February 3, 2017

Radio Man Saw Action

(This post first appeared on my previous blog, A Face to the Sun, on February 2, 2013.)

Recently, I came across this article written by Sheila Naveau, staff writer for the Northwest Signal, Napoleon, Ohio and published in the July 14-15, 2007 edition.  It features my uncle, Alfred Elling, and his story of service in World War II.
It definitely serves as a reminder of the sacrifices an entire generation made to protect our freedom.

"Liberty Center - Aug. 22, 1942, 20 year old Liberty Center native Alfred Elling was drafted into the U. S. Army.
He started his journey in Port Eustis, Va., with basic training, but when the trainees were shipped off to new destinations, Elling was not among them.  He and another soldier, Bob Bogart - also of Henry County - were left behind.
'I don't know why we weren't sent,' Elling said.
Until the next wave of draftees were brought in, Elling and Bogart had to work at the base.  'They (the base officials) didn't know what to do with the two of us, so they gave us a choice what we wanted to do,' Elling said. 'Bob took KP (mess hall) duty and I took guard duty so I could get a 24 hour pass when I was off duty.'
When the new draftees arrived, Elling said he had to go through basic training again.  'At least this time I knew what to expect,' Elling said with a laugh.
Corporal Alfred Elling

After the basic training was over, it was time for Elling to move on to train in a specific field.  He said he wanted to drive trucks, but the Army had other plans.  Elling was sent to Athens, Ga. for four months of radio school.  He learned to operate the communications radios and became proficient in Morse code.  He received his T5 stripes after completing his training.
'You hear it so long, it just comes natural,' he said.

Elling then spent a stint in Norfolk to be trained in amphibious operations, which he found later would come in handy as his battalion landed at Normandy.
March 15, 1943, Elling was stationed at Camp Davis, NC and was assigned to the 115AAA Battalion.  Elling's outfit spent six to seven months in South Hampton,England before shipping to Normandy.
'It was November in England and very cold,' he said.  'We slept in pup tents that only had three sides, so we took the tarps off the trucks to cover the opening to keep out some of the cold.'

Being a Morse code operator, Elling said he was at the front line a lot of the time. 'When Patton was moving forward, the radios followed,' Elling said.
His outfit had Sherman tanks that were equipped with bulldozers to clear hedge brush and make roads for convoys to get through.  Elling traveled in a trailer with his radio equipment.  He had large batteries and power to run his radios while they traveled.  
'I had to keep in touch with 13 corps,' he said.

The secret code was changed two to four times a day to make sure the Germans hadn't broken it and knew what the troop positions were.
Elling recalled many times his outfit sat along the roadway camouflaged, and he heard unidentified humming noises on the radio.  Knowing they had been detected by German fighter planes, Elling said they had to stay off the air waves until the planes were gone.
115th Gun Battalion, U.S. Army

When Elling's outfit went into Normandy, it was days after D-Day.  He said the casualties were tremendous.  'There were bodies everywhere,' he said.
When the outfit first reached Normandy, it was running low on ammunitions and the Germans were still coming.
'We rigged our 90's (ammunition) with a clock and fuse set to go off shortly after being shot,' Elling said. 'Normally, they explode on impact.'

Elling said his outfit went into France and took over a house in Sarreguemines, but the Germans continued to attack and Elling became ill, possibly by the fumes from the smoke.  He was evacuated to Nancy, France and then given his discharge...

Some 30 years after his tour in WW II, in 1974, Elling and his wife became involved in the Henry County Amateur Radio Club. The couple have been ham radio enthusiasts and continue to this day to talk to people all over the world who enjoy their passion for Morse code and ham radio.

Thank you for your service, Uncle Al!

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