Ralph L. Riter, 91, of Connellsville, Pennsylvania was drafted into the army in April of 1943, and he served with the 46th Field Artillery Battalion from Normandy to Nuremberg.

Like many others GIs who actually served under George Patton, Ralph didn’t think too highly of the brash-mouthed general. But General Eisenhower, who visited Ralphs’ unit, was much respected. As Ralph recalls, Ike spoke to the men like he was just one of the guys.

Ralph’s first encounter with death in combat was with American casualties. It was in France and the smell was unforgettable. The experience deeply affected him. “I lost a brother in Normandy,” Ralph remembers, so “when I hit France I shot at everything that had a green uniform on. I don’t know how many guys might have I hit. I know I cleaned out two machine gun nests with that .50 caliber [machine gun].

I wonder today—lots of times—why I’m still here.

This interview was recorded December 7, 2015, at the Connellsville Canteen, Connellsville, Pennsylvania. Interviewer: Kevin Farkas. Special Thanks: Ralph Riter, Nancy Hrabak, Dan Cocks. A production of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. Executive Producer: Kevin Farkas. Videography: Kevin Farkas, Bryan Chemini. Editor: Kevin Farkas. ©VVoPOHI. All Rights Reserved.

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