Ellsworth County Independent/Reporter
220 N. Douglas, Ellsworth KS 67439
Special to the I-R
The Independent-Reporter was approached by Dr. Eugene Jarus
of Ellsworth, historian for Wilson American Legion Post 262.
In his possession were the written war experiences of two
Ellsworth County veterans of World War II ó Jerry Klema and
He asked that the I-R publish the experiences of these
veterans to honor their service.
Jerry was born Sept. 24, 1921. He died in August 2007.
He wrote of his war experiences in 2001.
"I havenít been able to talk about my Army experiences. If I do, I
break down. So I will try to write. This all happened about 55 years
Officially, I was wounded four times. Actually, it was several times
more. I was very lucky. Some members didnít even last a minute on
My training included basic and advanced Reserve Officers Training
Corps at Kansas State University. That was normally a commission.
However, we were sent to the officer candidate school at Fort
Benning, Ga. and became second lieutenants in the infantry.
Shortly thereafter, a number of us were sent as instructors for the
80th Infantry Division, which was maneuvering against the 104th
Infantry Division in the desert. This was in preparation for going
overseas. After the maneuvers, and not being assigned to the
Division, we were sent overseas to act as replacements.
On a train ride from northern England to the central area, one
person said there goes a Spitfire flare. Actually, it was a German
rocket which hit a mile west of us. A number of hills with coal were
burning. German rockets had set them on fire.
We didnít know about "D-Day." They sent us to the port, and then
sent us back to camp. In a couple of days, we would go over as
I donít remember crossing the English Channel. It may have been
because of a concussion. I do remember running up the sandy portion
of Normandy Beach. We werenít being fired upon. I was looking
around. The lieutenant next to me gave me a shove and said to keep
I was assigned to the Ninth Infantry Division. While on line, the
lieutenant next to me showed three marks on his rife which was for
each of the enemy he had downed. He lasted about two hours more,
because he made himself too noticeable.
American troops were only a short way in from the coast, because of
the hedgerows. The hedgerows were made by the French for defensive
purposes to protect from the Norsemen. They were mounds of rock and
dirt with growing trees on both sides. The way they were laid out
would throw off your directions. Thanks couldnít even get through
The hedgerows kept the Allies from advancing much for four to six
weeks. Finally, the tanks put pointed steel bars on the lower
portion of the front of the tanks. They could hit the hedgerow, and
hit again, and finally get through. At this time, we didnít like
tanks around. Their motors made enough noise that enemy artillery
would hit the area since they would know infantry was in the area.
In our shore line confined area with infantry, artillery, tanks,
anti-aircraft guns, tanks were close in. With all the firing odors,
we didnít know if the enemy was using poisonous gas in their effort.
We even slept with gas masks on.
One of the activities was when we captured two of their men. Our men
were very belligerent, because the enemy was wearing some paratroop
jump boots and other American clothing. Our troops were going to
kill them. I had to persuade them to send them to our back area. We
all checked our clothing to see that we werenít wearing enemy
We kept trying to advance. Finally, with the Air Force doing the
high altitude pin-point bombing in areas, it helped, such as at St.
Lo. The enemy troops were killed or stunned, so we could advance.
Also, the Army tanks could help more because of their additional
construction. Directions were hard to maintain. The tanks could
penetrate and start firing. In some cases, they couldnít see the
friendly troops in front of them.
Every day we had problems. To move a unit, it could go only so fast
or far per day. Since the enemy was falling back, I rode on tanks to
check roads, bridges, etc., so the unit could keep advancing. We
were now moving south of Paris.
The people were joyous for us. We saw a number of women who had
their heads shaved. They had been friendly to the Germans. One place
the enemy put lime on the roads to get in our eyes and slow us down.
There were some rivers which were tough to cross. It allowed them to
have a defensive line. When crossing a river, we were good targets.
We never made much noise moving through trees. When going down a
trail, I saw my two lead scouts stopped and still. Opposite of them
were two Germans. Both groups were stunned and quiet. I told them to
drop their guns. Some things end quickly, and may end okay.
We finally got to the French-German border. The dragon teeth pillars
of concrete to stop vehicles were graded over with dirt to let
vehicles drive over.
While going through a forest area, we came to an open tree line. I
went across, but the rest of the men didnít follow. I went back to
see why they didnít come. The unit hesitated, but said they would
cross. This was my third crossing, but my assistant didnít make it
across. I especially remember him, because he was so good and
friendly, and from Pennsylvania.
At two different times about a month apart, we advanced quietly and
carefully as always. Four Germans were walking four abreast and 20
feet in front of us. One shot would have gotten all four of them. I
did a lot of firing, but I hate to fire directly on a human. I
yelled "halt" and they disappeared immediately.
We were advancing up a roadbed, which was lower than the fields on
each side. It had trees on each side of the road. The enemy was
advancing toward us and firing repeatedly. We had no place to go.
They were just on the other side of the turn in the road. We fired
closely at the edge of the bend in the road. They finally pushed
back, so when we went forward, we saw we were accurate in hitting
them without seeing them. They had removed clothing and packs.
The enemy and tanks were on the south edge of a town. They seemed to
be pulling back. We went to the top floor of the building to look
out. They were coming back and firing rapidly. They riddled the
lower area, but we were on the top floor so we got by.
We were soon in the Hurtgen Forrest. We were advancing against an
area which ended up as a German pill box. The barbed wire and stuff
was difficult. We finally had the area, and it was getting dark. We
decided to take cover in their foxholes. There were only 10 of us
I asked for help to get my two corpses out of my foxhole. They
jumped up yelling "Komrad, Komrad." It was a U-shaped foxhole, so I
had to watch them. It was pitch dark ó about 5 a.m., when we heard a
lot of fire and then quiet. We didnít know what was in the area. I
had the two prisoners stand up with their arms in the air. The area
was clear, so we got back with our unit.
When you sleep at night, you try to find a low area. We slept with
our helmets on. In the morning, the boy sleeping with me didnít get
up. On checking, we found a piece of shrapnel had gone through his
When you join a unit in combat, you donít know anyoneís name. Also,
we leave as a casualty or fatality, so we donít know names.
With our first aid man we went through a lot. This particular day,
shrapnel went through his stomach area. The guts were falling out,
but they were not torn. We had to shove them up and in. The next
day, I had shell fragments go through my shoulder blade and I
started spitting blood. It had hit part of my lung. I managed to get
to the aid station. My first aid man was still there. They couldnít
send him on yet. Eventually, I was put on a first aid train. The
enemy is not supposed to attack such facilities. The train was an
old timer. You could see clear through the train. The cots were
three on each side. A nurse was shooting all the patients with the
all-new penicillin. Even standing on a stool and bouncing all over.
We finally got to the hospital area. It was a school in Belgium.
German planes struck the area the night before. Two nurses were
injured. The gym and several rooms were being used.
The nurse said they had a nurse from Missouri. She said she would
have her stop by. As it finally happened, there were three nurses
from Wilson. That was a really great happening to be able to see
someone you know. They also had nurse from North Africa. I was
moving around too much and the cot was getting bloody. So they
helped clean it up. That was really wonderful to see them.
Eventually, I got back to England and the hospital. They operated
and things went well. If you are injured in the Army, you are not
sick and you heal speedily.
I was still in England when the Germans made the big push ó The
Battle of the Bulge. I got back with the unit on the Rhine River.
All the bridges on the Rhine had been destroyed, but a Remagen. The
Remagen Bridge was very weak. To build up and protect the area,
smoke screens, anti-aircraft guns, pontoon bridges were needed for
heavy traffic and to save the area. Everything that goes up, must
come down. Our own fire sounded like enemy fire when it came down.
It didnít take long for me. I got a bullet through my right
shoulder. The weak bridge with 85 people working on it was the
source of travel for light first aid ambulances. After crossing the
bridge, we started up the bank when we heard a crash. The driver got
out and looked. He said the bridge had fallen. I was too weak to
look out. This was another time that I was lucky.
While being a patient and flying back to England, we had a good
trip. However, on landing, an oil transport got partly in the way
and they had some contact.
While in the hospital, "V.E." Day was celebrated. Operations and
service were discontinued for the day.
I donít remember much about the trip to New York and Kansas City.
There was a two-section train from Kansas City to Santa Fe, New
Mexico. Alyce (Jerryís wife) made it there. She was on the other
section. I was a patient, but not an invalid. My trouble was because
of the bullet that went through my right shoulder.
While in Santa Fe, we met Ernest Klema of Salina. He was working at
Los Alamos. In a couple of weeks, two atomic bombs were dropped on
Japan and we were fortunate to have "V.J." day shortly.
Hitler was responsible for the murder of six million people. He also
was responsible for the loss of lives of soldiers and civilians.
After getting home and building the new "Klema IGA Market and Locker
Plant," I still stayed in the reserves. I was captain of the
artillery unit in Russell. I went to several summer camps. I even
went to the officer artillery school in Fort Sill, Okla. Thinking
about the past and other things, I wanted out. I left with 15 years
service, a major in rank, and 30 percent disability.
I forgot to mention about our first aid man who had his guts shot
out. We met him in Houston, Texas, with several other motorcyclists.
He said to hop on. We went 100 miles per hour ó go up to a stop sign
then zoom out. I said I didnít want any more."
During his service in the U.S. Army, Major Jerry Klema earned four
purple heart medals, a bronze star, the combat infantryman badge and
the European Campaign ribbon.
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