Excerpts from 'Memoirs of WWII' by David Knotts

Army Sergeant David Knotts of Shreveport served more than two years on the front lines of the European theater helped to defeat Nazi Germany.
Army Sergeant David Knotts of Shreveport served more than two years on the front lines of the European theater helped to defeat Nazi Germany.

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The following are excerpts from David Knott's 'Memoirs of WWII':

Just before we started invasion training, I was sent to London to a swimming and lifeguard training school. I was taught how to swim with clothes and a rifle, how to jump off ships and all other aspects of water safety. During this period while in London, the Germans launched their rocket and firebomb attack. I don't see how people made it through because it was terrible. The British are tough people. When I reported to my first class, the instructor Colonel Blazedale called the roll. When he cam to my name he said, "Are you from Gladewater, Texas?" I replied "Yes, Sir." He said, "I refereed every football game you played in." Colonel Blazedale was from Tyler, Texas.

We were camped in an apple-orchard close to St. Mere Englise. This was the first town liberated by American troops. One morning we went into a village that had been completely destroyed. There was not a building that remained standing. As we were clearing a road and removing mines, I saw a rabbit in the rubble staring up at me. I picked it up and put it into my jacket. I gave it water, apple and leaves. Every night the Germans would fly over and drop huge bombs. So I dug a cave in a large hedgerow next to our tent. When the bombers came over we would move into the cave. The minute we started for the cave the rabbit would run right in ahead of us.

Our faces were so sunburned that out skin cracked. We did not have lotion of any kind. So being American soldiers, we came up with a solution. We did have toothpaste and shaving cream, and so we put this on our faces to relieve the stinging and pain. Imagine, with the dust flying and the wind blowing just what we looked like. The German soldiers we captured were scared of us. They said we were the biggest, meanest looking people they had ever seen.

We had put a bridge across the Moselle River at Arnaville under intense artillery fire. Captain Edlin's jeep was hit and he received a terrible leg wound during this time. In training, we were taught that when coming under enemy artillery fire never to stop your vehicle because that is what the enemy wanted. Captain Edlin did just that and had the whole column blocked. This made easy shooting for the enemy. We got out with just a few shrapnel wounds and holes in our vehicles. As we proceeded into the next village, a huge roadblock of trees and wrecked vehicles had to be moved. My squad was assigned the task. First, we had to remove booby traps, then cut the trees up and then bulldoze a path. This was all while under enemy fire. This was probably the most harrowing experience up until this time. We completed our mission, and my Lieutenant put me in for the Silver Star (although I never heard anymore about it."

We had a few hundred yards of bridgehead. There was no room for mistakes. I got four of my fellow men who were good, strong and tough soldiers. We unlaced our boots, took off all of our clothes except for shirt and pants. Remember, we were working in water about 1 ½ feet deep. It was cold and spitting snow and rain. We looked the situation over. The river was so fast the only way to cross was to get upstream and angle the boat with the nose upstream on an angle that would carry us across. Also, if he hit the cable, our boat would turn over. We didn't have life belts or any safety equipment. The water was just beginning to go over the cable in the middle of the stream. We decided to cross the cable at that point with the men in the front of the boat using their paddles to push it down. Off we went across the roaring (Mosselle) river, against enemy fire. We were cold and wet and scared to death.

A few hours later a soldier named Patterson got a terrible wound in his left leg. As the medic bound up his wounds, stopping the bleeding he looked up and said, "Don't feel sorry for me as I will be in a warm bed with clean sheets in a few hours. You will still be dirty, cold, hungry and willing to trade places with me – wound and all." He was right. Later, most everyone agreed that a non-fatal wound would be a blessing.

As we crossed France into Germany, the P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bombers were the bravest and best pilots the world has ever known. They were with us from start to finish of the war. Any time the enemy began making a stand or moving up troops, the P-47s that were hovering over us like a mother hen would move in for the kill.

Now I must stray away from war and think back hundreds of years. Somewhere in this beautiful country of rolling hills, deep valleys and medieval castles the Knotts family had had its beginning. The name, pronounced K'nuts, in Germany but still spelled as we spell it.

What we witnessed at the (Nazi death camps) is difficult to express in writing. The people in the camp were walking skeletons, men who were starved to skin and bones with eyes that were sunk back into their heads. The prisoners were dressed in filthy clothes and were no shoes. Many of the prisoners were literally dying before our eyes. They were simply too weak to speak or eat.

The writer of this short outline of events has made no attempt to describe the individual examples of heroism displayed in combat by men of this organization; or of teamwork in squads or platoons that worked steadily together under fire to accomplish their mission. Because words are a poor medium for expression, especially when remembering friends that were lost between the Seine, the Moselle and the Saar, and in other unnamed places where every job demanded your best. And every man that did his job during those days; whether he rode an assault boat toward an unknown enemy shore. Drove a truck without lights on in the blackest of nights, or evacuated a wounded comrade – all were part of the team that produced a Battalion that myself and the other me were proud to be members of.