And There Shall Be Wars, World War II Diaries and Memories by Bud Wagner
And There Shall Be Wars, World War II Diaries and Memories by Bud Wagner, Ed. Lloyd Wagner, Twig: Wilmer Wagner & Lloyd Wagner Press, First edition, 2000, 536 pages, $15.00 postpaid.
This is an authentic story of patriotism and bravery. When Bud was drafted in April, 1941 at age 22, he thought he would be away from his beloved farming and market-gardening business in Minnesota for about a year. Actually, he served “for the duration” until July, 1945. Almost 42 months of this time was overseas duty, much in combat in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Bud was a model GI who willingly, honorably, and efficiently did his part to defeat Hitler. The point of his title, and Bud’s belief, is that there will always be wars until the Prince of Peace is affirmed by the nations of this world.
Inducted in Duluth, Bud did his basic artillery training at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. He had already been in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the CCCs, so he knew his way around quasi military camps. Bud planned ahead and took his diary and a small, easy-to-conceal, Kodak camera with him to record his military experiences. His book is based to a large extent on his diary entries, the context and commentaries for these entries, pictures, letters he exchanged with family and friends, historical documents, and his personal memories.
“Wag,” as he was known, always loved to cook. One day, a Lt. Hanson asked if anyone in the battery could cook. “My hand shot up in a hurry….I was really excited about getting the cook job. I was up in the clouds.” He describes in wonderful detail the various meals they prepared. Wag gladly took over the duties of other cooks when they were ill. In addition to the regular hours, meals had to be served to the troops while they were being transported on trains, out in the field on bivouac or maneuvers, and at odd hours for enlisted men and officers who were late from special assignments.
On January 15, 1942, the 151 Field Artillery Battalion sailed for Europe from New York City on an English ship, the HMS Strathaird. We read that this was the first military convoy of World War II to cross the Atlantic to Europe. The aircraft carrier in the fleet returned to New York after several days, but the destroyers accompanied them to Northern Ireland. One stanza in a long poem he wrote on board goes like this:
I’ve been to the galley, but don’t have to cook.
I’m glad of that though, I don’t want to look
At the food out there, I know I can’t eat;
And I’m not the least fussy, and it’s not from the heat
Cooking in Ireland and then England before they shipped out to North Africa was much different than in the States. In January, 1943, he writes: “Working as a cook was starting to irritate me about this time. It was mostly opening cans, heating the food, and then listening to the guys gripe about it.” Handing out C rations as they prepared for combat was no challenge, and the politics of the kitchen was getting to him. Although offered the Mess Sergeant Rank and pay, he left cooking and decided to take at a job offered to him as a Battery Agent, a messenger who delivered sealed messages back and forth to key command posts and message centers. Assigned a jeep, which he always called his “peep,” Corporal Bud lived a hectic, dangerous existence. Often traveling at night on impossible bombed-out roads under enemy fire and through mined fields he somehow fulfilled his secret missions. He wore out five peeps in the process! Bud dug many foxholes, slept in—and sometimes under—his peep, experienced some very close calls, and participated in the September 9, 1943 invasion of Salerno. A poem he wrote about his job concludes:
He awakes in a daze; someone has yelled his name.
“You have a message to deliver; don’t mind the rain.”
He jumps in his jeep; his mind is still hazy,
For he’s a Battalion Agent, and it’s driving him crazy.
Through it all, Bud somehow was regularly able to read the Bible, many fine novels, and magazines like Life, Farmer, Country Gentlemen, Reader’s Digest, and Stars and Stripes. He attended Sunday services whenever he could locate the chapel. He mentions from time to time the names, personal traits, and stories of his unlucky buddies who were killed or wounded in action. MPs and comfortable rear echelon troops were not his favorites.
Bud’s book is filled with significant personal stories as well as with discussions of the national and international events of the time. It’s a profound, informative, well-told, and well-edited story which preserves the service record of one of our so-called Greatest Generation. This fine volume desires a place alongside the very best World War II memoirs and histories.
I highly recommend it.