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377th Infantry Regiment,
85th 'Custer' Division
Extensive Training Period, 1942 - 1944
Private First Class Seymour was attending Brooklyn College when Pearl Harbor opened the war. He enlisted in the air force reserve and finished school. Then he started Air Cadet Training School, the Army decided they needed more infantrymen than fly-boys, so he was sent to infantry training. He trained for a long time---too long. As it turned out he became a baseball star and was No. 1 in NYC batting average in 1941(later after the war he played triple A baseball). The base commanders kept trading him for the camp baseball teams. Seymour decided he had enough of this play Army and wanted to serve his country. Even though he enlisted in January 1942, he didn’t go overseas until August 1944.
He sailed on the "Mariposa" from Camp Miles Standish, Boston on August 10, 1944. The above photo was probably taken just before he departed. He arrived in England and was sent to France in October by way of Omaha beach. He obtained a 24-hour pass to Paris. Then he was assigned to 337th Infantry Regiment, and was sent to Italy through Naples. Upon arrival at the repo depot, he was greeted by "Bed Check Charlie", which was usually a lone German bomber who made a regular visit at dusk. (Instead of demoralizing the troops, it was a lift to be able to say, "I've survivied another Bed Check Charlie and another day of combat." ) He joined the 337th Regiment as they were coming off from fighting on the Gothic Line. He spent the rest of the war in Company D and most of the next months in winter reserve.
During the winter, Seymour was a machine gunner posted on a ridge. A German shell hit near his post, followed by another hit on the other side. He knew a German gunner was zeroing in on his position. The third shell was a direct hit on his post but it was a dud !! (Some shells were made by slave labor, which accounted for a high incidence of dud shells.) He figured only 3 shells were fired as the Germans were probably training a new artilleryman and their ammo was limited. Another time he came under artillery fire and Private Sarokin dove into a ditch. Another guy jumped in on top of him. The guy on top received a shrapnel wound in his back.
Another time the Germans spotted his unit while they were changing positions and cam under artillery fire. He slipped on the mud down an embankment and landed on his back looking up. He saw the shell coming at him, but instead of an explosion, it simply "popped" in the air. It was a propaganda shell. Seymour read the message: "Americans surrender. We have hot milk, eggs and bacon". Seymour replied in his Brooklynese humor: "Where? It doesn’t say where".
During the breakout in April 1945 his squad and a tank were sent to recconoiter a small town. They came under heavy fire. It turned out the town was the German Command Center. He set up his machine gun across the town square, but when artillery came in he took cover in a house with 4 others. They were hot and thirsty. The owner came up out of the basement with bottles of white wine so his memory after that is a bit hazy. They were taking fire from an apartment house. He had a grenade launcher and fired on a machine gun up in a window. The grenade missed the window, bounced off a wall and went in a basement window and exploded. The firing stopped then. He heard later that the basement was the command post. He's not sure of the name of the town, it was a suburb of Bologna, possibly Gesso. Years later, he wrote off for his military records and discovered he was awarded a Bronze Star for this action.
Just before the breakout into the Po Valley, they were sent back for R&R in Monte Contini (sp?). The whole unit was drunk for 5 days. He was in the bathroom of a cafe when one friend came in. A moment later another guy in his unit came in and crashed a bottle over the head of the first guy. Private Sarokin chased him outside, grabbed him, drew his fist back, but the guy was so drunk he collapsed before my dad could slug him (though everyone thought Private Sarokin decked him). When he went back to check on his friend he realized he had been wearing his helmet. A few days later when his unit went on the move and an American Mustang swopped over the road and fired a short burst before realizing his mistake. 3 guys were killed, including the guy he had "slugged". He remembered that incident while going through old papers and found the order awarding the new guys in his unit the combat infantryman badge. He recognized the name of the fellow who was killed by friendly fire as Paul Reed from Virginia.
After the Germans surrendered, Private Sarokin was in Naples about to be board a ship for the Pacific when they received news about the Atomic Bomb. Since the men were shipped home based on a points system based on time in service, Private Sarokin didn't have enough points to ship home with the rest of the original 337th. He was transferred to 100th Chemical Division and then later to the 88th Division where he ran into his old Lieutenant who assigned him to supplies. As soon as he got to the supply depot, the supply sergeant was shipped home. So for the next 4 months Private Sarokin ended up in charge of supplies for the 88th Division. It was a pretty cushy job. He was about to go for a 2-week leave of skiing in the Alps when he got his orders to sail home.
Private Sarokin with his Prisoner valet.
The German is carrying his captor's rifle for him. Behind them is a German Schwimwagon.
This vehicle was an amphibious version of the Kubelwagon and was used by paratrooper
divisions and SS. In the background is a German armored car.
After the War
Private Sarokin finally shipped back home in Christmas 1945 and went back to College. After school he played Triple A ball for a while in the Chicago Cubs system. He left baseball to open a Luncheonette in Brooklyn, NY. When he married in 1948, his bride wanted to go to Italy for their honeymoon. Stony said he had already been there and so they ended up in Bermuda instead. He didn't make it back to Italy until the mid 1980's In 1960 he started working as a stock broker which he still does to this day. He know lives in Mt Kisco, NY.
Seymour Sarokin with two of his grand-children.
Company D, 337th Regiment at Belluno, Italy
Photo taken soon after the war ended, probably after many of the "veterans" had been rotated home.
(To view enlargement of this group photo, go to Company D Photo.)
This information was graciously provided by Billy Sarokin, Private Sarokin's son. Billy Sarokin also provided many photos to use on my website.
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