Sam in gas mask
WWII Memories of SAM J. "Hoppy" HOPKINS, Sneedville, Tennessee: (Transcribed from a tape recording made in 2003)
I remember a cold morning
out in Texas they had us up on a lake and had those assault boats which we carried down to the water and we got in and they fired up those motors and those boats would tee totally fly. And they wouldn't slow down for nothin when they were bringing them in,
they would just run up on the bank. Well, we were coming in real fast and there was a Colonel with us sittin in the boat next to me and I was looking off to the side and I felt him grab me and he about took a piece out of me. One of the other boats was having
trouble starting the motor and we were heading right for it, and it finally did start and got out of the way just before we hit. We had all that heavy clothing on and we'd all drowned if we'd hit.
I can remember us building a bailey bridge in North
Africa. The bailey bridge was a good bridge but I didn't like building one, it was too hard to build. They put me up there on one end of those triple decker ones driving them pins and I got sick at my stomach and I thought sure I was gonna fall off. I came
down and told em "I can't do it."
Once in Italy we had a fella get drunk and pass out on the hood of his truck. This fella tended to go crazy when he got drunk and he was laying there on the hood when all of a sudden he rolled over and kicked the
windshield right out of his truck. I don't remember what kind of trouble he got into for that, but it must have been pretty bad.
I like to have got both Brazier and I killed one time. We hadn't seen war before and they told us to go to the Third
Engineers and take a crane. Brazier was a crane operator. On the way we saw some GI's and asked them how to get to the Third. They told us to go to this bombed out village and take a right. I drove on up there leading Brazier in my truck and we heard machine
gun fire and saw GI's ducked down behind cover. We didn't realize it but we were driving right in the middle of the front line.
We built a bridge over the Garigliano River on the French front in Italy. They left six or seven of us after it was built
to do maintenance on it. They would bring our food and mail up to us about 11pm at night. Breloff got word his mother had died and I really felt sorry for him. We took an awful shelling at that bridge. I remember one spring morning Sgt. Breloff told me to
raise the bridge two notches, so I went out there and just as I was getting it done I heard the awfulest noise I ever did hear in my life. I was on the side of the bridge away from our bunkers and I had no place to hide, so I started to run and then just layed
down on the ground there and went through that whole shelling. The French said there were 450 shells came in in that 10 minute span. It blew water and mud all over me. I remember thinking that if they'ed just quit long enough for me to run up to one of the
dugouts I'd be alright. I'd start like I was gonna raise up to run and here it would come again. So I laid right there and thought it was all over for me. One of our bulldozer drivers noticed that during the shelling a big piece of schrapnel had gone right
through the blade of his dozer. But we didn't lose a man during that shelling. Sgt. Breloff had crawled off the bridge into the water. I told him after the shelling that if a shell had hit in the water while he was in there, the concussion would have busted
every gut in him, just like it did the fish when we threw handgrenades into the water. I remember a 40 year old British soldier sitting near the bridge saying "this isn't bad duty yank."
One day we were going through the chow line and they had ham.
Nice big pieces which was something really unusual. Brazier and Rappaport a Jewish fella, were in line just ahead of me. They threw a big piece of ham on Rappaport's biscuit and Brazier said, "put it in there Rappaport" pointing to his own plate. Rappaport
said, "No I ain't gonna put it in your plate",to which Brazier said "you got to, cause you ain't allowed to eat pork, put er in there." To which Rappaport replied, "I'm gonna eat it." Brazier then said "Well eat it and go to hell, I can't help you."
Another thing I remember about ole Rappaport was him stealing one of our boat motors and selling it while we were still in the states. He'd do anything that Rappaport.
While in France we went up to St. Lo during a time when part of the town was
still burning. Me and ole Wissy, we called him "Wissy", he was a Pollock from the west coast, he and I and a few others were taking some bridging material up to St. Lo. I got unloaded and we were waiting on Wissy and when he finally joined us he came in drunk
and crying saying he'd killed Burkhalter. We asked him what had happened. He said that just as you come into St. Lo there was a cement wall holding back some water forming a pond and Wissy said he'd run off into the water in his truck and when Burkhalter opened
the door the water just rolled him out of the truck and now he was missing. Well that got us tore up and we got some fellas to bring a wrecker but even that couldn't pull the truck out. Well we waded that pond looking for Burkhalter while old Wissy was balling
his eyes out. We could not find Burkhalter, so we headed back to where we were bunked for the night as it was nearly midnight by then. While sitting on our bunks we heard snoring. Looked around and there was Burkhalter. He'd passed out drunk on his bunk. He
must have made his way back to camp while we were out looking for him.