World War II, What It Was Like Fighting In The 69th Infantry Division: Hilton Lytle joins us today on WallBuilders Live to discuss what it was like fighting in the 69th Infantry Division in World War II. It is an episode you will not want to miss!

Air Date: 03/20/2017


Guests: Hilton Lytle, David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast.  However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers.  Additionally, in this episode, because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times we will use, “***” to indicate unrecognizable sections.  Also, although we use Google to try to determine the correct spelling, names may be misspelled. We apologize in advance.

Welcome

Rick:

You find your way to the intersection of faith and the culture.  This is WallBuilders Live! Where we’re talking about these hottest topics on policy, faith, and the culture, always looking at it from Biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective.  And sometimes you get that perspective from somebody that’s been there a while back actually serving us.  That’s what’s going to happen today. We’re here with David Barton, America’s premiere historian.

Tim Barton, WallBuilders president and CEO.  And my name is Rick Green.  I’m a former Texas rep. Guys, a great opportunity once again to talk to one of our World War II veterans today. Tim Burton is going to be conducting that interview.  Here’s Tim Barton and Hilton Lytle.

Hilton Lytle’s Story

Tim:

This is Tim Barton and I am joined by a very special guest, a World War II veteran Lieutenant Hilton, or Hill Lytle as he was known. Lieutenant, thanks so much for being with us today.

Hilton:

I’m proud to be here! I’ll be 94  next month.

Tim:

Well, we are proud to have you on our radio program. One of the things we love to do is capture some of the stories from some of our military veterans. Especially from someone from World War II.  It’s such an honor to talk with you. And I would love if you would take some time and share part of your story with our listeners.

Hilton:

I’ll be happy to do what I can, and I hope it’s interesting enough for the folks to listen to. I grew up in a little town in Louisiana named Jena. I was a country boy.  I graduated from high school in 1940 and there was no work to be had.  An ad came out, you know, that picture of Uncle Sam wanting you.

Tim:

Yes, Sir.

Hilton:

I went into the military.  Went to Fort ***, Florida had a grueling up time there.  About six months at Fort ***, Florida there’s a bunch of sand dunes out there. In the bottom of those sand dunes, back in the Civil War they had dug some cellblock in there and that’s where they kept ***, the Indian when they had him contained back in the 1870’s I believe it was.

Anyway, went into the military and had been in about six months in the coast artillery, and that’s where we fired 155 weapons out into the ocean at targets being towed by a tow boat.

Then I started learning how to *** at the ripe old age of 17 and estimate how far from point A to Point B. So, I got better at it. Then they shifted us to Panama in 1940’s right at Christmastime and then we were there a year before war was declared on December 7th, 1941.

The year in Panama before the war we were stationed out on a coral reef and we had this spot ships that came into the canal zone area. Be real careful about identification, made sure they were good ships.

Then when the war was declared we had double or triple positive about any ship or anything that came to the mouth of the canal. They were afraid that the enemies, Japan, or Germany, or Italy, or any of them, could get a ship in the canal and blow it all up.  It would stop traffic from east to west for many months.

Stayed down there three years. Learned a lot about artillery fire. We were firing guns there.  We had a 14-inch diameter. The shell in it weighed sixteen hundred pounds, and the longest range we could get was 32 miles. But we couldn’t see that far.  We could only see about 10 or 12 miles.

They had airplanes going up there if we fired say 18 miles or something we had an airplane *** let us see what was going on that far out.  Anyway, got back home after three years. Then they sent me to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Camp Shelby, Mississippi to join the 69 Infantry Division.  Do you remember? The 69th was a famous New York outfit that had done well in World War I and even earlier than that. There is quite a history to the 69th.

Tim:

Yes, Sir.

Hilton:

The people that were in it, the officers and everything, they were proud to be in the 69th the Infantry Division. A bunch of ol’boys from Louisiana, Mississippi, and everything.  It didn’t take us to get together ***.   And then they shipped us to, in September, this is after the 6th to June when the *** of France took place. They shipped us to the Hall of France about in September of 1944.

When we got to France they couldn’t get the ship too close to the *** the ocean about two miles from shore. We had to climb down the sides of the ship on ropes were woven into squares and hanging onto our helmets and backpacks and rifles and everything so we calmed down and got on one of those flatboats that opened at the front, called an LST.

Anyway, those were the ships that were made in New Orleans.  A big factory is still open down there. They have a big museum in New Orleans that featured all of the things that they did to help in the war.

When we got into France we were loaded into trips and carried over to the Belgian line and that’s where the hundred and first airborne.  It’s Christmas time of 1944. That’s where the Germans had kept the 101st Airborne Division in a community area called *** on the edge of Belgium. And that’s where we went into action relieving some of the units of the 29th Infantry Division that had been in action and they were just about exhausted.  Ol’ boys had been in right in the middle of the whole thing for a long time.

So, we dug in right near positions and started firing our weapons, after we got our guns settled in good.

***Indistinguishable, refer to the audio podcast.

Tim:

Yes, Sir. So that frozen ground actually probably helped make it more stable because the ground was so hard.

***Indistinguishable, refer to the audio podcast.

Tim:

Well, Mr. Lytle, if I can, for six days if you’re up there what did you all do for food and just basic needs? How did you manage that?

Hilton:

We could dip snow off of the edge of the roof.

***Indistinguishable, refer to the audio podcast.

Tim:

And then what did you do after the war?

***Indistinguishable, refer to the audio podcast.

Tim:

Mr. Lytle, it’s been such a pleasure to talk with you and hear some of your story and what you did in World War II.  And I want to say thank you for your service! Hopefully, you have many people that tell you and that you are appreciated.

Your example in World War II, in serving this nation, fighting for our freedom, we’re so grateful. But it’s so fun that on top that, that you came back and you continued to serve and invest in young people’s lives making a difference in their future. And such an example you set. We are so grateful that you took the time to talk with us today.

Hilton:

Best to you!

***Indistinguishable, refer to the audio podcast.

Tim:

Ok,  we might keep an eye out for you in Mountain View, Arkansas! We might see you up there sometime.

Hilton:

I hope so!

Tim:

Wonderful! Thank you so much for being with us today. We sure appreciate it!

Hilton:

You’re certainly welcome! Thank you, Sir!

Tim:

We’ll be right back in just a minute with David Barton and Rick Green here on WallBuilders Live!

We Want To Hear Your Vet Story

Rick:

Hey, friends!  If you have been listening to WallBuilders Live for very long at all, you know how much we respect our veterans and how appreciative we are of the sacrifice they make to make our freedoms possible. One of the ways that we love to honor those veterans is to tell their stories here on WallBuilders Live.  Once in awhile, we get an opportunity to interview veterans that have served on those front lines that have made incredible sacrifices have amazing stories that we want to share with the American people.

One of the very special things we get to do is interview World War II veterans. You’ve heard those interviews here on WallBuilders Live, from folks that were in the Band of Brothers, to folks like Edgar Harrell that survived the Indianapolis to so many other great stories you heard on WallBuilders Live.

You have friends and family that also served.  If you have World War II veterans in your family that you would like to have their story shared here on WallBuilders Live, please e-mail us at [email protected]  Give us a brief summary of the story and we’ll set up an interview. Thanks so much for sharing here on WallBuilders Live!

Fighting In World War II

Rick:

We’re back.  Thanks for staying with us here on WallBuilders Live! Thanks to Mr. Lytle for joining us today as well. Tim, what a great opportunity to visit with a hero like that.

Tim:

So incredible! I love being able to hear some of these stories that it almost seems like it’s not real except you’re talking to the one who actually lived it. Really amazing stuff.

David:

Yeah, this is an unbelievable story! As he said, he had a real gift for being able to direct artillery.  I thought of psalm 141 where it says, “He’s trained my hands for battle.”

Tim:

Absolutely.

David:

This guy is gifted to be able to do that. And imagine being stuck behind enemy lines for six days surviving behind the German lines and calling down fire. And like he said, “Hey guys, don’t shoot because we’re between you and them.”

So, here’s the deal. He was talking about even the guns they were using, that those guns they had would shoot 32 miles. And the ammo was sixteen hundred pounds, a 14-inch shell. Now, when you’re shooting out on the ocean like that where he was shooting you have to understand that the curvature, you can only see a maximum of seven to eight miles.

So, when you look to the furthest ship out there, if you’re a pirate ship and you see a ship you want attack on the horizon that means there’s 7 to 8 miles out. So they have got no GPS, no satellites, and they’re shooting 32 miles away with accuracy? I mean that’s four times further than what you can see off the horizon.

Rick:

And that’s not today, using a track point. This is in the 1940s.

What An Honor To Be Able To Speak With Hilton Lytle

David:

This is Kentucky windage. I mean this is just amazing stuff. And he mentioned he ended up being part of the 69th Infantry Division. That was cool. He said there were all these New England guys. And they were, it was the division started in 1849 in New York City. It got the nickname A Fighting 69th from Robert E. Lee during the Civil War when he had to fight those guys.

This division is so historic that on their regimental colors if you’ve ever been to a military thing with any group they bring out the regiment colors. It’s kind of like a flagpole and it’s got all these banners hanging off it from all the different battles in which that group has been involved.

These guys have been involved in so many battles that their regimental pole is one foot longer than all the others for the regiments. I mean they’ve had that many battles. So it’s it’s amazing stuff has got going here.

And where he was, the battle Bastogne, it was just unbelievable. And carrying a 60-pound radio-

Tim:

That’s a little bigger than what we usually haul around when we’re going to carry a cell phone with us. Hearing these stories it makes me grateful for some of the advantages that we have now. But also it really makes me just kind of have a sense of awe of what they went through and what they had to do.

You’re carrying this radio around trying to lug it around just to be able to communicate to call these things in. It’s such a different world than I can even imagine just because I’ve grown up with a cell phone in my hand the whole time. But what they went through just such incredible stuff.

David:

The accuracy he has, the skill he had with artillery. To be able to direct those artillery shells through the windows to make the Germans give up on the inside of that insurmountable ball and he shoots those artillery shells through the windows and they capture 117 German prisoners. It’s like Sergeant York.

Tim:

That’s exactly what I thought.

David:

If you have not seen that movie, every viewer needs to go rent the movie, “Sergeant York.”

Tim:

Or listeners, you don’t have to be our viewers.

David:

Whoever you are, go get that movie if you’ve never seen it. It’s an old school movie it’s black and white and is one of the most inspirational war movies out there. It’s a true story of a true hero and that’s exactly what I thought of when we were listening to this guy.

It was just so matter of fact, “Yeah, we did this. Yeah, we did that.” And it was like, in a liberated concentration camp? And to actually get to meet one of the guys he helped liberate at the time, later on. That was just cool. But 55,000 people died in that concentration camp and he’s one of the guys who liberates. Just unbelievable story from this guy.

Rick:

We’ve got some other great stories folks if you go to our website WallBuilders.com.  We even put a CD together with some of the best interviews over the last few years. Such a privilege to get to document these stories and share them with you, our listeners. Thanks for listening to WallBuilders Live!