Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

PETE SNELSON

 

 

 


44th INFANTRY DIVISION

PATCH

324th INFANTRY REGIMENT

UNIT CREST


WALLACE E. (PETE) SNELSON

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 Texas State Senator, Retired

Army, WWII, Europe

 

Wallace E. Snelson was born in Grandfalls, Texas in 1923, into a pioneer farm and ranch family (He was one of 5 brothers to serve overseas during WWII, and a sixth brother served in the Korean War).  “Pete,” a long-time small town nickname, graduated from Grandfalls High School in 1939 and then worked for the next year as news editor of the Grandfalls Gazette.

 

In 1940, having secured a scholarship, he enrolled in the Texas College of Mines in El Paso (now the University of Texas at El Paso).  Soon after America entered the war, “Pete” enlisted in the Army’s Enlisted Reserve Corps, a program for college students. A nationwide call-up for active duty came in April 1943.  His first assignment was to Camp Maxey in Paris, Texas for 13 weeks of Basic Training.  Upon its completion, he was selected for the Army’s Specialized Training Program and sent to the University of Nebraska for intensive study in the German Language, along with historical facts about Germany, in preparation for service in the European Theatre of Operations.

 

“Pete” was next assigned to the 44th Infantry Division, which at that time was undergoing maneuvers in Louisiana, and upon his arrival in April 1944, he was further assigned to Company B, 324th Infantry Regiment.  Following completion of their unit training at Camp Phillips, Kansas and further preparedness for combat in Europe, then came the transfer of the Division for embarkation from Boston, Massachusetts.

 

The division disembarked at Cherbourg, France and then bivouacked for several days near the Omaha and Utah invasion beaches on the Normandy coast before being transported to the Alsace region.  The 44th Infantry Division replaced another division in the line in September 1944 and took its place in the fighting.

 

A large-scale Allied offensive was launched in their region on November 13, 1944 and Pete Snelson was wounded in the second day’s fighting.  Company B was in the attack in a forested area when he took serious shrapnel wounds from a tree burst of a German mortar shell.  He was taken back to a Field Hospital for surgery.

 

He was further evacuated to a General Hospital in France where he remained hospitalized for three months.  When he was fit for return to duty, he was interviewed and selected for service as a Special Agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps.

 

His new unit of assignment was the 307th CIC Detachment at 7th Army Headquarters.  In order for CIC Agents to better handle their mission, their uniforms were without rank or insignia to promote free and open communication with civilian and military at all levels.  He was a Technical Sergeant before he returned home from Europe in January 1946, and he had many interesting experiences to remember for a lifetime.  Here are some of them.

 

He dealt with Doctor Klaus Schilling, who had been conducting experiments on the prisoners in the Concentration Camp at Dachau by injecting them with live malaria virus.  Of the more than one thousand prisoners that Schilling had experimented on, all but nine of the human guinea pigs had died.

 

In November 1945, an SS Officer that had been interrogated could no longer keep a secret.  The officer had been ordered to destroy three large trunks of personal property belonging to Eva Braun, but he did not do so.  After the war, the officer cooperated and guided CIC Agents to dig up an area on a secluded Bavarian estate.  They recovered Eva Braun’s personal diary, photo albums with numerous pictures of her and Adolf Hitler with a small child, which led to speculation that the child was Eva Braun’s and Adolf Hitler’s.  They also found a twenty-four person place setting of sterling silver that was engraved with the Polish royal crown; valued at that time near one million dollars.  The most fascinating item they recovered was the bloodstained uniform that Adolf Hitler had been wearing on July 20, 1944 during the attempted assassination in the Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg, and Pete has a photo of himself holding that uniform.

 

“Pete” Snelson experienced the most unlikely happening of his life during his CIC days in Europe after the war and this is his “it’s a small, small world” story.  While screening Displaced Persons for possible employment by the military, a group of eight Polish men were brought in for interview.  The second man in line was wearing a regulation U.S. Army Field Jacket that instantly caught Pete’s attention (it was common for surplus and unserviceable military clothing to be provided to Displaced Persons).  The jacket was not only his size, it was stenciled “S-9898,” the last four digits of Pete’s serial number, and the holes in the jacket matched exactly where Pete had been wounded with mortar shell fragments.  It was the Field Jacket the Medics had taken off of “Pete” when he was wounded.  Considering the huge number of Displaced Persons all over Europe, and that this one man who came to Pete looking for a job was wearing Pete’s old Field Jacket, how likely was that?

 

Finally, it was his time to return home.  He arrived back in the U.S. on January 25, 1946 and was discharged from Army active duty at Fort Bliss, Texas on March 1, 1946 and commissioned in the Army Reserve.  He then commanded a Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment at Fort Bliss until 1955 when he was discharged from the reserves as a First Lieutenant.

 

During his reserve assignment, he was on the faculty at the University of Texas at El Paso for six years and then was Vice President of Odessa College from 1952 to 1955.  He then entered the business world by founding an advertising agency in Midland, which he owned for the following 30 years. During the 1950’s, Pete became had become active in the JAYCEES and he was elected President of the JAYCEES in Texas in 1957.  In 1960 he ran for State Representative from Midland, and won.  In 1964 he was elected to the Texas Senate and continued to serve until his retirement from the Senate in 1983.  He has been a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart since 2002, and this month, Texas Capital Chapter 1919 proudly salutes Patriot W. E. “Pete” Snelson.


Pete Snelson as a Young Man

PFC Pete Snelson

 

Local Newspaper Article

Pete Snelson and 4 Brothers Served Overseas in WWII and a Sixth Served in Korea

Pete Snelson Selected to the Men of Mines

 

Pete Snelson in 1945 with his jeep

Pete Snelson in 1945 with his jeep

 

Pete Snelson As a Member of

Counter Intelligence Corps

PETE SNELSON DISPLAYS THE BLOODIED UNIFORM THAT ADOLF HITLER WAS WEARING ON JULY 20, 1944 AT THE WOLF’S LAIR AT RASTENBURG WHEN AN ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION BY GERMAN ARMY OFFICERS HAD ALMOST SUCCEEDED 


Also Visit the World War II Memorial Site

Honoree Wallace E. "Pete" Snelson


TOP PHOTO

 

COLLEGE STUDENT PETE SNELSON

1942


Back To Index