Nick Schemine, 81, still has his right leg, thanks to a French doctor in a field hospital who refused to let other doctors amputate the mangled limb. 'There's still not much left of my leg," Schemine said. "I've still got shrapnel in my butt and a hole in my hip you could put your fist in." There is still a brace on the right leg. There is pain. There is always the clanger of a bad falL It has been that way for 61 years, a constant reminder of one very bad day in eastern France in 1944. Schemine, a PFC and radioman with the 6th Armored Division, failed to get out of his halftrack before a German shell hit. It was somewhere near a town called Armaucourt, northeast of Nancy on Sept. 25, 1944 "It was a three-day battle up there," Schemine recalls. "They (the Germans) would take the place.
Then we would take it and then they'd take it back again. We were in a field, under some trees, facing the Germans and waiting orders to fire when somebody yelled "Duck!' The first shell missed and I started to jump when a second shell hit the half-track." Even before he hit the ground, PFC Schemine's war was over. He had just earned his second Purple Heart and this one was for life. A Harker Street kid, Schemine graduated from St. Peter's High School in 1942 and was working at Mansfield Tire when he was drafted in 1943.
He trained with a field artillery unit in Camp Cook, California, which is where he met his future wife, Hilda, a farm girl from Lompoc. "We met at a chaperoned dance in the town's municipal building," she said. "Just the week before Christmas, 1943." In January PFC Schemine, a radio operator, was transferred to the Sixth Armored Division. The last days in California were enlivened by USO shows featuring Bob Hope and Kay Kyser's College of Musical Knowledge. Then it was a quick transfer to the east coast; a 14-day trip over A portrait of Schemine during World War II. (Submitted photo) the Atlantic to Scotland, and south into England for the training that led up to D-Day. "We trained at a place called Morton in the Marsh. Our Sherman tanks were waiting for us there," Schemine said. "My station was in a half-track with a mortar platoon. I was taking messages for my lieutenant, Ivan Cilka. His code name was The Mad Russian.' Where he went, I went, usually with a portable radio strapped to my back." The 6th Armored's men and Sherman tanks landed in Normandy in July, a full month after the invasion, and headed north for the Lorient and for Brest "We were green those first days. We killed a cow one day. Thought it was a German, I guess. Good for breakfast." Schemine recalls one day when some of the tanks and trucks were parked in a field. "Six German aircraft strafed us. We got all six of them with our 50 calibers and rifles," he said with some satisfaction. On the way to the Lorient, a German submarine base, Schemine was knocked flat by the concussion from a German grenade.
After three days in a field hospital he rejoined his unit He got a Purple Heart The easy one. He recalls swimming naked with hundreds of other tankers in a French river while half of the people in a village on the other side watched f A r ft About this series Each Monday, the News Journal will profile an area veteran of either war in an effort to tell the stories of these average north central Ohioans whose extraordinary efforts preserved freedom for us all. "We hadnt had a shower or bath since Normandy," he said. He also remembers how officers of the German S.S. mutilated the daughter of the mayor of a small French village. "They accused her of being a spy. ... Not a pretty sight. It shook me up. Those were not nice people," he said. "We ran smack into a German infantry division trying to get to Brest They didnt make it" He also recalls that not only did cognac taste good going down, the stuff also kept cigarette lighters going.
If you happened to be a solider in Patton’s 3rd Army then you would have likely heard a loud horn in the distance moving faster and faster toward you.
The Sixth Division began rolling through France and were nearing the Belgian border in September when Gen. George S. Patton came calling. "He was in a Jeep and rolled right up next to my half-track. "Hi, son. 'How's it going?' he said. 'OK,' I told him. 'You need anything?' ... I said, 'We're fine.' So he says, 'Give em' hell then,' and the Jeep pulled away. "I saw the movie, 'Patton' and it seemed pretty accurate to me. That's the way Patton was. He was different" Not too long after that, the Germans opened up and PFC Schemine tried to dive off his doomed half-track a second too late. "I didnt stick around for the Battle of the Bulge. I was gone by then," he said.
He wound up in the 91st Field Hospital in Nancy, where medics fed him morphine and blood. And where that nameless French doctor saved his mangled right leg. "Later on, they had to re-tie all the muscles in my leg back together," he said. He spent a long time at an army hospital in Oxford, England, and came home by hospital ship for a long stay at another hospital in Louisville, Ky. His leg had been in a cast so long that when it was removed, the limb snapped reflexively backwards. "I kicked myself in the butt," Schemine said. Later, during another opera tion, doctors covered Schemine's face with a towel so he couldnt see what they were doing. But after 16 months, he was finally released from the hospitals, walking on canes and listed for life as at 100 percent disabled. So he traveled to California, married Hilda standing up, and came back to Mansfield to start a new life. A grateful nation provided him with an automobile at no cost. "It had the accelerator and brake on the left side," he said. "I went back to the Tire where Ralph Whitney, the curing room foreman, made a job for me. He put me at a desk, told me to sit there for eight hours and he'd find things for me to do," Schemine said. Eventually Schemine gained strength and moved up to the print shop, where he ran a press. "I was down to one cane and could get around," he said.
He spent 33 years at Tire, retiring just two years before the company went under. He and Hilda had five children and raised them at a home on Leppo Lane. The children are Barbara Crumbwell, who lives in Florida; Sharon Christian of Ontario; Dennis Schemine of Fishers, Ind.; Donald Schemine of Holland, Ohio, and Bryan Schemine of Mansfield A few years ago Schemine's right leg became a problem. "I fell down too many times," he said So the family chose a single-level home on Linden Circle West. Just one small set of steps to the garage to worry about. In retirement Schemine said he watches television, "plays a little' with his computer, reads and attends St Peter's Catholic Church. He and Hilda also do reunions of the 6th Armored Division. One thing Schemine has noticed at the annual get-togethers is "there sure are a lot of disabled guys there."