‘War, as Gen. Sherman said, is hell’

Published 12:15 am Friday, November 11, 2016

Anthony is grand marshal of today’s parade


The following interview was taken from an oral history of area soldiers compiled by Robert Evers and John Vick.

Before Eland Anthony made a career in banking, he earned a silver start in combat, and saw some of World War II’s worst horrors.

1111-grand-marshal-mr-eAnthony was a student at Virginia Military Institute when he was drafted into the Army. He trained at Ft. Benning and was, he said, “one of the Army’s 90-day wonders.”

“I came out as a second lieutenant,” he said.

He was sent to Boston, but the Battle of the Bulge had started, and the Army was short of men and officers.

“They put me on a ship with 15,000 other soldiers,” he said. “We spent the next eight days on the Atlantic Ocean crossing.”

They went to Scotland, then took a train south to South Hampton.

“We went through there in box cars they called 40-and-eights,” he said. “They would hold 40 men or eight horses.”

At South Hampton, they crossed the English Channel to France, then travelled by truck into Germany.

“When we got there to Bastone, they already started the battle,” he recalled. “There had already been people there who gathered up the bodies of soldiers.

“You could see stacks. Just stacks of GIs, all over the place. Dead,” he said. “It was a real eye opened for me, because I knew we were going into combat soon.”

Always cold natured, he said it was so cold in Germany he thought he would never be warm again.

“It was so cold, tears would come out of my eyes and freeze on my cheeks,” he said.

His platoon was in a small village in Germany when a German machine gun guarded by several German riflemen was wreaking havoc on the American lines.

“They could zero in on any American solder within range,” he said.

He heard the colonel tell his company commander, “Get rid of that machine gun.”

“I was first platoon leader he ran in to,” Anthony recalled. “He said, ‘Lt., line your platoon up.’

“So we lined up about 300 yards from the machine gun. I was in the lead. My platoon was back of me. I gave the order, and said, ‘Let’s go.’

“We ran just as hard as we could. Several in our platoon were killed and wounded. I knew the closer got, we’d have more casualties.
“When we got within 100 yards, I told the platoon, ‘Lie down. Don’t move a muscle. I’m going up there, and get rid of that machine gun.’ ”

Anthony said he ran, walked, and crawled toward the machine gun.

“When I got close enough that I could not miss, I opened up with my rifle, and wiped out the ones that didn’t run.”

For his bravery, he was awarded the Silver Star.

As frightening as the situation was, it wasn’t the worst he saw.

“We were moving around, my platoon and 38 men behind me,” he said. “I saw across field, what looked like bodies. I told my first sergeant, ‘Let’s go see what that is.’

“We walked over there, and there were 12 concentration camp prisoners. Ex-prisoners. They were lying face down, and their heads were shaved. They had bullet holes in the back of their heads with blood oozing out of it. That meant it had happened right before we got there.

“I felt so sorry for those poor people,” he said. “Their hands were tied behind their backs.”

He and his platoon also went through Dachau.

“They were were so glad to see us, of course,” he recalled. “It was April. It was still cold. A lot of them had their feet wrapped in rags. Most were barefooted.

“We gave them all the cigarettes, chocolate candy, and food we had. We had to keep moving on.

“They really didn’t know what to do with freedom, it came so suddenly,” he said. “There were men there, my size, he weighed 65 pounds or less. You’ve never seen a happier group of people in your life to see those American soldiers.”

Anthony recalled sailing into New York harbor, and the enthusiasm with which American soldiers were greeted.

“There must have been a thousand or so ships out there. Every ship in harbor blew its whistles. Girls in evening dresses were on barges, and met the ship.

“When we docked, the first thing we did was enter a large building that had about 500 telephones. I called home, and told then I was home.”

Anthony was headed to the Pacific when he got a 10-day leave and came home to Troy, Ala.

While I was home, they dropped the bomb,” he aid. “We were notified by mail not to go to the west coast, but to go up to North Carolina and join division there. We stayed there to the end of the war.”

“We were very relieved when the bomb was dropped,” he said.

Anthony, who spent 10 years in the Army, was a first lieutenant.

“War, as Gen. Sherman said, is hell,” he said.