Interview of Glen F. Formy-Duval
Transcript Number 063
Today is the 18th of June 2001 and we're interviewing Glen Foy Formy-Duval of the Columbus County who was in combat in North Africa and Italy for 23 months in World War II. Mr. Formy-Duval has the distinction of having entered Italy at Solerno in the south and fighting his way north to Genoa at the end of the war.
INTERVIEWER: Now you went into the Army when, Mr. Formy-Duval?
FORMY-DUVAL: I was inducted the 4th day of August 1942 and entered for active duty on August 15, 1942.
INTERVIEWER: And you took anti-aircraft training in the United States.
FORMY-DUVAL: Yes, you know from Fort Bragg we went to Fort Eustis, Virginia for basic training and that had to be somewheres along about the 20th of August. I think we stayed around Fort Bragg there for about a week after we went in there for active duty and then we shipped out for Fort Eustis, Virginia, and there we took our basic training and that had to be about the hottest part of the year because there was one evening there that we almost got too hot and they had to call it off. That was running the obstacle course.
So I don't know where that we actually pulled six weeks there or not. I think we were supposed to, but now they were cutting some of this business short back there. According to the records here, it shows that we was at Camp Hulen, Texas in September. Well that don't exactly agree with no six weeks there in basic training.
INTERVIEWER: They rushed you through a lot of times. They needed the troops.
FORMY-DUVAL: Right, so the reason that I know that it had to be the last of September because it was mentioned in this here historical thing here and so exactly how long we was at Camp Hulen, but we was training there. We was getting some of the basics on the 40 mm gun, also doing a lot of marching. We run into no problems going. I think that somewhere before we got over there that the convoy split and one segment of it went to Casablanca, but the one that I was on, went to Oran, that's North Africa.
When we got off the boat there, we, by the way, going over there, we had our guns set up on the deck of the ship to supplement the ship's guns and things in case of a raid. So surely if we had had a raid, we could have had a better position there.
But anyway when we got off the boat there, our guns went off too and we set the guns right out there at the little seaport guard. Of course while I was there, I know that I was parked on guard around the quartermaster warehouse and this was where that I met those guys that, we had never ____, but these fellers come up there, had OD's on and they were raggedy and they were pure slick. That was the boys that was in the action down there in the desert.
INTERVIEWER: In Africa.
FORMY-DUVAL: And they were wanting some clothes and I told them that I had orders not to let anybody in there. And they showed me identification cards and it had the picture on it and I looked at that picture, I looked at them and I had a pretty bad time about trying to recognize them. They were burnt brown and when the picture was taken, you know, it was good and clear.
So anyway, the boys didn't get no clothes then which I agreed with them, they certainly needed some. So when we left from there, we went to, I can't tell you where, it was somewheres down there where that was close to that seaport where that they was using to go to Sicily. Now that was during the campaign of Sicily.
INTERVIEWER: You were on the antiaircraft guard there then?
FORMY-DUVAL: We went down there and was guarding the airport, not the seaport, but the airport. This airport that we was guarding was the boys had the P40 Warhawk. They was going over to Sicily bombing and striking. And I know when we was there, they had a raid, an air raid down at this seaport, search lights you know. I know they got one plane cause I seen it. One of the planes flew over us up there, but we didn't fire at it.
One of the things I remember so distinctly was that it was hot, hot down there. It was a breeze that ordinarily was supposed to be a cool breeze, but it was the other way around. So we found out by rolling the sides of the tent down and closing ourselves off from the breeze that we faired a lot better. And so I know that this here breeze had to be coming somewhere not too far from the Equator down there.
FORMY-DUVAL: Yes sir. And so we was down there til Sicily, you know they got it and so we were sent back to Oran and got on a boat. We never knew where we were going, see. But what we did, we went right through there. I think it was between Africa and Spain, kind of a straight channel thing through there and over in the Mediterranean, I didn't know it, but this map thing, let's see where, see this is where we come at and went through here through this little gap (pointing to map). I think the reason that we did that is if you had to come around this way or if they had to come around this way, it would have been pretty much exposed to Naples and Naples was strictly, they got beat up there. So I think that was their reason for coming through there was to, it would be less exposed you know.
So we went in at Salerno, went on up Naples. Then Afro was the further point, we went up there. The reason that we would pull back to Naples to, we didn't know, but that was to go to Anzio see because the front, the 5th Army front and I presume they stormed it too, they stormed it on this side, both were stopped. Yeah that there was the first ring of mountains, they had the fortifications well prepared and even bombs could hardly penetrate them. Looking right down their throat, so just got stopped. That's the purpose of coming back, going around and going to try to go in back of them hoping that we could cut them off.
But it didn't work that way. They were too close to Rome. They had all their stockpiles and things and it would take no time to run us right down there. Of course there was a ring of mountains around there. That was flat there at Anzio, but there were a ring of mountains up yonder and they got on those mountains there and again, they were looking down our throat.
INTERVIEWER: So you landed at Anzio in a landing boat or landing craft, do you remember?
FORMY-DUVAL: Oh I think that it was, you know, front drop down because that's about what we had to have.
INTERVIEWER: And you pulled your guns off of the carrier, jeep or truck?
FORMY-DUVAL: Oh yeah, a truck, a GI truck. That's what we were pulling the gun with so we had to get out there and dig in. There is where we spent, I don't remember what date it was, but from the time we got in there, they got surrounded on those mountains there and they stopped us. As a matter of fact, they almost pushed us back into the sea there.
INTERVIEWER: Now you were in the foxhole a lot at Anzio then?
FORMY-DUVAL: We were having to I'd say live in a foxhole. Of course, we put our guns down and you know we manned the guns and they did have some air raids around there trying to bomb that little old port there, Anzio. But I didn't know nothing about it until years later that when the spring come, we always made that spring dry. It got dried off enough where they could operate this heavy machinery and so when the time come to make our drive, I didn't know that until years later that these boys says "No". They bucked up. I didn't know that until years later and I think that they even tried the second time and they still refused, but some way, somehow or another, they finally, you know, got through to them someway. They made their move and it weren't too long before we was in Rome, the historical city of Rome.
The enemy I guess had respect enough or something that they didn't take a stand in Rome. Now there was a little bit of activity going on, but they didn't take a firm stand to be...to have that city tore all to pieces.
INTERVIEWER: You went in the city of Rome, down the streets?
FORMY-DUVAL: Oh yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Was it destroyed any?
FORMY-DUVAL: No, no, it's kind of scarred up you know. They were bombing and scrapping and you know, there was some of the skirmishes in there, you know, the _____, probably some grenades and things, but they just weren't tore up all that bad.
INTERVIEWER: So you actually didn't get shot at in the city of Rome?
FORMY-DUVAL: No, we had it pretty good. The guys up front, now they might have got it. See we was in the antiaircraft back then and when we got to Italy, we was attached to the 125th I think and we was guarding them. So I don't know just, there's so much of this that I forgot.
INTERVIEWER: Well that's all right.
FORMY-DUVAL: I don't know exactly, see I have in here, I get to a point where I get lost or something.
INTERVIEWER: Well that's all right, that's okay.
FORMY-DUVAL: So you'll just have to excuse me cause I'm in that condition and I'm sorry. If it had been 2-3 years ago, I'd have been in much better shape.
INTERVIEWER: You're doing a good job.
FORMY-DUVAL: Anyway we definitely didn't have it all that rough so long as we were in that antiaircraft with the guns. When we really had it rough was when they'd taken us out and put us on the front lines.
INTERVIEWER: As infantry?
FORMY-DUVAL: As infantry. Now that was rough going.
INTERVIEWER: Now where was that? That was up north of Rome or north of Anzio or what?
FORMY-DUVAL: Right, it was north of Rome. I think, the way I got it based up here, I think the first objectives of infantry was the south banks of Arno River and there we got, went into the southern Pisa and then to Pisa which well I could kinda read it here and it would make more sense. Let me read this.
INTERVIEWER: All right, go ahead.
FORMY-DUVAL: "435th antiaircraft artillery automatic weapon battalion was put into action with no previous infantry training from July 28 to October 17, 1944 in Italy." But this, what I got here only centers around the Pisa and Arno River. Well let me read it to you - "Went into action on the south bank of the Arno River after driving the Germans from southern Pisa in swift house to house fighting. The battalion crossed the Arno River and entered Pisa through demolition and heavily mined areas to drive north to the banks of Sergio River.
Crossing the Sergio River, the battalion drove the enemy northward through increasingly intent mortar and artillery fire and heavily mined areas, roadblocks, tanks, deadly machine gun fire at times helped the advance, but the battalion brilliantly executed a plan designed to cut off to a pocket of Germans who were preventing the advance to the open terrain south of the _____ Canal with elements of the battalion sealing off the enemy route of escape.
The pocket of resistance was cleared opening the way to the canal. In these actions, the members of this organization displayed heroic gallantry and initiative to gain valuable strategic victories fighting unremittingly against the highly skilled and determined enemy. The officers and men of the 435th antiaircraft automatic weapons battalion displayed battle action of the type that will gain distinction in the history of the coast artillery."
See what I was trying to do was base a lot of this on the being untrained and going up there having to...brand new to us. That's what happened there so we stayed in there til you know as the antiaircraft battalion 435th, we stayed in there til oh October, that was from July 28th to October 17, 1944, that was somewhere around three months. That was having to be untrained for the role that we was, you know, carrying out there.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what kind of weapons they gave you, you kept a carbine or an M1 while you were in the gun crew, didn't you?
FORMY-DUVAL: Yeah, we first had the M1's, but somewhere along the way down there, they gave us some of those carbine rifles.
INTERVIEWER: And so when you went into the line on the Arno River, you still had your carbine or was it an M1?
FORMY-DUVAL: We, see I was on the machine gun.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, okay, so you had the carbine and you had a water cooled 30 caliber machine gun.
FORMY-DUVAL: We didn't have any tank you know to circulate the water, but it had the jacket on it and we just set it on a tripod, you know, so that's what we did. I remember the only building I saw of a five story height was we was on the top of that, had our machine guns in the window and we was had the advantage that little space of time there looking down their throat. We could see the Germans coming down a ditch and they'd come down out there to a certain place and they made their setup. That was early in the morning, looking right at them. You don't move those machine guns up until you've got a pretty valuable target because when you open it up, that flare goes up and when that flare goes up, you can go ahead and look out.
INTERVIEWER: They're going to artillery...
FORMY-DUVAL: You wind up with everything they've got. So we contacted the mortar company and directed their fire on these guys so they didn't throw but a few rounds before the Germans skidaddled. But, nevertheless, that still give our position away. Some way, somehow or other, we was out of there, but the next time we saw the place, there were a couple of stories knocked off.
INTERVIEWER: Where you had been?
FORMY-DUVAL: That's the results of a machine gun. Okay, we didn't know it was a machine gun, but they knew it was being used for observation, you see. So that it was important to destroy that, see, so I know there was another point in time there that we was in another house, a two story building and we were sitting at the window. They had wooden shutters and somebody had been in there before because there was a little split in the shutter where you could, you know, just see out. So the rifleman said "So look, we have to go out there", there was a field out there. He said, "We gonna get out there and go out there", they were just trying to feel the enemy. See you have to keep doing that because the enemy could pull up and leave and would we not keep checking on that, why we woulda sat in there for no....
INTERVIEWER: Didn't need to be there.
FORMY-DUVAL: That's right. So the boys was right. They got there about the middle of that field, they pinned them flat down. Well we didn't have no other....we just had to open up and we did with silencers. That was one of those, what we called a burp gun, one of them things that fired so fast, you couldn't even distinguish between the rounds hardly and but when we opened up, it cut them off just like that. Nevertheless the flare went up (laughter). When it did, you just couldn't hardly believe the quickness that there they come, all kind of shells.
But it was just lucky that God was working with us through there. I know He was. It was just lucky, but we lost one of the boys. When them there shells started, this man said "All right boys, let's get down in the bottom floor cause it'll be safer down there". And all of us got down there except this one. He used the binoculars out the window looking at those shells burst. So when they slacked up, this boy was laying over there, he'd got it. He was warned. There were a lot of deaths that were due to carelessness and not listening. Like I say, I think that God was on our side all during that time and someway or somehow another we got to pull out of there and kind of pulled back.
I don't know, there were periods of time there that we could get pulled back for just a little bit of rest, you know.
INTERVIEWER: When you were pulled back, you got to take a hot shower and some hot meals?
FORMY-DUVAL: Oh yeah, you know.
INTERVIEWER: And got clean clothes.
FORMY-DUVAL: Yeah and, well (laughter) out there a hot meal was something good. That there C-rations or K-rations up there, oh, anyway we did come back by there later. They didn't stop. If you ever opened up a machine gun, they would go all out to try to get you knocked out because that machine gun is a deadly weapon. It can hold an army back.
So from there we went on, there were two to three places that I remember pretty good and so we went on until they decided to go ahead and pull us back and convert us over into infantry regiment. They formed a new infantry regiment and that was taking...it took our battalion and some other antiaircraft battalion to form this infantry regiment.
I think that I was very fortunate there that our captain, they gave him the privilege of being on the cannon company, lead the cannon company and he picked his men and he told us, he called us together and he told us, "Now some of you fellas gonna call me chicken, you gonna call me yellow, call me this and that, but I'm gonna tell you what I'm gonna do. The men that I could depend on that antiaircraft, I'm gonna keep those men, all of them that I can".
He could only keep so many of his men and had to take some of the men from the other, you know, that there was batteries, it was not company.
INTERVIEWER: Now that was for the cannon company?
FORMY-DUVAL: This was a cannon company, you know, when we were forming the infantry regiment and it was 105, it was the same thing as the field artillery 105 inside, but it was short. You operated up closer to the lines. But nevertheless, every foot, every yard further back of the line you could get, better off you was. We can agree to that.
So we went from there as an infantry regiment. I don't think we was ever actually attached to a division. We was all the time, we was in the antiaircraft back there, we were just special troops. They could put us anywhere they wanted to and as far as I know, when they converted us into the infantry regiment, it might have been just the same old regiment. I think if my memory serves me right, a division consists of three regiments, is that right?
INTERVIEWER: That's correct.
FORMY-DUVAL: And up on the front lines, there'll be two of those regiments up there and right back here will be the other one, you know, where if something happened up there, why they have some backing. So all in all, it was a hard and a terrible, terrible...I can't, you can't, just like I told the gentleman, the story can't be told.
INTERVIEWER: You have to be there.
FORMY-DUVAL: You got to experience it. And I think that he readily agreed with me on that too. So anyway we went on from there as a regiment. We found ourselves in Genoa and I think that was the point that was somewhere about the time the war was...
INTERVIEWER: You were up around Genoa then?
FORMY-DUVAL: Yeah, I know that after they kinda announced it, it weren't official, but they kinda announced it that the actions had deceased, there was a bunch of Germans, I don't know whether it was a battalion or what, that was all left on a hill up there and they wouldn't give up. The commander come down and told our commander, says "I can't get 'em to surrender".
Well this commander who was told says "You go back up there and you tell them that they got this certain time that if they not down there, that their hill is going to be destroyed because we have the Navy out in that sea there". They was gonna use their, you know...
FORMY-DUVAL: We had all the Air Force and we had our little outfit there, the cannon company and well they had everything, you know, the war was over, not officially, but...so we was waiting and these people would not give up until they had to more or less. Told that there commander, said, "You go back up there and tell them they got this certain time to put the white flag up and give up or else they get blowed away".
And they did not make their move until the 11th hour. In other words, if they had elected to stand for a fight, there woulda been a lot of us killed when even the war itself was over with. But anyway it worked out because, you know, they surrendered. They put a white flag up, started coming down the hill.
So anyway that was a long and hard and Lord I could not tell you, wintertime, it would be a couple of weeks at a time, you'd never see the sun, cold, snowy, sleety, rainy. That's one of the things we couldn't do much fighting in wintertime. You're talking, the maneuvers...with heavy equipment and stuff. So but in the spring and summer, we had to take advantage and you're talking about beautiful weather, but in Italy the sky is a deep blue and it looks like it's right up there above your head.
We was coming up, you know, we're not very far from the coast at any point and we could look down in that water and that water looked like it was painted different colors. What it was, the water was clear and shallow enough that it was the bottom that we was seeing, but it formed a beautiful picture. So I had always heard an old song about the blue Italian skies, well that, whoever wrote that knew. They had been there.
So all in all, let me say this. I'm just, I don't know who's responsible for this, who was the instigator of getting this thing up, to give us the privilege to speak out, but whoever it is, Mr. Wise if it was you, I want to certainly thank you so very much and I gotta feeling that you had a lot to do with it.
INTERVIEWER: Well it was a grant from International Paper Company at Riegelwood to the University of North Carolina Wilmington where Paul here works. And I'm just trying, I told him I knew some veterans that would make good ones to talk to and he said well get them.
FORMY-DUVAL: I know you played some part in that.
INTERVIEWER: You had a good story to tell.
FORMY-DUVAL: You're just a nice guy.
INTERVIEWER: Well thank you.
FORMY-DUVAL: I've heard him telling him about a little girl that come by there. She had no clothes on in freezing weather and said that they couldn't pick her up. I've heard him crying about that.
INTERVIEWER: Well tell us about that one, Mr. Formy, about some of the Italians you saw over there. How bad off the civilians were -
FORMY-DUVAL: And who got killed in the store.
FORMY-DUVAL: See we didn't have too much time for the civilians, but nevertheless we'd get some passes and things, you know, where we'd get up in town and be around these people and, the Italians, they was all right. They were right nice people. They was not no fighters now. I can tell you that. Just after the war ended, I wound up down there in Rome guarding a prison camp, a concentration camp down there with all nationalities that were fighting with Germany. They was in there. They cut off in cells. Each nationality was in their cell, you know. And the Italians, that there Italian fascist they call them, they allied with Germany and what you call the partisans went with us.
The Italian cell was right over across from the German cell and I was at the gate that went into the German cell guarding and there was German prisoners that was on the inside the gate guarding. I didn't ever know why, you know, that the two was there, but I found out that there was a pup tent pitched there with rolled up barbed wire and I noticed that every so often, some guy would come outta there and say something to the guard and the guard would have to escort him to the latrine. So the German prisoners, they didn't like that. They said, the guy said that he had broke, I don't know how many prisons and he said that he would get outta there. Guard told me, says he won't get outta here.
So at one time he wanted to go to the latrine and this gentleman had to go with him, had to escort him and when that fella got ahead of him there, he pulled back like this. He wanted to give him a...hang his foot in his shoe in his rear, and he looked at me for me to give him the go signal. (Laughter) The Germans didn't like the Italians because they said they was no good for fighters, but nevertheless they helped us out a lot, these partisans.
You get checking back there, there was some places up there where we'd have to get a partisan credit for and, but all in all, I think, I don't, I can't answer that question about how they live. I didn't see nothing.
INTERVIEWER: But they didn't have a lot to eat, did they?
FORMY-DUVAL: Well this gentleman invited me to supper. It was just him and his wife or that was all I seen. And I went to have supper with him. It was nice people, you know. And absolutely I tried my best to keep from, what they had was spaghetti, plain spaghetti, no seasons whatsoever, just old white, stringy stuff. Well I just somehow another, somewhere another, my actions or something gave me away. This gentleman said, "You don't like it, do you?" I mean you know in their language. I didn't have understand it. I said well, oh, it's all right, you know and I went ahead and ate it, forced myself to eat it and everything.
Really I don't know how the people really lived because you didn't see nothing. I remember being having a machine gun set up in a corn patch. The corn was about this high and there was no fruit on it, no ears. It just looked like it had no fertilizer and that was where, our CP was set in that building just beyond us there. And some of the fellas there in that CP, they spotted this German patrol that had been over across the line and they had captured some British soldiers. You know there were some British over there?
FORMY-DUVAL: With us there too and they was going back over on their side and some of there fellas there in that building, they opened up on them. When they did, why they swept them there burp guns around like that and naturally throwed that flare up. That was an unusual gun. I heard it shoot and I could hear the shell coming. It looked like it was turning in the wind. The first round hit just ahead of our machine gun. We were down in the hole. If we hadn't been in the hole, we'd been in trouble because it cut one of the legs almost in two on the tripod.
So that was the important part. It's always try to keep a low profile and try to make a smaller target as you could, but like I think I mentioned to you the other day, there was some times that they, you had to operate under the cover of darkness. They would get us together there and they would drop it on us. At so and so hour tomorrow morning at so and so hour, whatever time you know, some of you, not all of you, will die. Well weren't that something to leave us there night to face, to think about. But it's these times that a person realizes how weak and how helpless we are. In other words, we're getting ourselves just in shape to where that God could use us and of course, it happened just like they said.
INTERVIEWER: Somebody got killed.
FORMY-DUVAL: Some got killed, some got ruined for life and some, you know, got by. So this is about the size of it. I think we've taken up enough time here. I just want to tell you fellas how much I appreciate this opportunity I've had.
INTERVIEWER: You did a good job of telling it.
FORMY-DUVAL: So I don't know what's what or anything, but...
ZARBOCK: I've got one question for you.
FORMY-DUVAL: Yes sir.
ZARBOCK: Look right in the camera, you're now going to talk to your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren...
FORMY-DUVAL: I got the great-grandchildren.
ZARBOCK: Tell them what did you learn from being all those years in combat and in war. What did it all mean?
FORMY-DUVAL: What did it all mean to me? Well one of the things is that...when I got this greeting from Uncle Sam, I don't have all that much to fight for. I know you get killed in war. I had an uncle, he was in World War I. I said what am I, with the hair on my head down here, one change of clothes, barefoot part of the time, what do I got to go out and give my life. And I was in trouble there for awhile.
So one day I was out there and I don't know how it happened, but I just happened to look at a bunch of little children that were there playing. That thing hit me just like that. I said yes, I have got something too and from that moment forth, I was ready to go. And certainly I don't regret it.
I'm proud to have a part...see World War II, you can remember it, that was the war that we weren't supposed to win and it was a big war and it caught us with nothing, but our production converted all the old factories and things and building war materiel, that played a great part in the peace that we're having today. Every individual that had a job pertaining to the war was important. If we couldn't get the stuff over there to fight with, we couldn't fight. So it all had to come together, I don't regret it. In fact it's the next thing to hell, that's about the nearest I can explain it, but nevertheless what I saw while I was over there and talked with these people that had been under these governments and things, when they got through talking, it made me know and think that I was glad, even if it had to cost me my life, because if you ain't got the peace and freedom, you ain't got nothing.