John Sublett
by: Mattie Waldstein


Before The War

For my project I decided to interview my maternal grandfather, John Sublett, a World War Two veteran. My grandfather was assigned to the 745th tank Battalion, Assault Platoon. The 745th tank Battalion traveled through Europe and Central Europe and fought in the battle of the Bulge.  After the war,  he went to college on the GI bill which was a law passed by Congress after the war.  It said that soldiers who could not pay for college  could go to college because the government would pay for their education.  After college,  he became a pharamacist and owned his own drug store.  He married my grandmother, Mary Zoret. They had two kids Heidi and Brian. They  settled in Yakima, Washington,  where they still live.

While my grandfather was still in high school he was drafted.  He did  his basic training at Ft. Mead.  After training, all the soldiers took an hour bus ride to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where they did not do much except eat and sleep. They got twelve hour passes to New York City.  All the soldiers got their last physical while at Camp Kilmer.


Collage of  United States World War II posters
Going to Brooklyn

On October 21st 1944 his company of soldiers  got on to another train  and went to Jersey City. From there, they went on to a ferry and rode across the  bay to a pier in Brooklyn. When they got off the ferry in Brooklyn, there  was a band playing and there were Red  Cross women giving out coffee and doughnuts. Finally, they got on to the ship and he was assigned a compartment  that my grandfather said “ was about the size of my grandfather's house.”  Sixty people bunked in each compartment.  "The bunks were four high with two feet between each stack."

On the boat to London, my grandfather was  fed "only two meals a day."   For entertainment, they played cards and read.  They also had a small band  that would play once in a while. The trip to London was slow because they were in a convoy. It took thirteen days counting the day and a half that  they were in harbor  at Liverpool in England. When the soldiers got off the boat they were greeted by the Red Cross with coffee and doughnuts like in  Jersey City.  That night  and part of the next day, my grandfather and the rest of the soldiers rode on the train. They got to Southampton, England, at about ten o’ clock, and marched about three miles through the city.

"Limey Boat"

That afternoon they got on to a "Limey boat" which is an English ship for the trip across the Channel. This boat was much worse than the boat the  soldiers rode on to England. "The food was terrible." That night they slept on the boat and the next morning  they dropped the anchor off the coast of France.  The soldiers unloaded on  Omaha Beach which is the same beach that was taken over on D-Day.  From there, they marched three miles to an open field and set up "pup tents."  When they were there they ate nothing but spam and biscuits.

Labor Day Morning

On Labor day, all the soldiers were loaded into trucks and taken to a "rail head" in a town about twenty miles away. They got there about ten in the morning and stood in an open lot in the rain all the rest of the day. That night they were put on a train. There were about forty men and all the equipment in one box car.

Napoleon's Castle

Four days later they finally got off the train and stayed in barracks that were once the stables for one of Napoleon’s  castles. My grandfather was there about a week before  they moved out.  Twenty five men and all the equipment were put into each truck. It was four in the morning before they reached their next replacement  pool which was in an old factory in Verviers, Belgium.  My grandfather saw his first "robot bomb" there which was a small winged missile that was loaded with explosives.

John Sublett

My grandfather in front of his tank


The next place that my grandfather went was inside Germany. His group  lived in the  woods in eight man tents where the mud was so deep that if he stepped off the wooden paths,  "you would sink in over your neck.”  The first night my grandfather slept there, he did not sleep well because there were "big guns bombing all night.  Every time one went off I would jump about a foot in the air." Grandpa said that life during the war “was  a continuous camping trip. We lived in bombed-out houses or holes in the ground and had guard duty every four hours.”

Permanent Memebr of the Outfit

Finally at his next stop he was assigned to be a permanent member of the outfit.  My grandfather said that “getting assigned to the assault platoon was a lucky break.” Ten soldiers came in the same day as my grandfather.  Four of the soldiers were assigned to an assault platoon. The other six soldiers went to line companies and two of them were wounded.  Another was killed.  On the way out to the platoon from the service company, the soldiers went through badly 'beat up country."  It was the area where the worst part of the battle of Hurtgen Forest was fought.
John Sublett

My grandfather with his group and tank


My grandfather (back left) and his friends in Europe
December 1944

In December of 1944, the sector that my grandfather took over was called Mallady. Their platoon was set up in a position "in a little town called Walk." They were there for about a month. They had a nice house and the only thing they had to worry about was the shells both day and night.  My grandfather stayed there for Christmas and New Years. On Christmas Day, the soldiers stood in the front yard and watched the B47s bombs "straif" the Germans.   When the Bulge created by the Germans in their offensive was finally pushed back by the US army, they went to  Hurtgen Forest to wait  for the big drive towards the Rhine to start.  My grandfather’s platoon was attached to a reconnaissance unit so they did not do anything until the first army arrived at the Rhine. My grandfather's platoon was called on the line for a direct fire mission.  "We did not fire a single shot in the whole attack."

Crossing Of the Rhine

A few days after the original crossing of the Rhine was made,my grandfather's platoon followed when the third armored division broke through the German defense line.  Everyone took off chasing the German army to the middle of Germany. The group my grandfather was with loaded their tanks with infantry. My grandfather’s group's job was to guard the flanks. The last battle that he fought in was cleaning up a pocket of resistance still fighting in the Harz Mountains.
John Sublett

My grandfather in his tank.

Has the War Ended?

By then, the Americans thought the war had ended.  But then one day they  made a one hundred and forty mile road march to Czechoslovakia. Finally after a week of doing nothing, the war ended.
"Most Exciting Moment"

The day after VE Day, the soldiers were called to help with the mass surrender of a corps of the German army. My grandfather said that “this was his most exciting moment.” The Germans came in with everything "from bicycles to captured American trucks. The Germans also brought their women with them so they could keep the Russians from getting them."

In Eger, Czechoslovakia, his main job was to guard and discharge the seventy-five or eighty thousand prisoners in the camp.  He stayed there until he was sent home, getting his GED high school diploma while he waited to be discharged.

Personal Reflection

I knew that my grandfather had been in the war but I never knew what he did. I was amazed when I found what he went through and how hard his life was during the war. I  had never been interested in what he did during the war but after I read his letter I was really interested in what he did. I never knew that my grandfather had pictures from the war. The pictures were really cool and fun to look at.  Even though the war was not fun all the time the pictures from the war look really cool and it looked like he had a fun time in the war at some points. I admired my grandfather for having the courage to do this instead of finishing college.


John Sublett. Interview December 2005.

Pictures curtesey of my Grandfather John Sublett.

WW1-Allied. Diggerhistory. March 13, 2006.

World War II Posters. Classroom Clipart. 13, 2006.