Technician 5th Grade John H. Krall
114th Engineer Combat Battalion
32nd Infantry Division
1941 - 1945
Pacific Theater of Operations, American Theater of Operations
Technician 4th Grade John Rittle
Heavy Automotive Repair Company
442nd Ordnance Battalion
106th Infantry Division
1944 - 1946
European Theater of Operations, Demobilization Period
John Henry Krall was born in 1917 in Flintville, Pennsylvania and grew up on a farm in the rural area outside Myerstown during the Great Depression. In November of 1941 Krall was drafted into the United States Army among the first batch of preemptive draftees. Being so that the United States was not yet at war, Krall saw no reason for this draft. Less than a month later, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan, and the United States was thrown into World War II. After completing basic training as well as advanced training as a combat engineer, Krall was assigned to the 114th Engineer Combat Battalion, which was to be attached to the 32nd "Red Arrow" Infantry Division.
The 32nd Infantry Division shipped out of San Francisco in April of 1942 bound for Australia. Once in Australia, the 32nd received further training to prepare them for eventual combat. On September 15th, 1942, the first elements of the 32nd Infantry Division deployed to Papua New Guinea. Setting off from Port Moresby, the majority of the 32nd Infantry Division was flown over the Owen Stanley Mountains, except for one battalion which marched over them on a one hundred mile hike. Krall, who was with the 114th Engineer Combat Battalion, flew over the Owen Stanley's in a Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed Hudson.
In November 1942, Krall and Company B of the 114th ECB began construction of what would become a thirteen - strip airdrome at Dobodura. The engineers cleared vast swaths of jungle with bulldozers and graters while under constant threat of air attack from Japanese fighters and bombers. From December 1942 to January 1943 Krall and Company B supported the 128th Regiment as part of the Warren Force during the Battle of Buna. The engineers carried out missions to construct bridges in order to help the infantry advance as well as demolish Japanese pill boxes that stood in their way. The engineers more often than not carried out their work well within the range of Japanese machine guns, mortars, and snipers.
Once Buna was taken in January of 1943, Krall and the 114th Engineers remained in the area while the elements of the 32nd accompanied by the 163rd Regimental Combat Team of the 41st Infantry Division pressed on to take Sanananda, just up the coast from Buna. After clearing out Sanananda, elements of the 32nd were pulled off mainland New Guinea and were sent to Goodenough Island for some R&R. While on Goodenough Island, Krall and several other engineers from Company B "borrowed" a water purification unit from the neighboring Marines Corps camp, which resulted in a scuffle between the Marines and the GI's.
Horseplay aside, there was still a war going on. After their brief stay on Goodenough Island, Krall and the 114th ECB were called back to action, this time via amphibious landing at Saidor, New Guinea on January 2nd, 1944. For the next forty days, the combat engineers would work in deplorable conditions to construct an airfield in support of the future Allied missions that were yet to come further up the New Guinea coastline. In those forty days and forty nights, over twenty-six inches of rain fell in what seemed to be a never ending downpour. On the last day of the battle, just after dusk a lone Japanese Betty bomber flew at low altitude over the newly constructed airfield at Saidor. The bomber dropped its payload right over the Company B assembly area which was adjacent to the airfield. In total, twenty men of Company B were killed during the attack, the most casualties the company would suffer in one single day.
After Saidor, the 32nd returned to Australia to rest and recuperate. Once the 32nd was up to strength, it was sent back to New Guinea for another amphibious landing. This time, the target was Aitape. Unlike the previous landing at Saidor, the landing at Aitape was larger and was strictly to land troops on the coast so they could push inland to fight the Japanese. No airfield to build this time, but the engineers were still needed for other duties such as constructing "corduroy" roads which were makeshift roads built using coconut logs so that supplies and heavy equipment could be moved inland by truck without bogging down in mud.
It is at this point where it becomes unclear as to how long Krall participated in the Battle of Aitape, as he had accumulated enough service points to be rotated home. The point system used by the Army was based on total days in combat, awards received, health, and conduct record. Krall, having never been neither wounded, sick, nor reprimanded for poor conduct from 1942 to 1944, was eligible for a rotation back to the United States. In October 1944, Krall took a troop transport ship back to California while the 32nd continued slugging it out with the Japanese at Aitape. The 32nd would later invade the Philippines, participating in both the Battle of Leyte and the Battle of Luzon. Krall would not return to the Pacific, and many engineers he served with would ultimately not return from the last two campaigns of the war, as casualties for the 32nd kept mounting.
Once he was back in the United States, Krall was assigned to the 1209th SCU NEB Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He spent the rest of the war as a guard on prisoner of war trains that transported German prisoners from the east coast to the midwest. Krall was honorably discharged from the Army in late 1945. He returned to civilian life as a truck driver, and started a family back in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. John Krall passed away on July 23rd, 2012 at the age of 94 and he is survived by his two sons along with multiple grandchildren and great grandchildren. He is remembered and honored through living history by his grandson Ethan Krall.
John Rittle was born in 1922 in Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1922. During the Great Depression, Rittle worked in various machine shops and eventually ended up at the Martin Aircraft Company. He continued to work for Martin Aircraft through the outbreak of U.S. involvement in WWII. Since the company had switched to producing military aircraft for the war effort, Rittle was exempt for the draft. Men who worked war production jobs were typically exempt from the draft because in the eyes of the government, they were already contributing to the war effort.
While working at Martin Aircraft, Rittle refined his machining skills and mechanical knowledge. Primarily, he worked on the assembly line constructing the Martin B-26 Marauder, a medium bomber that began production in 1941 and first saw action in the Pacific Theater of Operations in 1942. Also produced by the company was the famous B-29 Superfortress, which entered service in 1944. Among the B-29's produced by the Martin Aircraft Company was the Enola Gay, the B-29 which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.
Although Rittle was contributing to the war effort through aircraft manufacturing, he was not entirely satisfied with his roll in World War II. All around him he saw other young men much like himself enlisting in the Army, Navy, & Marine Corps. Most of his friends as well as some of his relatives had also chosen to volunteer. Eventually, Rittle decided to enlist too.
Rittle was officially inducted into the United States Army on March 27th, 1944 at Fort Meade, Maryland. At Fort Meade, Rittle completed basic training as an infantryman, but also underwent a series of aptitude tests. These tests were meant to gauge a soldier's strengths and weaknesses that were not displayed through normal training exercises. Through these tests, Rittle was able to display his mechanical know-how which he acquired in the war production industry. Rittle's talent caught the attention of his officers, and he was singled out for further training at Fort Dix, New Jersey to be placed in a company that was to be part of the Ordnance Corps. After further training at Fort Dix, Rittle shipped out on November 3rd, 1944 bound for France.
On November 13th, 1944 Rittle arrived in France as part of his new unit, the Heavy Automotive Repair Company of the 442nd Ordnance Battalion attached to the newly formed 106th Infantry Division. The 106th, a "high number" division in the Army's structure, was composed of "green" recruits, entirely new to the war. Upon reaching France, the 106th drove east towards the Belgian-German border. The division encountered the wreckage and aftermath of months of prior fighting that had taken place throughout France. Since the 106th was an inexperienced division, they were placed along the quiet portion of the front in the Ardennes region once it had caught up to advanced allied units in early December or 1944. The 106th relieved elements of the 2nd Infantry Division, a battle - weary unit which had been in combat since June.
As the 106th settled in to their new positions in the Schnee Eifel section of the Ardennes, the Germans were well under way in preparing for a major attack. Hitler had devised a plan that would send a force of combined units, Panzergrenadiers, Volksgrenadiers, Waffen SS, Heer & SS Panzer Kampfgruppes, smashing through the Allied line where they would least expect it: in the quiet "ghost front"; the Ardennes. Their goal was to pierce the Allied lines and drive on across the Meuse River and to reach the port city of Antwerp, effectively splitting the US and British front in two.
Seizing Antwerp, Hitler had hoped, would cause the Allies to sue for peace. Hitler planned to capitalize on deteriorating relations between the Allies to put Germany in a position where they could still negotiate terms for peace and save their nation from total defeat. In an effort to do so, the German military mustered together a fighting force to carry out this great endeavor utilizing every soldier available not already deployed to the Eastern Front or to the North in Denmark and Norway. In total, the Germans poised thirteen infantry divisions plus seven armored divisions for their make-or-break assault.
The Ardennes Offensive began on December 16th, 1944 and over the course of several days the 106th Infantry Division was effectively destroyed. Their inexperience coupled with poor weather conditions and unfavorable terrain became a combination for disaster, as the majority of two of the division's three infantry regiments, the 422nd and 423rd, were either killed or captured. It's third regiment, the 424th, managed to pull out of the Schnee Eifel and hold up in the town of St. Vith with elements of the 7th Armored Division where they made a heroic stand and repulsed attack after attack made by German forces.
Rittle noted in his interviews that when the division was in the thick of it in the Battle of the Bulge, his battalion was ntified that their division no longer existed, and while cut off at St. Vith they experienced severe cold as well as food shortages. Rittle served for the remainder of the war and into 1946, when he was honorably discharged from the Army. He return to the States and settled down in his home town of Lebanon, Pennsylvania and started a family after the war. John Rittle passed away on March 25th, 2016 at the age of 94 and is survived by his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He is remembered and honored through living history by his great grandson Luke Newmaster.