WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — Napoleon Bonaparte, a French general who proclaimed himself the First Emperor of France, is quoted as saying, “What a soldier needs most is a full belly and a pair of shoes.”
Carmel Whetzel, a Corporal in the U.S. Army’s 26th Infantry Division, received the French Legion of Honor for helping organize the “Red Ball Express,” a ground transportation network in France that kept American and Allied soldiers well-supplied with “Beans, Bullets and Bandages” during World War Two.
Cpl. Whetzel, who lives in Winchester, told WDVM that he drove a “deuce and a half,” a truck from Cherbourg on the coast of France to forward units as they pushed toward Germany.
“I lived in that truck,” Whetzel said as he showed me the 400-mile loop that he drove across central France.
He says he felt like a sitting duck; subject to artillery fire from the ground and machinegun fire from the air.
“We got strafed at least four times by the Luftwaffe,” said Whetzel, who lost three or four trucks to German fighter planes.
Despite losses, the daily goal of the Red Ball Express was to deliver more than 12-thousand-500 tons of supplies to the distribution point where jeeps could continue the dangerous journey. Corporal Whetzel was captured and spent the last six months of World War Two in a German POW camp when he and fellow drivers were ambushed in a small French village near the Rhine River.