By Pvt. Michael Pinkosky

In the mail the other day, YANK received from Pvt. Michael Pinkosky a copy of a hastily scribbled diary which he had kept during his first three weeks in Normandy as a member of a cannon company of the Second Division. Called “Diary of a Soldier,” it was especially concerned—in an honest, plain-spoken way—with the hold which religion exerts on many Yanks in battle. Herewith, we reprint Pvt. Pinkosky’s impression of his first three Sundays in France.

June 11.

We landed on the bitter shores of France. Scene of damaged boats, wrecked vehicles, crushed mighty enemy fortress. Sun was shining as we stepped in cool salt water before reaching sandy beach. Pitiful shambles, wreckage greeted us. On we climbed, up rambling dusty road, with all the equipment. Passed through village in ruins. Three children waved and shouted French tune. Two aged women chatted, little concerned about long line of soldiers, trucks, jeeps, ambulances who were streaming by. Plenty of dust—we sweated like hell and were covered with dust. Took time out to catch a breath, perched on pile of dirt, as they were clearing mine field.  Explosions went on. Two officers came by and told us to get on our feet and keep moving. Reached field once occupied by artillery. No sooner we slung off the tons of equipment, an order came down to move again. Arrived at larger field and found holes dug, once occupied by Nazis. Pulled guard the first night. Snipers were giving us the creeps, firing from hideouts. Moon came out. Sound of jeeps and tanks went on.

normandy france chaplain altar sunday mass

With the front of a jeep serving as an altar, Chaplain Tony de Gellise, of Brooklyn, celebrates Mass in a French forest, within range of enemy guns.

June 18.

Another Sunday, and little time for day of rest. War goes on. As we walk hastily around the field with rifle, on alert for snipers, we come upon weary frightened pals. They keep on facing it, though, smiling. Voices sound out on the hill—“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear; What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.”  No matter what, Christian soldiers will march onward. Here they are gathered for a Sabbath worship on war-torn French soil.

June 25.

Today is Sunday. This Hellish war in the fields of France has calmed down a bit. Sun is shining. Birds find time to sing. Cows that escaped death are feeding on the greenish hills. Calves mooing. Groups of geese come out of a pond and are fluttering wings, horses roam about, though the loud sound of gunfire makes them run. Colorful wild flowers have covered the fields. Grass has withered where bombs have fallen. The abandoned, aged, stone country houses stand in ruins. A group of men eat around a fire, while hamburgers sizzle in the frying pan. Some men are near the running stream, washing up.

On the hillside is an old torn shed where a first-aid station has been set up. A group of soldiers composed of two husky MPs, medics, part of the line company and an officer has gathered there for a religious service. An improvised altar on pile of blankets and a stretcher was constructed at the shed by a young chaplain from New York, known by the men as Father Mack. Tiny candle flickers in a small white glass on center part of alter. Priest donned on white vestments with large gold cross and red border and Mass was said. Pvt. Joseph Rowe, of Pittsburg, assisted as an altar boy. He is with the medics and has performed such duties on many occasions. Planes roared overhead and artillery sounded forth. Chaplin had a brief sermon on Communion of Saints and their importance in our lives. Several men received Holy Communion.

After holy service, we strolled to an abandoned farmhouse. Broken gray slate was on the ground. Roof only partly covered the stone house. White shutters still clinging to glassless windows. Lace curtain blow out from the ransacked building. Wine and cider shed had huge barrels. The small barn stood empty. Beside the apple tree was two-wheeled wagon, and scattered about, crude farm instruments. Pvt. Arthur Latendress, of North Dakota, remarked, “I feel sorry for these poor French people. They were peace-loving people.”

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