Edward W. Faytak
Ed was born on June 27, 1921, in Chicago IL. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, and on November 15, 1942, arrived at Camp Chaffee, AR, home of the 14th Armored Division. Ed was assigned to the 84th Armored Medical Battalion as an ambulance driver, was made Corporal on December 24, 1943, and immediately transferred to the 62nd Armored Infantry Battalion, 14th Armored Division. He was assigned to Company C, 2nd Platoon, 1st Rifle Squad. He was promoted to Buck Sergeant, assistant squad leader in March 1944.
Ed arrived in Marseilles, France, October 26, 1944, and went into battle with the unit in November. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and squad leader. The unit fought through the Vosges Mountains, Rhineland, Alsace, Ardennes, Hatten and Rittershoffen. After two months, he received wounds in his right chest, arm and leg. This happened on the resort outpost of Etangdu Hanau which was northeast of Bannstein, France. He was shot New Year's Day, 1945, and taken prisoner January 2, 1945. Ed was in many German field hospitals; then transported by horse and wagon, truck and box cars until arriving at his next home...POW camp, Stalag VIIB in Memmingen. On April 26 ,1945, the camp was liberated by units of the 10th Armored Division.
He spent the next four months in U.S. hospitals until his medical discharge from Kennedy General Hospital on September 1, 1945. Ed was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart w/OLC, Bronze Stars, POW Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign, EAME Campaign and WWII Victory Medal.
We arrived in Bannstein
aboard half tracks. From the very first day, I had a funny feeling about the place. It was too peaceful and quiet, but it wasn't long after that we got incoming shells. I remember clay tiles sliding off the roofs of the buildings and crashing to the ground. The shells kept coming in for about five minutes, but it seemed like five hours.
I can't remember when we were sent out to the Villa on the lake. I was short three men to make up a full squad. I do remember an 8' x 10' building away from the main Villa. A 3' crawl space under this building would be the home of the 1st Rifle Squad until New Year's Eve. We dug foxholes about 100 yards away from the building facing the woods. We set up trip wires with flares, grenades, etc., 200 yards in front of the foxholes. We agreed to have three men on guard duty, and we felt a little more secure. I won't forget the cold and snow. On December 30, 1944, we were told that we would be relieved by an infantry outfit...we never were. The day of December 31, I had a funny feeling, and I guess the guys had it too. None of us could sleep that night. A grenade went off where we had the trip wires set. After the grenade went off, all hell broke loose. The Krauts were tripping all the wires, and it was like the 4th of July. They were coming from all over...through the woods, down the hills and across the lake. We were overrun with Krauts in white screaming and yelling. They acted crazy.
Those of us that were left retreated past the Villa CP and headed into the woods. About ten of us got through the night until the next day, January 1, 1945. This is when I got hit with four slugs and left for dead. Blood was in my mouth, and I kept swallowing. Every time I took a breath, I could hear hissing, and I knew I was hit in the chest. I kept passing out, but I went in the direction we had just come from hoping to be seen by our own guys. I crawled, walked and passed out. And, every time I came to, I'd start all over again.
The good Lord was watching over me and I ended up in a house that was being shelled. I was beginning to hurt after the shock of being hit. I ended up in what looked like a kitchen. After the shelling stopped, a woman and a young girl came in. They saw me and I guess I scared them. I motioned to the girl, and pointed to the first aid pouch on my belt. She and her mother stripped me down to my chest. The girl got the pouch open, and treated and bandaged the wound which stopped the hissing noise. My collar bone was shattered, and my right arm and right leg had also been wounded. They put my clothes back on except for my jacket. It was so cold...I guess that's what kept me from bleeding to death. They spoon fed me the soup (where they got it, I don't know). I was paralyzed from the waist up. I could not move my arms. I could speak though, and I asked what place this was. The woman said Bannstein. How I got there only God knows. The woman gave me about a half glass of schnapps. Then, the two women helped me up and more or less dragged me into a bedroom, put me in bed and covered me. More shelling started, and the women took off. I never saw them again.
I don't remember anything until daylight came. I heard voices outside and thought they were G.I.'s. Boy, was I wrong! Two Krauts came in the bedroom, one carrying a burp gun, and the other guy had my rosary which I had in my jacket pocket. The guy with the burp gun stuck the barrel to my forehead and asked if I was Catholic. I said, "Yes." The Krauts told me to get up, but I could not. They helped me up, but when they grabbed me under my right arm and lifted, I screamed out. The shattered collar bone was grinding. I did have feeling in my arms again, and I was not paralyzed. They took me out of the house without giving me my jacket or wool cap. The snow was deep, and it was cold.
They walked me to someplace in town. When we turned the corner, it was disaster. There were dead horses, Germans and G.I.'s all over the place. There were burning half tracks and trucks. We got to a Kraut jeep that was stuck in the snow, and a Kraut told me to help push. I told him "something," and he understood English. The next thing he did was wrap me with his rifle barrel just under my knee caps. I passed out again and woke up in a building full of wounded Germans and G.I.'s. I asked some of the guys what outfit they were from and some said the 62nd . The building was a pickup place for shipping the wounded out to different places. I was supposed to get in one truck, but the guard said wounded Germans were to go first. They loaded the truck, and about that time there was incoming artillery. One landed on the truck, and that's all she wrote. The German guards were so mad, I thought they were going to shoot me right then and there. They said I should have been on the truck and blown away.
I ended up in a German civilian hospital where they took real good care of me...sheets on the bed, food, nurses and doctors. This is where I saw mass surgery done on both Germans and POW's. This is where they x-rayed me, and stuck long needles in my right lung to drain out the blood. It was a regular butcher shop. They would cut off arms and legs without anesthetic, and the soldiers would just pass out.
When they stuck the long needles in my back, I was sitting on a wood table. The German nurse stood in front of me to hold me on the table. Although it was very painful, there was also a little humor. While she was holding me, she was eating cookies. Every once in awhile, she would pop one in my mouth to eat. I thought it was so nice. I don't know what town this hospital was in, but there was a lot of shelling going on, and lots of dog fights in the air. I think I stayed there about four days, and then they evacuated the hospital.
I was on a litter, and they put me in a truck with other POW's. I didn't know anyone. It took us about two days to get to my permanent home for the duration...Stalag VIIB in Memmingen. I was in a room on the second floor. The buildings looked like our barracks in the States. The medical care in the POW camp was very poor. There was an M.D. from the 82nd Airborne. He was captured after one of his jumps. He took care of us the best he could with what he had. He was surprised that my collar bone was healing so good. The slug in my right arm had healed over, but I could not use it. I was partially paralyzed on the right side. My right leg had healed, but there was muscle damage. When I arrived at the prison camp, I had double pneumonia and a high temperature. The German doctor in charge shot me with what looked like yellow and green paint that was not mixed. I didn't know what the stuff was, but it sure made me sick.
The food consisted of grass or hay and potato peelings boiled into a sort of soup. We got one tin plate full a day along with a slice of black bread made out of sawdust. Once a week, we got a piece of sausage. Every two weeks or so we got a Red Cross package. The Krauts cut every can open looking for radio parts. I was in this camp for three months. I went from 185 pounds to 114 pounds.
We were liberated by units of the 10th Armored Division on April 26, 1945.
I kept a list of all the U.S. Army hospitals I was in before getting back to the States...a grand total of 25. The last Army hospital was a tent evacuation hospital at Cherbourg, France (194th General Hospital). We boarded the hospital ship, S.S. George Washington. This was really living. Lots of food and clean sheets on the bunks.
We arrived in Staten Island July 5, 1945. From there we were taken by ambulance to Halloran General Hospital. I stayed there until July 12 before heading for Memphis, TN, and Kennedy General Hospital. I left there on July 19 and arrived home on the 20th with a month's leave. I got a medical discharge on September 1, 1945.