'We were stripped of our weapons ... feared for our lives'
World War II veteran and ex-prisoner of war Rolland 'Joe' Correll in his Allentown home with his medals and war mementos in May 2005. (Morning Call file photo)
A shell hit the machine gun I was carrying. It knocked me to the ground, and the gun went flying. I saw the shell on the ground nearby. It was a dud.
Then more explosions sounded, and I went unconscious. Next thing I remember, I was being lifted from the hood of a jeep and carried by stretcher to the field hospital. Shrapnel had hit me in the right shoulder and the back.
My wounds were patched, and the next morning I got new clothing and rejoined my outfit at the front.
Soon after the fall of St. Lo, we had the Germans on the run and would not let up. We approached a building that looked like barracks and stormed it without resistance. Inside we found food, coffee and cots. The food was still warm.
It was almost dark, and a storm was coming. I set up the machine gun in a trench along the road leading into the compound and got down behind it. Soon it began to rain, with lots of thunder.
In no time at all, the trench filled with water. I sat on the edge with my blanket pulled over my head to ward off the rain.
Suddenly I heard the click of boot heels on the cobblestone road off in the distance, coming toward me louder and louder. I called, "Halt! Password!"
No response. More footsteps.
"Halt! Password!" I called again. All the while my hand was on the trigger.
A shot was fired at me. The German was close enough that the flame from the rifle barrel passed just in front of me. I could feel the heat.
I pulled the trigger and shots galore rang out, tracers all over the road. I heard him fall and groan. Thinking he might still be alive and could use grenades, I grabbed my gun and left to report to our sergeant.
In the morning we found the German dead, badly shot up in the belly.
I had come within a half-inch of being killed. I carried Sir Walter Raleigh cigarettes in my shirt breast pocket. When I went for my cigarettes, I saw that the German's bullet had cut the pack in half from the side.
"I think I see something'
We were advancing toward Paris when our outfit came to a French chateau, a fine-looking building with a stone wall all around it. It became our command post.
Most of our platoon was hunkered down behind the wall. In front of us was open ground that gradually sloped down to a line of trees about a mile away. Off to the right was another line of trees about 100 yards away.
Our sergeant was standing next to me with binoculars, looking in the trees to our right. I had my machine gun there. We were going to advance across open terrain, so we wanted to be sure there was no enemy to our right.
I asked him if I could help look. He was about to let me when he said, "Wait, I think I see something." He had pushed his helmet above his forehead.
A shot rang out. The bullet hit him in the center of the forehead.