Grouping: Technician Fourth Grade Charles M. Kish (ASN: #33135334)
Charles Michael Kish was born on June 11, 1914 in Bechtel, Pennsylvania. He enlisted on January 21, 1942. About 5 months later, Private Kish became an automotive mechanic and joined the Service Company of the 16th Infantry Regiment. The Regiment departed from the New York Port of Embarkation on August 1, 1942 and arrived in Scotland on August 7. Once in the European Theater of Operations, Charlie took part in all 8 campaigns of the Regiment. In April of 1943, Kish got promoted to Technician 5th Grade. More about his wartime experiences can be read in the article below, which was published in 1945 by a local newspaper.
Through 1945 the Service Company was supporting the regiment, and Charles must have had a large role in keeping the vehicles maintained. On May 15, 1945 Charles was promoted to Technician 4th Grade. And on July 5, he was transferred out of the 16th, to the 395th Infantry Regiment on his way back to the USA for discharge. The 16th Infantry Regiment remained in Germany.
In a newspaper article published in the ‘Bangor Daily News’ (October 25,1945), Charles tells about his experiences during World War II.
Newspaper article, Bangor Daily News (October 25, 1945)
Charles Kish, veteran of eight campaigns, relates many battle experiences with 1st Division
From East Bangor to England, from Algeria to Sicily, from France to Belgium, Germany, and Czechoslovakia, that’s the kind of country hopping that made the military career of Charles Kish, son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Kish of Gum street, East Bangor, one of the longest, most staggering, war odysseys in the slate belt.
Charlie, so glad to be back in “civies” after almost four years of service, has already packed his khaki in mothballs and so unfortunately, not too many of us have had the opportunity to gaze upon his chestful of decorations. As a member of the 16th Regiment of the celebrated First Division he is entitled to wear the fourrangere, a decoration bestowed upon the First for their liberation of the peoples of North Africa. On his European Theater of War ribbon, he wears eight bronze combat stars, with a bronze arrowhead to signify participation in an assault wave. The Good Conduct and the Bronze Star medals, the Combat Infantry Badge complete the picture on his left blouse front. On his sleeve besides his Technician Fourth Grade chevrons are seven overseas stripes for 21 months of overseas service. The meritorious citation for fixing vehicles and delivering them under fire, decorates his right sleeve and then the coveted blue Presidential Unit Citation ribbon adds to his honors. The latter citation went to the 16th Regiment for breaking up the main anchor of German defences on D-Day at Colleville-sur-le-mer.
After basic training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, beginning with his induction on January 21, 1942 he took advanced training for automotive mechanics at Camp Blanding, Florida. He left the States on August 1, 1942, landing first in Scotland then sent to England.
On October 14, 1942, his outfit boarded a boat for “destination unknown” and while sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar on November 6, the men were informed that they were about to invade North Africa at Arzew, Algeria. On November 8, with the first assault wave, the 16th established a beachhead there and drove toward their main objective, the city of Oran which fell on Armistice Day, appropriately enough at 11:00 a.m.
On January 16, 1943, he moved with his regiment into the Ousseletia Valley in Tunisia where such resistance was encountered that the valley changed hands several times, finally forcing the First Division men to retreat while another American outfit which had dug in overlooking the valley succeeded in taking the area while the 16th regiment went down to Tebessa. At this place, they guarded the main railhead toward which the Germans were advancing rapidly. After driving the Germans back from Tebessa, the Yanks fought their way into the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia which fell to the Allies on February 22. The unit re-organized and continued their battering drive toward Gafsa, taking it from the enemy on St. Patrick’s Day, 1943.
The bloodiest battles of the North African campaign were still before them as Charlie found out at the Battle of El Guettar where the First joined Montgomery’s British Eight Army.
“I don’t have to tell you about that,” Charlie said. “Ernie Pyle was right there –his gruesome tales ought to be just about enough to know”.
The start for the long, slow drive for Tunis began at Beja through some of the worst mountainous terrain in the country. The 16th Regiment was on the famous Hill 609 in vicious combat with the Germans when Bizerte fell to the Allies hastening the end of the fighting on May 13. Hill 609 was one of the most publicized battles of the campaign –the Germans were entrenched in the hill in such numbers it appeared a veritable bee hive.
“We had a short breathing spell near St. Leu, did a little more amphibious training, and off to Algiers to embark for the invasion of Gela, Sicily, on July 10. The following day, the Jerries threw 100 tanks at us in an attempt to shove us back into the sea,” he explained, “but the naval guns off shore broke up the attack, in no time and we drove on to Mescemi”.
Another bloody battle for the town of Trina was the result of an encounter with well-equipped enemy soldiers with a perfect defense. The Italians, who were being forced to fight, did not aid the German attack and sought every effort to sneak away and surrender to the Allies.
From Trina, the First went toward Palermo, taking the main thoroughfare of Enna, and continuing northeastward toward Mt. Aetna. In Randazzo, the Yanks contacted the British and joined forces to bring Sicily under allied control by August, 1943.
“When we were moved back to Licata near Gela for troops of occupation, it wasn’t too bad. We boarded boats at Augusta in October to sail to England and that’s when the fun began”. On this trip, the convoy was attacked by German U-boats as often as three times a day. Upon arriving in England, the Yanks were put through a series of amphibious maneuvers many of which served to confuse the Germans in France. The infantrymen were placed on boats and sent toward the coast of France in a bluff invasion and finish the maneuver by landing and slapping sands of Southern England.
In June, 1944, the men who were to take part in the D-Day invasion were put in camps entirely cut off from outside contact. They left English shores on June 4 with orders to invade Normandy on June 5, but at sea, new orders postponed the invasion for 24 hours.
The landings were bitter. In his 16th Regiment alone, about three-fourths of the men were killed and casualties ran high. However, the First established its beachhead and drove from Colleville-sur-le-mer to the vicinity of Caumont and were relieved from combat the third week in July. A terrific bombardment by our Air Force opened the way for an advance at the Battle of St. Lo then in a motorized infantry march, the allied forces reached Mayenne to continue their piercing drive to the Belgian border. They entered Belgium after the horrible battle of Mons and reorganized for a fast march to the German border which they crossed into Aachen in September. Driving through the Siegfried Line into Stolberg, there it was that supplies reached such a shocking low ebb that ammunition and gasoline were rationed and the only alternative for our men was to dig in and hold their lines.
Charlie participated in the much-talked-of battle of the Hurtgen Forest on November 9 and following this encounter was sent back with his outfit in the middle of December to the outskirts of Verviers, Belgium. While the 16th Regiment was settling down to their much-deserved rest, General Von Runstedt turned the tide of the Allied victory with his sudden breakthrough at the Battle of the Bulge. Immediately, the rest camp was broken and the 16th rushed to guard the Northern flank of the Bulge at St. Vith, Waimes and Sorurbrodt.
When Von Runstedt was running out of tricks up his sleeve, and the Germans began retreating , the Allies gave chase, crossed the Ruhr River to Cologne, turned Southward and took the city of Bonn. While the 16th Regiment and other First Division units were involved in these actions, the Remagen bridge fell to other American units, speeding the crossing of the Rhine by the 16th Regiment.
Moving northeastward on a sneak march to Paderborn, they closed the Ruhr pocket, and turned south to the city of Selb on the Czechoslovakian border. In Czechoslovakia, the troops took Egar and Franzenbad. Here Charlie and his unit heard the electrifying news of German’s surrender which ended the war.
There was a short space of time in the area of Ansbach and Bamberg during which he acted with the 16th for occupation. Finally, with 126 well-earned points, he returned to the United States and was honorably discharged from service on October 5 at Indiantown Gap.
And what does Charlie have to say about the war? Well, not too much, because right now his deepest and most important concern is about the peace. He still recalls the words of the German prisoners who insisted that the German political machine lost the war for them and that as soon as they can get Germany “re-organized” they’d make a comeback.
We don’t think so. There are too many men like Charlie who spent an awful lot of valuable time in mud, slush, and dirt while trying hard not to mind the screaming of shells around them. Who will personally see that the Germans don’t do anything anymore!