Donald W. Mason

Donald W. Mason was inducted into the Army on April 23, 1943, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. Home at entry: Virginia, Minnesota.

He served as a Technician 4rth Grade and radio repairman with Battery A of the 254th Field Artillery Battalion in Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe.

Mr. Mason shares the following: "My civilian occupation was radio announcer, so in typical army fashion, I ended up as a radio repairman. I tried to get into Armed Forces Radio, but was told repeatedly that repairmen were more critical to the war effort than announcers.

"I arrived in Cherbourg, France, aboard a landing craft in September 1944, several months after the beach landings in June. We then proceeded to Aachen, Germany, then the 'front line,' just in time to become part of the 'Battle of the Bulge'.

"On Christmas Eve 1944, we were in retreat from the German assault and had run out of fuses for our artillery shells. All we could do was fire 'duds' at the Germans. A heavy fog enveloped Belgium and German, lasting several weeks. Our supply planes couldn't get through, we had run out of ammunition and were dangerously close to running out of fuel and food. Miraculously, on Christmas Day, the fog cleared and the skies filled with thousands of American planes. The Bulge was over and we proceeded to march through the rest of Germany.

"During this period, I had one of those 'once-in-a-lifetime' meetings with an old friend from civilian days. I was driving a jeep in the snowy, forested hills of Belgium and got lost. Happily, I saw another GI - a heavily bearded fellow who was obviously on some sort of guard duty. I asked directions. He started to tell me where I was, then stopped, looked at me, and said, 'I'll be damned! You're Don Mason from Duluth!' I looked at him and said: 'You're Bob Fisher.' He and I had graduated from Denfeld High school in 1941 and had been close friends.

"By early spring, my outfit was serving as artillery support for the forces poised to make the first crossing of the Rhine River at historic Remagen Bridge. We crossed the bridge just before it was blown up by the Germans.

"I had played tenor sax in bands in northern Minnesota before I was drafted and, when the war was over, we discovered enough musicians in out battalion to form a dance band. We played numerous dances throughout Germany during the next year, and finally were selected as a 'pit band' for USO shows. We covered most of Germany and parts of France, providing musical accompaniment for the Mickey Rooney Show, Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe Show, Jane Fromman, the Harmonicats and others.

"Around the first of January 1946, the Army informed me that I could join the Armed Forces Radio station in Munich, Germany. But I was homesick and said 'thanks but no thanks'. I want to go home."

Mr Mason was awarded the following: Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze battle stars, World War II Victory Medal and two overseas service bars.

He was honorably discharged February 9, 1946, at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin.

Source: Hometown Heroes: The St. Louis County World War II Project. 194.

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