BATTLEFIELD OF LIFE by Raymond A. Yeatts

This is the book that united two brothers on April 9, 2000. Two brothers, one who knew of the other and the second who did not even know the circumstances surrounding his birth much less whether he even had a brother. A remarkable story soon to be aired on every major talk show in America.  (Ed. Note April 10, 2000)

Battlefield of Life (paper bound)
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Father's memoirs of World War II leads to the reuniting of two brothers separated at birth fifty four years ago.

The memoirs of Raymond Yeatts' World War II experience was published by Dr. Leisure in 1997 with the title Battlefield of Life.

On the Sunday morning of April 9, 2000, Garland Ray Yeatts received a call from a woman who asked if he was familiar with the book Battlefield of Life.

Garland replied that he was and that the author was his father. The woman then identified herself as Leona Yeatts and that she was married to his brother Harry Lee. After a brief pause she asked how would you like to speak to your brother Harry Lee? An astonished Garland replied that he would love to. The ensuing conversation would be the first of three that day. There is so much to cover when two brothers connect that have been separated since birth.

Some of the answers to such basic questions as to why these two brothers have been separated for over fifty years are answered in the book, Battlefield of Life. How and why Battlefield of Life came to be published at all is also part of the story.

The book publication story began for Dr. George R. Harker (a.k.a. Dr. Leisure) in the summer of 1997. Harker met Garland Ray Yeatts on a whale watching cruise off the coast of Maui. Latter the two would meet again at Little Beach on Maui. The two men are the same age both being born in 1943 during World War II.

Talking about the various things that men talk about when getting acquainted at a nude beach the topic was more about women than anything else yet other topics do move in and out of the conversation. Garland mentioned that his dad had written a book which he was trying to get published. It was a book that dealt with the senior Yeatt's experiences in World War II.

Harker indicated that among the various things that he does as Dr. Leisure, book publishing was yet another facet. He suggested that Garland get him a copy of the manuscript and he would take a look at it and see what it would take to bring out a book.

A short time later Garland delivered a 92 page type written, double spaced manuscript. A document that could be easily read in an evening. Which was precisely what Harker did.

What ever had been said about the manuscript between Garland and Harker there had been no exchange that properly prepared Harker for the last chapter of the book.

In short the book was a very moving and concise description of Raymond Yeatts' life from high school, through the war, and then shortly after. Raymond saw a lot of action in Europe and was one of only two in his unit that survived the conflict. As well written and informative as the book was it was the final chapter that really struck home. Yeatts had returned home from killing Germans to find that his wife was pregnant. Furthermore she was not pregnant by just anyone but in one of those tragic ironies of life she was pregnant by a German prisoner of war.

Most people don't seem to be aware that a number of foreign prisoners of war were incarcerated in various prison camps about the country. Most people don't realize that the interaction between the prisoners and the their captors could be very cordial. Having researched material for a book on a German prison camp in west central Illinois Dr. Harker knew that such interaction was not unusual.

(Nazi Prisoners of War in America by Arnold Krammer is available from all three Amazons. Click the one most convenient for your needs. From Amazon.com  From  Amazon.co.uk  And from  Amazon.de)

Raymond Yeatts after consultations with his wife and others decided the best course of action was to put the child up for adoption. The baby named Harry Lee Yeatts was put up for adoption in 1946 immediately after he was born.

Harker recognized that the irony of who the father aside, the real story was the fact that Garland had a brother! A brother he never knew. Dr. Leisure suggested to Garland that it would be very interesting to find the brother and just see how the two men had lived their separate lives. Garland indicated he thought his brother might be in the general area and that attempts had been made to locate him. But just how to go about that when one assumed that the baby would have a new name courtesy of the adoptive parents. The search seemed futile and was never seriously attempted.

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BATTLEFIELD OF LIFE by Raymond A. Yeatts

Memoirs of World War Two - The most personal account of World War II ever recorded, not by a Colonel or a General, but by a field artillery gunner, for his grandchildren... and for grandchildren everywhere.

Preface by the Publisher

At first glance Battlefield of Life is just another account of one man's experiences during World War II. Nothing more and nothing less. It is a straight forward account of one man's life from shortly before the war to a time shortly after. It is Raymond A. Yeatts' account. So why has his story affected me to the degree that it has?

Because on reading his story I found that I held within me memories of similar stories that came from my father and my uncles.

I am the same age as Raymond A. Yeatts' son, Garland Ray. Reading Mr. Yeatts' account it is easy to believe that he was relating from much the same perspective as my own relations.

One of the things that strikes me is how much the war shaped and influenced the life of men like Raymond A. Yeatts and my father. The war was not just a chapter in their lives with a beginning and an end. It became the basis for a central theme that would transcend the rest of their existence. No matter what they would do with the rest of their lives the marks and impressions of the war would permeate all aspects of that life.

Now some fifty years later the war still makes it mark. That mark is not just on the men who fought it. It is also on their sons and daughters. Each of us born during the war years knows something of the atrocities of that war. Not by our own first hand experiences but rather from those that were there and who lived to tell about it. Our lives are marked and shaped by the war experience that we all shared in some degree or another.

It is useful and meaningful to contemplate our existence and the impact which World War II had on each of us. For this reason Yeatts' story is not just another account but rather an opportunity for each of us to reexamine ourselves and the aspects of our existence that stem from that conflict. In one way or another stories like Yeatts' have not only influenced Garland Ray and his children but have impacted each of us and our children as well.

Dr. George R. Harker

Maui 1997

Table of Contents

Chapter One Life-changing Decisions
Chapter Two D-Day Invasion
Chapter Three Battle of Fallaise Gap
Chapter Four Battle of Northern France
Chapter Five Battle of The Bulge
Chapter Six The Battle of Rhineland
Chapter Seven The Liberation of Buchenwald
Chapter Eight Closing in on Berlin
Chapter Nine Coming Home
Reflections by the author's son

Chapter One Life-changing Decisions

The war for me began early in my life, as if ironically, yet realistically, fate had demanded it.

In the year 1939, I was in my last year of school at Ruffin High school in Ruffin, North Carolina. Mr. Thomas Littlejohn, a retired colonel in the Army Reserve and R.O.T.C., taught the Future Farmers of America (FFA) class that I attended.

During a break, he was chatting solemnly with the boys in the class who were all about the same age. He mentioned the ominous fact that all of us would serve in the military and fight for our country. Obviously, he was watching the events of the time in history as a basis for his prediction. This prediction, as time would tell, was one hundred percent correct.

He had been, himself, drafted and committed to combat early in the war, and had been captured by the Germans and held prisoner for more than three years.

During the time that he was talking to us, the Germans had just begun their conquest in Europe. Hitler's troops were already moving into Poland and Czechoslovakia and the surrounding small countries.

I was seventeen years old at the time and I really didn't care what was happening in Germany. My only thoughts were of my girlfriend, Louise. I wanted to finish high school and get married, or, if possible, go to college and become a doctor. Most of all, I just wanted to be happy.

My father died during my last year of high school and college was out of the question because I was suddenly forced to earn my own way.

During one of my classes, the principal came to my classroom with a letter addressed to me. It was from my sweetheart wishing me luck upon my graduation and assuring me that she would love me whether or not I was able to go to college.

Finally, I graduated. A year after my graduation, Louise and I were married and things seemed to be going very well for us. We were both working and we had our own apartment that cost $8.00 a week at the time.

The next year, on January 21, 1943, our son, Garland Ray, was born. We had never been happier in our lives.

I was in the insurance business, and we managed to live comfortably. This lasted only a short time because of imminent events in our history during that time. Pearl Harbor had been attacked on December 7, 1941, and war had been declared on Japan. Hitler had already moved into France and began bombing the British Isles in the process of destroying and eventually invading England. London was already badly bombed out by German air attacks.

The thought of having to leave my wife and son bothered me very much. I kept thinking that I might not have to go, but I felt a compelling duty to my country. Eventually, however, the thing that I had been dreading the most, happened. On my 20th birthday, when my son was five months old, I received greetings from the U.S. Government to report to Roanoke, Virginia, for examination and induction into the U.S. Army.

During the 21 days before I had to go, I must have died a thousand deaths, trying to face all the obstacles and to find a safe home for my wife and son.

Every day I strolled him through the park watching the birds, animals, flowers and trees, that were all a part of my life. Every day until sundown, with tears running all the way to my shoe tops, I thought about all I had to give up and about leaving him for whatever time, knowing it could be forever.

One of the saddest days of my life was August 11, 1943, when I left home for Fort Lee, Virginia, to report for duty.

After a few weeks there, I was processed and shipped out on a cattle car to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for basic training at the Field Artillery Training Center.

I had only one visit from my wife during all this time and didn't see my son at all.

After my tour of duty there, which will be described in the next chapter, I was given eight days delay enroute and ordered to report to Fort Meade, Maryland for overseas processing. While there, I was told to ship all personal belongings and process a last will and life insurance.

From Fort Meade, I was transferred to Miles Standish, Rhode Island, where we received more training on how to abandon ship in case of a German submarine attack. I received all kinds of shots in both arms and both sides of my rear. They had ways of making you forget all your problems.

From this location, we were shipped out by cattle trains to New York where we embarked on a troop ship with 15,000 soldiers on one ship, the U.S.S. Argentine, a former luxury liner. For all ten days, there were U.S. destroyers circling around our ship, day and night, and fighter planes were circling overhead for our security. The trip across was uneventful, aside from being crowded and uncomfortable.

Finally, on March 23, 1944, we landed in Glasgow, Scotland, where it took another three days to unload and re-load on another English cattle train for a two day and night trip all the way down to Exeter, England. This left us near the embarkation point for the upcoming invasion of Normandy in June.

This is a short prelude to the story of one of the many battles incurred during the course of World War II, to give you an idea of our qualifications for the job we did, and why we succeeded in completing the mission.

After induction into the U.S. Army on August 11, 1943, I was processed through Fort Lee, Virginia and after a few weeks was assigned, after numerous tests, to the U.S. Army Field Artillery Training Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This was the largest center of it's kind in the country. Across from our center was the base of the 82nd Airborne Center and Air Base, near Fayetteville, North Carolina.

At this facility, we were exposed to what was designed to be 18 weeks of basic training. Mine, however, ended up being 23 weeks long. In the middle of my school period my brother, who was two years older than me, was killed in an automobile accident. For my time allowed to attend his funeral, I was transferred to another cycle of training which required extra time.

While at this center, we were taught many different subjects related to fighting a war. First of all we were kept isolated from the outside world and were brainwashed to hate the Germans, our enemy at the time.

Our main training objective was to learn the use of artillery weapons. There were extensive classes in all kinds of guns and rifles, some I had never heard of before. We had many physical exercise programs given daily to make us stronger. There were classes in hand to hand combat and methods of self defense. We were taught, not how to fight, but how to kill our opponent if attacked at close hand.

We were versed in the use of all guns of the artillery as well as how to drive and use all types of military vehicles, such as jeeps, tanks, and all kinds of trucks. The training involved all types of artillery from 75mm Howitzers to 105mm Howitzers and 155mm to 240mm, from the smallest to the largest in the military at the time. We shared times under simulated combat conditions in the field for many days without food or rations. There were also many physical endurance tests.

After this training, we were assigned to various combat units overseas. Mine happened to be the 941st Field Artillery Battalion stationed in Exeter, England. There, in preparation for the Normandy Invasion, we were exposed to more practice and training in how to combat the German armies.

Just before the invasion, we were issued and trained on a brand new and unknown artillery weapon called the 4.5 gun. It was different from anything in the U.S. Army because it weighed 12 tons and was towed by an M13 tracked vehicle, made like a tank with no top. It could pull or push with the same effectiveness from either end in any kind of terrain. To operate this gun required a crew of nine men and a gun crew chief or sergeant. All the men were called cannoneers and each was assigned a specific job to do on the gun to fire it. Every man, or cannoneer, was required to know and execute all jobs on the gun, which included checking sights, the elevation, type of ammunition, target reaching, loading, and firing. With everyone knowing and practicing the operation, any man, given time, could actually fire the gun with no problem.

The gun was like a secret weapon to the Americans and Germans alike. Even many of our own units did not suspect it's capabilities. It was comparatively easy to set up to fire and had a range of 6 to 8 miles with a 30 pound bomb that could be fired at four or five rounds per minute. It was designed to combat the Germans' heavy concentration of tanks and mainly to clear roadways and clear movement of our infantry units. We could move it right on line and support our infantry troops at a hundred yards, then sit in the same position to drop a 30 pound bomb on top of a tank that was miles ahead with no problem. At thirty yards, we could destroy a whole truckload of Germans or blow up a whole building with one round. In our battalion there was a total of 48 guns that could be set to fire on one target all at the same instant. They were connected by electronic control or at that time like phone lines from a forward observer who relayed fire direction to all guns from the actual target scene. He was able to call for a round from first one gun, or as many rounds as required from all guns, depending on the amount of fire power to control the enemy's interest. Every gun was always ready and available 24 hours a day, and under any condition, ready for any firing mission.

The crew slept in their own facilities of foxholes around the gun emplacement for their protection and also to insure that the enemy did not infiltrate during the night to destroy it.

There were also extra troops with 50 caliber machine guns all around the area of the guns. And usually anti-aircraft guns were dug in around the area.

I lived like this for six months before the Battle of Bastogne, which I am going to tell about in another chapter.

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German Prisoners of War in the United States!

Most Americans are probably not aware that during World War II many German prisoner of war were held in camps situated across the United States. This fact has much to do with the circumstances associated with the memoirs of Raymond Yeatts entitled Battlefield of Life. For this reason Dr. Leisure has renewed and expanded his interest the Nazi prisoners of war incarcerated in America during the mid 40's.

Nazi Prisoners of War in America by Arnold Krammer
From  Amazon.com

From  Amazon.co.uk

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Other Books available from Amazon.com on the topic.

Martial Justice: The Last Mass Execution in the United States   by Richard Whittingham

We Were Each Other's Prisoners : an Oral History of World War II America and German Prisoners of War
by Lewis H. Carlson

For other books about World War II, search Amazon.com: 

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Other books and links of interest:

Brother Leland's Experiences - WWII  Fraternizing as a Tranquil Sedative Edited by Harvey G. Chapman, Jr.

89th Infantry Division of World War II November-December 2002 Newsletter.htm

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