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Mt Zion Historical Society

Lest We Forget- Vet Special

Lest We forget-Vet Special
(Please share similar stories with us)

Remembering: Charles Carlson by Jon Alverson



Charles Carlson was a coal miner in Elk County before he went into the Army in 1942. The Army thought they could use his skills at a hard rock mine in Idaho, but Carlson knew he was meant for the fighting Europe.

"I didn’t think it was the right place to be," Carlson said. He told the Army as much and they sent him to Ft. Rucker, Ala., for basic training. With Basic Training over, Carlson boarded the Queen Elizabeth 1 cruise ship for his Atlantic Ocean crossing. He crossed the English Channel a month or so after D-Day and was supposed to fly to the front but weather kept the planes grounded. Therefore, he rode to the front in a train’s boxcar and it was one of the worst experiences of his life. There was not enough room and the trains had to stop often to repair the tracks.

He caught up with the fighting at the Siegfried Line in Germany in November. His squad leader sent him to the rear to bring up replacements and while Carlson was gone, all of the leaders in the squad were killed.

"I got back with the replacements and they were as scared as rabbits," Carlson said. Carlson’s unit went right into action. He was standing on a ridge and heard talking below him but couldn’t figure out if it was English or German. He tried to move closer, but slid down the Hill. When he stood up, he was in the middle of a group of German Soldiers. He pointed his gun and they threw up their hands. As he was forming the prisoners up to march them away, one bolted. Carlson said he let the German solider go because he had others to deal with.

As the line of soldiers marched pass, one of the men said "Polski, Polski, no Nazi." Carlson said he reached up to knock the man’s helmet off the soldier off the soldier, when the soldier he let escape shot him. The bullet tore threw his right shoulder and left hand. No help was immediately there for Carlson as he waited 10-12 hours before he was even put under a roof. He had injection of morphine. His unit still captured the 10 soldiers and when they left the area, two of those German soldiers carried Carlson out.

He ended up in a hospital in England for 5 months in a body cast, but the rehabilitation there and stateside did not match what he found in the woods of Pennsylvania.

"I got a job cutting logs with a cross-cut saw and that put my arm back in place," Carlson said.

His time at the hospital in England was not a holiday either.

"They wouldn’t let you sleep in peace," he said. "Those buzz bombs would come over and they sounded like a Fordson tractor." Occasionally a bomb would fall close enough to open the windows in the hospital. "You’d wake up freezing," Carlson said.

Eventually Carlson also left the woods of Pennsylvania and used the G.I. Bill to earn a degree in accounting. He used the degree to become the assistant director of a mental hospital in Hollidaysburg.

Lest we forget…..

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