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Sep. 14, 2015  War on Terror   Transformation   News Products   Press Resources   Images   Websites   Contact Us 
WWII Vet Recalls There Were Good Times and Bad
By U.S. Army Pvt. Michael A. Molinaro, 4 th Infantry Division

FORT HOOD, Texas, Nov. 10, 2004 — James H. “Bud” Spracklen was one of the 78th Infantry Division veterans who visited Fort Hood recently for a three-day reunion

Spracklen, 83, from Buchanan Dam, Texas, served during World War II, from Oct. 25, 1942 until Jan. 25, 1946. He was working for a contractor west of Fort Worth, when he was drafted. He went to basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., where he was one of six draftees out of 2,000 selected to be paratroopers.

“But they rejected me for airborne school, after they found out I had flat feet,” he explained.

Spracklen was then assigned to the 78th Inf. Div. at Camp Butner, N.C. From there, he joined the “the ears and eyes of the division,” 78th Cavalry Reconnaissance troop.

Spracklen’s unit embarked for Europe on the Flagship John Erickson, a converted luxury cruise liner that held roughly 6,000 soldiers. The journey took 16 days and the Soldiers debarked at South Hampton, England.

“Recon troops were the internal guard for all of the headquarters battalion at first,” Spracklen explained.

In October 1944, his unit took a boat trip into the mouth of the Sane River at Lahaan, Belgium. There, they received their equipment and made their way for Aachen, Germany, where the unit’s footmarch across Germany was set to begin.

“We expected, and were ready for combat at anytime,” he said.

His unit’s superiors made him a leader at the front because he was good at map reading and direction, he said.

Spracklen was wounded in a minefield during a battle for the heavily fortified Schwammenauel Dam at the Roer River in late January 1945, when he suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. He caught up with his unit in March during the intense battle for the Rhine River at Remagen. After the battle, he said, his unit had a clear look of the Autobahn highway and made it to Wuppertal.

“There were white flags everywhere,” he said.

Photo, caption below.
Cpl. James "Bud" Spracklin (left), 78th Cav. Rec, Troop Camp Butner, N.C. James H. "Bud" Spracklen (right) attended the recent 78th Infantry Division reunion at Fort Hood, Texas. U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Michael A Molinaro, 4th Infantry Division

After Germany surrendered, his unit took up occupational duties for three months in the countryside outside of the town of Kassel. His job was to root out weapons and questionable citizens. During his tour, he said he ended up becoming good friends with the townspeople and even took German-speaking classes. Residents took to him and his unit as well, he added, and a woman gave him a saber as a gift. It is a gift he still has to this day.

Sparcklen said he headed back home from Bremerhaven on the same ship he came to Europe on and left the Army as a sergeant less than a year later.

He went on to the University of Houston and earned his degree in civil engineering. His successful career in engineering took him to places such as Australia, Yugoslavia, Libya, France and back to Germany.

He brought his wife over to Germany, where he showed her the battlefields and where he was injured.

“I had a empty feeling,” he said, when reflecting on being back in Germany.

“There were times we would laugh,” he said, “but the bad parts are all to vivid to me. You never knew when you’d get hit.”

Spracklen received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and two Legions of Merit during the time he served.
Last Updated:
11/30/2005, Eastern Daylight Time
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