SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - How David Knotts of Shreveport managed to stay alive during World War II is anyone's guess.
His first dodge of death happened during training at Camp Swift, Texas
One day he was tasked with setting up explosives. But instead, for some unknown reason, his first sergeant pulled him away and placed him on kitchen patrol. Three hours later, there was a terrible explosion. All but five men in Knott's squad were either killed or wounded.
"The first sergeant later came to me and said you wasn't supposed to be on KP," recalled Knotts. "It was my error."
It wasn't his time. Knotts said those close calls happened to him all during the war
"Lots of boys and fellas didn't make it, but I did, said Knotts."
Consider Knott's low chance of survival fighting on the front lines in General George Patton's Third Army as a combat engineer, He helped clear landmines, building bridges and opened the path for allied forces to advance on Nazi Germany.
Knotts and his fellow soldiers with the Third Army covered more ground, took more territory and cities and captured and killed more enemies than any other unit their size.
From the invasion of France through Germany and then Austria, Sergeant David Knotts can admit he was pretty darn lucky and very tired.
"It was exhausting," he remembered. "Our job was to move the troops."
They were so exhausted after going days without sleep following their bridge building at the Seine River at Fountainbleau right after the Normandy invasion. Knotts remembered one night, American guards in his unit must have dozed off while on duty. He woke up with a German officer looking right at him. He saw other German vehicles in the area. So he did the only thing he could. He yelled for the Germans to put their hands up. And they did! That was Knotts first enemy capture.
"It's been so long ago that I don't have the fear that I had then, but it was not fun," he remembered.
There were other stories like the time a battalion commander called him over when he really meant to call another soldier. When Knotts turned around, an enemy mortar took out his entire squad. Then there was the time a sniper bullet smashed a rock four inches over his head.
Sergeant Knotts also met war heroes like General George Patton who showed up one day to pin the Purple Heart on a fellow soldier.
When he met Generals Dwight Eisenhower (Supreme Allied Commander,US) and Omar Bradley (Senior U.S. Army field commander). Knotts forgot to salute.
"That was stupid of me," he recalled. "But Eisenhower and Bradley laughed. It was quite a deal for me."
Knotts was part of an elite group that advanced quickly capturing Metz , crossing the Moselle River, assaulting and capturing German forces, crossing the Rhine River heading into the heart of Germany. He was part of an assault crossing of the Mainz near Frankfurt, and German forces surrendered by the thousands.
When the war ended, battle hardened David Knotts thought he witnessed the worst of
war including the deaths of many of his buddies, but nothing could prepare him for Nazi concentration camps where millions of Jews were killed.
"We could be talking to a fella and he would fall over dead," he recalled. "I know for a fact. I was there. I saw it. It was terrible."
Now, more than 70 years later, this member of the greatest generation, who played a key role in just about every campaign in Europe, just wants you to know how proud he was to be there.