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The Suburbanite
  • WWII: Then and Now: Carl Rice helped keep Third Army moving

  • Carl Rice of Osnaburg Township recalls the train ride from California to the East Coast, before he was sent into World War II.

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  • Carl Rice of Osnaburg Township recalls the train ride from California to the East Coast, before he was sent into World War II.
    “They put us on that train and the only thing they stopped for was food and fuel,” he recalled. “That was a fast train.
    “I knew when we were going through Canton. So I went back to the last car and stood on the back. I remember going through town and passing East Tusc, and thinking if we stopped, and I went two miles up the road, I’d be back home.”
    Instead, Rice journeyed overseas with the 459th Engineers Depot Company, which would become part of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army not long after landing on Utah Beach about a week after D-Day in 1944.
    Rice, a 1939 graduate of East Canton High School, was working with his father, drilling water wells, when he was drafted into the Army in 1942. During his time after landing at Normandy, Patton’s Third Army was being formed.
    “When we broke loose, it was a wild ride.”
    SUPPLYING ENGINEERS
    Rice’s duty during the European campaign was a vital one. To keep Patton’s troops moving at their fast pace, Rice and others in the 459th had to make sure engineers had what they needed to build bridges and construct temporary airfields.
    “That’s why our unit got its citation. Anything that helped the troops get through faster and keep moving was a big deal,” said Rice, referring to a commendation Patton sent the Army engineers in February 1945. “If troops couldn’t get across (a river) they’d sit for days or weeks.”
    Although not in battle, Rice’s unit was never far behind the front lines.
    “That’s where they wanted us, close to the front lines, in case they needed anything,” explained Rice. “If they wanted to build a bridge, we’d have the material for it but some engineer would go build it.”
    RETURNED HOME
    Rice, by then a sergeant, was shipped back to the United States after the war in Europe ended. He was discharged in Virginia in September 1945, then returned home to work again with his father, John Rice.
    Eventually, he got a job with the local Coca-Cola distributor and worked there for 38 years, 19 on a route and 19 in management.
    Rice and his wife, Stella, were married three months short of 60 years before her death six years ago. The couple had seven children. Sons: John, Douglas and Jeffrey. And daughters Carla, Susan, Christine and Elizabeth.
    Rice values such a large family, perhaps because he lost a sibling during World War II.
    His brother, Donald Rice, was killed serving in France with the 7th Armored Division in the Seventh Army.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The guys from my outfit came and told me he had been hit. The chaplain had a Jeep, and took me around to see if we could find him in one of the hospitals. But that was useless.”
    Rice said they buried his brother in a temporary grave with other men who had sacrificed their lives for freedom during World War II.
    “After the war, you could bring them back. But, we left Don over there. It was where he died.”

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