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Friday, September 11, 2015

Chapter 7- The Soldier

The Soldier

“I’m thinking of all the Christmases of the past and what the day has always meant to our family. Partly because I’m sentimental and it’s such a hard time of the year to be so far away from those I love and the prospects of ever returning seem so remote and partly because I needed the emotional release after living under so much tension of late; I took advantage of the opportunity a while ago and sneaked off by myself and shed a great many tears. I’m good for another year now and do realize that I’ve been on of God’s favored. To be alive and whole is all one can ask for these days, that is my blessing.”
Bill Allen writing to Aunt Mabel in 1944 on his last Christmas.

Bill Allen chose to enter the Army as an enlisted man. As a college graduate, he probably would have had the option of becoming an officer. It appears he wanted to go in as an enlisted man.

The following is a description of Bill’s military service:
Sergeant William G. Allen
Serial #-36771414
83rd Infantry Division
331st Infantry Regiment
D Company
2nd Platoon

To understand, what these descriptions mean, the following is compiled from World War 2 Military Organization from
Army                                    Over 50,000 (Soldiers)                      General (Leader)
Division                               10,000-25,000                                    Major General
Regiment                               1,500-2,500                                       Colonel
Company                                60-300                                              Captain
Platoon                                    30-60                                               Lieutenant
Squad                                        5-15                                               Sergeant

At various times, Bill was a machine gunner, and then in reconnaissance work. As Bill mentions to his parents in a letter, the 331st Infantry would be moved as needed to be part of the 1st Army, 3rd Army, and 9th Army. Bill trained in Georgia, left from New York by ship to England. Shortly after D-Day, the 331st left South Hampton, England and landed at Omaha Beach. From there, the 331st would fight across France, Belgium, and eventually into Germany. The 331st was involved in the Battle of the Bulge. Bill was killed on April 19, 1945 near Tochheim, Germany.

The following is a timeline of the world events and of Bill’s life:

                                                                                                            June, 1939
                      William Allen at 22 years old, graduates from Knox                           College                                                                                                            
August, 1939
The Russians and the Germans sign a non-
aggression pact. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin
agree not to invade each other's borders.
The two leaders secretly plan to divide Poland
and other parts of Eastern Europe between them.

September, 1939                                                                                September, 1939
World War II Begins- Employing blitzkrieg                                     William Allen at 22 years old, begins teaching
(literally, "lightning war") tactics, Germany                                     at Fairview, Il.
invades Poland. Polish military forces are
unprepared for the ferocity of Germany's attack.
When efforts to negotiate a withdrawal fail,
Britain and France declare war on Germany.
World War II begins.

May, 1940
As Germany marches into Belgium,
Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, Winston
Churchill replaces a disgraced Neville
Chamberlain, the man responsible for the
appeasement of Hitler, as prime minister of
Great Britain.

June, 1940                                                                                          June, 1940
Germany captures Paris, and France surrenders                               William Allen 23 years old completes first year
to the Nazis. Exacting revenge for his nation's                                 teaching.
defeat in the first World War, Hitler forces French
 officials to sign surrender papers in the same
railroad car in which Germans signed the
armistice of 1918.

July 10, 1940
The Battle of Britain begins. A three-month
battle fought in the skies over Britain will
include destructive bombing raids on London
and other cities, but by the end of October the
British will hand Hitler his first defeat.

                                                                                                            September, 1940
                                                                                                            William Allen at 23 years old, starts second year of
                     teaching at Fairview, Illinois.

March, 1941
President Franklin Roosevelt convinces a
largely isolationist Congress to pass the
Lend-Lease Act, allowing the U.S. to sell or
lend war materials to "any country whose
defense the President deems vital to the
 defense of the United States."

July, 1941
Roosevelt freezes German and Italian assets
in the U.S.

August, 1941
Emerging from secret meetings conducted on
warships off of Newfoundland, Winston Churchill
and Franklin Roosevelt unveil the Atlantic Charter.
The charter outlines goals concerning "the final
destruction of Nazi tyranny," and a pledge to
support "the right of all peoples to choose the
form of government under which they will live."

                                                                                                            September, 1941
                                                                                                            William Allen, 24 years old starts his third year
                                                                                                            teaching at Fairview, IL

December 7, 1941: The Attack on Pearl Harbor
The United States is thrust into war when Japan
launches a devastating surprise attack on the
U.S. Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. President
Franklin Roosevelt will ask the Congress
to declare war on Japan the following day,
December 8th. Three days after that, Germany
and Italy will declare war on the U.S. 

January, 1942
U.S. troops arrive in Europe. Through March,
the number of troops shipped overseas averages
about 50,000 per month -- a number that will
soar upwards of 250,000 per month in 1944.

August, 1942: Stalingrad
Germany begins its assault on the Russian city
of Stalingrad. In a battle that will rage for six
months, and take hundreds of thousands of
German and Russian lives, the Red Army finally
defeats invading Nazis. The long, bloody battle
proves to be a turning point in the war, as Germany
begins a retreat from the Eastern Front.
                                                                                                            September, 1942
                                                                                                            William Allen at 25 years old starts his first
                                                                                                             year teaching at Galesburg High School. He is
                                                                                                              assigned to teach Latin, Speech, English, as
                                                                                                               well as being responsible for school plays.

January, 1943
Roosevelt and Churchill hold a conference at
Casablanca, Morocco. They affirm their goal of
securing the Axis nations' unconditional surrender.

May, 1943
U.S. troops led by Generals Dwight Eisenhower 
and George S. Patton join forces with British troops
under the command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery 
to defeat German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in North Africa.

June, 1943
Eisenhower is appointed commander of the U.S. forces
 in Europe.

July-September, 1943                                                                                 September, 1943
Allied forces capture Sicily and key spots in                                             William Allen at 26 years old begins his
southern Italy. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini                                     fifth year teaching and his second year at
is overthrown and imprisoned. Hitler dispatches                                     Galesburg High School.
German troops to fend off an Allied advance in what
will be a series of hard fought, costly battles. 

November, 1943: The Meeting of the Big Three
The "big three," Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin,
convene in Teheran, Iran to discuss the invasion of
Italy. It is the first time all three have met.

                                                                                                                      November 28, 1943
                                                                                                                       William Allen at 26 years old directs his
                                                                                                                        last school play, “A Christmas Carol.”

December, 1943                                                                                               December 2, 1943
Eisenhower is named supreme commander of the                                          William Allen at 26 years old reports for
Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.                                                             active duty in Chicago. Given enlistment
                                                                                                                              number 36771414 in the U.S. Army. Sent
                                                                                                                              to Camp Wheeler, Georgia for infantry
                                                                                                                              training where trained as a machine
February, 1944
German aircraft production centers are the target
of a massive bombing campaign by the U.S. Army Air
Corps. Shortly thereafter, more than 600 U.S. bombers
raid Berlin. Despite the devastation caused by the
bombing, Germany is able to maintain weapons and
aircraft production levels.

                                                                                                                   May, 1944
                                                                                                                    William Allen at 27 years old is in New
                                                                                                                    York, waiting to be shipped to Europe.

May 30, 1944
The Allied invasion of France commences; troops based
in England begin their mobilization to cross the Channel,
in a massive effort code-named Operation Overlord.
Eisenhower will wait for a good weather forecast to
determine the exact day of the invasion.

                                                                                                                    June, 1944
                                                                                                                    William Allen is in England.

June 4, 1944
The Allies capture Rome, Italy. 

June 5, 1944
Overlord is set into motion. An advance wave of
paratroopers flies to drop spots over France late in
the evening and descends into enemy territory.

June 6, 1944: D-Day
Over 160,000 Allied troops and 30,000 vehicles are
landed along a 50-mile stretch of fortified French
coastline and begin fighting on the beaches of Normandy.

                                                                                                                 July, 1944
                                                                                                                  William Allen is in France.

July, 1944
The Allies take control of the French port city of Cherbourg.
The retreating Germans, however, have left the city badly
razed and booby-trapped.

August, 1944                                                                                               August, 1944
After four years of German occupation, the Allies                                     83rd Infantry Division take Chateauneuf-
liberate Paris with the help of French resistance                                     d’Ille-et-Vilaine, Dinard,  and St.Servan.
troops led by General Charles de Gaulle.

                                                                                                                     October, 1944
                                                                                                                     William Allen is in Luxemborg.

                                                                                                                   November, 1944
                                                                                                                     83rd Infantry Division capture Greven-
                                                                                                                     macher, Echternach, and then fought in
                                                                                                                     the Hurtgen Forest.

December 16, 1944: The Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge begins. Hitler sends a
quarter of a million troops across an 85-mile
stretch of the Allied front, from southern Belgium
into Luxembourg. In deadly cold winter weather,
German troops will advance some 50 miles into the
Allied lines, creating a deadly "bulge" pushing into
Allied defenses.

                                                                                                                              Late December, 1944
                                                                                                                              William Allen’s troops push back clear
                                                                                                                              into Germany.
January, 1945
By the end of the month, the Battle of the Bulge ends.
Over 76,000 Americans have been killed, wounded,
or captured. The Allies regain the territory they held
in early December.

                                                                                                                              January, 1945
                                                                                                                              William Allen’s troops reform in Belgium.

February 4-11, 1945: The Yalta Conference
The last meeting of the Big Three -- Roosevelt,
Churchill, and Stalin -- takes place in the Soviet city
of Yalta. Roosevelt and Churchill agree to allow Stalin
to control the governments of Eastern Europe at war's
end, thereby setting the stage for the future Cold War.

                                                                                                                              February 23, 1945
                                                                                                                              William Allen’s troops push into Germany
                                                                                                                              for what will be the final offense of the

                                                                                                                              February 25, 1945
                                                                                                                              William Allen’s brother in law, Bob
                                                                                                                              Arnold is killed fighting in Belgium.

March, 1945
U.S. forces cross the Rhine River. The Germans
retreat into Germany. 

                                                                                                                              March 23, 1945
                                                                                                                              William Allen receives letter from home
                                                                                                                              them of Bob Arnold’s death.

                                                                                                                              April 16, 1945
                                                                                                                              Somewhere near Barby, Germany on the
                                                                                                                              Elbe River, William Allen writes his last
                                                                                                                              letter home on his 28th birthday.

                                                                                                                              April 19, 1945
                                                                                                                              William Allen is killed when his jeep goes
                                                                                                                              over an Allied land mind. He is 28 years
                                                                                                                              and 3 days old. According to Division
                                                                                                                              daily action reports, this is the last day
                                                                                                                              they suffer any casualities.

                                                                                                                              April 22, 1945
                                                                                                                              Benton and Lura Allen are notified of the
                                                                                                                              death of William Allen.

April 30, 1945
As Soviet forces push into Berlin, Adolf Hitler takes
shelter in his bombproof bunker. There, he marries
his mistress, Eva Braun, before poisoning her and
shooting himself. His remains will never be found.

                                                                                                                              May 1, 1945
                                                                                                                              Memorial Service for William Allen is
                                                                                                                              held at Galesburg High School.

May 7, 1945
General Dwight Eisenhower accepts Germany's
unconditional surrender at Reims, France. Germany
likewise surrenders to Russia in Berlin. 

It is difficult to know exactly where a particular soldier fought. Because of the size of a Division, it is possible that different parts of each division were engaged a little bit differently than other parts of the division. The following is the combat record of the 83rd Infantry as described in Wikepedia:

The 83d Infantry Division arrived in England on 16 April 1944. After training in Wales, the division landed at Omaha Beach, 18 June 1944, and entered the hedgerow struggle south of Carentan, 27 June. Taking the offensive, the 83d reached the St. Lo-Periers Road, 25 July, and advanced 8 miles (13 km) against strong opposition as the Normandy campaign ended.

After a period of training, elements of the division took Châteauneuf-d'Ille-et-Vilaine, 5 August, and Dinard, 15 August, and approached the heavily fortified area protecting St. Malo. Intense fighting reduced enemy strong points and a combined attack against the Citadel Fortress of St. Servan caused its surrender, 17 August. While elements moved south to protect the north bank of the Loire River, the main body of the division concentrated south of Rennes for patrolling and reconnaissance activities. Elements reduced the garrison at Ile de Cézembre, which surrendered, 2 September. On 16 September 1944: the only surrender of a German Major General B. H. Elster to US-troops with 18,850 men and 754 officers at the Loire bridge of Beaugency. The movement into Luxembourg was completed on 25 September. Taking Remich on the 28th and patrolling defensively along the Moselle, the 83d resisted counterattacks and advanced to the Siegfried Line defenses across the Sauer after capturing Grevenmacher and Echternach, 7 October. As the initial movement in operation "Unicorn," the division took Le Stromberg Hill in the vicinity of Basse Konz against strong opposition, 5 November, and beat off counterattacks.

Moving to the Hurtgen Forest, the 83d thrust forward from Gressenich to the west bank of the Roer. It entered the Battle of the Bulge, 27 December, striking at Rochefort and reducing the enemy salient in a bitter struggle. The division moved back to Belgium and the Netherlands for rehabilitation and training, 22 January 1945. On 1 March, the 83d advanced toward the Rhine in Operation Grenade, and captured Neuss. The west bank of the Rhine from north of Oberkassel to the Erft Canal was cleared and defensive positions established by 2 March and the division renewed its training. The 83d crossed the Rhine south of Wesel, 29 March, and advanced across the Munster Plain to the Weser, crossing it at Bodenwerder. As opposition disintegrated, Halle fell on 6 April. The division crossed the Leine, 8 April, and attacked to the east, pushing over the Harz Mountain region and advancing to the Elbe at Barby. That city was taken on the 13 April. The 83rd established a bridgehead over the river.

On 11 April 1945 the 83rd encountered Langenstein, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp. At the camp, the troops found approximately 1,100 inmates. The inmates were malnourished and in extremely poor physical condition. The 83rd reported the death rate at the camp to be 500 per month. Also, that the prisoners had been forced to work 16 hour days in nearby mines, and were shot if they became too weak to work. After liberation, the death rate continued at approximately 25–50 people per day, due to the severe physical debilitation of the prisoners.

To slow the spread of sickness and death, the 83rd ordered the local German mayor to supply the camp with food and water. Also, medical supplies were requisitioned from the U.S. Army's 20th Field Hospital. In addition, the 83rd recovered documents for use by war crimes investigators.

The following are the general dates and places of the 83rd Infantry Division:
A- Omaha Beach- June 1944
B- St. Malo, France- August 1944
C- Beaugency, France- September 1944
D- Luxembourg- October/November, 1944
E- Gressenich, Germany- December, 1944
F- Battle of Bulge- Rochefort, Belgium- December, 1944
G- Neuss, Germany- March 1945
H- Wesel, Germany- March, 1945
I- Beodenwerder, Germany- March, 1945
J- Halle, Germany- April, 1945
K- Langenstein, Germany- April, 1945
L- Tochheim, Germany- April, 1945 (Location near where Bill was killed)

These are the dates reported for the 83rd Division. Whether Bill Allen was at these exact locations at these exact times would not be known. It is known he was killed near Tochheim, Germany.
A- Neuss, Germany- March 1, 1945
B- Wesel, Germany- March, 1945
C- Bodenwerder, Germany- March 29, 1945
D- Halle, Germany- April 6, 1945
E- Langenstein, Germany (sub-camp of Buchenwald)- April 11, 1945
F- Tochheim, Germany- April 13, 1945 (75 miles from Berlin)

The following is a clipping from the Peoria Journal Star- the date is unknown:

Co D Men on Recon Take Village Alone

Without firing a shot, a Co. D reconnaissance party in a lone jeep captured a German village at 0200. Attempting to make contact with the spearhead, they took what they thought was the alternate route- one which took them to a small village.

Driving up and down the empty streets and inspecting the vacated, newly dug German trenches they realized they had taken the wrong turn in the road.

Hastily they claimed the town for the U.S. Army and hurried back to Battalion C. P. to report there was no longer any resistance in the village to their right.

Members of the party were: Lt. Robert J. Deck, Jr, Wayne, Penn., Sgt. William G. Allen, Peoria, Ill., Pfc. John J. Kovak, McDonaldton, Penn., and Pfc. Marvin T. Davis, Abbeville, S.C.

The following is William Allen's citation for earning the Bronze Star:

The following is Bill Allen’s citation for earning the Bronze Star:

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