As a boy growing up in South Buffalo, David M. Sorg discovered he had a flair for writing and often received high marks on his compositions.
“Writing was the only thing I liked to do when I was in school,” he says. “I went to School 72 and graduated from East High School. Then I went to Millard Fillmore College and majored in English to become a writer, but I got tired of it.”
In need of a career, Sorg recalls, he asked his uncle, an executive at an Atlanta steel company, to write a letter on his behalf to the manager of the Republic Steel’s South Buffalo facility.
His uncle’s words did the trick. Sorg was hired as an apprentice “roll turner,” whose job was to turn the rolls that shaped the steel.
But Sorg soon found himself in receipt of a letter from another uncle.
“It was from Uncle Sam,” he recalls, “inducting me into the Army.”
Sorg remembers being amused at how Uncle Sam began the missive: “Greetings,” as if it were an invitation to something joyous, not war.
A member of M Company, 289th Regiment, 75th Infantry Division, Sorg said World War II’s Battle of Bulge in December 1944 provided him with his first bitter taste of combat.
“Infantry soldiers suffered a lot from the cold all that winter,” he says. “We lived outside. We dug holes and sometimes slept in the holes. Sometimes we slept in barns. Whatever was available.”
In a machine-gun platoon, his job was ammo bearer. “I carried two cans containing 22 pounds of ammunition apiece,” he says. “We were on foot, and it was a lot to carry.”
Because the ammunition and weaponry were the priorities, Sorg says, he and fellow soldiers were not burdened with very much personal gear.
“We didn’t have to carry our bedrolls. The ammunition was the important thing,” he says. “Headquarters would bring up our bedrolls at night, but sometimes they weren’t able to because of the enemy, and we had to make do without them. It wasn’t a nice experience.”
When his unit entered the French region of Alsace, Sorg suffered a bullet wound.
“We were attacking a town, and I got wounded in the right leg,” he says. “I think a sniper shot me. It took a nick out of my shinbone, but it wasn’t life-threatening.”
Bandaged by a medic, Sorg continued on, though several days later, his leg flared with infection. “I was sent to a field hospital, where I stayed for about five days,” he says. “Then I returned to my company.”
There was no letup in the battles.
“We went back up north, then through Holland and we walked through Holland into Germany.”
He still remembers the first day on German soil. “We didn’t run into any German soldiers,” he remembers. “The civilians were peeking out of their windows at us. I think they were afraid of what we would do to them. Later on, we became friends with the civilians wherever we went.”
Well, not everywhere.
In the spring of 1945, he says, his unit was stationed in a “beautiful” section of Germany along the Ruhr River and its wooded, rolling hills, but some residents apparently didn’t care for the Americans. “We kept having to zigzag around the woods we were in because mortars kept landing close to us,” Sorg recalls. “We figured it was the civilians who were tipping off the enemy to our locations.”
Surviving the war, “I returned home to my job at Republic Steel, and I worked there altogether 41 years,” he says. “I liked hanging around.”
A widower for the last seven years, Sorg says he takes it easy, keeping in contact with his five children, 10 grandchildren and “my ever-growing number of great-grandchildren.”
David M. Sorg, 94
• Hometown: Buffalo
• Residence: Orchard Park
• Branch: Army
• Rank: Private first class
• War zone: Europe
• Years of service: 1944-46
• Most prominent honors: Purple Heart, Combat
• Specialty: Infantry