CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Arthur W. Potts
World War II Oral History Interview
US Army, 106th Infantry Division
Date: April 16, 2003
Interviewer: Michelle Carrara
Summarizer: Samantha Sharp
Editor: Professor Melissa Ziobro, Monmouth University
Veterans History Project
Arthur Wyman Potts and his twin brother William were born in July, 1925 in West Orange, New Jersey. Potts traces his family line in America back to the 17th century, and he stated that many of the men in his family have served in the country’s armed forces. Potts described his mother as a “shut-in” who never left the house, so he and his brother did not get to do many things as children, but as he grew older he played sandlot baseball and football.
At the age of seventeen, both brothers joined Company A of the 5th Battalion of the New Jersey State Guard, a force created to replace the state’s National Guard, which had been called to active duty in September, 1940. The experience helped prepare them for subsequent duty in the active duty military. Arthur was a private first class and served as a squad Leader in Company A. Both brothers enjoyed their service in the Guard, and remained in the unit until they turned eighteen and were drafted. They reported for active duty on August 4th, 1944 and were soon sent to basic training.
Both Potts brothers were assigned to the Infantry Replacement Training Center at Camp Blanding, Florida, where they were trained as Heavy Weapons crewmen. Their State Guard experience stood them in good stead, as they had a firm grasp of many of the basic military skills that other draftees were encountering for the first time. During training they were collectively nicknamed “the twins” and were encouraged to compete with each other to see which one would do a better job.
While at Camp Blanding, the twins had to go through chemical weapons training, which involved entering and passing through a gas chamber. Arthur passed out during the exercise and had to be carried out of the room. He said that he later developed asthma from this episode. On a more positive note, he learned to drive for the first time at Camp Blanding. At the conclusion of their training, the brothers returned home to New Jersey on a brief furlough before leaving for overseas deployment.
The Potts brothers shipped out to Liverpool, England aboard the USS Wakefield on January 1, 1945 and then moved on to France, where they were assigned as replacements to K Company of the 424th Infantry Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division. The Division had been badly battered in the Battle of the Bulge and had lost its other two regiments, which were captured by the Germans.
When he became ill in February, Arthur was separated from his brother for the first time since they had entered the service. He was sent to the Seventeenth General Hospital in Paris, France for treatment. After his release, Arthur received permission to rejoin his brother instead of being assigned to another unit as a random replacement; the two were reunited on April 7, 1945. In the final weeks of the conflict in Europe, their unit was assigned to guard and transport German prisoners of war. On May 6, 1945, Potts was injured while escorting prisoners — and Germany surrendered eleven hours and thirty-four minutes later. He was hospitalized for thirty days and then rejoined his brother once again.
On October 2, 1945, the 106th Infantry Division was deactivated, and the Potts brothers were reassigned to the 285th Port Battalion based in Antwerp, Belgium, where Arthur was assigned to battalion headquarters as a movie theater projectionist. Having artistic talent, he and his brother were selected to paint coming attraction posters for USO shows. The Potts brothers returned to the United States and were discharged from the army on June 26, 1946.
Potts told the interviewer that he hopes his interview inspires people to have more compassion for others. He regrets certain things he did in the war, and wishes he could go back and change his actions. He said that he allowed his hatred for the Nazis and the swastika to dictate his treatment of German POWs, and it bothers him to this day.
After the war, Arthur Potts went to Upsala College on the GI Bill, graduated in 1950, married Ruth Alice Cunningham and settled in Cedar Grove, New Jersey. The couple had five children. He went to work for General Motors Acceptance Corporation, and then the Carbide Corporation, Moore Business Forms, and the Monroe Calculator Company. His brother later moved to live in Florida, and they speak periodically. He returned to artistic expression on occasion, especially after his retirement, and had has several exhibits of his work.
Arthur feels that he was “on the benches” a lot during the war, and that he did not experience the worst parts of it. Since his retirement, he has, however, joined several veterans’ organizations. He enjoys the groups and being able to talk freely about his experiences.
During his service, Arthur Potts rose to the rank of Technical Sergeant (E-4) and earned battle stars for the campaigns in Northern France and Central Europe. His badges and medals include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army of the Occupation Medal with the Germany Clasp, and the New Jersey State Distinguished Service Medal. He passed away on October 9, 2007.