Painful Experience with Artillery Shell Recalled

A veteran of the Second World War who was directly struck by an artillery shell remembers his experience quite clearly. The man is Leslie Stainbrook, a sergeant in the American Army who served from 1943 to the end of the war in 1945. Stainbrook was a paratrooper who knew that his war career would be dangerous, but had no idea that he would be on the receiving end of an artillery shell which hit him square in the chest.

Stainbrook’s career began on a high note, as he found he actually very much enjoyed the rush of jumping out of an aircraft and freefalling through the air. He led a decent career, but he expected his most important mission to be at the Battle of the Bulge. The events leading to his ordeal with the artillery shell were already in motion, unbeknownst to him. He was not able to make the expected parachute jump due to weather conditions, so he and his fellow troopers were to run a mission on land instead.

The mission at the Bulge was treacherous, with numerous German forces attacking the troops that Stainbrook and his crew were sent to assist. They were to help provide defense as well as bringing along some much-needed supplies. An artillery shell to the chest was the last thing Stainbrook remembered on one of those nights, as he was thrown unconscious immediately following the harsh blow. Luckily, he survived.

In between a rock and a hard place, Stainbrook was forced to continue in battle despite his harsh injury. He lucked out in that he was not hit as badly as he easily could have been. He was actually much more damaged by frostbite than by the artillery shell, as his next mission to run reconnaissance for his company found him stranded in a frozen foxhole for hours on end. Even to this day, he does not retain the majority of feeling in those nerves. While still technically a part of the service, he would end up spending the remainder of the war in the hospital following his night in the foxhole, the The Buffalo News reports.

Not many were ever struck by an artillery shell who lived to tell about it, but Stainbrook was fortunate. Most of the men in his company were ready to show sympathy if he had thrown in the towel and gone to the hospital right then, but he persevered and did not seek attention until it was absolutely necessary. Having weathered severe frostbite and the blunt end of an artillery shell, Stainbrook is an admirable veteran who took his knocks yet never ceased in his desire to give himself to the war effort.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE