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“Go, Get ‘em!”

These were the orders issued to Roger L. Britt in Northern France in the winter of 1945.  Roger was part of the massive Allied push to defeat the Germans near the end of WWII.  His unit, the 87th Infantry Division, was assigned to General George S. Patton’s Third U.S. Army.  The 87th was part of the Third Army’s counter attack during the Battle of the Bulge.  It was a highly decorated unit, with over 1300 medals awarded, including one Medal of Honor and three Distinguished Service Crosses.  The unit served 134 days in combat and suffered over 5,500 casualties. 

Roger was born on May 26, 1926 to D.L. and Mary Britt.  He had two brothers and four sisters.  One brother also served during WWII.  Young Roger attended school at Amherst, Texas; he did not finish, but he did have a favorite subject - “recess”.   He moved to Burbank, California where he helped build B-17 bombers from 1943 to 1944.  He also completed high school there by earning his G.E.D.  The teenager was drafted into the Army on August 16, 1944 and trained as a combat replacement at Camp Wolters near Mineral Wells, Texas. Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated American combat soldiers of WWII, also received his basic training there.

After basic, Roger’s unit was sent to Washington, D.C., then on to Boston Harbor where they boarded a converted troop ship carrying 6,000 men.  After six days on the water with their destroyer escorts, they landed in Northern Scotland.  The unit then boarded a “blackout train” to Southampton, England.  From there they took a ship to France to Camp Lucky Strike, one of several so-called “Cigarette Camps”. (A Cigarette Camp was one of several temporary U.S. Army "tent cities" situated principally around the French ports of Le Havre and Marseilles following their respective captures in the wake of the Allied D-Day invasion in June 1944.)  It was January 1945, and as Roger recalled, “It was very cold.  We were loaded in box cars headed for the front.  It took 24 hours to get to Metz, France where we were loaded on trucks to go to the front.  We were told to get our affairs in order as we could get killed the first day (of combat).  They gave us our ammunition and said, 'Go, Get ‘em!'”

Roger recounted his combat experience: “I didn’t get to sleep in a bed for five weeks. We would fight during the day and dig fox holes at night.  The ground was so hard that we used axes to break up the ground and then used shovels to dig our foxholes.  Once we walked 20 miles at night to hit the Germans at dawn.  I was issued a bazooka and used it on a German half-track. (A half-track is a vehicle with regular wheels at the front for steering and continuous tracks at the back to propel the vehicle and carry most of the load.) It crashed over a hill. We were always afraid of German Tiger Tanks.  We couldn’t stop them.  If we thought one was coming, we’d hit the ditch.  We got very little sleep.  After 30 days on the front, we were pulled off the front for a warm meal and new uniforms.”

“It started warming up in March 1945.  We practiced our rowing at night and crossed the Moselle (River) in the morning and captured Koblenz, Germany.  We took prisoners along the way.  I used a bicycle to herd 15 captured Germans to a POW camp.  Coming out of the woods, we came to a meadow where the Germans opened up on us.  While running across the battlefield, I was shot in the side by a bullet that passed through my right elbow and in and out of my stomach.  I had to lay there in the field for over two hours before a medic got to me.  They put me on an old wooden door they found and carried me to an ambulance.  I was taken to a field hospital behind the lines and then took a plane to England for recovery.”  After his recovery, Roger was put on a troop ship back to the U.S.  He took a train to Birmingham Hospital in Van Nuys, California for further treatment of his wounds.  After recovery, the Army “made me an MP, and I guarded Ft. Mason in San Francisco."  Britt was discharged on April 4, 1946 at Ft. Bliss, Texas.  He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct, American Theatre, European Campaign, National Defense and WWII Victory Medals.

After making his way back to Amherst, Texas, he resumed farming.  He met his future wife, Ray Lynn Blessing, at a party, and he “bought her a $69 engagement ring.”  They raised two boys and one girl.  Roger continued farming for 50 years, and Ray Lynn was the district clerk for Lamb County, Texas for 25 years. Roger Britt is a real American hero, but when asked what he would like to be remembered for, he simply said, “Growing good watermelons.” Thank you for your service, sir.

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