Succasunna, NJ – After John Amerspek turned 21, he spent three years in Europe. His trip began in February, 1943, on Staten Island, when he boarded the Army transport ship Argentina, along with a few thousand others headed for the European front and World War II. John would go on to participate in six invasions and the liberation of Dachau. His memoir recounting these years at war is now available on Amazon.com: From Casablanca to Dachau: A GI Recalls.
John’s platoon invaded North Africa; fought in Tunisia; captured the Isle of Pantelleria; invaded Sicily; invaded Salerno, Italy and its tenuous beachhead; stalled at Cassino against an enemy well entrenched; invaded Anzio and fought there outnumbered in static positions for four months. After the breakout, they liberated Rome, were sent to Corsica for mountain training, invaded Southern France, moved north into France and fought a winter campaign in the mountains of Alsace-Lorraine, then crossed the Rhine River at Worms, Germany. They were one of the first groups to liberate Dachau and witness the horrors there.
In his book, From Casablanca to Dachau: A GI Recalls, John Amerspek gives his first hand account of these experiences, including maps and personal photos. He talks about General Patton’s inspiring speeches, and also of their first personal encounter. Exhausted after intense fighting in Sicily, his outfit was given a short break to get new clothes, shower and see a USO show with Humphrey Bogart. While sitting on the curb outside the theater waiting to enter, a caravan of cars with sirens blazing and machine gun-armed jeeps in front and in the rear passed by—and then suddenly stopped and backed up. A Lt. Colonel motioned them to a Cadillac. Inside was General Patton, who launched into a tirade because they hadn’t saluted when his car went by. They missed the USO show.
John was part of a small self-contained group of specialists that consisted of a platoon of 25 soldiers that provided early-warning radar detection of German aircraft for our forces. Their group, called Vermont, contained a cook, medic, drivers, radar operators, maintenance people and security.
“Our mission was to locate either at the forward edge of the battle line (since in the early stages of the war early-warning radars had limited range), or locate on top of a knoll or hill to detect low-flying enemy aircraft that flew under the radar screen to keep from being detected. Once enemy aircraft were detected by our radar, a message would be radioed to Command Headquarters to alert our aircraft and anti-aircraft batteries. We were a prime and obvious target to enemy aircraft, being very conspicuous at our higher level. We also had the training and capability to defend ourselves and to support the infantry, since we were located near them. Such support increased as the ranks of our infantry were decreased by high casualties and more and more crises occurred.”
He begins his story on the liberation of Dachau:
“One evening we approached our positions on a hilltop overlooking a town in the distance, dominated by an industrial complex, with a large chimney within a cluster of red brick buildings and rows of wooden one-story barrack-type structures. We were cold and tired from being on the move all day chasing the enemy. Their retreat was marked by periods of punishing ambushes, which delayed but did not stop our momentum… In the morning we moved out into the valley and the town itself, with no opposition. We noticed that the town was named Dachau, which didn’t mean anything to us at that time.
“Upon reaching the area that we’d identified as an industrial complex the night before, we noticed a high metal mesh fence enclosing the compound. We heard sporadic gunfire as we infiltrated the area. The entrance to the complex was a large gate that was open, with a large sign on top with an eagle and swastika. The sign read in German “Arbeit Macht Frei,” loosely translated meaning “labor makes free…”
In October, 1945, John returned home to New Jersey and used the GI Bill to earn a bachelor’s degree in industrial management from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He also earned a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, and served at Picatinny Arsenal for over 30 years. The painting to the right, depicting some of the ammunition projects he managed at Picatinny, was given to him on his retirement.
All profits from the sale of this book from July 4th to Veterans Day, 2013 go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which supports wounded military personnel. Their work includes building treatment facilities for servicemembers suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. 100% of donations go directly to their programs.
This book is available in the Amazon Kindle store as an ebook. It can be read on a Kindle, or on just about any device with a free Kindle App, including tablets (iPad, Android, Windows 8), computers (Mac or PC), smartphones (iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Windows, BlackBerry).
Click here to view this book on Amazon. For the free Kindle Reading App click here.
John Amerspek’s website: http://www.johnamerspek.com
Posted on July 8 2013 in News