Interview with Robert May

April 21, 2010

Robert May was born in Greenwood South Carolina in 1924.  After Graduating from Greenwood High School in 1941, May attended only one semester at Clemson University due to an operation that forced him to withdraw from the school. May not being able to return to school was drafted into the Army  in early 1942. When asked how he felt after he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor Mr. May replied that he is almost ashamed to answer this question because at the time he didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was more than any other place. Later on he added that ” it didn’t make any difference to me as far as Pearl Harbor, it was the United States being attacked as far as I was concerned”.  After being drafted and following nearly 9 months of training from basic training  and some artillery training Mr. May was sent over to Italy.

Mr. May was attached to an “Armed Artiliary outfit  that had M7 tanks outfitted with 105 howitzer”  after several months of training May was sent to the front lines of Italy in 1943. After arriving in Italy and being attached to the 133 regiment of the 34 infantry division, May was asked  if he had any experience with artillery which he did. From here May was switched to a “cannon company… and served (his) time with the 75 mm Howitzer” or more commonly refereed to as the pack howitzer. Not leaving his regiment but only being moved to another company within the regiment.

M8 75 mm Pack Howitzer

As May was stationed in Italy his wife back home wrote to almost him everyday. Due to the amount of time it took for mail to reach the front lines; the letters came in bulk amounts. While in Italy, May also recalls the death of Benito Mussolini explaining

That we came into the town shortly after (he was killed), and I did see him, not actually strung up but he was hanging. They knew we were coming in so they killed him before we got there. Also his mistress or his wife or whatever it was, she was beside him and a couple other people  I think.  I did at one time have some photos of it but I dont know what happened to them…I do remember one solder but who he was or where he was from I do not know, but he did walk up; the dress was hanging down because they were hung up by their heels and so forth. He tucked the dress back in between her legs… But they were beaten on ’em, going by and spitting on ’em hitting em, stupidity really, but I guess people get so emotionally upset I guess you do a lot things when you’ve been treated by someone as bad as  (Mussolini)…

Benito Mussolini and his mistress (Center)

May recalls being in Italy when hearing about  the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt  saying  “it took all of us by shock” going on to say “it upset all of us…we hated to lose our president he had been a great president”.  Also while in Italy May was “never officaly wounded” but did have a  piece of a phosphorus shell land on top of his sleeping bag setting it on fire. Having trouble getting out of the sleeping bag the phosphorus burned through the sleeping bag and started to into burn his chest. From which point a comrade rushed over and placed mud on his chest to put out the phosphorus. Mr. May  luckly only suffered  burns to the chest from this ordeal. Explaining that the German’s were “zeroing in” using phosphorus shells to get a better idea of where the shells where landing.

After the War ended in Europe May was required to stay in Italy as an occupational force until late into the year of 1945. Finally returning to the states and being discharged in December of 1945, it  had almost been 4 years since leaving his home in Greenwood, South Carolina. The final question asked during this interview inquired if documentaries on the war  bothered him. May replied at first he couldn’t stand to watch them but now as time has passed he can watch them but they are not his favorite thing.

Will Laforge

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