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Through the sights of a gunner

Sun Advocate reporter

Emil Simone was born Nov. 6, 1925 in Columbia. When he was young his family moved to Price where he attended school. When he was 18 he joined the service.

He was inducted into the Army in November 1943. He became part of a heavy weapons company and went to basic training in Fort McClellan, Ala.

After his basic training he was assigned to the 71st Infantry division in Fort Benning, Ga.

Pfc. Simone was awarded a badge for expert rifleman because of his excellence in sharpshooting. Because of this he was made a machine gunner.

After joining the infantry division his unit was immediately sent overseas in 1944.

He fought through France and Germany, eventually ending up in Austria. He also spent some time in Africa.

During his time in Europe he was the gunman of a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun, a weapon he could take apart and put together in the dark.

He explained that every third bullet in the gun was a tracer. A gunner could follow the line of bullets to make sure their shot was directly on target.

Emil tells of a time he was stationed in Europe when he came close to losing his hearing and likely suffered some of the more serious effects of the noisy machine gun.

He and four others were positioned in a room on the banks of the Rhine River.

The room they were in was no bigger than 10 feet by 10 feet. They had to sandbag the legs of the machine gun to hold it into place and positioned one leg in a hole in a dresser. They had to shoot out of a window that was two feet wide and three feet above the floor. They shot for four consecutive hours, expending 30,000 rounds of ammunition. From the expenditure of the ammo the men burned two gun barrels, wearing them completely out. When daylight broke they were out of ammo and completely deaf from the sound of the gun in the tight quarters.

During the course of the war, Emil said that his group spent most of their nights in foxholes, getting no more than two to three hours of sleep in any given night.

There was always a person on watch and one on the gun. They had to eat off of the land because the supply truck came around once every two weeks at best. Even then, they usually didn't see it because they were ahead of it.

When they first started getting food they were given the old "C" rations that were left over from World War I. After those were gone they got "the regular "K" rations.

The men were given all they could carry which wasn't much - usually eight to 10 packs - because they had to put it in their backpacks with their other supplies.

Because of the cold, they had to be sure they had warm clothes and especially dry socks so there wasn't much they could put in their bags at the time.

One day while out on duty Emil received word that he was to be part of a patrol going out later that night. The jeep was 20 minutes late picking him up, making him late for his meeting with the other troops leaving for patrol.

There was another man who shared Emil's last name that took his spot that night. Fred Simone was from New York and was so close to Emil that he said they were like brothers.

When Emil finally met up with a few members of the patrol who had also been left behind, he found out that his gear had been sent ahead without him. The officer in charge of the patrol ordered the patrol to hook up the trailers with supplies to the jeeps going out that night. The patrol was to take only one or two hours but the jeeps didn't return until the next day.

Because all of the sleeping bags and other equipment were in the trailers, the men left behind at the meeting area were left with nothing to keep warm from the bitter cold night.

While waiting at the post the men found a farmhouse a quarter mile away with straw in it. Carrying armfuls of the straw back to the machine gun, the men made themselves makeshift beds for the night.

At the break of day the next morning, the men noticed that there was a half track approaching them from the rear. A half track is an Army truck with tracks similar to construction vehicles used today. The soldiers in the vehicle had a large radio with them and they had heard the conversations about the patrol leaving which had been going on the night before.

The men in the vehicle asked if Emil and his fellow soldiers were part of "M" company. Emil and the men who were with him responded that they were.

The soldiers in the truck were informed that the night before there was some chatter on the radios to the effect that the patrol had been ambushed. Emil and the group he was with were informed that Fred had been one of the fatalities of the group.

Emil said as he recounted the story that if Fred hadn't gone in his place, he may not have been here today.

There were between 25 and 30 machine gunners that were at the meeting point. They were informed of the location of the jeeps and they packed up and started to walk to find their men.

They started to walk as soon as they received the news but didn't reach the convoy until after late in the afternoon.

After meeting up with the rest of the patrol, the troops were told to burn the town down because it was the Hitler Youth who had attacked the convoy.

Towards the end of the war the German dignitaries tried to get out of Europe before they were captured.

While some attempted an escape from one airfield, Emil held a position 1,500 yards away from the plane and shot the engines out of the plane.

Using the tracers, he knew that his marks were on and that he had hit the target. He shot out two of the three engines and prevented the plane from leaving the ground.

For this action, he was awarded the Bronze Star for Heroism for gallantry in battle. For Emil, the award isn't so much for being a hero, but as he put it, he "fought to stay alive."

Emil said that at the close of the war in Europe, his unit was dug in at the Zambezi River in Africa when they heard the news of the Axis surrender on the morning of May 6, 1945. They received word that they were not to fire unless fired upon. The men were to put their weapons down.

After the war ended, he was transferred to the Ninth Infantry division for the reconstruction efforts. He was also appointed supply sergeant in charge of weapons.

After coming home he married his wife, Renee, on May 17, 1948. The couple recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary. They have one son and a grandson.

The couple lived in the Carbon County area for a while after their marriage, but moved to Salt Lake City because of the strikes going on in the mines. He worked for Thiokol Chemical Corporation but was eventually laid off.

After being laid off he went to Utah Tech and got a degree in auto mechanics in 1969. He remained a mechanic until he retired from Carbon County School District in 1992.

Emil has been awarded all of the campaign ribbons of Europe along with his Bronze Star.

He stated, "Any soldier, man or woman, who has fought on the front lines should all be awarded the congressional medal of honor."

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