Vinnie Marino survived the Battle of the Bulge — only to have his life threatened by a fellow American

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  • Vinnie Marino in wartime (Photo provided)

  • Vinnie Marino's medals from the war (Photo provided)

“We started to yell every curse back and forth. This young fellow was overwrought and I thought he was going to shoot us. He was from the New York area and we started talking about baseball.”
Vinnie Marino

By Ginny Privitar

— Vinnie Marino trained extensively in the states before being shipped overseas at the end of 1943.

“We were on the North Atlantic with just a two ship convoy because our ship was fast enough to evade subs,” said Marino, who lives in Monroe.

Yet it was a five-day crossing, and the ship’s captain said it was the roughest he ever remembered. Half of the guys were seasick, Marino recalls, but he was fine.

Marino was with the 106th division, 806th Ordinance Company (light maintenance). His unit was in various parts of England for more training and they were there when D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944. Finally they crossed the English Channel. Marino said they were on an LST (Landing Ship, Tank); a ship that carries cargo and tanks. He recalled, “We were one day out of LeHarve. There was a mine on the anchor. We had to steam 6-8 hours back out and cut the anchor loose.”

They came into LeHarve, and around Sept. 1944, started to move up on ground already covered by earlier troops.

They went to Belgium to an area called the Schnee Eiffel in December. It was supposed to be a quiet area. Yet it was the same area where battles were fought in World War I. They replaced the 1 Division on the line, man for man, and were there for a couple weeks when the Germans made a break through their division — as Marino said, “Like a knife goes through butter.”

“The shooting lasted for a few hours and you were running for your life. During the shooting, you were thinking ‘let’s get the hell out of here.’ It wasn’t like they portray it in the movies,” Marino said. “In my division, we had 11,000 killed in action, wounded and missing.”

The green troops were overwhelmed by the Germans and those who were left began what the army calls “a strategic retreat.”

After the battle, Marino said, “We couldn’t function as a complete division.”

Two of their three regiments were overrun and surrendered. The rest stood as a company but were now attached to different units.

“We started to regroup," he said. "It took a couple of weeks. The weather was horrendous, and planes weren’t able to fly. A lot of guys got trench foot" from a lack of proper overshoes.

Patton’s 3rd Army joined the fight and made inroads into the “bulge,” retaking land that was lost.

Who goes there?

Perhaps the most frightening part of Marino’s service, though, was when he thought he was going to be killed by a fellow American.

H“Me and my buddy, Mike Colucini, were carrying a message to Headquarters," he recalled. "We had no map and were told how to get there. We’re driving and it’s dusk. All of a sudden a guy yells out ‘Halt! Who goes there? What’s the password?’”

The two buddies didn’t know anything about a password. Marino said the soldier was in an outpost with a twin-bore 30-caliber machine gun.

At the time Germans soldiers who were fluent in English and wearing American uniforms penetrated behind Allied lines, Marino said. Sentries had to be careful about who they let through.

“We started to yell every curse back and forth,” Marino said, to prove they were Americans. “This young fellow was overwrought and I thought he was going to shoot us. He was from the New York area and we started talking about baseball.”

Finally, he believed they were Americans because they knew too many things about the Brooklyn Dodgers. Marino said, “He told me and Mike that anybody coming down the road the way we did was supposed to be the enemy.”

They continued on, undeterred, to Headquarters, to deliver their message.

“That was the most harrowing experience I had during the war," said Marino.

They rejoined their unit and continued their advance in Germany, through little villages and towns, until the war was over.

Marino’s unit was not on the front lines. They were the mechanics of the division, yet they were always in close proximity to the fighting.

When the war ended in Europe, Marino’s unit became occupation troops. They were billeted in Bad Ems, and Marino said it was magnificent. Despite warnings not to fraternize, they spoke to local people.

“They were civilians," he said. "I never put them down. They were doing what they were doing for their country.”

Marino was soon transferred to 35th division, since the war continued in the Pacific theater. His port of embarkation was Camp Lucky Strike in France.

“I was there for about a month with a mostly new group of guys and while we were there the war with Japan ended,” Marino said.

He returned to the U.S. on the Queen Mary and married his sweetheart, Vi, on Sept. 30, 1945.

“It was a hell of a time,” he said.

Editor's note: Vi Marino was profiled in “When all the boys were gone,” published in The Chronicle in 2013:

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