Only once during the whole time Joe Cigich fought his way through Europe with Gen. Omar Bradley’s 9th Army during World War II was he shot at by the enemy.
“I was up on a pole stringing phone cable when a sniper fired at me outside a little town in Germany that I can’t recall its name we were about to capture. When he fired, our guys opened up on him with a machine gun,” the 92-year-old former Army corporal, now of Englewood, recalled.
After basic at Fort Dix, New Jersey, he spent a few more weeks training to fire a 90 mm anti-aircraft gun. Then he was sent to New York and boarded the Queen Mary for Europe.
“I think it took us five days to reach Edinburgh, Scotland,” Cigich said.
“She sailed across the Atlantic fast. We took a train from Edinburgh to England, I can’t remember the town where we were based in England.
“Five days after the D-Day invasion we reached the beaches of Normandy. Once we got to France we started moving north with Gen. (Omar) Bradley’s 9th Army. I was part of headquarters company, 135th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion.
“I was in the communication section of headquarters company,” he explained. “It was my job to lay the phone cables on the ground from headquarters to the anti-aircraft batteries. If they got cut I’d walk the line, find the cut and splice it back together. Then when we moved I would roll the cables up, put them in a truck and go to the next place.”
Cigich and his unit took part in the Battle of the Bulge, the largest battle Americans fought on the Western Front during World War II. His memory is a little foggy on the part he and his unit played in that fight.
He recalls it was cold and there was snow on the ground.
“We set up our guns to take on the German Luftwaffe. I don’t recall that we shot at any Germans even though we were set up to provide anti-aircraft, anti-tank and artillery support during the Bulge.”
Cigich said his unit breached the Siegfried Line that protected Germany’s western border from enemy invasion. But again, there was no shooting by members of his unit.
“We just rolled right through the line without firing a shot,” he said. “The infantry that came before us took out the Germans along the line.”
After that it was one town after another that Gen. Bradley’s 9th Army and Cigich rolled through without a lot of resistance, according to him.
“I remember we spent a lot of time around Munich. I don’t recall any problems with the Germen there. I think we were in Munich when they surrendered. All we knew was they gave up and we became occupation troops for a while until we returned home.”
Going back to the USA wasn’t at all like the trip over. Cigich sailed home to New York City in a slow liberty ship. It was a far cry from his trip over in the Queen Mary two years earlier.
“By the time we reached New York City all the celebrating the war’s end was over,” he said. “I got off the boat, returned to Fort Dix and was discharged from the Army. I hitchhiked home to Johnstown, Pennsylvania. That was it.
“The day after I returned from war I got a job with the phone company, GTE in Pennsylvania,” he said. “I worked for them for 40 years, until I retired in 1985. Then my wife, Dorothea, and I started wintering in Florida 30 years ago.”
She has since died. The Cigichs have three children, David, Richard and Deborah.
Name: Joseph Cigich
D.O.B: 28 Feb. 1925
Hometown: Johnstown, PA
Currently: Englewood, Fla.
Entered Service: 1942
Unit: 135th Anti-aircraft battalion
Battles/Campaigns: North Africa, Battle of the Bulge, Italian Campaign
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 and is republished with permission.
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