In 1942 when Glenn Magner of Tangerine Woods mobile home park in Englewood, Fla. enlisted in the Army he was 16-years-old. He told them he was 20 and got away with it.
For the next 22 months he trained for the war in Europe. Magner was in Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 379th Infantry Regiment, 95th Division. When there unit got to France it became part of Gen. George Patton’s 3rd Army.
In October 1944 Sgt. Magner, who carried a 40 pound radio on his back and a Tommy-gun in his hands, found himself at Metz, France. The Germans captured the heavily fortified town that consisted of a trio of medieval stone forts. They had never been captured in battle and were built 1,000 years or more ago.
On Nov. 3, 1944 Patton’s 3rd Army attacked Metz. Two weeks later U.S. forces isolated the forts and captured the city. In the battle German Gen. Heinrich Kittel was wounded and captured.
“Our regiment’s objective was to go through the middle of the German lines and capture a supply bunker and a series of pillboxes on either side,” the 88-year-old Magner recalled. “My unit got ahead of our division and ended up on a hill above the forts surrounded by Germans.
“They pounded the hell out of us. They hit us with artillery, machine-guns and mortars. After the third day we ran out of rations, water and ammunition. We were sitting ducks,” he said.
“We had to be supplied by air after the third day. They dropped in D-Bars, water and ammunition so we could continue the fight. After the fifth day one of our units broke through the lines and got us out of there.
“We were dead men walking when we were fighting the Germans. How long does it take you to get shot? I think they estimated a guy in combat life expectancy was about two minutes,” he said.
Magner survived Metz without a scratch. He wasn’t as lucky during the Battle of the Bulge.
“We had crossed the Siegfried Line into Germany. It was my 19th birthday when the Battle of the Bulge came along. (Gen. Dwight) Eisenhower asked (British Gen. Bernard) Montgomery how long it would take him to get his army to the Bulge. He said, ‘Two weeks.’
“Patton told Eisenhower he could do it in 48 hours. He got the job and we turned around and went back to the Bulge,” Magner said. “I was hit there by shrapnel in both legs and sent back to a field hospital. Some SOB stole my combat badge and my combat boots at the field hospital.”
Things started looking up for the young sergeant when he was transferred to another hospital in downtown Paris. It didn’t take him long to begin hobbling around the town on a pair of crutches.
By VE-Day (Victory in Europe) Magner was out of the hospital and part of the occupation troops at a little German town called Olfen. After a month of that he was sent back to the States and discharged on Oct. 23, 1945. He served three years, three months and three days in the Army during World War II.
“I was only 19 when I was discharged and had no education. The only thing I knew how to do was operate a radio and shoot people,” he said almost seven decades later.
“I went to work as a stock boy at a department store in Minneapolis at 45-cents per hour. There were few jobs for someone with no education.
“The lady who ran the stock room didn’t like me. I confronted her at the end of my first week on the job about the way she was treating me. She told me, ‘You were here in this country with our young women during the war when my son was overseas getting killed in the service.’
“I told her I was sorry her son was killed in the war and left.
“The following Monday morning I showed up at work with my battle jacket with four rows of campaign ribbons, a Combat Infantryman’s Badge and hash marks on my sleeve.
“She took one look at me in my military jacket and started crying.”
Magner knew he had to find a way to get some usable job training for civilian life. He re-upped, but this time he enlisted in the Air Force for three years. He became an air traffic controller.
When he got out of the service the second time in 1949 he had to wait to sign up as a civilian air traffic controller because he was still only 20 years old. He spent the next 26 years working as a civilian air traffic controller.
Magner and his wife, Lee Ann, moved to Tangerine Woods two years ago. The couple has one son–Kevin.
Name: Glenn Magner
D.O.B: 26 Nov. 1925
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 1942
Discharged: 23 Oct. 1945
Unit: Headquarters Company Second Battalion, 379th Infantry Regiment, 95th Infantry Division, 3rd Army
Commendations: Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Bronze Star, French Legion of Honour
Battles/Campaigns: Metz, Battle of the Bulge
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, May 26, 2014 and is republished with permission.
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