Veteran, at nearly 100, recalls supplying troops in WWII, Korea

Army.mil
November 11, 2019 - 2:24 pm
World War II veteran Anthony H. Grant is recognized during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day and Operation Overlord, Washington, D.C., June 6, 2019.

photo credit: Lisa Ferdinando

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By Thomas Brading, Army News Service

WASHINGTON -- Anthony Grant, a quartermaster who supplied U.S. Soldiers in two major wars, was 22 years old when he received his Army draft notice.

The former Boy Scout spent his childhood fixated on geography books. Even as a kid, he said, his sights were set on traveling the world. At the time, though, he didn't know his Selective Service paper would end up being a ticket to the sites in books that fascinated him.

From the war-battered beaches of Normandy to the frozen mountains of Korea, Grant spent the next 21 years finding adventure around the world as a Soldier. Along the way, he supplied troops on the frontlines of many historic World War II and Korean War battlefields.

Today, at nearly 100 years old, retirement hasn't slowed him down. In June, the retired major attended the 75th anniversary of D-Day at the WWII monument in Washington, D.C.

There he joined other D-Day veterans and laid a wreath in memory of his fallen brothers in arms. He has attended many other ceremonies like it to honor those he served alongside.

DEFEND THE COUNTRY

Grant's military story begins more than 77 years ago. The Soldier for Life can still vividly recall how it all began. He was drafted on April 22, 1942, less than six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and much of the world was embroiled in war for the second time in just over two decades.

Born and raised in New York City, Grant left home to join the fight.

"The country was shocked when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor," he said during an interview with the American Forces Network.

Grant started his Army career as a clerk for the quartermaster corps, and in less than a year was promoted to sergeant. By April 1943, he became a warrant officer specializing in administration.

This is around the time, he said, his quartermaster battalion trained for their European deployment in Brooklyn, a borough of NYC, just a few blocks from where he spent his childhood.

But the city would soon be thousands of miles away. After they trained, Grant's name was among thousands of other American troops printed on a ship manifest for the Queen Mary -- a Scottish ocean liner turned Allied troop carrier during the war.

ON A SHIP TO EUROPE

Grant was among the thousands of Soldiers jam-packed and loaded from top to bottom in the transatlantic ocean liner, he recalled.

The ship ferried troops across the Atlantic Ocean to join Allied partners in Scotland. From there, the Soldiers rode in trucks south to Kettering, England, where they met with allies, and trained before the Normandy invasion.

Months after arriving in the United Kingdom, Grant would eventually cross the channel into France. It was a month after D-Day, the invasion of Normandy in northern France.

By the time Grant arrived on the French shoreline, the initial battle had already occurred. In its wake was, as Grant recalled, "complete and total destruction."

For miles, all he could see at Normandy were destroyed military vehicles, such as tanks and trucks, along with countless discarded helmets littered in the sand and sunken ships partly submerged near the shore, he said.

There was so much destruction, he added, the quartermasters had to make special passageways for their vehicles to go across the beach and set up supply depots.

"During those years, the quartermaster was the principle supplier of all equipment for the troops," he said. Their supply lines would procure and distribute various items throughout the European theater of operations.

From Normandy, Grant and his troops advanced further into France, then onward into Germany, he said. All the while, they continued their support to the warfighters, including Gen. George Patton's Third Army, along with other combat units.

"As we were passing through the French towns and cities, we'd stop at the town squares," Grant said.

During these rest periods -- usually for only a few hours -- Grant recalled how French civilians were overjoyed at the sight of American troops, and often poured wine into the Americans' canteens and mess cups.

"We only consumed a small amount [of wine], of course, because we still had a mission," Grant said, laughing.

The Americans continued their supply chain through France, and into other parts of Europe previously controlled by the Germans, like Belgium and the Netherlands.

During the Battle of the Bulge, Grant and his men were called to deliver cargo, ammunition, and weapons to support the troops. It would be Germany's last major push on the Western Front during the war.

Even though he wasn't in a combat unit, Grant took great pride in how he supported them, he said. Every Soldier played a vital role to ensure victory over the Axis nations.

"We provided the trucks that carried troops from one area to another," he said. "We carried cargo and equipment, heavy tanks, and other materials needed in combat."

After the global war ended and the Axis forces fell in both Europe and the Pacific, many Soldiers -- who, like Grant, had been drafted into war -- returned to their civilian lives. They were veterans, and history would later call them the "Greatest Generation."

Although he was initially drafted, it was just the start of Grant's military career.

THE WAR IN KOREA

Only a few years following the triumph of WWII, from 1950 to 1953, the United States was entangled in another war. Grant lent another helping hand, this time on the frozen terrain of the Korean peninsula.

"I came to Korea in 1952, one year before the war ended," he said. And like he did during WWII, Grant supported combat units as a quartermaster.

However, instead of deploying as a unit, the quartermasters were sent individually. This was due to established units already stationed in Korea. These included multiple United Nations and Republic of Korea units, he said.

"They replenished troops from infantry, artillery, signal, ordnance, engineers, and the quartermasters, with individual Soldiers positioned in Japan," he said.

Grant was initially stationed at a replacement center, just outside of Tokyo, Japan, in 1952, where he supplied warfighters with trucks. The vehicles were ferried into Korea to carry cargo and supplies from Pusan, a center point of the war, to battlefields throughout the Korean Peninsula, he said.

After Grant completed his mission in Japan, he was called on to serve another in Korea. There he ran a quartermaster laundry company in Masan, Korea, where he washed clothes for troops in combat.

"It's a funny name, a laundry company," Grant said. "But, the troops in Korea had heavy clothing to wear, like wool jackets, trousers, and ponchos."

At the laundry company, Soldiers scrubbed the blood stains, mud, and other battle-worn grime from the heavy, wool fabric and prepared them to return into the Korean hills and valleys for American troops and allies.

Grant received the clothing in bulk, after it was loaded onto trucks and driven to Masan. Although he couldn't recall the exact unit names, he did remember the majority of the garb were property of Soldiers in artillery and infantry units.

"Artillery was a big thing in Korea because of all the mountain areas of combat," he said. The terrain was not suitable to move tanks through, he explained.

By the summer of 1953, an armistice was signed to formally end the Korean War. As the years passed, Grant continued to serve. Eventually, he commissioned into the officer corps and retired as a major while stationed at one of the countries where it all began -- Germany.