He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day plus 6, took part in the breakout at St. Lo, the Battle of the Bulge, Hürtgen Forest, Remagen and stopped at the Elbe River near Berlin at war’s end.
Edwin Erving of Port Charlotte, Fla. was trained as an ambulance driver and medic attached to the 5th Armored Division in World War II. He landed at Utah Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day plus 6 with the 5th Armored.
“We had to drive down the beach six miles until we found an entrance over the sand dunes for the tanks,” he said. “Bodies of American soldiers were everywhere on the beach.”
Before the war was over Erving, a sergeant in the 75th Medical Battalion would receive five battle stars for major battles including: the Battle of the Bulge and the Hürtgen Forest in Belgium. He fought in campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, the Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe, the 86-year-old former soldier’s discharge noted.
“We were right with the tanks on the front lines in our ambulance. We had to be there to pick up the wounded,” Irvin said. “We picked ’em up, patched ’em up and drove ’em back to an aid station six or eight miles behind the lines. We could put eight stretchers in the back of the ambulance and three more up front with us.”
The 5th Armored Division played a major role in the breakout of Allied forces at St. Lo, France a few days after the D-Day Invasion. It was Erving’s baptism of fire.
He and the 5th started with Gen. William Simpson’s 9th Army, but after Bastogne the 5th became part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army from there to the Elbe River near Berlin. What he remembers best is the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest.
“The Hurtgen Forest was the worst. Nobody liked the forest because of the tree artillery,” Erving explained. “German 88 artillery shells hit the tops of the trees and shrapnel would rain down on the American soldiers in foxholes below. Even guys dug in with tree branches over their foxholes were hit by shrapnel in the Hurtgen Forest.
“It was slow going taking the wounded back from there at night to the aid station miles behind the lines. I’d have my assistant ambulance driver walk in front of the vehicle holding a little red strobe light I could see. It would take us all night to make one trip,” Erving said.
Remagen, Belgium and the Ludendorff Bridge that spanned the Rhine into Germany is what Ervin remembers next. It was the only bridge still standing crossing the Rhine captured by American forces.
“By the time the 5th Armored arrived in Remagen the bridge had fallen in the river. We crossed on a pontoon bridge. I remember Aaken the first town we came to in Germany, but there wasn’t much left of the place,” he said.
Gen. Patton’s race across Germany with his tanks remained a blur to the old soldier 65 years later. Even looking at an official 5th Armored Division combat map of the country didn’t refresh his memory. Pointing at towns on the map: Hoensbrock, Adbach, Wesel, Numster, Herford, Pattensen the names meant little to Erving.
“I know we went through ‘em but we went so fast I don’t remember much. There wasn’t much happening because we were moving so fast. If anything happened it was usually up front ahead of us and we didn’t see it,” he explained.
At one point charging through Germany with Patton’s 3rd Army, Erving recalls coming across two soldiers from Texas. One was still alive and the other was dead.
“The one who was alive didn’t want to leave his dead buddy. He was put in the back of a deuce-and-a-half (2 ½ ton truck) and carried along with the living for a couple of days. We finally took his dead buddy off the truck and gave him to an all black grave registration battalion following behind us. They threw his buddy in the back of another truck filled with dead soldiers for burial,” Ervin recalled.
Finally the 5th Armored reached the Elbe River, 35 miles from Berlin, where they halted. Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight Eisenhower cut a deal with the Russians allowing them to capture Berlin.
As Erving and the 5th waited on the west side of the River Elbe they were besieged by surrendering German soldiers. They knew their chances of survival were better if they turned themselves over to the American soldiers before the Russians caught them.
“I remember while we were waiting at the Elbe I went across the river with an American nurse to rescue a couple of starving German babies found in a building on the outskirts of Berlin,” Erving said. “I don’t recall much about it except that they were about a year old and just about starved to death when we took them back with us. We brought them to the aid station and they took care of them. I don’t remember hearing any more about them, so I guess they survived.”
Like millions of other soldiers, Ervin took a ship pack with thousands of happy soldiers back to the States. When their ship sailed into New York harbor in November 1945 he realized he had survived the war.
He went home to Minnesota and married his wife, Florence, 62 years ago. They lived near Minneapolis where he owned a construction business until he retired. The couple moved down here in 1985.
Name: Edwin Erving
D.O.B: July 21, 1923
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: April 5, 1943
Discharged: December 5, 1945
Unit: 75th Medical Battalion
Commendations: Bronze Star and five battle stars for participating in five major battles: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe as an ambulance driver in the 75th Medical Battalion, 5th Armored Division attached to Gen. William Simpson’s 9th Army and Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army in Europe during World War II. He also received the World War II Victory Medal and the European, African and Medal-Eastern Campaign Ribbon.
Children: Michael Edward, Cheryl Moikobu
This story was first printed December 14, 2009 in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. It is republished on the web with permission.
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