Mort Sheffloe was born in Crookston, Minnesota in 1924. He attended public schools there, had a paper route, was in the Boy Scouts, and had the usual childhood growing-up experiences that one might expect in just about every way except for one thing. Today he says, I had four sisters, so I never ever had to wash dishes. During his senior year in high school he worked a part time job with Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. He received his draft notice when he was a senior but was allowed to finish (just barely) the school year and graduate with the Crookston High School Class of 1943. So then, in May 1943 he along with 35 others of his classmates, reported in at Fort Snelling, Minnesota for induction into the Army. The phone company had granted Mort leave of absence for military service.
He was sent by train to Tyler, Texas where he went through the Armys initial 13-week training course at Camp Fannin. His test scores had been high enough to qualify him for the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) and so after completing the basic training course Private Sheffloe was sent to Texas A&M in October 1943 and enrolled as an Electrical Engineering student. But, that didnt last long because as Mort says, I stopped studying and got kicked out of school. He was sent off to Camp Polk, Louisiana in January 1944 and assigned to the 97th Infantry Division, but he wasnt there very long either. The 97th, a division earmarked for deployment to the Pacific, had moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri when, still early in 1944, it was ordered to give up 6,000 soldiers as its contribution to a replacement pool being formed from stateside divisions. Mort was one of the 6,000 men so designated and his replacement packet was shipped out, first to Fort Meade, Maryland, and then on to Camp Shanks in New York, before embarkation at the Port of New York for the Atlantic crossing. Upon arrival in England, his packet had been quartered in a replacement depot in Bristol when news came of the June 6th D-Day landings in Normandy. Five weeks later they would be joining them in France.
His replacement packet boarded a British troop carrier on July 10th that arrived off Utah Beach in Normandy about 9 a.m. the next day and was taken ashore by landing craft. Mort helped load the packets duffel bags onto 2 1/2-ton trucks, so he got to ride the 4 1/2 miles to their destination, the village of Ste.-Mere-Eglise, while the rest of the packet made the trip on foot. After a few days in bivouac near the village an officer from the 8th Infantry Divisions 121st Infantry Regiment came and selected 13 replacements, including Private Sheffloe, from the packet and took them off in a truck to a point three miles from the front. There Mort was further assigned to the 2nd Battalions Company E. Upon arrival in the company he was designated as second scout in one of the squads of Lieutenant Kapuscinskis Platoon. He liked his new lieutenant and felt the feeling was mutual. The next day his sergeant took Sheffloe and five other men to a farmhouse a half mile distant, it was an outpost on the front line. The enemy was near, but there was little action at that time and the outpost became his home for his first two weeks in Company E.
On July 25th, Mort was at the outpost and watched as fleets of bombers flew over to carpet bomb the German defenses in the St. Lo area in preparation for the breakout at the beginning of Operation Cobra; but the outpost was too far away for them to even hear the bombing and they remained at that position for another three days. Then, in the early morning hours of July 28th Morts Company E hurriedly moved forward joining the breakthrough in the German defenses. The 8th Infantry Divisions sector was the extreme western part of the line. Before the day was over his unit had marched through the village of Coutances, captured only hours earlier by the 4th Armored Division. They moved rapidly south, bypassing Avranches and on towards Rennes as the exploitation continued.
Of the days following, Mort can still now today describe in detail, and with great clarity, memories of the men with whom he served and his experiences at the places in France where they saw action or otherwise passed through, until sustaining the wound on September 10th that took him out of combat for good during the battle for Brest. The towns of Coutanche, Mont Saint Michel, Rennes, Dinan, Dinard, St. Malo, and Pleurtuit, the advance along the Rance River and the fighting to take the city of Brest can only be mentioned here in this brief newsletter feature, but a detailed eight-page narrative, much of it in Morts own words is in an article of the June 2015 issue of WWII HISTORY magazine written by Kevin M. Hymel. We have to skip over most of that while retaining only some essential parts in order for it to fit into this brief newsletter feature space.
During the action filled weeks between the breakout and the battle for Brest, Sheffloe was designated to replace the first scout during the move down the Rance River. Then after the Germans surrendered St. Malo, Mort was promoted from Private to Sergeant and made squad leader. He had no real problems because of it, but some of the men apparently resented their recently arrived and newly promoted 19 year-old squad leader from Minnesota. The 121st Infantry Regiment , Georgia National Guard, The Old Grey Bonnets, was so named because Put On Your Old Gray Bonnets had been their favorite marching song, and a gray bonnet was chosen as the design of their distinctive unit insignia. The 2nd Battalion was itself one of the oldest units in the U.S. Army. It proudly traces its lineage from an 1810 Georgia Militia unit that later saw Civil War service on the Confederate side, then back on the U.S. side in nearly every conflict since; most recently it suffered 2 men killed during a 2009-2010 deployment in Afghanistan. When Mort had arrived in early July 1944 the men in the unit were still predominantly Georgia National Guardsmen sensitive of their history.
On the morning of September 10th, the battalion was attacking towards Brest. Company E was on the move across open but bomb cratered terrain on the outskirts of the city when Lt Kapuscinski was wounded and his platoon held in check by enemy fire. Ordered by the Lieutenant to withdraw the men from the field, Sergeant Sheffloe was moving under fire, running from bomb crater to bomb crater telling each group to move back, when wounded in the chest by a German bullet and he says, It was like a baseball bat to my ribcage, destroying ribs and tearing lung and liver tissue. He fell back into the shelter of a bomb crater and he lost a lot of blood from the sucking chest wound before a Medic could reach him hours later to administer first aid. It was another four hours after that before he could be safely carried out on a stretcher. Loaded onto a jeep a quarter of a mile back, he was taken to the Battalion Aid Station where he was given plasma and had a Vaseline gauze bandage put over the chest wound. From there, an ambulance took him to the Regimental Collecting Point and they sent him on to the 100th Evacuation Hospital where he had surgery cleaning his open chest wound, but finished by placing on another Vaseline gauze bandage.
On September 17th he was flown by C-47 to England. There, he had surgery in the 121st U.S. Army General Hospital, following which he was placed in a private room for patients that were not expected to survive. But, survive he did, and at the end of September he was transferred to the 140th General Hospital in southern England. He remained there, still ill and being treated for a serious empyema infection, going in and out of surgery, until the war in Europe ended. He returned to America on May 10, 1945 on the troopship SS Brazil, together with many other wounded men and returning 8th Air Force crewmen. After arrival at Halloran General Hospital on Staten Island, New York, he was sent to McCaw General Hospital in Walla Walla, Washington. He was discharged from the Army there on August 31, 1945 and returned home to Crookston, Minnesota.
The 20 year-old veteran, Mort Sheffloe returned home from war and immediately went back to work at the job he had waiting for him with Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. He soon took a leave of absence from Northwestern Bell again, in order to attend college. He earned a degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota and immediately went back to work again. In 1956 Northwestern Bell transferred him to Nebraska where he worked in Omaha for another 35 years before finally retiring in 1991 from the phone company. In 1999 he moved to Sun City in Texas where he first became acquainted with our veterans organization and signed up as a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Now, Chapter 1919 proudly features Patriot Mortimer Sheffloe in this issue of PATRIOT BULLETIN, and we wish him well as he contemplates soon making a third retirement move, heading to Colorado to be nearer to family.