From The First Shot To The Last
December 7, 1941, a day none of us will ever forget. It's strange that memories from so long ago can be so vivid; as if they happened just yesterday. When I remember that day, my thoughts are filled with the aroma from the mess hall at Camp Bowie where I was on duty as a KP.
A Day That Will Live In Infamy
Thousands of miles away, Sgt. Harold Bussey was pulling his duty at Schofield Barracks on the beautiful Island of Hawaii. It was a quiet Sunday and many of the Officers and Men of his Company were off duty and on pass to town or at home with their families. Overhead, he heard the sound of planes, not unusual since the airstrip was near by. There was something different about the sound of these planes; they were flying lower than usual. Soon the low flying planes were followed by a swarm of others.
Presently came the unmistakable sound of bombs exploding and guns discharging. This was not a drill, we were under attack. Sgt. Bussey grabbed his rifle and routed his men while on his way out of the barracks. All were armed with rifles and machine guns, but without a round of ammunition, they might as well of had pea shooters. If they could get into the Supply room they could get the ammunition.
Bussey quickly led his crew to the storeroom where he encountered the Sgt.-in-charge. When asked for the needed ammo, the Supply Sgt. said "No way, not without an Officers authorization, I'm not sticking my neck out." That was not the response he wanted to hear so he told the Supply Sgt. that if he didn't unlock the **!!** door and issue the ammo, he was going to break down the door.
Still the bureaucratic Sgt. wouldn't bow to reason and told Sgt. Bussey that if he broke down the door he was going to press charges and demand a Court Martial for the destruction of Government Property. True to his word, Bussey proceeded to break the door down with a fire axe. The sought-after ammo was distributed to the troops and the men were able to fight back and do the job they were trained for.
When the raid finally ended and the Japanese planes had returned to their carriers Bussey had time to think about his own situation. He had disobeyed the Supply Sgt., damaged Government Property and illegally issued ammunition. All night long he mulled the circumstances of his case. Maybe he would be court martialed but under the same circumstances would he do it again? YOU BET!
Dawn, the Day of Reckoning. A runner from the Company Orderly Room brought the order for Bussey to report to the C.O. Taking a little time to spruce up he doubled timed over to the Orderly Room where he reported, as ordered. The Company Commander informed Sgt. Bussey that the Supply Sgt. had demanded a General Court Martial for Bussey's action on the seventh.
Being a fair man the C.O. wanted to hear Bussey's version before he made a final decision. Bussey told it like it was and also said that he would do the same again and let the chips fall where they may.
The C.O. didn't hesitate with his decision, he said, "We are going to be in a very long hard war and we are going to need Officers and Men who have the initiative and dedication, people who can take charge when it is needed and you showed that you have those attributes, and instead of a Court Martial you are going to OCS on the next boat to the States."
And with that Bussey saw that the door he forced open was a path to his future.
A brand new 2nd Lt. joined the 36th Division while we were on the Carolina maneuvers. Lt. Bussey reported to the Company Commander of "H Company, 141st Infantry Regiment" among a bunch of Texans and here he was a yankee from Boston with the accent to go with it. "What have I got myself into now?" He thought he would never be accepted, but after a few weeks when the other officers teased him about being "Boston Blackie" he knew he was in.
Bussey Was Hit Three Times
1st Lt. Bussey was wounded on three different occasions while he was with the 36th Division. The first time was during the attack on San Pietro. I was with him at the time when he was hit by three bullets. He was in the hospital for a couple of months and when he was released he was put in charge of about 100 replacements who were being sent to the 36th Division, at the Anzio beachhead.
They were transported by sea to the beachhead and when the boat arrived at the beach, incoming artillery was busy destroying the landscape. The boat headed straight in, the ramp was dropped, 1st Lt. Bussey, the first one off immediately, received his second wound, a piece of shrapnel in the head. Within 24 hours after being released from the hospital he was back at the same hospital with the same Doctor working on him.
The Doctor told Bussey that he was sick and tired of working on the same patient all the time.
The third wound he received was north of Rome and he was returned stateside for reassignment. When his short leave was over he reported to the Replacement Depot where he was informed that because he had been wounded three times he could pick a stateside assignment. Instead he chose to be returned to the 36th Division which was by that time in France.
Bussey never told his wife that he had volunteered to go back overseas until after the war. Anita, his wife, would of had him committed. It was several weeks before he could report back to the 36th, the Division was on the move and Bussey had to hitch-hike his way back to his home in "H Co." Bussey was with us until the last day of the way, so he has a record of being in the war from the first shot fired until the last shot in Europe.
Not only was his career guided by the initiative and leadership he proved he had during the attack on Pearl Harbor, but also to his dedication to his country and his love for the 36th Division.
The 36th Division was blessed with many men of his caliber, people who loved their country and their Division. I believe that is the reason the 36th Division Association is alive and well and getting stronger with each Reunion.
Raymond C. Wells