I have a family of veterans, from my father, my grandfather, my uncle and many other loved one’s. I wanted to take a moment to share the details of my Grandpa Bob’s (Robert Wisen) military service, and for those of you who are not familiar I am also forwarding this article which describes his contribution to our the United States and allies victory in WWII which provides the freedom we all enjoy today.
Robert was a TECHNICIAN FOURTH GRADE (which is equivalent to a sergeant) in COMPANY D, of THE FIRST TANK BATTALION of the FIRST ARMORED DIVISION. Fighting in Italy had been ongoing for several years but the allies were unable to take back Italy because though they outnumbered the Axis Forces, the Axis forces had far better strategic placement along the rugged Italian mountain range and could fire down onto the allied forces unable to protect themselves. Robert was sent to Italy in January of 1945 in reinforcements that would win the final victorious battle against Axis Forces in Italy for several reasons, one of which was the contribution of the FIRST ARMORED TANK DIVISION which was able to blast over the mountain tops and take out the enemy troops who were firing down on the allied troops below.
As you read through the history, you’ll note a picture of a pontoon bridge over the Po River in Chapter 19. If you have ever heard my Grandpa Bob tell his story about this bridge – you will know that crossing it was the most frightening night of his life. As he looked at this picture this morning, he said, “That’s it! That’s the bridge! I remember it exactly. How it swayed back and forth and up and down under the weight of the tank in the darkness as we crossed the Po River!” He could not take his eyes off the paper as he stared at the bridge where he almost met his end. As his story goes, his superior officer needed a single tank to cross the bridge alone in the dark of night. He looked at Robert, and said “You’re going.” Robert and another man got into the tank and drove the tank across the bridge to the other side which was territory the allies were in the process of taking. He wondered if they would be blown up while crossing the bridge, but it was a quiet ride and they were happy to make it across. Once they were on the other side, they had been instructed to exit the tank. German guards were guarding that end of the bridge. There were no lights. There was no wind. It was pitch black as the two men crawled out of the tank. They stood in the darkness not knowing what to do. They heard the sound of a German gun being cocked and did not move a muscle thinking they were about to be shot. Not long after that they got back in the tank and crossed back to allied territory. Robert does not remember the purpose of the trip, only the terror that waited in the darkness.
Another day that stands out in his memory of serving in Italy was the day he first arrived in Italy on the front lines. He said it was a beautiful area, green and lush, and he was on the outskirts of a small Italian town. He said there was nothing about it that looked dangerous aside from all of the tanks and a handful of soldiers. They started to instruct him on how to load the tank with explosives, when suddenly, he heard a whistling sound, and the experienced men “hit the deck.” In other words, they threw themselves down on the ground. As they threw themselves down, one of the grabbed Robert and pulled him to the ground too. They later explained that when he heard that sound, it meant they were being fired upon and he had to lay down to avoid the bullets. After he got up, he saw the body of a fellow he had just been talking to dead on the ground. He said that after that, he threw himself to the ground whenever he heard any unfamiliar noise – whether it whistled or not!
As you read through the story of the Northern Apennines and the taking back of the Po Valley, remember that Robert was in the first armored division which is mentioned many times in the historical account of this battle – a battle won by the United States and their allies by the contributions of soldiers like Robert Chester Wisen. Salute to My Grandpa and all those who have served!
Sarah Sventek, Executive Vice President
Live In Fitness