Monday, October 3, 2016

The Invasion of Sicily - An Alabama Family at War - Part 32

A Son under Fire!
by Glenn N. Holliman

By the summer of 1943, three sons and a son-in-law of Ulyss and Pearl Caine Holliman of Irondale, Alabama were in uniform serving in World War II.  One son went into battle that July, H. Bishop Holliman, a radioman on the USS Butler, a destroyer escorting transports and warships during the Allied invasion of the island of Sicily.  The ship's guns supported the American infantry facing the German crack Herman Goring Division.  Later in the battle the Butler fired on German bombers that attacked the ship.

By May 1943, Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery had pinned Nazi and Italian forces in a vice in Tunisia forcing the surrender of almost 250,000 troops.  The Americans and British now turned their energies on the island of Sicily, a part of Italy as their entry into Occupied Europe.  

Sicily is in red below, a triangle shaped island 
seemingly about to be kicked by the Italian boot.

Bishop Holliman, fresh from radio school, crossed the Atlantic for the first time and found himself part of the greatest invasion yet in world history, the taking of Sicily by Eisenhower's forces.  Upon returning to the States, unharmed in August 1943, he typed an 11 page synopsis of the engagement and mailed it to his niece, Mary Daly Herrin. I am quoting liberally from that document which can be found at Click on the Records page and insert and click Sicily in the Search box.

Right 1943, Mary Daly Herrin and her Uncle Walter Cornelius in Army uniform at her home in Irondale, 2300 block of 3rd Avenue North.  Walter had married Virginia Holliman in 1942.

Below is page one of his transcript, typed on Navy time and paper. While faint of ink now, he writes of returning to the ship in Norfolk, and being advised to send home his 'blues' and other non-essential items.  The ship dispersed to the Chesapeake Bay and waited for several days for escort duty.  All liberty was cancelled and rumors flew fast.

"We pulled out on Tuesday June 8th, and the group were about 25 freighters, troops, etc, 15 destroyers and 3 cruisers. While in the Atlantic the captain announced this was a 'high speed' convoy.

All the way over there were lectures on what to do if captured by the enemy, etc. what to say.  And also information on injuries, how to protect yourself from certain woulds, First Aid Stations on the ship, etc. The expectation of seeing action kept the time from being dull."


Above Bishop home at 2300 3rd Avenue North, Irondale, Alabama after the war. With a new bride and the G.I. Bill, he returned to his interruped education at Birmingham-Southern College.

Below is a three day watch schedule as lived by Bishop in 1943 in which he writes this was one of the easier schedules on the ship!  He was earning his $77 a month!

Below the USS Butler at sea.  The ship was commissioned at Philadelphia in 1942 and quickly decommissioned after hostilities in 1946.  The ship was broken up for scrap by 1948 after dodging bombs in both the Mediterranean and Pacific. War is expensive and wasteful.

Next posting arriving in the Mediterranean, shore leave and then the invasion.

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