On a Tank, With a Mandolin

Samuel Roy Hodges, 2nd Infantry Division


We were attached to the 9th Armored Division and had traveled over one hundred miles in just a few days. Since much of this was done by night, I must admit that it was kind of fun and exciting traveling down highways on tanks. We waded across a river one night and traveled into town. Sometimes I even slept in German soldiers’ foxholes. We crossed over the Meuse River and found a number of dead German soldiers.

We were getting close to the Russian lines, so we moved back across the river and stayed in empty houses for several days. A German division was still in Czechoslovakia and we were given the mission to liberate Czechoslovakia. It was almost two hundred and fifty miles to Pilsen. Somewhere we found a violin, a guitar, and a mandolin. I played the mandolin, Yeates, from Tennessee, played the violin, and a guy from New York played the guitar. In some towns we played while riding the tanks and the local girls would dance in the streets.

By this time, the Germans had surrendered. Arriving in Pilsen, we stayed in apartment buildings. I met a young lady named Venda while staying there – Pilsen was also her home – and we immediately became very fond of each other. Naturally, she wanted to come home to the States with me, but I was young and very poor and didn’t have a job waiting for me. I sure didn’t need a wife…

My squad was sent out about twenty miles from town to guard an ammunition factory which had been operated entirely by young women from all over Europe. Those girls who were Jewish had been kept in separate compounds and many starved to death while working there. The ones still living were very frail. The other women had been fed fairly well.

During the next several weeks, we moved to several different locations. Then, at last, we prepared to return to the States. But, instead of being sent home, we were one of five divisions to be shipped to the Philippines for the invasion of Japan.

From book 500 hours to victory