Robert "Bob" Flener
30th Signal Company
My father James Robert ďBobĒ Flener served in the 30th division signal company. He was a motor messenger. He, two brothers and a foster brother, went and did their duty then came home and raised families. Pop never talked much about the war, but over the years his sons asked questions, and though itís been years since I was young and my own memory has faded, I would like to share some of Popís stories.
Pop said he had a small radio in the barracks. He woke one morning and another soldier had thrown it to the floor and was stomping on it and cussing loudly. When pop asked what was going on and why his radio was smashed, the GóD--- japs bombed Pearl Harbor and that was how he found out about the attack.
One of his jobs during training was to show how to use climbers to climb poles and string wires. He said he would put on climbers and go a few feet up the pole to demonstrate. Once on of the trainees said he didnít think Pop could go all the way up the pole and a race ensued. Pop won of course (I think there was betting involved).
Pop said he usually had a Tommy gun in his jeep. He said the gun would walk up and shoot high and you needed to be sure to hold it down. During training one of the other guys let his start climbing and when the sergeant yelled he turned around, with his finger still on the trigger. Pop said every body dived into the dirt and because the gun was shooting high no one was hurt. He didnít say what happened to the poor fellow who turned around.
When pop started training to be a messenger he said he was pretty excited because they were going to use motorcycles. He said there was an instructor, a sergeant I think, who could do just about anything on one. He said this fellow could ride up and down the company street on one wheel. Pop trained on the cycles for about a week and then the army changed to jeeps.
When he was overseas his job was to deliver messages from division headquarters. . He said one time the delivery was to a company in a forest and he needed to go up a hill on a dusty road to get there. The German artillery had the road zeroed in and whenever they saw dust they would shell the road. Pop slowly crept up the hill without raising any dust and delivered his messages. As he was going back down the hill, a big truck passed him doing about 40 mph and left him sitting in the dust. He floored it and the shells walked right behind him all the way down the hill. As you might imagine, pop had some colorful adjectives about the truck driver when he told this.
Another time he said they popped over a hill and came face to face with a whole column of tanks. They werenít American, and pop and his co-driver were stunned. As they were trying to decide what to do the hatch on the lead tank popped open and a guy stood up with his hands raised and yelled ďWe Free FrenchĒ. Pop said they took his word for it and got out of there quick.
This one was also in his company history book. One night they had a lot of deliveries to make and got lost more than once. When they did get to where they needed to be, they had to convince sentries they really were American messengers without getting shot. And just to make matters worse the Luftwaffe managed to strafe them three times. (Pop got the Bronze Star for that one.)
Popís younger brother Noble was in an artillery unit that was supporting the 30th for a while and the two of them got to see each other. (While they were in Belgium I think.) They got a pass and got to spend an evening together. Pop was rather quiet about how they spent their few hours together. Mom always said it involved women, booze and going back to Holland and getting a jeep so stuck that a tank retriever had to pull it out. Anyway it was nice, in the middle of a war, for brothers to see each other.
The rest of these are short and may have just been told to make two young sons grin. Pop said once they found a drop tank from a plane and decided to refuel the jeep with the gas. That 130 octane aviation fuel made short work of the jeep engine.
I think he said he had to deliver some things after the war and he burned up a jeep engine on the autobahn. He also said that the stuff he was carrying was top secret and that he had a paper that said he was to be given all assistance and aid. He stopped on the way back for food and an officer told him the mess was closed and he couldnít get anything to eat. Pop showed him the letter and enjoyed a fine meal in the officersí mess and went on his way.
Once or twice, when I was older Pop talked about some darker experiences and his feelings. He talked about when the air force missed and bombed the 30th instead of the Germans or when they found one of their guys that had been killed mutilated. Iíll not say more about those conversations.
Finally I remember my Dad telling about taking all the insignia off his jeep and his uniform and driving at night. If the history I read was correct this must have been when the 30th was the spearhead to cross the Rhine into Germany. The entire division moved into place for the attack in complete secrecy. There were special troops, a ghost army, that fooled the German intelligence about the whereabouts of the 30th. My wifeís father was in that unit. Small world isnít it.
Pop was always quietly proud of his service and of being a member of Old Hickory.He passed away in 2002 and was buried in the Western Reserve National Cemetery
Steve Flener 2009
Bob on left. Bob 3rd from right top row. Bob middle. Bob 2nd from left back row.
Noble Ray Flener, Bob's brother. Not sure of this photo?