By Jennifer Martin - email
"I enlisted in the Reserve Corp when I was a student at HCC and left when I was in my sophomore year," Joe Moss recalled.
But the military wasn't finished with him.
He was inducted into the regular Army in 1943. He left for Europe with the 281st Comat Engineer Battalion.
"Landing in England. Went from South Hampton to LaHarve, France, and we worked our way with General Patton's 3rd Army through France, Germany & Austria," Moss said.
The job of the Combat Engineers was primarily to facilitate U.S. troop movements, making roads passable, building bridges, or clearing land mines and, of course, fighting the enemy when necessary.
"We were flying gasoline in to an abandoned airport we had captured from the Germans. And on our way in that afternoon to our headquarters we ran into a regiment of German soldiers. We didn't know they were there. They didn't know we were there. And you can imagine what happened when we ran together. We had quite a firefight for some time," Moss said.
"We got the best of 'em. Headquarters company made a body count the next day and we had left 52 Germans on the ground opposite us," Moss added.
Five Americans were killed, including the unit's captain.
"I had a lot of good friends. Lost some good friends," Moss said.
Their accomplishments filled them with pride.
"We built the longest floating bridge across the Rhine River that had ever been built under combat conditions," Moss said.
After some missions, they were just grateful to be alive.
"On the Moselle River we had to go over and clear a minefield. That was a hair raising experience because we had to go across in rubber boats and put charges of TNT on the land mines as we found them with mine detectors and set them off with a charge and blow them so our troops could cross the next morning without fear of running into the mines," Moss added.
And others, even gave them a reason to laugh.
"We were making an assault crossing with the infantry on the Danube River. It was our duty to take the infantry across in assault boats and unload them on the opposite bank," Moss recalled. "Three engineers would take them over in boat and they would all paddle. They all had a paddle and left their rifle down in the boat and lift up their paddle and paddle across. When we hit the other bank, one young soldier jumped out with his paddle and I called him back and said, 'Soldier, you better come back and get your rifle. You're not going to kill many Germans with that paddle'."
After three years, Moss was able to return home. He went to law school, became an attorney and then politician.
"I was fortunate enough to be elected to the state legislature of MS for 20 years and I served my last 12 years before my retirement as a Chancery Judge in Hinds County. So I've had a good life. I've had three fine sons and a good wife," Moss added.
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