Wayne Skains was a country boy who had only left rural Louisiana three times in his life before joining the Army Engineers to prepare supplies for D-Day in England. Later, after the Battle of the Bulge, he joined a combat role and helped citizens and refugees throughout Belgium, France, and Germany.
Life at Basic Training
It wasn’t a picnic! I hope the draft changed for me, a young boy that had never been experienced for that. Only in my lifetime I had been to three cities, that I can remember. And that is Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Natchez, Mississippi, and Little Rock, Arkansas. That was the experience of my travel up until my eighteenth birthday. So the one that they gave me extended beyond that.
I made a lot of friends. I had a few locals that come from within a few, where we live. It wasn’t like totally being in a strange environment; you know cause of the people that you did know. And they had contact with them through various means. There were quite a few that were within a reasonable distance from where I lived within basic training with me. Made it a little easier.
I guess you could say there were people you didn’t like. Those that were constantly screaming at you and forcing you to do things that you didn’t think you ought to do. You realize later that that was necessary. Because that is how we become adjusted to the environment we in is how well we perform. So you have to make compromises and conditions. It was one of the better experiences of my life, in fact I credit the service I was in to the fact that I had the success that I had. If I hadn’t of had that I might not of been as successful as I was. I’m grateful that they gave me that opportunity. They could have culled me, but they took me.
Deploying to England
Well, when we landed, we landed in West Beddlington. They were very hospitable. They (the German Luftwaffe) made a point to bomb that particular area just before we got there. So, it was nice to know we were greeted and such with glamour to be there. They wouldn’t let us off the ship for about eight to ten hours because of the fact that they had just bombed that area with the, what we knew at time as buzz bomb. That the Germans would send to fell in that area. It was kind of exciting for a country boy.
His Job Marking Equipment for D-Day
In England, we operated an engineer depot, which were preparing the engineering equipment to be sent overseas over to France after D-Day. We knew D-Day was coming, that they would have to invade, but we didn’t know when. And we had to mark that equipment to be shipped either D- or D+. They shipped on so many days minus the invasion or so many days after the invasion. So, we marked all that equipment to be done that way. We knew pretty well when it was going to happen because of the fact of how they had marked the equipment for sail. But, you couldn’t say nothing about it, it was not a conversation piece.
By just knowing how that we did that; of course, it wasn’t all stored in one location, it was stored in various locations. That all we were doing was processing it to be moved at the time they needed it, in this city or this port or wherever. But all we did was catalog it to be moved at a certain time.
Joining 75th Infantry
I joined the 75th infantry division after the Battle of the Bulge; were in that unit. I wasn’t in that unit when they were in the Ardennes Forest, but I joined it after it then. Spent the rest of my time joined sitting in Werdohl, Germany. There stayed with them through till the war was over. And then, our unit was moved back to a place called Casson, France. And we began to process personnel to return home, by the end of the war. All we did was make sure they had good clothing and everything to come home in. An so we did that. For those of us that were ineligible to return home at that time because it was on a points system. And if you didn’t have enough points you didn’t get to come home so, we processed those that were coming home. We did that for a while. And we went from there to Camp Straggo, France. From there I went to Chalon, France after the war and there we had a DP camp. Where displaced persons from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and some Russians, some different nationalities that they had in this camp that we maintained their medical history, their food, their clothing, and all of that and took care of them until they could find a way to move them back to their home environment again. And I stayed there until the end of that. After that I got lucky enough to go to Le Harve, France and catch a meat boat back home.
We were in a convoy and a truck, General Patton was moving fast with tanks and men and winning the war. And they were shifting gasoline from the Cherbourg; pulled to the front lines on his truck. We were in convoy, these trucks had to pull our as army because they had the gasoline for General Patton and the movement of the troops. And so we got out of the truck that I was in and the convoy got run into by one of those trucks. And it did in the back and threw us all out. Two men were killed. And I fell out and slid down that black top road on my back and it was banging and peeling the hide off my arm, but I was fortunate enough to survive it you know. That was one of the more memorable experiences.
We did guard duty when were in Périers. If you changed the shift, you changed the welcome. Well, one of my friends by the name of Frank Stevens, changes the guard, and the boys that would let him off, had the pistol and tried to end it. And actually discharged it. He killed Frank. So that wasn’t a very pleasant day. Its just certain things. Those things you wash out of your mind. You hold onto the good stuff. That other stuff is back there, but you don’t dwell on that.
Celebrating VE Day
You figure a bunch of men with live ammunition and stuff, that had been on the wave of the battles and stuff and how they find they have freedom from it all. You can imagine what they did, it is quite a noise. We all kinda let it go you know.