9 / 4
Infantry Division
Historical Society
general malony Major General
Harry J. Malony
Commanding General 
94th Infantry Division
9/15/1942 - 5/21/1945
'You can't visualize what war is like if you haven't seen it'
Earl Carpenter
Earl Carpenter talks about his experiences serving in the military during WWII
while at his home in Muncie on Sept. 9, 2012. / Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press

Published Sep 30, 2012 in The Star Press MUNCIE — For Earl Carpenter, pulling guard duty during a bitter Kansas winter when the temperatures hit 17 degrees below zero might have been good training for enduring the cold and snow at the Battle of the Bulge.

Nothing could have prepared him for combat, though.

“You can’t visualize what war is like if you haven’t seen it,” he said.

As he spoke, he was in the living room of his neat-as-a-pin southside home, his son Rodney occupying a nearby chair. Nearly a century ago, though, Carpenter was born in Kentucky and came to Muncie by way of West Virginia, dropping out of school here after the ninth grade to go to work.

An early stint at Indiana Bridge lasted only a few months, but he hired on at Owens-Illinois in 1936, working there until he was drafted late in 1942. Having married her a year earlier, his wife, Kathryn, followed him to duty stations in Kansas, Tennessee and Mississippi before he boarded the Queen Elizabeth in New York City, going to war as a machine-gun ammo bearer in a weapons platoon.

The voyage lasted six days, three of which Carpenter was seasick.

“The whales got quite a meal,” the 95-year-old veteran joked, noting his unit, the 94th Infantry Division in Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army, hit French soil on Utah Beach, dodging the masts of vessels that had been sunk in the invasion three months earlier.

Ordered to hold thousands of German troops at bay near two cities, they fought in France’s hedgerow country, Carpenter stumbling through them with the carbine on his back and heavy boxes of .30 caliber ammunition in each hand.

“We’d go out on patrol every night,” he recalled. “And we’d lose some (GIs) every night.”

At one point, a Red Cross officer set up a series of prisoner exchanges, private for private, sergeant for sergeant, officer for officer, with the Germans.

“You’d see the smiles on our own boys’ faces,” he happily recalled, noting the Germans seemed far less enthused about being returned to their lines.

At the Battle of the Bulge, Carpenter and his comrades were transported hundreds of miles to shore up American defenses, but kept on the move, Patton’s philosophy being “Get ’em on the run, keep ’em on the run.”

When they had to dig what Carpenter called “rat holes,” he’d clear snow, then chip away at frozen dirt, lining the bottom of his hole with pine boughs to avoid the water that would seep inside.

“You were frozen most of the time you were over there,” he remembered. “You could hardly squeeze the trigger on your weapon.”

Things warmed up, though, when German artillery exploded in the trees above, sending sizzling, red-hot shrapnel into his hole.

Even now, Carpenter’s memories of his war remain vivid.

“It was town after town, village after village,” he said, recalling one where three American tanks were hit by German ones, the surviving crewmen scattering for cover.

Taking cover behind tombstones in a cemetery, he felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to find a full colonel offering his encouragement.

“We’ll make it,” the colonel told him, then moved on to other GIs. “I thought, ‘At least the officer was up here with us.’”

Working their way into town, two fellow GIs popped onto a roof with a bazooka and in short order destroyed the three German tanks that had earlier hit the American ones. Peering inside one, Carpenter found the driver’s hands still on the controls, his head blown off.

Elsewhere, an early-morning blast of connected landmines destroyed a building and killed an entire group of Carpenter’s friends, men he had once led as a buck sergeant back home before a disagreement with a surly platoon leader made him turn in his own stripes.

Then there were the “shoe mines” hidden under snow that two GIs stepped on at the same time, blowing one man’s leg off, and both the other man’s legs off. Carpenter can still hear the man who’d lost both.

“He was pleading, ‘Please shoot me! Please shoot me!’”

When the war ended, he added, his division had suffered 10,993 casualties, including dead, wounded and captured.

Sent to Czechoslovakia at the close of hostilities, Carpenter had a joyous, surprise reunion with his brother, Eugene, a member of the 4th Armored Division, whom he hadn’t seen for three years.

Finally home, the millwright completed 37 years of employment at Owens-Illinois, then ended his career with 13 years at Chrysler. Back with Kathryn, who didn’t need to follow him to bases anymore, they were married for 70 years before she died a year ago.

Thinking of her today, he can’t help but cry. Still, thoughts of his service stir spirited memories of those he fought alongside, and boundless gratitude.

“I give God credit,” he said, looking at the box containing a vial of sand from Utah Beach and his old medals, plus the new medal — France’s Knight of the Legion of Honor — he was recently awarded for his wartime service. “At 95 years old, I never dreamed I’d make 95.”

Having heard his father talk, Rodney was asked what he thought of all this, and his features suddenly contorted with emotion.

“You see the movies,” he said, having a tough time talking. “This is the real thing.”

94th Bulletin board
If anyone has information
please contact person direct by Email or Phone
if available

Harry Helms, Secretary
click HERE to email us

eXTReMe Tracker