WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman recognized the service and sacrifice of veteran Garland Gable in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Gable grew up on his family’s farm outside of Beebe alongside his six siblings.
He was drafted into the Army in 1944 and stayed close to home for basic training at Camp Robinson.
Gable laughs about the shoes he was first issued. “I got a pair of shoes. I believe they were 13s and I wore a 10,” he said. “I told the sergeant they were so big I could just jump straight out of them.”
Gable was assigned to the 69th Infantry Division and continued his stateside training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi before boarding a ship to Europe.
The “Fighting 69th” landed at Le Havre, France in January 1945 and traveled in cold, freezing rain to the front lines in Belgium.
“We had a blanket and a sleeping bag. The snow was about eight inches deep and we slept in the woods,” Gable recalled the night before relieving the 99th infantry on the frontlines. “While we were relieving them, the Germans turned loose the artillery. We had men killed before we got started.”
Gable advanced with the division through Germany. He says he never thought he was going to be killed, but he wonders how he made it out of Weissenfels, Germany alive.
An armored division reported the area was all clear, but that’s not what he experienced. “They fired on us,” Gable recalled. “My company went across an open field. There wasn’t any protection. The snipers were firing.” Gable and two of his comrades were separated from the rest of the company and while trying to decide where to go, one of them was killed by a sniper.
He describes what followed as “doomsday.”
“A freight train pulled up with about 20 boxcars on it. The doors opened and the Germans just poured out,” said Gable, recalling how he found cover among grass and weeds and was looking for a way around a barbed wire fence when he saw a German tank in an open field.
“I didn’t run backwards, but I went the wrong way. I went across the field. It’s probably 300 yards. The dumbest thing I ever did in my life. He opened up on me with that thing. The bullets were going under me, over me, everywhere, but I got away from him,” Gable said.
While he lost his helmet, he thought he was safe, but faced more fire. He’s unsure of what followed because he doesn’t remember. Somehow he managed to reunite with his platoon, but he still doesn’t know how he got there.
The 69th Infantry Division captured Leipzig and saw the atrocities the Nazis had committed against Jews at Leipzig-Thekla, a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp. “It was the most awful place you ever saw,” Gable said.
Gable earned several military honors for his service including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. He was medically discharged after WWII because he suffered from shell shock, today known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, something he still deals with. He lived his life in service to Jesus Christ, becoming a preacher and starting three churches. Today, Gable calls Conway home.
“I am grateful for Garland Gable’s dedication and service to our nation. His memories of his military service are an important part of our history and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Gable’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.