble for that and when I returned to the barracks I had to dig two four by fours and then fill them back up the next day.

After Plattsburg, we went to Camp Maxey, Texas. I don't recall very much about my time there, but what I do remember is that we were near Paris, Texas and it was a dry county and so we had to drive 15 miles to Oklahoma just to get a drink.

From Maxey we were sent back east to ship out for North Africa. The boat trip took 13 or 14 days. There were 80 nurses on the ship with us and they were constantly stopping up their toilets and we would have to go up and unstop them. But that was all we were allowed to do. Those nurses sure were messy and I remember they had their shorts laying around everywhere. Another thing that stands out in my mind about that boat trip was the way we were bunked. They had us bunked in stacks of five, one on top of the other.

We landed in North Africa at Oran and half of the company had to go to Casa Blanca. From there we went to some place called Mostagamen. We practiced building ponton bridges on dry sand, and then we would tear them down and build them again. They were checking to see how fast we could build a bridge. During this time we would also have to go on 20 mile hikes and then we would strip down on the beach and go swimming in the Mediterranean to cool off. About 200 feet off shore there was a ship that was split in half and sitting on the bottom with its deck above water. We'd swim out to that ship and I remember the ship had water depth marks on its hull and we were able to determine that the water was 45 feet deep by those marks. But the water was so clear you could see the bottom and it looked like it wasn't very deep at all.

From North Africa we went to Italy and landed right around the corner from Naples. Before leaving Italy we would travel as far as 100 miles north of Rome.

While in Italy I remember being sent to Salerno to pick up some wire and while there I got to have a meal with some Italian troops. We had pasta and wine. Those Italians drank wine like it was water.

I remember one day, I don't remember where we were, but we had to turn our boats over on our trailors so we could haul infantry troops in them to the front. I guess they were short of trucks or something. We could fit 50 infantry soldiers in each boat. While at the front we were shelled by enemy artillary. We heard it coming in and we all dove into a ditch for cover. But there was this chaplain there handing out tracts to the troops and he took a direct hit and was killed instantly.

While I was in Venafro, Italy we were repairing a road that had been damaged by tank traffic and I managed to sprain my ankle pretty bad and had to be helped up a hill to a church to get off my ankle. There were a couple of Italian girls there and they helped me get around, and even offered to help me to the toilet when I needed to go but I managed to do that by myself.

I can recall when Sgt. Kramer was killed by a mine near the Volturno. Steve Puto was in a truck nearby when the mine exploded and the blast blew out his windshield and wounded him. I remember that just before all that happened I had hopped in my truck to go up to where Sgt. Kramer was, but Puto pulled out in his truck ahead of me and they would only let one truck go forward at a time and so I had to wait. That's how close I came to being there in the blast instead of Puto.

Another thing I remember about Italy was seeing these black fellas who looked like they were 8 feet tall. I don't know who they were or where they were from, but I remember they were getting paid to kill Germans. They would cut off the ear of any German soldier they killed and turn it in for money.

I went to rest camp in a small town in Italy. I don't remember the name of the town, but I do remember there were these six girls who would sing as they walked to work each morning. At rest camp there were trucks with showers built on them and they would have ten soldiers at a time take a shower on those trucks. It would be the first shower we would have in weeks. When we came out of the shower we were issued clean clothes. The clothes were used but they were clean. I remember one of the shirts they gave me had a hole in it that looked just like a bullet hole. I always wondered if they had taken those clothes off of dead GI's to re-issue them.

The only other memory I have of Italy was the bombing of Monte Cassino. Cassino was up on a hill and we were down in a valley only one half mile away at the time. Boy did they bomb that place.

From Italy we went to France aboard LSTs. We loaded our trucks on the LST and there was enough room to line them up three across. I know because I was in charge of lining them up. I don't remember how many rows of three there were, but I remember we would back the trucks into the front of the ship, down each side of the ship first and then we would back a row down the middle. We shared our LST with some British soldiers and they were sure filthy, especially in the bathroom. They made such a mess in the head that we would wait and do our business at night over the side of the LST.

Henry with French girl at Luneville

I don't recall very much about our time in France except for training French troops, but I remember when we came to Worms, Germany. Worms was blown up. There was not much left standing. I remember somebody went down in the cellar of what must have been a cassino at one time and found thousands of bottles of wine in that cellar. Lt. Hunt allowed us to put some of that wine in our trucks. Hunt was a good officer and we all respected him. We enjoyed that wine for a long time.

In bridging the Rhine I remember we would drive forward one truck at a time and unload our trailor which contained two pontons, 12 boards, and two anchors. Using that material they would build a raft and outboard it out into the river and add it on to the bridge. That's how we built them. I recall that the Army placed two big spotlights on the river about a mile from the bridge and the Germans then gave those spotlights all the attention and didn't bother us while we built the bridge. I remember losing my helmet while bridging the Rhine. I was pulling an anchor to tighten it up and I slipped and my helmet went in the river.

Next we bridged the Danube River. We caught a lot of shelling there. We could hear those German guns go off in the distance and then we would hear the rounds coming in. I hid under parts of the bridge to escape the barrage. As I recall we finally got the bridge completed and the first tank that went across sunk the far end of the bridge.

Not long after we bridged the Danube, I was in this small town, it was a beutiful little town with most of the buildings having stained glass in the windows. I don't remember the name of the town but it was famous up until the thirties for the passion play it would put on there. I think they stopped having the play in the thirties. But it was a beutiful town and there was a crucifix of Jesus on the cross up on a hill over looking the town. I was in a house up on a hill in this town when we got word that the war had ended three days earlier. I recall us finding what looked like garages built into the side of the mountain in this town and inside these garages the Germans had hid airplanes. Later as we traveled down the autobahn we saw larger planes parked there. They were using the autobahn as a runway.

At war's end we went on in to Austria. I had accumalated 110 points and was getting to go home. We first were sent to Camp Harrington. There were several of these camps named after cigarettes, such as Camp Lucky Strike and Camp Marlboro, but I ended up at Harrington. There I remember they had German prisoners cleaning up our trash and cigarette butts that we threw on the ground. While at this camp another fella and I found a bag of coffee and we knew we could get a lot of money for it so we went "over the hill" to Paris and sold that bag of coffee for $300, all of which we spent over the next three days. I got to see Notre Dame Cathedral during that time. I also got to see the actress Betty Huttin. When we returned to camp I was busted down from Tech 5 to private for going "over the hill". From Harrington we went to Marsailles and stayed only a short time before shipping out for home. When we reached the US we had to stay on the ship for several days before we were allowed ashore. We then went to Camp Patrick Henry and they had a big dance and big meal prepared for us. From Henry I went to Fort Dix and it was there I was discharged.

Over the years on occasion I've been in touch with some of the fellas from the 85th. Galli was the one who lived closest to me but he died a couple of years ago.

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30.11 | 18:12

Italy, near the Garagliano River

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30.11 | 18:03

Send photos to rodbobarr@icloud.com

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28.11 | 17:15

Where is the soldier Galli in this pic?

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27.11 | 11:38

I was finally able to get photos! What email would you like them sent to?

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