Gregory "Greg" Louis Martin


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MARTIN, Gregory Louis

Gregory "Greg" Louis Martin was born on September 1st 1925 to Orestes George Martin & Yvonne Hortense [Poulin] Martin in St. Paul Minnesota.

Mr. Martin enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 10th 1941 months before Pearl Harbor and served during World War II in the European Theater.

He joined the Minnesota Army National Guard in Duluth in 1940. Early in 1941, his unit was activated for service and sent to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, for training. Mr. Martin was assigned to the 125th Field Artillery, 34th Infantry Division.

After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, his unit was sent to Texas City, Texas, where they did guard duty on the railroad causeway to Galveston. Then the unit sent sent to the European Theater in early 1942.

Mr. Martin died on September 3rd 2018 at the age of 90 years in Meridian, Idaho. He is buried in Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise, Idaho.

Source(s): Materials given to Veterans' Memorial Hall

Albert J. Amatuzio Research Center | Veterans Memorial Hall (

Gregory L Martin in WWII Army Enlistment Records - Fold3

Gregory Louis “Greg” Martin (1922-2018) - Find a Grave Memorial

U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 -

                               RECOLLLECTIONS and THOUGHTS
                                     about my service with the
                                125th FIELD ARTILLERY IN WW2

by Greg Martin


This Booklet consists of material extracted from my Memories Booklet.

The extractions consist of:

1. Section 4 _____________________________Military Service
2. Appendix B___________________________34th Division History
3. The first two pages of Appendix E_________Ships in My Life

Section 4 Military Service

I served within the United States from July 1940 to April 1942, then in Northern Ireland, Africa and Italy to May 1945. I was out of the U.S. continually for a little more than 3 years.

I joined the Duluth National Guard shortly after graduation from High School in June, 1940. The Guard unit at Duluth comprised the 125th Field Artillery Battalion of the 34th Infantry Division. Hitler had invaded Poland on my 17th birthday which was September 1, 1939 and military matters were very much in the news. Since jobs were scarce, the pay for attending a meeting each week was quite tempting.

My Dad had served in France as a member of the 37th U.S. Engineer Company in WW1. I had read his book that described the exploits of his unit and serving in the military in time of special need seemed like quite a reasonable thing to do. Also, several fellows from Fond du Lac were already in the National Guard so I joined. Having tinkered with building radios, I was assigned to the position of radio operator in “C” Battery, 125th Field Artillery.

We went to Fort Ripley, MN for training and maneuvers that summer. As it turned out we were inducted into federal service within a few months. Early in 1941 we went to Camp Claibome in Louisiana for training. There we frequently went to the firing range to fire the French 75’s. I would usually go to the forward observation post (OP) with several officers. Some of the shells were time delay to burst type. Even at best the time delay wasn’t very precise. Our ammunition being very old, the burst would sometimes occur uncomfortably close overhead. After we got into combat newer replacements were usually sent forward to the OP. I guess that was by reason of my having joined the unit before we left Duluth. Our Captain. A very nice fellow Stan Naslund was also from Fond du Lac.

Immediately after Pearl Harbor we were sent to Texas City, Texas where we were billeted in warehouses on the waterfront. We preformed guard duty on the RR causeway to Galveston. After a few weeks we boarded a train and went to Fort Dix, NJ.

We were scheduled to board the French Liner Normandie in which case we would not require an escort for crossing the Atlantic to Northern Ireland. However the ship burned during conversion to troop carrying tasks. We then had to wait a few weeks for a convoy to form. The time was filled with close order drill and repacking our A, B, and C duffle bags. (Most of them were destroyed in a warehouse in North Africa that was hit by German bombs)

We boarded the SS Cristobal in New York and were under way by mid morning. The troops were already in line for chow. Only two meals per day would be served because of the crowded condition on board. As I made my way to the back of the line it appeared to run through all parts of the ship which were available to the troops. Every corridor and stairwell was filled. After I found the end of the line it took about 2 hours for me to get within smelling distance of the kitchen. I had felt fine until then but even though the ship was rolling only slightly the odor suddenly made me feel nauseous and I had to drop out of the line. I think I missed that meal but I had no further trouble. We made a stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia where we were joined by more ships.

The Cristobal was designated as the Flagship of the convoy. Radio silence was being observed so some of us who had training in semi fore flag signaling were assigned to stand watch on the bridge in case messages between ships would be sent. Also we were told to report if any ships fell out of position. The ships were arranged in an orderly rectangular grid formation with spacing of ½ mile or so. We zigzagged our way across the ocean making left and right 90 degree turns several times per day. A turn may go unnoticed until you realized that a different ship was broadside of your position. The weather turned foggy for a day or two and a ship next to us fell out of position and was not seen again. We were accompanied by naval escort vessels. They dropped a few depth charges but I didn’t hear of any confirmed reports of submarines being detected.

Initially we were billeted in a Hotel in Portrush, the most Northern city in Northerm Ireland. We then moved to Quonset Houses in the small town of Newton Stewart. Strabane, a nearby larger town where we could go on a pass, was on the border of the Irish Free State. It seemed strange to see a town lit up at night across the border while we were under conditions of blackout.

Having left our antiquated French 75’s in the US we received British 25 pounders (87 mm howitzers) and British Non-Coms trained our gun crews on their use. We spent most of the remainder of 1942 on maneuvers and road marches in Northern Ireland. There was much talk of how the Japanese could march umpteen miles a day with only a few spoons of rice to eat. Our cooks, led by Sergeant Kenneth Rushenberg, also from Fond du Lac, prepared good bag lunches when we went on our 20-mile road marches.

Around the middle of December 1942 we left Northern Ireland on the Ferry across the Irish Sea to Stranraer, Scotland. The Ferry ride lived up to the reputation of the Irish Sea being rough. I laid down on the deck and at one moment the sea would be right at my feet and a few moments later it would be just over my head. We then rode the train to Macclesfield, England, which is near Liverpool. At the end of Dec. 1942 we left Liverpool on a British ship the SS Orontes for North Africa where we disembarked near Oran and after a tiresome road march bivouacked for a few days. It was during this period that I came the closest to being disciplined. Several of us drank a lot of grape wine (Vino) one night and I was too sick the next morning to report for role call. Normally this would redult in the First Sergeant imposing some disciplinary action. However, Capt. Naslund came to my pup tent to see what the problem was. I told him the truth and never heard more about it.

Within a few days we used our own vehicles to drive in convoy to Tunisia, The trip went through the Atlas Mountains and took a week or so.

The war situation was nearing the time, as Winston Churchill was soon to say, “This is the End of the Beginning”. The Russians had halted the German advance at Stalingrad, the British in Egypt were making progress the Germans and Italians and the US was getting actively engaged in the ground was against Germany.

We went into position in the vicinity of Hill 609 (Metric Height) (on map on facing page) near the northern coast of Tunisia as part of the 5th Army under General Eisenhower. On our first night in combat position we were strafed by a German night fighter plane, which did no harm. They must have watched us coming and wanted to give us a taste of what was in store for us. Before very long the German “Africa Korps” under General Rommel and Italian troops were being pushed into Tunisia by the British 8th Army under General Montgomery. They entered Kasserine Pass so we drove all one night to get into position to block them. During the ensuing battle the Germans and I were on the same FM radio channel so we had to take turns transmitting.

I was never wounded but at Fondouk the mast antenna on my portable radio was struck while I was in a foxhole next to it. Later on near Cassino, Italy a shell fragment went through my bedroll while I was in it. Also several radiators and tires on the radio Command Car were lost on different occasions.

At Fondouk we were in the valley floor while German artillery occupied the hills to our sides. When our guns fired we usually would receive incoming shells with in a few minutes. This was very scary but fortunately a few hundred shells spread over a few acres and bursting on the ground aren’t likely to send fragments into a 10 square foot foxhole. Several times our guns would respond with a “rolling barrage” but, probably for the same reason, it seemed to have no noticeable effect. Later on in Italy we were supplied with proximity shells using self contained Doppler radar. This feature increased the effectiveness by causing the shells to explode at a well controlled distance above the ground.

Much of the time in North Africa we ate British rations. However, on one occasion when I went forward with a reconnaissance team, we came across a recently abandoned German field kitchen and enjoyed a freshly cooked meal of Hungarian goulash.

After the African campaign our division was not called upon to go to Sicily but we did practice disembarking from ships on rope ladders over the side. We made use of that when we got to Italy and went ashore near Salemo where a small beachhead had been established. Upon moving inland the terrain became like the foothills of mountains and there were many river crossings to be made and hills to be taken. The terrain favored the defensive forces. The Germans had blown up all the bridges, many of which dated to Roman times. The town of Benevento was taken within a few weeks and by December we were within range of Monte Cassino and the Rapido River. The mountains to the North and East became very rugged. (1) We went into position in a ravine.

The radio car (2) was initially parked on the backside of the ravine next to a small abandoned masonry building. The ground was too rocky to dig a foxhole so Bill Lex, the driver, and I figured the building would be protection against anything except a direct hit. The next night there was a lot of noise and commotion indicating that some heavy equipment was moving in behind and above us on the backside of the ravine. As was usual when we hadn’t been shelled for a while I slept in the backseat of the radio car. The next morning when I woke the first thing I noticed was the muzzle of a 155 mm “Long Tom” cannon about 20 feet above and slightly behind me. When this gun fired not only was the noise hard on my ears but the speaker cones in my radios were knocked out of position and I would have to remove the cover and push them back into place. Further, the newly arrived guns were so far up on the backside of the ravine that the German observers spotted them right away and shelled us heavily.(3)

That afternoon we moved the radio car further down in the ravine and I attempted to dig a foxhole. The ground was rocky and by the rime it was too dark to see all I had was a small trench about 4 feet long and 6 inches deep. I crawled into my bedroll which was 2 or 3 army blankets held together with safety pins. (4) Shells started coming in within a few minutes and I wormed my way over to my foxhole. The next morning I discovered that a shell fragment had gone through my blankets.(5)

The Cassino experience was very bad for the 34th Division as well as several other Divisions. Battery B of the 125th Field Artillery in particular experienced bad luck. A couple of American fighter planes were on a bombing mission when some German fighter planes showed up. One of the American planes dropped a bomb in preparation for a dogfight. The bomb landed on a group of men in B battery who were lined up for chow, killing most of the group.

Whenever we stayed in one position for a few days or more we could count on receiving prompt attention from German artillery, especially if we were being effective against them. Cassino, and Anzzio were 2 notable cases.

We were in position in Monte Cassino for at least a month around the end of 1943. The Monastery was bombed while we were there. By climbing the ridge just ahead of our position some of us observed the bombing. The bombs raised a large dust cloud, which obscured our view. I thought it was reduced to rubble for sure. The dust was slow to settle and I went back to our battery position. Later on I went up to take a look and the Monastery walls showed no sign of damage to the unaided eye. The distance was probably 5 miles or so. Later bombing did severe damage after we left the area and went up to Anzio.

A beachhead landing at Anzio was made to out flank the Germans at Cassino. The beachhead was established but no breakout could be made. The Germans seemed to always put up enough resistance so that the Allies on the Italian front couldn’t get ahead of what was happening on the Russian front. Therefore Anzio became a case where we were in a confined situation for 2 or 3 months. We were in position near a farmhouse which had a large deep wine cellar outside. Several of us who had the choice of setting up where we wanted used it as a super foxhole. The gun crews had ample time to dig good foxholes near their guns. We used to hear “Anzio Annie”, a huge gun that was mounted on a railway car and had a range of 30 miles or so. A booster shot in the missile was fired in midcourse to increase the range. I presume that they were firing into the harbor area which was a few miles to our rear. After the breakout from the Anzio beachhead we stopped for a while to take a look at the gun.

The breakout was made when the weather became good in the Spring of 1944. After going through Rome, Florence, etc, we made our way up to the mountains on the South side of the Po River valley. By that time Fall had arrived and there was snow in the mountains so we wintered in the mountains just south of Bologna. Along the roads there were many caves that had been dug by the Germans or by forced labor for protection against strafing by our aircraft. One of the caves was my winter home until the weather warmed in the spring of 1945. Our living conditions weren’t as bad as it may sound when you consider all the human caused suffering which was going on at that time even with out including the holocaust.

It was during this period that I woke up early one morning to smoke a cigarette and heard the news on the radio that President Roosevelt had died.(6)

Things moved swiftly when the Spring offensive got under way. The Germans, in Italy at least, were short on supplies such as ammunition and gasoline. Their counter fire was noticeably reduced and they were using mules etc. to move equipment. We would pass long lines of destroyed vehicles that had been strafed by our air force. Even as far back as Cassino their air force was rarely seen by us. Our aircraft personnel were being transferred to the infantry.

When the war ended the German 34th Div. Surrendered to the American 34th. One of our men who was involved in the deal got a German P38 pistol for me in exchange for a pack of cigarettes to the German Officer.

We then went to San Remo on the Italian Riviera where arrangements were made for our piecemeal return to the States. A point system had been established to determine which troops would be held for possible deployment to the Pacific Theatre and who could be discharged. More than 75 points was required to be eligible for discharge. Those of us who had been with the unit since leaving Duluth had about 125 points as I remember it.

As transportation became available the unit was dispersed in small groups. Being single and among the youngest in the group it took a week or two before I left. I then rode the train to Naples and then boarded the SS America. This was a large ship which was built just before the war and, without escort, had been transporting troops. We landed in Newport News, Va. I hadn’t thought about nor expected any sort of welcome and there was none. The Nation’s attention was focused on defeating Japan. Further, troops were just beginning to return and the location did not seem inviting.

After a few seemingly unstructured days at a crowed facility in the area I oarded a train for Fort Snelling,

* Footnotes

1. Mules were being used to bring supplies to the Infantry. A Mountain Division equipped with Pack Howitzers for artillery was being or had been formed. At least one of our cannoneers volunteered to join them. I presume this was the unit in which Senator Bob Dole was a member.
2. We commonly referred to it as a “Jeep” but it was a full size Vehicle. In the early days at Camp Claiborne we called the small vehicle “Peep” when they first appeared.
3. Within a day or two the Long Toms moved out.
4. Shortly thereafter we were issued manufactured sleeping bags.
5. I listened to BBC on a portable radio, which in those days was the size of a small suitcase. A few fellows from units close by used to come to listen to the evening news.
The next evening one of the fellows said he was happy that I was still alive as a rumor had gone around that I had been killed.
6. I was a 2+ pack a day smoker until 1950 when I quit “cold Turkey”. Uncle Bert who lived next door, was a heavy smoker and died at age 47. As a child, I would hear him refer to cigarettes as “coffin nails”.


1. I am thankful that the National Guard in Duluth was an artillery unit. Of all the combat units that existed at that time I think that the field artillery was as good a place to serve as could be found.
2. The most detested job in the army that I was called upon to do consisted of pulling guard duty. This only occurred when we were at more or less permanent installations. The duty I pulled, such as at Galveston and Fort Dix, was during the winter season and at night when the temperature was low. The two hour on duty time seemed like an eternity. At Fort Dix the off duty accommodations were bad.
3. For many months in Italy the 442 Japanese-American combat team was attached to the 34th Division. They were volunteers from the Japanese internment camps. They performed extremely well and were later sent into France whereas we stayed in Italy. A memorial in Honolulu contains much information about their experiences in Italy which also apply to the 34th Division.
4. The 34th Division provided volunteers who formed the foundation for “Darby’s Rangers. At least 2 men from C Battery were among the volunteers.
5. Among the Divisions that I can recall seeing in Italy with regularity were the 3rd Regular Army (Now very active in Iraq), the 36th Nat. Guard from Texas, and the 45th Nat. Guard from Oklahoma.

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