The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Saga of Ansel Culler

By Peronneau Mitchell © 1996

Issue: Summer, 1996

As the adjutant of the 3rd Ranger Bn. in Italy, I was aware that Ansel Culler was being carried on our records as being missing in action (MIA) as reported by 1st Lt. Eugene Philpot, Culler's platoon leader of Mena, Arkansas. The circumstances: Lt. Philpot had sent Culler with a whole gaggle of canteens to fill at a nearby well. As Culler approached his goal the Germans zeroed their famed 88 on the well - a direct hit and no Ansel Culler!!!

As time went on the General Hospital in Naples reported one Ansel Culler was admitted as a patient, much to our concern. Lt. Philpot reiterated his first hand knowledge. Culler had given his unit as a Combat Engineer Bn.

Upon being released from the hospital, Culler returned to his 3rd Bn. Ranger Co. and just prior to our going to Anzio beach head. After the initial landing action became stabilized for some several days. In its final action the Battalion was virtually wiped out. The few survivors including Culler were carried as MIA's, it being assumed they were POW's, though unconfirmed at that point and time. And low and behold Culler reappeared and reported for duty. The few survivors including Culler and returnees from military hospitals were assigned to the first Special Service Force - a joint US Army - Canadian Army unit and the predecessor to the present day Green Berets.

As time went on the Force was the first troops to enter Rome, Italy, 6 June '48. When the dust had settled the Force was withdrawn to Lake Albone, Italy for a much needed rest, refitting, etc. in preparation for its next mission, which was the Southern France invasion. On unit head count there was no Ansel Culler present for duty. He again was carried on an MIA under circumstances not known.

Just prior to sailing to Southern France as a part of Task Force A, who should appear but one Ansel Culler attired in a White MP helmet, white leggings and a nickel platted 45 caliber side arm.

Culler reported to me all prepared by way of letter from his adopted MP Unit Commanding Officer. The authenticity I verified through military channels.

On questioning Culler in response to my question as to where he came from, he named the county. My response "bumble bee corn country - a bee could sit on his back side and suck the tassel." He replied, "Yes sir!"

While near Cherbourg, France preparing to go into Germany late winter 1945, I persuaded the regiment commander to convene a Section 8 board for the purpose of determining Culler's fitness for continued service. The board recommended he be given a Section 8 discharge - one for the convenience of the Army. It was so ordered and no disgrace to the soldier. I personally escorted Culler to the Cherbourg Port onto a ship which was under orders to return to the Continental United States.

As time went on I was released from active duty and employed by the Farm Credit System in Chatham, Virginia. Knowing that often times soldiers had their discharge papers recorded in their county court houses, I diligently searched such records in Franklin, Henry, and Patrick Counties. All to no avail.

As time went on about 1983, I was waiting on a new farm credit applicant near Claudville, Patrick County. In response to my question to applicant he named Ansel Culler as the owner of an adjoining farm. I nearly "dropped my teeth," so to speak.

Mr. King and I went over to Culler's home. Out came Ansel - greeted me and upon questioning him I learned his ship's orders were changed and put in at Antwerp, Holland and there Ansel remained till "Green Up" time at which time he resumed his farming career in the Claudville area until his death a few years ago.

Now, Ansel Culler was no Sergeant York of World War I fame, yet and still he never shirked his duty, always stayed where the action was. His G-Z (military intelligence) was uncanny, for he always knew where and when his parent unit was and where it was going.

His widow still resides in the Claudville area of Patrick County, Virginia. I really felt gratified in finally tracking Ansel Culler down and learning from others that he raised a good family. He had a twin brother named Hansel, I believe.