Sunday, February 14, 2016
1012 C Street  •  Floresville, TX 78114  •  Phone: 830-216-4519  •  Fax: 830-393-3219  • 

WCN Site Search


Preview the Paper Preview the Paper

Preview this week's Paper
A limited number of pages are displayed in this preview.
Preview this Week’s Issue ›
Subscribe Today ›

Lost & Found


VideoLost dog! Two weeks ago our dog went missing. Black lab mix. About 2 years old. He has a scar on his belly and a black tongue. Please call 8305835601
Bear, please come home! Missing since October 22, 2014, black Manx cat (no tail), shy. Reward! Help him find his way home. 210-635-7560.
Lost: Female German Shepherd, about 2 years old, pink collar, lost from Hickory Hill/Great Oaks Subdivisions off FM 539, La Vernia, on Thurs., Feb. 4. Reward! 830-947-3465.
More Lost & Found ads ›

Help Wanted

Senior Accounting Specialist needed in Whitsett, TX, must pass background and drug test, Quickbooks accounting experience necessary, pay based on experience, company benefits. Email resumes to teika@oscenergy.com.
Hiring lawn maintenance laborers, transportation needed to get to Elmendorf yard, 4+ years experience is mandatory, must have clean record, work available year round, great pay. Call for phone interview, 512-359-2640.
More Help Wanted ads ›

Featured Videos





Video Vault ›
You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.

South Texas Living


Captured: Prisoner of War


Captured: Prisoner of War


E-Mail this Story to a Friend
Print this Story
Mary Drennon
Wilson County News
November 6, 2002
656 views
1 comment

FLORESVILLE -- Area residents mostly likely have seen Gene Matthews around town. He’s everywhere.

His favorite spot is Olivia’s Mexican Restaurant, where you can find the unassuming, friendly man nearly every day.

To talk to him, you would never know he has such a colorful history. Not unless you ask him.

A one-time soldier in the 6th Armored Division -- nicknamed the "Super 6" -- Matthews has been shot at, laid up for weeks in a hospital, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and served a brief stint as a prisoner of war.

He served in two different Army outfits, shot down enemy planes, and wandered the countryside of Bastogne, Belgium, running from the Germans.

None of his adventures, of course, were planned.

He received the usual "greetings" in Homestead, Fla., from President Roosevelt in 1941, when he was drafted at the tender age of 18. It was off to basic training for World War II.

After 14 weeks of infantry training in Little Rock, Ark., he was sent for an additional 12 weeks of combat-engineering training at Camp McKain, Miss.

For his first round of duty, he was sent to England with the Combat Engineers, where he traveled with the troops over the English Channel and landed at Omaha Beach. It was there he saw his first action, building "Bailey" bridges over water barriers to get equipment to soldiers already fighting on the other side.

The bridges were built in sections, with wooden panel floors attached to sides made of steel. The entire bridge was built one section at a time. When three or four panels were fashioned, the bridge was placed on rollers and pushed out over the water.

His job, Matthews said, was to keep the wooden planks bolted to the bridge when it came under fire and was damaged. He and a partner would scramble out, relying on others to fend off enemy fire while they made repairs.

In one incident, with the enemy furiously attempting to keep the troops from building a bridge, Matthews had a close call.

He was out over the water, repairing a bridge with a fellow soldier. In a rain of shellfire, one knocked out the back of the bridge, causing the whole structure to fall into the water. Both men fell with it, but were unharmed.

With the enemy firing away, he and his friend swam underwater to get back to their side and safety, Matthews said. To top it off, they still had to go back and repair the bridge.

"It was scary," he said. "If anybody tells you they weren’t scared, they are lying."

That assignment lasted for about three months.

For his next assignment he wound up in the 44th Armored Infantry Battalion, in the "Super 6" Armored Division, which at times served in Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army.

Matthews rode a half-track -- an armored vehicle with a flexible, mounted 50-caliber machine gun that rotated 360 degrees for optimal firing power -- serving as the No. 2 gunner with the 81 mm mortar platoon (Company A), right in the middle of the action.

Sometimes "dog fights" -- German planes fighting American planes -- would take place right on top of them, Matthews recalled.

His squad shot down a few of the planes, he said, and got shot at in return. He even saw some pilots fall out of their planes without a parachute when the plane rolled upside down. It was a disturbing site, he said.

"I don’t know what hell is like, but I got a good idea," said Matthews.

In the Battle of the Bulge, Germans surrounded Matthews’ unit for two solid weeks. It was a frightening experience. Often, the soldiers slept in foxholes, waking up to ice covering their bedrolls.

"You prayed to the man upstairs a lot," said Matthews.

It was after this major battle when German soldiers, somewhere outside Bastogne, captured Matthews and three of his fellow squad members.

The squad had been sent on foot to scout the immediate area and ran into some German soldiers lingering in the night, hoping to make a few last-minute captures. He and the others were caught and taken to a holding camp where other American prisoners awaited transport to the regular prison camps.

The four men looked for a way to escape.

The camp was located in an open field, so tower guards could see if anyone tried to escape. Because it was out in the open, the men were allowed to walk the yard and were left pretty much to themselves, Matthews said. From the first night, under cover of darkness, they dug in the dirt, packing it lightly back down each time so no one would discover it.

For nine days they dug. Then, one night, they scooted out under the fence and took off running across the open field. Before they had made it to a wooded area about 75 yards away, the lights came on, and Germans started shooting at them, Matthews said.

The men ran even faster. And then, they heard the dogs. Fearing a quick capture, they headed for a stream -- relying on Matthews for direction -- and went tramping down into it in an attempt to throw off the dogs. It worked, and the sound of the dogs became fainter, Matthews recalled.

The men relied on German farmers who were not sympathetic to the German cause, thanks, in part, to a squad member’s ability to speak fluent German.

For six days they ate mostly raw eggs and potatoes, wandering from farm to farm in an attempt to find American troops.

Finally, they found an American outfit, who informed them the 6th Armored Division was only six miles away. They walked the rest of the way, and caught up with the 44th Battalion.

Since the men had not been locked up for the allotted time that allowed prisoners of war to return home, they were sent right back into action.

All in all, Matthews received a Bronze Star for helping get injured men in his outfit out of harm’s way, and the Purple Heart for a stomach injury from an unexploded shell that slammed into him.

After all the fighting and dangerous conditions, it was frostbite and jaundice that nearly brought him down. In fact, he spent 18 weeks in a hospital in Nancy, France, while the rest of the troops went home together.

He was honorably discharged on Dec. 7, 1945.

Matthews never really climbed the Army’s ladder of success, as he was too much of a "mouth" in the service, constantly losing his stripes, he laughed.

It is through sharing stories such as this with our readers that we have a chance to say "thank you" to men like Matthews for the remarkable service they have rendered.

Think of Matthews, and others like him, on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11.
 

Your Opinions and Comments

 
KAREN BALL  
October 21, 2007 1:19am
 
WHAT A GREAT ENDING THAT MR MATTHEWS LIVED TO TELL HIS STORY AND FOR THE WCN TO BE ABLE TO SHARE THIS WITH THEIR READERS. THE STORY IS VERY INTERESTING & JUST GOES TO SHOW YOU THAT WE DONT REALIZE WHAT THESE BRAVE MEN & WOMEN ... More ›

Share your comment or opinion on this story!


You must be logged in to post a comment.




Not a subscriber?
Subscriber, but no password?
Forgot password?

South Texas Living Archives


Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. 2016 Trail Ride Royalty (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Bake Sale in Sutherland Springs Feb. 13 (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Dig into tamales, chili Feb. 21 (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Enjoy Pilgrim Opry Feb. 13 (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Get bargain books at library (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Josiah Media Festival call for entries (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Older typewriters are hot collectible (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Register for Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Remembering the Homemaking Cottage and Miss Emily (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. See what’s new at SA Stock Show & Rodeo (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. See ‘Up the Down Staircase’ in Poth (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. SS Museum reorganization meeting is Feb. 13 (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. St. Jerome plans fish fries (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Tickets on sale for spaghetti dinner (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Unique ways to celebrate your Valentine (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Western Museum plans reception (February 10, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Classical records (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Comal Country Music Show Feb. 16 (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. DRT plans scholarship brunch Feb. 27 (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Eastern Star group plans Fish Fry (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. El Mesias Church plans ‘Ashes on the Go’ (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Enjoy Lenten Fish Fry in Poth (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Game-day menus that score big (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Home, Garden Day to spotlight landscape seminar (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Learn about the benefits of native grasses (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Little log cabin finds new owners (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Marquez to kick off SA rodeo season (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Masquerade Ball set for Feb. 6 (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Opry is Feb. 4 (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Save the date for premier of ‘Hope In High Cotton’ (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Spring Play and Learn session at library (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. The center of social life in the old days (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Try your luck at Boots ‘N Bling Gala (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Valentine Bake Sale is Feb. 12 (February 3, 2016)
Full article available to Wilson County News subscribers only. Click here to subscribe. Western Heritage Parade, Cattle Drive (February 3, 2016)
WCN Photo Contest HHF
WWII Clippings HHF
Coupon Q&A HHF-right
coupon home-rght
East Central Driving SchoolHeavenly Touch homeAllstate & McBride RealtyVoncille Bielefeld homeTriple R DC Experts

  Copyright © 2007-2016 Wilson County News. All rights reserved. Web development by Drewa Designs.