PFC John Roger Boe
– Medic, 3rd Platoon, Company G, 47th Infantry Regiment –
John Roger Boe was born on July 1st, 1924, to Harold S. and Ellen Egeland Boe in Big Timber, Sweet Grass, Montana. He attended both grade and high school in Big Timber and was on the starting line-up for the State Championship basketball team in 1940. John had been attending Montana State College at Bozeman for one year when he decided to contact the Big Timber Draft Board and enlist.
Some of the following information is from a diary that John kept for some time, named “Life in the Service“.
Into the U.S. Army
Inducted into the U.S. Army on 10th of May 1943, he entered active military service at Butte, Montana on May 17, 1943. John had left Big Timber on this date and together with other enlistees he arrived at Fort Douglas in Utah at 10 PM on May 18th. They rode coach all the way, and he wrote that he was pretty tired when they reached Salt Lake. They were taken immediately to Fort Douglas where they were given medical tests. John told his son one time about being lined up for shots. The recruits got them in both arms as they progressed down a line. In front of him was a great big fellow from Butte (John at 6’1” was not small either) who passed out as they were giving him his shots. When they finished for the day, the recruits attended the Camel Caravan Show which was sponsored by the USO. James Cagney was the Master of Ceremonies. Several other lesser known stars were in the group as well.
A series of training started for John. First he did his 12-week Basic Training at Camp Joseph T. Robinson. After Basic Training he was sent to Texas; Western Maryland College at Westminster, Maryland; Camp Grant in Illinois; Camp Shenango in Pennsylvania and Fort Kilmer in New Jersey. Along the way, he also received training as a Medic.
John finally left for Europe on a Liberty Ship (built for troop transport) on May 24, 1944. They only received two meals a day, breakfast and supper.
The ship arrived in England on June 1, 1944.
Fighting the war
John served a Medic (Medical Aid man) with the 9th Infantry Division as part of the Medical Detachment with 3rd Platoon, Company G, 47th Infantry Regiment. He landed on Utah Beach and participated in the Normandy Campaign, Northern France, Rhineland, and Ardennes-Alsace. He saw the brutal sides of war during the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest and Battle of the Bulge.
The Battle of the Hurtgen Forest was one of the longest battles on German ground during World War II. After the men broke out of the Hurtgen Forest and were fighting in the northern fringes of the forest, the Battle of the Bulge came crashing down on them. This strong surprise attack by the Germans was eventually stopped and held. Both battles were “meat grinders” with some of the heaviest casualties of the war.
After the Battle of the Bulge, there were great numbers of casualties to be taken care of, and John was on “stretcher duty” for most of the time. At one point John had twisted his ankle and broken it. He had asked to be put on sick call but was refused. Knowing that if he took his boot off, he would never get it on again, he kept it tightly laced and kept carrying stretchers. As the broken bones kept grinding, infection set in until the swelling got so bad that it burst the stitching in his boots. At that point, he could not stand anymore. He was examined at an aid station, sent on to Paris, and eventually evacuated to Scotland where he was placed in a hospital on 14 February 1945.
Here, every morning, the doctor would come around and draw out a large syringe of the infected matter until the medication finally got ahead of the infection. His ankle never regained its full strength and his son remembers him having trouble with it on several occasions. This injury also put an end to his football plans. Being a great athlete and following high school graduation he had been offered a full ride football scholarship to Stanford University. Besides this, John had also suffered a shrapnel wound to the hand on the 10th of August 1944.
On January 24th, 1945, several of his 3rd Platoon buddies mailed in a letter to be published in the Big Timber Pioneer (Big Timber, Montana) newspaper.
The article read:
Buddies Appreciate First Aid Service of Pfc. John Roger Boe From Big Timber
It gives us great pleasure to publish the following letter concerning Pfc. John Roger Boe, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Boe of this city. It came yesterday under date of December 17, 1944. But you read it for yourself.
The boys of the 3rd platoon of Company G of the 47th Infantry would like to tell you about one of the natives of Big Timber, Montana. He is our platoon aid man, and unlike the infantry, he doesn’t receive combat pay, but wherever we go, he goes also. No matter how heavy the artillery barrage or how much small arms fire there is, the moment one of the men falls, “Doc” Boe is there to give him aid and comfort. Although he doesn’t receive combat infantryman’s pay, he is there with us always.
Through France, Belgium, and now into Germany, through thick and thin, he has always followed us.
And we, the men of the 3rd platoon, have grown to depend on “Doc” Boe as much as we depend on our food. No matter how tough the going is, he always has a cheerful and kind word for everyone. He shares our foxholes and dangers with us and helps to continue our fight against the enemy. He has no weapons to defend himself with; all he has between himself and eternity is a Red Cross insignia on his arm, yet wherever the dough boy goes, “Doc” Boe also goes.
Many of our boys will live to see their loved ones due to the quick and efficient aid given them by the “Doc.” And so, we, the men of the 3rd platoon, who wear the medals and carry the high-powered weapons, take off our hats to him who walks unprotected by our side.
We will always be grateful to the draft board of Big Timber for sending us a man like “Doc” Boe. When “Doc” finishes reading The Pioneer he always passes it around among us, and we enjoy reading it as much as he does.
Here’s hats off to the unsung hero of the 3rd platoon, John Roger Boe.
We will always be grateful to the people of Big Timber for sending us Pfc. John Roger Boe, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Boe.
Members of the 3rd Platoon
1st. Lt. Stuart V. Allen
T-Sgt. A. Krolicki
S-Sgt. J. N. Meyers
Sgt. J. L. Habbel
Pfc. W. J. Cooper
Pvt. M. A. Mengini
Once cleared from the hospital, John returned to the United States landing at Hampton Roads, VA and was finally discharged at Fort Custer, Michigan on 23 October 1945. He received the American-European Theater ribbon; four bronze campaign stars; Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster; Combat Medical Badge; Distinguished Unit Badge with one oak leaf cluster; and the Good Conduct Medal.
After the war John attended the University of Montana in Missoula majoring in Education. There he met his future wife, Ruth Elizabeth Cole, who was teaching in the English Department. They were married in the Big Timber Lutheran Church on June 27, 1948 and celebrated 62 years together.
It was very rare that John would comment on his service time during the Second World War. It seemed, at times, that when he did so, it was because his “guard was down” for some reason. From conversations with his mom after his dad had passed away, John’s son learned that he had “greatly troubled by war”-related nightmares for the first years of their marriage.
After John graduated in 1950, he spent one year teaching in Kremlin, Montana and then returned to Big Timber, Montana where he taught at Big Timber Grade School for nearly forty years.
John was a lifelong member of the Big Timber Lutheran Church, the American Legion, Doric Lodge No. 53 (Masons), director for Empire Savings and Loan and Sterling Savings Bank and was also active on various community and education boards.
John spent the last three and a half years of his life as a resident of the Pioneer Medical Center until succumbing to Alzheimer’s on August 4, 2010.
We will forever remember “Doc” Boe and the many lives he saved and affected.
Special thank you to John’s son Chris, for providing me all this wonderful information.