By Jennifer Martin - email
JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - World War II was raging when Guy Gillespie enrolled at Ole Miss in 1942.
"In June of 43 after I finished my freshman year, I enlisted in the army."
He qualified for the army's Specialized Training Program, which would allow him to continue his education while he served. So after basic training, he went to New York. There he took college classes with fellow soldiers for a semester
"We were transferred to the 75th Infantry Division."
They did maneuvers in Louisiana and trained in Kentucky before heading overseas.
"We were in Wales for about 6 weeks and we were transferred across the channel on a little steamer and it was pretty rough. The channel has a reputation for rough water."
They docked in France and moved out.
"On Christmas Eve, we found ourselves on the hillside and I am assuming it was in Belgium. We didn't know where we were. It was dark and you never know anything when you're in the army.They don't tell you anything about where you are or what you're going to be doing.
All of a sudden, we noticed a flight of bombers coming overhead. And we realized they were American bombers. It got to be over 2000. And we read, later after all this had happened, was the reason there was so many was because when the Bulge started in the middle of December, they wanted to get their Air Force in the action to counteract it. But the weather was terrible. The first good day they were able to fly was December 24th and that's when they brought these bombers on over.
The Germans sent up fighter planes to try to attack them and the Americans sent up fighter planes to protect them. And so they were having these dogfights right over our heads.
The next morning, Christmas Day, was our first action. We were transported to a place where they said, here's this field, about 700 yards wide and there were some machine gun nests on the other side of it that we were supposed to be attacking. Some of our men got killed on that day. Within the first 20 or 30 minutes of action."
Despite the losses, the campaign was successful and the Germans retreated. They spent the next couple of weeks on various maneuvers in the Ardennes Forest. On January 9th, Gillespie was injured.
"We're standing around in our breakfast chow-line, when all of a sudden, this explosion occurred. And I felt a little stinging here and there and knew that I had encountered some shrapnel from what appeared to be a mortar shell. The guy standing right next to me was killed."
After several weeks in hospitals, he was eventually sent back to his old unit, which had moved on to Holland.
"We crossed the Rhine and we got into Germany. And we had some combat experiences along the way. We were in an occupational stance there for awhile."
In March, the war in Europe ended. At that point, the 75th helped oversee redeployment efforts in France, directing other soldiers either to the pacific or back to the states.
He went on to spend some time in a finance unit before leaving the service and pursuing a career in medicine.
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