WWII soldier recalls horrors of the European Theater

At 98, Scottsdale Sam Weinstein is proud to be one of three grand marshals in the Phoenix Veterans’ Day Parade. (Special to the Progress)

When the Phoenix Veterans’ Day Parade rolls out this Friday, Scottsdale resident Sam Weinstein, 98, will be riding out front as one of three grand marshals for his service in World War II.

He’ll be rolling with fellow grand marshals with Lew Bradley of Chandler, who was named for his service in the Korean War, and Tom Tostenson of Phoenix. who was named for his service in the Cold War.

The parade starts as 11 a.m. at Bethany Home Road and Central Avenue, dog-legs at Camelback Road to 7th Street and continues to 7th Street and Indian School Road.

Weinstein was 19 and living in the Detroit area when he joined the Army in February 1943.

“I had a bunch of buddies and they all volunteered at that time,” Weinstein recalled. “I said, ‘Hey, we got to do something,’ so we all volunteered. There was about four or five guys.”

“We thought we would be together but that never happened. The Army, they ship you all different places.”

Army life was a shock at first.

“It was different lifestyle, that’s for sure,” Weinstein said. “When I first got in, we went on maneuvers. It was very hard. Boy, when you’re on maneuvers, you go through a lot.”

He was offered a way out and he tried to take it.

“The captain said, ‘All right, any of you guys want to get out of this, you can join the paratroopers. You can do that.’

“I volunteered but they never did take me because I weighed only about 119, 118 pounds and the equipment that they carried was more than that, I guess. I don’t think I could have managed it,” he said with a chuckle.

And then he got into the war with the rest of the 103 Infantry Division.

He landed in Marseille, France and got shelled the very first night.

The next day his platoon started moving up when they got shelled again by German 88 millimeter artillery.

“I was so scared, I wanted to get my whole body under that helmet,” he said.

But the division started moving up to the Rhine River in Germany.

In one battle, his unit was following tanks toward the German line when his buddy got hit by artillery fire. Weinstein picked him up and got him back to an aid station. He later received the Bronze Star for that.

Then his unit came to the small village of Offwiller, France, where he was wounded on March 16, 1945.

“We had to cross a road, and when I ran across there, a sniper shot me, got me through the mouth,” Weinstein said. “You know, I dropped my rifle and then I ran back for the rifle because in the Army they say ‘you gotta keep that piece with you all the time.’

“So I got it and then I got in a little ditch area. I was bleeding. I was lucky I had a couple of medics that were there. I was having a little difficulty breathing because my tongue started to swell up.

“They said, ‘We got to get you back to an aid station in a hurry.’ I was just so lucky we had an aid station in a wooded area where we came out of. They performed a tracheotomy on me. When they did that, I started to breath and I felt a lot better, you know.”

From there he was sent to Bristol, England, where, he said, “I had to have surgery done on my teeth. They had to get the fragments out of my gum area. They dug through there. I can remember like it was yesterday. It was so bad because it hurt so much.”

He had asked to be shipped to England for the surgery because his brother was with a medical unit there.

“When I got shipped to England, he got shipped to France,” Weinstein said. “It would have been nice to have seen my brother, but I missed him.”

From there, it was back to the United States.

He was sent to O’Reilly General Hospital for more surgery on his cheek to smooth out a welt where the wound was so that he could shave without cutting himself.

In all, Weinstein spent about two and a half years in the Army before being discharged in September 1945. ‘ He then settled down into a 23-year career as a sheet metal worker. After he retired, Weinstein moved to Las Vegas and then to Scottsdale about eight years ago to be near family.

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