Ssgt Frank Liddell, 99th Infantry Division, B Co., 393rd Infantry Regiment.
Frank was born on the 28th of December 1919, in rural Duluth, a small town in Gwinnett County, Georgia. He was the fourth of eight children, and grew up during the Great Depression on a farm, which had been in the family since 1820. During the Depression, while still attending school, he worked on his father’s farm. Frank enjoyed growing up on the farm and found it very interesting. Frank attended Norcross High School and graduated in 1938. Shortly after graduation he worked for at a food processing plant in Atlanta, Georgia before joining the army in 1942.
Frank enlisted just six months after Pearl Harbor, on 18 June 1942, at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. He knew he would be drafted and wanted to choose his branch of service. He received his basic training at Camp Howze, Texas.
Camp Howze ran an Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP.) In this program, the Army trained soldiers to have technical skills and create a pool of officers. At Camp Howze, Frank received training in the use of rifles and in Squad Leadership. While there, he earned the rank of buck Sergeant, right before leaving the U.S. On furlough to prepare to leave the U.S. for overseas, Frank married his fiancé, Pearl Louise Barlow.
As Frank embarked on the Queen Mary, one of the two biggest troopships used during World War II, he recalled the conditions on board the ship. “We were housed all over the ship. I was not in a cabin or even a bed or cot, but right on the deck. There were huge numbers of us onboard, and there were four dining areas. The quality of the food did not make an impression. Thank God I was never seasick then.”
Once the ship arrived in Glasgow, Scotland, Frank was transported by rail to the south of England to get ready for transport to Le Havre France. During this trip he saw many bombed cities which must have been a horrible sight just arriving as new fresh troops with little to no experience.
Frank joined the 99th Infantry Division, as a Replacement soldier. The 99th had received their baptism of fire during the Battle of the Bulge in late December 1944 through early January 1945.
Frank’s first experience in combat came in the beginning of March 1945 in the effort to take the town of Remagen. During the fighting for the Ludendorff Bridge his Staff Sgt got killed and Frank got promoted to squad leader with Sgt. House as Assistant squad Leader.
The 99th was the first division to cross the Rhine on the Remagen railroad bridge. Later, after the bridge collapsed soon after it was taken, troops crossed by pontoon bridge. They crossed at night at intervals, due to the partial destruction of the bridge.
Frank recalled, “We took the town of Wetzlar, which had the world famous Leica camera factory. I did manage to get a camera from the Leica factory.
When asked what type of weapon he carried throughout the war he replied “As a standard weapon I carried a M1 Carbine, however, I also carried a Thompson Sub. Machine Gun part of the time.”
During the Rurh pocket “cleanup,” many German companies surrendered to the regiment, one of them the 130th Panzer Lehr Division in the town of Altena.
“In every town and village white flags waved from the housetops, it seemed people were happy to see us. We continued clearing town after town.
We Always setup a security perimeter, at one point we approached a church and went inside. One of my squad rounded up the nuns in the church. He was pointing his bayonet at each of them in the line. I told him to stop as the sisters were frightened and were not the enemy.
They had been pointing and had been trying to keep me from falling through a trap door in the floor. Misunderstanding, I fell through and landed in the basement of the church where the enemy had stored weapons and ammunition. I reported the find to my commanding officer.”
After the breakthrough during the Bulge, Frank was in three major battles: the Remagen Bridgehead, Ruhr Valley, and the Rhineland, which included four river crossings under combat. They were: the Rhine, the Wied, the Danube and the Iser
Early May 2015 I got in contact with Frank and he agreed I could do short interviews and publish his story on my website so it could be shared with the rest of the world. Frank was a fantastic storyteller and he remembered clearly his time during World War Two, I was hoping to meet Frank next year at his home and create a documentary about his experience during the war but sadely Frank passed away the 15th of April 2016 and will be missed by his family and friends. Thank you for your friendship Frank I will never forget you!