Curtis 'Lee' Weber -- squad leader

Thursday, November 14, 2013
Curtis Lee Weber.

Special to the Daily Mail

Lee Weber was drafted into the Army in 1942. He was sent to Medford, Ore., for basic training. He was assigned to the 1st Squad K CO 363rd Infantry Division.

"They were starting a new division. They maneuvered us and then maneuvered us some more. I thought we'd never get through training, but I was made staff sergeant before we left because it was new and they needed people to lead."

After receiving his training, Weber was sent to Newport News, Va., where he was put on the ship named Liberty.

"It was converted to a troop carrier. We went south because the Germans were in control of the north seas. The second day on the boat, I got the mumps. I was quarantined so I didn't get inoculated when we crossed the equator, but I didn't get seasick, either."

Weber spent 13 days crossing the water. They went by the Rock of Gibraltar to Oran, Africa. It was in late April or early May and he was scheduled to take amphibious training. However, his division got a call to go into Italy. They went to Naples and docked.

"We were sent on foot -- there were no vehicles except one jeep and a little 2-wheeled cart with the rifle outfit. We went north for several days and on July 4, 1944, we found what we had been looking for. I saw my first day of combat. We'd had plenty of training -- and we needed every bit of it.

On Oct. 15, 1944, it had rained all night, but they were fighting in mountainous terrain. They were below a ridge, he recalled.

"I watched the pattern the Germans were using to shoot. They'd mow one down and skip the next. Our commander told us we were to go over the ridge. I told him he was crazy, but we went anyway. The commander wasn't shot, but the guy in front of me was killed, the guy by me got a finger shot off, and I got hit by German 88 artillery."

Weber spent the next 80 days in hospitals. At the first hospital, he got gangrene in the wound because of unsanitary conditions. He was sent to the 87th General Hospital in Naples and finally got dismissed on Dec. 23, 1944.

"I was sent to REPO, which is a replacement area for displaced soldiers, and was placed on limited duty after that. I tried to get into the military police, the Signal Corps or anything to get out of there.

"Finally, a guy came in with a clipboard and wanted to know if anyone would volunteer to do guard duty for German prisoners-of-war. Up flew my hand and I went to Southern France.

"I didn't know any of the German language -- except the bad words -- but the person in charge of the prison was a German first sergeant. He could speak English. He said Hitler had sent him to military school to learn English, among other things."

Weber hadn't been on duty but about a week when the commander of guard duty wanted to know if Weber could drive a dump truck and unload and back over the load while dumping.

"I said 'certainly.' He took me to the motor pool and told me I could have any truck there. I was told to haul sand into the German enclosure.

"It had been raining and raining and it was like a hog pen in there. There were 7,000 prisoners, eight men to a metal hut in not too big of an area. It was a slimy mess.

"I took my first load, raised the bed and unloaded it while backing up. The commander got a big smile and said, 'You have the job.'

"When we got that road built, I asked what were we going to do now. He asked if I would like to be in charge of the motor pool. I was trained as a fighter so I felt I could handle a motor pool."

For about 60 days, Weber made out trip tickets and dispatched vehicles.

"There at the motor pool there was a brand new Harley-Davidson 74 with a side car sitting there. No one ever rode it. I asked why and they said it was because it was grounded. I said 'let's get it ungrounded.' We did and I was given it to drive on my days off.

"I could go anywhere as long as I stayed within a radius of 35 miles of the pool. Later, an officer asked me what kind of driver's license I had. I said 'military' and held up my arms like I was shooting a gun. He said maybe we'd better do something about that so he filled out a form and asked what I could drive. I told him anything with wheels.

"He filled out yes on all the questions until he came to a tank. He said that doesn't have wheels so I said maybe we'd better not fill that one in -- then I got my real military license."

Weber was on the point system so when he had enough points, he was sent home and arrived there on Dec. 23, 1944. Home was Deerfield.

Before he left for the service, Weber married Maxine Davis in December 1941. She followed him to Medford, Ore. She became pregnant, but had a miscarriage when he was shipped out. Maxine returned to her parents' home near Deerfield and stayed there for awhile and recuperated.

"Later, she and her sisters went to Wichita and worked in the Boeing airplane factory until it shut down at the close of the war. She was back in Deerfield shortly before Weber arrived home.

"We rented a two-room house and I worked on an old truck I had before the war. I got it running and hauled milk to Borders Milk Plant at Fort Scott -- anything to make a living.

"We didn't have much money. In the Army I got $50 a month, but $28 of it went to Maxine and I had to have my laundry done and try to save a bit. I wanted to farm, but all the machinery was rationed.

"And then my wife's uncle, Jay Klontz, asked if we'd like to move onto grandma's place since they were moving to California. Of course we said yes, and from there we got our start.

"We worked hard and were able to purchase machinery and land until we owned over a thousand acres."

Ten years ago, they knew they had to cut down. After open-heart surgery, there was no choice except to sell out.

Lee and Maxine Weber have seen a lot of changes in their almost 72 years of marriage, but he said he realizes his time of service to his country was,"Good -- even if I was wounded. I'm glad I was able to serve my country."

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